Interview Timber Timbre: ‘It’s More Like I’m Collecting Things’

Timber Timbre spent time in LA’s legendary Laurel Canyon during the creation of their new album.

Listening to Timber Timbre’s music usually mimics a film. An expression that develops both musically and visually, Taylor Kirk isn’t the kind to stick to just one of the senses. Sure, this wouldn’t appear at Sundance in its current form, but it’s a crime that Taylor isn’t being signed up to score films, like Nick Cave, or soundtracking hit shows like True Detective.

The process - which has stayed resolute right up to ‘Hot Dreams’, the band’s fifth LP - involves a process of mining ‘the commonalities between a lot of ideas and images.’ He cites literature alongside music as a primary influence. Instead of writing with specific images in mind, ‘it’s more like I’m collecting things,’ he says, speaking to DIY ahead of the album’s release.

You spent some time in Laurel Canyon when working on ‘Hot Dreams’, did the sixties/seventies scene with Neil Young, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell etc. influence it in any sort of way?
Yes, I think it certainly influenced the record, in the kinds of words and images that I wanted to sing about. Not that I was listening to a lot of the music, more that I was thinking about the lore of that place – and that music has been very important to me before, in different times of my life. Not so much now, but I actually became kind of obsessed with The Doors, that my friends used to make fun of me for liking, but I got on a huge The Doors kick, but that was just an isolated thing. I do think there was something that happened, being there. There’s some kind of power in that place.

You mentioned images and Timber Timbre’s always had a cinematic quality to it, do you write with images in mind?
Sometimes, yes, but I don’t really sit down and write in a focused way, it’s very rare for that to happen. It’s more like I’m collecting things and then I sit down and kind of mines the commonalities between a lot of ideas and images, music I’ve been interested in, literature etc. That’s usually how it works at least.

How was it working with Simon [Trottier] as a co-composer on ‘Hot Dreams’? Did it change the way you worked?
It wasn’t a huge shift from the last recording as we worked together very much as a team then as well. This time around he contributed his own compositions and we wrote songs together, and that was great. I’d never really done that before, not just with Simon - with anyone. It’s great, we have a good understanding and there’s enough overlap of what we enjoy musically. It seems to make sense.

Were you inspired by any specific music, film or literature when writing ‘Hot Dreams’?
I guess there were a few big things; Nick Cave’s record had just come out – the new one, ‘Push the Sky Away’ – it seemed very exciting to me and I saw the live show a couple of times as well and I thought it was really beautiful. I was generally quite new to the Bad Seeds so that might it more exciting as well. There was Sunn O))) as well, they’re an experimental metal drone group and they’ve done some very interesting things over the last year. I also got very interested in Lee Hazlewood’s recordings and Roger Miller also, particularly the way he was singing.

Laurel Canyon definitely influenced the writing and the whole history of L.A., the whole Hollywood thing. The Golden Age of Hollywood, or the second Golden Age I guess, with Polanski, Woody Allen and all that. There were a lot of films that I was very interested in when we were arranging the record, although the songs had for the most part been written pre-Laurel Canyon, and then it was just assembling them. Los Angeles is very exotic to me, and to Canadians in general, I believe.

You’ve previously used Nosferatu as visuals for the live show; do you have a particular interest in early, silent, film?
I think at one time I did, it seems forever ago though. I went to art school and studied film, and that might have something to do with it. But I haven’t thought about that in a long time. Nosferatu - that was in London I think - was just something we did once at that show, it wasn’t a regular thing to do that.

Timber Timbre’s always had a unique sound, a bit outside of what other bands are doing, but do you feel that there’s any particular acts you have a special kinship with?
Oh, I don’t know, it’s tough to say. I’m so out of the loop. I am really interested in this guy called Sean Nicholas Savage though. I think I actually saw him a few years ago in Montreal, and I didn’t get it at all. I was expecting him to play folk music with a band but instead it was just this strange dude dancing around the stage singing to an iPod. It was really like this weird karaoke project and I kind of hated it, but now I’ve really come around and what he’s doing is really interesting. I also like this other guy Dirty Beaches, he’s from Montreal also, and there’s a project from Toronto called Fiver. It’s folk music at heart, a singer-songwriter project, but at the moment it’s more like a rock band, executed garage rock style. The lead singer is called Simone Schmidt and she also sings on some of our recordings, she’s got a beautiful voice and she’s a very clever writer. There’s another project called The Highest Order, it’s the exact same people [as in Fiver] but with different material.

You’ve been talking about a couple of Montreal acts, do you think there’s a distinct scene there?
There is a scene for sure, which makes me feel quite old because I didn’t really know it was happening, and then I found it and I feel like I haven’t been around or involved the way I once would have. To me it revolves around this label Arbutus Records, they’ve put out the Grimes record, Sean Nicholas Savage, Doldrums and Moon King. I don’t know that much about them though, because like I said I haven’t really been involved. I also live in Toronto myself, although I spend an awful lot of time here in Montreal because the band all lives here, and they’re family guys so it makes more sense.

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