Old Crowns, the self-proclaimed “stoner country” band from Ottawa, are gearing up to conquer Canada.
Fresh off a tenacious, two-week east coast tour, the four-piece already have two upcoming shows lined up. The first, presented by iheartmusic.net, is in their hometown of Ottawa with other Take Media faves: the Darcys and Amost the Transparent. It’s this Friday (!) – August 27th – so click here immediately for more details so you can make it a priority. If you live in/around Ottawa, you really have no good excuse not to attend.
The second is in Toronto! It’s at Rancho Relaxo on September 4th, a Saturday (click here now for more details), so all you 9-5ers can come out and have a good time without worrying about getting up early the next morning.
Anyways, last time Old Crowns were in Toronto, I got to hang out with them. Steve St. Pierre, Sam Seguin, Alex Seguin, and Joel Soucy took me out for dinner (That’s right. They paid. It was awesome.) and explained the story behind Old Crowns, their first full-length album, their fans, and Joel’s dance moves. And so much more.
Get the goods below.
This is part one.
Steve: We got a nice little dance before you came and met up with us. We were sitting outside of Mexx, just on a bench, and a girl came up and just danced. It was the greatest thing in the world.
Sam: And then I danced badly back.
Alex: And then Sam danced badly back.
Stuff like that is great. A while back in Toronto, there used to be this guy called Zanta who frequented the subway system, and he used to dress up in a Santa hat, but be shirtless most of the time. He got banned though.
Steve: Well, that’s unfortunate.
Sam: That’s not the best. That’s just unfortunate.
Alex: Did you say he got banned from Toronto?
Supposedly. I think he lives in Brampton now.
Alex: I did not know they could ban you from Toronto.
Where in Ottawa do you guys live, by the way? I used to live in Gloucester when I was young.
Joel: I was more east than Gloucester.
Steve: [gesturing to himself, Sam, and Alex] We were much more west.
Sam: We were sort of rural, I guess. Now we’re all downtown.
Steve: Yeah. Centre town. It’s right in the thick of things. It’s great.
So, what can you tell me about Old Crowns? As of today. It’s a pretty general question, so there’s no way you can’t have an answer.
Steve: As of today, Old Crowns is slightly disheveled.
Sam: Everyone has had too much free beer offered so far during this tour. That’s another key thing.
Alex: We’re intoxicated right now. As of this very moment.
Sam: [to Steve] Do you want to start from the start, I guess?
Steve: I guess so. A brief history. We formed in February of 2009 and I’ve known these guys (pointing to Sam and Alex), the brothers, for a while. Alex was my very first drummer when I used to do solo stuff. And then I was living out west in Vancouver and made the decision to move home. So I e-mailed these guys and was like, “Would you be interested in playing?” They said yes. So I moved back and we started jamming like every week. Just hunkering down and getting songs done. And yeah. The ball’s been rolling pretty heavily ever since. So as of today we’re on day three or four of a 12-day tour. Nine shows in 12 days.
Alex: We just had a couple of days off, and now we’re playing five shows in a row.
Steve: I’m looking forward to that. [laughs]
Alex: And meeting a lot of good people.
Steve: Yeah! And meeting a lot of amazing people. That’s all we can really ask for at this point.
Brett Caswell is opening for you during the tour. How’d that come about?
Sam: A while back we had a show, and a friend who actually lives in Toronto sent us an e-mail asking if we’d like to play a show. That kind of fell into our laps. I think he was representing Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose. So they came to town…That night was a bit of a strange night because the set up wasn’t quite there. No one was really promoting it. But we just met him and his band, and we’d known a few of their other bands because they’re kind of sharing members. Everyone in the band was really really great. So we were expecting to do this tour and we wanted some support. Ultimately, he was the first person we thought of.
Steve: So we asked him and he said, “Fuck yeah! Let’s do it” So we took it from there. He’s going to be joining us on keys and pedalsteel the entire tour. We played with him in Barrie on Saturday, and it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and to all of the band as well.
Sam: Let me say something else about Brett. We also didn’t get to jam with him before this whole shitshow went down, and I guess he just winged it. He listened to the album a few times and he completely floored us. He’s an amazing musician, to be able to do that.
When I spoke to him, he described himself as kind of alt-country-ish. And you guys describe yourselves as “stoner country.”
Sam: We do more drugs than him, I guess.
Steve: We’re slower and heavier. That’s all there really is to it. He opens things up, all nice and lighthearted, and then we’ll hit the stage and depress everyone.
Do you read the reviews that you get?
Sam: You mean the three that we’ve gotten?
Sam: No, we don’t really read them.
Steve: I’m a googler. I google a lot, just to see if there’s anything going on. But yeah, I’ve read them. So far they’ve all been pretty good.
Joel: It’s all been positive reviews. I guess once we get a review that tears us apart, then we’ll see who stops reading them. But everything’s been really good. And it’s cool to read because you want to know what people think about it and kind of take notes from it, but at the end of the day we’re all really proud of the album. Not to say we don’t really care what anyone says about us, but it’s just like –
Alex: We’re going to stand behind it. Whatever it is.
What was the recording process like?
Sam: We started, I think, last June. And we wanted to release it by October. And that didn’t really happen. We have a studio; one little set up where we recorded everything at. We started in one house, and then our parents moved to another house so we moved all our gear there. And again, the release date just kept getting pushed back until we were comfortable with what it was. So…
Alex: We didn’t have any hard deadlines or any budget to work with, so it was just like, “Let’s just keep going.” We just kept recording and recording. It was very relaxed in that sense.
Sam: Having money not being an issue is awesome in that sense.
How was money not an issue?
Joel: Well, we don’t have to rent a room to record in.
Sam: Yeah. It’s basically –
Alex: We have our own studio.
What about pressing records?
Steve: So in terms of pressing, we were lucky enough last year to play Bluesfest in Ottawa. And they treat the artists extremely well, we’ll say. So we had money from that. For the record, we’re not touching it for anything else. So we had that money to put towards pressing.
Alex: Plus other gig money.
Steve: We didn’t have to front any of our own money from the record.
Have you moved a lot of records so far?
Sam: Vinyl, we’re doing all right with. The thing is, we did a vinyl release party and we were sticking to this “We want everyone to listen to the album as a whole” kind of thing. We were trying to be all pure about it. And then we had a few people come up and say, “Where are your CDs at? Where can I get a CD?”
Not everyone has record players.
Sam: Exactly. But the record comes with a free digital download.
Joel: We were hoping that people would just download the album. We all agreed that when we first decided to do vinyl that none of us really listen to our CDs. So it was kind of like, “Who else even listens to CDs if the four of us don’t listen to CDs?” We represent the whole world! [laughs] But yeah. So then we made the decision that yeah, we do need CDs. A lot of people were asking for them and we wanted… like, Sam made the point that sometimes its fun to leave a show and you’re in your car and you put in the CD right away of the band you just saw. And you can’t really do that with a record.
Then finance-wise, you guys are doing okay?
Alex: We’ve had to front a little bit of money, especially for the CD thing because it was kind of unplanned. We had to do it to move some records. So we’ll see how that goes.
Sam: Keep in mind that we do have digital downloads. Like it came out online on April 20th, and that has been going great. We check it week to week, and it’s a steady flow.
So people are buying it online?
Sam: People are buying it online. People are actually paying for it. It’s about a 50/50 split, for people who are taking it for free and people who are actually paying for it.
Alex: People pay, on average, about $5 or $6 for the record. Some people are more grandiose.
Steve: There are a lot of generous people out there.
How much of that money do you get to keep?
Alex: It’s all done through this website called bandcamp, which up until now had been a free service for bands. So the only cut that we lost went to PayPal for their processing fees. But bandcamp just actually changed their model, so now they’re going take 15%. Which is not bad considering the service is so good. It’s less than iTunes takes.
Joel: We’re not upset by that at all.
Do you all work? Outside of the band, I mean.
Joel: Yeah. We all sadly have jobs.
Sam: Joel’s is the most exciting. [laughs]
Joel: It’s really not.
What do you do?
Joel: I work at a Starbucks. Inside a hotel.
A lot of musicians work at Starbucks, actually.
Joel: Because coffee shops are easy. I can be like, “All right, I’m gone for the next couple of weeks.” And they’re like, “Okay! See you later!”
Steve: We do all have jobs, but for the most part people have all been extremely supportive of it. Like, I work a 9-5 standard kind of thing –
Sam: I work at a pet store!
Steve: I’m a graphic designer though, so I draw pictures for a living. So it’s all right. But when I told them I’d be gone for two weeks they were like, “Yeah, but your vacation is this much.” And then blah blah blah. And I had to be like, “Yeah, I know. But I’m going to be gone for two weeks.” So they made it work. But who knows? We’re planning on touring a lot more this year –
Sam: And a lot more next year.
Steve: So we’ll see what happens when that time comes. But up ’til now, everyone’s been stupidly supportive. Let’s just hope that continues.
What are your fans like? Have you built up a big following in Ottawa?
Alex: We get recognized.
Steve: Sam and I signed a record in lipstick a few weeks ago. That was actually the Brett Caswell show. I wanted put it on and kiss it, but I didn’t.
Sam: We don’t have a lot of fans but the ones we do are quite devoted. We have some fans from Switzerland, I guess. Is it Switzerland?
Sam: Sweden. A lot of people like the way Joel moves. That seems to be popular.
How do you move, Joel?
Joel: Are you coming tonight?
Sam: Picture a…
Steve: Joel just has a way about him. [laughs]
Joel: I’m just going to stand like a fucking wall tonight.
Sam: I was going to say T-Rex. That’s the way it has to go.
Sam: Not really. It’s very sensual. So not like a T-Rex.
Joel: They don’t know their dinosaurs.
Steve: Anyways, what “fans” we have, have been great. It’s unreal. It’s really great that people outside of our friends and family are sort of latching onto the record. Like we said, we’re happy with what we did and if people like it, great.
Sam: We have the occasional sing-a-long, which is always a confidence booster as well.
Joel: That’s great.
Steve: Specifically this song called “Sailor.” Hearing people sing a song that we wrote is one of the coolest things in the world. It’s just unreal.
As you’ve probably already guessed by the “part one” tagline, this isn’t it. Part two (“He’s homeless”) is coming soon.
– INTERVIEW BY SAKINA SHAKIL