By Stewart Wiseman
At long last, Timber Timbre will be bringing their Sincerely, Future Pollution album to Ottawa on November 16. The Montreal-Toronto four piece haven’t played here since 2015 and fans will encounter a much different band than what they’ve been used to. More sonically diverse than their previous albums, Sincerely, Future Pollution finds the band experimenting with an array of synthesizers, leading to their funkiest album yet. As a result, the band seems to be having more fun on stage, and the new songs inject a burst of energy into an often sombre song catalog. Since the new album was released in April, Timber Timbre have been refining their stage presence through almost non-stop touring, and fans are likely to encounter a band at the height of their abilities. Apt613 reached Timber Timbre guitarist Simon Trottier at his home in Montreal.
Note that this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: You recently completed a tour of Europe where you played some unconventional countries like Slovenia, Turkey, Poland, and Austria. How did the tour go and what were the crowds like in these countries where not many bands tour?
Simon Trottier: It was a nice time, a lot of these places were new to us. The Slovenia show went very well and we were not expecting anything from it. The people were great, they showed up, and the venue sounded great. We only have good things to say about Slovenia. We’ve actually been to Austria a few times, and we have a lot of fans in Vienna and Linz. It was our first time in Turkey though and I didn’t know what to think before because of the political climate. We weren’t there long enough to feel any of the political tension, but in Istanbul we had to go through metal detectors before getting in the venue. Besides that our day there was very relaxed, it’s a beautiful city.
On Sincerely Future Pollution, Taylor said that he stepped back and only sang and produced while Mathieu, Olivier, and yourself handled everything else. How did the different recording process shape the new album? Did you really feel a difference?
Speaking for myself, with every Timber Timbre record I’ve felt the opportunities have grown for me to be involved. I guess Hot Dreams was the bridge that changed things. Previously, Taylor was taking most of the decisions, but on Hot Dreams it really felt like we were making something together. It’s been a progression since then, but on Sincerely, Future Pollution it felt more like a collaborative band than the albums before. Olivier and Mathieu are both really good musicians and into synthesizers, and I think that opened the door for more experimenting on the new album. It’s the first record where we went to the studio and already knew what we were going to do. Before even entering the studio we spent two months working on the songs and arrangements together, so we all felt like we were part of the creative process.
On this album you experiment musically and drift away from the Americana-blues sound of previous albums. Was this done purposely or was it more of a natural evolution for the band?
I think it definitely sounds more experimental, but at the same time I feel we recorded catchier songs than anything else we’ve done before; like we’ve never done anything funky like Grifting before. Even the instrumental track for me sounded more like the band Air than our previous songs. I don’t think we were thinking “let’s do an experimental record,” we were just sort of exploring more in the studio with the synthesizer, which is something we never did before. But recently, when I sat down and listened to it I thought, “oh shit there’s a lot of weird stuff on this record.”
I can remember covering you from the photo pit at Osheaga 2011 and the performance was almost pitch black with heavy fog machines and you were all sitting down. It was too dark to see anything, and in the middle of a song someone from the band motioned for me to get out of the photo pit because apparently photography wasn’t allowed. I also saw you this past June in Montreal and this time the full band was standing, you had real stage lighting, and the band seemed to be having more fun. What led to the change in the band’s approach to live shows?
To be honest, when I started playing with Taylor he was used to doing a solo thing and wasn’t used to having anyone else on stage. I think Taylor still preferred sitting down. He’s just a very shy guy and didn’t want to have too much attention on stage. So when we were playing we would have everything very dark, and Taylor would be playing from the back of the stage behind the bass drum with fog. In those first shows with him I kept thinking that we really should have a drummer and someone to play keyboards. It took about four years to convince Taylor to start playing with a drummer, but we started playing with Olivier, and then Mathieu joined on keyboards, so we felt more like a band. We started touring as a four piece, and then Taylor started to stand and I think he likes it more and more. I knew he had a great stage presence in him, and the shows have been a lot of fun like this.
You’ll be playing at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa on November 16. Do you have any specific memories about playing in Ottawa?
I have many memories because I’ve played there with a lot of different bands, so I’ll give you one bad memory and one good memory. The bad memory was when Timber Timbre was opening for Great Lake Swimmers and we were very late to the show because we were driving from Toronto and got stuck in traffic. By the time we got there, we didn’t have time to sound check at all and we were so late that we only had time to play three songs. To make it worse, there were no vocals coming from the mic, so it felt like a nightmare show. At the other end, a good memory was playing the Ottawa Jazz Festival a couple of years ago. We had a great show and played in a tent in the rain, it was a lot of fun.
The show in Ottawa will be the second to last of the tour. Are you going to put Sincerely, Future Pollution to bed after the tour wraps up or do you have more dates planned?
We haven’t stopped touring for this record, and we’re not sure what we’ll do next after this little tour. Our management is talking with people in Asia to see if there’s a crowd for us there, and that would be really cool. But at the moment we kind of want a break from the road.
Timber Timbre, Boyhood and Scattered Clouds will be at the Bronson Centre on November 16. Tickets are available online for $25.