One of Winnipeg’s most thrilling live acts is releasing their first full-length in July on local family label Transistor 66. I sat down at the Legion in the Exchange District with band members Julia Ryckman, J.P. Perron, and, later on, Patrick Short for some cheap beverages and to exchange a few words with this local trio regarding their highly-anticipated debut.
Stylus: To begin, out of curiosity I have got to know, why This Hisses and not The Hisses?
J.P. Perron: It’s kind of a weird iteration I guess, but not really. There is actually a funny quote addressing that on the new album. [Reads] When attempting to enunciate the group’s moniker, most tend to slur over the words carelessly, gurgling some incoherent mumble. However, such a cavalier introduction to This Hisses is calamitous at best.
Stylus: Brilliant and accurate, as I clearly demonstrated when this interview began.
JPP: Yeah I do that as well just the other day I called us The Hisses. People tend to like it though, however I can imagine that radio announcer would not.
Julia Ryckman: Also, ‘this’ is a word that hisses, which adds to our name.
Stylus: Each of you have been submerged in the Winnipeg music scene before with other acts such as The Gorgon [Julia], Mahogany Frog [J.P.] and Under Pressure and Electric Candles [Patrick Short]. But how did This Hisses come to be?
JR: When The Gorgon broke up, I had some songs I wanted to try and I thought of Pat because we had talked and jammed before. I also wanted to work with J.P. because he had always been my favourite drummer in Winnipeg and I knew he was available because he had just moved back from Montreal. I asked him at a party if he wanted to jam, but he was very guarded.
JPP: I knew both Pat and Julia before and was a fan of both their work and after the first jam we knew it was going somewhere. The first jam so amazing, we had like four songs written in the first session.
JR: At that point each of us knew it was a serious, focused band. I also really appreciate the experience aspect that we each bring to the table because we all collaborate equally and know we can rely on each other, kind of like a marriage I guess.
JPP: We put a lot into the band and each of us specialized in certain aspects and knew our strengths when it came creating the album.
Stylus: Yes, the new album! You were recently signed to local label Transistor 66. So when can we expect your full-length or EP?
JR: It’s a full-length and it will be available on vinyl, CD and digital download and it will be out on radio in June.
JPP: The album comes out July 23rd at the Pyramid Cabaret and was recorded last year at Private Ear with Matt Peters [Royal Canoe, the Waking Eyes].
JR: Matt mixed the album and also played a definite producer role. He understands the direction we want to go so he was great to work with.
JPP: Transistor 66 is full of great bands and people so we are excited to be on it and we worked extremely hard to make the album sound and look great.
Stylus: Your live show is insanely fun and quite the roller-coaster ride and you have made quite a name for yourself strictly based on your live performance. Could you explain the process of creating your setlists?
JPP: I find a good setlist keeps us guessing and makes the show more interesting. There was one show where Pat started to play the wrong song and we just went with it so we can still go with the flow and it turned out great at that particular show. But usually we have a plan.
JR: To vary the setlist also creates a different narrative and we always try a setlist out before the show, make alterations and try it again, so the whole process is very planned. I use to be in bands where we would write the setlist 20 minutes before the show but we do things differently.
Stylus: At a show the other night you mentioned a scene in Regina involving a sketchy hotel with an unconscious lady being carried by two burly dudes that sparked the lyrics for your song “Bad Vacation.” Does weird shit that happens on tour primarily influence songwriting?
JR: Well there are two parts to songwriting; I do all the lyric writing but the actual song construction is pretty balanced between Pat and I, but J.P. will give the song a lot of structure after it has taken some shape.
Patrick Short: I bring in the riffs.
JPP: Generally a jam session involves a lot of wine in the basement and then we just go to it, with Pat generally leaving late to go work the graveyard shift. I kind of just add the drums once the song has begun to take shape.
JR: In terms of lyrics I would say my lyrics are autobiographical and generally stem from an intense emotional experience. In the song you mentioned, “Bad Vacation,” we were on tour in the middle of winter and ran out of gas outside Regina. We ended up in a sketchy motel after some very expensive gas was sold to us and after a huge fight erupted outside the hotel. Our room was trashed and when we finally got settled in, we see these two men carrying this shoeless, under-dressed, unconscious woman up the stairs. We were so freaked out we couldn’t sleep and had no idea what to do.
Stylus: Will we be seeing This Hisses around Winnipeg this summer or is there some touring in the works?
PS: We are playing a ton of shows both Jazz Festival and NXNE. We plan to take July off and then August we have a cross-Canada tour.
JR: Hopefully followed by some more recording.
See you all at This Hisses CD release, July 23 at the Pyramid Cabaret to celebrate the drop of Surf Noir. It will be quite a show, so let’s show some support for this unreal local act.