Interview: Fine Times

Photo by Mathew Smith
Fine Times
Jeffrey Josiah Powell (left) and Matthew Moldowan (right)
Photo by Mathew Smith

Fine Times is a magical alt-pop band with light-footed music that’s almost as sleek as the cats they won’t stop singing about. We found vocalist Matthew Moldowan and bassist Jeffrey Josiah Powell taking refuge from the cold in a sturdy east-side pub. After procuring enough yam fries to sustain a small village, we sat down for an interview. Just in time, too—they play the Electric Owl on February 11th.

LotusLand: Hey there, polar bears. Your first task is to introduce yourselves.

Matthew Moldowan: I’m Matt.

Jeffrey Josiah Powell:  And I’m Jeff. We’re Fine Times.

LL: If you could describe the exact opposite of your music in three words, what would they be?

MM: German sex metal?

JP: Yeah, let’s go with that.

LL: What would the opposite of German sex metal be? 

MM: No, maybe that’s not right. That would make us Canadian celibate pop, I don’t know if that’s it.

LL: We can roll with it. What’s the number one thing about playing music in Vancouver?

JP: Probably the relationships we’ve developed with the bands that we’ve played with. There’s a lot of great people, we’re on a great label. Light Organ (Records) have been great to us, and they’re based here so it’s been an advantage to communicate and talk with them whenever we want to. We’ve got great friends in other bands, too.

MM: Also… White Spot.

JP: White Spot! After the show, we can go to White Spot and get a Double Double. That’s the other side of it.

LL: Do you think the community affects the music you write?

MM: I don’t think so. A little bit, but we spend a lot of time looking to musical influences outside of the city, particularly because we’re writing new songs right now. Classic pop music, or anything really.

JP: When you talk about the community and the relationships you form, that inevitably has an effect on things. From a songwriting perspective, no, but the general way you approach things… yes.

MM: The way that you get along with other bands, booking shows together, that will inevitably have an effect on what we do.

LL: You said you have a lot of relationships with bands from Vancouver, what are your favourite local acts?

JP: Whenever you name bands you always forget one and then you feel bad.

LL: You can email us a 20-page document of everything you forgot later.

JP: That’s a lot of homework. It’s like an Oscar acceptance speech.

MM: “And anyone else I forgot…”

JP: A lot of the bands on our label I really like. We were fortunate enough to play with the Zolas last November. I really like James Younger’s music as well, he used to play in Sun Wizard, who I really liked. They’ve broken up now.

MM: The Belle Game record is good.

JP: I like them, they’re great. I really like Nü Sensae, I’ve seen them play more than a few times. I really like Tough Lovers.

MM: We used to play with Bear Mountain, too.

JP: I have their record, it’s good. I’ve got the Ballantynes singles as well, we played with Max [Sample]. They’re great. Gang Signs are good, too. I think we did a good job, that’s like ten bands. There are so many more, but that’s what the 20-page follow-up is for.

 LL: You did good. Very important question here: has fatherhood mellowed Kanye West? 

MM: I haven’t read as much about him recently, that counts as mellowing. We’ll have to wait for the next record. If the next one is sick, then it didn’t mellow him, but if it’s lame… he’s got daddy syndrome.

LL: Speaking of things that aren’t lame, you’re known for some pretty rad live shows. Did you break your hand punching a cymbal at one point?

MM: I do that on a fairly regular basis. I generally wear a brace now.

JP: He’s sacrificing his body for the music.

LL: It’s safe to say that February 11th is going to be a rad show, then.

JP: Yeah, it’s the Electric Owl that we’re playing at. It should be a good show, we’re playing with The Hounds Below from Michigan.  They’re ex-members of the Von Bondies. We went to see the Von Bondies play once, actually. Anyways, I’m looking forward to the show.

LL: I don’t know if you still do this, but you guys used to wear striped shirts to your shows all the time. Do you feel personally threatened when other people wear stripes near you?

MM: We wore those a lot, unless we were shooting a video. Horizontal lines go weird on camera. That’s a no-no.

JP: [Laughter] It’s never been an intentional thing. It came up accidentally, we have very similar taste in clothes. There’s one pair of shoes that we both own and for a period of a couple weeks there was some advanced phone calling that had to happen to ensure we weren’t wearing the exact same shoes for a show. I’m not sure I would feel threatened, I think I would be naturally attracted to someone wearing a striped shirt.

MM: They’re slimming. Stripes are slimming.

LL: Are you going to be like those eighty year olds who still coordinate their outfits?

JP:  I hope so. That’s the thing, I look at pictures of my dad and friend’s dads, and they were so cool. Then they became dads and changed everything.

MM: You don’t want to turn out like Kanye West.

JP: I don’t want to be that guy, I’ll be a classy dresser when I’m older. Or I won’t care anymore, I’ll just wear jogging pants.

MM: My highlight of seeing him pick an outfit was when he wore jogging pants and black leather boots to rehearsal. It’s like they were the first pair of shoes available.

LL: Besides a slow decline into jogging pants, what else is there to look forward to in 2014?

MM: A new EP at the least, possibly a record. It depends how much of our act we get together.

JP: Right now we’re spending the majority of our time writing new material. We’ve been floating around ideas, and we’re on the verge of finishing a new song. The idea is to try and get a release for later this year.

LL: How do you think your music has changed since your first album?

JP: The direction is changing, isn’t it?

MM: We want it to be smooth. Like my complexion. We’re thinking about the songs that we were playing, and we were getting quite tired of playing the same material. We’re looking outwards into something different, more percussive.

When you’re out playing those same songs over and over, you figure out which ones you like and which you don’t. Then you start to look at why you like what you do, and why you don’t like what you don’t. That has an effect on the new direction. There are some definite songs that you enjoy playing all the time, so we’d like to continue writing more songs like those.

JP: We want to keep that feeling as opposed to sounding exactly the same.

 LL: Do you believe that there are a finite number of cat metaphors in this world?

MM: Probably not. When you run out of ones in English you just switch to a different language.

LL: Would you run out of languages?

MM: You can just invent them, Sigur Rós does that.

LL: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

MM: These yam fries are better than last time we were here.

JP: Yeah, they are. That’s it. Good yam fries.

LL: One last question: before choosing Fine Times as a band name, what was the most cringe-inducing option you came up with?

JP: They’re probably all in my email, we would have some awful ones there. For a time we considered the name Bad Blood. I thought it was really funny to have a pop band that sounded like a metal band. We had some terribly immemorable names for the most part. Choosing a band name is one of the worst endeavours, it’s going to get referenced so often going forward.  We probably had some that were awful. Unmentionable.

MM: There was Funk You and Funked Up.

JP: We were going to start a Fucked Up cover band called Funked Up and just do funk version of their music.

MM: Funk rock.

LL: I would pay to hear that. Well, that’s it, that’s all. Thanks for talking with us!

JP: Thanks for having us out here.

LL: Peace out, girl scouts. 

Fine Times play the Electric Owl on February 11th. Tickets are available for purchase here.

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