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Collective class 

On the eve of its CD release, seven-piece outfit The Hourglass Class talks to Matt Charlton about its surprising future.

It’s early September, and by all accounts The Hourglass Class should be no more.

When the band formed four months ago to perform a last-minute show, it was with the assumption that its lifespan would be limited, due to several members’ intentions to leave the city in the fall. When the show was a success they quickly began to record the songs they had performed as a monument to their time together.

Now, as the resulting album draws to completion, things seem to have taken a dramatic turn for the group.

“When we started we all had very different plans in mind for September,” says bass player and designated stage banter-ist Ryan Cox. “Matt and I were originally planning to take off to Thailand, Jessie to India and Kinley was planning to chase her professor somewhere…to study. So, from the start it looked like September was day zero for the band.”

Also made up of Mike Long, Shawn Mullen and a rotating cast of drummers, the seven-piece band cemented its chemistry during the album sessions and a steady string of shows. Eventually, plans were reassessed and the band’s future gained a more optimistic outlook as Cox and Whiston cancelled their plans for Thailand and Dowling ended up staying in the city.

Now functioning as a working band, the group is preparing to release the document of its planned demise.

As they sit and discuss the EP, two things become very obvious about The Hourglass Class. First, they are different from most other bands. Polite, sincere and totally without ego, they come across more like a group of friends gathering to discuss their favourite music rather than to talk about their own. Secondly, their conversation quickly proves Cox to be the band’s leader, a silent point that is subtly reinforced numerous times by the other members. Dodging from topic to topic, he guides the band through their answers by rounding out their points and adding humorous asides and interesting talk points.

Cox is also quick to sense and guide his troops away from impending danger. When the question of possible influences a large, organic sounding collective may have gained from other acts—possibly one based in Montreal or, to a lesser extent, another from Toronto—he is quick to reply.

“No, no, don’t say anything, don’t answer that question,” he advises the other members. Obviously trying to avoid being tagged as followers of the big band trend, the rest of the group follows Cox’s lead and shut down to any further questioning on the subject.

Luckily, size is about the only thing The Hourglass Class share with other large acts such as Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene or Do Make Say Think. On the EP, they deliver a unique and brooding country-infused chamber-pop sound. It’s the first step of a collective that is finding its way into something special. While the group’s constant use of acoustic guitars as the base of all its tracks steals from the potential intensity of its shifting dynamics, each song offers a glimpse at what could be.

The group is quick to admit this is something they are still developing.

“That’s our biggest hurdle,” says Long.

“It’s something we’re still working on,” adds Cox.

“I think it’s a learning curve between these songs starting out as something a songwriter performs solo to being able to step back from the spotlight and let someone else play something,” says Mullen. “You’ve got to cut back the songs a bit, I think that’s the biggest difficulty…especially when I just want to rip a solo most of the time.”

Despite this, the group’s true propulsion seems to be in their interpersonal bonds as its music’s self-described “sad bastard” qualities are lifted with the members’ common input and energy.

“That’s more where the whole collective idea came from,” says Long. “Being up on stage and just having fun with a bunch of your friends.”

Now, as they head into borrowed time, it looks like The Hourglass Class will have many more chances to do just that.

The Hourglass Class CD release, September 14 at The Attic, 1781 Grafton. 11pm, $5, 423-0909.


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