Taylor Knox Makes His Own Name
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Photo by Jeff Bierk
Photo by Whether you know it or not, Taylor Knox has been in or supported at least one of your favourite Canadian bands. Playing with Alvvays, The Golden Dogs, Luke Doucet and Owen Pallett to name a few, Knox has quite the pedigree before starting his own solo career. Launching his new album Love, Knox dives into all the themes he avoided for so long wholeheartedly. We caught up with him before his set on July 8th to talk love, his impressive career and how a favour for Alvvays influenced his new record.
Ottawa Life: I know you toured with Alvvays a few years ago, and now Molly from the band is singing on your album, so how did she get involved with the record?
Taylor Knox: Molly's the best and I love Alvvays. But it goes back to some shows I was doing with the Golden Dogs. This band called Two Hours Traffic was opening for us. One of their members was Alec O'Hanley from Alvvays. One day I was at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto and I turned to my left and there was Alec. I said "What are you doing in Toronto, you live in Charlottetown?" and he said, "I just moved here, I have a new band." Eventually he sent me the Alvvays record they were working on, and they were waiting on their drummer to move, so I played their first ten shows with them. We got to be good friends and stayed in touch. When I was working on the record Alec lent me a guitar, which is all over the record and I wanted some extra harmonies that weren't my voice so I thought who's got the best voice in the world and I thought Molly. I had her phone number so I called her and she said yes.
This album is full of collaborations, so what did Afie Jurvanen bring to the record and how do you know each other?
Afie's an old friend of mine, I was a big fan of his old band. He was playing with Feist when the Golden Dogs were doing shows opening for Feist so we'd hang out in the dressing rooms singing Steve Miller songs and playing guitar. I've always been impressed by his quiet confidence and he's very decisive. I was going through this list of songs I've written and was getting worried, so I thought it would be nice to have someone pick the songs with me and trim the fat. I was thinking around, talking to my manager and he suggested Afie, but I thought he was so different from what I wanted. I thought about it for another day and thought he'd be perfect because he could help me pick the songs and I'd still be able to produce the sound myself. Everyone of his Bahamas songs because they all sound classic, like they'd been around for a hundred years. I was really inspired by To Pimp A Butterfly the Kendrick Lamar record, because I thought all the songs sound unique but classic. Afie was amazing, I sent him 25 demos and he picked his favourites.
The album's titled LOVE, so what does love mean to you and how do you find it informs your writing?
I try to be as unconscious as possible when writing, keep my brain out of the process because that's when the best stuff happens. I was never trying to write songs on a certain theme, but there was a stage there when I was writing songs six or seven years ago where I was trying to not write love songs. All of a sudden when I stopped worrying about that, I started to realize that nothing is original and is a combination so I was less specific about what I was writing about. Love can trigger a lot of intense feelings so those were the ideas that started to come out when I stopped censoring myself. Not every song was about love, so but enough were that I called the whole thing that.
What influenced you to bring in synths and vocoders this time around?
I was touring a Hayden record a couple years back and it had a lot of great synths on it. There was also an Erykah Badu record that had all these fuzzy synths. I started hearing it on some of the songs, and Afie showed up with a synth called an OP-1 that had all these beautiful sounds on it. He just started overdubbing it without us even discussing it, but they were already the sounds I was imagining.
What led you to record most of your instrumentation yourself?
It was mostly just efficiency. There's not a lot of money in the industry these days, and I'm just starting out as Taylor Knox. So studio time in a nice studio is expensive. It just became about the fact that it was just me and I could do whatever I wanted, I also just love playing instruments. It seemed like with just me and Josh in the studio it would be quick. Instead of teaching a band and figuring out what everyone's playing I could play each instrument in a few takes, and make a song in half a day. It's a combination of budget, speed and fun.
Considering this isn't your first time doing your own thing now, did you feel a lot more self-assured and free to take chances on this record?
I've always felt free to take chances in the studio. I did feel I didn't have to worry and there's a sense of confidence with so many people, if a lot of great people have asked me to play with them so I guess I'm okay. There wasn't any more or less pressure this time because each record feels like your chance to say and do everything you've wanted to do, that pressure makes me strive to do the best I can.
I'm going to try and play as much as possible. We have these release shows and songs are getting traction on college radio so we're just going to see what happened.