Timber Timbre’s Fiction Becomes Reality

Photo by Caroline Desilets

After a decade of music and five albums, Timber Timbre looked to science fiction for inspiration. What they found however was that the reality was stranger than fiction, leading them towards  a dystopian, synth-rock. Flying out to France, the band huddled up in a bizarre studio, grabbed some strange keyboards and recorded one of their most intriguing albums to date.

We chatted with Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirke ahead of the November 16 show at the Bronson Centre to talk about their strange discovery, writing together and why they recorded in France.

Ottawa Life: What inspired you to bring in the rest of the band more on the writing process this time around?

Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre): It's been a natural progression since I started working more closely with the band. This time, we planned more as a band, and arranged more as a group, even with Olivier who's not playing with us anymore, he played and recorded a lot on this record. It seemed like we had just done more touring and shows, and had done enough arranging that it seemed natural to do that with the music as well. I was still off on my own arranging the pieces, but we considered how the instrumentation would go. It just sounds better and much more interesting, I'm really proud of these songs. They're better instrumentalists than I am, and I had been playing all the instruments before.

I understand that there was a lot more pre-studio preparation with this record, as opposed to going in and writing like before?

Historically, the ideas were a little more streamlined because I knew where the songs were going and no one else really did. It seemed now that it made a lot more sense for us all to be all on the same page. It was really about economizing the time to encourage that amount of preparation this time.

How was the experience recording and staying at La Frette Studios near Paris?

I don't have a ton of studio experience actually. I worked out of a bunch of studios in Montreal regularly, but mostly on other people's music. This was entirely unique for me. When we went to visit before recording I was smitten immediately. It's a weird collection of guitars, synths and piano, but it was mainly the vibe of the house, this big, old spooky house. The control room in the basement and beautiful live room on the main floor. There was also the people running the place who were kind and accommodating, and  a really eccentric group of people. This woman Elizabeth was making beautiful meals for us, so we could work all hours, tumble downstairs and have breakfast, working all day. It was very immersive, and it was cool to be that focused. It was good to be that focused too so we could take turns and take our time helming it.

How did you commandeer the studio's collection of synths for the recording ?

Matt plays a Roland JX, and we wanted to extrapolate on those sounds. We understood that they could get an Oberheim, and we were really curious about that. They didn't have it on site, but that was on a gear list for someone who owns the instruments. Lo and behold all the instruments were waiting for us when we arrived, it was like Christmas time.

Considering the political and sci-fi inspirations for this record, did you intentionally blur the lines between fiction and reality?

That was the sensation. We had become aware of this collision in reality of science fiction. The modern dystopia presented in these films was arising, it was no longer fiction. That piqued our curiosity to look at these films again. Then their music made us really curious. There's also a zeitgeist phenomena about synths and this kind of music. It was interesting to a lot of people now, and there was a lot of interesting around these kinds of instruments. It just seemed to be everywhere, so maybe there was a subconscious curiosity about that.

Why do you think you've had such a crazy reaction with European crowds for this record, especially considering you've been on four tours of Europe since releasing the record back in April?

From early on it's been this way, the response abroad has been really strong. As a result, we've continued to service those venues more regularly. We need to put some more work in back here. It's hard to account for it, I've been thinking about it for a long time. The project has always been associated with folk music and American music, and that's really interesting in Europe, it's exotic there.  

Looking at your more sombre shows in the past, what prompted your move to a full rock show now?

Once we started to play as a four-piece, as a traditional rock combo, that just became fun. Immediately, the audience was more responsive to what we were doing. For years we were playing with a kick drum, violin and lap-steel, but it's much harder to bring people in, it require a different attention span. This is much more immediate and it makes it more enjoyable.