THUS OWLS chat 5th album, collaborations and working out of their comfort zone

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Today, Montreal’s Thus Owls return with an expansive, audacious and beautiful new double-album: Who Would Hold You If The Sky Betrayed Us? 

The 66-minute record is a saxophone-studded journey by one of Canada’s most daring acts, an explosion of improv, poetry and visionary rock’n’roll that seeks to understand what it means to be — and belong.

Founded in Stockholm, based in Montreal, Thus Owls is the ongoing creative project of Erika and Simon Angell. The duo’s fifth album sees them continue their tradition of reinvention, from their early indie records to 2015’s synth-laden Black Matter EP and 2018’s The Mountain That We Live Upon, which featured an ensemble of four guitarists. Here they turned to long-time collaborator Samuel Joly (drums), but also to a trio of saxophone players: Claire Devlin (tenor), Adam Kinner (tenor) and Jason Sharp (bass sax), each of whom writes and performs as independent composers. The goal was not just to feature soloists, or a glossy smear of horns, but to invent a startling, aggressive new musical language—one which reflected the Angells’ roots in jazz and improv, and their dream of a vivid, interwoven sound.

The process was long and unconventional, rearranged by the pandemic. Cut off from her Swedish family, Erika had begun writing lyrics that reflected on that distance and its implications, the tension between who one is and how one is perceived. “Who am I?” she asks on “Lover Mother.” “What do you see?” Moving to a new country, creating a home there — this is a matter of knitting connections, just as performing for a crowd is about drawing those lines. How do Erika and Simon feel they’ve reinvented the band’s sound again on this album?

“Well, it kind of started with their last album,” says Erika. “Like we did a bigger show for the last album, The Mountain That We Live Upon, at the Phi Centre together and it was like a whole sound installation and it was crisscrossing through expressions and the process of making that was very special to us and we wanted to do something similar to that for the creation of this album too. From the get-go, we wanted all the collaborating musicians to be involved. So there were a lot of conversations and rehearsals and readings, like everything as one big process. Also already at the beginning, thinking about what the live show would be like.”

So how much about the live side of things is the band thinking when putting together a record like this?

“Pretty much all of it in a way,” admits Simon. “I mean, we don’t necessarily think or try not to think of it so much as like, compose, record, show, you know, we don’t think of them as blocks but think of it as one whole cycle, as one whole thing, so definitely how we’re going to interpret the music live and how we were going to present it live is thought about from day one in a way.”

Erika continues, “We noticed also with the music that we did for our last album, which also had three guitar players, we’re somehow, I guess, trying to connect a bit more with our free improvised background or like our jazz roots, somehow to have the elements of how you approach music makes it live so much longer and be so much more fun to work with, in any context. Like you can throw in any musician or perform it in so many different ways and you don’t feel necessarily stuck to the venue size or the PA you’re given or which musicians are with you. So the music is composed with that in mind, that there’s lots of space for free improvisation for whoever would join us and that all of these elements that the saxophonists are adding could be replaced, like if we would go to Europe to play a show, we could invite someone to do those parts. So it’s like the collaborativeness continues and then that also continues the development of the material.”

Thus Owls will play a hometown show at La Sala Rossa on March 31st. They say fans can expect something quite unique when they play Montreal.

“This is the only show that we have all the three saxes for and other stuff that we prepared in our conversations two years ago with them is going to happen,” Erika tells us. Simon adds, “Yeah, the Montreal show will definitely be bigger with some of the installation stuff, like different things rather than just a straight-up show.

You can buy tickets HERE

Watch the full interview with Erika & Simon below:

Thus Owls posted the message below on their social media regarding the new record:

“Most of you probably already know that there’s endless amounts of love and hard work behind an album. We feel very fortunate that we get to devote ourselves to this ongoing process of creation, it lends so much inspiration and power to life as a whole! We are thrilled and excited to share this baby with you. Our wish is that it will instill light and hope in these very emotional and uncertain times in the world.

There are a few geniuses to thank for the outcome of this work. We love you and we are so grateful! 🥰

Samuel Joly – drums
Claire Devlin – tenor saxophone
Adam Kinner – tenor saxophone
Jason Sharp – bass saxophone
Marc-André Landry – electric bass

Radwan Ghazi Moumneh – mix
Harris Newman – master

Louis-Alexandre Beauregard – cover art
Antoine Corriveau – graphic design
Tim Georgeson – photo

Estelle Priest, Shaun Bronstein and Kathryn Huynh – management

Lastly, you can find our music at our Bandcamp, physical and digital.
Signed pre-orders go out today! Unfortunately we still don’t have the vinyl in our hands. We worked really hard to receive it on time but it turns out it will be another week or two. We hope you will understand. The pressure on vinyl plants are intense these days. Thank you for your patience. We are delighted for your support!


Peace and love
To you all
Erika & Simon”

Who Would Hold You If The Sky Betrayed Us? is out now.

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