Never stop asking friends about bands. When researching my piece on the talented Vanessa Jean Speckman I asked about the inspiration behind one of her pieces, the girl with the popsicle/knife held at her crotch says ‘Don’t lie, you know you wanna lick it’. She told me, “I’m endlessly inspired and sparked and in awe of Leah Fay [of July Talk], and she just personifies this fearless sexuality and control.” That sounds like the kind of energy I want in my rock and roll, so I checked out July Talk as soon as I could. Boy, was Vanessa right.
July Talk is a Canadian rock and roll band with the dual voices of Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis as its nucleus. The first minute of the first track, “The Garden”, exemplifies their sound. There’s electric guitar and Dreimanis’s tortured voice (Tom Waits’s gravel with Shane Sweeney’s force) all in the first 30 seconds. When the rhythm section kicks in your toes may begin to tap before being frozen in place by the angelic tones of Leah Fay. It’s a powerful voice, maintaining its sweet quality even during shouts.
The self-titled record is a collection of stories, relationships from every side. There’s no one ‘male’ point of view, and no singular ‘female’ outlook. Fay and Dreimanis take turns being the hero, the villain, the victim, the lover, the audience, the obsessive, and every other role possible when two people become interested in each other. Through it all the interplay of their voices draws your focus, the harmonies usually being the climax of each song. In “Paper Heart” a broken man both lashes out at the object of his desire and begs her to stay away from him, a desire which she seems to cheerfully mock. As the voices rise to new heights the rock and roll around them seems to grow more unhinged and wild, and you get the impression that July Talk is a force of nature during a live show.
This guitar and bass-heavy rock draws on plenty of country and blues influences, able to switch from passionate speed and volume to strung-out melancholy with ease. It’s the raw lyrics, however, that put this record over the top to become Essential Listening. There’s abject misery and ephemeral highs aplenty all over July Talk, summed up in what’s right now my favorite track, “Uninvited”:
Nothing wakes me up like you do
Nothing wears me out like you do
I’m thrilled that Vanessa Jean turned me on to these guys, but I had some difficulty picking up the record. July Talk is a Canadian band and there seems to be some localisation issues. There are two versions, one US and one Canadian, with different track listings. I listened to the US version on Spotify, but I have a copy of the Canadian record and I’m excited to have so many new songs to listen to.