My idea of a fun time is having a good laugh during an enjoyable venting session (usually about boys) followed by a great discussion about music while drinking pints in a pub. And that is exactly what I did recently with Shmoo of Vancouver’s Keep Tidy. Check out the interview part only below. Enjoy 🙂
Callander Girl: You have played bass in the bands The Organ and Tight Solid and now you sing in Keep Tidy, is this your first time singing and fronting a band?
Shmoo: Yes, first band that I have fronted and have been on stage with a microphone and not an instrument. I co-fronted the first band I was in called Panty Party Knife Fight where I played bass and sang. My girlfriend played guitar and sang as well and we did equal amount of vocals. Like call and response vocals but it’s totally different just singing and not playing an instrument.
Do you miss playing sometimes?
Only for the first two shows, I think I felt very naked because I wasn’t being covered by anything but I got used to it.
Was singing and fronting a band always something that you wanted to do?
Yes but it wasn’t something I acknowledged that it was something that I wanted to do until I started doing it. Like, “Oh ya all those times that I have been dancing in front of the mirror, singing songs, holding a fake microphone…” it all fits what I’m doing right now.
When did you pick up the bass?
When I was about 21 and I remember thinking if I’m ever going to do anything with music that I was starting too old at that point for some reason. I had been studying other musicians and they had all started when they were really young, I was thinking I’m too old, I’m over the hill (laughs). And my friend told me that I was being stupid.
And he or she was was right. (laughs)
Yes, he was actually a bass player in a band and he suggested that I start and I did. I taught myself to play listening to the Strokes and Death from Above so I just barely knew how to play when Ayma and I started Panty Party Knife Fight. The whole point of that band was to learn our instruments and write songs that we could actually play. Ayma was new at guitar as well and then we ended up getting Dustin who is the drummer in Keep Tidy, so it was these two girls who could barely play their instruments but had a lot of spunk and then this kick ass drummer but it was a really good combination (laughs).
How long did that band go on for?
That band was only around for about 6 months and then I got recruited into The Organ and started touring so I couldn’t keep up anymore.
So you weren’t playing very long before you went on tour.
I literally had one practice with The Organ before my first show with them. I mostly learned the songs by just playing along with the music wearing headphones at home. After the one rehearsal the next day I flew to Montreal and started playing shows to 200 people which was the most I had ever played in front of at that point. And then the numbers started to increase through-out the tour and at some shows we were playing in front of a couple thousand people. But by the end of all the touring I did with The Organ the most people we had played in front of 30 000 people. And here I was still trying to figure out how patch chords still work! (laughs)
You must have been so nervous!
I was for the first couple tours but then it got a little easier. And I got a bass that fit me, I got a smaller bass and that helped a lot. I felt less awkward with it.
Do you come from a musical family at all?
Yes I would say so.
I always ask this question because I find family dynamics interesting.
The only professional musician in my family was my sister who was in The Organ. And both my parents are musical, my Mother sings and whistles all the time. My Dad is really into playing Blue Grass and my parents put all three of us kids, I have a brother as well, into classical music lessons when we were very little. I played violin from 3 to 7 and I was terrible! (laughs) I played piano and flute until I was about 15 and then didn’t do anything until I was 21 with bass.
So you got the High School years over and done with. You had your fun and all that and then you started focusing on other things?
Ya, and my parents made me play the other instruments too so I never really liked it. I was playing stuff I didn’t like, classical tunes and reading music that I found really boring. So things got fun when they started to be Rock n’ Roll.
When you were able to do what you want!
There were no rules.
When you have people telling you what to do and disciplining you when you don’t do something. It’s definitely not fun for a kid.
Agreed, I quit violin when I was 7 but I distinctively remember the instructor moving my feet to be in the correct position over and over while I’m trying to rehearse because I was going to perform in front of my parents. And I just hated it! Who cares if I’m standing a certain way?! I’m 7! (laughs)
That’s so true that violin players have a certain posture when they play.
It is very precise and it is good to have great posture if you plan on being a classical musician because you don’t want to strain anything. But I feel that if you are going to have your kids play music get them into something that they will at least enjoy. But I did learn a lot of about musical theory as a kid and it’s engraved in my brain.
Which I’m sure has helped you.
I think so, I was able to pick up the bass really quickly as I understood stuff like scales already.
Growing up was there a particular musician or musicians that you admired? Anyone today that your really into?
I love Kate Bush. I love her because her songs are crazy! I find her fascinating because she is able to create all these songs in her head and somehow has managed to organize people around her that will play her music for her. It’s beautiful music and I’ve personally had difficulty writing music and getting other people to play it. I find that band dynamics work better for me when they contribute their own work because they feel invested. But I’m sure she has funding so that always helps!
But I’ve always admired strong female musicians, like growing up it was Madonna and then Liz Phair, Tori Amos and Sleater Kinney.
So what’s the history behind Keep Tidy? You said before that Dustin played in Panty Party Knife Fight but how did everything fall into place for you guys?
Dustin and I were still friends and he actually started Keep Tidy with a couple other guys so he could play drums again. He had been playing bass in Adjective for a couple years and was missing the drums. He just wanted to start a 80’s hardcore band just for fun and not take things really seriously. They went through a couple rotations of singers, bassists and guitarists until last year when they have the present line up minus me because another friend of mine was the vocalist for a bit.
It’s funny because Keep Tidy actually practiced in the same jam space hall that Tight Solid practiced in and one day I had been at our space cleaning and drinking when I heard them playing. I went down to say “hi” and it turned out that their vocalist didn’t show up that day. I was like kinda buzzed and little hyper and they were like, “grab the microphone!” So I did and I just started jumping around and screaming and just having fun and then I left to go back to cleaning (laughs). But then after I realized that I had so much fun so I ended up telling Dustin that if the vocalist didn’t show up again would he consider me for the band? He mentioned that their singer hadn’t actually shown up for the last couple practices so it looked like it might work out for me.
Keep Tidy was signed up to play the Music Waste Festival and the day before their show I got a call saying that the singer had dropped out do you want to join the band? So again another 24 hours notice! (laughs). I did one practice with the band and we pretty much improvised for our first show. And it was awesome! We all fall in band love (laughs).
That’s hilarous! It kind of works with my next question (laughs). What has been your most memorable Keep Tidy show to date?
Well we actually haven’t played that many shows, at first we played every other month or so on average so I would say to date we have probably only played only a dozen shows. But the last show that we played was really memorable for a few reasons, all of our friends came out and they had decided to spray beer on me all night which made it hilarious..my clothes were drenched and I had beer dripping from my chin and we played with amazing bands, The Defektors and The New Values.
Yes, both great bands.
We also played some great shows in Calgary, 3 shows in a 24 hour period actually and it was our first out of town experience as a band. Which made it really exciting and it made us feel like a real band especially since some of us have toured before. We got that feeling again, the tour feeling. And with 3 shows in a row it made things so hectic! But our last show was our Sled Island show and we were really warmed up. I seriously had no voice by the end of the night, we rocked that show and sold a bunch of t-shirts so I would say Sled Island has been our best show so far.
My last question, what advice would you have for young girls starting up their first band here in Vancouver?
I would say play what you want and be as fearless as you possibly can be! Ultimately if you are being fearless with what you are saying, with your performance and taking risks with your music it makes more of an impact on people. People will remember it. And part of me wants to say don’t care what people think of you but I think you should care of people think of you because you want to be aware of your audience. But don’t let it become overwhelming, just do what you have got to do. It’s all about expression!