wears the trousers magazine

introducing erin lang
May 26, 2009, 1:34 am
Filed under: feature, mp3, video, voice on the verge | Tags: , , , ,


voice on the verge #35: erin lang

visit Erin on Myspace

Canadian singer-songwriter Erin Lang first sprang to our attention as the support act for Marissa Nadler’s recent London gig at The Luminaire where she and her band previewed tracks from her upcoming debut album Lost & Found, as well as songs from her recent EP Foundlings & Strays, which showed off her impeccable indie-rock connections with a remix from Jimmy Tamborello aka Dntel. Born in Montreal to her puppeteer mum and rock star dad, Erin was destined for an artistic life and spent four years or so playing keyboards for Toronto’s New Wave rockers Tuuli before embarking on a solo career. A meeting with ex-Cure member Roger O’Donnell turned out to provide the collaborative force she needed to take her music further, and she’s been developing her quietly idiosyncratic style ever since. Now back in her hometown of Toronto after completing the album at a studio nestled among the hills of Bavaria, Erin continues to practice her elaborate eye makeup in preparation for when she conquers the world. Wears The Trousers despatched our trusty questionnaire to collect some further insight, and this is what we uncovered.

* * *

What’s your middle name?

I used to tell people when I was a kid that my middle name was October Snow, though it is really Stephanie Turgeon. People still ask me about it if I haven’t seen them since school, and when I tell them I had made it up they are really upset!

What were you like at school?

When I was little I was so shy and a total loner, drawing endless pictures of horses in a corner. When I turned 13 I became ridiculously outgoing and crazy and wacky, and was friends with absolutely everyone. I suddenly had such confidence and was so exuberantly happy.

What did you listen to when you were growing up?

I desperately wanted to have lived in the ’60s. I wore bell bottoms and painted peace signs on my face for school every day, and I listened to tons of Hendrix and Grateful Dead. I was into The Beatles since I was very small. I stared playing trumpet at school when I was 10 and I learned every Beatles song in the ‘Big Beatles Songbook’. Lots of Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa, and then I got into a lot of Canadian pop from the East coast – Sloan, Jale, Superfriends and Thrush Hermit – and a lot of Britpop like Pulp and Dodgy and The Lightning Seeds.

What was the first band you saw in concert?

My dad was the bass player in a big Canadian rock band in the ’70s (April Wine), and so, of course, as a very little girl I was sitting on the side of the stage or doing ‘ballet’ in the aisle during soundcheck, welcoming people to the afterparties, and actually said pleadingly to my parents at some point as a two or three year old, “No more limousines”. The first band I bought a ticket to see with birthday money was Simon & Garfunkel when they did a reunion tour, when I was nine or so.

What’s the biggest guilty pleasure in your record collection?

Bad English, ‘When I See You Smile’.

What did you want to be until you decided to become a musician…if you ever did ‘decide’ that is!

I wanted to be a vet or a horse breeder, then a painter or an actor. It took me a surprisingly long time to see the obvious.

Which female musicians have most inspired you?

Björk, Stina Nordenstam, Cat Power, Juana Molina, PJ Harvey, Tanya Donelly, Françoiz Breut, Hope Sandoval, Joni Mitchell.

Tell us about your favourite instrument…

Is it strange I am feeling disloyal having to single one out? I love my ukulele. A few years ago I wrote a song with kind of a high guitar part and an island theme, and even though I had never played a ukulele in my life I had the idea that this song would sound great on one. At the time I was deep in the English countryside without a ukulele shop within a day’s drive so I ordered it on the internet, seeking the advice of the dealer since I had no idea what I wanted. When it came it felt like Christmas. It has such an instantly happy sound I felt like I had been playing it my whole life and the song instantly sounded just right.

Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?

I am addicted to learning new instruments. Sometimes I feel like I should stop and focus on the ones I do play but I would love to learn cello and harp. The only thing stopping me is how expensive those instruments are!

What’s your funniest studio memory?

Well, Mario Thaler who produced my album is so hilarious that my studio video diary practically turned into ‘The Mario Show’,  but I think the funniest moment was when Mario and Roger O’Donnell (musical director and co-writer) were both trying to ‘conduct’ me through recording this guitar part with tricky timing, each with different drumsticks or pens. Watching the two of them, they were doing totally opposite things, swinging their arms around and falling about laughing. Both of them were totally wrong.

Have you ever written a song that wasn’t in English?

I am French Canadian but my French is not that great anymore, my mum’s is much better. Last year my mum was over and I was strumming the ukulele and we spontaneously made up a song in French, just because it kind of fit the chords and strumming pattern. The lyrics didn’t make that much sense but just the way words sounded, so dramatic and romantic! It was easy (with my mum’s help). I have wanted to learn Portuguese for some years because I think that is a language that lyrics just flow so well with music; it’s so soft and romantic.

What’s your favourite song to cover and why?

Lately I have been really enjoying doing a cover of ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ (made famous by Elvis) on the ukulele because people have been singing along! I love the sound of voices together, I think it is part of some base human instinct that we are meant to sing together, and to a large degree it has become less of a pastime. On that note, I really want to do a cover of ‘Mon Cœur Est Un Violon’ with my mum and my grandmother, I just think it would be magical.

What kind of person would have sex to your music?

Couples who make pancakes and French toast for each other for breakfast in bed; they have a lot of plants but have had troubled love lives. People who like to touch each other’s faces for hours. People who wake up to watch thunderstorms in the night.

What’s your favourite poem and how much of it can you recite from memory?

‘One For Old Snaggle-Tooth’ by Charles Bukowski. I can’t recite it sadly. I decided this was my favourite poem quite a few years ago, though there are many others. I think of the sentiment often but don’t know the words. I love to find the romance in the darkest places. People usually think that Bukowski is an unlikely favourite poet for me but there is such true love in his gruff cynical darkness that it shines all the more brightly.

If you could star in any TV show, past or current, which would it be and what kind of character would you play?

I love ‘Murder, She Wrote’, I would love to be Jessica Fletcher’s sidekick, like Sherlock’s Watson. I would wear glasses and carry a little flip pad that I would be scribbling in all the time taking down clues. And I would be an aspiring mystery writer; Jessica would be my mentor, she would be very encouraging. Also, this is a little different, but if Ainsley Hariott needed an assistant on ‘Ready Steady Cook’ (my second favourite show) I would love to be on that!

What was the last good book you read and how did it affect you?

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I went through a lot of strange stuff last year and this book arrived in the mail from my friend (Australian singer) Lenka. For some reason she had taken the book jacket off so it was just black. I just dove into it not knowing anything about it and loved it from the first page. It is so funny and dark and somehow the perfect escape into this quirky, heart-wrenching world. I really needed this exact book at that exact time.

How are you most likely to die and what would you want written on your headstone?

I think I am most likely to die in a car crash trying to avoid an animal on the road ,but as far as the headstone is concerned, when I was in the studio in Germany there was a tombstone shop across from the supermarket and there was a great one that was a huge giraffe. I really wanted to have that for myself and have written on it “I really stuck my neck out”.

What’s your tipple?

Red wine.

What are your pet hates?

It drives me crazy when you are watching a great movie, really drawn in, and then someone reads out a phone number and it starts with the Hollywood allotted number 555. It breaks the spell in three little numbers. I also don’t like when people abbreviate things like PB&J (peanut butter and jelly); really, do you not have the time to say the words? There is something so nice about the phrase as well; just a shame to abbreviate it.

Would you rather see a ghost or simply have a piece of toast and watch the evening news?

I would love to see a ghost. Any ghost really. Sometimes I feel like I do see one ghost. I think it is probably a dream but every now and then I have a ‘dream’ about my friend who died when we were in high school, and it is such an unusual dream and he says things that I think, ‘how could I have invented that?’ It is so nice to see him. I love toast too, a dark rye spread with butter and honey and slices of avocado, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper.

* * *

Alan Pedder

FREE MP3: Erin Lang, ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ [via Last.fm]


‘Happy To See You’

‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’

‘You’re Better Off’ [Dntel remix]


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