Feature ·

Sometimes it's (not) all in a name

We Are Wolves

With their raw, menacing, electro-punk sound, We Are Wolves are as fierce as their namesake. Sure, that other lupine-loving band from Montreal (you know, the one that signed to Sub Pop and has Isaac Brock as the president of its fan club) has been making most of the headlines, but We Are Wolves have been building up steam. More and more, it's looking like this dark horse could wind up in the winner's circle when the dust settles.
Their self-released debut, Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux is set to be re-released by Fat Possum Records on Sept. 20, and they spent this spring touring with And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. They've recently embarked on a North American tour, opening for the Gossip and playing slots at the prestigious CMJ and Pop Montreal music festivals along the way (their show at Pop Montreal is set for Oct. 1). Prefix's Justin Sheppard sat down with Alexander Ortiz (vocals, guitars), Antonin Marquis (drums) and Vincent Levesque (keyboards) to discuss touring, the Montreal scene, and why people can't stop talking about their band's name.


 

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Prefix Magazine:
How did you guys form? You've been around since about 2000 right?

We Are Wolves:
Alex Ortiz: It's kind of hard to put a finger on it. It started out as just three friends having fun together with some instruments.
Antonin Marquis: We didn't even have a name for like two years. We just jammed. We didn't have any plans for the band or anything.
Vincent Levesque: We didn't even plan on doing one single show at all.
AO: We just wanted to have fun experimenting with different sounds. Two years after, some people asked us if we'd like to be the opening act for this or that show, and it just kind of went like that.

PM:
How did the name finally come about? I read somewhere that you guys had thought about changing your name before the album came out.

We Are Wolves:
AO: Well, we considered it because of all the attention on the "wolves" thing.

PM:
Does that bother you at all? Because with all the press I read about you guys, either you just get lumped in as one of those "wolf" bands that are coming out of Montreal lately (Wolf Parade, AIDS Wolf) or you get tied in with other local bands like Les Georges Leningrad and the Electro Freak movement that's big there right now.

We Are Wolves:
AO: The comparisons don't bother me any more. At first that's why we contemplated changing our name, like I said, but then we decided to just deal with it. At the beginning, it was kind of hard, because everyone kept asking about the wolf thing. But today, I'm really happy we kept the name. I feel more attached to the "we are" than to the "wolves." If we had decided to change the name, we would have kept the "we are."
AM: It's funny, though, because lately we've noticed that there are more and more "we are" bands and albums coming out. An Albatross has their album, We Are Lazer the Viking; Money Money has We Are Money Money. Even the Gossip, who we're going on tour with, have a song [that starts with the words "we are"]. So we're just like, What's going on?
VL: It's just sad that the press can't talk about anything else. Like when people here start saying, "Oh, no, not another wolf band," I just think, Who cares? In the states, nobody really talks about all the bands with "black" in the title, so whatever.

PM:
What are your thoughts on all the attention that Montreal is getting right now? Does it get to you at all?

We Are Wolves:
AM: Not at all. I think Montreal deserves it. The bands are great, the people are great, the venues are great --
VL: The girls are great [laughs].
AO: In Montreal there are spaces now for pretty cheap where you can practice and just start a band and have fun, and there's a scene for people who aren't professional musicians. Like us. We're not professional musicians at all. We just started out as friends, and there's a scene for that.
AM: The only thing that I'm afraid of is that bands that maybe put out their albums out a year or two from now, the press might turn around and say "Oh, look, it's just another band from Montreal," and it could end up playing against them.
AO: That's always been a problem with the press. All the bands that come from England, they always say, "This band sounds just like this other band."
AM: But we love our city. We talk about Montreal whenever we're on stage, in the states or other parts of Canada.

PM:
Does that get a good reaction with the crowd?

We Are Wolves:
AM: Usually, yeah. If they can understand what we're saying [laughs].
VL: Most of the time they don't.
AM: I understand why you're asking though, because I find the more you put emphasis on Montreal in the press, people can feel threatened by it.
VL: But at the same time, all the bands that are becoming big here are all pretty good.
AM: It's funny. I read something about Wolf Parade that said, "Is this the next Arcade Fire?" So it's like a rating system now. Now if Wolf Parade becomes as popular as [Arcade Fire], it will be, "Who's going to be the next Wolf Parade?" And that's not cool. That has nothing to do with rock 'n' roll.

PM:
Being francophones, we're you worried about any backlash over your choice to sing in English on the record, especially with the way the Montreal scene can be very divided?

We Are Wolves:
VL: I wasn't worried, really. We all have Anglophone friends and speak both languages. It's all the same, as far as I'm concerned
AO: I don't really think about it. I'm francophone, but I'm also Columbian, so I speak Spanish at home, and I also study at Concordia, which is an English university. So I'm always mixed up with all these different cultures and languages, and that's okay with me.
VL: Once, though, we sent out an e-mail and we forgot to attach the French version, and some people did kind of point that out.
AM: We're all for mixing the cultures, though. There's no real difference.
AO: I think it's just easier to sing in English, since you have the opportunity to reach more people. But there's no real reason why we chose to. And we have a French song that we've been working on that might be on the next album.

PM:
The album has many instrumental tracks. Is that an indication that the band is putting more emphasis on the arrangements than on the lyrics?

We Are Wolves:
AM: Music comes first.
AO: Even the way we use language and the way we sing -- it's just another instrument or another layer, instead of trying to be really poetic.
VL: Yeah, we're not urban poets.

PM:
What bands are you guys influenced by, contemporary and older?

We Are Wolves:
AO: I think I'll always listen to bands like the Stooges or the Velvet Underground. Every time I listen to them, I'm still surprised.
VL: You'll be sitting in a bar and one of their songs will be on, and it's like, "Oh, man, that's such a great song. I should listen to it more at home."
AO: I like a lot of garage music, dirty stuff.

PM:
There's been some speculation amongst the Prefix staff that you guys are pretty into the Liars. A few of us kind of get the same vibe from your album.

We Are Wolves:
AM: Really? That's great. That's a big compliment. We all really love that band. We got to see them when they came here a year or two ago, and it was one of the best shows ever.

PM:
Are there any bands in Montreal right now that you guys think are on the verge of breaking out or who deserve more attention?

We Are Wolves:
AM: Demon's Claws.
AO: They really deserve more attention. In Montreal, you have all these bands that have created this big garage scene for the past ten years, but you never really hear about them. Like the Spaceshits. They were signed to Sympathy for the Record Industry, but you never really heard about them.
VL: I think the world knew about them, but not Montreal.
AM: I think the garage scene just needs more attention in general. Oh, Bloodshot Bill. He put out an amazing record also. Also, the Sunday Sinners.

PM:
What was it like opening for And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead in the spring?

We Are Wolves:
AO: Weird. Really weird. We were used to playing in lofts or in small venues, and that tour was all big venues and huge sound systems and roadies and technicians. Overall, though, it was a great experience.

PM:
How was the crowd reaction?

We Are Wolves:
AM: People we're a little bit shy, but it was okay.
AO: People weren't as demonstrative as people in Montreal are.

PM:
Did you get the sense that anyone had heard of you guys?

We Are Wolves:
AO: No, not at all. But after the show, a lot of people came up to us and said they really liked it and said that it was really original stuff.
VL: Which was really nice, since here in Montreal we get compared to everything.

PM:
I was kind of surprised when I heard you guys were opening for them, because there aren't really any parallels between the two bands.

We Are Wolves:
AM: No, there aren't any at all really. Well, we share the same booking agent [laughs], so I guess that's the parallel. We needed our first try in the states, so it was a good opportunity.

PM:
How do you guys feel about touring, compared to recording?

We Are Wolves:
VL: We don't really have any idea what we're doing when we're recording. This album was the first time we really recorded anything before. And music is really just about playing, jamming, whatever. And when you're recording it's a totally different thing, a totally different medium. When you record music, you're not really playing music.
AM: The biggest critique I would have about our album is that it doesn't deliver the energy that we have on stage. We didn't know at the time we were recording what to do to get the sound right.
VL: We still don't know [laughs].
AO: I keep asking myself how we can transfer the energy of our live shows onto an album.

PM:
Last question: On the song "Non Stop," is that a sample of a dollar-store toy guns?

We Are Wolves:
VL: [laughs] It's an old toy. I think the company that made it made a bunch of different ones with the same sound banks. This one's a little guitar, but I've seen guns and stuff, too.

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We Are Wolves

Awesome band, can't wait to hear more from them.

Bill

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