Recently, I trekked northwards to The Plant, for a pre-show interview with fuzzy dirty pop band Nancy Pants, who were launching their full length album Total Nancy Pants. When I arrived, members of the opening acts (Heathers and Special Noise) were hanging out, eating some grub, setting up merch and blowing up and strewing up colourful balloons. Minutes before the show began, Adam Waito, Ohara Hale, Jeremy MacCuish and I huddled behind the venue kitchen, drinks in hand, to chat about how the three of them came to join musical forces, their songwriting and recording process for Total Nancy Pants and for some silliness and lots of laughs.
The Nancy Pants origin story goes as follows: Hale and Waito — who are both visual artists — have, over the years, often travelled and tabled at comic and crafting fairs together.
“In the summer we went to TCAF, which is the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and we were like let’s make a band!” Hale recounted and remembers how the two had originally jokingly considered calling the band Psychic Sluts. Although the name didn’t stick, the idea of starting a band did and they reached out to MacCuish, whom Hale and Waito knew from his other musical projects (Smokes, Parlovr):
“Ohara sent me a really really long email [everybody laughs] with the mission statement for Psychic Sluts,” MacCuish said, “and then like a day later she’s like ‘ok, none of that’ but be in the band still [laughs].”
“Ohara’s emails tend to be really long with lots of capital letters and exclamation points,” Waito said.
“It’s amazing [laughs] it holds your attention,” MacCuish added.
“It worked!” Hale said.
When they got together for their first band practice, MacCuish recalls that he didn’t know what to expect but that things instantly ignited.
“Everything happened really fast with this band,” Hale explained. Quickly after their first practice, they recorded their jams (on a phone) and put up demos right away.
As for the name, Nancy Pants, Hale and Waito came up with the name together. Hale, whose favourite tape is an old Roy Orbison cassette which for a long time was played on a loop in her kitchen, liked the name Nancy since it reminded her of a strong and positive name, evoking Nancy Sinatra and the confidence anthem “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Waito added the Pants portion of the name, recalling his first punk band back in high school who were called The Pants. Waito noted the way in which there was a lack of inhibition and reckless fun to playing with The Pants, elements that he has found again in playing with Nancy Pants. Hale agreed, pointed to the balloons, and added “that’s why it looks like prom in here! It’s kind of our high school band but now. The band I would have liked to have in high school.”
In terms of inspirations fuelling Nancy Pants’ sound and aesthetic, Waito explained:
“Speaking for myself, and I dunno if this is true for you guys but I feel like I just kind of do what feels right. It’s like okay: I have a bass, I got some distortion, I got this super bombastic drummer and Ohara. What makes sense here? It feels like everyone is following their heart. I definitely am drawing from a lot of punk rock stuff that’s swirling around in my psyche but there isn’t a lot of conscious drawing for me.”
As for MacCuish, he pointed to a different kind of muse:
“I think our jam space forms a lot of the sound. Our jam space sounds kind of like a cave. It’s a lot of stone everywhere and so when drumming, I just think of what would sound good. I don’t use the high hats, which I think disturbs that illusion a little bit. What sounds good in a cave? Just chunks of pedal and low pitch drums, you know. The things that will uphold that illusion is a fun idea, a rock n’ roll band playing subterranean.”
“Yeah, it’s really grungy, it’s perfect,” Hale agreed.
The trio recorded Total Nancy Pants in their jam space with, Waito manning the recording. One aspect of the recording that stands out is that Waito set up one mic from the drum kit, something that Hale referred to jokingly as an ‘infamous’ choice however, noting that this ended up working well for their sound.
“I had never done that before,” Waito explained. “It was interesting because when you move the microphone a half inch and it changes the sound of the whole kit. You kind of have to do a lot of initial setting up and then once you get a sound, it’s like THAT’s your sound and then the drums is just one thing instead of six tracks. I dunno, I don’t think I’ll ever turn back after doing one mic drums, I’m totally into one mic drums now.”
Total Nancy Pants is a much needed vitamin D blast in a a time sorely lacking in sunshine. The album has a definite retro doo wop influence to the lo-fi garage pop rock tracks on the album. Hale’s yelps and vocals become an instrument in and of themselves, adding high octane soprano bursts of colour. There’s a skill to crafting a sound that is fuzzy and dreamy and yet still high in energy: a notable feat by two seasoned songwriters whose vocal interplay is akin to candy, more specifically pop rocks. “Just a Little More,” “Halley’s Comet,” “Prom,” and “Gimme” are favourites.
I asked the trio which of the songs on the album they particularly dig and Waito, deadpan, answered:
“I’m mostly into the songs that I sing on. The other ones I’m not really… they are fine BUT.”
Photos by Bianca Lecompte.