Luke Roes – Vocals, Guitar
Annie Roes – Vocals, Keys
Chris Levesque – Bass
Thomas Perquin – Drums
I was really late for their show. Having worked all week and knowing I had a full slate of interviews and recording sessions ahead of me for the weekend I decided to grab the best undiscovered take-out spot in Toronto, Vinny Idols, and took a 20 minute nap before getting ready. Those 20 minutes turned into 2 hours and I woke up to the buzzing of my cell phone. I quickly gathered my things and, sporting a weakened set of lungs, as a result of the cold I’d been fighting all winter, ran to the streetcar stop where I was greeted by a 10 minute wait for transit and two high-school girls who were a little sketched out by my haste.
The idea that kept rolling around in my head was, “how was I supposed to review a band I have never seen live”? When I got to the Rivoli on this frigid Friday evening I paid my cover and bypassed the bar for the front of the stage. The place was packed wall-to-wall. It wasn’t even 10pm and the Rivoli was rammed for a band from out of town. With all the different things going on this evening – I certainly did not expect this.
By the time I reached the lip of the stage, Luke and the rest of Ivory Hours were already well into their show. If I wanted a place to relax and forget my worries I was certainly in the wrong spot. This band is full of energy and they had the audience in the palm of their hands. I looked behind me to see dropped jaws and smiling faces alike – the Ivory Hours were taking a crowd that (from what I had surmised) had largely shown up not knowing who they were and converted them into a dedicated fan base.
Ivory Hours, of London Ontario by way of Vancouver, take their love of 60s and 70s pop-rock and combine it with sometimes heart-wrenching yet happy lyrics. For those who follow Tennis, Bahamas, Fitz & The Tantrums, and other guitar rock inspired indie pop – Ivory Hours finds a great blend of Canadiana and unfettered rock & roll.
When I sat down with Luke following the show he was in a similar state as I had been when I showed up. He seemed completely frazzled and it required a cigarette to calm his post-show jitters and the stress of selling band merchandise post-show. So having discussed our mutual hometowns and the hockey rivalries that defiantly exist between us we talked about music, their pilgrimage to Vancouver, the tragedy that brought them back to Ontario, and how they see themselves fitting into the ubiquitous world of the Indie Rock & Pop genre.
Playback: So great show. And thanks for sitting down with me.
Luke: Not a problem.
P: You play a lot in Toronto (as often as you can, really), but you’re really from London – what’s the main difference between playing in Toronto and playing in London?
L: To find people to play with in London – that’s what is really important to be from a live-show perspective – people showing up, seeing a bunch of stuff that is really similar and really liking it. Often in small-towns you’ll run with bad promoters or something and you’ll end up on a bill with a metal band or something really heavy after you.
P: It’s this kind of idea that “oh, you play rock and roll”, why not?
L: On top of that, too, sometimes it’s just complete negligence, like, “oh, I’ll slam 4 bands together”
P: Then you just get bands coming in for the one band and emptying out after their friends are done.
L: It’s the truth. Sometimes I feel real bad for another act where, maybe we’ve brought a bunch of people out, but they all just leave.
P: You said that you’ve only been in London for a couple of months, where were you before that?
L: We we’re in Vancouver.
P: Cool. Why the move out west?
L: I finished school in, I think it was, 2012 and I just really wanted to take off somewhere. That’s where I found our original bassist and drummer. So we (my sister and I) moved there where we started off. We had an EP recorded before we left; finished mixing it on the coast.
P: The keyboard player is your sister?
L: Annie, yeah.
P: Wicked, so it’s sort of a family band then?
L: Just the two of us, but we joke that the bassist, Chris, is my brother – but all told the rest of the band has only been around for, Chris: two months, and Tom: maybe three months.
P: Oh yeah – well, the whole band sounds real tight. Do you have any other siblings?
L: Yeah! My older brother is here tonight actually – and my younger brother who actually died last year. That was actually part of the reason that we ended up coming back to Ontario.
P: Wow – man, I’m sorry to hear that. So you were in Vancouver when your brother died?
L: Yeeah.. it was last March and it was completely fucked. We came back and sort of hung around at home for a bit, re-grouped, went back to Vancouver, finished the album then Annie and I took a long, slow trip back to London. So yeah, now we’re back and spending a lot of time at home and it’s completely redefined our sound.
P: It’s really great that you ultimately decided to come back.
L: Yeah well, it’s really important for all of us to be together. You know, answering some unanswered questions together.
P: Well shit, man. I’m really sorry to hear about that. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a sibling.
L: I couldn’t either until it happened. Well, yeah, it’s really influenced so much of what we do musically now.
P: That was kinda my next question: is the band now sort of like an extension of what’s gone on with your family over the last year? I mean, your sister is also in the band, and you call the rest of the players your family – do you see the Ivory Hours as a sort of a tribute to your brother’s memory?
L: Not really. I mean, he was always so supportive of our music. Ivory Hours was something that I was always going to do. These events just confirm that this is what I just need to do. Essentially what I focus on now is just doing what I need to do to survive.
P: Yeah – that’s really true. When you look back on your time in Vancouver – how to compare what’s going on in (south-western) Ontario in comparison to what’s going on out west?
L: I would say that in Vancouver the Indie Rock scene is just white-washing everything; kinda like that electro-indie thing.
L: Additionally, when I was over there I really, really involved in writing and recording and really didn’t spend much time getting out, meeting people, and booking the right kinda shows. Of course, there are a lot of names from there that I recognize now doing fairly well. I mean, you’ve heard of Rococo and Hey! Ocean, all this kind of up-beat indie pop.
P: Is that the West-Coast-Canada-sound according to you?
L: Actually, yeah, I was really surprised, I thought it that sound was kinda ubiquitous but .. I mean, you would know more about it than I would really…
P: Well, the Toronto is scene is really representative of its diversity. There’s a folk scene, a rock scene, a soul scene, an electro-swing scene (oddly), and these communities, although separate are in no way exclusive. There’s no judgment either: you can walk into a hip-hop show or a metal show and feel welcomed – as long as you’re there to appreciate the music you’re not going to walk outta there with any trouble.
L: Yeah – that’s not really something that Vancouver lacks, but it’s certainly a different vibe in Toronto.
P: I know this is gunna sound like a flakey question: but what part of your music really defines you as a band? What makes you guys stand out?
L: I think the one thing is the harmonized vocals. It’s funny how people have these weird notions about siblings voices being tuned perfectly to one another.
P: It’s actually the most true thing ever.
L: Haha! … so that’s always been a gigantic part of the music and behind that is, well, I write all the music so a lot of it is, frankly, guitar driven stuff, but recently having people on board who share this passion and talent is a huge asset. For instance, I can write a rough bass line or write a simple drum beat and they can just take it from there.
Other than that – I mean, every band will tell you that they “cross-genres” and I really don’t want to say that we’re a little bit of everything, but … I mean, just tonight, one of those songs was a soul song, some of them was upbeat pop, some of them was R&B, some of them was rock & roll, the change is very distinct only because, if I’m going to write a soul song, I want to do it right.
I did the same thing for the production notes that we did for the new EP. By defining each “sound” it makes it easier from a production standpoint as well.
P: A new EP is on the way then?
L: Yes. We’re recording it at Emac Studios in London, engineer is Matt Grady – we had won a radio contest to record and thankfully I had already spoke to Matt prior to winning and already had a solid foundation for what the EP was going to sound like.
P: Where do you see the new EP, and by extension The Ivory Hours taking you personally? Do you want to be, like, the biggest band on earth, or what?
L: Not even! I just want to live. I really don’t have any aspirations to “take over the world”. Unfortunately, there seems like there’s a lot of black and white when it comes to being a commercially successful group, but I feel nowadays there’s a lot of room for people for people NOT to be Beyonce or alternatively, playing dive bars for the rest of your life. I’m hoping for that middle ground.