New band, old glove

Winter Gloves trade in guitars for synth pop

Charlie F’s solo project has grown into a four-piece pop outfit.
Charlie F’s solo project has grown into a four-piece pop outfit.
Photo by E.P. Liebe

Making the transition from a one-man, one–mic apartment demo project to a full-fledged band at home on indie label Paper Bag Records, Winter Gloves—armed with a debut album—have quickly found a perfect four-member, synth pop fit.

Built around the Wurlitzer and piano pop musings of Charlie F, the band incorporates—by way of serendipity and MySpace—drummer Pat Sayers, synth-player Vincent Chalifou and guitarist Jean-Michel Pigeon as part of their dance party-inspiring mix. Their first full-length disc, about a girl is worth its weight in synthesizers and catchy vocal riffs as a joy ride through a hyper and brooding cityscape.

Though the album pulses along with an electronic smoothness, the tracks still capture an immediate and underplayed rock energy, due in part to the band’s access to studio-quality gear and Tokyo Police Club producer Jon Drew. Also, the band’s new formation led to band members just finding their groove with each other and the songs on tape. Even on quieter tracks such as “Paper Weight” there’s something playful simmering under the thick and contained layers of bass and keyboard.

“The only thing I wanted to do was make dance pop music that was accessible and easy listening with powerful melodies and powerful basses—a lot of drums, a lot of bass.

“That was the main purpose of the whole recording process, we wanted to find a vintage touch,” Charlie told the Journal.

“It’s easy on the ears—not too much compression and loud guitars,” Sayers added.

Charlie and Sayers come from bands where guitars were figured more prominently. Winter Gloves still makes use of guitarist Pigeon but the emphasis is on the keys—warbly Wurlitzer and pristine piano strokes alike. “I used to play in guitar bands. I used to play louder music—more aggressive. When I went to piano and Wurlitzer it came more easily. It’s all around the Wurlitzer sounds,” Charlie said.

Although vestiges of Charlie’s past projects have made their way into about a girl, the sounds are different revamped takes and twists.

“It’s older songs and super new songs. We worked on them. For example, ‘Party People,’ one of the riffs was in my first band, and I made it like a Winter Gloves song. ‘Factories’ was, at first, super guitar and super fast, but with the synthesizer and the drums and it turned out differently,” he said.

“It’s always a great challenge to record a song that you like, I wanted [‘Hillside’ and ‘Piano 4 Hands’] to sound repetitive to feel like you’re in a bubble and can listen to it for three hours. … I’m really happy we were able to create that bubble, that hypnotizing kind of vibe.”

From the falsetto wails and keyboard bounce of opener ‘Factories’ to the lull of closer ‘Piano 4 Hands,’ the band seems to have traded in aggressive for infectious.

“I like to see and listen to music that’s going to uplift me. Kind of like when you go to the movies, you want to escape. Yeah, you want to see a good drama, but half the time you leave feeling shitty,” Sayers said.

“It’s pretty sexy when your album sounds really loud but we decided to go a bit more vintage, quality album. We wanted people to listen to the album over and over again,” Charlie said.

Emerging from Montreal, a city laden with more hip bands than you can shake a St. Viateur bagel at, the band finds its home city nurturing yet daunting at the same time.

“There’s a lot of pressure and the critics are pretty sharp with their pens. They feel there have been so many bands come out of here that have made footwork and had success,” Sayers said.

“There are two sides of it. Montreal is the perfect place start a band—it’s pretty cheap, lots of friends, lots of people going to shows. If you know the venues to play, you can go there, even if it’s a new project. That’s the first thing I really love about Montreal.

“The other thing, when you release an album it’s scary because at the same time there are a lot of really good bands coming out of Montreal. I remember I was afraid to have people talking shit about us because they don’t want us to be the new good band.”

Judging from responses of critics and audiences to the fledgling band’s debut and and live shows, Winter Gloves seem to have shaken most of their hometown anxieties and settled into becoming a band in their own right.

“It’s been amazing. Sometimes we’re playing in front of people in towns we’ve never been to and people know the songs,” Charlie said.

Known for flinging their EPs into the audience and bringing the danceable music, the poppy outfit is currently on tour and paired with dance punks You Say Party! We Say Die!—a pretty apt combination.

EPs may or may not be flung at The Grad Club on Saturday, but concert-goers will be treated to two free B-sides from the about a girl recording session. Along with these tracks Sayers personally promises a high-energy dance party for all who attend.

The lightning speed at which this band has gotten their name out there continues. Their upcoming schedule includes performing at SXSW and on MTV Canada, a potential music video and hopes of traveling globally. But in the meantime Winter Gloves are all about their tour, unleashing studio tracks in their live forms and partying it up with their new dance-punk friends.

“We’re like a family. It’s like an extension of who we are. We met them and all of us became brothers and sisters out to conquer Canada on this tour,” Sayers said.

“That’s what it’s all about for me: The exchange of energy with the audience, getting to meet people every night.”

Winter Gloves play with You Say Party! We Say Die! at The Grad Club Saturday night. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

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