In music and life, there’s often a sense of “been there done that.” The introduction of new and effective styles and sounds can feel like a fleeting moment followed by countless replicas lacking original thought or innovation. Saskatoon indie rock band Close Talker, however, is taking a unique concert experience one step further to make it their own.
Over recent years, silent headphone concerts and discos have been working their way through the music scene, especially gaining popularity in Europe. When planning their latest tour, Close Talker wanted to take this concept and rework it into something that has never been done in North America. This month, they will travel across Canada, performing the region’s first live 3D-360 real-time silent headphone tour.
Using binaural 3D audio technology originally developed for virtual reality gaming, their fluidly dreamy music will be played live, fed to audiences by headphones without lag, putting listeners in the middle of the trio’s performance. With music floating from ear to ear and seemingly around the room, the songs will be heard the way the group intended.
“We’re trying to cultivate an environment where people can really dig in and let themselves go and let the music be as impactful as we hope,” says the band’s guitar and keyboard player Matthew Kopperud. “People work so hard on their records and artists scrutinize every detail and lose sleep in a kind of quantity over quality culture we find ourselves in. We wanted to combat that.”
Originally contemplating an intimate listening party or standard headphone tour, the ideas morphed together to form the Immersion tour, which took the band and audio experts 18 months to organize. The shows will be a front to back performance of their unreleased album How Do We Stay Here? featuring live visual art performances by local artists.
“We’re trying to cultivate this melting pot where maybe someone comes to our concert that is exclusively curious about the tech, or maybe someone comes because they’re a fan of the artist, or maybe someone comes because they’re a fan of the band and then grow to love the artist,” says Kopperud. “We just wanted to have this cool cross-over.”
At the end of June, the band played a single test-run show to make sure their vision for the tour would translate to the audience. Performing their new album live for the first time, combined with the new audio and visual technologies, presented a few hiccups in preparation, but Kopperud says it wasn’t long before the music took over.
“We got a standing ovation, which was really special. We had a couple people talk to us after saying they cried, which I think is a good thing,” he says. “At the end of the day, I really wanted to sit back and bask in it all… It was really special.
“The brand of our band has always been doing things the hard way — like, unnecessarily hard — so for us creatively it was on-brand, and it was something unique but not gimmicky. We felt it’s really meaningful. We’re actually pursuing something with a lot more depth, which is important to us.”
Thematically, the new album How Do We Stay Here?, which comes out on Aug. 30, explores the concept of time. In one sense, the band wanted to create a timeless album that they can place into their top five records of all time, but also as a reminder to acknowledge and appreciate the meaningful moments in life.
“We’re trying to explore an environment where those moments can be experienced or they can occur. We’re trying to be open-minded and invite that time-stand-still essence that music can offer…That’s in part what we love about music and we’re not trying to impose that upon others, but we’re trying to share that,” says Kopperud. “Like, man, music’s pretty special. Everyone gather around and let’s take part in this.”
The Immersion tour will end at a secret location in Montreal only released to ticket holders, and will feature visuals by artist duo Tallone Doyle. Though the band could not provide any hints to the show’s whereabouts, Kopperud stressed his excitement for the show, revealing, “It’s not a traditional venue — I can say that.
“We’re hoping that if this type of new concert experience is objectively valuable, which we think it is, if it was really impactful, we hope that it’ll become much bigger than just Close Talker. We hope that other artists will pursue the unknown and try and utilize this nerdy tech in this beautiful communal kind of way.” ■