We sat down over vegetarian burritos with Vancouver based rock-duo Sam and Shay of Still Creek Murder to talk about what it's like to work with someone you are so different from, the creative process behind song-writing, and future directions.
G: Lets get started by talking about your musical beginnings. Are there any interesting stories about how you got started in music?
Shay: I got into music because my dad had four girls and insisted that one play drums. I guess I was the only one who showed any interest, so he taught me.
G: Had you played in other bands before you started Still Creek Murder, Shay?
Shay: Yes, I played in a six-piece. Now with the two-piece it's nice to have a bit more musical freedom.
G: Do you find you get extra attention or unwanted attention for being a female drummer?
Shay: The best and worst compliment I get is, “Wow, you’re a great drummer. . . For a girl.” But, I like to believe you’re your own competition. Challenge yourself.
G: Sam, how did things get started for you?
Sam: I didn't really play guitar much as a kid, but my mom had a guitar around the house that I would play casually. In high-school I was invited to join a screamo band and that was okay. We played at a party for a house that was being torn down so we literally got to rip the place apart. After, the drummer and I started a two-piece and we would learn songs together. Eventually one of our buddies joined, a bassist, and we got to play at shows like Battle of the Bands at the Biltmore. After that I went on tour with a band across Canada and that's when I really decided I wanted to be a part of music, after I'd seen all the different audiences across Canada. When I got back my old band was no longer interested, and eventually I found myself on Shay's doorstep.
G: Did you two know each other?
Sam: Nope, we just met and started playing together. We found out that have very different approaches.
Shay: When we met my roommate asked if I thought Sam and I would be a band together and I just said definitely not. We took totally different approaches to music, and had totally different ideas, I thought it wouldn't work. So, a year and a half later here we are (laughs).
G: So, when you met what was it like trying to get your styles to mesh?
Shay: Luckily we got along really well. At first musically I didn’t think it would work, but then in the end I realized it does. We think different about anything we possibly could, but it the end it works.
Sam: For us it’s always really easy to be creative. We know when something is wrong, or something is too far reaching like when you are trying to do something but it’s just not worth it. If a song is too long or the lyrics are too superfluous we know it.
Shay: That’s what we can always agree upon.
Sam: We know when it gets to a point where it works.
G: What is your process like when you’re writing music?
Sam: For my own process I have to stew with ideas over workdays. I write my own lyrics or turns of phrase, because the English language is full of little things you can mess around with. With guitar I just try to push myself and see what I can come up with. Then I have to blend the two together and create this semi-neat little package which I bring to Shay and she helps me determine which elements are good and can be turned into something.
Shay: If we were a pack of cards I’d be the wildcard and Sam would be the King. I’ll have these little ideas and I won’t know where to go with them so I’ll give them to Sam and he’ll give them structure. Or, he’ll bring a song to play and I’ll have a completely different drum beat to add. So, I guess any song we write is half his, half mine, then we meet in the middle. I always remind Sam that we are complete opposites, like yin and yang. When we have an idea I'll take the left road and he'll take the right, but we still come full circle. We have disagreements, but in the end it works.
G: Your first EP To Shreds is offered online by donation or for free. Do you think it's important to offer free content while starting up?
Sam: Yes, if you're a starting band and you are only one or two years old your first works won't get enough boom, and you won't have the resources to promote it hard enough. Because of that, bands like us need to make something more accessible where it is an option to pay for it. When we sell our music at shows we say pay whatever you want, buy us a beer or give some money only if you want to. This way, when we release something we really love we'll be able to do more with it and have it loved in the same sort of way.
Shay: Not having a price doesn't mean it doesn't have a value. It takes effort to go out of your way to click a link to music that you don’t know or haven’t heard about. If you are going out of your way to click this link, thank you. Thank you for wanting to hear it. People who go out of their way to listen to our music is worth more than money.
G: We noticed a melancholic theme throughout the album, would you like to address this? Was there a message you wanted to convey to audiences with the album?
Shay: Melancholy is a funny word to use because at the time when we wrote the album Sam and I were going through "break-ups," I use quotations because they were with bands, not romantic. After a break-up like that you start to question who you are and what you're doing, so I think we were both at that stage when we met and starting writing. To Shreds, the album name, is like finding shreds of your life and piecing them together as one. The songs tend to provoke anger or sadness.
Sam: But, we're not trying to write a concept album. There is just no real demand for a new concept album. With a 5 song EP it's just your first songs, what you're confident in. We want it to be about having people interpret it in their own ways given the tools of lyrics and composition to help them link their own life to a song. Most of the songs have a general message about there being something wrong, or something terrible that's happened from which you can't recover, but you should be resolute because you know that you're past it. Whatever it is, you're going to live past it.
Shay: On a side note, the EP is also the result of us learning from each other. It shows our styles bound together. Yin and yang was a huge inspiration for it. These songs were piecing both of us together, speaking a language that we can’t speak.
G: How do you feel about people knowing the stories behind a song?
Sam: We’d rather have people interpret them. Link them together and use some kind of logic. Make it what the song means to you, that’s the best.
Shay: We like people to relate to songs themselves, if they get any sort of story it can dampen that. We want it to be theirs.
G: Would you like to talk a bit about your individual inspirations?
Sam: From a guitarist perspective, I like Johnny Marr. I admire his ability to play funny little bits on the strings, but still be able to maintain melancholy in the songs he plays in. Also Daniel Kesler from Interpol, his minimalism and the intensity is always cinematic and huge without being huge. He achieves without achieving and, from a guitarists’ standpoint, that’s where I’m inspired.
Shay: Growing up I was kind of an old soul. I always really liked classic rock, like Zeppelin, and I probably wouldn’t know half the stuff Sam is inspired by if I hadn’t met him. We like to swap each others’ taste. I’ll listen to his iPod for a while and read his books, and vice versa. We both connect though in the minimalism aspect. I really like Jack White for example, and maybe us loving minimalism is what keeps us as a two-piece, I’m not sure. There are similarities, but we come from very different backgrounds for music taste.
G: Where do you see Still Creek Murder going?
Sam: Literally, hopefully we will be going to Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and the surrounding areas this summer.
Shay: Show-wise we always want to tour and meet people. Music wise we want to look back at this and think we’ve come a long way since this tape that’s sitting in front of us (*the EP). Even today we were talking about how we want to write songs that challenge us. Write songs that we have to separately go home and work on, songs that are difficult to play but are our songs. I want our next album to be more of an accomplishment for us than anything.
G: That sounds great! Thank you for your time. We can't wait to hear the next album.