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Sam Tudor

Eyes Wide Shut

Sam Tudor lives nestled in Kitsilano between sky high hedges and huge homes. Something I find funny about those neighborhoods right near the UBC campus is that the residents are a very obvious mix of wealthy families and university students. It is a quiet area, and I catch up with Sam in the late afternoon: “I always want to drink tea when I’m about to go to bed so I saw this and it seemed like an obvious choice. SleepyTime for a sleepy time.”

Sam Tudor and his band are primed to release a new album, still untitled at the time of our interview. It has been dormant since their last release, Modern New Year in 2014. With Tegan Wahlgren on violin, Jasper Wrinch on bass, and Harry Tudor on drums, Sam headlines the project as the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter. But as he expresses, he’s not totally comfortable in that role: “If I could go back in time I would’ve had a cool stage name, but I guess we’re too ‘in it’ now.”

Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

Jasper, Tegan and Sam met just a year and a half ago, and formed the band after a jam session where “it all just clicked.” Harry, Sam’s brother, joined after moving to Vancouver for school. Speaking to their dynamic, Sam provides the space and music, and the band members bring their own talents. They have projects outside of Sam Tudor that have influenced the sound of their new album.

Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine

“Jasper is really good at creating a general atmosphere of weirdness. Before, I thought of music as just a vessel for melody and words, like, I didn’t focus as much on the layers and the ‘world’ of the song,” explains Sam.

Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

This new-found awareness, due in large part to the band’s influence, is evident on the new album. Sam plays with production techniques to create a dreamy and intimate ambiance in a way that deviates from his earlier releases, both with instruments and vocals. The addition of Tegan’s violin elevates the ethereality of Sam’s vocals on the album and during live sets.

Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine

“I think [Tegan] gets a really human sound from her violin,” elaborates Sam. “I’ve had moments during a heavy part of the set where I think it could be a person screaming in anguish or something, and that fucking tears me apart.”

Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

Modern New Year was mostly produced by Sam, alone in his room, as simple as possible. Over the last three years, the further integration of band members has expanded Sam’s sound from the intimate hominess of his first release, to the stronger and more experimental work of Sam Tudor, as reflected on the new album. Sam, Tegan, Jasper and Harry seem to collaborate in fluidity. Sam explains, “We rehearse, but we don’t really arrange parts. I don’t orchestrate, because I don’t feel like I have to. We just sit down, and every band member brings their separate influences to whatever the melody is, and that’s the song.” The new album also features contributions by Craig Aalders and Brandon Hoffman.

Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine

The releases of Sam Tudor’s two separate albums bookend Sam’s university career, where he had studied film at UBC. He used the opening scene of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet to describe the major theme of the new album:

Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

“It begins with the picture perfect, fairly sanitary town, and the picturesque firefighters drive by, and everything seems nice if not a little strange, and then the camera slowly moves towards the ground and actually goes into the earth and through the blades of grass until they find that severed ear. Ear aside, it kind of proposes that under all the nuclear lifestyles and well manicured neighbourhoods, there can be something ominous and dark. Slightly askew. I love the idea of taking an idyllic seeming situation and pulling it apart slightly, like, showing a sort of unspoken pool underneath.”

Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine

(Fittingly, one of my favourite songs on the album is called, “Chlorine.”)

Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

Sam Tudor has rejected the idea of performing a distinct genre, their album recounting a fresh spin on the familiar narrative of transitioning from small-town rural life to the big city. Sam explains, “There was this huge folk zeitgeist that I came to hate, and I wanted to make music that was deliberately ‘apart’ from that. But that’s a problem too, because then you end up making music that is reactionary.”

Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Illustration by Janee Auger for Discorder Magazine

The new album isn’t just anti-folk, it strives to resist all genre labelling, due in large part to Sam’s personal experiences. “I’ve got to a point of like ‘fuck thinking about genre in the first place’. The bus I rode to high school only played Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw and that led me to believe I hated country music. But later I discovered like, Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris and when I listened to some of those gorgeous songs, I’m not thinking about what genre it is. I am just crying in the car because it’s beautiful.”

Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor || Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

Sam’s love of cult cinema is perhaps the most striking influence on the new Sam Tudor release. Sam’s songwriting plays with the real and unreal, surreal and grounded. The songs are dreamy but intimate, as any classic cult film is, and lovingly integrates the mundane and the spectacular. “I like to think of it as that state where you’re lying in bed and staring at the screen and you’re kind of asleep, but also hyper aware that you’re awake.”

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Sam Tudor’s new album will be released at the beginning of April. Keep in touch at samtudormusic.com or follow on social media for details on the release show.

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Can’t Lit

A Backdoor To Canadian Literature

When I meet Daniel and Dina of Can’t Lit in Daniel’s apartment in Mount Pleasant I am nervous, given the stereotype I’ve been accustomed to concerning writers, poets and the like. I’m worried that I won’t appear as intellectual or well-spoken as two published and praised authors. However, this concern quickly fades as I begin chatting with the duo. The lighthearted and jovial atmosphere of Can’t Lit definitely reflects the spirits of the two hosts. I catch up with Daniel and Dina before they record another episode of their podcast in between shared belly-laughs. Daniel drops a phrase that captures the nature of their recordings: “We’re not like, Canadian polite.”

Daniel Zomparelli, editor and chief of Poetry is Dead magazine and Dina Del Bucchia, author of Coping with Emotions and Otters’ collaborative podcast are bringing accessibility and a more personable approach to Canadian literature. A monthly podcast started in 2014 with a growing listenership, Can’t Lit aims to shed light on conversations that haven’t had adequate exposure, and to showcase the goofy side of the literature sphere. Some of their previous guests include Amber Dawn, Jillian Christmas, Adèle Barclay, and Michael Christie.

Can't Lit || Illustration by Olivia Di Liberto for Discorder Magazine
Can’t Lit || Illustration by Olivia Di Liberto for Discorder Magazine

Can’t Lit serves to bridge the gap between authors and their audiences, and to initiate broader, less insular conversations with the featured authors. “Canadian literature is like any other cultural phenomenon,” explains Daniel, “it has all of those faults too, so without displaying these conversations … how white Canadian literature can be, how heteronormative it can be, a mask is formed of what literature is.”

Can’t Lit is “a podcast about books and stuff,” with an emphasis on the “and stuff.” “Writing’s not just about breaking down the scan of a line or sentence structure or story structure, it’s about so much more … and there’s so much more to the community,” remarks Dina. Often, guests on the show will discuss their own work, but will also expand upon their tastes and interests in and outside literature, broadening the scope of discussion beyond literature alone. “It’s important because people are having these conversations like the ones we’re having in the podcast, but they’re not recording them. We’re able to create some sort of a record of what’s going on in Canadian literature,” adds Daniel.

Can't Lit || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Can’t Lit || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

By placing emphasis on the more relatable, less academic perspectives on literature, Can’t Lit follows a similar mandate to Daniel’s project, Poetry is Dead: “If it’s not fun, don’t do it.” Can’t Lit is one solution addressing the problem of framing Canadian literature in an inaccessible and pedagogic way.

When asked about the importance of podcasting, Dina responds, “It’s about the type of voice you can use on the podcast, versus the voice you can use in the page, versus the voice you can use on a national radio broadcast.” Daniel adds, “Canadian literature can be very stuffy, and part of that is self-seriousness… we wanted a space for people to be goofy and weird.”

Can't Lit || Illustration by Olivia Di Liberto for Discorder Magazine
Can’t Lit || Illustration by Olivia Di Liberto for Discorder Magazine

As far as what Dina and Daniel want to see change in Canadian literature, they arrive at a unanimous conclusion: more diversity and less seriousness. “Everyone wants to see the same version of Canadian literature that’s so clean, I want to see messier things,” remarks Daniel.

From the “no fun city,” Dina and Daniel want to shift the literature landscape to reveal the very unpretentious and cheerful side of what can be seen as an affected art form. Speaking to the seriousness of Canadian literature, Daniel confirms that often “the books that don’t make the bestseller list or win awards don’t get exposure and are constantly ignored.

Can't Lit || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Can’t Lit || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

Can’t Lit is striving to make it known that content creators and authors aren’t strictly limited the pages of a book. Authors who use Twitter for daily doses of poetic one-liners, or Instagram to express hilarious takes on the merging of fashion and book covers simply don’t get coverage. As a result, readers have a stale and inaccurate image of what the literature community is all about. Without a celebration of the fun and the weird happenings in Canadian literature, readers are often left out of the discussions that authors are actually having.

I leave Dina and Daniel after a series of laughs and rants about the insularity of Canadian literature. Our conversation felt like speaking with friends, similar to the atmosphere of their podcast. Can’t Lit is truly a behind-the-scenes and “after the reading drinks” approach to exploring Canadian literature.

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Visit cantlit.ca for archived episodes of Can’t Lit and bonus features, and follow @cantlit on Twitter for all the instant witticisms.