Music and motion: an interview with Ivory Hours


Bursting forth from the studio and stages of London, Ontario, indie-pop trio, Ivory Hours has been making steady waves, sonically and in critical reception. With the release of their first full-length album, Morning Light, following two successful EPs, members Luke Roes, Chris Levesque, and Thomas Perquin have carefully crafted 10 tracks that capture a playful, catchy sound that still manages to run deep and relate to some pretty dark human experiences. Ranging from topics like love, loss, and plenty of self-reflection, this band has a habit of mixing solemn lyrics with upbeat, high-energy instrumental melodies and harmonies. But, don’t just take my word for it; hear it from frontman Luke Roes, below.

Recently becoming one of the top four finalists in CBC’s Searchlight competition, Ivory Hours continues to build acclaim while carving out an independent, appealing identity as one of Canada’s strongest indie acts. Stopping by Toronto’s NXNE to showcase their new album, along with some older tunes, Quip caught up with Roes to discuss the band’s musical growth, new tunes, and passion for stop motion. Check it out:

Laura Eley: You guys recently released your latest album, Morning Light. What did you learn between now and the release of your last EP? 

Luke Roes: We’ve played a lot of shows in that time and because live shows are so important to us right now, we’ve just kind of paid attention to what crowds respond to. Generally, that’s what informed the very energetic sound that we wanted to capture on the record. Whenever I was writing a song, I just thought about how it would come across live. There’s some stuff that got cut in that sense, too, that’s maybe melodically interesting, but I’m just thinking in terms of being played at 12 o’clock or one a.m. in a club, if people would really be able to respond to it at that point.

LE: How has the reception been to Morning Light?

LR: Really good. I think it achieves what we set out to do. It hasn’t been out for very long, but we’ve been playing some of these songs live for quite awhile before they actually went on the record. They seem to resonate really well with people.

LE: I take it that Annie is no longer with the band. How has the lack of female vocals shifted your sound? 

LR: She’s playing select shows with us, but she’s [now] doing real life. Actually, she and a couple other guys sang back-up, but it was kind of in a like nifty old-school sense, where they’re all singing around one mic at the same time in a more classic back-up role, like call and response, which is really fun. I think it’s a different kind of music, the melodic, harmony based stuff; it’s really neat, but it’s limiting in a sense, too, because you’re always accountable to the other person who’s singing. You have to sing it in the same way every time because you have to match what they’re doing. I’ve just started experimenting quite a bit now with vocal range.

LE: I read that you describe yourself as having a generally cloudy disposition. Do you think that mood was reflected in this new album and how the songs were written?

LR: I think just generally that’s my battle – trying to match that with something that’s interesting to listen to. I think a lot of songwriters are that way and I’ve seen a lot of people do that, where they have melancholy tunes and they wonder why people don’t catch on. But, I mean, everybody’s got troubles, so it’s trying to find a balance between that and finding a way to relate to people.

LE: I also read that you studied engineering before deciding to seriously pursue music. When did that shift towards music happen for you?

LR: I think before I even went [to school], to be honest. I think it’s just the thing that people do; they go to post-secondary school. And there are parts of it where it’s like you just gotta go spend some time to grow-up a little bit, and it wasn’t until the latter half of university where I was really starting to think more seriously about music. Definitely the last year was where I made the plan to go and start something.

LE: Who or what inspires you to write music?

LR: I think in the past I drew inspiration from a couple different angles. Like, for me there’s some people who are really good at writing pop songs, people like Paul McCartney, and then there are people who lyrically you’re drawn towards. Maybe that’s one thing. In The Beatles, I really like the way that Paul McCartney writes songs and I really like the way that John Lennon writes lyrics, and that kind of thing. Paul Simon is lyrically huge for sure, too. Then I think almost everything in our generation is inspired in some way by rap and hip-hop and that kind of thing, and dance music because it’s so prolific now. So, I think I just pulled that in subconsciously.

LE: I have to ask you about your music videos, which use a ton of stop motion. Did they take you hours and hours to create?

LR: It was long. But, actually it was less time than the last one that we did, and I’d just taken a lot forward from the first time. That was a couple of years ago and I’d just sort of sworn myself off of it because it was so crazy. We did that one all in one weekend and it was 35 hours split into 18 hour days. We’d done the planning before; I knew I had to paint a whole room. I knew the production value was going to be higher than the last one which was really inspiring as well.

LE: Being a professional musician can be a really difficult lifestyle. What are the best and most challenging parts about it?

LR: I think the best part is, for me, is when you end up at a music festival and feel like “I’m home now”; there’s a whole bunch of people who just have the same passion for music. You don’t really find people like that, every day, who you resonate with. The most difficult part is balancing business with artistry. At this point we’re independent and one day I’m trying to write a song and the next day I’m trying to book a tour. Those are completely different ways of thinking.

photos by Erik Shaw

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