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Interview With Caffeine Sunday














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An Interview with Caffeine Sunday
by Jill Davis LeBlanc

Caffeine Sunday are an Edmonton, Alberta based synthpop band founded by Christopher Nash and Ryan Ezinga. The name Caffeine Sunday conjures up images of a sobering "morning after" or perhaps an injection of synthetic energy into a dull, gray day. Since 1998 they've been writing, recording and performing music that has been "inspired by the shadows and shiny reflections of everyday human relationships." Recently, Chris & Ryan shared with me some of their views about the current state of electronic music in Edmonton and what they consider to be the "five essential food groups"...

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How would you describe your music?

Chris Nash: New synthpop that's song-based and not afraid to wear its emotions on its sleeve.
Ryan Ezinga: Pseudo-retro synth indie pop.

Why synthpop?

CN: I love all kinds of music, but for some reason synthpop always feels like my own "soul music." It's a gut reaction. There is just so much emotion and energy involved. And for me synthesizers and drum machines have always sounded so damn cool!
RE: I was always listening to OMD, Pet Shop Boys and Duran Duran while everyone else was listening to Motley Crue and AC/DC. When the New Order 45" single True Faith/1963 came out I thought I found the meaning of life. When I was a kid and somebody had a cheesy Casio Portasound-type keyboard laying around you couldn't pry me away from it.

Generally speaking, how well is electronic music received by audiences in your part of the country? Is there a "scene" or community of electronic artists there?

CN: Historically, horrible. This is the land of new Nashville country radio, underground granola alt-country, and classic rock cover bands. Some people here refer to the "music scene" in Edmonton, but I honestly don't see enough people and bands all working together to call it a community at all. The harsh reality is it's a few relatively-successful bands and music lovers floating around in a vacuum of indifference. Anyone else who tells you otherwise is either in one of those relatively-successful bands or is one of their friends/fans. There seems to be a bright spot recently, though. The young, enthusiastic people who now go to see Edmonton band Shout Out Out Out Out (a sort of local supergroup that came together to make a pretty kick-ass electronic band) and rapper Cadence Weapon (produced by the leader of Shout Out Out Out Out) are giving me some hope that the younger crowd is more open to different genres of music than what we've seen here in years past.
RE: Occasionally I'm shocked and awed by a local synthpop band that pops out of nowhere, like Innermost or Blue Machine, but most of the time it's the same ol' same ol' "rawk music".

Who are some of your influences, musical or otherwise?

CN: I grew up with a pioneering synth artist as my uncle. His name is Ohama, and he was quite an underground success back in the early '80s. I used to spend lots of time hanging out in his studio, and later I bought his old keyboards off him whenever he bought new stuff for himself. He was a huge influence. I went to university to study classical music. It sounds weird here, but it's a big influence too. And Ryan and I have what we call the Five Essential Food Groups of the 1980s (Depeche Mode, Erasure, The Cure, New Order, Pet Shop Boys). Other than that, I love nearly everything, from OMD and Cause and Effect, to the Beatles and The Band. With music, you can never expand your horizons enough. You find stuff you hate (ie. Pearl Jam, screamcore) but you always find stuff you like where you least expect it (Fats Domino, Maps).
RE: The Five Food Groups (Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure, the Cure, Pet Shop Boys) are definitely big influences. I also have quite a few non-synth influences that are huge in my life and in my songwriting, like Matthew Sweet. He could be the best pop songwriter since Benny & Bjorn. Aimee Mann too, and Moe Berg, George Michael, Ed Roland, Marc Bolan...

What's on your ipod right now?

CN: My Shuffle has a bunch of rough mixes for the new Caffeine Sunday album, plus Dave Gahan's last solo album I just got from our public library, Flight of the Conchords, Oscar Peterson (Night Train), New Order (Power, Corruption and Lies), the last Japan Talk podcast, and an audiobook from David Allen.
RE: My Shuffle has the new Cut Copy album In Ghost Colours (brilliant!), Andy Bell's Electric Blue, Nine Inch Nails' The Slip, and the very few songs from Panic at the Disco's Pretty Odd that don't completely suck. I've been listening to Bella's No One Will Know a lot lately too, it's the type of modern synthpop that really inspires me.

What's your process for song writing? Is there a distinct division of labour within the band, or is it a collaborative effort?

CN: We tend to demo the music on our own, and then send it to each other for feedback and potential additions. We each have a studio set-up in our homes, so we work on stuff separately and then send each other files through iDisk.
RE: When I write on guitar, I usually find a cool riff and then write a song around it. When I write using a sequencer I guess it's kind of the same type of process, but a lot easier to string things together. I start with a basic sound bite and build around it.

What do you enjoy most: writing, recording or performing?

CN: I'm going to cop out and say yes. I love all three (although I have to admit performing synthpop in Edmonton hasn't always been a joy, I'm still proud that we do it). And for me the writing and recording steps are kind of the same process, but it's always a great feeling when you come up with yet another new song you didn't know you had in you.
RE: Writing is fun. Recording is moderately enjoyable. I'm more of an ideas person, I don't really have a knack for "producing". I don't have the patience for the perfection that recording requires. I love performing the most. You can have a messy and energetic performance and it doesn't really matter if everything was perfect or not. Plus it's very gratifying when people I've never met before feel compelled to tell me they liked a song we wrote.

Tell us a little bit about the gear you use.

CN: We both use Reason, both live and in the studio, and MOTU Digital Performer running on Macs to record the additional audio tracks (vocals, guitar, hardware synths). I don't have much cool new gear. I have a Yamaha CS-6x and a Kurzweil K2000, and some really old stuff that barely works anymore (Ensoniq SQ-80, Korg DW-8000, Yamaha DX-7, Emulator II). Plus an Ibanez Artcore semi-hollowbody guitar I like a lot. I record that through a Korg amp simulator. And an old pair of Technics 1200 turntables. We both have Rode condensor mics, too.
RE: I have a Les Paul knock-off by Samick, a Casio CZ-101 and an M-Audio midi controller. I run my guitar through a Zoom effects processor.

Who made the cool video for "Low"? (Check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeLytbH0iCQ )

CN: That was Ryan.
RE: I used the video capture feature from the Sims 2 game, along with a whole whack of custom content and hacks. It was all edited using Final Cut. When I started I thought it would take a couple weekends to complete, but it took around 7 weeks of nothing but work-eat-sleep-video. Making a narrative video using the Sims is nothing at all like playing the game. I haven't been able to play the game since and I probably never will. Another I could do another video though, for sure.

Name 3 songs that would have to appear on the soundtrack of your life.

CN: Only three? OK - "Sometimes" by Ohama; "Imagine" by John Lennon; "Chorus" by Erasure
RE: "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode (the greatest hymn ever written); "Never Let You Go" by Third Eye Blind; "Get Older" by Matthew Sweet

For more on Caffeine Sunday, check out their website at www.caffeinesunday.com