Whether it’s post-punk, electronic or even obtuse experimental noise, these days the filter of pop has become increasingly prevalent in shaping the sonics of the modern bedroom auteur. Be it bands like Greatest Hits and Unknown Mortal Orchestra tapping into the maximalist miscegenation of ’80s Top 40 radio, or Grimes and AlunaGeorge re-imaging hip-hop and R&B from the ’90s, never have the effects of such pristine, populist aesthetics been so clearly embraced. Being difficult or challenging is no longer the modus operandi; the challenge now comes in scaling that pop summit with an intuitive dexterity and the least amount of nostalgia visible to the audience.
It is this kind sonic feats for which David Carriere has trained during his years among Montreal’s burgeoning community of pop architects. As founder of Silly Kissers, he tackled power-pop. Currently in TOPS he flirts with dream-pop, and as Paula, his bedroom solo project, his recordings relay a type of kitchen-sink pop that includes a little bit of everything. Relaxed Fit, Carriere’s first record as Paula, is rife with pre-packaged Casio beats skittering in the background, big romantic synths lacing the songs with majestic velvet, and plenty of new wave hooks. “Change the Subject” even includes a verse from famed Canadian emcee Cadence Weapon, just to put a time stamp on things. Nostalgia is present all over Relaxed Fit, but the album’s such a dizzying, sugary rush that you never notice how it’s tucked into the folds. I recently caught up with Carriere via e-mail, and he was happy to discuss his unabashed love of pop and its place in Montreal’s current music scene.
Is Paula something you’ve always done or did you create Paula after being in bands like the Silly Kissers and TOPS?
David Carriere: TOPS and the Paula project started alongside one another. I always have made recordings, but didn’t really have the capacity or focus to finish and string together into entire songs for real people to listen to. One night, Sebastian (Cowan) from Arbutus Records told me to finish some songs, so shortly thereafter I got to it.
Where does the pseudonym Paula come from?
DC: Everybody knows a girl or more. I thought about Pamela for a while, but Paula was better and shorter. Single name failure artists usually have cool songs.
What was the set-up when recording Relaxed Fit? I can’t figure out if this was something you made in your bedroom or in a studio. Is fidelity something you covet or does it not have much of a role in your aesthetic?
DC: In my room, I record the music onto a computerized workstation. I try to make the production distinctive, and I know a lot of tricks because I have worked with the program so much.
Being a part of those other bands, how do you separate these songs from those you compose in other projects?
DC: In TOPS, I compose with the others, so I try my best to provide a guitar or voice part that efficiently fits with whatever is going on, even if I propose the section. A song of my own lives alone and never leaves the home. But if I am super jazzed on it, I will show it off to a friend late at night.
Relaxed Fit is definitely indebted to pop songwriting as opposed to being retro or heavily electronically reliant, but I can’t quite tell what influenced the songwriting exactly. Is there a specific time period in pop music or a particular sound that steered the writing?
DC: Pop changes and structures are a big part of how I started way back, so I can't get away from it. Trying to recreate the past is like trying to get down with your ex when you could just take what you learned and kiss someone new.
Claire from Grimes claimed you “taught her how to love pop music.” Can you reflect on why she might say that?
DC: That is very nice of her to say. It might be because she did the "arms up and march" dance in my old band on Quebec TV. Anybody who can pull off that maneuver is very much ready to love pop music.
Has her recent notoriety had an impact on your circle in Montreal?
DC: It has. I really like the music on Arbutus and it's time that somebody gave a damn.
How long have you been making music in the city? Have you seen a shift in how bands present themselves over that time period?
DC: I’ve noticed more solo artists than ever!
There are a number of bands in Montreal right now orbiting the same type of center, namely using ’90s R&B, radio pop, house and electronic textures, new romanticism—is there anything about the city that you can attribute to this incestuous creativity?
DC: One, Montreal is a very incestuous city. Two, it is inexpensive to live here so regular dopes have more time to hang out and make stuff.
Are you planning to tour Paula at some point in the States? What do you currently have in the works for the next Paula record?
DC: I haven't played much Paula live because the band I have to do it is TOPS and understandably they would rather play TOPS instead. Currently I am working on some fresh new numbers that are going to be on my upcoming record. Hopefully I will tour that one a lot.
Fill in the blanks:
In 10th grade, I was listening to ____, doing ____ in the ____ with ____, wishing I was ____.
LG: In 10th grade, I was listening to wind in the willows, doing it with my girlfriend, wishing I was staying in touch.