Article by: Pete Nema
What? I double-check the press release in my inbox to make sure I'm reading it correctly... Days Of You is releasing a new album called You Belong Where You Go. That's a band name I haven't heard in a long time, but it only takes a couple of seconds to jog my memory and I start singing "Monkey," a song that first appeared on their 1994 EP called The Beetles and again on their 1995 full-length Swim.
I really liked Days Of You back in the mid-1990's; it was around the same time Phish was making the transformation from an innovative band into another version of The Grateful Dead and Days Of You helped fill my listening schedule. It's always amazing to see the reemergence of bands who have seemingly gone dormant. A lot has happened since 1995 (or even since 2000 when the Days Of You hiatus officially started). For example, I have since started sharing my thoughts about music, concerts, and photographing the occasional band. But what about Days Of You? I had the opportunity to ask a few questions to the band that made a great impression on me all those years ago: Mark Thackway (vocals, guitar), Steve Himel (bass), Jamie Grossman (drums), and Anton Helman (keyboards).
Sticky: I'm a fan of your 1994 EP The Beetles and your 1995 album Swim, but admit I lost track of Days Of You after that. The year 1995 is a long time ago, why release a new album now?
Mark: First of all – why not? We had new songs that we felt were worthy and after deciding to make a record, it forced to get our stuff together. Bottom line is we love to play and I guess we like playing together more than with anyone else.
Steve: A few months ago I was listening to Grizzly Bear being interviewed on Q and they were talking about hanging it up so that they could get on with other things in life — jobs that pay, kids, etc. — and I thought, "you can't just stop." That's how it was with us; we tried out "other things," but if it's in you, it's in you forever. Relationships between musicians are similar to those between lovers, with some of them the magic is there whenever you see each other. The time that passes between is almost irrelevant. When Mark and I sat down to play after almost a decade apart it was like that — magic.
Sticky: Since you were last actively releasing music, what are the most noticeable changes you see in the Canadian music scene?
Mark: The only big change I've noticed is the delivery of music and social media. Other than that there are still lots of ideas from lots of different people. At the same time young people are more interested in clubbing than seeing live bands. I think this is part because of the way music is obtained.
Steve: The lack of money in the business has forced folks to work harder to get their music out there and social media has become a huge asset. Also, the resurgence of vinyl has created more of an active relationship with music for some. I think there are so many fantastic artists right now who are at the club / hall size — much better than in the early 90's as far as I’m concerned. Specifically, in Canada right now, I do find that fewer people are going out to see live music at a club level, and that makes me sad.
Sticky: How do you feel the songs on your new album relate to your past music? How do you see the songs relating to the current Canadian musical climate?
Mark: The only real relationship between then and now is it's the same people doing it. As for the Canadian climate, I hope there is room and enough open ears for everything.
Steve: To me it sounds like the same band. The big difference is that, in the past, the songs were written more collaboratively in rehearsals. With this record most of the songs were brought in finished and the band spent the time working on arrangements. As a result, I think the songs now are much smarter and tighter. More than in the past, I think these songs were influenced by other Canadian musicians (Do Make Say Think, BSS, The Weakerthans, and The Acorn immediately come to mind) and the current musical climate here. Additionally, most of these songs saw their origin on the shores of Georgian Bay (where my father-in-law has a cottage) and I feel are distinctly Canadian — "Sainte Marie (Among The Hurons)" being the best example. I think the perseverance and popularity of Stomping Tom has made Canadian music that is about Canadian things more acceptable — we don't need to try and be(or sound) American.
Sticky: I see you you will be holding a “Post-Phish Party” on July 22nd at The Painted Lady. Is Phish in Toronto an important date for you? [Note: Days Of You did not actually play that night, but this interview was conducted before the date.]
Mark: In so far as there will be a lot of like minded people in the same place at the same time. I hope to see as many of them at The Painted Lady as possible.
Anton: The tradition of jam music involves a special relationship between the band and the audience which Phish fans and Days Of You fans share. The spirit of improvisation and spontaneous creativity keeps the music fresh and exciting for us and the audience, and helps to build a special community.
Steve: When I first heard Phish in the late 80's, I was blown away — this was a band that was doing exactly what I wanted to do. They had chops, a sense of humour, and would go for it whenever they could. I remember a show at The Concert Hall where they would not let anything resolve. It was torture! Three hours of tension! I loved it. Boy, did I admire them. [Ed. Note: I was at that same concert. Phish played songs within songs of other songs, going deeper and deeper and then slowly unwinding. It was a hot, sweaty, tension-filled show.] However, this recent date feels less important to me because I feel Phish jumped the shark a few tours ago — now it just feels like "Trey and the boys." Truth is, they always reminded my of Max Webster anyway.
Sticky: What can you tell me about owning a music store?
Steve: Owning a record store was like having a toe in heaven. I lost money every month, but it was totally worth it. On an individual level, I loved going through the new releases and the crates of records that folks would bring in to sell. I felt like every record was a physical testament to the work that went into it and the pleasure that could be wrung out of it. Labels, liner notes, album art, alternate pressings, picture discs, inserts — I loved it all. Casting my eyes on something I had never seen before always gave me a little micro-jolt. So much about owning a record store was listening to records — for the first time, or for the millionth time. One time a kid (maybe 14) came up to me holding a Canadian first-pressing of Zeppelin II that was all beat up and was sitting in the dollar bin. He asked me "Are records really so great? Even a scratched up one like this?" I just took the record and put it on. Those first few notes of "Heartbreaker" (side 2) made the hair on my arms stand up. And I guess it did the same for him too as he bought the record.
That links to the more important social level. The characters that would come in — total strangers for the most part — and chat about music; I loved that! Sometimes customers would ask me to play a specific record while they shopped and it told me something about them even if we didn't exchange words.
I had this one guy, Norm Solomon, who would come in every Friday to off-load some of what must have been a mega-collection. Every week, maybe 20 records. I think 80% of what he brought in went straight into my collection — talk about getting high on your own supply! After about a year of seeing him every week, I said "Norm, you've got to stop selling me all this great stuff," and he replied "Oh, it's okay, I'm keeping all the Elvis."
Sticky: If you were in a plane crash in the mountains and it came down to it, which band member would get eaten first?
Mark: Funny, I practice for this all the time. It will probably come down to a thumb wrestle.
Steve: The sound man.
Jamie: I would not be offended if it be the drummer. It is what one might expect. You know... easiest to replace, last to join, and the youngest (veal is always more tasty than older cow).