Like some of the best bands coming out of Calgary, you can't really classify Women's sound. They're like an indie version of Donny and Marie Osmond: a little bit rock-and-roll, a little bit shoegaze. For their self-titled debut album dropping into record stores July 8, the group turned to Calgary's own friendly giant, Chad VanGaalen, to help them find the perfect sound.
"With Chad--and I'm not sure you can really say this--he gets stoned and then sees what happens," laughs Women bassist Matt Flegel. "He was really good for us, mostly because we didn't have any concise ideas of what we wanted to do. It was nice to have someone so open-minded and willing to try different shit--he was great for that."
While many bands spend their time in the studio, rarely venturing outside, the eclectic VanGaalen and Women looked for alternative places to record. From VanGaalen's basement studio to snowy Bragg Creek, the band moved freely from recording and beyond to help fine tune the unique sound for the album.
"We just wanted [the recording] to be fun," says Flegel. "We ended up doing a lot of weird shit. We recorded some of the vocals in a culvert in Bragg Creek by a frozen river when it was minus 50 degrees out. It was just me and my brother [Pat Flegel] singing into this corrugated tin thing with Chad sitting on top, recording with the same four-track that Stanley Kubrick had used. We also did a guitar part at Anderson station the same way."
Like the locations they recorded in, their methods of recording the album were a little bit unique. Finding no joy in the digital recording route known for its rhythmic clarity, they turned to older methods for the perfect sound they were looking to capture.
"We were recording digitally to begin with," laments Flegel. "Then we recorded this one track on an old tape machine with the vocals recorded through an old JVC ghetto blaster. It sounded a million times better than the other shit we were recording digitally, so we had to re-record everything we had done up to that point. That's when we kind of found the sound we wanted. It was a different way of doing it, but shit was sounding too crisp. It sounds more like us now."
While most bands start their budding careers trying to play as many shows as possible, often to small and unreceptive audiences, Women have been lucky and started off big. Flegel is on the phone from Halifax, one stop on the group's pre-release blitz to pimp the upcoming record to an east coast audience who may be unfamiliar with the band.
"It started off with a big show," explains Flegel. "Our first show was opening up for Chad VanGaalen at the Grand in front of 500 people sitting down. It's kind of a crazy first show, but it was a great excuse to get our shit together. I know we're doing something different for sure, which intrigues people."
Flegel himself is upbeat about the prospects for the band's career, despite the occasional discouraging show out east. With an appearance lined up for Sled Island and hype coming from CBC Radio 3 and popular music blog gorrilavsbear.net, the album is already getting talked up and down by the independent press before its big release.
"It's early on in this stage [of our career] and people are coming out to see our shows," says Flegel. "We haven't had to do much grind work. This is the pre-release tour and we're still eating shit[ty food] on the road. In the west, though, shit is definitely going on."