Toronto band Arietta shares some good company. The band counts itself as peers among a burgeoning Toronto music scene including bands such as Dinosaur Bones, Oh No Forest Fires and Cancel Winter. The band’s debut LP Migration hits the market on May 5, featuring 10 tracks of their eclectic brand of rock and roll, including first single ‘Into the Deep’. The band sets out on tour in May in support of the new release. I recently had the chance to chat with drummer Shehzaad Jiwani about the Toronto music scene, the new album, and video games.
Kevin: Thanks for sitting down for a chat today.
Shehzaad: Thanks for having me!
Kevin: Perhaps it’s best to begin at the beginning. I know Arietta’s been around for some time, how did you wind up with this merry band of miscreants?
Shehzaad: I personally joined a couple years ago but the band has been around since 2003. Tyler, Sean and Brian went to high school together, and their old rhythm section left and is now part of the Great Bloomers. Fun trivia there. Kyle joined before they recorded an old EP, and then I joined during the writing process for Migration. I met Tyler a few years before that and we just kept in touch, saw each other at shows, etc. They needed a drummer so I volunteered and I’ve been trapped with them ever since. Then Patrick joined after we recorded the record and he is the best thing that has ever happened to the band.
Kevin: Interesting you mentioned the Great Bloomers, as you seem to be part of a scene developing in Toronto with you and a number of other young bands.
Shehzaad: Yeah, which is really cool for us. We hope the other bands feel the same way. We are very big on developing a sort of community, and it’s starting to take shape with us, Dinosaur Bones, Great Bloomers, Oh No Forest Fires, Ulysses and the Siren and a bunch of other bands from around the area. It’s really cool to have camaraderie like that. In Toronto, a lot of the scenes that were already established are a bit restricted to one type of sound, so it’s cool that our little community has vastly disparate bands like those mentioned, who really don’t sound anything alike, but we all have mutual respect for each other.
Kevin: I get a sense of that camaraderie. There really seems to be a lack of egos among these bands. Random question time. If Arietta was a video game, what would it be?
Shehzaad: Super Bomber Man.
Shehzaad: Or some weird conglomeration of NBA Jam, Street Fighter, Turtles in Time, and Contra. And Ocarina of Time for Kyle and Pat.
Kevin: Keeping it Nintendo. I like that. I have trouble trying to pigeonhole the band into a specific genre, how would you define the music you guys play?
Shehzaad: That’s kind of the point. We don’t really want anyone to pigeonhole us at all. If I had to describe it I’d say it’s equally poppy and technical, with some danceable and aggressive tendencies thrown in as well. All of us listen to a huge amount of music, so that comes through in our songs in a big way. One song could have a jazz influence but then break into a Minus the Bear, Dismemberment Plan, kind of driving sound. We like to flip the script, so to speak.
Kevin: Well, congrats on getting the new album out. Is there an amusing anecdote behind the title, Migration?
Shehzaad: Not particularly amusing. Tyler came up with the name one day and it ended up being a really good fit. A lot of the record is about leaving the city and moving away, trying to break out of the stagnation and routine a big city can bring people our age. Not that amusing, but that is where it comes from. Read between the lines, people!
Kevin: You mentioned you entered the band in the middle of the writing process. Does the band take a collaborative approach to the whole thing?
Shehzaad: I would say so. For this album it was a bit strange because some of the songs were written before I was in the band, and some even date back to before Kyle joining, but there is always room made for us to put our own spin on it. I guess proof that it’s collaborative is that the songs never end up in the same place as they began.
For these songs what would generally happen is Sean comes up with an idea and we all work around that. As we progressed though, it became more and more of everyone’s thing. ‘A Prolonged Sense of Longing’ is the last song we finished for the record and that basically came out of an old idea Sean had played us, then all of us jamming through it together. I think the next record will be a lot more like that in the sense of all of us writing together, which is pretty exciting, especially with Pat in the band now.
Kevin: ‘A Prolonged Sense of Longing’ is probably my favourite track on the album, the rhythm section really shines on it.
Shehzaad: I feel like we shine on the whole album, really. Actually to be perfectly honest, Kyle actually does. He is our secret weapon.
Kevin: Kind of backtracking a bit, you mentioned the Dismemberment Plan and Minus the Bear as influences, but I hear a lot of Moneen. Would you count them among the influences that went into making this record?
Shehzaad: I don’t know if they’re a conscious influence but I know that we’re all fans of the band. I wouldn’t deny that there’s a similarity there at all. I dunno if Tyler jumps around as much as Kenny.
Kevin: You have a track on the album called ‘According to the Map, We’ve Gone About Four Inches.’ Unless my movie quote recall is failing me, this is a reference to the 1994 Jeff Daniels/Jim Carrey tour-de-force Dumb and Dumber. Explain yourself.
Shehzaad: That is Sean’s favourite movie, and I’d have to say it’s one of mine as well. We had a few movie quotes as titles, actually. “Into the Deep” was originally going to be called “I’d Buy That for a Dollar,” but was vetoed as we were afraid people wouldn’t get the reference. Maybe next time. Actually, the lyrics to that song are inspired by a movie. I won’t say which one.
Kevin: Is it Robocop?
Shehzaad: You bet your ass it is. Except no, it isn’t. Writing a song about Robocop would be sweet, though. Or Terminator. Ironically enough, T2 is one of the working titles as well.
Kevin: Looking forward to hitting the road in a few weeks?
Shehzaad: Very much so! We are all really excited. We’re booking the tour ourselves so we’re ready to taste the fruits of our labour. We are especially excited to be touring with Dinosaur Bones and Oh No Forest Fires for a bunch of the May dates since they are very good friends of ours and we enjoy their company. I think I’m the most excited about heading out to Halifax in June. I hear they have great record stores out east.
Kevin: Anything else to declare?
Shehzaad: If you live in or around Toronto, come to our CD release party at the Horseshoe on May 7th. It’s going to be a ridiculously good time, guaranteed. The Junction and Cancel Winter are also playing, plus our good buddy Serb Superb. If you don’t have a good time I will personally buy you a drink.
07 May – Toronto – Horseshoe Tavern (CD Release Party)
08 May – Oshawa – Atria
09 May – Uxbridge – Uxbridge Youth Centre
10 May – Newmarket – Good Times
14 May – Streetsville – Marcello’s
16 May – Hamilton – Absinthe
17 May – St. Catharines – 73
21 May – Guelph – The Shadow
22 May – Burlington – Red Rooster
28 May – London – Black Shire Pub
29 May – Ottawa – Club Saw
30 May – Montreal – Green Room
06 June – Peterborough – The Spill
10 June – Charlottetown – Winsloe Lion’s Club
12 June – Halifax – Coconut Grove
18 June – Whitby – Johnny B’s