Article by: Colton Eddy
As the great dance pop trio Seduction once declared, it takes two to make a thing go right and it takes two to make it out of sight, which is fair declaration for Dear Rouge.
Their independently released, synthesized single "I Heard I Had" has drawn comparisons to Canadian staples like Metric as it charted across the nation, and their sleek live performance continues to grow in the conversation around what direction the industry is pedaling next.
Following their triumphant sold-out performance with Kongos at Toronto’s Opera House for Canadian Music Week, Drew and Danielle McTaggart of the Vancouver-based act sat down in a room full of mirrors at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Before retreating back to their cabin, the couple took a few moments together to reflect on their growth, religion and their anticipated debut album, set for release later this year.
Sticky: Being a couple and writing personal songs, does it get awkward at times with the content that you’re writing or singing about on stage?
Danielle: Oh he’s such a jerk to me! [LAUGHS]
Drew: I think a lot of people think that, because we are married, that we get a bottle of wine and we are like, alright honey let’s write! We’re just like anyone. We’re growing in that, the first times it was actually really frustrating. We are both passionate about the music; it is not like there is one dominant songwriter. We both have different ideas and we kind of argue about it. Sometimes Danielle will tell me to e-mail that idea and we are in the same room, just to get away from me. I’m doing my own thing. We’re individuals, right?
Sticky: Must’ve been pretty challenging at first. Where’d you find that balance?
Danielle: I think that if it is a natural flow and we are working really well together and it is feeling really good and some of the songs that we write are a major struggle. We fight through; it is like we are trudging through to get a final song that we are both happy with.
Sticky: Are there elements of your Christian band that bleed into Dear Rouge?
Danielle: I think that whatever you believe in, whatever is part of who you are, definitely comes out in what you make in music. It is like an expression of soul. I really think that music is a deep thing. So yeah, I think that we try to bring across things that we value like love and struggle and working through relationships and fighting for things that you believe in. We’re not an “I hate my life” kind of band. We believe in things and we believe that there is greater things out there than us. I hope that people feel that when they come and see us, that it was an experience in the heart or something. That’s something that I really want to work on continually with what we make.
Drew: And we’re both positive people. We are happy married. We are happy doing music and we really like our life right now. We don’t want to try and hide that to be super cool or have a gimmick to be edgy or cool. It is not us.
Sticky: Do you find positivity is lacking in modern music these days? Or is there a reemergence of some sort?
Danielle: I think positivity can be seen as cheesy and be seen as if you’re happy or something. But I definitely think you can come across not so cheesy and be positive. Hopefully it is reemerging in an artistic way. It is not like there is positive songs out there about a sunflower, people with sunglasses on that are running around shooting water bottles.
Drew: Shooting water bottles is happiness! [LAUGHS] I think that it is pretty obvious with the seventies and eighties with drugs and rock’n’roll and how it is now. The rock bands and when Lorde is number one on the biggest rock station in LA and North America. She is a nice person. She can have dark makeup on but it is not as hardcore as before. The big rock stars are not, there are some of those bands that exist but it is not how it used to be.
Danielle: People now know that cocaine can kill you.
Drew: Health and wellness is now appreciated. It is a value. Even in high schools, it is cool to care about yourself, whereas a while ago it was not cool to care about yourself.
Sticky: Was it church that provided some of your primitive music experiences?
Drew: Yeah, both of our families and the guys I played with too. Even the city, I grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver and all of the good bands were a part of this church group. So there’s Friday nights at the church, it was called the Basement and we would go play a show there. I was with my rock band, we’d play a show with LIGHTS and there would be Jesse Giddings, he was a VJ for MuchMusic and he had a band called Swingset Champion, and we were all apart of thing in Langley. Years later, our bass player and he is friends with LIGHTS and went to her wedding, they are at the show and it was hilarious because ten years ago we were all in this basement in Langley. I don’t know how many people know that, but we were all just hanging out on a Friday.
Sticky: Was there a moment outside of church where it seemed real?
Drew: I have one that stands out for sure, it is a guy named Ryan Adams. I just had a Ryan Adams phase and it was one of those shows where... to me one of your best shows is the time of life where you’re at and the actual music and the songs hit you, then the performance in that night. I knew a little bit of his stuff and that night I bought Heartbreaker, his first album, which I just love. I’m not a big Americana or Southern rock guy, but I’m just attracted to him and what he’s writing about and his whole – I’ve never seen anyone play to five thousand people and be not pretentious at all. He was just like a human being and that was attractive to me. As a young guy, he’s real. He’s open and honest and he’s not trying to manufacture some fake. He’s just Ryan Adams. If you go to one of his shows, maybe back in the day he was off on drugs or drunk off his mind, but now he’s cleaned up a little bit and has always been completely sincere. I think that was the coolest thing.
Sticky: That’s very important to you two. Sincerity.
Drew: You have to keep going. If it’s fake, it’s going to die or you’ll slip. Today with all of the media that surrounds us and the social media, you can’t go out there faking something. People see through it if there is no sincerity.
Sticky: Do you find that even though the social medias offers connect, it limits your creative presence?
Danielle: Yeah, that’s a good question. Yeah, I think so. We talk about it. We don’t want to post things that are not a part of making us appear successful or we just have a hard time deciding if we want to post real life photos or whether we should post band photos or that kind of thing.
Drew: Whether it should be personal or that Dear Rouge should be something of its own entity, right? Like this is Dear Rouge. We have talked about that a lot. It is also a struggle to be present, I find. So we’re travelling cross-country and social media is a tool; you have to use it and everybody wants to use it, but when you’re a band and you don’t have a tour manager and you don’t have a big crew – we are on the road and you’re stopping in at a radio station, you want to get a picture. But it kind of breaks off the me talking to you.
Sticky: Or just the songs telling the story.
Drew: Yeah, exactly. There’s an element when we’ll be at a show, be enjoying it and you are conscious in the back of your mind of needing to capture this. You do need to do it as a band, but it takes away from you being present here and there.
Sticky: Documenting versus experiencing, more or less.
Drew:Exactly! Like the person standing in the Grand Canyon taking a photo and the one person just looking and doesn’t really care about it but it is their own really personal thing.
Sticky: What I find interesting is that when you go to the cabin, you shut down technology. Yet technology is a strong presence in your music. So where do you see the advantages versus that of the disadvantages?
Drew: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, we bring up stuff – there is electricity up there. So we’ll bring up the keyboards and stuff. Some people are very aggressive on the computer with the sounds, I still like turning knobs and I like analog synthesizers. I find with our sound, we have this mix between guitar and a little bit of edge and synth. I like some of the analog synths - I feel like they can get a better sound. Sometimes we’ve been on tour and the synths just sound so manufactured that we ran them through a guitar amp on stage just to get a little bit more grit on it. Seems more organic.
Sticky: When you play festivals, like Squamish, what moments did you share with those other bands?
Danielle: We were backstage and there were these awesome bands, like Queens of the Stone Age were playing right there. They had this old Mustang convertible that after their set, they hopped in and drove off like they’re way too cool for everyone.
Drew: They had two semis and two buses, but they weren’t around. Vampire Weekend was there and we could go have a drink and hang out with them. We got to meet all of them except for Queens of the Stone Age, pulled up in that old convertible literally two minutes before their set. They got out, walk on, no encore, get out and drive. They are absolutely rock stars.