Right around the time this issue is going to press, Dead Soft will be finishing their set at a packed Rickshaw Theatre, opening for The Pack A.D. at what bass player Keeley Rochon describes as “the biggest show we will have ever played”. Right now it is still early February and the band is at my place for Sunday dinner to eat, drink, and discuss their upcoming self-titled full-length debut. They even picked up a bottle of wine to share, and singer/guitarist Nathaniel Epp compares the experience to browsing a used record store: “I feel like the (wine store) employees are watching me, judging my choices…it’s a bit stressful.”
The feeling of having eyes on you is a relatively new one for the members of Dead Soft. Their ascent to the upper tier of Vancouver’s tight-knit music scene has been a steady one built on lots of local shows and one cross-Canada tour.
“I think the fact that we played shows like, three to five times a month for a couple years really paid off,” Rochon says of the band’s tireless schedule. “Breaking into the Vancouver music scene is something I never thought would happen. Being from a small town up north, it seemed like the most unrealistic dream ever. People in Vancouver bands were like celebrities to me as a teenager.”
The trio’s dedication and commitment is apparent very early in our conversation. They have an obvious work ethic and are keenly aware of the kind of effort it takes to promote a band and a recording. Drummer Graeme MacDonald jokes. “Nat and Keeley are nuclear-powered work machines…it’s hard to keep up with them sometimes!”
After releasing 2011’s Dead Soft EP and last year’s critically acclaimed Teen Fiction EP, Dead Soft went to work recording their full-length debut at The Noise Floor on Gabriola Island with engineer Jordan Koop. The band spent a week living and recording at the secluded studio, and Rochon recalls the experience fondly: “Being on Gabriola Island, completely focused on making the record, no cell service, no shitty long work days prior to recording time. It was dreamy.”
The experience may have been dreamy, but the end result is a dark, intense 30 minutes of sweet and sour indie rock. Compared to the band’s prior releases, the sound on Dead Soft is considerably heavier and the arrangements more dynamic. “There has been no deliberate attempt to become heavier,” Epp says. “I feel like our sound is just expanding in this way that makes the soft parts softer and the heavy parts heavier.” MacDonald adds, “As a drummer who loves to go ballistic, I welcome [the new songs] with open arms.”
Themes of death and dying dominate the nine songs. “I suppose I do have a fascination with death,” Epp admits. “I also love contrasting darkness with light, like pop songs about dying. Everyone will die and that’s kind of scary as well as comforting. I think the motif of death sometimes also represents a feeling of wanting to do the best that I can with the time that I have.” MacDonald adds matter-of-factly, “Sometimes I think Nathaniel is actually a goth.” Rochon expands on the album themes as “trying your best to do good work, help others, break shitty cycles, eat your fruits and vegetables, before the clock runs out,”
Despite the darkness in their lyrics, Dead Soft have a bright future and their story is far from over.
Catch Dead Soft at The Cobalt on March 7th with Woolworm, Tim the Mute and No Boy.
By Justin Penny