Thus:Owls is romance and passion, from its humble sonic roots in the sublime west coast of Sweden to the love story that started it all.
“When we first met, it was because of music,” said musician Simon Angell, referring to his wife and bandmate Erika Angell. “We were touring together. My first instinct was that I wanted to play music with this person. The first time I saw her open her mouth, she was singing.”
After swapping iPods and discovering that their musical interests overlapped and coincided in many ways, the realization that the two “had the same idea of how [they] want to hear music and play it as well,” Simon made his way into the band.
Before the days of his involvement, Thus:Owls was an unnamed jam collective comprised of four Swedish friends, including Erika, that played low-key gigs around Stockholm. Approximately one year ago, the four swedes and Simon, who lived with them in Europe for a number of years, relocated to Montreal.
“It makes it tough especially as a new, upcoming band – we don’t have the funds to fly back and forth over the Atlantic all the time,” said Simon. “We put a collective of musicians together here, so we have a few guys from [Montreal] and a few people from Stockholm. It’s kind of a mixed bag.”
With such active blending of Canadian and Swedish culture, Thus:Owls is able to achieve a deeply ethereal and full-bodied sound that is characteristic of the Swedish way.
“That’s kind of the fun part,” said Simon. “You get to learn […] and get inspired by something you wouldn’t normally be exposed to. In Sweden, they take their time, there’s lots of space in their music – a lot more than we have here.” The Western half of the equation contributes a chaotic edge.
Aside from bands that they admire, a major factor that shapes Thus:Owls’ sound is Erika’s home turf, that being the Swedish west coast. A scape riddled with jagged rocks and raw, organic scenery, it is “beautiful and rough,” according to Simon. “The combination of the beauty and the harshness of it comes out a lot in what we do.”
As if the the band’s nordic birthplace wasn’t grandiose enough, their most recent album, Harbours, was recorded in a secluded Parisian manor-turned-studio.
“It feels very castle-y. It’s this old house, hundreds of years old,” said Simon. “It’s not set up like a slick, clean studio: there are patches in all the rooms. You can set up in the bathroom, in the living room – It’s like recording at home, with these giant high ceilings.”
Inevitably, the venue shaped the sound of the record in a major way. Instead of playing the same guitar on each track, Simon made use of the wide range of equipment provided by the studio, swapping out instruments as he went along. “The vibe of the place, along with the gear you have, along with the people you’re with, will help sculpt the sound of the record and what you’re doing,” he said.
Listeners can expect to hear some improv on the new record, ringing true to the musicians’ backgrounds, in their effort to take their sound further into “freer form music.” Now that Thus:Owls have released two records, they are very aware of what they want to produce. “Our last record was nine tunes that were more on their own,” said Simon. “We’re trying to think a little more homogeneously.”
As for the quirky band name: “There’s something about the mystique of an owl itself,” he said. “I think it reflects well on the music. The music we make is not sunny beach-time kind of music. It’s got a darkness to it, without being overly heavy. I find the owl reflects that mood – and there’s nothing boring than another ‘the’ band!”
Thus:Owls plays the Phi Center for Montréal en Lumière on Friday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.