Interview :: Softswitch

bands faces reflected in a black mirror

by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Stylus caught up with Softswitch at No Fun Club. Their self-deprecating sense of humour might only bleakly shine through in print compared to the way it does in person. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness. 

Stylus: Can you tell me a little about your upcoming self titled EP?

Ryan McPherson: We recorded them like a year ago. It’s kinda weird because, for us, they aren’t at all new. But no one has heard them yet, so that’s kind of fun. I guess we played them once or twice last year. We are finally going to get them out, and that means we can start working on the next recording. 

S: What inspired it?

Ryan: With our process, what we do is we mess around until we land on a sound that we like, and then I will waste everyone’s time for weeks or months on end while I decide what kind of words to put to that. Eventually, we had lyrics, and we changed the time, making some parts shorter or longer to fix the flow. I guess that’s a long way of saying we don’t really have a concept. The songs are all about different things. I guess things are influenced by life in the ends times kind of thing. There is a song about the end of reality. There’s a song about the death of someone that no one was sure actually existed in the first place. There’s a song about, I don’t know, depression. 

Rob Hill: Just really happy stuff. 

Ryan: Just really upbeat with this one. 

Rob: We were all in a dark place.

Ryan: Looking forward to middle age.

Suzy Keller: I mean, I do, and I’m not in a dark place. I think we had a lot of time between our first EP; that one came together super quick, and this one, we had years in between, so we got to take our time with it. It’s a big project. 

Rob: It still doesn’t feel like a real band. I see a lot of bands come through here (No Fun Club), and they have the whiteboard and are reworking choruses and stuff. This seems to be fairly intuitive for us, which I guess it’s good, or we will pretend that it’s good. 

Ryan: We recorded most of the EP in one weekend, then took weeks to do the vocals in a number of shorter sessions when the studio wasn’t in use. Drew from the band Blessed helped a ton with the vocals process and was very patient with me as I worked through the process. When we recorded these songs, we’d never performed them live previously, so it made it a bit challenging to figure out what the right way to do certain things would be.

Our previous EP (Happiness) was mixed and mastered by Steve Albini and Bob Weston. We actually went to Chicago to sit with Steve in person for it. This one was mixed by Jace Lasek working remotely, so it was a bit of a different process with us all listening to a prospective mix and then comparing notes and finally sending feedback to get things tweaked. The mastering was hands-off for us in both cases, we sent files out, and they came back louder and clearer.

S: Your first single for the EP came out. How was it received? Can you tell me about the song?

Ryan: Well, our friends seem to really like it. We’ve had some positive feedback about it. Our mixing guy Jace said he really liked it.

Rob: It’s pretty weird and bleak. We got some good feedback from Suzy’s parents. 

Suzy: Our best song yet, and we are very mysterious. 

S: I can think of worse things to be than mysterious. 

Suzy: We’ve had a core group of people that are very supportive of us, so feedback from that group it means a lot.

Rob: My dad responded like, “pretty bleak, Rob, don’t listen to too much of it. Are you in a bad place?”

Suzy: But it doesn’t feel like that. For me when I am playing, I don’t feel that way. I have lots of fun playing the songs. 

S: Is there a release show?

Rob: May 5 at the Handsome Daughter with Fold Paper and Beth. We reached out to Real Love and said we have music coming out; would you put on a show? They were awesome. They were like, name any bands in town, and we got the two bands we wanted. We are lucky. I feel like we should be opening for them. I’m pretty jazzed. 

Ryan: It’s really cool to be doing this with Beth. We played with them and Dri Hiev back in 2019 with our original lineup. Personally, I’m really looking forward to Fold Paper, too, I’ve been out of town the last couple of times they’ve played, but Alex from Fold Paper used to be in a great band called Pleasure Dens, that my previous band Permanent Mistake did a few shows with. So it’s nice that neither band instantly declined doing the show based on our being there anyways.

S: How did Softswitch start?

Rob: Suzy wanted to start a band. I answered her ad. 

Ryan: And then a year later, you (Suzy) wrote back to me. 

Suzy: There used to be a group called Not Enough that was in the city, and they were focusing on promoting shows for women and non-binary musicians, and there was a message board, and I posted something about looking for a band. Unfortunately, Facebook had a glitch; I didn’t see it until a year later. So we started talking, and I knew Rob previously. 

Rob: This is all Suzy’s fault.

Suzy: This is 7-8 years now.

Ryan: Yeah, it takes us a long time to do anything. Then we discovered the magic of setting deadlines for ourselves. The only way that anything happens. We signed up for the release show, so now we have to finish the songs. 

S: What’s your favourite song?

Ryan: I think the first one is my favourite. 

Suzy: I like it. I worked on the video for it with Eddie (Eduardo) Diaz. 

S: Can you tell me about the video process?

Suzy: I took Ryan’s concept behind the song and placed it in a Winnipeg hotel, and there is this ghost walking around the hotel having a good time. Even though it’s kind of bleak and dark, that’s where my head was going. He (Eduardo) did it via zoom, and he did all the hard work. I had all the ideas for his hard work, and he put up with it. 

Stylus caught up with Softswitch at No Fun Club. Their self-deprecating sense of humour might only bleakly shine through in print compared to the way it does in person. 

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