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Tour of duty

Toronto band July Talk has places to go, people to see before thinking about a second album

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Around this time last year, July Talk -- a blistering, whiskey-soaked indie rock band out of Toronto -- quietly released its sexy blues stomp of a self-titled debut. It didn't take long for momentum to build; fans and critics alike were knocked out by the dynamic vocal interplay between singers Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, her pixieish, cotton-candy coo serving as the counterpoint to his positively Waitsian growl.

Fast-forward a year, and that career-sparking debut has been re-released by Universal Music Canada with four new tracks that hint at where July Talk is headed.

"The first album was released before we'd done any touring," Fay explains. "I think we'd played four shows. Having toured a lot since then, there's a certain energy we felt was lacking from the album. So much of our essence has come from playing lots of shows. We thought of that debut as an introduction to the band, and we weren't done making our introductions yet."

Indeed, July Talk -- which also includes guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton and drummer Danny Miles -- still has places to go (namely, Europe and the States) and new ears to reach on a debut that still has plenty of gas in the tank.

"It seemed silly to put out a second album," Fay says.

There's lots of time for that. As Fay points out, July Talk is still a relatively new thing. Formed in 2012, the band is the product of a starry-eyed boy-meets-girl tale. As the story goes, Dreimanis heard Fay sing in a basement bar in Toronto, strumming a banged-up acoustic guitar that was being passed around the room. Struck by her dulcet pipes, Dreimanis immediately began dreaming of the music he and this lovely stranger from the bar might make together -- but he had to track her down and introduce himself, first. Luckily, fate threw the pair a bone, the two crossed paths again, and July Talk was formed.

The nascent band figured out its sound on compositions they had saved and shelved in notebooks.

"A lot of those songs Peter had written, like, five years ago," Fay says of the tunes on the debut. "It was collaborative in the sense that we all had to figure out how to piece them together and how I could connect to them and deliver something I was proud of. The next one will be a more collaborative effort."

And the wheels are in motion for the next July Talk album.

"We have a place we all love in Ontario and we're trying to figure out how to get there in January to do some recording," she says. "We want to be in the woods with loads of coffee and whiskey and beer and get away from everything and just focus on music. I think it'll be really special to have all five of us together."

The place is Burnstown, Ont., a picturesque village tucked away in the Ottawa Valley. It's home to The Neat Cafe, a venue/wood-fired pizza joint July Talk stumbled upon while booking one of its earliest tours. "We found out that the show had sold out," Fay recalls with a laugh. "It was the first show we'd sold out outside of Toronto." The fivesome braved treacherous road conditions to make their show and, when they walked through the door of that little cafe hours late, everyone was still there -- and everyone cheered. Fay, still touched by that act of support, is looking forward to returning and making new memories -- and music -- there.

For now, though, she's content to be back out on tour.

"Being on the road is really good for us," Fay says. "As soon we get in the van, there's always a sigh of relief."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2013 C9

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