The Montreal based trio discusses the creative process and challenges behind the launch of their first EP
Squeeze Mason, a locally-founded trio consisting of Dexter Dippong and brothers Ted and Gary Schulze, dropped their first EP this month, Sleeping Mercury. Forged in the fires of the Grey Nuns dormitory where they met, this Montreal-founded trio has a sound like no other.
They couldn’t nail down a genre for the EP, let alone the entire band, and that was the point. If you give the EP a listen, it’s safe to say that this versatile nature is front and centre. “We didn’t want a name that sounded like a heavy metal band or any specific thing, we kind of want to play around with a bunch of different genres,” said Dippong.
“Our Spotify is not fully representative of how wide our sound is, it’s just the ship that we’ve decided to record,” said Ted. Dippong added, “We’re still trying to find our proper audience.”
“I like a lot of different music, so why would I limit myself to say one genre?” Gary stated. “Let’s write music under those many genres.”
The band started by doing shows before the pandemic in bars such as Blue Dog in the Plateau, but once COVID hit, they all had to separate and go on hiatus. “We all went back home,” Dippong said, describing the past year in quarantine. “They [Gary and Ted] went to the Yukon and worked over the summer. I went to Vancouver over the summer and worked.”
“We all agreed that we were going to take it up a notch when we got back,” said Gary. They certainly did.
Once reunited, the process began with the song “Jabberwocky.” In what was described as a normal process for them, Ted came up with the riff, which Gary took and turned into a more complete song, then Dippong added lyrics and other touches until they had a package to send to singers and get polished. The final result was lovingly described as an “exuberant funk song.”
The EP features singers from the Montreal area such as JC Taylor, Danesa, and Free Real Estate. This proved to be a learning process in itself. At first, they thought to “just make the instrumental and just send it to the singer and see if they want to do anything,” Dippong described, to let the singer figure out their part. They later realized — as the artists hosting the project — they could write the entire piece before moving forward with a singer.
The EP was a major improvement in recording quality from their first single, “Voodoo Chainsaw.” During the hiatus, they removed two of their three songs from streaming, due to quality issues, leaving only “Voodoo Chainsaw.”
“When we got back we were like, ‘we need to do this one properly,’” said Dippong, referring to the EP. “We could take our time, so we had to make sure that it actually sounds really good before we get it out.”
In every part of the process — save for distribution to Apple Music which was met with frustration — their enjoyment was obvious. The only part they don’t do themselves is mixing and mastering. “Everybody says they mix and master,” Dippong said, “I don’t know how to do that.”
“I wrote a “Sleeping Mercury” demo and sent it to Chris,” Dippong said, referring to Free Real Estate, the singer on the title song, “and he wanted to do some things, and I actually wrote the lyrics with him.”
Before a song gets sent to singers, however, a demo still has to be made.
For their practicing and recording sessions, the trio rents a small lockout space in the garment district, Marsonic Studios. Everything is recorded directly into a computer, except on the off chance the three of them are doing vocals, the solution to which Dippong describes as “a little vocal booth set up in [an apartment] closet.” They emphasized the keyboard as a base of operations for their process, for which Ted is the master, “because Ted just comes up with riffs so fast,” said Dippong.
“Don’t tell Ted, but he doesn’t actually need us,” Gary joked, “we’re just here for the sex appeal.” This is beyond dubious, as they took every chance they got to complement each other’s playing ability.
Beyond just recording new songs, they’re also playing live and busking. Since venues are still shut down for the most part, they’ve been playing occasionally on the weekends outside Paul’s Boutique in the Plateau. The audiences are limited and the payout is in exposure and tips.
“Playing live, you’re restricted so you can only play one layer at a time,” Ted said. This translates to real problems for the trio, as they can only play one instrument each when on stage, but their songs include various layers of melodies. “There’s a couple of songs we recorded we don’t have worked out live right now because it’s just like too many parts and instruments we’re not having,” added Dippong.
For now, busking in the Plateau lets them “Test all our songs and see how they play live,” said Dippong. Once shows open up more fully this fall, they are planning a bigger gig with some of the featured singers on the EP, both as vocalists and separate acts.
Photograph by Lou Neveux-Pardijon