For Kris and Dee, every gig is like a vacation.
Kris Abbott from The Pursuit of Happiness and Dee McNeil from The Strap Ons have been married for 10 years and have been making music as a duo since 2007. In this edited interview, the Kingston folk-pop musicians tell Daily Xtra about their new record, their upcoming Ottawa gig and why the stage is a vacation site.
Daily Xtra: You’re performing at Westfest on June 13. What do you like about playing outdoor festivals?
Dee McNeil: Westfest in particular is fantastic. It’s free, everybody’s welcome, everybody’s equal. There’s just something about playing music to thousands of people out in the sun. It’s a great vibe.
What was your process for writing and recording your new record A Great Long Game?
Kris Abbott: One hundred percent of this record was written in our living room over morning coffees, just sort of working out songs. For this record, because it’s our third, we wanted to try and do something different, to make the studio an extension of our creative process. We self-produce our records, but we went out to the Bathouse Recording Studio that’s owned by the Tragically Hip here in Kingston for a weekend and just locked up there with an engineer. Then we took all of that back to our studio and continued to work on it.
How will you celebrate your 10th wedding anniversary?
Dee: We’re playing a show in town, at a famous Kingston establishment, so that’ll be great.
Canada is also marking 10 years of same-sex marriage. What makes you proud to be an LGBT Canadian and what do we need to do to further decrease oppression for LGBT people?
Kris: I feel grateful every single day for people who have advocated on my behalf. I’m old enough to remember the days of going out to gay bars in Toronto where it was kind of scary. They weren’t always in nice places and you kind of had to look over your shoulder a little bit.
Dee: I think we’re going in the right direction as a country. I’m a prof at Queen’s University and my students are fine with non-heterosexual relationships. They don’t understand [homophobia and transphobia]. There are instances where people are still being abused and discriminated against, but we’ve got to stay optimistic that as a society we’re evolving.
How did you react when you heard Elaina Martin, founder and producer of Westfest, calling you the next Indigo Girls?
Kris: It’s a very flattering compliment because the Indigo Girls are fantastic. We get shy at being compared to a powerhouse like that but we’re really excited to play music for people and we need our music to connect. It’s such a great way to communicate with people and be able to explore your own feelings and then recover from them. We’re so honoured to be a part of Westfest because it represents so many amazing things — being open to everyone and it’s free and there’s such a wide variety of performers.
Dee: We’re allies of Idle No More and we like that Westfest acknowledges that it’s being held on unceded Algonquin land.
Tegan and Sara always get asked what it’s like being sisters who also perform together. What is it like being wives who perform together?
Dee: It’s great. We’re each other’s best friends and each other’s best musical soul mates and we complement each other in our musical skill set. It’s very natural. It never feels forced. People ask us all the time if we fight like cats and dogs and we don’t.
Kris: We have a running joke where we don’t know if we’re going on a gig or on vacation because we enjoy each other’s company, music and meeting people so much.