Venues, Morals & EPs—An Interview With The Riley Szulc Band

By Kalina Nedelcheva

The Riley Szulc Band consists of Riley Szulc, the lead guitarist and vocalist, Jeff Sterling on bass, and Jacob Capp, the drummer. With their first EP coming out this June, they agreed to sit down with Demo to reveal their creative process and future plans to the public.

Demo Magazine: To the potential fans and all those music junkies who don’t know The Riley Szulc band yet, how would you describe your music?

Riley Szulc: Uhh…[silent pause] I always use laid back alternative rock, because that’s the best thing I can think of to describe it. If we had to compare it to an artist — probably City and Colour.

DM: Since you guys come from different genres and musical backgrounds, how do you collaborate and bring all of that together to make music?

RS: Yeah, we don’t all write the songs together so I don’t know how much the classical from Jacob or the funk from Jeff would influence our music.

Jeff Sterling: Well, generally, Riley comes up with a finished song [laughs], and me and Jacob make our parts. Except for “Don’t Know How to Get There.” That’s the one kind of collaboration song.

DM: And what were your influences to write that song?

JS: Emotions. [Laughs] Or, like, our single that is coming out was influenced when Riley met a crazy lady. Except the lady wasn’t crazy and it turned out that it was Riley who was crazy. Crazy people aren’t crazy, you are just crazy for thinking they are crazy.

RS: That’s the moral of the story.

DM: In your opinion, what is the best music venue in Toronto? Or is there a venue you especially want to play in?

Jacob Capp: I think I know the answer. Silver Dollar, of course! [Laughs] No, I would say Massey Hall.

JS: I really like the El Mocambo and the Opera House.

RS: Yeah, if we are talking all music venues [in Toronto] then Massey Hall is probably my favourite. The ones we especially want to play in would be Massey Hall and the Opera House. Of the ones we played at…it will be a little presumptuous but I think it’s going to be the Rivoli. The Rivoli is where our EP release show will be, and I think it’s going to be the best venue we have played in so far. Other than that, I don’t know…The Cameron House? The Cameron House was pretty good. But I’m gonna go ahead and say the Rivoli and assume it’s not gonna suck when we play there.

DM: Have you had any technical or organizational difficulties with venues and how did you get over them?

JC: Sound was […] an issue.

RS: [Laughs] Sound was an issue to a lot of our shows. First show, Jacob couldn’t hear anybody and my amp was buzzing. We’ve had a lot of technical issues — nothing that’s ruined a show, though.

JS: We have had some difficulties. I don’t know about technical but when we played at the Silver Dollar the promoter just left before paying any of the bands.

RS: Well, the opening band got twenty bucks and the headliners went home with nothing and they had driven ten hours from Quebec to get there. It was their show that they organized and they got zero dollars, so that sucks for them. We didn’t have to drive as far so it was okay.

JS: And in terms of organizing shows, the Rivoli initially gave us a date but then the band Fucked Up wanted to play that day so they gave us a new date. And then bands are always like, “Oh yeah, we’ll be there.”

RS: Yeah, the one thing I’ve found most frustrating about this whole thing we do is dealing with bands who are just a little bit too casual with organizing stuff, like committing to dates and being places relatively on time and that kind of thing.

Album art for When the Morning Comes

Album art for When the Morning Comes

DM: How does it feel to have your first EP coming out this June?

RS: [Laughs] It feels good. We’ve been working on it since January, so it’s nice that it’s finally going to be out there. I’ve gone through the honeymoon phase with this album already. In my previous experiences of recording albums, you’re really excited to hear the final version, but we received the final version of this EP over a month ago now so I think we are all kind of over [it]. […] Honestly, the only reason this album is coming out as late as it is, is because we couldn’t get an earlier date to play the EP show. I wanted to release this thing in late May because we received the final version [at the] end of April.

JS: Generally, [what] I found recording with other bands is that it usually takes twice as long than you expected to, but I was really surprised with us ‘cause it took half the time. Originally when we were talking about it, we planned to release it in September.

JC: The recording process was extremely smooth — smoother than we thought it would be. I mean, there was one small issue with one of our session musicians but the rest was enjoyable for us.

RS: I actually added up all the time we spent in the studio and if we have done this all in one go, we would have recorded the EP in five days. I was kind of strict on some people to get things done sooner rather than later and I’m glad I did it that way. Last time I recorded an album it took almost a year so it is nice to get this done in a week.

JC: And it sounds good.

DM: So you’re playing the EP release show at the Rivoli — do you have anything special in store for that gig?

RS: We are going to have some guest musicians playing with us to recreate the EP as accurately as possible some second guitar players, maybe a trumpet player. We are going to be playing one, maybe two songs that people haven’t heard live yet.

JS: It’s also going to have a big ending!

JC: We’re all going to be very into it, because we are finally releasing the EP and it’s going to be very exciting. It is also the biggest venue that we’ve played with hopefully the most […] people.

DM: At the time of this interview, your music video has not come out and is coming out soon. How is the process going?

RS: The process is done. The music video has actually been finished for a long time and is coming out on June 1st. We actually recorded it while there was still snow outside, so it’s going to be funny when we release it ‘cause we are all wearing winter coats and stuff. [Laughs] But it was very quick and painless. It was a bit of spur of the moment kind of thing.

JS: It was like one day after practice: “Oh, yo, let’s film this.”

RS: It took us an hour to shoot the first part of the video which takes place in my car and then probably two to three hours to shoot the second part of the video — the “performance scene.” Then I edited it myself.

JC: The video really tells our life story. It’s basically a “day in the life of.”

The new music video from the Riley Szulc Band, released today

DM: You are especially close with the folk band Fox the Moon. Are you planning on doing a collaboration or touring with them in the near future?

Riley: I don’t know, depends on if we can go on tour. They actually went on a big East Coast tour, all the way to Halifax and back so that was pretty cool. The thing with touring — [as] I’m sure anybody in the music industry will understand — you aim to break even. Tours don’t make money at our level […] even if you are […] decently well-known. […] I would love to hit the road and go book a show and have a bunch of people show up, but I don’t know anybody in […] New Brunswick. [Laughs] Anyway, we don’t have any plans to tour with them as of right now. I would love to — that would be awesome — but I’m sure we’ll play shows with them in the future because we’re all friends. Jacob’s actually going to be playing drums on their album, so that’s pretty cool.

DM: Can you describe the creative process of writing a song?

RM: Every song is different, so how about I describe the process for our single “Frozen Solid”? I write a lot of songs when I’m not at home […in] the most inconvenient place to start writing a song because you don’t have your guitar 95% of the time. I was waiting for the streetcar to go downtown, and I was standing at the stop, and this woman comes up to me and says, “Hey, how’s it going?” I was thinking, “I don’t know you at all. What are you doing talking to me?” But I said sarcastically, “Not much. Just heading downtown.” She asked, “Why are you being so rude? I’m just asking what you are up to.” We ended up having this really long conversation on the streetcar all the way to the subway station — like, a fifteen minute […] conversation. And then I guess that inspired me. My initial reaction was [that] this woman [was] crazy, but then I kind of realized that there was nothing crazy saying hi to someone on the street. Anyway, I wrote some lyrics about it, made up some random melody, and put it to chords once I did have my guitar in my hands. I brought that to band practice, showed them the song, and they laid out the drums and the bass. We made it into a song, made a music video for it and that’s how that song came to be.

JC: When we first played it as a band, the song started out different than what it is now. It was much slower and had a bit of a different feel, so it sort of transformed as we played it. It is what it is now.

You can catch the Riley Szulc Band at their EP release show at the Rivoli on June 15th. Cover is five dollars. CDs and download cards are available.

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