Call & Response: Eight and a Half
Eight and a Half is Justin Peroff (drums), Dave Hamelin (guitar/vocals) and Liam O'Neil (synth/keyboard). Their sound is confident and purposeful — from the pulse of O'Neil's keys to Peroff's energizing drum solos and Hamelin's tender vocal aches. The trio have recently released their self-titled debut, which effortlessly pairs the retro with the futuristic in carving out a sound that demands repeat listens.
Why did you guys choose the name Eight and a Half? Is it a reference to the Fellini film?
Dave Hamelin: Yes. I really liked the movie and thought it would make for a good band name.
Can you talk briefly about how you guys decided to work together? What would you say got your collaboration started? And how have you pushed forward after having been members of other bands like Broken Social Scene and the The Stills for so long?
Justin Peroff: I called Dave in the summer of 2009 asking him to come visit Toronto for an annual summer BSS show. Dave said he couldn't make it but asked me to visit Montreal instead. I obliged. During that visit the three of us decided to make some music. We enjoyed the process and the result so much that we decided to make a record and call ourselves a band. After 10 years of BSS, the push forward is coming from BSS themselves.
"Scissors," the first track on your S/T album, has a heavier, denser sound than fans may be used to from your former bands. How did you develop the different textures in this album? What kind of vibe were you going for?
Peroff: There was no preconceived destination for what the music was going to sound like. Sometimes the songwriting was immediate, other times it was more of a trial and error process.
Many of the tracks are synth-driven, using lots of distortion and looping sounds, giving the songs a dreamy, futuristic feel. What were some of your inspirations for this album?
Liam O'Neil: Actually, the futuristic tone we were trying to set was more one from the past — more the way they envisioned the future back in the 60s/70s, at least in terms of the sounds we were after in the realm of synths, etc.
What would you say are the songs from the album that you're most satisfied with?
O'Neil: It's hard to pick favourites...they all turned out pretty much how we envisioned them...
This album was recorded in Toronto at Jimmy Shaw and Sebastien Grainger's studio. Can you talk about what it's like recording there?
O'Neil: Giant Studio is probably the best studio I've been in, especially when it comes to sheer creative flow... Pretty much any idea you have can be realized extremely quickly, and everything sounds amazing that comes out of there. I don't know what we would have done without those guys, and that studio. Jimmy also helped on the production side of things, especially on the knowing when a song is done or not.
What is the most exciting aspect of working in this new project? And what's next for you guys?
Peroff: It was entirely satisfying to finally say "the record is finished" ...
O'Neil: We actually just finished recording a new song — a cover, actually — that we're mixing this week. Excited about that!
Catch Eight and a Half at Drake Hotel Underground (1150 Queen W.) tomorrow night, February 15th. Tickets $10
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