Posi Talk: An Interview with Arietta
Two years ago, I only knew Shehzaad Jiwani as a fellow music critic and writer that used to go to the same high school as me, making due at a local record shop in downtown Toronto. I wouldn’t have guessed that two years later his band, Arietta, would be making a big name for themselves in the local indie circuit in support of their phenomenal debut full-length Migration, a record that has catchier choruses than a Fall Out Boy record (without the guilt). I managed to catch Shehzaad and engage him in conversation long enough to discuss touring, new material, and how much he loves his bandmates, among other things.
So first off, who are you, what band are you in, and what do you do?
I’m Shehzaad, I play drums in Arietta.
Last time I talked to you (May of last year for Chart), you guys had just released Migration to some solid praise. How has that held up over the last year? People still digging it?
I think people are still into it. To 99.9% of the world, the album is still pretty much brand new, but to us it’s sort of weird to be playing the record that we essentially wrote in 2008. I think people still have good things to say about it. We’re still touring behind it after a bit of a break towards the end of last year, so yeah. The iron’s still hot, if that’s what you’re asking.
Well that was what I was going to get to next: Touring. You guys have played a good chunk of shows over the last year. Where has touring in support of Migration taken you so far? I have seen a bunch of Ontario dates (I still cannot believe you are playing Orillia!), but where else have you guys been?
Haha, we’ve played there before, actually, in this big farmhouse. It was pretty rad. So far we’ve been out east and all around Ontario. We’re planning on heading out west to the far reaches of Canada this summer, and hopefully into the States before the end of the year.
I know you guys have been recording some demos. Any chance new material surfaces by the end of the year, or are you guys just focusing on playing shows?
Well like I said, the record is old as hell for us. Some of those songs were kicking around before Kyle and I were even in the band, so we have been pretty stoked on writing new tunes. Right now we’re more focused on playing shows and playing in every single part of the country, but we are working on some songs for an upcoming EP that we are going to put out either at the end of this year or early next year. It’s too early to tell as it’s just an idea right now, but we’re the kind of band that moves forward really quickly. We write the songs, and we’re kind of on to the next thing after that. Touring behind this record for so long, we’re dying to play new songs. We’re already playing one of them at shows, so we figure it won’t be long until we have something new out. Expect some ultra rare
vinyl for 2011.
Well now you’re officially an indie band
Right. 10″ coloured vinyl EP, limited to 333 copies, sold only in record stores in Japan.
Is the new song the same style as the tracks found on Migration? Or is the new material leaning towards something different?
It’s definitely still an Arietta song but I think it represents us as a band better than any of the songs on Migration. It’s funny because a lot of people have told us that the album is all over the place in terms of influences, but I think the new songs are way more diametrically opposed in terms of where we’re coming from.
I’m very excited for the new stuff because, even though we’ve always been a very collaborative band, the songs now are such a perfect representation of each individual member’s tastes and musical background. You could say the songs sound like Small Brown Bike, Sea And Cake and American Football, all at the same time. I’ve never been in a band this democratic before, and we’re all stoked on that.
But yeah, I would say the songs we’re working on are a bit more varied. Overall they are a bit darker, but if you liked Migration, you will probably understand them as a logical progression for us.
I’m liking the American Football comparison already. Are there darker lyrical themes as well, or just musically?
I don’t think the lyrics are particularly dark, just personal. Tyler is really good at finding the middle ground between writing about his own experiences but making it abstract enough that you can’t pinpoint exactly what he’s talking about. They generally represent the other guys in the band and how we’re feeling at that point in time, oddly enough. But no, I think I just meant that the music is a bit more dark. Not dark in terms of heaviness or anything like that, but we wrote the songs in the winter, we weren’t touring and people were a bit frustrated for various personal reasons, so I think that frustration and tense dynamic comes through in the music in a big way.
It is so much easier to write emotionally provocative music when you’re pissed, isn’t it? I can’t write happy music when I’m happy, but I can write angry music when i’m angry.
I don’t think the vibe is ever “pissed” for Tyler or any of us. More frustrated. He’s really good at articulating his frustrations so that it never sounds whiny, and it is generally portrayed in a situational light, like it’s something that’s happening in that moment. I like that way more than just being angry at some vague entity.
What is the songwriting process for you guys?
The songwriting process has changed a bit recently. Migration is a bit of a weird album in that it was essentially written over the course of several years, and Sean was the main creative force behind those songs in terms of bringing ideas to the table. This was also at a time when various members were coming and going, so he was always the central songwriter in that time. By the time Kyle and I joined the band, it became a lot more democratic. The rest of the band is very hands-on in terms of changing parts and rearranging the song. Tyler writes my drum parts as much as I write his melodies. So, generally there is a central idea, and we work around that. I do think that’s a rarity, for a band to be so democratic. It’s a lot more rewarding to play a song that
everyone has had an equal part in writing.
Well it has to be nice to play parts of songs that you can say “I wrote that part and it is fuckin awesome”
Haha, yeah exactly. “Oh, you like that part? Yeah, I wrote that.”
Speaking of awesome, have you heard the new Minus the Bear song? You have always mentioned how much you dig them.
Yeah. I heard a few, actually. The one I liked the most isn’t gonna be on the album which is a bummer.
Their new song “My Time” uses an omnichord throughout the entire song. I heard some MTB influence on Migration, so I think you should use an omnichord on one of your new tracks.
Noted. Although Pat isn’t in the band anymore, so we need to find a new source of obscure instruments.
What kind of instruments made their way onto Migration?
We had a lot of interesting stuff on there. There was some theramin, a lot of keys and organs, strings… We had violin and upright bass. Sean’s brother came in and did some horns on a song. My favourite addition was the slide guitar on one of the tracks. That’s the fun part about being in the studio. You can listen to the songs and decide what would go well with each song.
But didn’t you mention last time we talked that the recording process was brutally long?
It was about eight months. A lot of that was pre-production. We went into the studio before we were fully ready to go in, thus we spent a lot more time than we thought we would. In the end it was worth it, because the record is something we’re all incredibly proud of, but I don’t think we’ll ever take that long to make an album again. In retrospect, though, we needed those eight months to really solidify ourselves as not only a tight band but as best friends. Spending every single day of the year with four other guys is either going to tear you apart or make you best friends, and we really did become that close during that time because we were all we had. I think three of us broke up with our very long-term girlfriends at the time, and we essentially just holed up in there and vented, bonded, argued and goofed off for that period of time. We learned each other’s ticks and I don’t think we’d be as close as we are without it.
I think being good friends in a band is something that is severely overlooked by a lot of younger bands trying to get something going. Writing music together is a very intimate experience, and if you have issue with someone, it is really hard to focus and get the best out of each other.
Yeah, but a lot of people don’t realize that the majority of bands aren’t really friends. I could never be in a band like that, with all session players or something. It’s so much more of a positive experience when you’re touring or recording with people you love. I love the music we make together and I love touring, but honestly, I just love hanging out with my band. We spend all of our time off together and that’s my favourite thing about being in Arietta. If I left the band I’d probably still tour with them just to hang out.
When my band finally solidified our lineup, I was lucky, cause I was going in with two new friends and one of my old good friends. And I think that on top of it being important for touring, it is important when doing quality control on music. It is a lot easier to say to a friend that his idea sucks compared to some guy that you just kind of know.
I totally agree. I think there are pros and cons to both, but I personally could never do it the other way.
Well like any relationship, there are strains along the way, but as cliche as it sounds, you come out stronger in the end. I think that is why bands that stick together continue to push each other and write more expansive music.
Do any of you guys have other bands that you are involved with?
Yeah. Sean writes a lot of solo stuff, because he thinks he’s Dallas Green. No, I’m kidding. It’s nothing like that. Brian, Tyler and I have a band called Shark Week along with Pat which is very riffy. I’m in another band with Cam from Canyon City called Greys, which we started in the middle of the recording process of Migration. I think if Arietta ever broke up we would just start another band with essentially all the same people as before, but rotate on instruments and be way more fucked up in terms of the music we made.
That sounds wicked. Any material available from any of the other bands?
Not really. Maybe some more shows this summer. I’d love to get stuff going with Greys, and I know Sean wants to record all of his solo stuff, but Arietta is our full time thing.
Any label interest with Arietta?
We run our own label. I can’t really talk about label happenings outside of that.
Oh wicked. So CMW is just about upon us. Any bands you are dying to see?
Thursday of CMW is going to be fun because a bunch of our friends are playing that same day, and we’re not playing until way later, so we get to hang out with everybody then play our own set. Our buddies in Burning Love are playing with Harvey Milk and Coalesce, then the Great Bloomers are on right before us at the Horseshoe, and they’re our best friends, so it’s going to be a big party.
For those wondering, when and where do you guys play this upcoming week?
We’re playing on Thursday at the Horseshoe at around 2 AM, and Friday at Sneaky Dee’s at about 11 PM, if you couldn’t stay up late enough the night before.
Awesome. And that about wraps it up I think. Anything you want to say? Any records you want to push? Now is your chance.
That about does it, dude. We’re going to be touring a shitload in the next few weeks and months, so wherever you are, come hang out. Other than that I’m good. All the records I listen to these days are 20 years old anyway.