Just inside the caged doors of recording studio Little Red Sounds, Les Chaussettes’ lead vocalist and guitarist Jovana Golubovic leans against a folding screen, putting pressure on her injured back, while the band’s bassist Maria Turner goads her: “Are you gonna come to circus tomorrow?” Golubovic gives a sleepy wince and nods. Both women are fresh off of a full day’s work, Turner from her teaching practicum and Golubovic from her final shift at a pizzeria. It’s 8 o’clock and, while most people might be headed home to make dinner and curl up with Netflix, the two are here to meet up with their drummer, Felix Fung — producer at Little Red Sounds — for band practice sans guitarist and vocalist Alex Maunders.
Golubovic and Turner are the band’s founding members, as well as fellow circus performers. It quickly becomes clear that Les Chaussettes’ musical excellence is, in part, due to the intense discipline the two carry over from their acrobatics, and a commitment to making music with the band despite hectic real life.
“These two are very disciplined,” says Fung, “to a fault!” But this is what attracted him to the band in the first place. “I think sometimes people choose to believe the myth that’s sold to the fan [that making music is] mystical,” he says. “It takes hours. There is a discipline to do it well, and when you’re writing songs you gotta sit down and you have to be alone and you have to sit there for days on end and give it its due.”
Repositioning herself on her chair to avoid irritating the massive bruising on her upper thigh — also a circus injury — Turner agrees. “I have a really hard time giving myself a break,” she says, “I think that works out for me cause I accomplish a lot of things. I’m used to being busy so I make it work. There’s something so satisfying about it.”
Golubovic is the band’s lyricist and resident true soprano (a personal accomplishment), staying up writing songs into the wee hours of the night. Les Chaussettes’ lyrics are reflective of her devotion to a writing practice that’s about honing her craft and producing polished work.
“Writing is mostly like bashing your head against a wall,” Golubovic says. “The day after I write a song I’m just beaming with energy and joy, and if a bit of time passes and I don’t have a new one, I just hate myself. And that’s normal!”
The band’s debut full-length Who Will Read Your Mind, released on June 16, is a display of the band’s relentlessness, and an approach to music akin to painting or poetry. What Les Chaussettes is doing takes practice, and each time the band gets together, on stage or in the studio, this practice continues. “You go into the studio and focus on [a tiny detail in the music] that means everything and means nothing, [and] you’re completely lost in this process,” says Fung. “You’re crafting something, it’s like people tending to a garden.”
For Les Chaussettes, practice is a way of opening creative doors and expanding the band’s sonic capabilities. “The less skills you have, the less options you have available and the less things you can do,” Turner explains. “There have definitely been times — because I didn’t play the bass at all before I started playing in this band — when we started doing something and it was really hard for me, but you keep practicing, and you’ve gotten to the next level where you can play faster and do more things.”
Three years later, Turner is capable of seamless bass on tracks like “Don’t Leave Your Lover” and the record’s instrumental gem “Mujer,” which also showcases Latin-inspired guitar lines from Golubovic and Maunders. Golubovic’s vocals radiate through the entire album as she sings about love in a way that I believed pop music had forgotten about.
“We’ve been living with the same five feelings for 3000 years, why has it now all of a sudden disappeared?” says Fung. “I see a lot of the loner in the songs, the person who can go to the party but isn’t part of the party, and wants some of those things like love or relationships, but also sees the downsides of those things.”
These feelings are especially clear in “Unrequited Love” in which Golubovic sings “You say you want my heart / but you’re my best friend’s brother, baby, and I can’t see you” and “Josiah” whose lyrics include “You’re so cool / I never really understand you / Josiah, I sigh-ah for you” and later “Josiah, good bye-ah to you.” Golubovic already knows the heart of her listener, and sings directly into it. Her lyrical craftsmanship extends to songs like “Russian Boy” (with the lyric “I want to jump your Russian bones”) and “Volcanoes,” which are inarguably sexy and female gaze-y.
Who Will Read Your Mind sounds more like a third album than a first. The band marries decades worth of pop music, expending all referential resources, creating an oxymoronic sense of innovative nostalgia. They recorded the album as bands used to, where the whole band played the songs live in the studio rather than by piecing each part together digitally. Les Chaussettes’ music recalls a time when pop music was about musicianship rather than featured rappers on singles. “You know what band I think we’re most like?” says Golubovic “Simon and Garfunkel when they do the rock stuff.”
Les Chaussettes will be playing the Project Space Fundraiser at VIVO Media Arts Centre Saturday, July 9. Check out leschaussettes.bandcamp.com to listen to Who Will Read Your Mind and other releases.