Music

Junior Boys talk sixth album, Big Black Coat

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When it comes to interviews, Jeremy Greenspan of electro-pop duo Junior Boys has one customary rule:

“If anyone is interviewing me from a specific city, I like to be near someone from that city,” Greenspan says over the phone from his hometown of Hamilton, ON. With that in mind, in order for that statement to have any weight that would mean Greenspan would have to be around someone from Edmonton during the time of our interview. But, not surprisingly, Greenspan came through by having loafed around at his friend’s—and former Edmontonian—Oliver Knutton’s clothing store, O’s Clothes, for our scheduled chat.

Greenspan and bandmate Matt Didemus are gearing up for their second round of tour dates, which kicks off on Sept 9 in Montreal and ventures out to the Canadian prairies (Winnipeg, Regina, and Edmonton), United States and finally Mexico, for their sixth studio album, Big Black Coat.

Much of the Junior Boys’ albums have leaned more towards an intimate synth-pop aesthetic, fleshed out by Greenspan’s lush vocals and light R&B disposition. But, Big Black Coat, which was released earlier this year, comes five years after 2011’s It’s All True, and reveals a departure from those sounds established on their first three records—Last Exit (2004), So This Is Goodbye (2006) and Begone Dull Care (2009)—towards heavier electronics that are redolent of early Detroit techno and house music.

That techno sound was not a deliberate decision, says Greenspan, noting that he doesn’t typically have a preconceived plan when it comes to writing new material for a record. Instead, Greenspan ascribes that techno restoration to a sense of “nostalgia” as a way of acknowledging those roots of electronic music.

“It’s hard to know what motivates you to make changes in your sound… There wasn’t much of a vision in terms of [this album]. I don’t really do too much thinking,” Greenspan says with a wry laugh. “I just get down to work and throw things at the wall and see what we like.”

Despite the nods to Detroit techno, Big Black Coat is still characteristically a Junior Boys record with its subdued, introverted lyric structure and Greenspan’s lush falsetto—singing higher than would normally be considered his range. There’s still tons of R&B flavours across the 11 tracks (“I always listen to a lot of R&B,” Greenspan says) that the saturation of industrial techno never becomes too pervasive.

As for the almost half-decade break between albums? Greenspan did not anticipate that long of a break.

He and Didemus had hoped to release another album shortly after It’s All True but they had a change of heart.

“We just didn’t like any of that material, so we didn’t release it. At the same time, I was working on Jessy Lanza’s record, and I was much committed to that at the time and much more excited about that,” he says. “When that came out and did so much better than I would have thought that’s when I felt re-energized to do other stuff. So, I scrapped everything we had [previously] done and we started Big Black Coat fresh.”

Sat, Sept 17 (8 pm)
W/ Egyptrixx, Borys
Starlite Room, $20

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