Exclusive Interview with Adam Sabla: One of Vancouver’s Great Musical Talents

Callander Girl: From what I know and have heard about you Adam, you are currently in the following bands: Junior Major, The New Values, and Modernettes which I believe you only play with sometimes? And you also perform as a solo artist, a project called Sirens?
Adam Sabla: I’m actually in Modernettes full time it’s just that the band itself only operates every now and again. It’s due to the fact that John lives in Chilliwack these days.

And Sirens is the original name of my solo project, I was initially a bit hesitant to put it out under my own name. I just thought I would hide behind the name cause it felt a little safer that way. And then as I get closer to releasing it I have realized that I wrote all the songs, I play all the instruments on that record and it’s as close to the musical portrait of who I am so I just figured that I would just put it under my name and just name the album Sirens. So as of right now that’s what I think it’s going to be, but initially it was named after the Kurt Vonnegut novel, The Sirens of Titan.

You seem to be insanely busy, always creating music and you have a full time job to boot. How do you find the time to do all this or is this the way you like to work, always having a lot of projects on the go.
I’m a little ADD and I’m slightly impatient and I get bored easily sometimes. That’s one side of it but the other side is that I love so many kinds of music and I’m comfortable playing in a variety of different styles and with different people. And also not all the projects are always all going full time all at once so that’s why I can afford to be a member of three or four projects because if they were all going at once I couldn’t manage. For example Junior Major is kind of on hold cause my sister who is the singer she is in Berlin on an exchange for University for 5 months so we can’t really do anything anyways.

So it ends up working somehow and it allows me to do stuff like with the New Values that is sort of a homage for my love for bands like Bad Brains, Faith No More and hard core punk rock. I don’t have to worry about where to fit that into my existing musical projects which is sort of like where maybe 5 or 6 years ago is how I felt. I was in a band called the Philharmonic with Hayz Fisher who is with me in the New Values and he co-produced the Junior Major record and my record and he is also in a band called the Good News and he produces a lot of stuff locally… he and I used to be in a band together and it was where we became frustrated trying to shoehorn different loves of ours musically into the same project and it sort of wasn’t working so now having separate projects it makes it easier.

You mentioned earlier today that your in the studio mixing right now, what is it that you are working on?
We are finishing the Sirens record which with all the projects that I’m involved in right now that one started the longest ago. But it was always like I didn’t feel compelled to rush it or that there was any deadline. It wasn’t like anybody really knew about it so it wasn’t like I had to keep up with some sort of momentum that you have when you are in a band. You know you start gigging, meeting people, people start talking about you, you record something and release it and you have to keep going. And with this stuff it’s great because nobody knows that it exists. So it will get done when it gets done. But it’s getting done finally.


I saw that The New Values are playing the Music Waste Festival. Do you have any other plans for the summer? Touring plans? Any shows?
I have a few little kind of things working out or hopefully will work out. With The New Values we are playing Music Waste and then playing another show at Library Square on June 28th with a new band called the Gay 90s which is Parker Bossley, Malcolm Holt and Daniel Knowlton who used to be in the Good News and he also is in Malcolm and the Moonlight.. so we are doing a show with those guys. And then we are recording the month of June, The New Values are recording our first full length LP. Given that our songs average between 57 to 97 seconds means that the whole thing should be around 15 minutes long (laughs).

(Laughing) That’s like Joyce Collingwood..
Sometimes you say what you need to say in 57 seconds

I agree…
And you don’t need to say anymore, it gets the point across.

I’m doing that with The New Values, so play and record and we are talking about maybe doing a run up and down the West Coast, maybe in August. But that’s a big maybe right now.

You mentioned your sister before (Suzy Sabla) and that you play in Junior Major together. Did the two of you grow up in a very musical household?
I can’t say that my parents are musical per se, they definitely have something musical about them, maybe their personalities. They are not musicians and actually I don’t think I have heard my Dad sing.. ever. And my Mom hums sometimes, but the thing is that when I was a kid they were the quintessential image of the kind of parents that does not want to repeat the same mistakes that their parents did. For example I had long hair until I was 14, I never had short hair as a child because my parents grew up in communist Czechoslovakia where you had to have short hair. So my parents were not chasing me to get a hair cut, it was the opposite. If I wanted to get a hair cut they were trying to convince me not to get one. And when I expressed an interest in music, and before that it was drawing, they were very supportive. Where music was a direct influence it was my Uncle Peter, my Dad’s youngest brother who lives in New York. He was a musician and he played in bands for years and years and he got me my first guitar when I was 6 years old. I started playing the flute when I was 6 and he couldn’t bare the thought of his nephew playing the flute (laughing) so he went and got me the guitar.

And my sister, I’m 6 1/2 years older, I always knew she could sing. I grew up playing guitar and taking flute and piano lessons, my sister kind of saw what it meant to play an instrument. Like when your parents tell you to go practice and as soon as someone tells you to do something you don’t want to do it anymore. So she saw my distaste for music because of all the theory and practice that came with it. So she kind of avoided it her whole life and Junior Major was the first band she ever sang in. She just decided that one day she wanted to sing in a band and she started the band with my ex Katy who used to also be in the Philharmonic so they kind of started the band. I offered to play drums and I did for a while. Then Tony Dallas started coming to shows and I started not wanting to play drums anymore so I asked him if he was interested in being in the band and he was so he joined and I switched to bass. And then Junior Major became a four piece..And I just realized that I totally went away from the question. (laughing)


(Laughing) That’s ok, I got my answer it was Uncle Pete.
Yes it was Uncle Pete (laughing)

I saw a picture of you online of you being in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine. What was that like?

I’m a big fan of 80s hair and clothing (laughing) and I think you pulled it off. Was that the first time being on a film set like that?
I feel like I’ve been on film sets before, I probably have been… just bumming around because I knew somebody. I’ve made videos before but that was a little different. Those were usually kind of more modest affairs but ya I guess that was the first time being on set. And funnily enough Tony and I were both in that and the kids from Mother Mother (Ryan and Jeremy). When we got that gig, I was doing flooring and I’m not really a very physical guy and I was doing flooring in a restaurant. I was between jobs and it was the last day of that contract and I was like, “fuck..I don’t know what I’m going to do”. And I got a phone call as I’m on my knees hammering nails into the floor, and I was asked if I want to be in a film with John Cusack.

Hell ya! (laughing)
(laughing) Cause they needed musicians right, but I have to give kudos to Steve Pink who was the director, and his whole thing was that he wanted to have real musicians. So they hired us and we had rehearsals for a while and then we went to the Armory Studios and recorded 4 or 5 songs with Craig Robinson. We did, Careless Whisper by Wham, Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye, and we did a few others.


Who is Craig Robinson?
He is the guy in the show The Office.

Ok, so the actor who is that scene with you. Where he gets up on stage and sings with the band.
Yes him. So we did all these recordings with Craig Robinson, who is a really great piano player and actually has his own band in L.A. And after all the trouble we went through recording all the songs Craig wanted in the end to have his own band to record the songs. So they re-recorded everything and we were still in the movie but the whole point was that we would record all the songs so that when we played them in the film it was like us playing what we recorded. And in the end we ended up miming along to recordings that his band made.

Ya, and I have the recordings somewhere…but it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to do and I remember thinking, if you could get a gig like this…it’s not my first choice that I’m going to be wearing a wig in some absurd comedy..in terms of content or whatever. It was a lot of fun and I had a trailer..(laughing) which was nice..

Wow (laughing)… some serious movie star treatment.
It was nice roaming in at 6 in the morning and being tired and they see you coming up in the parking lot. They radio in, “Adam Sabla is here” and then they ask what you want for breakfast,”Umm..bacon and eggs..” And by the time I walked to my trailer I would open it up and there would be my food.


Nice! I could get used to that life!
It was sort of like being a movie star for 2 days..(laughing) I could totally get the hang of this..it was a lot of fun.

Is there anybody out there right now that you would love to work with given the opportunity?
That’s a good question….say to just even hang out with and play music with for the afternoon?

I’d say probably someone like Krist Novoselic from Nirvana. I think he’s an interesting person.

He seems like an interesting person for sure. What is Krist Novoselic even doing these days? Last I heard he was getting into politics.
He is actually in University right now, I know that cause he used to have a blog and he used to have a radio show I think. He is originally from Croatia and he is taking Croatian studies. His tweets are him practicing his Croatian! It’s hilarious! It’s funny cause he is a guy that I love as a fan, I just thought he was so weird and such a cool dude. This 7 feet tall Croatian guy and me being Slovak… I have this association to other Eastern European guys with funny names I think. And working with the Beastie Boys would be fun as well, there would be a lot of room for sonic experimentation.

They seem like they would be a lot of fun to work with. Have you seen the new video?!
Oh ya it’s great!

I almost died it was so funny.
I’ve been listening to that record on repeat, it’s really good. And there’s two Adam’s in that band as well.

That’s right.
Which is also cool. I get the sense that those three are best friends. That’s what I think I really like about them.

Ok so my last question is, what are your thoughts about the Vancouver music scene?
My thoughts are, and I think quite a few people would agree with me, is that there is a seemingly bottomless well of talent in this city. And its hard for it all to get enough attention. Conversely there is a lot of shisters..both musically and in the business side of things. And I think that’s the frustration… for all the talent and the honesty on one side there is also all this kind questionable motivation from people on the other side. But you find that everywhere I guess..

For the most part a lot of great bands, I started playing in this town when it was sort of the tail end of the old model. Like with labels and money being doled out and people signing contracts and stuff like that. I remember being really young and kind of hungry and wanting that and never getting it and feeling left out. And then I saw what it did to a lot of people and now I’m just kind of glad that it’s now over. When people complain about how the music industry changed and that it’s not like the way it was I say good riddance. Now it’s a much healthier place, people are making music for the right reasons. It’s an honest expression and there is a more genuine love from the audience as well. Definitely it’s an interesting time to be in this town.

More on Adam Sabla check out the below links.

Check out Junior Major here.

Check out The New Values here and here.

Check out Adam Sabla’s solo stuff at SoundCloud here.

Check out “Live at the Suicide Club” videos of The New Values here.

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