A band fighting hard again the slur of ‘chillwave’

Photography by Edward Bishop

Photography by Edward Bishop

A band fighting hard again the slur of ‘chillwave’

“Denise and I just met casually at a concert back home,” begins Memoryhouse instrumentalist Evan Abeele. But though the band grew from this simple framework, the simplicity of the meeting was not mirrored in the band’s initial objectives. “We originally wanted to do some sort of multimedia project that combined her photographs with my ambient classical music,” he continues, clarifying that the fruits of these early collaborations “definitely wasn’t pop music, it was the opposite of that.”

“At some point, really late at night and in the middle of winter, I somehow coaxed her into singing a cover of Jackson Browne’s ‘These Days’. It was cool and I think she was surprised by the results; so over the next two months I was writing a lot of music and kind of gradually tricked her into singing more and more, crafting songs that meant something to us and which luckily found an audience online.”

As tempting as bolting the door and bathing in blog buzz was, the Ontario duo soon gave playing their washy organ pop live a go. “If you asked us a year ago if we were ever going to play live, then you’ll have found that it wasn’t a thought that had even registered with us,” explains Evan. “I don’t know how we got to the point where we were like, ‘Yes, we want to do this!’ but we went on a mini (headline) tour of the US at the end of April and kind of felt things out. It felt right, it felt like we needed more.

“You can only tread water so long before you actually have to fully submerge yourself in what is going on. The truth of the matter is it was probably moving faster than we were perhaps ready for, but it got to the point where it was either go all the way, go on this tour and try to be a ‘real’ band, or just stay as a recluse, stay in the bedroom and be happy that you have some kind of audience. We both felt confident that we could translate it into an enjoyable live experience – it was a new challenge that definitely took us out of our comfort zone.”

In order to help conquer some of the problems that presented themselves during the transition from bedroom artists to touring band, recent live performances have been fleshed out with the addition of guitarist Adrian Vieni to help add an extra human layer to Evan’s atmospheric electro and Denise Nouvion’s soulfully calming lyrics. “We didn’t want to just play with sample’s,” insists Evan. “We don’t want to be one of those bands that just presses a computer button down and then just sings over the top of it. We want to really genuinely connect and have people feed off what we are playing”

And some of this keenness to prove yourselves as a live band may have been partly born out of many people’s tendency to characterise Memoryhouse as being purely ‘chillwave’, no? – a new generic tag shared and disliked by like-minds Washed Out, Memory Tapes and countless other minimalist lo-fi types swishing about to Casio tones.

“I don’t have anything wrong with people interpreting our music as chillwave,” says Evan “but I don’t particularly think it came from that space and it doesn’t really suit us. The other artists are awesome but I think that scene, for us, is a little overstated – we’re not that electronic, we have a really organic core and though there are some synth work and electronic aspects to it, those elements don’t overwhelm that part. For the most part it is just really guitar and vocal-heavy songs with stray electronic elements. If only because we recorded it in our bedroom and we didn’t really have a budget for it, we couldn’t get nice live drums or a real orchestra so we created some of that on synthesisers.”

So when the chance arose to remedy that situation, by transferring a recent recording to a new environment, it was instantly grabbed. “The recent single was the first time we had recorded in a studio, a converted church. I can say that I was very conscious about how we went about writing and recording it; we didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a chillwave artist so we do have acoustic drums, real strings – they’re very guitar-based and not lo-fi in the slightest. We’re not trying to obscure anything and these songs are our way of showing people that we are not limited to the bedroom aesthetic and that we can and are willing to move out of our comfort zone in order to progress naturally and organically. Hopefully people will at least appreciate the effort we make to do that.”

By Nathan Westley


Originally published in issue 19 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2010

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »