The interview with Victoria’s The Imperfections

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Where does the time go? Had so much fun laughing and telling stories back and forth with this group that it was easy to lose track. For me it was my first chance to interview a full band, which seems fitting considering that it was these three young artists. Probably showing my age there, but I came out of the interview just buzzing with ideas and lots of San Pellegrino which Stevie Guild graciously paid for.

The group is made up of brothers Phil and Steve, who come from very different sides of the musical spectrum. After deciding to venture into a project together they recruited vocalist Hilary Beckett, whose big, resonant RnB sound comes seemingly easily to this exuberant, young lady formerly from the Victoria High School Rhythm and Blues Band. The project is managed by local company Bunker Productions.

The sound of their newest album “Space Trails” is an exciting and varied blend of Hilary’s velvet sound with hip-hop and rock instrumentation that is as much experimental and exotic as it is wonderfully produced with a sleek pro sound. From the intense percussive sound of Speed of Life to bright groove of Galactic Funk to the electronic swell of the anthem-like Event Horizon, the production side comes courtesy of the background of Phil who brings his love of Hip Hop culture into the mix, with both brothers contributing to the urban rhythms. Underlying this is the musicianship of Steve’s rock background, which you may already be familiar with in his other Victoria band, Man Made Lake.

You can check out this adventure into the stranger galaxies of music at http://www.bunkerproductions.ca/artists/the-imperfections

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And now for a lively conversation with The Imperfections at Ceynote, Victoria B.C. on Feb 8th!

WM – So, here’s a basic one for a band. What are the roles in the group?

Steve – So I play the instruments mainly, and I do writing. Some of the raps in some of the songs. But mainly I’m the instrument guy, more than anything else.

WM  –   And for Phil?

Phil     –   Producing and writing would be my main two roles…performing some of the raps as well. But yeah, the main hat I wear would be the producer. I do some writing as well.

WM   –   And…

Hilary –   I get off easy! I just show up…I get to sing…it’s awesome! Sometimes we’ve collaborated on lyrics and stuff but for the most part they already have something in mind…

WM   –   So doing sort of a round table thing, how did each of you get started? Starting with Stevie…

Steve-    I was pretty much late bloomer when it came to music. I didn’t start making music until I was like nineteen. Seriously I didn’t really start learning to play guitar until I was like eighteen or something.

WM   –   Yeah, same here (laughs)

Steve-   (laughs) I mean I was doing this…we did some stuff when we were younger…being brothers, but pretty amateur type stuff…and uh..

WM –     Yeah…”we met…” (laughs)

Steve-   (laughs) yeah…and I was playing in a band in town called Man Made Lake and I just sort of got into it via a bunch of different ways all around the same time. I started playing music at around eighteen. I always liked writing poetry so when I started playing music it was almost for that reason…so I could make my own songs…it all progressed from that. I became super obsessed with guitars (laughs)

WM –   Nice! (laughs) And now Phil!

Phil   –   Um…how did it start? Yeah, I guess I wanted to start really young. I wanted to rap, but we didn’t have beats, so I wanted to make them. I messed around beats just for a really long time, not seriously, just doing it to do it. And then, when me and Steve just reconnected later on, that’s when I more started to think seriously about producing…like how to make this song better and really thinking about it instead of just playing around.

WM –   The production was actually one of the first things I noticed from the tracks on Soundcloud…I was like…wow…the production level is really high.

Phil –     Cool…Awesome!

WM  –    And now…Hilary!

Hilary –    Yeah, I’ve been singing my whole life…I just remember sitting in the back of the car and listening to Whitney Houston and just going for it at like the age of four and just being like “Wow! That’s a lot of power! This is good!” So I always tried to excel at it through elementary school and choir. I was in the RnB band in Vic High.

WM   –     Yeah, that’s one of the things I noticed is that you have a very Jazz based sort of sound.

Hilary –   Yeah, it’s in the more RnB, Jazzy style. I didn’t grow up listening to a lot of Jazz. I was the youngest so I listened to a lot of, well, Whitney Houston…Mariah Carey…female singers…that was really the only training. It’s my passion and it’s great.

WM   –     So, now we’ve already done a bit of this next question, but how did you all connect? Now, obviously you guys connected way back…um..(laughs) so it was more like a reconnection?

Phil     –     (laughs) Yeah, it’s not like we weren’t friends or anything (laughs) we had a falling out…I loathed him for many years (laughs all around) No, we…

Steve-     We were always hanging out, but musically the style of music we like diverged quite a bit. I don’t really listen to as much hip hop as he does, I got really into the rock music and the jazz and the blues and stuff like that, so we actually more came back together when I had more kind of skills for writing music and playing and he had more ability to create the music as well.

At this point our drinks arrived including my San Pellegrino was this giant 750 ml thing I wasn’t expecting at all.

WM   –     Look how big it is! I was expecting..well…(laughs)

Steve-     (laughs) yeah

Phil   –     Take that home with yah! (laughs)

WM   –     Sorry to interrupt there…that, just kind of surprised me

Steve-     (laughs)…But that was about it, we’ve always been close as brothers and we realised that I had gotten a lot better at more of the musical aspects of it and he had advanced quite a bit in the production side. We just sort of magically came together and started making stuff.

WM   –     Cool and then (to Hilary) you came in…

Hilary-     I was pretty random actually. They just needed a female vocalist. So Steve got in touch with the director of the Midnights who I formerly sang with. He didn’t want to part with his current vocalist so he was like “I’m gonna give you the name of this girl that doesn’t sing with me now.” And it worked out really well. We just immediately hit it off.

Phil   –       Yeah, right from the get go.

Hilary-       Yeah, from the posters on the wall I knew we were going to be friends (laughs) If you saw the room you would have been, yeah…that’s hilarious.

WM –         What were some of the posters?

Hilary-         There was like Habs posters, kitten posters and just silly stuff like Southpark (laughs) It was like wow…we like all the same things! It felt really comfortable so yeah…

WM –           Cool…so tell us about Space Trails.

Steve-         So yeah…me and him…we’ve been producing now for a while, we’ve been produced a production of his and an EP of mine. We had these other songs, like some of the songs we had for quite a while, like a few years now…we started to think we wanted to do something kind of strange and different. We started talking about the space thing and how there is so much possibility when you’re talking about space. You can go totally spaced out or you can bring it down to like a minimal sort of thing. There’s also the metaphoric side of it where…we took the idea of space and the isolation you get from being in space and how it relates to the isolation that happens to people now when it comes to things like phones. Such as where your sitting with a table full of people and no one’s actually talking. We started spit-balling those ideas with late night recording sessions and it eventually came around. It was only going to be about four songs initially and then it was full out.

Phil   –       Yeah, just sort of expanded it. Just from the concept of it we got around to thinking “wow…we can talk a lot” (laughs around table)…exploring ideas and pushing the envelope. I think the technology is such a big one right now. It’s becoming such an ingrained aspect of our lives so it was just an interesting way of sort of exaggerating. I mean you can’t go full on with Iphone sixes and hope they are affecting our lives. That would be sort of artistically like…ok, why do we care? But if you take that and exaggerate it, then you can have a discussion about it.

WM –       Cool yeah, tell us more about the songwriting involved with so many styles coming together…

Phil   –       I think that’s like a melding of our minds (laughs) It really is…it’s like our influences are really diverse. For myself I grew up on rap music but after a while my listening became way more diverse when I hit my teens so that expanded my world and then Steve was really into rock but then he started to go in multiple directions. Then Hilary comes in and sings in a style that is completely different from what we envisioned but like better than anything that we could have done.

Hilary-     I just do whatever I hear…usually they send me the beats that doesn’t have any vocals on it so I can just sit in the kitchen and listen to it. When I’m there I can just think…sing a line and find something melodic. Then it’s like, ok, I have something that I hear so let’s record it. We usually go with that first recording because that’s usually the best one and then it’s like “ok, let’s put some harmonies on that!” Then we layer it up and I usually come back maybe a month later and the vocals are on it and by that point it sounds great!

Steve-     It opens up possibilities…I think some musicians bringing in a singer from the outside would be more inclined to say “Ok we wrote this, this is what we think would sound great…this one would sound more RnB,” and give all these specific guidelines so the outcomes already determined, whereas if Hilary feels like singing more sultry or a ballad and we were envisioning something more low key, but she sings a ballad and it sounds great then we have no issues there…it can change the dynamic of the song for the better.

Hilary-     Yeah, if it works it works. I don’t really see myself as a writer but I think I have a good ear so I can listen back and think “that sounds good!”

Steve-     There’s no single way that we write songs. I know lots of people that have a certain way that they write and it works for them, whereas with us it can be so different. We put stuff out there that is under our name but I didn’t really have as much to do with it (all laughs) Or there’ll be another where I played most of the instruments.

Phil   –       Yeah, in that way, it’s sort of like Steve’s baby. I remember I made one beat and Steve came in and, this is after we had already done a lot of work together, and he said it sounded like something that he would do. We added a keyboard line and he was like “yeah, that sounds like something I would do!”

WM   –       You start to rub off on each other’s style…

Phil   –         Yeah, he totally rubbed off on that one…then he came in and added guitar on it and it just sounded amazing! Sometimes he’ll come in with the whole song structure thing and we can go off of that. That starting point can always be really different. It’s sort of a positive and a negative but I love how varied our music can be…we can go just the whole spectrum. In terms of marketability it makes it a bit tougher (laughs)

WM    –         We talked a little about this before…any other artists that inspired you with the project?

Hilary –         Yeah, those were more general. I have lots of other influences such as Motown in general…lots of Neil Young and Pink Floyd…Zepplin…I don’t really listen to much stuff that has come out in the last fifteen years unless it’s Sharon Jones. That’s basically it.

Steve –         I listened to a lot of funk music like Parliament…Bowie…Bowie’s my main influence of all time…

Hilary –        Anything good really (laughs).

WM   –         Cool. Anything else coming up you want people to know about?

Phil   –         We have lots of different things we’re working on. I want to record some RnB songs with Hilary…just straight up RnB. That’s one that we have been talking about for a long time. I’m also working on this project that’s like a “Listen local” which will be a stand that stores will have that promotes local artists. I’m getting the stands made right now and I plan on talking to stores and stuff like that. That’s the challenge for any musician other than for the 1% that’s at the top is that people don’t really buy as much music anymore. I buy music and I’m like the only person I know doing it.

WM   –           Yeah, last time I bought a cd it actually came with a little thing inside that actually thanked me for buying the cd!

Steve –           Yeah like when you go into HMV now it’s like a weird circus of all kinds of gifts and other stuff and it’s like…where’s the music section?

WM   –           Yeah…finding ways to still make money outside of the music with things that can’t be just downloaded.

Steve –           It’s going to be interesting the next ten, fifteen years of music, because the more people get out of the habit of buying music the more things favour the top of the music industry machine because Adele will sell millions of copies but that is the only cd they’ll really sell that entire year. Whereas when everyone is in the habit you might take a chance here and there and that’s just not really happening anymore. Streaming seems to be the thing that’s taking its place. Nobody’s making money off of that…not even the people that are creating the streams. It will be interesting to see. Something’s going to change but it’s hard to tell what.

WM   –         Yeah and there’s also the upside where the material available for musicians now is so much more.

Phil     –         Oh yeah the sheer quantity of music out there now is just…insane.

Hilary –         You almost have to sell your song to someone in advertisements.

Phil     –         Oh yeah, I think licensing is the big way to go.

Steve –         Yeah, I think that’s the biggest way that band’s make money now.

Phil     –         You get a song in a movie right now and you’ll make more with that movie than you will even with gold records sort of things.

Steve –         I have some friends in Colorado and about five years ago or something like that they managed to get one song into one commercial and two movies. It was the same song and they said that they made more that year from those placements than ever other thing they did that year combined and they would tour for just months. It also doesn’t help that there is pretty much no cost associated with it. It’s pretty much pure profit so I was just like “wow…that’s how you made all your money?” With touring you do make money but it’s expensive. You pay so much money when you’re on tour.

Phil     –       I knew one guy who toured as opener for, I think it was ZZTop and he did this big national tour, came back to Victoria and he said he had like twenty-five dollars in his bank account. It’s like they were paying him but there’s also the cost of the whole thing.

Steve –       Yeah, they were opening for bands like Billy Talent and playing these huge shows but the truth is opening bands really don’t make that much money.

Phil     –        So they pick bands that are really hungry and are like “yeah, let’s get out there!” Musicians are just excited to play music so they know they can pay them less. Musicians are very susceptible to abuse (laughs)

Hilary –         So true (laughs)

Steve –         Yeah…sorry what was the question? (all laugh)

WM   –           So, anything else you’d like to mention to all the folks out there?

Phil    –           No…I think that’s about it…but I would like encourage people to get out there and look up a couple new bands. That’s what it’s about. Buy a record!

WM   –           Actually, speaking of where can folks buy Space Trails?

Phil    –           It’s on Itunes, Spotify, band camp…and when I get those stands out in will be on there too!

WM  –           Cool

You can also check it out now at

http://www.bunkerproductions.ca/artist/the-imperfections/

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

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