Montreal’s On Bodies are a bunch of nerds. Sure, indie bands often claim geek chic while secretly striving toward coolness, but Mark Ambrose Harris, vocalist and keyboardist, would rather stay home and read about sea creatures than get rock star wild at a bar. Formed in 2005, the group consists of Harris, Sheena Hoszko on vocals and bass, and Brian Fauteux on drums. Their unique synth-pop songs can be found on their debut album, The After EP.
Xtra.ca: Tell me about your self-professed nerdiness.
Harris: Ever since I was young, I’ve been a nerd for natural sciences, specifically fauna. As a kid, it seemed like obsessing over dinosaurs and memorizing all of their names was a normal thing to do, but I never really let go of that compulsion. Sometimes I’d rather just sit down to read about the central nervous system of squid, instead of going out to a bar.
Xtra.ca: How would you describe The After EP?
Harris: The sound of our EP is very tactile. It is definitely heavy on the bass and synth end, because we do not have a guitarist. The drums keep the EP up and moving, so while the subject matter may lean towards being more introspective, the beats keep a prominent pulse going. All of these elements give it post-punk/dark pop feel.
Xtra.ca: What was the recording process like?
Harris: It was fun, and in some ways, a huge honour, to play with amazing instruments that we wouldn’t normally have access to. The studio had a Rhodes piano that we ended up using for Blank, and a great little synth that shows up on a couple of the songs. A good friend of ours lent us her antique organette, which she had inherited from her grandmother.
One of the most challenging aspects of the recording was hearing things back. I think that sometimes it is difficult to stand outside of a situation, to hear what you’re doing with fresh ears. Suddenly, a microphone picks up all of these intimate moments, and there’s this wake-up call that says, “this song isn’t finished yet” or “you need to cut this part out entirely.” There were definitely moments when we presented what we thought were finished products, only to realize there was a significant amount of work left to be done.
Xtra.ca: Did you learn anything while recording the EP?
Harris: Collaboration can be difficult! There’s always other stuff going on in the outside world, in people’s personal lives, whether good or bad or somewhere in between. I used to think that I had to make a separation, and keep my personal business out of the recording process. However, when you’re working in an intimate atmosphere for a couple of months, there is no point in trying to keep the personal out. It’s impossible. If I’m in a bad mood because of something that happened at work, and I try to cover that up in the studio, it’s just going to look like I’m pissed off about the recording. I think we learned that full disclosure, or at least a lot of communication, is vital to any collaborative work.
Xtra.ca: Does “queerness” inform your music at all?
Harris: This is a difficult question, and it’s a subject that I’m always trying to reconcile with. I feel that queerness is often read as a visual element, whereas my area of interest is the idea of queer sound, more specifically, a queer voice. For me, a queer voice can shock, can instill a sense of awe, can pierce the listener. It feels corporal, but seems to come from outside of a body. For a while, I was striving for something like this, but this endeavour fell flat. I’m not there yet. In some ways, I feel like my stage presence is queer, but maybe I’m just projecting.