It takes 29 and a half Earth years for Saturn to travel all the way around the sun. This means that by the time the ringed space oddity arrives back at the same vantage point of the Earth it had on the day you were born, you’re quite likely to be facing a significant amount of upheaval and uncertainty in your life. Maybe you’re breaking into a new career, changing cities, starting a family, or facing the total breakdown of the social contract and worldwide civil unrest. You know, the usual! The exhilaration and apprehension we often feel about establishing our fully adult selves is part of why the return of Saturn is significant as a marker of one of the most important and most turbulent stages of our lives.
It’s this transformational state and the decisive action it demands that unites the three bands that have joined together to form a new collective label called Saturn Returns. Comprised of Montreal rockers Heathers, Loosestrife and Doilies, the new label is built on a framework of shared values including a commitment to feminist, queer, anti-oppressive and anti-capitalist practices.
I caught up with the collective as they were getting ready for their first event, a launch party and tape release of a new full-length from Heathers, taking place tonight (Friday, Dec. 5) at Brasserie Beaubien.
“The name speaks to the need to claim agency given the circumstances we’re in,” says Shaun Weadick of Loosestrife. “Saturn Returns and you have to do something about it.”
Helen Chau Bradley of Heathers adds, “The times of change and upheaval could refer to being in that age range (late 20s to early 30s), but also more widely to things that are happening in Montreal and Quebec and the larger world.”
This outward focus is part of a shared value system that informs the collective’s methods of working. As Bradley explains, “Working in feminist, queer and anti-capitalist ways is something we’re all interested in. Creating a label together is a way of exploring how we can push that further, because if you’re one band with just three people, maybe you only have the capacity to think about that so much, but if you’re a collective of nine people you can pool your ideas together. You might be more able to create different types of events and start to question what an accessible show looks like or what an accessible art experience might be like. With more of us, we have a higher capacity to create more accessible music-making and listening spaces.”
The commitment to accessibility made the label’s choice to distribute their first release (the first full-length album from Heathers) on cassette tapes a natural fit. Describing the appeal of cassettes as a medium, Weadick says, “It’s very cheap to manufacture cassettes. People download music, but it’s still nice to have some sort of object that you can grab and that feels nice. It feels really good to get a Heathers tape! For me the CD format is just not very appealing, so even though they’re also cheap to manufacture, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you’re probably just going to rip it and put it on your iTunes anyway. Vinyl is a very beautiful format but is very costly.”
“The cheapness ties in to the idea of accessibility,” adds Bradley. “We wanted it to be available to people and be able to make it a PWYC or $5 commitment as opposed to a $20 record. Also, since we’re all coming from a time when in our childhoods, tapes were the way to go, so there’s also a bit of nostalgia I must admit.”
All three bands will play sets at the launch party Friday night. What should you expect when you show up, besides first dibs on a take-home, tangible copy of Heathers’ new tape? We asked the bands to describe each other’s sounds.
Erika LeBlanc of Doilies describes Loosestrife: “They have a very crisp, tight sound with good rhythms. Almost a punk vibe because it’s so tight. A punk influenced super tight duo that’s definitely danceable and very energetic!”
Helen Chau Bradley of Heathers describes Doilies as “moody and intense with a lot of vocal interaction on a lot of different levels which I really like.”
Shaun Weadick of Loosestrife describes Heathers’ sound. “One guitar is always playing really heavy, deep riffs and the other is playing these really sharp and abrasive but really catchy riffs overtop of it. The drumming is really melodic but also heavy and propulsive. The two vocals are sometimes really beautiful and sometimes really urgent and intense.” ■
Heathers, Loosestrife and Doilies will play the Saturn Returns launch party at Brasserie Beaubien (73 Beaubien E.) tonight, Friday, Dec. 5, 9 p.m., $5/PWYC