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In bed with Paterson Hall

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Photo by Nikolina Vujosevic Clockwise: Admin Finlay, Patrick Bonne, Jesse Harding, Alexandre Pilon, Josh White, Kelsey Miki

Photo by Nikolina Vujosevic
Clockwise: Admin Finlay, Patrick Bonne, Jesse Harding, Alexandre Pilon, Josh White, Kelsey Miki

Paterson Hall is a six-piece indie rock group coming from different parts of Ontario.

Now Ottawa based, the band consists of vocalists and guitarists, Josh White and Jesse Harding, vocalist and percussionist Kelsey Miki, keyboardist Patrick Bonne, bassist Adam Finlay and Alexandre Pilon on drums. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to huddle around Bonne’s bed with five of the six members and talked about where their music comes from, where they hope it goes and what they want listeners to take away from it.

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How did the six of you come together to create music?

White: Pat, Jesse and I played in a band called The Tenagens throughout our high school days. We decided that we’d move to Ottawa as a group and continue playing music in some capacity. So when we got here, we tried that out for a while. We tried out some members and then we found Kelsey, who I knew from first year. We had Kelsey singing and Jesse and I writing songs and playing guitar. It ended up not working out with other members so I heard about these two guys that played Pokemon, had long hair and were in my program, who played bass and drums and then…take it away, Adam.
Finlay: Alex and I hadn’t really played in awhile so we were unsure. Nothing had really worked out with other people. We both stopped playing and started focusing on school. Then one day we were at a party and Josh was there and I joined in the conversation…
White: I was loud.
Finlay: Josh was very loud and he hasn’t changed. He was talking to Alex and I joined the conversation just as he was saying that he wanted Alex and I to play in his band. Like any good salesman he put in his Bandcamp into my phone and I dug the tunes. It was something more organized and nice sounding than anything I’d heard from peers and projects that we had done. It sounded complete so I knew that they knew what they were doing and that they had a direction. It sounded like it was worth a shot. And then we were invited over for jams and we showed up.
White: We meshed instantly. It was a chilly November 3rd.
Finlay: There was a lot of equipment and it was intimidating. It turned out a lot better than we thought. At the time it was awesome. Looking back, it was hilarious.
White: The first jam we did together was amazing! We just played our instruments together and we all knew when to build and when to fall and when to play.
Bonne: We were like lovers in unison.

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So you definitely worked well together from the very start.

White: We worked well together from the very beginning. Coming from all over Ontario, that was pretty cool.

How did you come up with the name Paterson Hall?

Finlay: We fell into it. If you had to assign meaning to it, it was the first building in which we all played together, but the truth is it was just something that we had thrown off the cuff in thinking of band names. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything.
White: We wanted something empty that we could build on. The whole reason for deciding a new name was because it really felt like a new project. It had it’s own identity that wasn’t tied to what we were doing before.

IMG_5114How would you describe your style of music to someone who has never heard of you before?

Finlay: To be quite honest, we haven’t settled enough into a sound to even be able to describe it. We started from scratch and we built up this thing and it started at one place and now it’s at a different place. 

So it’s an ever-changing thing?

Finlay: For the time being.
White: Nothing’s preconfigured. We’re moving as we go and every movement is a necessary one.
Bonne: That’s something that I think we emphasize a lot too in our songwriting. An important part of our sound and what Paterson Hall is, is that we don’t want anything to be contrived. We’re not trying to fit.

That’s good, because then you’re never forcing it, right?

Bonne: Exactly. There’s nothing that we’re going for, we’re just letting it become. That’s the thing when we’re asked about what our band sounds like, what I’ve realized after being asked that so much is it’s more important to describe what goes into the sound. I think that helps people better understand. Classifying ourselves as “indie rock” doesn’t mean anything.

It’s been over a year since Paterson Hall was formed, what do you think has been the most significant change for you as musicians in that time?

White: I’ve developed much more solid ideas about what art should be, what’s valuable in doing what we’re doing, and what’s worth doing.
Harding: Coming up with ideas that actually meant something for lyrics. I used to beat around the bush with lyrics but I’ve started to put both feet in.
Finlay: As far as being a musician goes, it’s very simple. I’m becoming a better musician. But for me, the important thing is outside of that; it’s coming into the identity of being a musician, which is something I’m not quite comfortable with yet. Everything else around me starts to gain this quality of creativity and being tied even in some way to the music that I’m making. It’s more about the spill off and what goes into in my life.
Miki: I learned to drum! I’m much more comfortable on stage, too. 

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You’ve grown a lot in popularity over the past year. What is your reaction to this? Did you expect this amount of support starting out?

White: The support has been amazing. It’s the greatest thing. When people actually give a shit, that’s just amazing. It’s amazing that you can communicate with other people in this non-verbal language that is all about feeling.

With so many of you in the band, how do you make important decisions while avoiding conflict?

Finlay: We just hear each other out. It’s never black or white; we’re always looking for compromise.
Miki: We all care the same amount about the same thing.

In terms of performing, what is your favourite and least favourite aspect of it?IMG_5105

White: My favourite is the performance. Start to end, just shutting off and entering that mode.
Harding: My least favourite is having to stop.
Bonne: I only get butterflies right before we perform. I love that feeling; it’s a rush.
Finlay: I’d be upset if I ever stopped having that feeling.
Miki: I like right after, if you played well and everyone feels good about it.
Bonne: Another contender for least favourite thing is a shitty crowd. It doesn’t happen that often though.
Finlay: We’re very affected by our environment and each other. If one of us is in a bad place everyone gets thrown off.
White: The entire thing is a very empathetic project. We play off each other in that way, it’s all intuitive.
Bonne: We’ve been able to have these shows where you can tell that the crowd is into it and they understand. A performance is you giving something to the crowd but a big part of it is what the crowd gives back and how they reciprocate the energy. In that moment, you and the crowd are one and you’re all nothing more than apes sweating in this room. All humans share that feeling of being human and I think the performance can draw that out, that experience of, “Yeah, we’re people. We all know the same pain, we all know the same shit.”
White: It’s a celebration of something you can’t really articulate, but something that’s there. It’s a state of being that you get in those kinds of settings. It happens in so many different ways.

What has been the most significant show you’ve played so far?

Everyone: Raw Sugar Café this past September.
White: We were playing to a full room.
Bonne: Also the feeling that it was a show that we organized. We booked the venue, we got the bands together and that’s a powerful feeling; that you can get that many people in one place entirely of your own volition.

IMG_5125If you had the opportunity to do whatever you wanted in a show with absolutely limitless possibilities what would you do?

White: I would like to play with elaborate face paint and really great projection shit going on. Everything synced up to the music; images evoking same things the music is.
Finlay: Actually, let’s do that.

What do you draw upon in terms of musical influences?

Finlay: I think saying you draw upon a band means that immediately you and everyone else starts looking for the similarities between you and that person. Then suddenly it’s not about your music standing alone, it’s about how well your music is standing compared to this thing you’ve tried to compare it to. Music is related but only to a degree. I think that everyone brings a feeling from what they listen to, to the table when we play and I think there’s a general heart space that is created by whatever web of music anyone’s listening to. Whatever someone is feeling from musical concepts or specific techniques.
White: What I bring is an energy or feeling. It’s not very cerebral so taking from music is feelings and capturing the mood and putting it into what you’re making. Listing bands is kind of misleading.

What is it that you hope people take away from your music as a whole?

White: For me, I hope people feel something genuine and authentic in it. that it sticks with them, and they think about it in some kind of nice way. I’ve had a couple of songs where I really want people to cry at them but I don’t know how nice that is. With my songs, I hope I’m communicating properly. And that people are feeling what I’m putting into it.
Harding: If they relate to the idea that I’m trying to get across then it makes me feel better because it makes sense that I have these ideas and that people feel them too. If you feel like you’re the only one thinking something, you feel really isolated.

What can people expect from your EP, entitled O?

Finlay: Our humble-ass beginnings.

Paterson Hall's O was released in December 2013

Paterson Hall’s O was released in December 2013

What are you excited about for the near future?

Finlay: My excitement comes from knowing we completed a cycle. Writing six songs, releasing six songs, playing a show with Spectrasonic. Let’s do it again but let’s do it better this time. Get a new batch of songs, record them, think it out better, do it better, do everything better. Do more awesome shows. Let’s start the cycle over again and come at it harder this time.

How would you describe Paterson Hall, as an entity? 

Miki: A whole lot of feeling amongst the six of us. Everything is coming from a place of an intuitive feeling and we came together in that way.
White: Honest, unbridled feeling.

You can download Paterson Hall’s latest album O here.

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Interview and words by Brianna Harris

Live pictures by Mac Dimanlig

THE SCENE


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