The 12th Annual KNDS Block Party continues the tradition of bringing acts that highlight the contemporary alternative music scene. This year, the campus radio station brings in indie rock band TOPS of Montreal, Quebec.
TOPS writes, records and produces their own work to create a collection of songs that demonstrate their knack for pop craftsmanship. The band’s musical skill is evident in their sleek pop sound with a punk mentality. TOPS craft intimate, danceable songs that will cozily fill any venue in the live setting.
The four-piece band, consisting of Jane Penny, David Carriere, Riley Fleck and Alana DeVito, bring their talent to the Aquarium on Saturday, April 16.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and content.
Jack Hastings: Has TOPS ever played Fargo before?
Jane Penny, lead singer: Nope, we never have.
JH: Is there anything you are looking forward to this particular show.
JP: Well, I grew up, and so did our guitar player David [Carriere], in Edmonton, Canada. It’s kind of close to Montana so we have a similar regional accent. I feel like Edmonton is kind of Midwest, quite a bit. I’m looking forward to doing a comparison there.
JH: Right now, the music scene in Montreal is really thriving with artists achieving great acclaim, such as Grimes and Mac Demarco. Do you think that being in such an influential scene helped foster the development of TOPS?
JP: Yeah, I think the community in Montreal is just really, really open and encouraging of the music, especially people that are doing something different. There’s a lot of people that are just musicians themselves. There’s a certain amount of understanding and kind of just a creative energy there, which is really nice. I think Montreal has been big for us.
JH: When you go from album to album, do you have a picture in mind of the transition you want to make as a band?
JP: I think so. We kind of have intentions of the direction we want to go in and the type of production we want to have. So we need to come up with a specific decision for that. Also, a lot of it is just how you develop, because I feel we are all pretty young, or at least, especially for me, I feel like I am just changing as a musician all the time.
I mean, where we develop is mostly in our skills. There is a certain amount of where the change is just a natural progression. You just get better but you also make decisions, like we made a conscious decision to make it kind of soft and pillowy. I feel like with the next record it’s definitely going a different direction but also still being the same band.
JH: So you produce you own records, right?
JP: Yep, we record and produce it ourselves.
JH: Do you find that this gives you full artistic control over the band’s finished product?
JP: Yeah, it gives you the time to do it because you don’t have to work with any constraints. I feel like you can be a lot more intentional with the recording.
JH: Along with your approach to producing music, do you also have an approach to how you convey a certain image to your fans and the public?
JP: Yeah, I think there is definitely an artistic direction that I wanted to follow with the last record. There were certain colors that we consciously chose. We also wanted to include our community in it.
So in “Way to be Loved,” for example, we had all our friends come to the office. Everything we are trying to do is to express where we feel it’s coming from. I see the visual component as artistic, but I also feel like sincerity is important to me.
In a lot of ways, we are musicians before anything else. I try not to overweigh the visual component.
JH: Where do you draw your influences from?
JP: I think it comes from a lot of different places; everyone has their own taste. We all really love pop and artists from the ‘80s and ‘90s. We all really like a lot of that lighter music.
Lyrically, I’m really inspired by people that have a personality and their own voice in the lyrics, like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. We kind of look to make it feel like you really get to know the person behind the song.
JH: What do you hope listeners gain from your music?
JP: Honestly, with the music itself, I feel like as a female songwriter I want women to relate to the songs. I think there are a lot more songs written about women than to women. I want the songs to sound like they are coming from a real place.
Other than that, I hope that people that enjoy listening to our music find it and that it helps them out. I’ve had people say that it just really helps them romantically and in relationships but I’ve also heard people say that when they are going through really hard times they listen to it. As long as it means anything I’m pretty much really grateful.
When: Doors open at 5 p.m., April 16
Where: The Aquarium
Price: $10, advance tickets available from Orange Records
More Info: Event Facebook page