Still Life Still plays together, stays together

Brendon Saarinen of Still Life Still speaks about about the development of the group, the excitement of being in an up-and-coming band, and the importance of feeling good and loving the universe.

By Mattias Darrow

Still Life Still is the new Toronto talent on the indie rock scene, and it’s getting ready to spread good vibes through the States. Coming off the 2009 releases of Pastel and Girls Come Too, as well as a month-long residency at the Mercury Lounge in New York, the band has just started its first headlining sweep in the U.S. Still Life Still will be bringing the love to Schubas Tavern this Thursday and Friday nights with opener Wild Beasts. Guitarist and vocalist Brendon Saarinen was able to chat with the Maroon about the development of Still Life Still, the excitement of being in an up-and-coming band, and the importance of feeling good and loving the universe.

Chicago Maroon: You guys are all from Toronto and have been playing together since junior high. What’s that been like?

Brendon Saarinen: Well, we basically learned how to play our instruments together. When we first started out, at the first band practice I was invited to, our drummer was drumming on pots and pans. We all kind of learned and got our first instruments together.

CM: What’s it been like getting to grow together as a band for 10 years?

BS: You know, it’s definitely had its ups and downs—but now that we’re at this point, it feels pretty good to have all that behind us. I feel we’re at a pretty good spot. It actually feels like we’re just starting. It’s weird, like all those 10 years were just pure preparation.

CM: How did it come about that you guys got signed to Arts and Crafts and made these record deals?

BS: Basically we were playing shows at this place in Toronto called The Drake. Certain days there are free shows. We were playing as many free shows as we could there, and we ended up meeting Kevin Drew . I guess we had met him beforehand. We were just like, “Come see a show,” and eventually he came to a few, and that was it. We brought him to a couple of house parties and played some pretty crazy shows, and he was down. It was pretty surprising. In the span of maybe four or five months, it was pretty much done.

CM: What is it like being a rock band in the Toronto music scene?

BS: Oh man, it’s pretty crazy. One of the main things for us when we were doing all of those Monday shows at The Drake was that we got to meet a lot of Toronto bands. For a long time we were playing with bands that we weren’t really feeling. Then we finally got to meet some great bands, and it was like, “Whoa, the Toronto music scene is amazing, we were just playing in the wrong spot the whole time.” We actually just got back from New York where we were playing a residency at the Mercury Lounge, and I’ve already seen two amazing shows here. I actually saw Teen Tits Wild West, old friends of ours from high school that we had lost touch with. And Heartbeat Hotel. They were both really cool.

CM: You guys have a very indie rock sound that’s a lot of fun to listen and dance to. What do you try to bring to the music and the creative process?

BS: Probably one of the main things, I think, is that when people go to see shows they want to feel good. When we were making , we were just jamming. We didn’t really have an overall greater picture of what we thought the album was or whatever. We were just trying to make fun music, to make people feel, and make people happy and sad. We’re trying a lot of different stuff now. We’re already working on our next record and it’s changing quite a bit.

CM: What kind of things do you think we can expect for the next album?

BS: Well, we’re trying a bunch of new things, like using samples more. It’s actually really hard to describe, because we’re trying all of these things, but who knows what it’ll come out sounding like. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

CM: So this is your second North American tour?

BS: Yeah, sort of. We went down to Salt Lake City with The Most Serene Republic, and we’ve gone across Canada with The Hold Steady, and played a bunch of shows in New York and Chicago. But this is the first tour that we’ve really tried to take on a lot of the states at once. We’re conquering a lot of land here.

CM: What has been your best experience with a show so far?

BS: So far for me, it was the Mercury Lounge shows we did. The first couple of shows, there were maybe 20 or 30 people, but by the end of the residency there were quite a few people there that knew our music, and for me that was awesome. Then there was the first show on our tour with The Hold Steady, in Vancouver. It was one of the biggest venues we played and we got a really nice response, a whole bunch of people we didn’t know but they knew us.

CM: That must be pretty invigorating as a musician.

BS: Yeah, working so long for so many years to get these opportunities. Just have to be thankful, you know, and keep fuckin’ lovin’ the universe.