Call & Response: DVAS Play at Pride House Party

It just seems like yesterday that I was up late partying at NXNE and now Pride is here! As a straight guy in the city, I love taking part in lots of Pride events because gay people know how to party!

The headliners at this Thursday's Pride House Party at the Drake are Lauren Flax (Fischerspooner tour DJ) and JD Samson (of electro punk/current Christina Aguilera collaborators Le Tigre). They're apparently spinning a special Pride set together. Sounds like fun to me.

They'll be supported by a bunch of cool local electronic talent, including a rare live performance by DVAS (aka Dietzche V and the Abominable Snowman) - one of my favourite electronic bands in Toronto. Their song "Ambient Room" is super solid, and Croatian producer SymbolOne turned it into one of the best dance tracks of 2008.

I spoke with Jered from the group about their Edmonton origins, the cool gear they use, and Pride nudity.

blogTO: How did you start working together?

Darren and I first played hockey together when we were about five years old. I scored a lot that year (still do) and Darren developed a reputation as a play-maker, both on and off the ice. It was a great introduction to say the least.

Fast forward to 2003: we were sitting next to each other in a Medieval history class in university when I asked Darren to remix a paper I'd written on Abelard. One thing led to another, and soon we were jamming in the basement studio I'd assembled in a bleak industrial park in Edmonton.

What prompted your move to Toronto?

I came out here for the first time in 2001 to escape Edmonton's cold winters, but since then I've realized that Toronto's winters are worse. Seriously. In Edmonton you drive in around in your Escalade or Hummer and hang out in the mall. So it doesn't matter if it's -35 degrees. I also enrolled at Ryerson for journalism in 2004 and commuting from Edmonton wasn't an option. Meanwhile, Darren and I have had a pretty intense long-distance relationship for many years but it got easier when he moved to Montreal a couple years ago. He's also doing his Masters at McGill.

What's your current live set-up?

The current set up involves a live drummer named Dean Wales, three synthesizers and some MIDI stuff running out of Ableton Live. I'm doing a lot of live looping with this killer effects unit and working the mixing desk, too. I'm not keen on having a laptop on stage, but it's a necessary evil for us at this point. I'm singing, as well... WITHOUT auto-tune. No vocoders either, sorry to all those robot rockers out there.

What's your favourite piece of gear to use in the studio?

The Yamaha TX7 because it's so Jan Hammer, or maybe Darren's Korg MS20. That thing is a beast. We used it on our remix for Faunts a while back. Dial that up and feel the filters.

What about your favourite piece of gear to use on stage?

I'd say the Ensoniq ESQ-1. It's basically a boat anchor with some digital/analog sounds on it. But no one uses it and it's kinda turned into my sound. Seriously. People always want analog synths like Moogs and Prophets, but I'm down with the shitty, early digital stuff that no one wants. They have amazing new age sounds like flutes and stuff, which is kinda what I'm feeling these days on my home system.

Do you guys usually take part in Pride activities? What do you like best about Pride?

Pride is a choice event because everyone can just let it fucking hang out. Literally. You see 85-year-old dudes walking around with their joints hanging out, and that's cool, because all this body consciousness stuff is lame. Sure, some gay dudes are all about the six-pack, but during Pride everyone just chills about it. I saw some transsexuals last year with their tits hanging out and I was like "is that all you got?" Anyway, never mind the garbage strike, people, because it's going to be raining men all week.

I love "Ambient Room". What's that song about?

"Ambient Room" is about promoting parties. Basically, we wrote that tune after bringing in this DJ named Paul Devro to play with us in Edmonton a while back. We were flyering and trying to get people out the show, and these hippie dudes where like, "oh, DVAS, you guys are too Hi-Nrg for us - we prefer to chillax and vibe." But we had a chill out room at the show, so we told them: "We got some of your fave tunes, if you don't dig house, we got an ambient room!"

You have new music on the way. How is it different/similar to your older stuff?

The DVAS sound is all about being positive and having a good time. We don't take ourselves too seriously. I mean, we're not Weird Al or anything, but we want to make a joyful sound. The new stuff is more vocal and more pop. There's a tune called "Society" which is probably the happiest vocal I've even written. It's about blasting off in the VIP Room, bro! Hopefully I can pull off the vocal line in the live environment.

What can people expect to see/hear/feel at your show Thursday?

Lots of synth licks, some nice melodies and more vintage gear than a Romanian sex shop.

PRIDE House Party feat. JD Samson and Lauren Flax (Special Pride DJ set)
w/ Pilotpriest, The Miles, DVAS (live), Sweatshop Hop (dance performance)
Thursday, June 25
The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West
Doors: 8pm (extended bar hours to 4pm)
Cover: $5

Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo: David Gillespie.

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