Published May 01, 2000By definition, pop should be short, sweet, and ideally a bit sharp. The Salteens, a three-year-old Vancouver trio, take these three tenets of pop to heart. Their smart and charming debut album, Short-Term Memories, features ten songs in under half an hour, featuring sugary pop clichés brought to new life by a powerhouse rhythm section and the enthusiastic sense of discovery that only a youthful band can bring to an old genre. Like their rock compatriots the Local Rabbits (but without the guitar solos), the Salteens take everything ridiculous about their chosen genre and take it very seriously, resulting in a shamelessly joyous combustion.
“We all agree on short and sweet,” says bassist Megan Bradfield, speaking on behalf of songwriter Scott L.D. Walker and drummer Dion Willis. “It wasn’t really on purpose. We’re not really a band for jamming. The band I played in before never even had guitar solos. When I met Scott he had the same aesthetic I did, which is that everything has a purpose in music.”
Rather than just short attention spans, Bradfield bases her “short and sweet” philosophy on an admittedly odd comparison: jazz. “There are songs by Coltrane where everyone plays the same thing for a while and then solo for 100 bars. I’m a fan of someone like [Charles] Mingus, who has specific ideas for orchestration through the whole thing.”
Realising that she’s setting herself up for a pretentious comparison, the effervescent Bradfield — who wears a superhero cape on stage and punctuates her performance with well-placed rock kicks — catches herself quickly. Are you saying you’re the Mingus of pop music? “No!” she laughs. “But how many times do you go see a band and say, ‘Jesus Christ, when is this song going to be over?’ You think, ‘Wow, this is cool,’ and then they keep on doing it. We feel we have nothing more to say in our songs!”
While touring Canada a band can often be called on to play up to three sets a night, which can pose a problem. “That happened to us in Nelson, B.C.,” says Bradfield, adding that other than the band’s ever-expanding roster, there are other ways to stretch a set. “You can talk a lot, deal with technical difficulties… thankfully, Scott’s notorious for breaking strings.”