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Image: "Boys & Blondes" (YouTube)

CityFolk in Focus: Interview with Dear Rouge

By Stephane Dubord on September 13, 2019



Last time Dear Rouge was in Ottawa, they played a show at the Dow’s Lake Pavilion as part of the Winter Dragonboat festival. At the time, they had just released “Modern Shakedown.” We had caught up with lead singer Danielle McTaggart for a chat ahead of that show, before they brought the house down with an incredibly energetic and intimate performance.

Some things haven’t changed: “Modern Shakedown” is still getting regular airplay on the radio, eight months later. Some things certainly have changed, given Dear Rouge will be performing on the main stage of CityFolk, as part of the Summersault tour with Bush, Live and Our Lady Peace—a far cry from the pavilion on a cold February night.

This time, we had a chat with the other half of the McTaggarts: guitarist Drew, before they headed off to Moncton for the first show of the tour, to hear what they’ve been up to, and try to find out when we can expect new music from them.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

APT613: Last time we talked was back in February, so what have you been up to?

Drew McTaggart: We’ve been busy! We did a tour of the States last fall, and then we did some festivals this summer, and now Summersault, but now we’re full on writing, so that’ll be great.

You released the deluxe edition of Phases last spring, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the album, to tide fans over with five new songs. How long will we have to wait until you release a whole new album for us?

Well, it depends how good we are at writing new songs! With the music industry, if you have the right songs, then you go and release it, but if you don’t feel you do, you don’t rush it. We’re concentrating on trying to put our best foot forward, with the best songs yet, a third album that is a step in the storyline of our whole band.

If we had to put out an album, we could put one out tomorrow, but we want to make sure it’s the right step for a third album. This is going to be a really important album for us—it feels like it’ll be a deeper conversation.

When you released the deluxe edition, did you consider releasing one of the five new songs as a single?

We did, but it’s tricky with singles, because you have to be careful. I mean, you could just keep putting out singles, but it’s a balance. The radio needs to have a little break from Dear Rouge, and for the Spotify people, we need to go away for a bit to be missed a little bit. You want to keep up the momentum, but if you keep putting out singles over and over and over again, you become less of a priority and less of a focus, and you end up achieving the opposite of what you want. You want people to be focused and listen to it no matter what.

Some of those bigger bands, they go away for a while, and often they don’t even have a huge lead up, they just drop a single, and you go out and listen to it, because you know it’s the first single of what the new album is going to be like. If you just keep releasing singles, even though we’d just released the deluxe album, it starts to feel like it’s overkill. Three singles that do well is more than enough. Two is great, and one is expected, but three is totally bonus. We’re more than grateful, and we’ll use it as motivation in writing the next step, and see if we can write something that is true to our hearts and create something that we’re more pumped about than we ever have been. So far with the demos we’ve done, it’s feeling that way, so we’re pretty excited.

You’re going out on tour with Our Lady Peace, Live and Bush. Given our age demographic, it must be an interesting feeling going on the road with those guys.

It’s a total trip. I was in early high school when I was listening to those bands. They were huge! As a young guitar player, some of the first songs I remember playing were “Clumsy” and “Machinehead.” I think “Lightning Crashes” by Live is one of the first songs people learn how to play on guitar because it’s just four chords. So it’s a thrill. It’s interesting because it feels like a different world from our band in the way we normally do it, but at the end of the day, we were fans of them at one point, so it’ll be fun to watch them side stage doing their thing.

It’s a total trip. I was in early high school when I was listening to those bands. They were huge!

You’ve played quite a few festivals of late, including playing the main stage at Osheaga. How was that experience like?

That was so fun. Osheaga was amazing. We were the first ones on the main stage. We had talked to our agent, and we could’ve played a smaller stage later, but he was like “the main stage is the main stage.” It was great. The weirdest thing was that there was nobody there, since the gates weren’t open, so even just before we were going to go on, it felt a little bit weird, and we were getting a little concerned, and getting a bit nervous. Then right before we played, a few thousand people came right up and filled it out. It felt like the crowd was as big as the rest of the day, which was amazing.

We were pumped, and had a great show. We love playing Montreal. It’s an interesting market for us. Ottawa is really big for us, but Montreal is getting up there, even though we don’t have a radio station. It’s interesting, we’ve got these fans, and I guess we’ve played good shows there, and it’s worked out to be on of our biggest markets for Spotify.

I suppose that’s the cool part with music streaming like Spotify that you get all the analytics on what’s happening in those markets.

Cool, and stupid. The funniest thing is that nowadays we have all these numbers for music, and anyone who’s a musician knows you shouldn’t be looking at the numbers. When I go on Spotify, and say I look up Mallrat, a band I’ve been listening to, and they have one million plays. Immediately, no matter who I am, I’m either going to see that number and thinks it’s less than it should be, or more than it should be, and THEN I listen to the music after that. It’s not a way to listen to music, with numbers on it.

Imagine listening to a CD, and it said how many people had bought it? It puts a filter on before you even listen to it. It’s just like with social media. Before you even look at the photo, you know how many likes it’s gotten. It’s creating massive anxiety. So imagine you’re an artist and just starting out, and they’re pumped that they got 10,000 people to listen to their song, which is a big deal, but to others it doesn’t seem like much. Then you don’t fit into the algorithms and you don’t get played on the playlist because you’re an up and comer. I think there will be a lot of resistance to it in the future, like how Instagram stopped showing number of likes on posts.

Catch Dear Rouge early Friday evening as they hit the City Stage at 5:45PM as part of the Summersault festival-within-a-festival at CityFolk. And make sure you stream them on Spotify—but don’t look at the numbers first!