Strawberry Spotlight is a weekly feature on Strawberry Tongue Radio hosted by Lady Audio. In this edition, she chats with Sean Patrick Noal of the dark and brooding Toronto band TRAITRS.
This is a transcription of that interview which airs January 4, 2017, 1:00 EST, only on Strawberry Tongue Radio. You can also catch the re-broadcast of this show on Saturday and Sunday at 1:00pm EST. Be sure to tune in!
Lady Audio: Hi everyone and welcome to the Strawberry Spotlight Radio Show. Our guests this week is Traitrs. Traitrs, welcome to the show! How are you today?
TRAITRS: I’m doing well how are you doing?
Lady Audio: I’m alright.
TRAITRS: How’s the weather in California?
Lady Audio: It’s snowing today.
Traitrs: No way! That’s crazy.
Lady Audio: Well I’m up in the mountains in the Lake Tahoe area.
TRAITRS: Oh, okay.
Lady Audio: What’s the weather like where you are? In Toronto right?
TRAITRS: Yeah Toronto. So usually right now it’s really cold and maybe snowing but the last few days have been really mild. But today has been kind of like rainy and gloomy but I think there is snow coming later in the week, so we have that to look forward to.
Lady Audio: That’s exciting! I love the snow.
TRAITRS: Yeah snow is fun. I don’t hate it until it gets to an annoying level like if it’s up to your waist. That’s not cool. But if it’s just kind of like under your boots and stuff that’s kind of cool.
Lady Audio: Yeah when it gets up to your waist, it’s time for skis.
TRAITRS: Yep get some snow shoes.
Lady Audio: Yeah.
TRAITRS: Toboggans, yes.
Lady Audio: So, my first question is always, what attracted you to the realm of music?
TRAITRS: Geez I guess I don’t know. For me it was something that I kind of took to when I was younger. I just remember being in the fourth grade when they taught us how to play the recorder and I really liked it and I was one of the few I was maybe like one of five kids in class that actually liked it. And I wanted to get good at it and I just kind of started there and I learned clarinet and other things in high school and I started playing guitar and keys and singing in high school and I was just kind of like I was really shy I was a very quiet kid you know I couldn’t talk to girls I couldn’t talk to anybody! Teachers intimidated me. But when I played something I felt I mean it’s cheesy but you can actually kind of express yourself. It felt like the first thing I felt that I could get good at, you know, like I wasn’t the most athletic kid and I wasn’t, you know, good at math or anything. Music was the first thing, I don’t know, something deeper than just geography or something. I really liked it and I enjoyed getting better at it and I just kind of kept through and I went to University and fell out of it. But working with Sean the other Sean in Traitrs, there are two Seans. Which is really stupid but… So, when I met the other Sean he kind of got me back into wanting to play music again but I mean that’s kind of a meandering answer but it was something that started when I was really young and I just liked it it was really just that simple.
Lady Audio: That was going to be my next question. It was how did Traders get started?
TRAITRS: Sean and I we’ve been friends for such a long time we share a similar taste in music I met Sean when I was pretty young like I was probably 22 and Sean is a little bit older than I am so he always kind of had better taste in music than I did and he would, you know, introduce me to new bands or old bands that I never heard of before so we really connected that way and he just asked if I wanted to start playing music with him and it was really just that simple. We just like, you know, he’s one of my best friends so it’s kind of like we just really get along and it makes a lot easier and yeah I don’t know.
Lady Audio: So are the current members just both of you?
TRAITRS: It’s just the two of us.
Lady Audio: Okay.
TRAITRS: So we do like for performing it’s just the two of us and we’ve talked about hiring or getting drummers kind of in the future but right now we play as a two piece and write as a two piece.
Lady Audio: So, what do you play and what does the other Sean play?
TRAITRS: We don’t have a drummer so I write and program all the drums on my computer and I play keys. And the other Sean plays guitar, he sings, and he plays bass. But the two of us write everything together. I will spend like a couple of weeks writing just drum loops and Sean and I will talk a lot about rhythms and tempos. And, you know, kind of, the drums really set the tone for us. I spend a lot of time. I kind of do it a lot on my spare time. I find it fun. I like doing it and then we take it in together and we sort of write like a band would if we actually had a drummer only the drum beats are already done so.
Lady Audio: What’s the story behind the name for the band?
TRAITRS: There really isn’t much of one. Sean just texted me. We had like the sound was starting to take shape. We always wanted to sort of have a post-punk cold wave kind of sound and it took awhile to figure out how to do that. And once we started these songs and the songs started coming together, like Witch Trials, the first single off the EP. That’s one of the first songs that it kind of sounded like what we wanted it to sound like so for a while we really didn’t have a name in mind. And it was really something as simple as Sean just texting me and saying hey what do you think about Traitrs, and he put it in all caps and I just sort of looked at it and didn’t really think anything of it at first. I just went, I don’t know, and I didn’t reply for a bit. And then I looked at it again and then I wrote him, yeah sure, and there wasn’t really a lot of thought into it. For all I know, Sean could have had that name from the time he was like 12 and he wanted to name something Traitrs, but I don’t know it was really that simple.
Lady Audio: That’s cool.
TRAITRS: That’s the great thing about having only 2 people is the decision making process is really simple because we either agree or we don’t and we just talk about it. And there’s not really any kind of like people putting their foot down. There’s no ego with Traitrs we’re just two kind of goofballs and we get along with each other but yeah the name, it just sort of stuck and it looked cool. There’s a symmetry to it. It’s seven letters and the “i” splits it right in the middle and I like the way it looks almost more than the way it sounds. And it was always the idea that the music will give the band name meaning and purpose and whatnot, So in hindsight, I really love it and I can’t imagine it being named anything else. But at the time it was just kind of a flippant decision. He could have texted me and said s*** face and I might have gone, I don’t know about that, but he didn’t he just said Traitrs.
Lady Audio: Can you describe the type of music that you play? I mean I read online post-punk kind of goth and stuff but in your own words what type of music do you play?
TRAITRS: Probably Post Punk. But I mean, the way we do it is it sort of sounds… I think it’s just kind of the way Sean and I write. It doesn’t sound like 95% of post punk bands because when we write I play my keys really low. like I turn the octave way down and I play my keys like a bass. So I’m pretty much playing like the baselines are the chord progressions for it and it just kind of gives it a unique sound to it and then the bass is added later. So the bass is usually not so much about rhythm but about melody for us. So it’s something that’s added on to it. But I would say post punk. I don’t really like getting into sort of really genre defining and whatnot. What’s great about Post Punk is that it’s such a broad spectrum and it encompasses so many different types of styles and bands and whatnot. So I kind of like that as a sort of catch all thing because it is sort of Post Punk but I don’t think we, I don’t know, if we sound like other post punk bands, I don’t think so, but I think that’s kind of a really simple way. And like the goth thing, I don’t know… We got pegged with the goth thing but I think it’s more to do with like the album cover. Sort of gothie and the songs are dark and kind of melancholic. I mean, like we don’t paint her nails black or anything so I think it’s just something that got slapped on to it in the same way for other bands. Like the Cure is called a goth band or whatnot but I don’t know, I just don’t necessarily see that as a big part of who we are it’s just sort of something that got added on later.
Lady Audio: So who are some of your favorite musical artists? And this isn’t a question like, you know how when you have to fill out your BandCamp or you have to fill out something and it says who are your influences and who sounds like you. Not like that, I don’t mean a question like that, but who are some of you are favorite musical artist to listen to?
TRAITRS: Yeah, it depends from day-to-day. Like I find that, man, I listen to a lot of punk music, I guess. A lot of eighties hardcore bands like Bad Brains and Fugazi and stuff like that.
Lady Audio: I love Bad Brains!
TRAITRS: Yeah! They’re the best. They’re so good. For me there like a palate cleanser when we’ve been writing. We’ll listen to bands that sound similar to us and as soon as we finished practice we throw on Bad Brains or Husker Du or something and it’s just something different but Bad Brains they’re so good. Sean and I were supposed to see them play live but HR got sick I think. This was probably like 2010 or 2011or something and he got sick and we were really bummed out because I don’t know if we’ll get that chance again. But yeah so I listen to those bands and they are big influences. I love the Smiths and the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen Bauhaus and stuff… Southern Death Cult, Dead Can Dance I find is really underrated kind of. They became sort of like a world act but the first two albums are a real kind of cold Post Punk kind of 80’s sounding band and they could have developed into something else it would be like the main band. But when I was little I remember being 13 and discovering Nirvana for the first time and taking all of my allowance money and going to the local record shop and buying all the used copies of In Utero and Incesticide and stuff and they are kind of like an early influence and then I kind of started getting into the bands that influenced them like Sonic Youth and other ones too that’s kind of a really long answer but.
Lady Audio: So now I want to ask you some questions about the album, Rites and Ritual, and I really like the song, Heretic. I wanted to ask you what’s the story behind that song?
TRAITRS: Okay well I can speak for… well I think I can speak for the other Sean. Heretic was the very very last song that we wrote for the album and it wasn’t even necessarily intended to be on the album. We always wanted Rites and Ritual to be seven songs and there was another song that didn’t make the cut on the album. But when we wrote Heretic we didn’t know that yet and so it’s kind of so Sean broke his rib right before recording and so he was really messed up for a long time and it set him back about a couple of months and he was going through old stuff that we had recorded and I didn’t even remember recording Heretic. We just kind of did it at the end of practice and recorded 8 minutes of this kind of long piece and forgot about it and when Sean hurt himself and was going through old MP3’s, he asked if we had recorded and he found this song and it wasn’t supposed to be anything.
TRAITRS: And he heard it and he thought this has to be the sort of album closer which we didn’t have at the time. So we wound up scrapping one song and adding this one. So we only like even before we recorded it we maybe ran it like once or twice and Sean had a melody in mind and had all the lyrics and so the title is from The Exorcist 2 which is called the Heretic. Sean, while his ribs were all screwed up he was watching a lot of horror movies writing lyrics and stuff while he was healing and so I think the bulk of it has to do a little bit with that which I know when talking to Sean he doesn’t like to be very specific with lyrics but what’s interesting about how Sean writes is he’ll kind of fuse personal stuff with broader things and maybe take some of the stuff, images say a horror films or something and connect it with maybe a personal line. So you’ll need him too kind of sit down to explain it all to you. But you can just kind of, sort of, it all comes together in a really interesting way so that it’s not really personal but it’s not impersonal and there’s sort of a loose story to it. I don’t know if that answers your question…
Lady Audio: Yeah it does. And I really like the video that goes along with it too. What’s the story behind creating the video who’s in it and who helped with it and stuff like that?
TRAITRS: So it’s really dumb. In the YouTube video it’ll say everybody who’s in it basically the guy who directed it is Francesco and Francesco is a wonderful Italian director and I think he’s living in San Francisco now but he sort of bounces around from the States and Italy. So basically he shot all of that himself so he’s the guy that he directed it. There’s an Italian band that we like called Japan Suicide and Sean saw a video of theirs and he really liked it. He just emailed the guy that did it and said hey I really like your work and I would like it if you could work with Traitrs. Would you want to work with us? And he got back to us and he said yes and he did The Witch Trials video as well which was more animated and then there wasn’t even supposed to be a video we were thinking of maybe having a video for Youth Cults which is kind of like the second single on the record but it was just a timing thing and to be honest a Financial thing too. So we really didn’t have the time or funds to do a second video but Francesco said I’ll do it and pay me what you can and I have an idea and I really want to do it and I think it would be a shame not to see it through. So I guess he had some stuff shot… the stuff with a woman was all shot previously, and he did all this stuff with a guy in the mask this year. And edited it all together. What was cool was we just kind of gave him the reins for it and I know Sean saw some things before it was finished, but we just kind of let him do whatever he wanted with it creatively, and we trust him he’s really good at what he does and the video blew away our expectations. I had no idea. Francesco is phenomenal I mean I had no idea it was going to be or turn out as well as it did, so we’re really proud of that video. But unfortunately I can’t remember off the top of my head who is in it but it’s in the credits if you go to the video on YouTube it lists all the people who are in it and whatnot Francesco is great.
Lady Audio: Cool. Another song I really like is Youth Cults. I wanted to ask you what the story is behind that song.
TRAITRS: Youth Cults was a song that we basically we wrote it in about 20 minutes and basically we sort of structured it really fast and that structure pretty much stayed exactly how it is in the recorded version. I remember we tried extending the ending and doing stuff like that and it just didn’t work. It just works really well as a really short kind of fast song so we rode it very quickly and it was really natural who was the first kind of track like that we’re working with more sort of tribal rhythms.
[Play Youth Cults]
TRAITRS: Same with Witch Trials and Savior which is a track later on which is really tom heavy. Kind of want this one is just like a really fast kind of four-on-the-floor beat and we knew we wanted a song like that that was really fast we were listening to a lot of Soviet at the time which is another really great band and they are very fast and we sort of wanted to have something like that even though we don’t sound like anything like that that’s where the idea at least the tempo and drums came from was how fast they are and then we would just put our own spin on that. But yeah, I guess I can’t think of lyrically, again Sean wrote all that early on. We were kind of reading a lot about sort of medieval torture and witch hunts and stuff like that and I think a lot of those stories and images and things kind of work their way into songs like Youth Cults and Witch Trials and Gallows Hill has a really heavy kind of a medieval theme to it. But yeah I think that’s what Youth Cults was about.
Lady Audio: Cool. Who recorded and mixed the Rights and Ritual album?
TRAITRS: That would be Josh Karody who is probably the best, I would say he’s the best producer in Toronto. He’s amazing. He’s done so much good work, so much good work than I could possibly name, especially here in the city he’s very well known. The studio is Candle Recording. It’s on the west end it’s a really cozy spot that just feels there’s a vibe to it, I don’t know how to describe it. When we went there for the first time it felt like you had already been there and Josh was really warm and welcoming and friendly and he really understood our sound. And knew where Sean and I kind of hit walls with ideas or how to take a track… if it’s missing something like an atmosphere or something is not clicking with the track Josh will hear that and kind of know what it needs if it’s a drum thing or delay on the vocal or something he’s really good. What I love about him is that he doesn’t just auto correct or anything he just gets the real takes and he will leave mistakes in, like for example, in Heretic, you will hear me play a little too early in the beginning and he left it in. He’ll leave stuff like that in and makes it sound more human and I really like that because we do use a lot of electronics but I don’t think we sound electronic. I think we sound like a band. And the same with the vocals, he’ll leave it he won’t correct anything. I really like that about Josh and he’s really good. He’s a wizard, he’s got crazy hair, I love the guy really fun he’s a cool dude for sure.
Lady Audio: Cool! And now for a scenario. Are you ready?
Lady Audio: It’s late in the afternoon, the shadows are long, the air is fresh and you are standing by a very tall tree. Off in the distance you hear the sound of a celebration. Can you describe the types of sounds that you hear?
TRAITRS: I don’t know… probably like crunching like the ground like stomps maybe. Grass crunching or leaves crunching, branches breaking. I don’t know probably windy, wind blowing through trees and stuff. Can I see how far they are?
Lady Audio: Yeah, go ahead!
TRAITRS: Okay so I’ll probably just go over and see what was going on and if it was just some people having a campfire or something you know I would probably just see what was up and hang out start talking to people.
Lady Audio: That’s cool! And last but not least what is your favorite flower?
TRAITRS: Okay, I got kind of a joke favorite flower. The flower that makes me smile every time I see it. It’s called The Hanging Naked Man and I don’t know if most people maybe don’t know what that is, it’s an orchid. And it’s just like this little purple dude it looks like a purple dude with like a sunbonnet and it looks like he’s got a d**k any just kind of hanging out and it’s really funny and every time I see it it makes me smile and laugh. But that’s a really immature answer but you should look it up! They are the best because I’m at eight year old at heart even though I’m much older than that. So that’s like my go to but for like a real flower, I like tulips. Tulips are nice.
Lady Audio: I like to listen to I like tulips too.
TRAITRS: Yeah they are awesome, they’re very pretty.
Lady Audio: Yeah. So where can people go to listen to and to purchase your music?
TRAITRS: So you can go to… basically just Google Traitrs and we will come up. But you can buy our album on BandBamp. Or if you go to our record label, Pleasance Records, it’s based in Toronto and it’s run by James Lindsay and he is a wonderful wonderful wonderful man. He took a real big shot on Traitrs you know cuz he only heard a couple of songs and decided to sign us without knowing us or meeting us. Well we met and we had a pint and then you know the rest is history but he really took a big shot on us because we played our first show in April and we met with James in November of last year. So he never saw it live or anything so he really took a shot on us. So Pleasance Records… there’s a lot of great bands on there you can check their SoundCloud out and check the other bands out but yes as far as Traitrs… Facebook page, um, Google is a magical wonderful thing. If you Google Traitrs because I cannot remember the links off the top of my head then you’ll be able to read all about Traitrs and see some images and fun stuff like that. But our BandCamp is where we sell everything. We have shirts. We were selling holy water for a while but I think we’re sold out. But yeah you can get tapes and cool stuff like that.
Lady Audio: Cool. Thank you for joining me today Traders I really appreciate it.
TRAITRS: Yeah! It was great. I had an awesome time it was nice to meet you.
Strawberry Tongue would like to thank Sean Patrick Nolan from TRAITRS for chatting with Lady Audio. Visit their sites below to listen to and purchase their music.