Interview with The Dark Fruits


Your new album Warm Weather Starter Pack takes inspiration from the band’s Yukon Territory origins. Despite track titles like “California Beach” and “Florida,” there are nods throughout to Yukon hotspots, like Tagish Lake. What inspired you to pursue themes and imagery that are vividly reflective of your Northern Canada home?

I think rock music suffers at times from generic imagery and ideas in its lyrics, and one of the steps I wanted to take as a songwriter was to use more concrete images. That inevitably brought the Yukon into the music. The idea of connecting to my home was also appealing because I felt I could tell fellow Yukoners many secret, inside jokes while also providing interesting, unexpected images to other fans from elsewhere. 

In California Beach, for example, I sing “Slowly watch the severing all of our affairs/Snaking up through the trenches, they’re as slick as a fibre optic line/We’ve lost connection ‘cause of another southern haphazard excavation.” If you’re not from the Yukon, you probably hear that and think there is something mysterious and sinister going on. What’s happening in the south? What is being excavated? If you’re a Yukoner, though, you hear that and know it’s just about the fibre optic line getting cut by another guy with a backhoe in his backyard, who inadvertently cut off all internet in the territory (it happens up here). So it works on a couple of different levels, which I think inspires listeners to listen more deeply and to not take everything at face value on this album. 

Another example is on our first single, Florida, where I sing “Back to my home where we all need moisturizing.” To a non-Yukoner, that’s probably a weird line… but it stands out and keeps the lyrics from being mundane. Yukoners know the feeling when they first get off a plane in the territory, though, and it’s the dry cold air straight into your lungs. Cracked lips. Dry skin. It’s sure not the jungle up here. 

This second album departs a bit from the more classic rock pursuits of your debut, Authors of Affection. Was this a conscious stylistic change, or did the band just tend to shift into a more contemplative sound organically?

I’d say it was a conscious development, but we were able to make the decision consciously because we had organically grown in two directions and needed to pick one. I love synth in rock music (The Cars, Weezer etc) and we used it several times on our first record. It happened very organically as the album was written and recorded one song at a time over a couple of years. However, we had no scope for the project. It finally became a collection of songs, some of which had synth and some which didn’t. I do love that album, but it wasn’t a cohesive album. 

Warm Weather Starter Pack was a different story; we had all the songs to choose from the beginning and therefore could imagine the album all at once. We also recorded all the bed tracks over a weekend and the vocals the week after… it was very immersive and a singular moment for all of us. We decided to drop the synth and opted to create a dreamy, strange backdrop using Jordy’s amazing guitar work and affects, as well using a technique that mimicked the mellotron on Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies, which is an album we love. It enabled us to keep the sound authentic and “real”, but also let us use pitch bend and other affects to keep it weird in a good way. 

What are some notable themes and inspirations throughout Warm Weather Starter Pack? The title seems lovably tongue-in-cheek in reference to the northern weather!

Yes, the album title gives a good hint towards the other northern references on the album. There’s also a consistent confrontation with themes of isolation, connection, and community on Warm Weather Starter Pack. Many of the songs were written as the world dealt with isolation amid the COVID lockdowns. In retrospect, Yukoners were probably in a good place to deal with the psychological impacts of shutting ourselves in. It was almost a “You want isolation? Hold my beer” type of thing. 

But I think I’m also alluding to a stereotype that doesn’t really stick up here. Sometimes, the smaller the community, the more connected it is. I’ve lived in big cities before, and people feel isolated and alone there, too. Perhaps more so. These themes are dealt with in a literal way on “No Bars”, where I sing about a hiking trip gone awry: cell service is lost, a search and rescue operation ensues, and flares shoot across the sky. We just keep looking at our phones, and we’ve got no bars.

They’re also dealt with in more metaphoric ways on “The Threat is Real.” The threat is not so much that we become isolated by events happening to us, but rather that we cut ourselves off on purpose. There’s a reference to a prepper living inside a well-stocked, defensive bunker: “A coil of razor wire extends around your whole enclosure/Perimeter is staked out from a tower/It’s like all that you do is live off chips and Coca-Cola/And when you’re feeling threatened, you’ll release the firepower.” The point is not that I’m trying to encourage people to come out of their shells, but that I, too, feel the desire to hide away. The threat is real for all of us, I think, and if we’re lucky, we get to fight against it. It’s a big reason why I even release music at all – to break out of the bunker, be vulnerable, and try to connect with people. 

What’s your favorite venue to perform at?

I’d have to say the Roundhouse in downtown Whitehorse. It’s only used as a venue for music for special occasions, and we got to play there at Breakout West in 2019 in front of a great crowd. Originally, it was built to house trams, trolleys and railcars, and it still does, but they removed some for the show. There was a nice stage, several hundred people, and we played our hearts out right on the banks of the Yukon River. There was even one rail car still in the building at the back. I got to go in and sing through a couple of songs with Tara, our drummer right before our show. We were jamming in a hundred-year-old rail car, then just walked to the front of the venue and onto the stage for the set. It rocked.

Do you have a specific process or ritual when creating new music?

It’s always the music – the chords and the melody – first, and the lyrics after. It could be a tune I hum that I try to fit over some guitar chords, or sometimes I just grab my guitar and start playing. For me, it’s always about listening more than intentionally creating something. I just play and take risks with chord progressions and melody ideas, and I wait until I hear something I like. If I don’t like what I’m doing, it’s not a song.

If I like it, I keep working on it and see where it goes. I often have the whole melodic and chordal structure arranged before I write lyrics, although lyrics can creep in throughout the process. I create a Garageband demo right away, as well, if I like what’s happening sonically. It helps me capture the song. It’s almost like I’m a trapper. Lay out some bait, set the snare, and catch it before it gets away. Once I have the music on a demo, I can go back to it when I’m ready for lyrics. I still have several waiting for lyrics. It’s like steak in the freezer. I still need to cook it, but at least I know the hunt is over. This is metaphoric meat, remember. I’m actually mostly a vegetarian.

Any favorite artists or albums you’re listening to at the moment?

Right now, I’m especially loving The Flaming Lips, which is a great band that continues to be relevant over multiple decades. In 2021 they released an album “Where the Viaduct Looms”, which is a collection of Nick Cave covers, with 14-year-old Nell Smith from British Columbia, Canada. It’s just outstanding. Nell’s voice is unreal. The varied ways echo is used on her voice impacted several of the tracks on Warm Weather Starter Pack. 

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?

My first thought is Gord Downie, but I’m not sure how collaborating would go… I might just sit back and watch him. He was such a captivating, weird live performer. Since we’re dreaming, though, if Taylor Swift said she wanted to cover a song of ours, that would probably get a pretty quick yes.

What do you find is the most satisfying part of being an artist?

Writing a song that you love is an amazing feeling. When it all comes together, and the melody and then lyrics are set, that’s the first major highlight. Then, the recording. Laying it down in the studio is an amazing experience all over again. The band gets together and it becomes a communal thing. They bring their skills and inspiration to the song and it becomes something even more. 

What is the biggest challenge you find in today’s music industry?

For us, it’s living in a remote wilderness. It’s expensive to tour out of the Yukon and it’s tough to gain traction outside. On one hand, it’s easier than ever to share your music to the world online. On the other, just because you’re on Spotify or whatever doesn’t mean anyone cares. You’ve got to work even harder and pound the pavement on a tour. For bands like us, you have to start by finding your niche. Play some shows, share your music however you can. Maybe press some vinyl and be the best secret out there. There’s value and satisfaction that comes from the smallest wins… someone nodding in approval at a show… a fan reaction online. For our latest video, Florida, a well-known musician in the Yukon commented on our video, “I can’t remember when I enjoyed a video so much and with the song it’s brilliant!” There are challenges, sure, but you have to enjoy the small moments shared with fans.

What’s upcoming for the project?

We’re in the middle of prepping a live video, which we hope to release in December. And we’ll move to a vinyl release party and live shows in the New Year. Looking forward to it!

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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