Vancouver three-piece The Courtneys make ‘90s-inspired slacker pop that’ll hang out in your head for weeks. Their songs are literally made of sugar, spice, and everything nice. Well, maybe not everything, but still. Sugar = infectious hooks, silly lyrics about Keanu Reeves, and fun track titles like “Nü Sundae.” Spice = Dinosaur Jr.-like riffs, classic punk bass lines, and general badassery. Everything nice = Jen, Courtney, and Sydney, the chillest gals this side of the continent. We talked up a storm with the ladies about high school cliques, pancakes, and being related to Tegan and Sara.
You’re about to go on tour with BUST favorites, Tegan and Sara. Did you guys already know each other or will this be your first time meeting? Are you stoked?
JEN: Tegan and Sara are my cousins, so I'll be hittin' the road with family! As an only child growing up they were like my big sisters. Our music may be different, but I give them credit for introducing me to a lot of the stuff that shaped who I am as a musician. It still blows my mind that I am in a band that they like, and that they asked us to tour with them. We're gonna have a lot of fun! Here is a photo of us back in the 90s:
COURTNEY: We are all stoked at how supportive they are of The Courtneys!
I read somewhere that Jen is pretty into TV shows. What are a few that you’re watching now?
JEN: Yeah, big time! Currently I am watching season 4 of Dance Moms. It's such a ridiculous show, but I love it. I was a competitive dancer when I was a kid, but my mom's style was to drop me off and pick me up, and that's it. She never got too involved. Abby Lee would have hated her!
I've also been watching Nashville, and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, though I have to admit that I'm really into some of the music on the show. I'm so excited to play in Nashville when we're on tour this spring. I only wish we had more time in Tennessee so that I could go to Dollywood.
What’s your favorite type of pancake? Also, what’s the best pancake joint you guys have discovered on tour?
COURTNEY: I prefer hotcakes to pancakes, which are the English style mini pancake and you get a bunch of them rather than one or two big ones...it is actually occurring to me now maybe they are just the same thing and this is just another of my grandmothers LIES! Anyway, on tour I can only remember eating a lot of McDonalds pancakes--er, hotcakes. Here is an interesting fact though: if you pinpoint each location on our upcoming tour on a map and draw a line between them, they form an image of a stack of pancakes...very eerie.
JEN: Have you ever heard of the Calgary Stampede? It is a yearly event that happens in my hometown where the whole city turns into the "wild west" for two weeks. Everyone wears cowboy hats, and yells yee-haw. There are "stampede breakfasts," every morning all over the city. I would try and hit up as many of those as possible. I think the pancakes they served were just normal pancakes off the griddle, but I also enjoy silver dollar pancakes because I like small cute things. Check out this website where you can find stampede breakfasts.
SYDNEY: Hahaha Jen! That website is amazing. I don't think we've made it far enough south yet, but I'm really hoping to visit Waffle House, which is a classic from my short time living in Durham, North Carolina. The only diner I've ever been to with it's own personal cop.
Who’s the main songwriter for the Courtneys? How does the songwriting process usually work?
COURTNEY: We write all our songs together, so we have no main songwriter. Our process is very jammy. Usually a song begins with a guitar or bass riff, and just unfolds from there. Sometimes we make it into a standard verse chorus type thing - as with our single that will be released next month, "Mars Attacks," and other times we leave them really flowy and jammy, as with "Lost Boys." I think a lot of people don't realize our drummer is our lead singer so when Sydney and I are figuring out what the guitars are doing in the beginning stages, Jen is thinking about vocals. We also have another trick which is to record all our new jams on our iPhones, and if we aren't all totally addicted to it over the next week or so, then it gets the axe. We throw a lot of songs away, and there is usually not much disagreement over what feels "meh."
JEN: Totally. I'd say there is almost as much discussion as there is playing! Everything is very deliberate, even when it's not - if that makes sense? Then we will record it, and as Courtney said, if we're still stoked on it after a few sleeps I'll start working on the vocals at home in Garage Band.
You guys are working on a new release. How would you describe what it sounds like?
SYDNEY: Yeah, we are working on our next release. In comparison with the last album, I’d say the songwriting is a bit more sophisticated - the guitar sounds huge, and the vocal melodies are more complex. We have a bunch of songs recorded, and are hoping to write more before we leave for tour! We recently released a single, "Lost Boys," and we have plans to release another song in the next few months.
JEN: The next single we are releasing is a collaboration with our rapper friend Young Braised. As he put it, "rock will never be the same."
I’ve heard you guys have pretty diverse tastes in music. Do you ever fight over what to play in the van while on tour?
JEN: We definitely have diverse tastes in music, but there is also a lot of crossover, so I wouldn't say there are any fights about what to listen to in the van. That being said, I will often change a song before it is over, and that drives Courtney nuts! Maybe it's because I'm a Gemini, I just get bored and want to move onto the next track haha. I also get really obsessive over songs/albums, to the point where I just want to listen to them on repeat, but that doesn't fly in the van either - except for this one time where we were all really into The Soft Pack.
COURTNEY: Yeah, that is probably the only rule I have in the band and in life - if you put on a song in the van you HAVE to see it through to the end!! We all are really conditioned to this now but sometimes newcomers into the van need to be briefed. Aside from that none of us care too much what we listen to…everything from Sheryl Crow to Now 4! to Black Sabbath. Jen usually puts on Black Sabbath if we are late because it makes me drive faster.
SYDNEY: We definitely have different tastes, but when it comes to driving music we tend to agree. My favorite tour music is sentimental grunge stuff like Sonic Youth or Pavement, dreamy stuff like Kate Bush, or songs we can sing along to, like early U2.
Best scene in Point Break?
JEN: That scene where Keanu is taking a shower on the beach and then the locals pick a fight with him, just for Anthony Kiedis' performance.
If you had to live in a Keanu Reeves movie for the rest of your life, which one would you pick?
SYDNEY: The Matrix! But I haven't seen them all….
JEN: This is so tough. My gut wants to say The Matrix because Keanu is at his babe peak in that movie and I'm super into the cyberpunk vibes, but let's be honest, I would be totally terrified of a lot of the stuff going on, like incubating and that zion rave. I was also thinking My Own Private Idaho, because come on, River Phoenix - but I'm not so sure about that one either.
COURTNEY: Point Break.
The name “the Courtneys” makes me think of a high school clique à la Mean Girls. What’s your favorite high school/teen movie?
JEN: I love Mean Girls! I know Sydney has a story about our name that relates to this question, kind of like that movie Heathers. Anyway, you are killing me with all these pop culture questions - I could talk about this stuff for hours! There are so many good high school/teen movies. I was debating between Clueless and The Craft, but I settled on Clueless because I love Paul Rudd. He just gets better with age!
COURTNEY: Yeah, it's weird how the name Courtney is somehow tied to the image of the high school class bitch, but it totally is. That exact girl was def named Courtney in that movie Jawbreaker. I feel like there are other movies too. I was quite the opposite in high school, really not on most people’s radar. I just wore black and didn't talk. At my high school I believe that girl was named Nicole, not that we have any beef. Lol. The Breakfast Club is my fave high school movie, also Dazed and Confused.
JEN: At my high school that girl's name was Ashley.
SYDNEY: All the coolest grade 6 girls at my elementary school were named Courtney, and they had a clique called "The Courtneys". I always wanted to be a Courtney… *sigh*… I guess my dream came true! My favourite movie of all time is Clueless. It's the perfect movie!
If you had to pick a famous Courtney to play you in a movie, who would it be?
COURTNEY: Courtney Taylor-Taylor from the Dandy Warhols, or if he is not available then Courteney Cox circa 1992.
SYDNEY: I guess Courtney Love, since she is crazy and also has big hair, which would help.
JEN: I think I am gonna say Kourtney Kardashian on this one. She is definitely my favorite (next to Kris Jenner) of the Kardashians. I would have said Courteney Cox, but I've just been so turned off by her ever since Cougar Town. Courtney Thorne-Smith circa Ally Mcbeal would be pretty cool too.
Photos by Andrew Volk, aux.tv, and sledisland.com.
"Rock Dreams" is an ongoing series of interviews with amazing female musicians we love, and is sponsored by Sock Dreams.