Saturday, July 21
Any honest artist will tell you that there are no new ideas its just how you make them your own. les.petits are even more honest than most. In the liner notes of the Calgary collectives recent double EP full-length, The Mighty Antlers of Song, there is a list of the novels, magazines, textbooks and music that have influenced the band. Its more than a laundry list of favourites, or even a self-serving hipster checklist. According to guitarist Gabriel Collins, there is a much more practical reason for the bibliography.
"The list was compiled mainly where we felt that we could be in violation of copyright if we didnt reference it in some way," he says. "There are actual snippets of lines or ideas or characters that have been stolen from each of those sources."
Before those artists have their legal team spring into action, it should be noted that les.petits arent lifting those lines maliciously. The haunting hand-plucked cover of Chad Van Gaalens "Chronograph #1" (fully credited, by the way) is easily recognizable. The rest of the time, les.petits use acoustic pop to twist source material from Veda Hille, The New 1-2, Margaret Atwood and Richard Adams in such a way that it has become undeniably theirs.
"The whole esthetic of it is built out of other peoples creations," says Collins. "All of the songwriting is a pale attempt to try and embellish these things that already (exist)."
Its a fitting method of operation for a band that started almost accidentally. Collins and his wife Rebecca Taves, the brains behind les.petits, started playing together when they met three years ago. He had played guitar since junior high, and she was an opera singer with a degree in music from the University of Manitoba. "The first few dates were actually spent in the bedroom, strumming the guitar with her teaching me how to sing," says Collins.
As the pair was putting songs together, Collins was busy engineering recordings for such Calgary luminaries as XL Birdsuit, Vailhalen and Dolly Sillito. When it came time to record his own material, Collins called in favours from those artists. The result was a pair of EPs that were originally released when Collins and Taves got married on Canada Day last year.
"The EPs themselves were released at our wedding," says Collins. "They were limited edition. I think 30 copies ended up surfacing by the time we got wed mostly bought by friends and family."
And with that release, les.petits had become a "real band." The only problem was, they hadnt played any shows. Collins strummed the guitar in his dining room, but was apprehensive about taking the songs out of the house. After some confidence building from Taves, les.petits built a band and made the move from the studio to the stage.
These days the six-piece lineup for les.petits stands in stark contrast to the bands name. In addition to Collins and Taves, the band features Vailhalens Chris Vail on organ and mandolin, Sillito on glockenspiel, The Bent Spoon Ensembles Chris Dadge on drums and Hot Little Rockets Matt Swan on bass. Adding to their super group mystique, Calgarys Saved by Radio record label is now reissuing the bands first two EPs as the aforementioned The Mighty Antlers of Song. With a killer band backing them and label support in place, there is only one thing left for a self respecting Calgary band to do break up.
Once again, theres nothing malicious in the act. Simply put, Collins and Taves are moving to Vancouver to go back to school at the end of the summer. He will be taking his undergrad in mathematics, shell study agro-ecology, and the band will strip down to an iPod-backed two-piece. Still, if you know les.petits musical history, its not a surprise. Despite her schooling, Taves gave up opera in favour of indie rock because she didnt want to have to commit to just one thing. Collins, on the other hand, simply cant be bothered to force the music when it doesnt want to come.
"When the muse strikes, I am her bitch, but other than that, Im not one to wrangle inspiration," says Collins. "It either comes and I enjoy strumming the guitar in the kitchen or I just have better things to do with my life."
And so, just as quietly as it started, this chapter of les.petits comes to a close.
CELEB TOP FIVE
The top five pieces of other peoples art that have been ripped off by les.petits.
1. The Journal of Nature
2. You Do Not Live in This World Alone by Veda Hille
3. In Case of Emergence by The New 1-2
4. The Lioness by Songs:Ohia
5. The Suzuki Method of Music