Pillow Fite is Art Ross and Aaron Green.

Q&A: How indie rock band Pillow Fite is changing the Halifax scene

"Rock doesn't need to be gendered or hetero or anything like that," says the Tegan and Sara-sounding duo.

The story of Pillow Fite is one undeniably shaped by the pandemic: Lyrics formed via text during lockdown, early band practices conducted inside the two-household bubble. But don’t let the band’s origin story (or its on-the-pulse-attitude) let you mistake the duo for a COVID-era relic. Instead, Art Ross and Aaron Green are onto something much bigger, as long-lasting as the poppy ear worms they’ve perfected since their first single dropped in 2021: “First and foremost, we are a queer band. There's nothing about our band that is really that binary. I think that we play with different genres, we play with different looks and different gender representations,” says Ross.

While Halifax music insiders probably recognize Green from bands like Floodland and Hello Delaware, his combining forces with Ross is the perfect alchemy of insider and outsider, helping the duo make good on their plans to centre queerness in the city’s overwhelmingly straight, cis rock scene—all while calling Tegan and Sara and Phoebe Bridgers to mind.

Here, ahead of Pillow Fite’s performance at the Halifax Urban Folk Festival on August 31 (opening for The Hidden Cameras at The Carleton) and on the heels of the band’s debut LP, Flutter, which dropped this summer, we chat with Ross and Green about sonic inspiration and building a scene for everyone:

The Coast: Your origin story is a really interesting one, with your press materials mentioning you started writing lyrics together via text by accident. I’d love to know the whole story behind that.

Ross: We should go back to the personality types of Aaron and I, because that's really the magic of it all: So I am a very creative, kind of, what did Mike call me?

Green: Emotional. [both laugh]

Ross: An emotional tornado! Where I’m a little dramatic and I have my heart on my sleeve. And I had like a few lyrics from when I was growing up in England and I did a bit of songwriting and then I met Aaron, and he was this very—how would you describe yourself, Aaron?

Green: Logical, analytical, even.

Ross: A Virgo! And so I sent him pretty much just like piles and piles and piles of these wild, very different types of lyrics, where I obviously didn't have the structure of the song, but I had all of the emotions that would fit well into a song. And Aaron, with his beautiful, logical brain, kind of helped me put the poetry into an actual formation that was digestible to other people and made sense.

Green: We’d only known each other for about six months and I knew they played guitar. So they came over jam in February 2020, just before everything shut down. So then everything was quarantined, and while we couldn't see anybody, I figured all the tours had been canceled in perpetuity, so I better learn to produce. So for the first little bit, it was literally just Art sending a video of them playing a song they’d thrown on acoustic guitar and I’d go and turn it into a pop thing. Then we’d go back and forth through emails or texts or mp3s, and then we’d wait until you could see other people, until bubbles could happen. I'd be like ‘Oh, great, we’re gonna have bubbles, so you can come over vocals on this song I've been demoing.’ [laughs].

It feels like you have a real kind of ‘best of both worlds’ thing going on: One of you is a seasoned veteran who's been in all these different bands. And then the other one of you is a relative newcomer to music. I'm wondering: What's the benefits of having a little bit of each and what do you feel like you both bring to the table?

Ross: I'm so glad you asked. This is my favourite question to answer. This is so cliche, but I feel like I taught Aaron to feel. I truly do. Because when I first met him, he was very structured musically. And he was like ‘wait, you can't do that. You can't have a five minutes song with only one lyric the whole time.’ And I'm like 'why not?’

But then Aaron has really helped structure us. And he's also a veteran in the music industry in Halifax. He's got an incredible reputation. Aaron already has an established presence in Halifax that I was really lucky to be added into.

Something I’ve been seeing in coverage of you is how Pillow Fite aims to be a disruptor of the white, cis, hetero, male dominated indie rock scene in Halifax—but in one sense, I also do find your sound still has aspects of Halifax DNA. How do you balance that?

Ross: Aaron, you go first and then I’ll criticize what you say. [laughs]

Green: A lot of that comes from me, I guess, in the guitar player realm: the stuff that I grew up listening to—although I've noticed a lot of that has been shifting to the way I hear Wilco and Courtney Barnett and Japanese Breakfast currently.

"Rock doesn't need to be gendered or hetero or anything like that."

tweet this
It's great that everybody's able to put out more music and the scene is diversifying, but we still have a history of a male dominated industry. So, pull out of that, and I feel like it's more so a reclaiming of rock music by people who aren’t the traditional image of a rock star: comparing women to cars and you know, the hair metal, all that garbage. Like, rock doesn't need to be gendered or hetero or anything like that. So that's kind of where that comes from.

We don't set out with any kind of genre or end goal. We just kind of want to see where things go. So I think it's just all the influences that have been put in there. Because everything's built around this queer story we're trying to tell in each song—and we're just like using the tools available to us that work.

There's still not enough representation of queer folks or people of colour fronting these bands. Like, things are getting better, but when we look at the bills that are happening, it’s still not always reflective.

Ross: And to add to that, sometimes I feel like I'm not taken seriously unless I’m with Aaron. I definitely feel as a queer, trans-fronted band, there is an intense amount of misogyny and fetishization from all parts. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Pillow Fite play Halifax Urban Folk Fest August 31 with The Hidden Cameras.

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

Support The Coast

At a time when the city needs local coverage more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support independent journalism. We are committed as always to providing free access to readers, particularly as we confront the impact of COVID-19 in Halifax and beyond.

Read more about the work we do here, or consider making a donation. Thank you for your support!

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Get more Halifax

The Coast Daily email newsletter is your extra dose of the city Monday through Friday. Sign up and go deep on Halifax.

Recent Comments