Seven Nines and Tens. A Five piece Post-rock, Progessive, Shoegaze band from Vancouver Canada. I’ve previously listened to this band before and by fluke I managed to get speaking to Dave, who plays guitar for the band. I find myself being able to relate to seven nines and tens, what their achieving, their tracks and overall sound, I dig the influences I can hear. I’ve been Lucky enough to speak to the entire band on their gear, effects, gigs, plans and more.
Welcome to their badass feature!
DC (Dave Cotton, Guitar) JH (Jonathan Holloway, Guitar, Samples, Keys)
RR (Riley Roukema, Drums) EH (Earl Heath, Drums, Bass, Roland Handsonic)
MM (Mike Michalik, guitar)
What made you guys pick up an instrument and start playing music?
DC: My mom introduced me to singing and piano when I was 4 or 5 and through the school I went to. As I result I participated in the various recitals and school productions. I actually had a bit of success as a vocalist and won some competitions. Its funny how that has worked out in relation to playing in a band with no vocals lol. I had a cassette by the band Poison when I was 7 or 8 and that also established my love for rock and roll and made me want to play guitar.
JH: Martin “El Guapo” Williams, the old Yew Tree, the Red Lion – and the guy who kicked us out for putting the drums on the stage – errr. Growing up in Wales (Blaina in particular) was enough of a reason to warrant an obsession with music, playing guitar and collecting random effects pedals.
RR: It’s pretty hard not to find some sort of musical outlet being the son of a multi instrumentalist and a self proclaimed music nerd. I was raised by my music nerd of a mom in the suburbs of Vancouver, surrounded by great music at all times. My father, the musician, has lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba for the majority of my life. With my father living halfway across the country, it was always a treat to go there once or twice a year and subsequently drive the neighbors nuts whacking away at the drums till the wee hours in the morning.
MM: Mostly just boredom. I was always really into music as a kid even though no one in my family was a musician. It just seemed like a fun thing to do.
EH: I started playing music because I have 3 older brothers who I was trying to copy. It was also one of the only ways a nerd like me could hope to get chicks. I kept playing music because it is the most cathartic, pleasing hobby I’ve ever had.
How did the band form?
EH: Mr. Cotton’s brainchild from the beginning, SNAT had a difficult infancy, with Dave going through numerous lineups (especially drummers) before he and (former bassist) Aylon found me to fill the drumming position. From the initial 3-piece setup, SNAT took on (and unfortunately lost) an amazing 2nd guitarist named Matt, who left at the same time as Aylon, both for their own separate musical endeavors. Dave and I were growing pretty despondent when we found Jon, who bouyed our spirits with his fine-tuned axe-skills and otherworldly samples. Mike auditioned shortly after we found Jon and was an immediate fit with his mind-blowing technical ability. Mike then brought his friend Riley along one fateful practice to entertain our idea of having two drummers, which was an awesome – but short – enterprise. We soon realized how logistically difficult it is to have two drummers when you lack a budget like Cult of Luna, so I switched to bass full time. So, piece-wise, we went from guitar-bass-drums, to guitar-guitar-guitar-drums-drums, to guitar-guitar-guitar-bass-drums. Good times!
What are the bands main Influences?
RR: I like to base my playing off of more abstract things like unicorns and the cosmos. Lord Zenu is a big one too. All of our influences are so diverse and I really think it comes across in our playing.
EH: Contrary to Riley’s nebular influences, my style of playing is a grotesque hodge-podge of the artists I love. I emulate them to the best of my ability, and hope I’ll never get got for plagiarism. Right now: Blotted Science, Meshuggah, Intronaut, The Faceless, Isis, Oingo Boingo, Spastic Ink, Mastodon, Day Job Orchestra, Brasstronaut, Man Man, Primus, Opeth, DVDA, Behold…The Arctopus, King Crimson, Cynic, Dysrhythmia, Deltron, MC Paul Barman, Necrophagist…I could go on.
DC: when we first started out I remember listening to alot more post hardcore than I do now. Stuff like Rival Schools, Malady, and Drive Like Jehu. Personally these days I’m alot more influenced by post metal stuff like Intronaut, Cult of Luna, and Math Metal like Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan.
JH: loads of stuff, Giant Squid, Jesu, Cult of Luna, Mogwai, Battles, Isis along with Cariboo, BC Lager Beer and Bowen Island IPA.
What has been the best and most inspirational gig you’ve ever witnessed?
RR: I just saw the cirque du soleil, that was pretty rad
EH: Just saw the Cynic, Intronaut, Dysrhythmia show. Standing in front of progressive geniuses like that in a receptive state induced by marijuana and alcohol was…ethereal. Same goes for when I saw Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, and Bela Fleck. Opeth and Mastodon’s live shows were pretty life-changing for me too.
MM: Owen Pallet (formerly known as final fantasy) blows my mind every time i see him. A few other ones near the top of my list are Battles, Patrick Watson and Zappa Plays Zappa just because its the closest I’ll ever get to seeing the real deal.
JH: I went to All Tomorrows Parties a few years ago in Minehead of all places, all weekend we saw amazing band after amazing band – Slint, Mogwai, Battles, Do Make say Think, Isis and Cornelius included. The funny thing was that we chose the bands we wanted to play by voting beforehand – then ATP invited the bands to play. to top it all off they had a late night TV station that ran from midnight through the night playing weird random comedy and films.
DC: Seeing the old school Lollapoolooza festivals when I was a teenager in my hometown left a lasting impression. I saw Nick Cave, Pavement, and Tribe Called Quest in an hour and a half span. This is when these bands were at the peak of their careers. Amazing. AlsoIhave to thank Earl for forcing me to go see Bela Fleck live as the guy is just a monster player and completely unique.
For the people in the UK, we have the major disadvantage of currently being unable to see you guys live. What does your live performances posses?
RR: Allot of flailing about, the Dave Cotton comedy breaks and Mike’s hair. We’ve talked about incorporating some pyro in our performance. The risk of lawsuits and/or 2nd degree burns far exceed the payoff in my opinion.
DC: Our live sound has been described as “psychedelic”
and “trippy” in the past. I think that has alot to with the fact that we all use a substantial amount of guitar effects. Including the bass there are four guitars being played simultaneously which creates a large wall of sound. A friend of guitarist Mike described our live sound to be akin to “heavy shoegaze.” That’s kinda the intention, so I was happy with that description.
Talk to me about your live rig, and effects?
DC: I play a Fender Deville with the factory tubes being replaced with Sovtek ones. I use a Boss Me-50 for panning, trem, sustain, reverb, gains, noise reduction, wah, delay. I use a be boss pitch shifter 3, a boss octave 2, and a whole bunch of others. sheesh
I’ve been playing the same cherry red gibson les paul special since I was 17 years old. Because we tune our guitars to a somewhat lower key of B I basically buy guitar strings meant for a 7 string guitar and just throw out the smallest string. My sound is dependant on using the heaviest gauge strings possible.
JH: Play modified custom Fender Telecasters through a Genz Benz EL Diablo combo with Ruby tubes. I use a Boss GT-8, Digitech Whammy Wah, Akai Headrush and Digitech Jam-man. I think I’ve amassed a fair collection of guitars (11 at last count) and effects pedals (40+) over the years. One day I’m going to line them all up, turn them all on and see what happens.
RR: I’ve played a 6 piece Yamaha kit for quite some time now. I switched over to Pearl double pedals a few years back and haven’t looked back.
EH: I have two 6-string LTD basses. The second one I got I had converted to a fretless, mainly because I was listening to Intronaut at the time and their 5-string fretless sound is absolutely sublime. Despite the brashness I exhibited having this conversion done I wouldn’t change it for the world, it sounds amazing!
Hows the music scene were your based?
RR: Great talent, no “scene”. Vancouver has been dubbed the “no fun city”. Now I don’t know if it’s entirely deserving of such a title but it’s definitely lacking in the venue department. Condominium developments dominate the downtown core. What usually ends up happening is a new building will go up next to a good venue and all the nearby residents will complain until eventually the city shuts the place down. I think it really does a disservice the all the amazing talent we have in the city.
JH: Lots of talented bands, but a real lack of support from venues, I hope it’s going to get better. The downtown core needs to do more to help out here. Bands seem to play way later over here than in the UK, in some cases I’ve seen the first band in a lineup go on at midnight. In other cases everything is done and finished by 10pm so they can get a DJ in to play to 15 people, bizarre.
Who took the lead on the song writing or did they all fall into place naturally?
DC: Initially I would introduce most of the ideas as I had a large amount of material accumulated before I started looking for members. Because I’m so picky/anal about arrangements it sort of takes me awhile to be at the point where I think a part is “there” as we like to say. I just don’t see myself falling victim to the complacency trap that so many bands find themselves in. The last time I went to Seattle, there was this record store that was selling a “surprise bag” of records. Literally for a dollar you would get 5 records wrapped in a brown bag and you’d have to open it to find out what the records were. Once I opened my surprise bag I had 5 pretty professional looking records from bands that my music nerd self had never heard of. It sort of re affirms to me that being average or pretty good just isn’t going to cut it. I don’t want to be relegated to a band that finds my stuff being tossed away for next to nothing. Of course I realize that some bands would rather have an eclectic aural/visual presentation of their music or write 4 second grind songs than waste time pouring over arrangements, and I totally get that. I just like to be really meticulous and make sure my stuff is as good as can possibly be that’s all. I find because of that I will demo the skeleton tracks of what could be 8 songs and over time with rewrites/and revisions I”ll be left with 4 solid songs rather then the 8 I started with. Alot of stuff will get deleted during the process.
Often I’ll be out somewhere and a song like “Cayman’s Tongue” by Cave In or “Owlwood” by Cult of Luna will be playing on my ipod and I’ll get the urge to try and record something that brilliant. It feeds the fire to be creative for sure. Lately I still contribute alot of material to the band but Earl has really shown that he can write some truly amazing stuff on bass and drums as well. He has 4 or 5 songs that are used in our live set and he’s always showing me other brilliant stuff that he’s coming up. He has some killer slap and tapping bass techniques which he utilizes in his songwriting that just floors all of us when he brings it to practice.
How did the 7” with hidden towers come about?
Dc: We played a show with them in May 2009 @ Funky Winkerbeans in Vancouver and have kept in touch since then. I think we each recognize that there isn’t many other bands of our style in the city so we try and stick together. Plus they are really nice guys, really modest despite the fact that they are ridiculously good. They are next on the list of great Vancouver bands that won’t be locals for much longer.
Speaking from a manager of an instrumental band Do you get a lot of “oh wheres the vocals?” and if so whats your reaction
DC: Yeah we hear that a lot. It does get a bit old but on the other hand I think we generally keep the audiences attention as our songs have many sections and we’re constantly moving from part to part so you don’t really have a chance to get bored. This band of any band I’ve played ever played with has this unexplained ability to command the rooms attention. The thrashing and flailing about coupled with never repeating the same part twice probably assists with that 🙂
RR: Plus we’ve got the mad genius Jon always finding new quotes and samples to incorporate into our live performances.
MM: Ive played in a few instrumental bands and this one gets easily the best reaction out of any of them. We do get some confusion but were usually pretty well received.
EH: There is a lot of that, “Where’re the vocals?” sentiment, but I don’t think vocals would really add much to the music at this point. One thing we’re working on is getting a cool, musically-responsive projector-show to increase the trippy audience interactivity.
JH: Some people I’ve spoken to are very confused by the instrumental thing. I had one person tell me that they were going to start an “all vocals” band called What About the Eights.
Sell the seven nines and tens to me in 5 words.
DC: “Handsome like Kings of Leon :)”
RR: “Will play for bus fare”
EH: “They’re Seven Nines and Tens”
JH: “Fish, plankton, and sea greens”
What can we look forward to from you guys in the next year?
DC: A full length record 🙂 We have 13 songs plus a handful of b sides pretty near completion and we have already started doing rough demo’s to see what works. The 7″ with hidden towers of course.
Whats currently stuck on your turntable/ipod/stereo?
DC: Cult of Luna “Eternal Kingdom”, Knut “Wonder”, Cave in “Planets of Old”, British Sea Power “Do you like Rock Music”, Division of Laura Lee “Violence is Timeless” I just stumbled upon an amazing space rock/post rock band from Poland called “Tides From Nebula” very impressive stuff. The Gojira album “From Mars to Sirius” is incredible. Hmm, what else? The album “Tarantula” by Ride. its their “our band is breaking up and we’re bound by our contract to release this” record. Ride fans loathe the fact it doesn’t sound like their old records. Its very good in my opinion. Finally, a couple of the guys from cult of luna have another band called “Khoma” and they are stellar. its actually very much like cult of luna save for the fact the vocals in this case are angelic and very melodic.
JH: Gifts From Enola ”Gifts From Enola”, Charles Mingus “Ah Um”, Irepress “Sol Eye Sea I”, Frank Zappa “Joe’s Garage
RR: Dave just recently turned me on to Cave In, so I’ve been listening to Perfect Pitch Black a whole lot lately. That and I’m really into the new Arcade Fire album “The Suburbs”
MM: None Shall Pass by Aesop Rock, R.Borlax by HORSE the Band, Wooden Arms by Patrick Watson and LP by Holy Fuck
EH: MC Paul Barman – Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud, David Cross – I Drink for a Reason, Intronaut – Prehistoricisms, The Faceless – Planetary Duality, Meshuggah – Catch 33, Deltron – 3030.
Latest tracks by sevenninesandtens
Exclusively for Circuit Sweet courtesy of the band you can download their track Apotheosis, which was a b-side recorded during their pre-productions for the sessions listed above on soundcloud and that of myspace.
The bulk of this song was written by their former bassist Aylon Cohen. He too wants this heard by others, you can grab this track for free here.
Want more check their myspace for more details here.
We will be checking back with the band and give you news of their future full length record in due course!