While nursing post- Thanksgiving turkey hangovers, celebrated Halifax indie-pop duo The Superfantastics chat over the phone from their respective abodes. But shortly after the call gets underway, things get awkward. It's the "third member" question that did it: the one that explorative couples often broach, surely with the same bashfulness. Lead singer and guitarist Matthew MacDonald says they had talked about the "threesome idea" before.
"It's as awkward as any talk can be when you're used to being just a two-person [band] and you mention bringing in a third, but you don't know if the other person is going to be into it." That other person would be drummer Stephanie Clattenburg, who adds between laughs, "And then you just act like you're joking, like, 'I don't really want to anyway---I just thought you wanted to.'"
So the duo is happy with its band life, in no need of spicing anything up, which is fine because they have a good thing going. The Superfantastics were nominated for Nova Scotia Music Awards (Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album) for their debut acclaimed 2007 LP, Pop-Up Book, and received an East Coast Music Award for their video "Tonight Tonite."
With a track record of tunes as syrupy as melted Swedish berries, the duo has now prepped its follow-up, Place to Roam, trading sunny guitars for distortion this time, subverting some of the candied pop from their past. "I think it's heavier, there's a lot more guitar stuff, it's a lot more raw," says MacDonald, later pointing out the band's decision to hire an outside producer (Rick White, knob-fiddler for The Sadies and Julie Doiron).
"We went up to Rick's house in rural Ontario, we stayed there for about a week," he says. This meant MacDonald, who is the principal songwriter, engineer and producer, had to relinquish his control to the more experienced White, for better or worse.
"I think everyone has their own inner control freak when it comes to certain things, but I felt like maybe that's not always a good thing, and I think that it's important to let go of those needs sometimes," he says, parenthetically adding: "I sound like I'm talking to a psychologist!"
The release party for Place to Roam coincides with early Christmas for Halifax's indie kids: next week's Pop Explosion. "Every year it's always been good experiences; the first year we played was the first day that Stephanie met her future husband," MacDonald says. They've played the festival four times, yet remain excited and proud to showcase material for a home crowd. Clattenburg affirms, "It's such an honour!" —JD
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