Diableros expose Olympic Hearts

Critical darlings The Diableros hit The Grad Club tonight.
Critical darlings The Diableros hit The Grad Club tonight.
Photo courtesy of thediableros.tv
The Diableros hope their national tour will develop their live show even further.
The Diableros hope their national tour will develop their live show even further.
Photo courtesy of newmusiccanada.com

Sitting in the comfy—if not a little cramped—apartment/practice space of the Diableros, on the outskirts of Toronto’s Kensington Market, drinking echinacea-laced tea with four of the six band members, you’d never know that the unassuming sextet are the city’s current critical darlings, nor that their debut album, You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts (which can be streamed in its entirety on their website, thediableros.tv) was just released across the country only a few days earlier. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all of the good press,” said the band’s humble singer and 12-string strummer, Pete Carmichael, rather simply.

“It’s very surreal,” added bassist Gary Leggett. “I always think people are joking at first [when they say they like the band].”

In addition to Carmichael and Leggett, organist Matt Rubba and farfisa player Tara Huk (who spent the entire interview quietly folding origami cranes) were also at the table. Not present were guitarist Ian Jackson and drummer Phoebe Lee.

The band’s humility and genuine friendship is immediately striking. At times, it was difficult to keep the pals from derailing the interview into playful banter and inside jokes.

Whether dissing lazy music critics (“Mmmm, this sandwich tastes like Arcade Fire”) or talking about what makes a good poutine (“I want to actually feel my heart getting clogged up”), they are clearly more to each other than just bandmates.

But their playfulness and good-natured camaraderie completely belie the dramatic tension and intense urgency of their songs.

Drawing on the pop-romanticism of The Cure and The Dears and the staticky sounds of Sonic Youth and The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Diableros make distorted, romantic pop music with a penchant for epic song structures. But the Diableros are never mopey or overly introspective. Their songs are energetic mini-anthems to make you dance, not cry.

Carmichael said the album was recorded live off the floor, with the exception of his vocals, as a means of capturing the band’s energy as a unit.

Carmichael’s strained vocals and unabashedly heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics combine with propulsive, fuzzed-out melodies and a panicked urgency to make the term “defiant vulnerability” sound not so oxymoronic.

However, as this writer tried to delve deeper to dissect the finer details of the Diableros’ music, Carmichael was quite literally at a loss for words:“We just play, man.” In addition to the widespread release of their album and all the attention they’ve been getting at home, the Diableros have even more to look forward to in the coming months. They’ll be touring nationally in the spring with Paper Bag’s princesses Magneta Lane and Boompa’s Small Sins (formerly known as the Ladies and Gentlemen), and they also just shot a video for “Sugar Laced Soul”, a song that best represents their distorted, grandiose pop.

But the good fortune didn’t come easily for the Diableros.

The Diableros are all veterans of the Toronto indie scene, having played in bands like Another Blue Door, the Airfields, Bellevue and Prom Night Suicide Pact to name a few. The band’s current incarnation has been playing together since August, but Carmichael, Huk and Lee have been going strong for almost two years now.

And Carmichael wasn’t driven by some rebellious D.I.Y. spirit when he originally released the record entirely independently last November. He shopped it around, but nobody was interested.

But that didn’t stop them. They scrounged up enough scratch to release the record locally.

And then people took notice—almost immediately.

In a matter of weeks, local tastemakers were salivating over the Diableros fuzzy, melodramatic pop and intense live shows. The Diableros became early contenders for the “next big thing” in 2006.

Now signed to Baudelaire Records—home only to Toronto’s favourite garage rockers, Tangiers, before the Diableros came on board—You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts was released across the country on Feb. 21.

“I didn’t really have any aspirations to get on a label,” Carmichael said. “The main goal was to make something I was happy with and the band was happy with.

“Just over a year ago, most of the shows we were playing were to, like, 20 people,” he said. “But those 20 people seemed to receive everything just as warmly as the 500 people we played to on Saturday—”

“—And then they all joined the band,” Leggett said.

Both Leggett and organist Matt Rubba had both been loyal fans of the band before being asked to join.

“I just figured that whoever likes the band the most should be in it,” Carmichael said. “And I’m glad it worked out.” “That’s a note to all the stalkers out there,” Leggett added. “It might just pay off.”

While the Diableros first started garnering attention from the press with the release of their record, they’ve always been highly praised for the energy of their live shows, and consider themselves first and foremost a live band.

“I’d like to keep developing our live show to the point where we can make recordings that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise make, because we’d become a better and better live band,” he said.

“Like, there’s definitely some bands who’ve inspired me in that regard … like Wilco, who put out a record and it sounds pretty clean and polished, and then they go and make this live record and it’s all over the place and experimental and amazing.

“There are just some bands that play their songs a certain way, they do it in the studio and they play them live and it all sounds slick, and then there’s other bands that can just keep on growing and making the same songs sound better every time they perform it,” he said. “That’s what I’m interested in doing.”

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