Carnival Youth Interview
Carnival Youth rehearsal space, Latvia
We spoke to Carnival Youth before their first tour of Canada. During our discussion, Randal gets schooled in the size of Europe, we spoke about the Olympics of choir music, Latvia’s favourite Canadian bands, how to get Bill Murray to make you a Gin & Tonic and thick bread.
Montreal Rocks: You have a lot of stuff planned for Canada in the next couple of weeks, so you will be very busy here.
Emīls: Hopefully. First time there.
MR: I was going to ask that. It’s your first time visiting Canada?
Emīls: Yeah, yeah. We are very excited. We love many bands that come from Canada. I think Montreal is the capital of indie music.
MR: Yes, we have a pretty lively music scene. I also have to give props to Toronto. They have some pretty big bands as well. There is a good comradery between all the musicians and the bands. They tour a lot.
For you guys, in Europe, I would think that you would have an advantage because every country is relatively close. You can take a train, or something, and visit other countries. It’s more difficult for us.
Emīls: In Canada?
MR: In Latvia. You are still kind of on an edge there…
Emīls: Yeah, yeah. We are part of Europe. We have toured a couple of times with a van, through Europe. Can’t you tour with a van through Canada as well?
MR: I’m not a musician, I just interview you guys.
Emīls: Yeah, I know, but are the distances super huge?
MR: It would take three really tough days, four or even five days to go from one end the other. Let’s say Montreal to Vancouver, it’s a very long distance. It’s a four and half hour flight.
Emīls: Europe is not that small. Usually when we go on tour, the first drive is 24 hours to get through Poland, then the middle of Germany. From there, it’s much easier.
Edgars: Yeah, then it’s usually 6 to 10-hour drive per day till the next venue.
MR: So…you are doing big days. Tell us a little about the vibe of Latvia, for those who maybe don’t know the country. The landscape is very flat, by the Baltic Sea.
Emīls: Yes. We are a country with many forests. A very green country. I think the air is the freshest here.
Edgars: The landscape is flat. Our highest hill is 300 meters.
Emīls: …but we call it mountain. Basically, the whole country is a capital country, almost. Because half of the population lives in the capital. It’s a million people living in Riga, the capital.
Edgars: Maybe not so many, but almost, yeah.
Emīls: We have a lot of space and big fields in the countryside.
MR: Do you guys have traditional music that has been passed on, generation to generation?
Emīls: Yes, we have. Before Latvia was founded in 1918, there was a guy who walked around every house and collected these folk poems, given from generation to generation.
Edgars: He collected over a million.
MR: Really? Wow.
Emīls: Yeah, and they are full of knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors. (Roberts enters) Yeah, we have a celebration every four years. It’s like the Olympic games, but for choir music. Twenty thousand people come together from all the country to one event to sing together. Many of these songs, these lyrics are these folk poems.
MR: I assume the music is happy music because it seems it’s the source of your music.
Emīls: We have all kinds of music. We don’t have many indie bands in Latvia…because we don’t have that many bands. We have big academic scene. There is some cool stuff coming up now, new projects that are developing.
MR: I was reading there was going to be a big celebration, the 100th anniversary.
Edgars: Yes. 17th of November.
MR: You are going to be playing there as well.
Emīls: We are going to be in Niagara Falls.
MR: What do you have planned for that? A set on one of the stages?
Emīls: We heard they are going to light the waterfall in the colors of the Latvian flag. We will play for the Latvian community there, a small concert.
MR: Awesome. You guys are getting around!
Emīls: Latvians are everyone.
MR: You are also playing Indie week in Toronto.
Emīls: Yeah, that’s correct.
MR: Of course, you will be playing on November 14th, here in Montreal for something called M for Montreal at Casa del Popolo at 8h30 PM. It’s a nice small venue, it’s very intimate. I’m sure it will be packed.
I’ve been seeing some of your videos on YouTube and seeing some of the live stuff and obviously, you are packing some much bigger rooms, but this is a new country for you. If there is any time to see you, it’s probably the first show, when it’s going to be the most intimate, the smallest. Hopefully, the next one is a much bigger venue…you are all popular and everyone knows you.
Emīls: Hopefully, yeah. We are super excited to play anywhere in Canada, just to go there and have an adventure. Take it step by step. Intimate shows are great.
MR: When you are touring, do you have a chance to stop and smell the roses or visit the city?
Emīls: Definitely, if we have time. Usually, we have a few gigs in a row, then a day off. On the day off, if we have time, we go hiking and smell all the…
Emīls: If we are in another city, we go to see other bands, if they are playing or go to museums. I think anybody who wants to discover a new country do tourist stuff.
MR: I think music is a good connector between all the different countries. It’s the one thing, for sure, we all have in common is the love of music. It brings people together.
Are there any Canadian bands that you really enjoy, that you hope are playing while you are here?
Emīls: Yeah. We love many of them.
Roberts: Arcade Fire. I went to see Wolf Parade in Berlin, when they were here. I guess they are also from Montreal.
MR: Yeah. Both bands are pretty much in Montreal, normally.
Emīls: We recently saw Mac DeMarco. He was in Latvia a few days ago. He’s a crazy guy. Feist. You know Feist, from Broken Social Scene?
MR: Yes. I just saw her in a church and it was amazing.
Emīls: Yeah, I saw her too.
MR: I only knew her pop stuff. I was so impressed by how she played, it blew me away. Not what I was expecting.
Roberts: Last album was amazing.
Emīls: Yeah, the last album was incredible.
MR: You guys have been together for a long time. This is not a new band, you are friends, right? Friends and brothers.
Emīls: Yeah. Me and Edgar are twins, so we’ve been together all our lives. Pretty much 24/7. We met Roberts at…
Roberts: 8th grade.
Emīls: Yeah. 8th grade. So it’s been 6 or 7 years.
Roberts: Lane, we know each other about 9 years, I think.
MR: It’s hard enough being brothers…I’m an only child, so I can speak for being a brother, but I know people who have a brother. Sometimes there are little fights and disagreements. That’s part of family life. As a band, you tend to be close…especially when you are traveling in a car for 24 hours…to try to get to Poland. What are the things you do when you are in between those times, when you are in the car? Do you listen to music?
Edgars: The best advice is that to not communicate, so we don’t get mad at each other. (laughs) Isolate ourselves. Usually, we listen to a lot of music, TV shows, movies, some books. We drive ourselves, because we don’t have a driver.
Emīls: Listen to Podcasts.
Edgars: Sleep in the van.
Emīls: We have found good ways to communicate with each other because we don’t fight anymore. We used to, maybe the first tours. We had to get used to each other’s dark sides. (laughs)
Roberts: We used to come up with these situations where it’s a bit too much of everything. Now, we learnt to tolerate each other more. It’s just normal.
Emīls: You just let the tension go.
MR: I guess your biggest tip is: noise cancelling headphones. (laughs)
Roberts: I have some right here.
MR: Maybe they have something called brother cancelling headphones. (laughs)
Emīls: That’s a good idea.
MR: For someone who doesn’t know you guys yet, maybe have not heard our songs… By the way, if anyone is going to watch a video, you have to watch Seagulls on Bicycles. What a crazy video.
Emīls: Yeah, it’s one of our favorites.
MR: It speaks a lot about you guys. You probably really enjoy having fun, goofing off, telling jokes and just having laughs.
Emīls: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. About Seagulls on Bicycles, for the music video we had a collaboration with a Spanish photographer (AnaHell). We just saw these pictures of her project on the Interne with this project.
Edgars: With those creatures. They are called Secret Friends.
Roberts: We just say the pictures, we contacted her, and she was interested in doing the video. She’s never done a video of them, only the pictures. It’s much easier to take one picture with this character, but in real life, it was really hard to get.
MR: You guys are walking, you guys are dancing…I mean…there is a lot of action.
Roberts: Yeah. The girls who did the dances and the moves were brave girls. They had to lean with their heads down for half an hour, or something. It gets filled with blood…it’s crazy. But, we like the outcome.
MR: If there was one song or one video that really would encompass your sound…somebody wants to learn about you and you say: Listen to this song, this is who we are. What song would that be?
Emīls: Ouuu…that’s a tough one. What do you think? Maybe Seagulls and Bicycles.
Edgars: Yeah, it could be Seagulls.
Emīls: Because you mentioned it.
MR: There was one song I was listening to: “Never Have Enough.” It has 1.4 Million views, so obviously that one is resonating as well.
Emīls: Yep, that’s crazy.
Roberts: That wouldn’t describe the whole thing of us.
Emīls: The spectrum of our interests and that one is probably the most popular and the one that resonates the most with people. It’s from our first album.
Emīls: It was our first single, right?
Roberts: Yeah, ever released.
Emīls: We were not expecting such as response. We actually recorded the first album…
Edgars: …in here…
Emīls: …in our rehearsal space, with no aim to become a band.
Edgars: We were still in high school.
Emīls: We just wanted something to show our grandchildren what we were doing in high school. It took off and we went all in with band stuff.
MR: Do you remember the point where you are at 999,999 views and it just tipped over into a million?
Roberts: I just remember somebody wrote us the day it went over the line.
MR: How did that make you guys feel?
Roberts: You know, the same. We are not the ones who aim for more zeros, I guess.
Emīls: But still, it was quite unbelievable. I still can’t comprehend the number, it’s huge.
MR: Obviously, being validated is something. To know that people are listening and obviously liking…but that’s not everything. If you judge everything by likes, it can be a very depressing life. That’s not the point of life, right?
You guys put out the music that you love and you see how people received it. If they don’t get it, then maybe it’s not for them. You obviously found a crowd because I can see it in your videos. How many people come to your shows in Latvia?
Edgars: We don’t play that many shows in Latvia. We can get a few thousands. It’s funny. On Facebook, the majority of our followers are from…
(Roberts motions we are not going there…)
MR: We are not going to go there?
Edgars: Nope. (we all laugh)
MR: Since you’ve been musicians, what’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you? You get to meet different people?
Edgars: Yeah. We met Bill Murray once in New York.
MR: I heard about that. I was curious about the whole story.
Edgars: We had a show in Showcase. After, it was already 1 AM and we heard he’s working at his son’s bar.
Roberts: They were reopening the bar in Brooklyn.
Emīls: We thought, probably he has already left, but it was still quite close to the place where we were staying, so we should go and check it out. We went there, and there was a big row (lineup) of people waiting to get in.
Roberts: Because you don’t usually get Bill Murray bartending, making drinks for you.
Emīls: We took our chances and waited in that row. Edgars ran after our vinyl, in case we meet him. At that moment, there was 3 people left in front of us. I noticed a guy across the street that looked like Bill Murray. Our manager and Roberts ran across the street. They gave him the vinyl.
Roberts: It looked like he was already getting into the car to leave. I kind of stole him from the conversation he was having, and we introduced ourselves as these crazy folks from across the world and we wanted to meet you and give you the vinyl.
He was like: Oh really? Come on guys, I’m going to get you in.
He took us by our hands and we followed him into the bar.
Edgars: He gave us Gin & Tonics.
Roberts: “Anything you want, guys. It’s on me.” That was the best Gin & Tonic in my life, I guess.
MR: That’s a cool story, thank-you so much. Are you going to be bringing vinyl across the pond?
Edgars: We’d love to, but we ran out of them for now.
MR: Vinyl has had a big comeback. I was a DJ for 25 years and I probably had about 400 at one time. Then I sold them all. I regret it, now I’m starting to buy them back again.
Emīls: Yeah, it’s super cool. We are into that trend as well. We are buying our favorite records on vinyl and making our own little collections. Yeah, it’s really cool.
MR: It’s a whole different way to listen to music. You are listening to half a record, in order, then you flip it around and you listen to the other half of the record.
Roberts: Sometimes, only a quarter of a record, if you have a double (album).
MR: Exactly. With the latest generation of devices, you can listen to 5 seconds of a song, not even give it a chance, and skip to the next one. You are bouncing all over the place and sometimes you don’t even know who you are listening to.
Emīls: It’s an era of singles. Many people don’t do whole albums. It’s nice to focus your whole attention to a whole album and just have this experience at home. As you have this physical thing, you attach yourself to listening.
MR: In your music, do you write for an album, like a story that is told over several different chapters or songs…or is it just a collection of mini-stories?
Emīls: Usually, we are not very strict about the concept, in the beginning. We kind of let any idea grow. Afterwards, we are more strict editors. There is a concept, eventually, because those are our thoughts and reflections of our lives. A certain time and certain points in our lives, so it’s inevitable. We don’t draw the storyline before the album. But I believe it’s there.
MR: So, you guys are coming to Canada, specifically to Montreal. So…how’s your French?
Edgars: Je vous breakashour…(last word was jibberish)
MR: Hon, hon, baguette, right? All you have to do is say “bonjours” and everyone will be happy.
Roberts: Is Montreal the French side?
MR: Toronto is English. Both cities are very cultural, a multitude of different backgrounds, which is amazing. In turn, it’s amazing because music brings us all together. The second biggest thing, maybe even the first, is food. Food from different countries is really the best way to blow your mind. To be friends with someone is to share a meal, especially something that comes from your country. Is there a Latvian dish we should try if we ever find a Latvian restaurant?
Emīls: Yeah, we have a traditional dish called Sklandrausis. You should definitely try that.
Edgars: It’s a desert type of thing.
Roberts: Original Latvian dishes are coming from the very early middle ages where they were eating really simple foods.
MR: More like stews, like from Russia?
Roberts: Yeah, but there isn’t anything super unique that you can find only here, except maybe thing (Sklandrausis). Latvian food is a mixture between Russian, German and others but we have our own specific dishes like green peas with bacon, or something like that.
Roberts: Oh yeah, with Grey peas. Yeah, these are usually the foods we eat at Christmas or other exceptional celebrations.
Edgars: We have Sourbread.
Roberts: Oh yeah, the Rye breads. Very very dark Rye breads are quite good. You might have them, but not the type we have.
MR: Yeah, the really really thick ones that almost crumble.
Roberts: A whole meal in one piece of bread.
Emīls: We can bring you some.
MR: Alright. I will take you guys out for a Poutine after. (They all agreed) Poutine is our dish that we are pretty much famous for which is French Fries, with gravy and a special kind of cheese. You put them together…it’s not the best meal (health wise), you might get a heart attack, but if you live, you’re going to really love it.
Emīls: Some people might say that the Latvian dish is just a potato.
Roberts: Which actually came from America.
MR: I wish you a lot of success with your tour. I hope people get to experience the live event. From what I saw, while browsing online, it looks like it’s a lot of fun. Your music is very upbeat. It has this catchiness to it, so I think people will really enjoy it if they take the time to come out. Right before winter, so if there is any time to go out, before we all hibernate, in Canada anyways, it’s now. Everybody go to the Casa del Popolo at 8h30 PM on November 14th to catch you guys. Enjoy! Cheers boys!