Half drunk in a basement bar in Toronto, Peter Dreimanis was stewed deep in thought, contemplating his next musical pursuit. Little did he expect to hear his muse and future bandmate, Leah Fay, singing on an acoustic guitar that was being passed around. Inspired, he just had to seek out the intriguing stranger. And thus, local blues-rock crew July Talk was formed.
Released in mid-October on White Girl Records, the self-titled album is one of the most compelling debut records we’ve heard in a long time. July Talk is led by vocalist and axe man Dreimanis, whose gritty voice matches the bourbon-soaked smokiness of Tom Waits, Lee Marvin or even a rugged Cookie Monster, balanced out by Fay’s bubble gum pink, syrupy sound. While the vocals are seeded in blues-rock-roots land, the backing band amps up the heavy rock factor. With screaming guitar riffs and clunky, powerful drum beats, the combination makes for one seriously dirty, overdriven and noisy lineup — and could very well become your next dance-around-your-room-wildly-in-your-underwear album.
The first three numbers are enough to blow apart the 10-track collection. Hook-heavy “The Garden” and “Guns & Ammunition” are studded with “oohs” and “ahhs” in the vein of Edward Sharpeand the Magnetic Zeros (also cited as one of July Talk’s influences). Then comes the clincher, “Paper Girl,” the catchy verses and punchy rhythms of which are like an earworm tunneling its way inside your head. It’s going to be there for a while.
July Talk does fizzle out towards the end, and even dabbles in death pop territory. It even gets downright quiet at times, finishing up with “I’ve Rationed Well,” a rather folksy and melodic tune.
Lyrically, Fay and Dreimanis explore opposing gender roles and offer up warring viewpoints through their duets. So it comes as no surprise that they’re just as mesmerizing on stage as they are on the soundtrack. Reportedly, Fay once poured what seemed like fake blood down her body and even splashed the crowd at Horseshoe Tavern — after she used the mic stand as a dance pole, that is.
Call it pissed-off flirtation or an all-out romantic melee, but Fay and Dreimanis sing with the chemistry of an old married couple who have known each other for eons. They’re so completely involved that listening to them feels a bit like we’ve intruded on some deep tête-à-tête between two storied lovers that just happen to know how to rock out.
My advice, if when you go and buy the record, is to crank your stereo way up.
Sabrina Nanji is a Toronto-based writer devoted to the underground music beat. She has also dabbled in reporting on the city’s street style and local politics, but her true expertise (though she’s reluctant to admit it) lies in the world of Star Wars trivia nights. Follow her on Twitter here.