Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Dig in

The PepTides lead with their cocks and boxes

Credit: Jonathan Hobin

If the members of The PepTides had their way, when the apocalypse comes the avant-garde nonet would watch the world burn while harmonizing in their signature mashup style.

The Ottawa band has set the city alight since its 2010 debut, For Those Who Hate Human Interaction, was named best album of the year by the Ottawa Citizen’s Peter Simpson and its live show was voted the most engaging stage performance of 2011 by XPress readers.

Adam Bunch, of The Little Red Umbrella blog, calls The PepTides a swirling kaleidoscope of retro influences.

“On the surface, they seem completely earnest about their sound: unselfconsciously joyful in their throwback horns and sweeping, Shirley Bassey–style choruses,” Bunch writes. “But, as you listen to them or watch their mashup YouTube videos, it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s something more going on. That they’re subverting the very influences they’re citing, tongue firmly in cheek. Take the lyrics to the ’80s-ish pop number “Homme Love Whore” (“boy dick spurt / girl clit squirt / homme mount femme / woman straddle man / ejaculate!”). Or the fact that they dedicated an entire album — For Those Who Hate Human Interaction — to ‘exploring the colossal theme of hate.’”

Band leader Claude Marquis and lead vocalist DeeDee Butters bring energy to each song they create, melding modern tones with smooth ’60s cool. Marquis and Butters are equally tantalizing and delightfully raunchy: their favourite words include “cock” and “box.”

They say the formation of their band came naturally and can be traced back to Marquis’s Chinatown apartment, where he first recorded and mixed the group. He knew then The PepTides would eventually blossom into an ensemble brimming with talent.

Butters says the group picked up members in a variety of ways. They acquired vocalist Olexandra Pruchnicky when the duo appeared on the radio show Pruchnicky hosted with Danniel Oickle, Anything But Vanilla. The remainder came to the group through a combination of chance, personal connections and auditions held across the city.

“Our first album was very theatrical, and by nature DeeDee is theatrical — she has a background in theatre,” Marquis explains. “So it was a great combination of my dark songwriting and her magic.”

Meanwhile, Butters credits Marquis’s animal magnetism for the group’s success, adding “he leads with his cock.”

With so many members in one band, some might assume the songwriting process gets muddled along the way. Not so, insists Butters, who says Marquis lays the groundwork for each track and then allows each member to contribute.

“He’ll sketch the picture but then say, ‘I’m going this way, but do whatever you want. I’m looking for this general kind of sound, but do whatever you want to do.’ He’s very open creatively. Claude is definitely the musical master painter, the master cock. Actually, Claude does paint cocks,” Butters says with a chortle. “Every person is allowed to bring their flavour to it and make creative decisions during the recording process.”

Going back to the beginnings of The PepTides, Marquis admits that when he finished recording For Those Who Hate Human Interaction he knew he had authored something special. However, the praise for the album did come as a surprise because the band is a true do-it-yourself indie outfit; they didn’t rely on a label or PR maven to push their music on the press. Their sound speaks for itself.

The PepTides are also an awesomely visual band, as XPress readers noticed. Their theatre-in-the-round live show highlights their vintage clothes and allows each member to convey his or her personality to the crowd.

Butters says the band meticulously conceptualizes each concert, taking into account the stage they will perform on. When they played the main stage of Ottawa Bluesfest last month, Butters says, the size of the platform was a definite challenge.

“We have a different configuration for when we play the Black Sheep Inn or other venues in town. We will look into space and say, ‘Okay, what do we want to do?’ The Bluesfest stage was just so ginormously big, cockfully huge, so we really had to think about how we were going to arrange ourselves. We’re a big band and it was a big space, bigger than some of the houses I have lived in. So we were really excited about that; it was a rush,” she says.

Marquis adds, “We got great feedback,” before Butters interrupts with a laugh, “From the fans, not the microphones.”

Looking ahead, Marquis and Butters say their upcoming album, Love Question Mark, will continue their mashup style. The first single, “I’m in Love,” sounds as if Petula Clark got hold of a drum machine. Marquis says fans can also expect a shift toward electronica, something completely new for the group.

“We’re always trying different styles — blues, jazz, pop. We’re doing a whole bunch of stuff, but I like to keep it cohesive within a narrative or a theme,” he says. “So that being said, the Love album [will have an electronic theme] because I’m into electronica dance stuff right now, which I haven’t done in the past. There will be a lot of that, and under the theme of love, but then still going off in the directions of jazz and ballads.”

Marquis and Butters say fans can expect a Capital Pride live show that’s even crazier than a typical PepTides show, if that’s possible.

Marquis is thoughtful when asked what Pride means to him.

“Gay pride to me means support, not only for the community here, but for our brothers and sisters all over the world. To me, I think it’s important that we celebrate here to maintain that Pride for the ones who are being ostracized and killed.”