PS I Love You
Sonic Warriors Page 2
On the side, Saulnier had a "one-man band" he formed in 2005 called PS I Love You (a flippant nickname for Saulnier by friends based on his initials), with which he made noisy, '90s-inspired, guitar rock, complete with fret-tapping solos.
"I don't like taking too much credit for it because the fret-tapping I do is like fret-tapping for beginners," Saulnier says earnestly. "In the actual world of shredding, I'm a poser. In the indie rock world, I'm a real shredder. I've always idolized lead guitarists and it's an equal amount of loving soloists, but also loving people who can turn the guitar into a noise-making machine, basically."
Though it began as a solo project accompanied by a Casio drum machine, he eventually sought Nelson's assistance on drums to play a release party for his PSILY EP. From that moment on, things began to take off for PS I Love You, the duo.
"We became the go-to band in case [artists] playing Kingston needed an opener," says Saulnier, who also moonlights as the drummer for False Face. "So that was one way we got to meet some cool bands. One band we met was the D'Urbervilles, and we became tight. It was through them that we got our first out-of-town shows. I think Hamilton was our first."
As part of Apple Crisp, a non-profit organization that put on concerts, published zines, released records, and baked "excellent" examples of its namesake, both Magic Jordan and PS I Love You were deep into the Kingston music scene. While MJ ultimately called it a day, PS flourished. A trip to Pop Montreal with the Apple Crisp gang in 2009 gave them the exposure they needed. Soon interested parties began emailing friends of the band, trying to track down its two members and in the end, PS I Love You signed to Toronto's Paper Bag Records.
Stuck in between Ottawa and Toronto, Kingston is sometimes seen as a stop-over town for road-weary bands to pick up some grub. Aside from the Tragically Hip and the Inbreds, K-town has never made headlines for its music scene. But for PS I Love You, the city is a significant part of who they are.
"I think for us, we just did what we did with PS and it became something else," says Nelson. "Obviously because of Paper Bag Records, but I feel like there are fewer inhibitions in Kingston. In a big city like Toronto there is a lot more competition and bands that are exactly like your band. So we just do what we do and support our friends.
"Kingston is great, it's wonderful," continues Nelson, an artist and graphic designer who designs all of PS I Love You's album covers and T-shirts as well as Apple Crisp posters. "I honestly miss those days of putting out zines and compilations and records when we did Apple Crisp Records and had little projects."
Adds Saulnier, "There are two Denny's in Kingston. It's unheard of in Ontario."
A split single with D'Urbervilles guitarist/singer John O'Regan's glam-pop side-project Diamond Rings garnered the band some delayed praise from Pitchfork for their song "Facelove," which helped open doors. Everything seemed to be going their way leading up to the October 2010 release of their debut, Meet Me At The Muster Station. Then on the eve of their first North American tour with another power rock duo, Vancouver's Japandroids, Saulnier was robbed of his beloved guitars.
Explains Nelson: "We had played a show here in Toronto and my girlfriend and I had driven the van back to John O'Regan's place where we were staying. Paul stayed behind, but asked me to bring his guitars inside. We took them out of the van and I placed them on the sidewalk, but we had other stuff to bring up. Not till I woke up the next morning did I realize that I left them outside all night. One of them was pretty special to Paul. He got it from a shop but it used to be Sarah Harmer's guitar. He'd had it since he was a teenager. That was the worst day of my life, honestly. Calling Paul and telling him I had lost his guitars. I'm pretty sure I'm still not forgiven."
Thanks to a plea by Saulnier on Facebook (titled "my fucking guitars were stolen") and a postering campaign by O'Regan and friends Colin and Adam Medley, the guitars were ultimately returned.
But when asked if he has forgiven Nelson, Saulnier ho-hums before answering, "Yes and no. The band's still together. That's the important thing."
Meet Me At The Muster Station was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize long list and ECHO Songwriting Prize, and also received rave reviews from sites like Pitchfork and Drowned In Sound, allowing them to tour the world. While the album was an electrifying first statement, it sounds almost half the size of the massive rock'n'roll surge that powers Death Dreams.
"I should probably mention that for Muster Station I wanted a shitty sound," Saulnier admits. "I would always say, 'This sounds too good. Make it sound like a four-track in some shitty room.' It's funny, to take something that sounds so good and then degrade it to sound rawer. It might have been overkill on Muster Station. I like the way it sounded, like it was recorded in a small gymnasium, which is kind of charming. And now we're in a big gymnasium."
Fellow Kingston native Matt Rogalsky, who also helmed Muster Station, produced Death Dreams, using his portable studio in the band's rehearsal space. The decision to work with him again was primarily about comfort.
"He lives in Kingston and he already knew how to record us," says Nelson. "And he knows how to take raw recordings and turn them into bronze. We had talked about recording at the Bathhouse, the Tragically Hip studio just outside of Kingston."
"I know an engineer there," adds Saulnier. "That would be awesome, but it's not necessary. I'm not excited about going to a proper studio. Matt is really easy to work with because he just sets up his own studio anywhere that we play and can get a great sound. So we just recorded at our own pace, whenever we could, in the loft we rehearse in. I think that is a more fun way to make a record."
Death Dreams is a pivotal second album, a rare accomplishment in an age when most artists struggle to be relevant after their debut. Whereas Muster was written entirely by Saulnier, this one was a band effort, and Rogalsky's full, spacious production undermined any suggestions to make it sound "shitty." The '90s alt-rock comparisons will undoubtedly end, and talk of PS I Love You as sonic warriors will begin.
"Naturally I just think we knew how to write songs," says Nelson of their development. "I wanted to be more involved in adding percussion, song structure and vocals. It's our second record and that's the scary thing, but I was more involved this time so I wanted to make it as perfect as I could. For the first record, some of the songs were from Paul's EP, so I was only really playing beats that were originally done with a drum machine. I think we just wanted to make a second record sound like a second record."
"Whatever that means," adds Saulnier. "We wanted to make it sound like The Bends."
"No, [Muster] was our Blue Album and this was our Pinkerton," confirms Nelson.
"That's a better analogy," Saulnier agrees.
May 02, 2012@Barbs201312604