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Interview: Choux

todayMay 20, 2021 150

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Choux is an indie dream pop duo featuring longtime friends and collaborators Lizzie Carolan and Jordan Gatesmith. They are best known for their lush soundscapes and ethereal melodies that carry listeners to another dimension. They released their debut EP, Super Moon, in November, 2020.

Big Sonic Heaven contributor Rick Bourgoise recently had a really fun conversation with the duo about their unique process for combining songs from two different parts of North America, comparisons to the Cocteau Twins and future music that includes lyrics in French.

The transcript of this conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

 

Big Sonic Heaven: Your EP has been out for about six months now. From what I can see, it’s getting good traction. Is it meeting your expectations? Are you happy?

Lizzie Carolan: The project started from an idea many years ago. It’s just been so exciting to have it out in the world. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about what would happen after the release. This has all been a pleasant surprise.

Jordan Gatesmith: I was kind of shocked. It was just cool. I feel like we’ve communicated with a lot of people we never would have communicated with had this never come out. It’s always really interesting when you put something out and see who gravitates towards it.  We’ve talked to a lot of really interesting, cool people after releasing it.

BSH: Lizzie, you mentioned it’s been a long time coming. Take me through that. You both were in a band previously together as I understand, and decided to break out on your own. What prompted you to leave the band and create your own venture?

Jordan: That was years ago.

Lizzie: This has been kind of a long slow burn process. Jordan and I were both in a band called Total Babe way back in the day, like 2009. We were high school kids. I left and went to school in Montreal, where I still am today. Jordan went off and did his whole Howler project. I’d been writing some songs all throughout high school and at the university. My whole thing is 30-second demos that I would send to Jordan. Jordan and I had been talking about this for a number of years. 

Jordan: We’ve always been talking about making music together after Total Babe. We’d stay in touch. We talked on the phone. We’d see each other over holidays and stuff. This was always something we wanted to do.

Lizzie: Exactly. I think the big catalyst or first wave of this actually happening was when I was out in L.A. in 2018 visiting Jordan, when he lived there. I played him some of the demos.

Jordan: I lost my mind. I was so excited.

Lizzie: We recorded some stuff when we were out there, and that’s what got the process really started. But, the pandemic was like the final kick in the pants, I think.

BSH: What took so long?

Lizzie: For me, having the confidence that this was music that could be made. Like I said, everything I did started out as 30-second clips. I wasn’t really sure how to form it into longer songs.  As I talked to Jordan more and got more experience songwriting, it kind of fleshed out.  Jordan’s been a huge help in that too.

Jordan: Lizzie is an absolutely incredible songwriter. I’ve watched her completely up her game over the years. She’s always been so talented at melody and ideas. We always would send each other songs. It started off with her sending me a 30-second clip. This still happens from time to time. Lizzie’s were always absolutely brilliant 30-second ideas, but then they’d just be done. Through the process of making this record, I watched her become more confident in her own compositional skills . We started with “Super Moon,” which started off as a 30-second idea that we expanded on, filled in and made into what it is now. At the end of the record, we had a song “On a Sunday” that Lizzie actually wrote completely by herself from the ground up. It’s been a wild ride.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BSH: Lizzie, your lyrics are, I guess you could say for lack of a better description, love songs. They’re very heartfelt. Where does that come from?

Lizzie: Good question. I guess from the heart for lack of a better response (laughs). I feel like all of the songs on Super Moon are different snapshots throughout my life because it’s been such a long writing process. I’ve gone through multiple phases. The basis for “Underwater Dreams” started way back in high school. Then, through my early 20s at the university — I’m coming out of that now. They’re kind of like love songs to myself, I guess, throughout that time.

BSH: I think you can say Total Babe had quite a different sound than what you’ve evolved into with this band. How did you get into dream pop, shoegaze? Where did that come from?

Lizzie: This has always been me, actually. From day one, I came out of the womb playing shoegaze. I was a huge Cocteau Twins fan in high school. I still am, but I found them then. It was just this dawning like, oh my god –This is what’s in my head, people are making this.  Total Babe, for me, was a fun way to play violin and do more of a pop thing with that. But, the shoegaze, dreampop stuff is who I am, a core of my musicianship.

BSH: Jordan?

Jordan: I’m musically ADHD. I like it all. I just want to play everything. Right now, I’m obsessed with Baroque music and early opera. I jump around all over the place. Nothing’s gonna keep me down.

Lizzie: (to Jordan) But, you get heavy into it when you have a phase and learn everything about it. You know all about Gregorian chant and all about Baroque now. 

Jordan: I’m just a psycho. I’m a huge music fan and a huge music nerd. I’ll dabble in anything and everything.

BSH: Do you both have any formal music training or how did you start to get into playing music? 

Jordan: I feel like I’m actually getting more of a formal music training right now. I taught myself how to play guitar when I was a teenager. I took a few guitar lessons, but I was just obsessed, as a kid, with writing my own music. That was always the thing that I wanted to do. From the age of 14, I started writing music immediately and just never really stopped. I just returned to school, and I’m doing a major right now in academic music, So, I’m doing more music studies right now, and I’m studying classical and Baroque music.

BSH: Are you hoping to teach someday?

Jordan: I don’t know about that. I’m not sure. 

BSH: Lizzie?

Lizzie: I started playing violin when I was six and played that until I was 21. So, that’s been my formal music training. I don’t currently play violin. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve picked it up. Everything’s come from that. I feel like I’m getting a tiny bit more formal training now like Jordan, but in a much smaller way. I just started playing piano, so that’s been helpful to.

BSH: You mentioned Cocteau Twins earlier. When I played songs from your EP on the “New Music Show,” I said it’s the closest thing that I’ve heard to Cocteau Twins since Cocteau Twins.

Lizzie: Oh my god. Wow.

BSH: Are you flattered by that? I know everybody wants to have their own individual identity, but a couple of articles I read about you also drew that Cocteau Twins comparison. What’s your feeling on that?

Lizzie: I’m super flattered. They are an amazing band and Liz Fraser in particular is a huge icon of mine as a vocalist. It’s such a huge compliment. Thank you.

Jordan: Yeah, it’s a pretty cool compliment. I think it’s in our DNA. It’s something that we grew up with and really appreciate. I think Lizzie has such an interesting voice. There is some parallel to make to Liz Fraser, but it does something else. I think we’re still figuring out where we’re going, and what we’re going to do with all this. That was just the place we wanted to start.

BSH: Lizzie, you said you were a violinist, but when did you start singing?

Lizzie: I probably only admitted that I am a singer since releasing this. I’ve always been really shy about singing to the point where I remember practicing some stuff in my bedroom when I was in high school and my dad said, “Oh, sounds good.” I was so embarrassed that I stopped right away. It’s been a process of me coming to terms with the fact that I’m a singer now. But, I don’t have any formal training.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BSH: It’s impressive. You’re both in two different parts of North America (Lizzie in Montreal; Jordan in Minneapolis), and yet you collaborated and put out an EP together. Take me through that. How was it even possible to create such beautiful songs if you’re not sitting together in a studio?

Jordan: A lot of Zoom calls.

Lizzie: We did spend some time together in the studio on early demos. None of the versions that we worked on before ended up on the album, but I think they helped us form some ideas. We’d worked on “Super Moon” and “Red” previously. We, at least, had a little bit of studio time together. The rest was like zoom calls. I did all my vocals here in Montreal, and then sent them to Jordan and then our mixers.

Jordan: It was like Frankenstein. All the music was recorded in Minneapolis. We did the tracking in a couple days out here and then Lizzie did the tracking simultaneously in Montreal. We just put it together and hoped that it worked.

Lizzie: And it did. There was a moment where we were like, oh my god, is this actually gonna work?

Jordan: We’re like, this is insane.

BSH: There was a lot of file sharing back and forth.

Jordan: I did actually clean my computer out of hard drive space. I have a million copies of all the updated versions of this and that. It was a bit of a mess. We’re still doing it as we continue to work on music and demos. There’s a better way, I feel, but we haven’t found it yet.

BSH: At what point do you think you’ll actually get together and do something traditionally?

Lizzie: This summer, if all is well. I’m hoping to go back to Minneapolis for a bit.

Jordan: We’re still passing tracks back and forth. We have a couple different things we want to be trying out. So, if we can get Lizzie here in August, we could maybe get tracking on some of this stuff in the studio.

BSH: Lizzie, are you doing any of the instruments or just vocals?

Lizzie: I do vocals, a little bit of guitar and a little bit of synth. The process is I’ll make some crappier version, I’ll send it to Jordan and he’ll blow it up and make it sound great. 

BSH: Do the lyrics come last or first?

Lizzie: The vocal melody will often come around the same time I’m figuring out the structure.  As Jordan can attest to, sometimes the lyrics come at very last second, like the day before going into the studio.

BSH: Let’s talk a little bit more about your future and what you have next. You both have been busy doing other stuff.

Lizzie: I’m studying to become a speech language pathologist. I’ve finished my two years of the clinical program, and I decided to stay to do a thesis, it’s an optional third year. I really love research. 

BSH: Given the times we’re in, there’s no possibility of doing any type of live music or touring.  Once we get past all this, is that something you would like to do and put careers on hold? What are your thoughts for the future and how do you want to carry this band forward?

Jordan: We’ve talked about this a little bit. I think we’re actually kind of in this for the long haul. We don’t really know what that means. Who knows if this will ever be something that’s actually successful or really lucrative, but we really enjoy making music together. We really enjoy the process. We would like to play live at some point, and I think we plan on doing that in some capacity when the world gets a little back to normalcy. But, I don’t know. I think we’re gonna be making music with this project for a long time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BSH: I assume you did this album and published it on your own. Have you had any conversations with any labels or has anybody in the industry shown interest?

Lizzie: We haven’t had any contact about it yet. We’ll see what happens. It’s been pretty fun to figure out the whole back end of making and releasing a record. I’ve enjoyed that process, and I would definitely do it again.

Jordan: We’ve also talked about maybe even setting up our own label. I’ve worked with record labels before. I’ve released records with different labels over the years, and I didn’t particularly like it. I found it to be uncomfortable. I’ve enjoyed the DIY approach that we’ve been able to take with this project. Obviously, we would never turn down an opportunity. For the moment, we are really enjoying having full control over it and whatever whims move us, we just go with it. So, it’s cool.

Lizzie: It’s been fun to get our friends involved in various aspects with recording, graphic design for the album art. It’s been a fun process.

BSH: No pressure, no expectations, right?

Lizzie: Just from ourselves (laughs)

BSH: It sounds like you’re both having a ton of fun. I can tell you that we love it in Big Sonic Heaven. There are a few tracks in rotation. It fits exactly what we love to hear in this genre.

Jordan: It means so much to us to hear that. I’m always so tickled every time I hear that people really connect with the music we’re making. This is why we do it. It’s about making these connections and contributing something that people are gonna dig.

BSH: Are we going to have to wait until fall for something new, or do you think you might knock out a track or two before then?

Jordan: We actually have quite an extensive backlog of music. We have a studio record that we want to do, but we also have been experimenting a little bit more with the more electronic side. Still shoegazey, but more breakbeat heavy, sample based. We’re thinking about maybe putting a couple of those tracks out as an EP before we get around to a full length studio album. There could be stuff by the summer, so fingers crossed.

Lizzie: For the stuff that we’ve been working on, we have been incorporating a little bit more French and getting into more of the Montreal half of our duo.

BSH: Are you originally from Minneapolis?

Lizzie: I am, born and raised. But, I’ve been in Montreal now for almost 10 years for college. Then I stayed, and now I’m doing a master’s and still here.

BSH: Do you speak French?

Lizzie: I do, I’m fairly bilingual.

BSH: Are you going to work some French lyrics into future songs?

Lizzie: Yeah, we’re working on one right now. It’s just been pretty fun. Jordan’s been laughing at the French because it’s pretty goofy.

Jordan: It’s awesome. She sings it in her Lizzie way, where you can’t understand anything she’s saying anyway. But, the words are in French, and they’re absolutely hilarious.

BSH: And your band name is French.

Lizzie: It’s kind of goofy. I went through a year-long phase of loving making sauerkraut. And I also thought the word Choux in French is just sweet sounding, so it was a love of cabbage (Choux is French for cabbage).

BSH: Thank you so much. You guys are a ton of fun. We’ll definitely talk again when you have some new music.

Lizzie: Absolutely, we’ll keep you posted.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Choux’s EP Super Moon is available for listening and purchase on their Bandcamp page at https://choux.bandcamp.com

Follow Choix on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/choux.rx[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Rick Bourgoise
Big Sonic Heaven Radio Contributing Writer

Big Sonic Heaven is a 24/7 Internet radio station dedicated to the ethereal sounds of shoegaze, dream pop, post-punk, trip-hop, etc. Listen to the artists featured on the blog and discover more by downloading the app for iPhone and Android or listen at bigsonicheaven.com.

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Written by: Rick Bourgoise

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