SET TO RELEASE EP THIS SATURDAY
Story by Kate Davies
In modern music, a crossroads has emerged between old and new: between the rule of the record companies and that of the digital world. Many bands are caught up in the shuffle, having to decide whether it is in their best interests to sign on with a label or to go it alone. While you may feel envious of a group of musicians who have obtained a recording contract with the biggest label in the world (Universal) almost instantaneously, Toronto rock band The Envy have decided to leave these “solid” foundations behind in favour of a DIY attitude
The group is made up of lead singer and principal songwriter Shaun Frank (who sounds eerily reminiscent of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell), talented guitarist and songwriter VØID, tight drummer Izzy, and creative keyboardist Jonny. Having opened for KISS and Mötley Crüe last month at the Molson Amphitheatre as well as working closely with Gene Simmons on a daily basis, The Envy seem to be doing just fine on their own. They are set to release their highly-anticipated Conception EP this Saturday, November 3rd at the Mod Club. I spoke with lead guitarist and songwriter VØID to get a better understanding of why they have chosen the DIY path.
So how long has it been since you last played?
Well, the last time that we put on a show that was open to the public was in June of last year. I mean, we played at the Molson Amphitheatre a couple of months ago. That was for the people who bought tickets to the KISS and Mötley Crüe show. Before that, we played in February at the Horseshoe but that was a private party. So yeah, the last show that we played that was really a legitimate show was last year. We’re all itching to get back on stage.
Obviously you guys have had a longstanding relationship with Gene Simmons of KISS, right? So, how did you first start working with him?
We put The Envy together as a continuation of a couple of other bands. We were just thinking: “let’s just do it right this time” and take all of our know-how and take all of our contacts and start from scratch. Our producer was a bit of a risk-taker and he called up some of his contacts and Universal became interested really early on. Universal was also in talks with Gene at a company called Simmons Records, and Gene heard the songs and he became interested. So he flew up to see us a few months later and we just hit it off right away. He really liked what we were all about and we liked what he was saying. He was all about being a team player and collaborating. It wasn’t a dictatorship or anything – I mean we were a bit scared that he was just going to call the shots, but we were open to his suggestions and basically we talk to him now almost every single day.
So your new EP is called Conception – how did you go into making the Deception and Conception albums? Was it your plan from the beginning to have these two different divides or did it naturally happen in your songwriting process?
Well, one of the reasons why we haven’t played shows lately is because we’ve switched gears and we wanted to focus on writing songs, but we got a little bit trapped in the record label game. The record label game is the illusion that being signed to a record company is going to give you a huge edge where you just put out a song that’s decent and they push it with all of their resources. These days, sure, record labels do have an edge in some categories but we got caught up in that game. The positive side of it was that it lead to a whole heap of songs, maybe 30 or 40 songs that we were writing and nothing was released. So we just had all of these songs on a hard drive and it felt like we were kind of “keeping a secret” from everyone, especially our fans. We have really loyal fans, so we definitely didn’t want to keep them in the dark. We thought it was very important that we release these songs. The original idea was that we have these 2 distinct sides to the band: we have a darker side of heavier rock where some songs tend to be a little eerie and edgy, whereas other songs have more of an upbeat or sexier vibe. So we thought that on an album it would sound really good mixed together but it might be cool these days to release it in smaller pieces, where first we give them a taste of one side of our band and after they digest that, then they get the other side. That’s where “deception” came and “conception” followed. With Conception, the songs are those that you could hear on the radio and that can maybe crossover and go into a movie. But our songs also have a cinematic vibe to it so it’s almost like taking you on an emotional rollercoaster – and that part is what Deception realised.
When you’re writing songs do you have a pattern that you always follow, like do you start with the lyrics and then add the melody afterword?
Typically from what I understand there are four or five different ways that people write. In the bands that I’ve played in and the songs that I’ve written, it always kind of follows a similar pattern. Usually there’s a musical idea whether it’s on the guitar or a piano, sometimes it’s a beat. And then either myself but mostly Shaun would start singing jibberish, like I remember The Beatles’ “Yesterday” started out as “scrambled eggs”. Music, even in other languages, translates if there’s a beautiful melody – the melody is really really important. You really get a lot out of the emotion of the song, even if you don’t understand the words. So the words are important, but they’re delivered really well on a strong melody.
I noticed on Facebook that you guys posted the song “Erase Me” in honour of bullying victim Amanda Todd. I was wondering if there were any songs on your new album or your older albums that you feel you really connected with in a similar way? Because its obvious that that really meant a lot to you guys.
For sure, yes. Shaun actually posted that link. We wrote “Erase Me” a few months ago and that was a song where we really connected with the subject matter as well as the track. The feeling came very naturally. “Moth to the Flame” was also a big one. I remember we got word from our record label that we didn’t have enough hits about a year and a half ago so we needed to write a bunch more songs. It’s a huge challenge, you know – it’s like telling someone who’s in little league that you have to compete in the Stanley Cup finals, so you have to go up against the big guns and be just as good or better. I think that all this stuff I was describing about the label and empty promises or this illusion of grandeur is related. Like the idea that once you sign a record deal you’re going to be famous. It’s sort of this temptation idea and we thought a perfect metaphor for it was a moth to the flame. Like, is the moth the one who is at fault for being attracted to this beautiful flame or is it the flame’s fault for attracting the moth? So this concept of temptation (ie. The record label) – is it our fault for buying into it or is it the system’s fault? I feel like that one really hit home when we were writing it – it perfectly captured what we were feeling at that time.
I have a question for you about your release party coming up this Saturday at the Mod Club. Any clues as to what we can expect performance-wise?
The Envy pride ourselves in an audio-visual experience and so for us, just plugging in our amps isn’t enough. We definitely have some tricks up our sleeves and we definitely put care into making the audience’s experience epic. You know, goosebump moments. We actually have about 30 fans who have tattoos that have seen us maybe only once and if there’s anything that happens like that again, that would be amazing. But from our perspective, it will be audio-visual to the max!
The Envy are playing this Saturday, November 3rd at the Mod Club.
VIP Tickets: $25 including both Deception and Conception EPs, a t-shirt, poster and exclusive loft access to hang out with the bands.