It's hard to make the end of the world look like fun, but Tops manage pretty well with the animated
Interview by Zofia Ciechowska
Photos shot by Claire Milbrath in Montreal, Canada.
Some might say that time is what prevents everything from happening all at once. But it’s not that simple for Montreal band TOPS. For Jane Penny, the band’s vocalist, time is a string of premonitions, dreams and multi-sensory experiences that her music evokes. With her bandmate David, the two guide us through the labyrinthine geographies of significant places and times that make TOPS who they are. Here’s a hint: not the 1970s
‘When I make music I see it coming from a place that is beyond a time I can describe. I would never want to live in a different time’
Do you ever experience déjà vu?
Jane: It’s funny when you’re on tour because you’ll return to the same places and you get a sense of déjà vu, but there’s also a sense of returning to a place which only exists in the past but also in the now, it’s like a long-lost relationship that you’re barely retaining with a city. Déjà vu for me is related with the uncanny, I get that feeling sometimes when I’m around people that I’m very close with. I can take a look at them and I catch a glimpse of what they’re going to look like when they’re old, or what they looked like when they were young, it’s like a flashback of their eternal self.
David: I experienced déjà vu recently. I was shirtless. I was putting on a yellow shirt in a sunny room. And the sun shone through the shirt and I was like, ‘Shit, déjà vu.’ Later I figured out what it was. When I was a little kid I had a yellow soccer jersey. I felt like I was putting on my soccer jersey as a six year old. That was cool. I think a part of déjà vu is not just looking back, but forward. It borders on premonition. Its function is to separate you from the present.
‘The narrative of my dreams differs, but they happen in the same places, not too distant from reality, but with more trapdoors, mazes and a fluidity between spaces’
What about prophetic dreams?
Jane: I like sleeping in to dream, I do that more often than I should. And the other day I woke up from a dream screaming. It was a really intense, multi-episodic dream that made me wake up in terror. I had to write it down. I don’t know if you get this, but often I’ll combine places into these new maze-like geographies and weird architectural structures that I’ll revisit a lot. The narrative of my dreams differs, but they happen in the same places, which are not too distant from reality, but with more trapdoors, mazes and a fluidity between spaces. The dream I wrote down was set in a network of practice studios and odd, dirty, open spaces in Montreal, but set on the island of Bowen near Vancouver where my parents have moved. It was right before our record Picture You Staringcame out, so I think there was definitely some anxiety around it.
In what way is nostalgia important to you as a band and in what way is it irrelevant?
Jane: It’s complicated for me, because when I make music I see it coming from a place that is beyond a time I can describe. I would never want to live in a different time. My ability to experience all of the music and culture that is around me right now is facilitated by the fact that I am at the furthest point in the future that I will ever be. I feel that the urge to compare our music to ’70s sounds, even though it’s something that we’ve never openly opposed, does not have much value. I think people confuse emotion and the physical sensation of warmth that they get from our recordings with some kind of reference to something that is meaningful to them, but that oldies vibe that they’re getting is their own doing. For me the most important thing is to not replicate something from the past, but to make something that feels emotional and overtakes your senses right at this moment.
TOPS play on 28 November at De Nieuwe Anita in Amsterdam. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members.