by: Leslie Claire Amminson
January 11, 2018
When discussing genre, it’s clear that St. John’s band, Property, is aiming to create something new.
“We’ve kind of been going with the term ‘angular pop’” explained guitarist and primary vocalist Sarah Harris. According to band members, this term is associated with a riff-based, structured sound that involves individual melody lines that play off of each other as they intersect.
The trio, consisting of Harris, bassist Liam Wight, and lead guitarist and back-up vocalist Jack Etchegary, released their debut album, Privacy, on December 17. They will be joining fellow St. John’s acts Soap Opera and Lexi Hicks at the Breezeway this Friday.
The group looks to a wide range of artists for inspiration, drawing influence anywhere from Talking Heads’ stripped-down nature and dramatic vocals to Cate Lebon’s riff-based melodic interplay.
One element that separates Property from their contemporaries is their use of a drum machine in place of a live drummer. The band acquired the machine “for free from a guy who thought it didn’t work”, explained Etchegary. “So the whole basis of the band came from the fact that we lucked into getting a drum machine for free”.
This choice restricts them in some ways, they noted, but also allows them to use other sounds in unique ways. “It gives us certain parameters,” Etchegary continued.
“Which often […] forces us to be creative with limited resources,” added Harris.
This means melodic lines are used to create smooth and dramatic transitions where a drummer normally would. “The transitions don’t have drums to lead them in. Most of the time it’s just beat one to beat two, or beat one to beat two to beat three. So you have to think about how you can transition between things without big cymbal crashes or fills on toms.” Etchegary, who plays drums in several other local bands, including Soap Opera, explained.
“[The music] is moving from the melodic aspect,” added Wight.
Sometimes, Harris explained, the band will use a vocal action, such as a shout, to substitute something like a cymbal crash.
Their writing style is also largely collaborative.
“[There’s] lots of interplay with each other, melodically” explained Wight.
Harris, who writes the lyrics and vocal melody lines, explained what Property’s writing process looks like: “I’ll present a kind of skeleton, usually with one bass note, […] and a vocal melody and lyrics and stuff, and then we build it up from the bottom pretty much and arrange it together”.
“That’s where we get our sound, from really thoughtfully arranging the skeleton,” she added.
Harris’ lyrics come from a wide range of places as well. They might be situational, or based on conversations she’s had, books she’s read or texts she’s received.
A dystopian thread bleeds its way through the album’s lyrics, in songs such as “Conflict”, “Humans and Guns”, and “Black Hole”, which contains the lyrics:
I don’t think it’s a feeling of sentimental glory
or basing my life off apocalyptic allegory
But her themes often come down to simple ideas, and the songs address anything from identity crisis and making mistakes to hanging around in the summertime, like in “Anarchy Baby”, which muses:
so I went to the top of my neighbourhood
to figure out what would be best
Many of the songs also contain pieces drawn from Harris’ time studying literature and philosophy. These appear to have come about organically, almost haphazardly. In 2016, while completing the RPM challenge with Etchegary, Harris was forced to produce a lot of lyrics very quickly, and they were largely influenced by what she was reading for school at the time. These traces appear out of nowhere and are neatly brushed over, in songs such as “Meditations”:
take me to the wasteland
please god I wanna see it
and “Go Back”:
the system of class
is wrecking sentient beings
which Harris explained is “poking fun at philosophy and, like, academic thinking”.
Property recorded their full-length album in February of 2017, with Michelle LaCour in Montreal. It was recorded in eleven hours over the span of two days.
Since then, they explained, their set has changed and evolved.
“[The songs] are definitely changing, and I feel like that’s really important–to, like, change things up and change parts, keep things interesting” explained Harris.
People attending their show on Friday can expect an energetic and thoughtful performance and music that is tightly locked into its digital rhythm.
The trio explained that viewers can expect some new songs as well as some different arrangements of songs from the album.
Property is embarking on its first tour this summer, where they’ll be travelling as far as Toronto. Their music is available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music, and can be purchased in St. John’s at Fred’s Records, The Battery Café and Fixed Coffee.