Compliments To The Chef—An Interview With Alex Calder

By Atousa Blair

Hailing from Edmonton and formerly a member of Makeout Videotape with Mac DeMarco, musician and self-proclaimed “chef du cuisine” Alex Calder recently released his first LP entitled Strange Dreams following his EP Time. Strange Dreams is a hazy collage of lo-fi experimentation and pop influences all mixed with relaxed and distorted vocals. The best aspects of the album are amplified when performed live as I got to experience at his recent show at the Silver Dollar Room in Toronto. Demo had the opportunity to talk with Alex and drummer Conor Donaldson before their show and discovered the laid back artists behind the music.

Demo Magazine: I understand you dabble in the art of cooking. Musician/chef Action Bronson often combines these two interests and does stuff such as eating his homemade gourmet sandwiches on stage.  Do you find your interest in music and cooking intertwine or influence each other?

Alex Calder: Yeah, Action Bronson’s cooking show is sweet! I just watched it the other day. But for me, I think it is completely separate and cooking is a 100% joke to me. Music is much more serious.

DM: Have you played a lot of shows in Toronto? If so, what is your favourite venue?

Conor Donaldson: Probably this place [Silver Dollar Room].

AC: We essentially only play here when we come to Toronto. We like it here and Dan Burke is a madman.

DM: Are you familiar with Toronto’s food scene? Do you have any favourite Toronto restaurants?

CD: Whenever we come to Toronto we stay in Kensington and we always get patties at Patty King.

AC: And that pizza/pasta place on College. That place is insane, especially with that green sauce. That’s probably some of my favorite pizza.

CD: Yeah, that’s the best pizza I have ever had.

DM: Was there a big difference in terms of influences, writing process, and production of Time versus the production of Strange Dreams?

AC: I  recorded a lot of Strange Dreams during the same time I recorded the stuff for my EP Time. Most of the Strange Dreams stuff was recorded right after Time and then I made some other songs for it a lot later but I didn’t record for a while until recently.

DM: Could you explain the cover art of Strange Dreams?

AC: That was by my friend Cole Kushner. It’s a screen grab of a music video he made for me. The video isn’t out yet but it’s  for the song “No Device”. The video is all CGI and we thought it would be funny to use this contorted image of my face. I guess it is kind of a weird cover.

DM: Are there any specific artists that particularly influence the band’s sound?

AC: I really like the Beach Boys but I feel like everyone does. As a band we all have completely different music tastes but we are able to bond on a few artists.

DM: What artists do you guys bond on?

AC: Stuff like Steely Dan, Stereolab, and Yo La Tengo. That’s really where we find common ground in terms of influences.

DM: When touring, do you guys notice a big difference between the music scenes/audiences of the cities you play in?

AC: We don’t tour that much, although we are planning to tour a lot more, but generally shows in the US are more, I find personally, way more fun. I find there is more of a following there. People listen to my stuff where it is put out and a lot more of my records are released in the States than in Canada.

DM: Because you are on Captured Tracks, do you guys find that you have a lot stronger following in Brooklyn?

AC: Yeah totally. The times we play there are always really fun.

DM: What are your favourite places to play in Brooklyn?

AC: We just played at Cameo Gallery. That place is really cool.

DM: Have you guys ever played Glasslands in Brooklyn?

AC: No, but every single person I know ever that plays music has played there! 285 Kent is another great place that everyone plays. But it shut down.

CD: We just played Grand Rapids in Michigan and we were digging through their record collection and they had PAULA albums and TOPS. This place in Michigan was just decked out with Montreal bands.

DM: What about the Montreal music scene? What are some of your favourite bands in Montreal?

AC: I have a bunch. There are a bunch of really sweet bands there. There is a band called Freelove Fenner that I really like, a band called Each Other, Homeshake, and Un Blonde, he is a kid who just moved from Calgary to Montreal and he is really good.


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