The jam space is in a shit hole, some sort of rundown office building behind the Bell Centre with peeling paint on cold concrete walls. The elevator is the kind with doors on both sides. A stained red carpet adds a fraction of luxury. The place had seen better days.
Vicious/Delicious are up on the third floor, their space sandwiched between a metal band and another metal band. Three doors and thick walls keep the sound in.
The room is warm, even comfortable. Amplifiers are stacked everywhere. Strings of Christmas lights and lamps give the room a soft, yellow glow.
The band is in mid-song: an intricate, swirling, reverb-drenched number.
They draw on “80s shoegaze but boast heavier beats and thicker guitars than most of their direct influences. The sound comes after years of development, tweaking and perfection. Dozens of songs have been written and discarded.
In that time they’ve gone from playing occasional shows at Barfly, to regularly taking the stage at L’Escogriffe and Sala Rossa. They’ve also developed something of a following in Toronto, frequently playing around Kensington Market. They’ve also played North by Northeast, Canadian Music Week and Pop Montreal.
Most of the band has been together for years. Bassist Marie-AndrÃ©e Boudreault, guitar player Philippe Hamelin and singer/guitar player Miguel Despaties have been playing together for over five years. Drummer David Kunstatter joined shortly after. Guitar player FrÃ©dÃ©ric Charest, who joined just over a year ago, is the newest member.
The band has also seen a couple members leave and with each lineup change the sound has evolved. When they first got together, Vicious/Delicious were playing Black Lips-inspired garage-rock before adopting a bit of a dark twang. But some elements have remained consistent: the “60s style New York psychedelia influence and the heavy use of reverb and delay.
The band’s current direction has also included more vocal work from members other than Despaties.
“This is the fist practice where we’ve given Phil a microphone, I’m not sure if he’s going to keep it,” he jokes.
While the band is clearly a group effort, it is undeniably Despaties’ project and he takes a lead role in the songwriting.
They play another song, a newer one with no name, just the chord progression written on the board with their set list.
“Who needs a smoke break?” asks Despaties when they finish. The band confers, two more songs, then a break.
“We have to go outside,” says Hamelin.
“This is a smoke-free space,” adds Despaties. “Technically, where we’re going is also a smoke-free space.”
“But it’s not our smoke-free space,” Hamlin finishes.
They head into the hallway. Dozens of bands share the crumbling building; different sounds come from each door. Everyone that passes by in the hall has a beer in hand.
As they smoke, they talk about making an online calendar to organize their interviews and shows and how much they hate Gmail.
The band gets a lot of email these days.
They talk about which months are the most depressing. They don’t talk about music. The band members share the relaxed banter of old friends.
Vicious/Delicious has just finished rechording their first full-length album, produced by Hamelin, and is in the process of shopping it out to rechord labels. But this has proved a drag on Despaties.
“Lately I’ve had to do a lot of stuff for the band that’s not the band,” he pauses. His voice grows quieter, slightly weary, “The business.”
Interviews are the worst; Despaties hates interviews.
“You know what’s the first question [one interviewer] asked us? Why don’t you like doing interviews? Way to get off on the wrong foot,” he said.
“Then she asked what shoegaze means to us. I mean it probably means the same thing to me as it means to anyone, it’s a fucking genre of music.”
He hates the repetitiveness. He’s in the hallway, smoking, complaining about it.
“They always ask the same interview questions, like “What are your influences?’ I can’t wait for all of this to be over so I can get back to writing songs.”
Back in the jam space, they finish the set. After each song they make little in-jokes about the mistakes they made.
Despaties skipped over part of “Messin’ Around,” the strongest link to the band’s earlier sound, when they drew more from the Gun Club than the Jesus and Mary Chain.
“I missed like eight verses there,” he says.
“How can it be our epic song if its not 10 minutes long?” someone else asks.
While Vicious/Delicious requires a lot of dedication, twice-weekly practices and more and more interviews and appearances, most of the members also have other projects.
Charest is also a member of Amanita Bloom, Boudreault plays in girl group The Peelies and Kunstatter fronts his own project, Glass Passenger.
Hamelin is increasingly becoming known as a producer, and is currently working on an upcoming Duchess Says release.
Most of the members have also played, at one time or another, in Red Mass.
The practice is almost over, some of the band members are anxious to wrap it up. As they play the last song, Despaties has a revelation.
“I do the interviews and stuff because it lets me play music, I think for some bands it’s the other way around, they play music so they can do the interviews and stuff. That’s just sad.”