PS I Love You’s maxed out rock ‘n’ roll

The duo has left Kingston and left behind their small-town angst, following the transient trend that inspired their latest LP, For Those Who Stay.


PS I Love You

The rock duo PS I Love You hails from Kingston, Ontario, a town that has something of a reputation for being a transient destination. It is the kind of place that people stop by on their way to somewhere else. Whether it’s a pit stop for gas along the 401 on the way to Toronto, or an extended sojourn at one of the city’s major institutions (universities and jails), people don’t usually stick around forever.

Thus, it is not surprising that by the time I chat with lead vocalist and guitarist Paul Saulnier, it is over the phone from his new home in Toronto. Having left the Limestone City last autumn, he seems comfortable in his new digs, but upon listening to the band’s latest record, it is clear that his feelings about leaving his hometown and scene are still pretty close to the surface.

Their third full-length album, For Those Who Stay, which follows 2012’s Polaris Prize long-listed Death Dreams, is a sincere record that builds upon their fuzzy, riff-heavy sound and Saulnier’s anxious lyrics, adding layers of synths, piano, bass and backing vocals (including some from drummer Benjamin Nelson).

A highpoint of the new album, of which there are a few, comes midway through, with a six-and-a-half-minute-long mid-tempo jam that sees the band channelling the spirits of friends who have come and gone via guitar overdubs and soaring vocal hooks.

“[The title track on the new album] is about all the great people I’ve known in Kingston that went there for school or whatever, and then maybe hung around for awhile and then moved. So many awesome people go to that town and then leave. The song was about me thinking ‘What if everyone stayed?’ There would be hundreds of awesome people, with no jobs, but it would be sweet. It would be like Super Kingston.”

Evidently, their geographic distance hasn’t curtailed the duo’s work habits.

“[Band dynamics] have changed a little bit but honestly I don’t know if it has changed all that much. The great thing about Benjamin and our working relationship is that we can go a long time without seeing each other and when we do get together we are fully into it. We’re both kind of quiet, subdued people. Ben and I basically see each other the same amount of time as we did when I lived in Kingston,” says Saulnier.

“Whenever I write a song, I always consider it to be half done. Then, the next time I’m in Kingston or when Ben is in Toronto, we’ll rent a studio and practise,” he says. “I’ll show Ben a new guitar melody or a riff. I’ll keep playing something over and over; Ben will listen to it and start making up stuff on the drums. Then we’ll talk and say, ‘Can this be a song?’ or ‘What else should we do to it?’”

While some songs emerge from the dream of a Super Kingston that could be, certain songs on the new record, most notably “Limestone Radio,” take inspiration from hauntings and dreams of a more supernatural type.

“I was watching an episode of Ghost Hunters. [In the episode] where they go to Kingston, they talk about how limestone [which is the building material for much of Kingston’s historical downtown] is a type of rock that conducts spiritual energy. I looked it up and a lot people think that ghosts or spirits can amplify themselves through limestone. It’s all kinda wishy-washy, but to me, that explains a lot about Kingston.” ■


PS I Love You play the Passovah Music Festival with Frog Eyes at Cabaret Piccolo Rialto (5723 Parc) on Thursday, Aug. 21, 9 p.m., $10/$13, all ages