By Will Yannacoulias
For some musicians it's about the lyrics and for some it's about the beat. For Saskatoon's Shirley & The Pyramids, it's all about the vibe. On their previous two releases, the band built a reputation for delivering both high energy experimental art-punk and droning psychedelic dirges, sometimes within the same song. Comfortably occupying the space between noise and melody, shoegaze and jangle, Shirley & The Pyramids have carefully constructed patient, contemplative music that hypnotically lulls the listener with fuzzy, moody tones, revealing itself one glorious layer at a time. Last month Aron Zacharias, Dave Kitter, Duncan Pickard, Peter Grier and Matthew McLaughlin released Maid of Time, their most ambitious project yet, expanding and refining their trademark style into a sound simultaneously more challenging and more accessible than ever. Founder Aron Zacharias spoke with NSMZ about the album, finding unique ways to connect with an audience, and the current structure of the band.
Maid Of Time represents a shift in the internal creative dynamic of Shirley & The Pyramids, as Zacharias has opened up the songwriting process to allow for collaboration and contribution from the other members of the group. "Traditionally Shirley & The Pyramids was a solo project" he shared. "My first couple albums I would write and record all the music myself and the band would play live with me. Over the last couple years, and with this new album especially it’s become more collaborative, in the sense that everybody is playing on the record. Duncan and Dave wrote a few of the songs themselves. It's a very cool transitional period for us; I feel like this album is the first time we’re solidified as a band and is not just my weird pet project."
Zacharias spoke candidly about his decision to begin writing and recording collaboratively with bandmates, and how that shared creativity has impacted his ingrained process as well as the finished songs. "There's definitely a bit of a change from the way I used to do things, but we’ve had a pretty consistent lineup for the last few years, and I respect everyone in the band as musicians so I wanted it to become more collaborative. I trust myself as a musician but I can also see the limitations I have, and see the value of a different viewpoint. It’s nice to have other people’s opinions because it’s really easy to get stuck in your own world doing things by yourself. Sometimes you question if you’re on the right path creatively so it can be reassuring to have other people chime in and collaborate. I feel like Shirley & The Pyramids has become something beyond me now."
One of the defining characteristics of Shirley & The Pyramids' engagement with their audience is the band's steadfast commitment to physical music. Maid of Time has enjoyed a vinyl release on Grey Records in Canada and Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records in Europe & The UK. The scratch and pop of spinning vinyl, hole-in-the-wall record store finds, the immersive multimedia experience of a great album with cool cover art and cryptic liner notes... it's all part of the experience for Zacharias. "We’re all in our thirties and grew up in a time before streaming music was a thing" he offered. "Looking at album art or going to shows and getting drawn into how bands would present themselves visually, that was a powerful, personal way to reach an audience that resonated with me. I stream music a little and we put our music online but I think records, tapes and CDs are how I prefer to consume music, how my peers consume music, and I like to keep it that way." Zacharias is proud to align his band with the cottage industry and collector network which has grown to keep physical music alive. "Record pressing plants, indie labels, collectors; It's a really cool community who are interested in obscure physical music, those are our people. The old saying ‘it takes a village', that rings true."
Shirley & The Pyramids will be celebrating the release of Maid In Time at Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon February 10th along with The Won'ts and F0RM, and February 11th in Regina at the German Club with Beach Body. "The Won'ts are old friends of ours, they're a really great band and I'm stoked to see them live again. F0RM is opening up the Amigos show, Will is an old friend of mine and F0RM is his really cool electronica project." Maid Of Time is available on all streaming services, as well as on Vinyl through Grey Records in Canada and Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records in Europe & The UK.