Last week Jesse got an email from Tabassum Siddiqui, informing us that she already runs a column on Spinner Canada called “Northern Exposure,” so we had to change the name. Sorry about that Tabassum! From now on we’ll be calling Jesse’s column “No Canada.” If you have a blog called “No Canada,” please find a new name for it.
Over the last decade, Toronto’s Slim Twig and Meghan Remy’s nomadic U.S. Girls have been honing their sounds as shape-shifting solo artists. While Twig explores a glamorous strain of groovy ghoulie psychedelia with a Motorik pulse, Remy floats in the haunted netherworld between Spector-beat melancholy and shiny 90s MuchMusic pop. Like Hall finding Oates, the pair’s union as partners in musical crime has only magnified their strengths.
“We first met in the winter of 2009,” Slim explains. “I was on tour and she was supposed to set up a show for us in Philadelphia. She ended up playing a show that night that we couldn’t get on. In any case, we hung out for an afternoon and it was great. The next year we played together at Halifax’s Obey Convention and things happened organically. Collaboration wasn’t our first intention; we just liked each other. Then I sent her a tape with some loops and sample-based stuff, which resulted in the first song from our split album.”
Here's "The Island Song," by U.S. Girls:
Following this classic courtship through Canada Post, the pair became co-CEOs of Calico Corp. Launched shortly before a joint European tour this November, the label’s inaugural releases are a 7” from each artist showcasing some of the most assured songwriting either has issued to date. In Slim’s words, knowing each other’s ticks has helped spur on an ongoing evolution:
“She had released two records on Siltbreeze that are somewhat of a piece and totally amazing, but was interested in moving forward. That linked up with my aspiration to produce music that wasn’t my own, and allowed us to meet halfway. With her music as U.S. Girls, what I find so appealing is her individuality and expression of independent identity. I really try not to intrude on that and am very sensitive about it. Maybe that comes in part with being a couple, and gives us a shorthand that makes it easy to work together.”
Here's "Priscilla," by Slim Twig:
In previous years, Slim’s sonic interests fell in the unexpected intersection of pompadoured proto-punk and hip-hop mixtape culture. This resulted in a successfully mutated synthesis, yet the skin was shed as quickly as it had been fitted. Since swapping out the sampler for a live band, he has twisted his sensibilities in several different directions.
“My own music-making has always been a curatorial process, heavily influenced by things and kind of shameless about that,” Slim says. “Where some artists may take two influences that are similar and blend them, I fit in handfuls of things and try to shove them together in each song. That can be jarring for people, and I feel it’s a hurdle I’ve tried to overcome in making it more approachable. That’s where Meghan has influenced me, in that she’s had a minimal approach for a long time. Whenever she’s asked what kind of music she makes, she says ‘pop’ and is very direct about it.”
This chameleonic approach springs from growing up with likeminded filmmaker parents. Alongside casting their son as the star and soundtrack composer for the 2010 thriller Sight Unseen, father Ross Turnbull and mother Jennifer Hazel have also worked on music videos for both Slim and U.S. Girls. Yet the most important factor was his upbringing of unconditional support. While other rebellious teens may have formed a metal band, the worst thing he could have become was an accountant. Here's the trailer for Sight Unseen:
“I’m well aware that my upbringing is kind of freak,” Slim laughs. “I’m not saying I’m a freak, but I’m certainly the only person in Toronto making music in their 20s whose parents go to every local show they play. They understand the context and the places where my music comes from, so they’re never baffled by my choices. My sister went through a phase where she was considering becoming a lawyer. We shared the joke that she was less interested in devoting her life to being a broke artist than the rest of us, so she was a bit of a black sheep.”
Previously - Femminielli is Montreal's Giallo Disco Superstar