Victoria-based psychedelic dream pop duo the Backhomes is Kees Dekker and Aimée van Drimmelen. Their music is engineered for hazy, lazy summer days and long drives with the windows down, a time-lapse of chaotic landscape rolling by. After blissing out to their packed Record Store Day set that saw Dekker’s moderately sized pedal board and undulating body hold frantic sale-goers back from purchasing anything in the ‘electronic’ section, I sat down with van Drimmelen in the alley behind Red Cat Records, sunshine on our faces on the first official shorts day of the spring.
Officially formed in Montreal in 2009 after Dekker started playing with van Drimmelen’s former band the Key of K, the Backhomes’ current catalogue consists of 2013 full-length Only Friend and 2014 single Talk/Backwards Sunshine.Sonically, they’re equally comfortable with soundscapes of shimmering, interwoven guitar and synth, an effective demonstration of the power of curated simplicity, and unabashedly sunny psych jams all held together by the incessant pounding of a vintage drum machine.
When asked why the band decided to move out west in 2010, first for a nine month stint in a cabin in Saskatchewan, and then a permanent move to Victoria, van Drimmelen’s explanation is as simple and unassuming as the band’s aesthetic. “I feel like we wouldn’t be a band if we had stayed in Montreal. We needed to leave. We had both lived there for 10 years. After that much time we just needed a change, and it was really beneficial.”
Citing cheap rent in her grandmother’s former house, a change of scene, being closer to nature, and a cleansing of the palate as practical reasons for choosing Victoria, she’s still quick to uphold the virtue of the band’s former home: “I think it’s really important for band’s to move to Montreal. It does them a lot of good … I think everyone should get what they can out of that city because it’s still such an awesome place.”
Dekker had played with the Besnard Lakes for a couple years and toured with them for their first album before forming The Backhomes. He is also a sound tech and records bands for a living. van Drimmelen is a self-employed visual artist and does animation and video work when she’s not making music.
Their comfort with who they are and what they do is immediately obvious as I’m talking with van Drimmelen, and there’s none of the insecurity or hubris often found in younger bands trying to make it in a fickle world.
Apart from some recording on the first album done in a prairie cabin, the band has done the majority of their recording in their living room in a quiet Victoria neighbourhood “full of old people.” van Drimmelen describes herself and Dekker as “the weirdos playing really loud music,” and remarks, “we’re lucky our neighbours are pretty nice.”
The Backhomes is a multi-media effort and van Drimmelen creates visual elements that are projected on stage during their shows as well as mind-bending and beautiful music videos for their songs. Indeed the band lends itself perfectly to such an approach, given their tendency for repetition pairing perfectly with swirling patterns, images fading into each other, and kaleidoscopic movement. Whenever they do have to play live without projections van Drimmelen states, “It just feels weird.”
She doesn’t, however, think that this reliance on a visual element dictates the way in which their songs come into being. Dekker will build the base for a song by looping old drum machines with organ or synth bass, and then build on that by adding layers of guitar. Then, when they’ve sat on it for a while, they’ll listen to it and turn it into a song, generally coming up with vocals as the final step. This trademark style of songwriting common to ambient and electronic music leads to songs that are both dense and enrapturing. The entrance and exit of flirting melodies and textures keep the listener from boredom while the main loop hooks the ear and relentlessly drives the song forward.
The band will be releasing a new album, Tidal Wave, on May 7th. When I ask whether this will see the band undergo a change in sound, van Drimmelen denies any clear direction: “We had a whole other album we were planning on putting out, it was songs we were playing last year live, and we tried to record them. We got pretty far, but it just wasn’t feeling right, something wasn’t working. So that was the album we had planned to try and put out and we just couldn’t force it anymore so we said, ‘Fuck it.’ And then Kees had – you know he always is just making stuff all the time – and he was making these really awesome songs, and we didn’t even know what would happen with them, and we just started listening to them after a while and realized we really liked them. And so all of those songs pretty much are what our album is. It sort of came by surprise, but it just felt so much better, so we went with it. The sounds are similar, but I think that it’s kind of… I don’t know. It feels like a step up a little bit.”
2015 will be an ambitious year for the Backhomes as they begin to plan a Western Canada tour with Dada Plan and have a tour to L.A. with Sur Une Plage booked for May. They’re also hoping to do a North American tour in the fall, and a European tour in November or December. In the words of van Drimmelen, “Usually when we say something would be awesome, then it ends up happening, or we end up making it happen. No one’s going to do it for you, right?”
The self-released Tidal Wave will be crashing down on record store and digital shorelines May 5th.