Editors’ Notes The third album from July Talk opens with the sound of a misty, ethereal drone—but the Toronto quintet isn’t so much tapping on a synth key as pushing the delete button on their past. Once Canada’s proud torchbearers for gritty, growling, New Wave-informed rock ’n’ soul, the July Talk we hear on Pray for It is a changed band reflecting a changed world. “It kind of felt like the world started falling apart as soon as we started touring [2016’s] Touch,” singer Leah Fay tells Apple Music. “We were on the road when Trump got elected, we started a US tour when the Muslim travel ban was happening, and then we went to Europe as Brexit was being talked about. In January 2018, we started writing this album in a coach house that we called the Jam Shed in our friend's backyard, so we had a lot of time to sort through all of our feelings.” The result is a record that’s both more intimate and more expansive than anything July Talk has attempted in the past. Pray for It downplays the natural vocal frisson between Fay and her sparring partner Peter Dreimanis in favor of more candid confessionals and difficult conversations pertaining to white privilege, toxic masculinity, and drug addiction. And they’ve dialed down their amped-up, festival-ready swagger for a more eclectic, studio-tweaked palette—’80s-Springsteen synths, dissonant textures, postmodernist gospel hymns—to better complement the more pensive tone and unsettled emotional tenor of the songwriting. “We were in this backyard just allowing the songs to be what they wanted to be this time around,” Dreimanis says. “We were listening more than we were directing—and that was a really special thing amidst this really chaotic time.” Here, Dreimanis and Fay provide their song-by-song preview of July Talk’s new world order.

Identical Love
Peter Dreimanis: “I think that I've always had a certain amount of fear about falling into a complacent kind of life where you don't actively wake up every day and check in with yourself and just exist. I'm afraid of complacency, I guess, and this song came at a time when I felt more alive than I'd ever been. It's a really intimate song about our experience. But at the same time, it's kind of like when you get a tattoo to remind yourself to not be an asshole—you put that thing on your body so that you can check in with it and make sure that you're still present.”
Leah Fay: “It's my favorite song that he's ever written. It's the ultimate love song, because it completely evades all the tropes that end up in every love song that's ever been written.”

Good Enough
LF: “This one was written as means to self-soothe—I wanted to write the song that you need someone to sing to you during a pretty deep cyclical spiral. You often write songs where you can't really comprehend how important they are to your well-being in that moment, and sometimes it takes years for you to listen to it and be like, ‘Holy shit—this song kind of saved me in that moment.’ This was originally a piano ballad demo and then I played it for Pete one day...and we turned it into a more Springsteen-y '80s dance song.”
PD: "It had a sort of 'Positively 4th Street' vibe where Leah's singing these extremely depressing, dark lyrics, and yet we've kind of subverted it into this really happy dance tune. That's something July Talk's always really felt good doing: presenting darkness within a good-feeling, body-moving, party atmosphere."

Life of the Party
LF: “This is a love song to people who use drugs and alcohol. It's kind of attempting to humanize that experience of getting out of our minds and out of our bodies to feel something different. In the music industry, we often really glorify that behavior as something to look up to or something to be mystified by, when in reality, a lot of people who use drugs use them to appease trauma and to heal. Of course, the use of drugs sometimes leads to chaotic behavior and chaotic lifestyles. But those lives are not any less valuable. So this is a love song honoring the humanity of substance use.”

PD: “This is me processing an experience with the artist Robyn Love. She's a dear friend of ours and a really outside-the-box performance artist, and we had this night with her where she really went off the deep end and we all got to bear witness to this wild experience, where she was just within a state of true liberation and wasn't censoring herself in any kind of way. And I just wrestled with it for months afterwards—I just couldn't get it out of my head, and that idea of what it would be like to really let go of any expectation of what the world is expecting from you. So 'Pretender' was me processing that. I grew up on Nick Cave and Tom Waits and all of these artists that present these kind of stories in a mythological way. That was pretty vital to my upbringing. That's how I like stories to be told to me.”

Pay for It
LF: “'Pay for It' is kind of a commentary on the fact that in times of crisis, there are people who can pay their way out of it. But then for other people, the only thing they can do is pray, or admit their vulnerability. So that's kind of the link between 'Pay for It' and the album title, Pray for It. It's meant to confuse! The song came out of this really crazy experience where a bunch of our bandmates went out for [guitarist] Ian [Docherty]'s birthday, and we were getting some late-night fast food and I just watched a bunch of my friends get attacked by these dudes. It was the epitome of toxic masculinity in our society: this violent act just erupting within seconds for no reason. I think for men, sometimes, it's hard to look at the toxic notions of patriarchy and masculinity, and so I guess this song is trying to speak to those power systems. It's sincere, but it also has a sarcastic tone—like, 'Okay, this is how you want to do this? Could you be more fucking predictable in your actions?'”

PD: “We had been singing with [guest vocalists] James [Baley] and Kyla [Charter] since [the] Field Trip [festival in Toronto] in 2016, and we've since done so many shows together and they've become really close friends. And yet we were always unpacking the kind of complicated nature of playing with Black backing singers within really white spaces, and seeing other bands play with gospel support over the years. We are responsible for what we're putting forward visually—it doesn't matter that James and Kyla are our buds. When we play in front of these crowds, there's a power dynamic playing out, with or without our approval. So we started unpacking that with Kyla and James. We sat down at the piano, I had that verse—'haven't I lost my voice by now'—where I'm dealing with my place and my privilege, and this concept of talking about your problems over champagne. It felt like it spoke to the money and the power and the brass tacks, you know? We first played it on this CBC [broadcast] with just piano and four vocals, but then the song kind of just sat there—I think we were terrified of it. None of us really knew what to make of it. It felt like we were making a gospel tune that was subverting the history of stealing Black music. In one way, it felt like a really cool idea, but in other ways, it felt like we were treading into some pretty questionable territory. But our friend [producer] Dave Plowman has been working with samples his whole life and took the song to another level. James wrote this whole opening section that we then created through pitch-shifting, so that it felt like it was kind of being stolen. We just really committed to it.”

Friend of Mine
PD: “[Bassist] Josh [Warburton] had this amazing chord progression, and at times this song had taken on like a [Blur's] 'Coffee and TV' kind of sound, and then all of these different presentations, but we found this really laidback Kurt Vile kind of vibe and stuck with it. There are stories within the song that are just these scattered sort of thoughts. But I'm really happy that it made the record, because it always felt like something we would just put out as an extra track. The role that it plays on the album is so vital, after so much weight, coming out of 'Pay for It' and 'Champagne.' It has this feeling of, like, no matter how difficult and complicated the world gets, you need to have your companion, and you need to be able to stick your head underneath the bathwater and tune it all out every once in a while.”

The News
LF: “This is about living through what feels like a paradigm shift. Me and Josh collaborated a lot on the lyrics and the ideas we wanted to get at. We were listening to '1979' and 'Today' by the [Smashing] Pumpkins and thinking about that nostalgic, reckless, fuck-you vibe of those songs and how they just feel so good to listen to. But in terms of lyrical themes, I guess part of living through a paradigm shift is that some people see the light and some people seem to be stuck in their old ways. Me and Peter both grew up in newspaper households. My dad is a writer, and Peter's mom is a writer. In my household, every single newspaper came to my house and my dad read every single opinion. We're at a time where we're living in our own echo chambers and we're not listening to each other, and the way technology works is that we don't have to listen to each other. So this song is taking those things into account and asking, ‘What is truth?’ and ‘Is there such thing as truth?’ With any sort of conflict, it's important to listen to both sides and understand where both sides are coming from, in order to see what the actual truth is. Because we know, within the news, everyone is guilty of manipulating their own story to fit their audience.”

Governess Shadow
PD: “I learned about a deep family history thing where my great-grandmother was shipped off to Russia to serve rich people as a governess, along with her two sisters. And at the same time, I was pretty swept up in the AOC/Bernie movement in the States. As we were touring through the Touch cycle, it really did feel like there was a growing understanding of how unbalanced the world has become, in terms of wealth and gender and the sort of idea of pulling rank. You can even see that in the music community sometimes, when one band decides they have the social capital to speak for everybody else. That kind of level of power is really scary, and yet we're all constantly interacting with power dynamics like that. So I think 'Governess Shadow' is about unpacking what it means to be wealthy, what it means to want to be wealthy, and what it means to have power—the ‘shadow’ being this aftershock of capitalism, like Adam Smith's invisible hand above us casting this shadow over us.”

See You Thru
PD: “I had worked on this one for a long time. The version we landed on was a really special sound—total Gainsbourg, or maybe Beck ripping off Gainsbourg. It was fun for me, because I found a new way to sing. I've never really sang in that sort of whispered, almost falsetto feel. So it was fun to try to get that intimacy, because the song is supposed to be sort of a love song about two people being separated by ideologies.”
LF: “But separation in this case isn't so much about political differences. One person is like, ‘We have to go forward and be full of hope,' and the other person is like, 'I'm just gonna lie down and die here.'”

Still Sacred
PD: “We did this one in the middle of the night. We're such cinema geeks, and we like the idea of working with tiny little pieces of music that serve as intros and outros and don't necessarily have a home. This one was meant to be an intro to 'The News'—if you ever play the songs back to back, you'll understand. It's almost more like a little poem...Josh played acoustic, I played piano, and Leah sang, and we just did it in one take in one room. There's mandolin feedback and a Moog, but it's pretty naked. It was this special moment that just happened, and I think it humanizes the record on its way out the door.”


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