I first heard Two-Year Carnival when they played with Trade Secrets and The This Many Boyfriends Club at the now closed L’Absynthe. I thoroughly enjoyed their set and was quite jolly when I had the opportunity to sit with the band for a few beers at Vol de Nuit before their show at Petit Campus in May.
Two-Year Carnival is a heart rock band made up of Joshua S. (vox, keyboard), Alex D. (drums), David P. (bass), Roby P. (sampler), Eric D. (guitar), and Gabrielle B. (violin). The troupe came together through frontman Joshua who met Gabrielle and Alex in his frosh group and knew Roby previously. Joshua knew Eric from his hometown of St-Jerome. As for David, although he’d originally been hired for a two-show Pop Montreal contract, he is now a permanent part of the merry line-up.
Originally named Senior Hand, as the band’s line-up grew they eventually changed their name to Two-Year Carnival. This new name was chosen as it echoes ideas of tragic love stories.
“Imagine a carnival that lasts for two years. There’s all these ups and downs, weird detours, and grand dolphin shows. It’s just the biggest mix of emotions there is,” explains Joshua.
Due to their name, I asked the band what carnival attraction or carny they would be. Roby knew right off the bat that he wanted to be the viking boat or maybe the person selling cotton candy. Gabrielle would either be the bearded lady or the whack-a-mole game. Joshua would be the illusionist or magician. If he were an attraction, Joshua would be the house of mirrors. David said he would be the elephant trainer, which seems apt for the bass player of the band. Alex would be the “dude shot out of a canon or a lion tamer.” As for Eric, the band agreed that he would be the strong man.
They released an EP entitled Blue Blood (2012) and have live recordings of their Petit Campus show. The crew has a lively music video for their single “Black Sea Mojito” which looks like it could have been part of some sort of combined film project by Gus Van Sant and Arcade Fire, minus the dark brooding elements. These guys are photogenic. Their EP is a compelling indie pop collection. Stand-out tracks are “Cherry Blossom Forest” and “Jupiter (The Son of the Sun).”
After watching this video, I had to ask: what’s a black sea mojito? Joshua answered decidedly, “It is the best mojito you’ll ever drink in your entire life. It is served by the Black Sea and it has crushed ice, not ice cubes. It has mint leaves picked in the forest in Bulgaria. Better than any mojito.”
The band has a wide array of influences: David cites the Beatles and their later albums. He likes the way they blended different genres of music and constantly did things differently. Alex names the Red Hot Chili Peppers, not as his favourite band, but as an influence in terms of their drummer Chad Smith. That spirit of blending genre and tradition, Alex says, influence his drumming.
Roby names Culpsp as his primary influence “just ‘cause he’s crazy.” Eric points to two very particular yet different sounds that influence him: Spanish guitar and the Buckley family in terms of electric guitar and blues.
Gabrielle’s biggest influence are classic composers from the romantic era like Brahms. She tries to maintain the sound of the violin as a violin in a band. Joshua emphatically names Sunset Rubdown for their insightful lyrics and how “it’s essentially this one man who writes music based on his dreams.” Sunset Rubdown, the band agreed collectively, is an important band for their sound.
So far, the venue they’ve enjoyed playing the most has been Il Motore, for which they felt the most prepared. Apartment parties have also been great and intimate experiences where there is a total control over one’s sound. Two-Year Carnival has also enjoyed their shows at Psychic City, their jam space which is “as much a myth as a real space.” Alex spoke about how throwing shows there has been “an interesting experiment of word getting out” which he likens to the experience of the band as a whole.
Each of their shows, they explained, has been a very different experience since their sound is constantly changing (as has their line-up in the last year). Although the band is Montreal-based in a sense, many of their members don’t live in Montreal. Therefore, getting everyone together to record has been quite the experience. David has found this experience to be positive in that it makes it so that every time they come together to play, it feels like the first time and keeps a sense of novelty. Eric added that it is often an experience in which the songs are constantly reinventing themselves.
For info on upcoming shows and other news, see Two-Year Carnival’s Facebook page.