Animal Teeth

animal teeth

By Levi Kwade

Over the past three years, Animal Teeth have cemented themselves as stalwarts of the Winnipeg  indie community. With their unique musicianship and musical style, Stefan Hodges (guitar and vocals), Ian Ellis (drums), and Adam Nikkel (bass and vocals), are one of the city’s most sought after acts. I had the chance to hang out with Ian and Stefan to drink gin and chat about their upcoming album, and band life.

Stylus: Where have you been recording your new album?

Ian Ellis: We went to Adam’s friend’s house near La Salle, Manitoba.

Stefan Hodges: Right on the La Salle River, actually. It’s really pretty.

Stylus: How long did the recording process take?

SH: The La Salle recording was five days. I think we got almost 12 songs done in that time, but we packed a lot into the last day.

IE: And we’re still doing some recording at our houses.

SH: Yeah, we did a couple overdubs. We weren’t really happy with the initial guitar sounds, but it looks like Riley will probably fix those up.

Stylus: So you guys did the recording by yourselves, and Riley Hill from Mortfell Recording is going to be mixing it?

SH: Yeah, we just dropped off the album yesterday and we went through it to decide what needs reworking. He didn’t seem to think that we needed to rework as much as I thought that we did, so that’s comforting. But I think we will probably try to re-record a couple things.

IE: It’s good to get an outside ear, cause we’ve all heard these songs so many times.

SH: It’s probably good that I broke my wrist [during the recording]. I stepped away at that moment, because I had been running through it for a month trying to fix things, and I was really fixating on totally stupid stuff.

IE: I was also getting pretty obsessive  with the drum takes while we were recording.

Stylus: Since the release of your last EP, Me & You, there was a lineup change in the band. Did you guys talk a lot about what changes were going to happen, or did you just feel it out?

SH: I just asked Ian and Adam if they still wanted to do [the band], and it seemed like they were still intent on doing it. It’s obviously different, going from a four-piece to a three-piece.

Stylus: Because of that, do you think that you’ve gone in a more improvised/jam-style direction? Hearing you guys live since then, the songs feel ‘jammier’.

IE: I thought we went to less of a jammy thing, but I don’t really have much perspective.

SH: I think maybe what it is, is that our former guitarist, Hudson, was really good at cutting up our songs and figuring out solid structures. That was a big thing he brought to the songs, whereas I don’t really know how to do that. I feel like Ian and Adam are pretty passive about that kind of stuff, so the songs might drag on a little more, or we are less concrete in how we go about making changes.

Stylus: I’ve thought that your music feels natural; it doesn’t seem like things go on forever because you guys don’t know what’s going on, just that maybe it’s easier to communicate with just the three of you.

IE: Yeah, well I certainly don’t know what’s going on.

SH: I think maybe we have less people to look at, so maybe it’s easier to understand how people are feeling.

IE: Stefan is better at putting Adam and I in our place, and keeping us in line.

Stylus: What are your plans for releasing the new album? When do you think that will be?

SH: Hopefully by the fall, or as soon as possible really. We really want to go on tour again, which is most of the reason why we’re doing a cassette. It wouldn’t make sense to go on tour at this point because our EP is so dated.

Stylus: When you go into practice, do you have an idea of what you want to do as a band, or is it mostly just whatever happens?

IE:  Stefan usually gives direction for the overall feeling, and a pretty specific idea, like, ‘this part is supposed to be paranoid.’ So we usually have guidelines and suggestions for each other for how to improve a song, or make it flow better. But it is really trial and error, just seeing how it goes.

Stylus: You mentioned the term paranoid; what sort of language do you use with each other? Do you talk in strictly musical terms, or do you use language that describes feelings (like ‘paranoid’)?

SH: Sometimes we can use technical language. I feel like my music theory is pretty limited, but Adam and Ian have a pretty good grasp on most of it; I was also in band class, so I feel like between us we still can communicate like that. But it’s usually more effective to communicate in terms of feelings. Even if it’s not the actual feeling, but it’s just the intention of it that helps to move [a song] in a certain direction. Instead of being like, ‘this has to have a tinny sound,’ or a very articulate sound, we’ll say, ‘just make it sound like you’re really uncomfortable and you don’t want to be here.’ I feel like it has the same effect.

Stylus: There is clarity in using that technical language.

SH: Yeah, people didn’t invent that shit just to show off. It’s actually useful stuff.

Stylus: What sort of audience interaction do you strive for? What do you guys do to help calm yourselves before playing?

SH: I usually just get really drunk and eat bananas, but I think that’s typical of most people.

Stylus: Yeah, bananas especially. What is it about bananas? I’m curious.

SH: Apparently the potassium makes you less nervous. I honestly don’t really expect anything of audiences, because I usually don’t really look at the audience. I like the idea of being a lounge band, where you just hang out in the corner and people do their own thing, and you’re just happening.

Stylus: Yeah, totally. It’s almost that it’s less obtrusive.

SH: I think that if people want to have a conversation, they should be able to have a conversation. [The band] shouldn’t always have to be the centre of focus. I mean, I get that people go to shows to listen to music, but it’s also a pretty social event. I don’t understand why the only thing that you can really do is get your ears blown out.

IE: And we play loud enough so that if someone wants to hear us play, they can definitely move forward. If someone wants to have a conversation, I really don’t mind.

At this point, Ian and Stefan’s roommate, Kipp Kocay (who’s been sitting through the interview), interjects.

Kipp Kocay: It’s like, do you want people on dates to go to your shows? People on dates need to talk.

SH: Well, maybe they could just start making out, out of nowhere.

IE: We should give a free shirt to a couple that makes out.

Keep your ears to the ground for the upcoming release of Animal Teeth’s new album. Find the band on Facebook at, and Bandcamp at