by Tiana Feng
Thus Owls released their third album Turning Rocks last week. I got to chat with Simon and Erika Angell about how it came together, inspirations and places they like to eat.
What’s it like being husband and wife in a band together?
SA: It’s a balancing act. Obviously we come first but we have to be professional at the same time. We started out by playing music together off the bat so it’s pretty natural for us. It was a natural progression.
Does it make it difficult to see the same person all the time?
SA: Well that’s the same thing with any touring band right? It all becomes some sort of weird twisted family.
The Turning Rocks album was inspired by Erika’s Swedish roots. How did you put it all together into a cohesive album?
SA: We started out with some of it premeditated as opposed to how we worked earlier. We thought of the direction of what we wanted the record to sound like, obviously leaving room for elements of surprise because we always need that to keep it interesting.
We got this scrapbooking idea from a film-maker friend of ours. We threw together a bunch of things we liked, different art-forms like songs that we liked, films, poems, paintings, sculptures, something artistic that sparked something creative inside of us. We did that with the record. Erika and I really worked together on composition. We wanted to find our common ground, to see what was interesting for the both of us artistically. A year later we got past all the madness and it’s what you hear now.
What’s the significance behind the title of the album? Are you consciously trying to find something under metaphorical rocks?
EA: I used that in a song as a metaphor, but it was also something that I literally did when I was a kid. I have memories of spending summers turning rocks to see what was under. If there were ants or if there were worms or nothing. In the song it’s about always pushing yourself, opening a new door to see what’s behind it and how it affects you. To see if it will make you change or if you will stay the same. Challenging yourself through life.
Did you find anything interesting under literal rocks?
EA: Under the literal rocks there were mainly ants or insects of some sort. No treasure.
The video for “How in My Bones” is inspired by childhood fantasies. What are some of your favourite childhood fantasies? I remember when I was little I used to pretend all my stuffed animals were real.
EA: It was not so much fantasies for “How in My Bones”. It was more like things that I remembered a lot from when I was a kid or things that my grandma talked about. One of the things was that when I was out digging in the ground or in the dirt in the woods, we used to find these pieces of pottery. Back in the day when they got rid of garbage, they dug it down into the ground. 40-60 years later when I was out playing in the woods, I found those beautiful little pieces of cups with a rose on it. That was one of the inspirations and a lot of those memories are scattered into a more surrealistic memory. The idea of that video was that a lot of those pictures are no longer clear anymore. Mylène who created it also lent his own crazy mind and the outcome was beautiful.
You’ll be heading out on a bunch of tour dates in Canada and Europe. What are some of your favourite places to play?
EA: There’s a lot of places where we keep coming back to, which is always fun but after a few years of touring, it’s always fun to go to those places where you’ve never been. I love going to Switzerland and those places where the nature is. I miss the nature so much. Being a musician usually means being in a city. Iceland and Switzerland are gorgeous. However, there’s also places where we have a lot of friends like Amsterdam or Paris even though we’re not living there anymore.
What’s the weirdest show you’ve ever played?
EA: There was this one show in Montreal last year or two years ago. It started off with a big fire alarm and firemen showed up We were standing on the stage just about to sing the first notes and suddenly we saw all these firemen with axes everywhere. That was funny. There’s a lot of different types of shows all the time. Sometimes we do shows at houses. There’s a house in Belgium which we’d love to go to. It’s just a guy with a beautiful house who invites musicians to play and it’s always amazing.
I hear you guys are very into food. What are some memorable restaurants you discovered on tour?
SA: Oh shit, there’s so many. I’ll pick the more recent one. We were in a small town in Pennsylvania just last week. We were doing a radio thing down there and when we were leaving we asked the guys at the studio if there’s any good food around. It’s very hard to find good food in middle America. They were like “oh yeah we have some of the best Chinese and Indian food in America here.” I was like okay, sure.
We went to this strip mall, which was a pretty typical North American strip mall. I was very skeptical of it. There was this big Chinese restaurant called the Han Dynasty with a giant sign that said it was voted one of the Top 50 Chinese restaurants in America. I was like sure whatever, we’ll try it. We went in and there was nobody in there. It was just a typical strip mall-looking restaurant but it was incredible and authentic. It’s fun when you find those little gems. We’re always seeking out good places in whatever cities we’re in. We were in New York last week and New York is a plethora of amazing food everywhere. When you find some things on the road like that, it’s like a little secret, it’s pretty cool.
I love food too. All my interviews turn to food talk somehow.
SA: Hahaha. Well, it’s funny both myself and Parker, our keyboard player worked in restaurants as line cooks and chefs for a long time before the band.
Do you have a secret recipe?
SA: I make a pretty mean hot and sour soup.