As the vocalist for all-girl indie rock band People You Know, Aimee Bessada simultaneously chronicles and reflects the pretentious leanings of the city’s hipster glitterati, from pointlessly oversized nonprescription glasses to uncomfortably tapered denim, all with a self-aware wink of the eye. So it’s safe to say the irony was not lost on the ladies when they made their live debut at The Wing Shack Bar and Eatery in Whitby this past May.
“Four obviously lesbian girls playing for the straightest Whitby audience — we just thought these people would not be impressed by us,” says Bessada.
“It was a no pressure show,” adds bassist Devon Clarke. “No one knew who we were and they’ll probably never see us again.”
Then a foursome with a bluesy vibe, People You Know has since parted ways with its original vocalist and hooked its sound around catchier, danceable Bloc Party-esque basslines, soaring guitar harmonies and a distortion pedal. The band now consists of 22-year-old vocalist/guitarist Bessada, 24-year-old drummer Iman Kassam and 24-year-old bassist Clarke. All three have been friends for a few years but clicked as bandmates when Clarke, a self-taught guitarist, decided to learn to play the bass.
In the past four months, the band has played regularly at Slack’s, as well as scoring spots at Pride, the Bloor Street West Festival and at Sneaky Dee’s, developing a modest, yet devoted following and earning the distinction of best local band as voted by Xtra readers.
Bessada attributes the poll results to their friends who keep coming out to their shows at Slack’s. “It’s the people we know. When we named the band it was because the name sounded cool but everything we’ve done is because of our friends and the networks we’ve generated,” she says. “I genuinely believe they do love our music because they do keep coming back and giving us their money.”
People You Know has already built up an arsenal of eight songs including the gentle, introspective number “Paper Boats,” an upbeat ode to scenester kids called “Glamour in the Hearts of Many” and “The Sex Song,” a slow-burning jam with a light reggae groove. The trio has plans to lay down a recording with Toronto-based producer Lorne Housell, who’s previously worked with cow-punks Cuff the Duke and queer indie darlings Dance Yourself to Death.