|Dany Laj & The Looks photo by Justin Lamothe|
Dany Laj and The Looks have made one of the most tremendous records I've heard all year. Their new LP Word On The Street released earlier this year on Squirtgun Records is a power pop masterpiece. Sure you've got bands aping Cheap Trick and The Beat left and right but Dany Laj mixes his influences up, breaks them down to their basic elements and what he creates from it is something truly inspiring. If you miss Elvis Costello's hooks, Joe Jackson's heart, Nick Lowe's wit, and Dwight Twilley's charm; then Dany Laj and The Looks are the band for you!
Interview by J Castro
Who is currently in the band and what does everyone do?
DANY: Me, Dany Laj – Guitar, Vocals
Jeanette Dowling – Bass, Vocals
Collin Burnett - Drums
I’ve read other people describing your band’s sound, but how would you define it to someone that’s never heard your music before?
DANY: I usually say peanut butter hotdogs sparkled with cinnamon, but really it's power pop (which is a sub-genre of rock 'n roll).
What band, musician, or songwriter would you say has had the single most influence on your musical career? Tell me about the first time you heard them and how it affected you:
DANY: When I was about 13 years old, one of my dad's employees for his construction company had brought me a box full of 45's that were from the local radio station in my hometown. I guess the station was getting rid of their records and most likely were making room and updating to only cd's in their library. It was the first time I had ever seen a clear colored vinyl. That record was the single Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. I put it on right away. Even though at that time the single would have been about 15 years old, it sounded so fresh to me. It was so catchy, the guitars sounded so good, and I swear I annoyed everyone around for the next year singing that chorus over and over again. I for sure wanted to play music for the rest of my life after that.
What sorts of things inspire your song lyrics? Do you ever get inspired by films or literature?
DANY: All kinds of things influence my lyrics: love, friendships, parties, bad experiences, good ones, drugs, politicians, good stories. Yes, I do get influenced by films and literature. I mean, reading The Outsiders when I was in grade 9 was a game changer for me, same thing for Lord of the Flies. When we were on tour in July I read Peter Case's paperback As Far As You Can Go Without A Passport. It really motivated me to keep doing what I'm doing. It really makes me want to go to San Francisco. That kind of thing.
The band just got off a tour of western Canada. How do you feel that went?
Can you tell me about the most memorable show on the tour, good or bad and what made it stick in your mind?
DANY: It went really well. It surprised us really. We had just gotten off an east coast Canada tour that could have killed any band right there and then. We had van troubles out there but we pushed through and got our shit together and bought a new van for the west coast. We hired Barry Higginson (The Doers, Uptights), a Vancouver drummer. We had a blast. We laughed so hard the whole time. Jeanette pulled a muscle in her back she was laughing so hard. The Vancouver show was incredible. The people were great and we played really well.
Speaking of your shows, what feelings or sentiments do you want your audience to walk away with after seeing you perform?
DANY: I just want them to love and respect one another. But most importantly, I want them to be happy and feel like what they paid at the door was worth every nickel.
Your new LP Word on the Street came out earlier this year on Squirtgun Records. A label you seem to fit well on. Can you tell me a bit about the record, where it was made who helped out in the recording of it etc.?
DANY: Yes we recorded it in February of 2014 at -Stu-Stu-Studio in Toronto, Ontario, with Brendan Howlett, who also helped produce it with Jeanette and I. I write a lot of songs and we play a lot of stuff live that isn't always recorded or released yet. I collected a bunch of those songs off old set-lists and felt that they would make a good record if they were put together and released that way. I started to realize after a while that lyrically, those songs were telling a tale that I didn't know I was telling till I put them together. For a first long player it's kind of an introduction to the world of who I am or maybe even a memoir of who I was for the last 5 years or so. Lewis Handford played drums, and I invited one our previous drummers and brother in arms to me Sean Dignan to play percussion and Jay Lemak to play keys. I also enlisted the help of our friends Heather Mazhar, Samatha Martin, Laura Hermiston, Anna Mernieks, and Zero4 to come sing on the record with us. It was mixed here in Montreal by Samuel Gemme at what is now known as Reel Road Studios and mastered by Noah Mintz at Laquer Channel in Toronto.
If you could rise to super stardom on the strength of one song, which one of your songs would you want it to be and why do you want this particular song to solidify your legacy in pop culture forever?
DANY: Mr. Rebound. If I would have to play one song every night for the rest of my life I wouldn't mind if it was that one. I never get sick of it and I love singing it. Remedy is a close second.
I was watching an old interview with a famous punk icon (I won’t say who because most of the time people just focus on that instead of the actual question) and he was saying how much he hates Bruce Springsteen because all he does is whine in his songs and he never offers any solutions for the social injustices he writes about. What do you think about that? Do you feel musicians and artists in general have an obligation to offer up solutions and not just “whine” about issues?
DANY: Nah, I don't feel musicians have to offer solutions for everything they raise questions about politically. I have a song that we play that talks about unionizing the miners in my hometown, for instance; I mean I raise the question in it. The solution is a complicated one. Of course to me it would be a great idea, but the last thing I would want at the same time is one of my old high school buddies getting caught whispering about it and getting fired from his job for bringing it up at work. Sometimes you simply can't offer a solution because you don't have one. Sometimes “whining” is the thing to do. Take it or leave it.
I always hear golfers talk about how many “life lessons” a person can learn from playing golf. What sorts of valuable “life lessons” do you feel people learn from being in a touring rock ‘n roll band?
DANY: You learn to adapt to situations quickly. Things happen fast. You meet people, you try to learn their lingo, remember their names. Best way to do any of this is to have a positive mental attitude. None of this is easy, have a good time with it, and treat people the way you want to be treated. It seems like simple stuff but when you're exhausted, hungover, and sick, it gets very tricky. Just be nice.
Where can people go or log on to hear and buy your music?
DANY: www.danylaj.com pretty much has what you want.
What’s in the near future for Dany Laj and The Looks, any U.S. tours planned?DANY: Tons more touring. We are working on a tour of the Canada/US for early spring with one of my top 10 songwriters of all time. Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly and we'll be able to announce it soon.