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Lead singer Danielle McTaggart commanded the massive stage, weaving through a short set of their best hits, as well as an LCD Soundsystem cover.

Interview: In conversation with Dear Rouge before their Shed Session at Neat Coffee Shop, June 4

By Stephane Dubord on June 4, 2022

The return of the Neat Shed Sessions kicked off with a bang this week, and rolls into the weekend with a solid lineup of Dear Rouge on Saturday and Bedouin Soundclash on Sunday.

Dear Rouge has had a long love affair with Ottawa, dating back to their debut on Live 88.5 with their first single “I Heard I Had”. Their numerous shows over the years keep stoking that admiration, whether it’s in the Dow’s Lake Pavilion, the Bronson Centre or on the big stage at CityFolk.

Drew and Danielle McTaggart, the duo that comprises Dear Rouge, will be adding a new venue to their list Saturday in Burnstown, gracing the outdoor Shed stage at Neat Coffee Shop. Such a unique venue is bound to provide them with the freedom to expand their repertoire, and dust off some of the lesser played tracks from their ever-growing catalog.

We caught up with Drew ahead of the show to chat about their latest album, their pandemic experience, and the return to live shows.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: Last time we chatted you were about to play CityFolk 2019 as part of the Summersault tour with Our Lady Peace, Live, and Bush.

Drew McTaggart: Oh wow. And now we’re different people! Three years have gone by, so we’re excited because we’re back to playing, but it’s also a little intimidating because you’re booking all the flights, booking all the hotels and looking at your schedule and you’re like, okay, we’re going to do this again. But it’s exciting. We want to put on the best show and we want to feel back to normal.

Kicking off Day 2 on the City Stage, Dear Rouge made their return to Ottawa – which marked their 20th appearance in town.

You just played in Vancouver to open for Vance Joy, and will be doing so in Toronto, so that must have been quite the return to the stage.

We have a tour with Metric and a bunch of festivals, so for the summertime we have probably like 20 to 30 shows, so that’s going to be great.

[In Vancouver], we had a shorter set of 30 minutes, so it felt like we played tight and it also felt like we didn’t have enough time to get in the groove. It felt like a little bit of a blip. Whereas this weekend we’re going to be playing a lot longer and it’s going to feel like we’ll be able to start feeling loose, and working off the crowd. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.

Listening to the new album nonstop, I get a sense that there are more keyboards, a little less guitar.

I think there’s a bit of both. The first few songs kind of lead the listener into the album that we were making, and there are those guitar tracks in there, but I guess you could say less electric guitar because there’s a lot of songs where we did a lot of acoustic guitar, which is a new thing for us. Now that the record is out and now that we’ve finished it, it truly is a byproduct of the pandemic and about searching within ourselves, trying to be a little bit more vulnerable. Also, not just trying to put the same stuff out.

Speaking of being more vulnerable and trying new things, when you released “Life Goes By”, I was stunned. Did not expect that, but you nailed that one.

Thank you so much. We liked putting it out second. In our minds, it was setting the parameters of the album. When we came in with “Fake Fame”, a lot of people are like “Oh, this feels like Dear Rouge”. And then “Life Goes By” acts as the other bookend of the album and shows the scope of what we’re doing and also lead the listener a little bit. By the time they get the album, they can see all the songs falling in between those two.

The collaboration with Lights on the album seems to be a really natural fit with the direction of the album.

It felt right, and we’ve been fans of her for a long time. We toured with her, we’ve been friends with her, one of the our first gigs was opening for her acoustic set. So, it just felt really nice, since it wasn’t just like a feature of someone who we don’t know, but someone who we’re close with, so it feels extra special.

Dear Rouge play Neat Coffee Shop on June 4. Check out their website for future shows.