Features Interviews Amos Loves Pete Nema: A Story of Multiple Headlines

Amos Loves Pete Nema: A Story of Multiple Headlines

Amos The Transparent at Rivoli
Amos The Transparent
Rivoli in Toronto, ON
September 23, 2010

Interview by: Sara Harowitz
Photos by: Pete Nema

Our interview was less than 20 minutes, but the guys of Amos The Transparent and I accomplished a lot.

First there was our blunder when trying to use the Rivoli’s back room drink tickets on the patio. Then there was our brief conversation with a homeless lady. Then there was our computer keyboard and mathematical symbol lesson. Then we established that now their band is going to have story time before every practise. Eighteen minutes, three musicians, one music journalist, and plenty of laughs later, I have too many headlines to know what to do with. So I decided to use them all.

Headline Number One: Rivoli’s Back Room Drink Tickets Not Valid Up Front, Amos Learns

Before getting started with our interview, I gave lead singer Jon Chandler, guitarist Dan Hay, and drummer Chris Wilson the drink stubs I had acquired when attending their press show in the back of The Rivoli on Queen Street West (I do not drink on the job – I am a professional!). We were sitting on the patio and had no idea if the tickets would do the guys any good in this half of the establishment.

“A lot of the times when I back up from the mic it’s just like, bracing yourself, bracing yourself,” Chandler says of being on a small stage like the Rivoli with such a large band (members Mark Hyne, James Nicol and Kate Cooke make six). “We get hit quite a bit.”

At this point the waitress comes back with their drinks. Hay holds up the tickets. “Do these work up here or no?” he asks the waitress. She says no and we all nod in disappointment. “This is interview gold, by the way,” Hay adds jokingly.

“Note to Sticky Magazine: the beer tickets do not work out front,” Chandler says, leaning into my voice recorder.

“I’ll make that the headline,” I joke. I should not have gone there.

Amos The Transparent, born in and based out of Ottawa, recently played in Australia. I was in the middle of asking them about their trip when a homeless lady (bless her heart) comes over to us and asks if we have any money. We decline and Wilson tries to indicate to her that we are conducting an interview. She does not seem to care and lingers for a moment before moving to the next table.

“There’s very few chances where you get to say, ‘Yeah, our band went to the other side of the planet and got to play music,’” Chandler says once the lady passes. “So that alone is cool.”

And now that the band is back in Canada, they want to settle in and write a new record (they currently have an EP, My, What Big Teeth You Have... and an LP, Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget).

“We keep saying, ‘Okay, no more shows,’” Hay says. “And then we’re like, ‘Alright, let’s do this one, alright let’s do this one,’ but we had a little talk and we’re going to try to really sit down and get this record finished up.”

“Started...” Wilson corrects.

“Or started,” Hay says with a smile.

“We’re notorious for just going and doing one show and coming back,” says Chandler. “We just really like being in a van together.”

Hay nods. “We will drive to the end of the Earth, literally the other side of the world, for one show if we get to travel together.”

Still, they are determined to make these next few months about new music.

“What we’ve done usually before is, we kind of write the songs, then make the record, and then learn how to play them,” Chandler says with a laugh. “So this time we actually want to know the songs and then record them. So we’re going to try to do it backwards this time.”

“Yeah, and by backwards we mean forwards,” says Hay, smiling again.

Headline Number Two: Squiggly Key on Keyboard Not Just Called ‘Squiggly,’ Amos Teaches

This all started because I commented on how the band has sort of become known for their live shows because they are so powerful. It ends in a much different way.

“I mean of course you Google yourself,” says Chandler as the others laugh. “And people always say, ‘Live show this,’ and, ‘Live show that,’ so it is very important for us to upkeep that and see if we can constantly add different elements just to keep it interesting and energetic.”

“I think it’s been a huge shift from what it started out as, as well,” adds Wilson. “Initially we just tried to recreate the albums live.”

“And I saw them and they were really good, but they’re better now,” Hay says to laughter from the other two. Hays has been part of Amos The Transparent for two years but the band has been around for longer.

“We didn’t have old Bracket here,” Wilson says, motioning to Hays.

Hays smiles. “They named me Bracket today for some reason, because I didn’t have a cool name like Slash,” he says. “So they picked Bracket! They figured another article of punctuation.”

I point out that of all the punctuation names, “Bracket” is one of the better ones.

“Yeah, it could have been ‘ampersand,’” Hays says.

Chandler turns to Wilson. “What’s the one you came up with earlier?” he asks.

“The little squiggly one,” Wilson says. “The tilde.”

I perk up. “I didn’t even know it had a name,” I say. “Headline number two!” Why did I do this to myself?

Headline Number Three: ‘That’s Some High-Tech, Next-Level Shit,’ Amos Says

After I joke about a second headline, the punctuation talk continues.

“It’s not just the squiggly,” Wilson continues. “It means, ‘approximately’ when you put it in front of numbers.”

“What’s the three dots?” asks Chandler. “Oh that’s, ‘therefore.’”

I nod. “And that one’s not even on the keyboard!” I say.

“No it’s not, that’s like some high-tech, next-level shit,” Chandler says. “Headline number three!” Oh, great. Now the band thinks it’s a game.

Headline Number Four: Amos Loves Pete Nema

Ah, we have come full circle, my friends! Let me tell you how this fourth and final headline came about.

I ask the guys about their songwriting, mentioning the fact that I really like their lyrics because they are relatable and accessible.

“I’ve always said from the beginning, and this sounds really cheesy, but I’m a firm believer that music is for everybody, so I try to write in an area where everyone can relate,” Chandler says. “Even when I show the band a song, I want them to know where it’s coming from so they can understand where the vision’s supposed to go.”

“So I’m going to take that in stride,” Wilson says. “I think at the start of every practise now you should explain what each song means.”

Chandler smiles. “I could,” he says.

“It would be like story telling at the start of practise,” Wilson adds.

“During some of our long drives I’ve actually gone through song by song and said, ‘Alright, break it down, what does each line mean to you, and what is it all about?’” says Hay. “Because it helps to sort of understand what the mind frame is.”

After asking the band what they love about music (we will come back to that), I open up the floor to them to add anything they feel should be included.

“We love Pete Nema!” Chandler says. For those who do not know, Pete Nema is the music-loving, concert photo-taking editor and founder of Sticky Magazine (this very one!). “Make that the headline: Amos Loves Pete Nema.” OKAY FINE, I WILL.

Additional Headline Not Previously Discussed With Band: Still Making Music at Age 45, Amos Hopes

Like I said before, I asked the band what they love about music.

“For me in all honesty, it’s the freedom and whatever that you get on stage and then I look around and see that I’m making this music with my best friends,” says Chandler. “There are no boundaries to music. Not to say we make crazy, crazy music, but there’s no right, there’s no wrong.”

“I just want my daughter to think I’m cool!” Wilson says jokingly.

“I just want your daughter to think I’m cool too!” adds Hay. “That’s mainly why I do this.”

We all laugh. Still, Hay has a real answer that, for me, seems to sum up the band and their passion for music just about perfectly.

“I try to imagine, like, if I’m 45, would I still be playing in a band?” Hay asks. “And I can’t really imagine not, so...” he turns to his band mates, “...hope you guys are up for it!”

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