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|Written by Innika La Fontaine|
|Thursday, 12 November 2009 00:00|
The venue is snug; the crowd six-deep and shoulder-to-shoulder. The size of the improvised stage in Ottawa's Avant Garde is unforgiving, so the band sound-check and tinker. They shuffle their gear about to find some, albeit slight, room to move. Then they play: a hypnotic drumbeat and a distorted guitar rhythm provide the backdrop for distorted vocals, which sound perfectly in time but a second behind the beat all at once. The trio captivates the audience with a tight set; something they have been doing for a while now.
Adam Saikaley (vocals), Ryan Patterson (guitar) and Nathan Gara (drums) make up Videotape, a pop-rock outfit born in an Ottawa apartment late in 2007. They once made up half of the instrumental six-piece As the Poets Affirm, but, after six years of playing mostly structured and instrument-heavy rock, the trio wanted to explore a more grassroots sound.
"We've actually recorded in Adam's apartment to a cassette deck through one microphone," Patterson says on the phone from Toronto. "We are trying to find the middle ground between a really clean sounding studio and a crappy cassette deck."
Distance (Saikaley lives in Ottawa, Gara and Patterson in Toronto) and solo commitments have so far kept the band from committing solely to the project and living the rock'n'roll dream of sold-out shows and superstardom. But it seems this is working in their favour.
"It's interesting, because we can take our time and try to release something that's a little more exciting, as recording and sound goes," "We are trying to find the middle ground between a really clean sounding studio and a crappy cassette deck." Patterson says. "The songs are already there for our next album, and now we're just sitting on it, thinking, what do we want to do with this? There are so many factors to consider, like what we are going to record on and what instruments we are going to use."
The trio is working on giving their next album a distinct sound. They want something "cohesive", but less formulaic than much of the typical pop heard today, says Patterson.
"Sometimes when you come out of the studio, it can be...," he trails off, deep in thought about how to describe the sometimes sterile sound of a studio recording. "We kind of want to mix it up a little bit. I don't want to say we're leaning towards lo-fi, but it will definitely be dirtier."
Videotape released their debut album, My Favourite Thing, in mid-2009 through online independent record label Zunior, and ranked well on the Canadian campus charts. Without the stylistic restraints that come with a record deal, they can take their time, just the three of them, to produce music to their taste.
"The pressure isn't there," says Patterson. "Going into the studio we have the option of taking our time. That way you can do what you want. You can show people what you want. You can be what you want to be."
They might dream of one day signing with a major record label, or of riders with premium beer and bottle service, but Videotape are realistic, not to mention sceptical of antiquated definitions of rock star success.
"I see more and more small labels gaining power as the bigger labels struggle to figure out what to do with their musicians and how to promote them," Patterson explains. "It's these little labels, in the first place, that figure out the best ways to do it, so they already have the upper hand."
With Ottawa-based Saikaley located five hours from Patterson and Gara in Toronto, touring 12 months a year is not on the agenda -- for now, anyway.
"We keep bugging Adam to move to Toronto," Patterson muses. "We'd be able to play more, because there are so many more venues. You can go on a one-night trip out of town to small cities close by. We would like to be playing more shows, but we're doing the best with what we have. We want to be writing more. We've been together two years now, and we're not unrealistic - we know it's going to take a lot more time. The more music we put out and push it in places where we think people will listen, the more fans we will get; I can already see it is slowly coming together."
One last fleeting comment from Patterson sums up the laid-back approach to finding success: "I love playing in people's living rooms and basements," he says. "The atmosphere is a lot more comfortable."
Comfort over commercial... Videotape really are something else.
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Innika La Fontaine is a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Australian expat.