Waking Eyes Offshoot Imaginary Cities Set Up for NXNE

Waking Eyes Offshoot Imaginary Cities Set Up for NXNE
When Winnipeg pop rockers Imaginary Cities roll into Toronto today (June 15) for NXNE, the duo will have previously payed only three shows. They will now double this count in less than week, playing three showcases that include a performance at the storied Horseshoe Tavern.

Given the band's limited live experience, singer Marti Sarbit is understandably thrilled to be playing at one of Canada's largest music festivals.

"I've never done anything like that before," she tells Exclaim! on the line from her home in Winnipeg. "It's a pretty huge honour to just be on that stage [at the Horseshoe Tavern]. A lot of my favourite musicians have played there."

This experience likely has less novelty to Sarbit's band-mate, Rusty Matyas. The multi-instrumentalist is no stranger to high-profile shows, having served as a touring member of the Weakerthans (he appears on their recent Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre) and the front-man for garage rock outfit the Waking Eyes.

Imaginary Cities came into being when Sarbit was performing with the Solutions, a cover band that specializes in vintage R&B.

"We played in the same bar he [Matyas] does sound in," the singer explains. "I asked him if he wanted to help me with a demo of mine for some songs I had written."

Once they started working together, the songs quickly began to take on a life of their own. "He became personally involved in my songs and started making them sound way more awesome," Sarbit enthuses.

After almost a year of writing and recording, Imaginary Cities are gearing up to release their self-titled debut album. The full-length is due out until later this year, but a five-song sampler is available now as a free download from the group's website.

The album was laid down at Winnipeg's Prairie Recording Co. with engineers Cam Loeppky and Shawn Dealy, who helped the band to record tracks ranging from eerie southern soul ("Say You") to synth-y, Tegan and Sara-styled pop rock ("Hummingbird"). Sarbit explains that this sound, which is simultaneously folksy and futuristic, is a combination of her and Matyas's contrasting styles.

"He brings a more pop rock kind of sound and he also has a really amazing knack for good hooks - really catchy melodies. And then I probably bring the more rootsy blues sound."

The pair have recruited a full band to back them for their NXNE performances, and next month will celebrate Canada Day at Major's Hill Park in Ottawa. More shows will likely be added as they approach the official release of their EP.

Still, despite the busy road ahead, Sarbit is already looking ahead to the next time she and Matyas can enter the studio. "We want to record more and more songs all the time. As soon as we're not super busy with this, we've already got some ideas for other songs."

Check out Imaginary Cities' NXNE dates below.

Tour dates:

6/15 Toronto, ON - The Horseshoe Tavern (Edge Nu Music Nite @ NXNE)
6/17 Toronto, ON - Mod Club Theatre (NXNE)
6/19 Toronto, ON - C'est What (Manitoba Showcase @ NXNE)
7/1 Toronto, ON - Major's Hill Park