A date with DD/MM/YYYY – Eye Weekly (6.28.07)

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BLIND DATE
From tiny YMCA gigs to big-name opening slots, every show is different. Who’s the real DD/MM/YYYY?

DD/MM/YYYY feel right at home counterbalancing the possible capsize of a rickety picnic table, and not just because we’re sitting in the northwest tip of Trinity Bellwoods Park.

A few weeks ago, singer/keyboardist Matt King, guitarist Jordan Holmes and bassist Michael Claxton set up DIY-assembly-line-style on a similar surface in southern California to silkscreen 150 promo versions of their new album Are They Masks? The copies made their way into the hands of new converts acquired during their first trip through the US as part of an ambitious two-month tour, spending the first half with Brooklyn’s Japanther before cutting loose on their own to play an eclectic series of venues including art galleries, a landfill site’s beach, a half-pipe and even a mortuary-turned-theatre-space in Detroit. (Our interview took place during a brief three-day return to Toronto between gigs in South Carolina and Baltimore.)

The tour, the new record and even the collector’s-item freebies are all the culmination of three and a half years of intense shows, hard work, side projects and a series of fortunate events.

Originally planned as a six-song EP, the sprawling tangle of tripped-out aggression and ambiguous phrases on Are They Masks? ballooned to 21 tracks after they finished recording the first three songs at Roger Leaven’s Boombox Studio and, according to Holmes, “He just said, ‘I want to record an album.’ We just kept going with it and ended up getting 21 songs out of it. He was into the project on a creative level, too, so he was encouraging about it.”

The opportunity unleashed a storm of creativity that sees DD/MM/YYYY developing from the home-recorded noise experiments of 2005’s The Bluescreen of Death into full-on studio compositions exploring everything from transposable starlet celebrity (“Simple Life” and “Twin Stars”) to mass consumerism (“Batmanguitarclock”) to gentle dudes with muscles (“Gentle Dudes With Muscles”).

“Once we found out that we had this opportunity to record a lot of songs in the studio,” says Holmes, “when we did practice to write songs, we were really productive at it. We still have a bunch of extra material.”

The professional atmosphere also created an added sense of focus, of which King says, “I think because we were working in the studio, the songs are a little more cohesive.” However, he admits now that they’ve been playing the songs live, everything sounds even better: “If we recorded them now, they’d be so good. But we were recording them while we were writing them, and kind of thinking out loud in song while being recorded.”

I’m curious about how this new-found refinement translates to their conceptual ephemera, as their name points to the ever-changing nature of their sound – filling in the date on any particular occasion constitutes a different band or at least a different experience. King replies, “We hardly ever play the same set. [And] each show we’re getting better at the songs, so every time we play there’s going to be a change.”

“New crowd,” adds Holmes.

“New mistakes,” cracks Claxton.

As for the shows, DD/MM/YYYY have developed a reputation for playing anytime, anywhere. And while they’ve taken up a quasi-residency at Sneaky Dee’s and racked up scores of all-ages shows in the most unremarkable of suburbs, they’ve also opened for such diverse high-profile acts as Blood Brothers and Matt and Kim.

Whatever they do and wherever they play, it all somehow relates to Mr. T cereal. Though the three members admit they never ate it as kids (or now), drummer Tomas Del Balso insisted King name his song about “my bed and getting up and just having motivation to do stuff” after the fool-pitying breakfast food for reasons that remain vague. I suggest maybe it had something to do with Mr. T being a straight-edge kind of guy, but King has his own interpretation.

“There’s a good Japanther quote: ‘Change your life, clean your room,’” he offers both as a clue to the motivation and a summation of their current state. “Get a little bit organized and you can go on tour across North America. Just have some motivation to do what you want to do. At least that’s what we had and it’s actually paying off.”

“I wanted to go on tour since I was like 13 and just worked for it and worked hard on it and now it’s happening. It’s crazy. I have an interview in EYE WEEKLY. Do you know how cool I am to 15-year-old Matt King?

“We’re lucky because we get asked to play with some touring bands but we also get to play these crazy places and house shows and all-ages YMCA shows and church shows,” says King. “There’s something in our music that people can relate to in different areas, [and] maybe it’s just our openness to be willing to play it and to seek it out.”

About the Blood Brothers show specifically he adds, “I loved playing at the Opera House. But I loved playing at the Orange Hall.”

Originally published in EYE WEEKLY

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