INTERVIEW BY: John Peterson
PHOTO BY: Meghan Marshall
Recorded over the course of 7 days in the dead of winter, Living Hour’s newest record, Someday is Today, is the Canadian band’s most polished work to date. Dream-like reverb meets graceful distortion in a beautiful collection of reflective, intimate tracks. Songs like “Lemons and Gin” and “No Body” breathe life into moments, while “December Forever” and “Exploding Rain” evoke the nature-filled romanticism of the 1800s and the bubbly pop of The Mamas & The Papas. Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Living Hour took to the road this September to share their music with 16 cities across the U.S. and Canada. They stopped by Philadelphia’s Ukie Club on September 15th, joined by 22° Halo, Sour Widows, and Doll Spirit Vessel, to deliver a breathtaking performance. On a stoop outside the venue, lead singer Sam Sarty spared some time before their set to talk music, winter, and basketball.
John: You’re in the middle of your tour, coming off a show in Brooklyn last night, and we’re grateful to have you here in Philly at the Ukie Club with support from 22° Halo, Sour Widows, and Doll Spirit Vessel. What are you most excited about tonight?
Sam: The bands. I’m honestly very excited to see 22° Halo. He (Will Kennedy) said he was based here, and he’s been a favorite throughout the winter and all of last year. I’ve just been listening to him a lot, so I’m very excited to see him play. And then obviously Sour Widows; we’ve played two shows with them already and they’re very good. They’re extremely therapeutic to watch again and again.
John: When you’re on tour do you enjoy playing with lots of different bands? Do you have some favorites?
Sam: Yeah, it’s really nice to see local bands on the bills and see the scene a little bit. We played a show with this band Molly Drag in Montreal that was really good, and Bodywash from there. Westelaken in Toronto was great. And then we played with Pet Fox in Boston with Sour Widows and they were really cool too. And Kolezanka last night in New York. This whole tour we’ve been fans of each band that we’ve played with so it’s pretty epic.
John: Every city cultivates its own music. About 10 years ago, Philly was known for its pop punk and emo, while right now it seems to be taking a turn towards shoegaze. Would you say Winnipeg has some sort of shared musical identity? Something that binds the community together?
Sam: Yeah, I feel like Winnipeg has a lot of different scenes. A lot of hardcore, metal, and pop. A lot of folk and country. In the indie band sphere, there’s some upbeat stuff but then also there’s a lot of space for slowcore stuff and mumbly, drier guitars. A lot of really good lyrics I find are coming out of up-and-coming bands. This one band Jamboree is one of my favorites from Winnipeg right now and they’re just killing it. Just really good. There’s a lot of space for experimenting.
John: Living in Winnipeg and recording Someday is Today in the middle of winter, how does the cold weather play a role in your songs?
Sam: We wrote it throughout a couple years. Living there, you kind of move with the seasons. There’s a really long winter which holes you up in your house, and then there’s a pretty short but dynamic summer that gets you going. So, I feel like it’s a combination of all the seasons, but definitely when we were recording that week it was really cold. It felt nice to have something to look forward to, especially because it was 2021 winter—it was the second COVID lockdown situation and it was freezing—so, to have the presence of your friends and music to go to every day was a huge highlight of that year.
John: Did you have those songs written beforehand or was it more of a collaborative recording environment?
Sam: Yeah, we were definitely super prepared going in. We only booked seven days and we demoed extensively and sent files back and forth to our collaborators who were living in the States and other places. We were very much doing the Dropbox game with each other. Very ready once we actually got there because of the demos that we did.
John: Do you have a favorite moment on the new album or any lyrics that stand out to you?
Sam: I mean I’m biased, I like all of them. I really like “Feelings Meeting,” and part of that one is it’s a heavy song, so I’m hoping to write more of that in the future. And then I’m really into “Curve.” Solly (Adam Soloway) wrote all those words—the guitar player. “Lemons and Gin” I like for the lyrics because it’s very stream of consciousness. I’m proud of that one.
John: Was “Feelings Meeting” heavier before you brought Melina Duterte (Jay Som) or did she add to that?
Sam: Yeah, she added so many layers of guitars and stuff. But there were these bass chords happening that added to the heaviness and then she subbed it up and added layers. That song was very collaborative. She was really into it, and we were fast friends.
John: Do you think your art has changed a lot since your 2016 self-titled debut album?
Sam: Yeah, definitely. We’ve just played differently. I guess the biggest thing is I started playing bass, which I wasn’t doing in 2016. Yeah, kind of moving away from writing on the Casio to writing on bass. I’ve actually never owned an electric guitar, I’ve only owned baritones. So, when I get home, I want to brush up on my guitar and start writing on guitar a bit more. But with the guys and stuff we definitely push different ways of playing, playing around with time signatures or chords or tunings or pedals—it’s endless, right? We’ve all changed, and we have the group to support each other and play around. So yeah, it’s very different from 2016.
John: And you play trombone too, right?
John: Do you ever break that out for shows?
Sam: I used to. Before the pandemic I would have the trombone and it was always such a wild card because I wouldn’t know if it could be heard or how it was sounding in the front and it was always doused in reverb. It was cool but I kind of felt like it was turning into a party trick almost. I don’t know. I just want to use it in a different way rather than just, “and now it’s the trombone solo.” We’ll see in the future; I may bring it out.
John: Where would you be without music?
Sam: Interesting. If I didn’t pursue it?
John: Yeah, if you weren’t doing music.
Sam: That’s such a good question because I tried to not do music for a couple years in my early 20s. Just like, “okay, that was fun and all but I’m becoming a scientist.” Or like doing biology or something at university. And I was so sad. I feel like no matter what I would have ended up here in a way. But if I wasn’t, I don’t know, I’d be making merch or at the venue doing something. It’s hard to imagine not doing it because I’ve done it since I was two years old.
Sam: Yeah. A wee bae.
John: What were you doing at 2?
Sam: I was playing piano. There’s this children’s program called Music for Young Children. It was me and my mom—she was a single mom at the time—it was like our thing. We would go and play piano, and it was very special. And then I just kept going until now. So, I don’t know. Maybe I’d be a basketball player. I’d be in the NBA for sure.
John: *laughing* Probably. Do you like basketball?
Sam: In theory. I feel like I’d be very stylish. I’d get like a sleeve of tats. But my bandmates really like basketball. And Gil (Carroll—guitarist) is really good at basketball. He was on the Canadian national team or something. It’s really surprising. When he gets a basketball, he’ll start dribbling through his legs and shooting threes. But I don’t know anything about it. I don’t have a team… yet. But I feel a budding interest.
John: A band team is in the future. That’ll be the show now. You playing basketball. *laughing* Are you thinking about a new record at all or are you just letting this one rest?
Sam: Yeah, definitely. We have a couple songs already and are very much feeling the itch and the urge to write more songs. And then with my guitar I think I’ll write some new songs.
John: Are you planning on going back to No Fun Club or trying something different?
Sam: It’s hard to say at this point. It’s definitely on the table but we don’t know yet. The process will be similar to this one where we piece it together first, so we’ll see how the studio comes in.
John: You’re stuck in an eternal snowstorm, and you only have one song to keep you company. What song are you choosing and why?
Sam: I mean, that’s like my life. *laughing* I’ve been stuck in a snowstorm. Not eternally. That sounds horrible—like a Stephen King novel. But if I had to choose just one song on repeat? Today, because we’re playing with them, I would say “The Gorge” by 22° Halo because I love that song. It’s so good and I’ve already listened to it a bunch in the winter so that would work, I know for a fact. Maybe a long one that has different parts. So maybe something by Spirit of the Beehive.
John: Wow, two Philly bands that’s awesome.
Sam: Oh, really? They’re from Philly?
John: Yeah, Spirit of the Beehive is from Philly.
Sam: I really like the music that comes from here, I guess. Yeah, I do. Those are my answers.