Friday, April 8, 2011

The Submarines

My interview with the Submarines in this week's WEVancouver.

The Submarines

MUSIC: The Submarines collaborate on a ‘Love Note’

The Submarines’ origins is the stuff of indie-pop legend: boy (John Dragonetti) and girl (Blake Hazard) meet, play music and fall in love. They relocate from Boston to Los Angeles and then break up. But the sad songs they write about their broken hearts bring them together again and soon Dragonetti and Hazard are the living epitome of the soft-rock staple “Reunited and It Feels So Good.” Friends decided to master their break-up songs as a wedding present and the Submarines’ 2006 debut album, Declare a New State, was ready to go.

Since then, the duo has cultivated some high-profile gigs, including two songs that became instant classics thanks to prominent placement in Apple iPhone 3 (“You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”) and 3G (“Submarine Symphonika”) commercials. The Submarines’ third album, Love Notes/Letter Bombs, builds on the catchy indie-pop sound they have been perfecting over the last five years. WE spoke with the pair the day before the album dropped, and found out it might also be their most intimate creation yet: exploring themes of love and tension, and borrowing more than a little from their own challenges as spouses, bandmates, and musicians.

WE: The album’s out tomorrow. Is it still a nerve-racking experience waiting to see how it’s received?
Hazard: Yes!
Dragonetti: Hmm. Yeah, I guess there’s a lot of anticipation. But it seems like it’s kind of a slow process, too. Even though the album comes out tomorrow, for us there’s always been this build up. We’re just excited, finally, to have it out. There’s such a long wait after you deliver the record.
Hazard: It’s exciting to hear first responses, too. It just feels like more people are hearing this record than heard our previous ones, and that feels really good. It makes the work that’s gone into the band add up to something.

The album feels like a really natural progression, but also infinitely more confident.
Hazard: Cool! I’m glad we sound that way musically. (Laughs) That’s great. I think we went a little bit bigger sonically this time, so if it sounds a little more full that’s at least a little bit by design, so that’s good. I’m glad.

Obviously the process now probably couldn’t be more different than the first album.
Dragonetti: Right. It seems like we record songs and make records in so many different ways. We don’t really have a set flow that works for us. Sometimes Blake works on a song by herself and brings it in, and then I’ll start helping her produce the sounds and the tracks and stuff, and other times I’ll work on stuff on my own and bring it to her. This time we wanted to collaborate more and you know, sit in a room together and old-school style, hash a song out with a guitar and by hand. We wrote the lyrics together and tried a lot more of that on this record. I’m pretty pleased with how it came out. Blake, what do you think?
Hazard: I don’t think we set out necessarily to make the record more collaboratively, but by default we did because we ended up needing to do a lot of lyric writing together after working on the initial stages of the record separately. Basically we recorded the whole record instrumentally first and then went back and did like, oohs and aahs, melodies over that, and did the lyrics very last. Not on all the songs, so that was a wildly different process.
Dragonetti: We had this sort of Herb Alpert version of the album with oohs and aahs on it, which maybe we’ll release some day.
Hazard: On a few of the songs, it kind of allowed us to develop a story, or be inspired by the music itself instead of having a set idea before we went into it. Some of doing the writing that way captured this moment in time for us, where we were when we were writing as opposed to songs you write over a long period of time where you might think about one thing one day and another thing the next day. This was more concentrated... [Loud beeps start happening in the background] What is that? (Laughs)
Dragonetti: Sorry, I know. I’m multitasking but I’m very —
Hazard: Oh, John! Anyways, certain themes emerged that we weren’t even aware of until we’d almost finished the record and that sort of took us by surprise I think. To listen and realize, oh, this is what it’s about!
Dragonetti: Yeah, we wear our struggles on our sleeve for sure.
Hazard: Yeah, more than we intended! (Laughs)

The title of the album is fun and allows people to read into lots of stuff. Did that come after the fact, too?
Hazard: (Laughs) Yeah. It’s sort of a lyric lifted from the song “Tigers.” It’s very much like that’s what emerged later for us: the dichotomy of love and tenderness versus the conflict and tension in the relationship but also in the band and in the music. It became a theme that emerged after the fact. When we say Letter Bomb we don’t mean anything violent. We thought of like, a Wes Anderson movie and how there are all of these imminent perils... but it’s almost a sinister cuteness, you know? He plays on danger and safety and all that stuff.
Dragonetti: I think the title sums up the record pretty well.

The Submarines play Wednesday, Apr. 13 at Biltmore, 8pm. Tickets $13 from Red Cat Records, Zulu Records and


SUMMER FUN: Outdoor musical festival Live at Squamish is back for another summer, featuring headliners Weezer, Metric, Girl Talk and the John Butler Trio. Local acts Kyprios, The Zolas, and Bend Sinister will also be on hand to help round out the festivities. Aug. 20-21 in Squamish. Early bird tickets $79-$199 until May 15 from

WHOOOOO’S THERE?: Ever since beloved indie-dance band !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk) announced its Vancouver show would take place at Electric Owl, concert-goers have been curious about this new, swathed-in-secrecy venue. Here’s what WE knows: The Electric Owl will be located in the former American Hotel space (928 Main), across from the Cobalt. Insiders say it’s “not part of a chain,” that it will be 8,000 square feet over two levels, and will open its doors in early May.

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