dad sports Give Everyday Situations Deeper Meaning on 'I AM JUST A BOY LEAVE ME ALONE !!!'
Published Mar 24, 2021Back in the '90s, it was de rigueur for alt-rock Neanderthals to howl about some sort of undefined pain. Though the meaning of their words was dubious — can anyone please explain "Bad moon wine again" to me? — the subtext was clear: 'What I have to say is Very Important.'
What a difference a few decades make. Today, many bands tend toward plainspoken tales about anxiety and degrading mental health with the conviction of someone humming in the shower. The subtext now: 'Oh, don't mind me... I'm just going through some things.'
Enter dad sports, a self-styled bedroom pop power trio from the suburbs of Ottawa, whose pillowy aesthetics bely a strong foundation in more traditional rock tropes. The six songs on the band's debut EP, I AM JUST A BOY LEAVE ME ALONE !!!, capture small moments of interpersonal struggle. The text-style small-caps songs titles and self-shot music videos featuring the trio goofing off around their hometown in neon-coloured ski jackets, and would seem to serve to reaffirm their supposedly frivolous music.
But the band, composed of singer-guitarist Miguel Plante, bass player Alex Keyes and drummer Kevin McDonald, have a knack for imbuing what should be benign situations with deeper meaning. On the surface, "gf haircut" is about just that, but it's also about the unspoken issues that arise in any relationship. "I hope it's not too late to talk about us now," Plante repeats in the song's outro, presumably while getting his locks shorn, an act of trust intimacy if ever there was one.
Small scale anxieties run throughout the record. There's a twee vibe to lyrics like "Do you wanna hang? Maybe after school?" from opener "out 4 a Breather," but again, there's more than meets the eye. Here, Plante captures all the worry and apprehension that comes when figuring out when the object of their affection feels the same way. He's most explicit on "nrvs again," where the singer comes out and says flatly "Feels like I'm nervous again, though it doesn't take much these days." There's a impulse to read each song as a comment on These Times, but the timeline of their creation remains murky. Regardless the songs work with or without our current context, though the former certainly adds another dimension.
Though they only dropped their first single at the end of 2018, their progression has been rapid. Early singles like "dog cuddles" showcased an affection for the gauzy bedroom pop; on "romeo" in 2019, their songwriting finally caught up with their aesthetic choices, setting the stage for I AM JUST A BOY.
Self-producing all their material — Plante and McDonald met in a music production class at school — dad sports songs are filled with swelling synths, chopped-up vocal samples and guitars that don't sound like guitars à la the 1975. Yet these sounds mask (but don't detract from) the jangly guitar-bass-drums bones at the core of their work, with Plante's chiming guitars forming the bridge between '80s indie and du jour bedroom pop few thought existed.
Whether intentional or not, the bait and switch in their presentation works in the band's favour. By disarming listeners with soft sounds, dad sports manage to smuggle their songs out of the playlist-core basement and into the broader indie rock ecosystem. (Grand Jury)