Serenading Newborns and Scoring Horror with the Duo Behind HUMANS

On Friday, February 15th, local electronic duo HUMANS will be playing a hometown gig at Celebrities Nightclub, in support of last November’s “Going Late” LP release. Somehow, we managed to pin down bandmates Robbie Slade and Peter Ricq to get the downlow on their latest music related endeavours, as well as some solid life advice and scary movie suggestions.

Read on as we (try to) catch up with these talented musicians, then show your support by grabbing some advance tickets to the show here. We’ll see you on the dance floor!

Tell me about the process of creating this album. Going into it was there an overarching concept or context that you had in mind or did the songs come together individually?

Robbie: This album was admittedly a little all over the place. I used to cling to the hope that my inspiration would start to settle into a well defined little circle I can paint within, but I’m slowly starting to let go of that and just come to terms that I’m a basket case and song ideas come from all points of the compass.

Peter: Some tracks were written around 7 years ago while others were written last year. Some were collaboratively written and produced while others came together fully individually. In the end, we chose what works best within the overall feel of the release and sometimes tracks that didn’t make the cut before find their way in another time.

Has your creative process changed since you guys started HUMANS?

R: In the beginning, I strictly stuck to singing, guitar and organic instruments, while Peter was the electronic producer. Now it’s a free for all, and we both write vocals, melody; we both produce, etc.

What keeps you motivated to keep creating music?

R: It just comes. Sometimes at really inopportune times, haha. For me, being a new dad has lead me into singing the most insane songs to my newborn. “Who’s got the stinkiest little bum, little bum, little bum in the worlllld!” I don’t know what the key to being a successful artist is, because I’m not very successful, but I do know what the key to being a happy artist is – finding inspiration in your life and your world and your surroundings. Even if it’s bad things that are inspiring me to write, taking it inward and then putting it back out makes me feel like I’m living my life to the fullest.

P: Listening to new music and experiencing new music is usually what gets me wanting to create music. When I listen to a good rock band I’m like, “Oh, I should do something like that!” Then the same thought happens with house, disco, R&B, The Muppet Show, etc…

What has been the biggest challenge about being a Vancouver musician?

R: RENT.

P: ROBBIE.

How has the Vancouver live music scene changed since you guys started out?

R: A lot of our favourite old bands have moved on in life, so I’d say that was a huge change. In the case of my favourite band, NO GOLD, all three of these guys are making excellent records under the Mood Hut umbrella now, so at least I still get to enjoy them. I think by far the most interesting and energetic band that’s gone is BASKETBALL. I loved them and I would love to see a reunion!

What’s your favourite current Vancouver venue to see a show at?

R: I saw Floating Points’ live band at Celebrities last year and it was honestly so incredible. That room sounds amazing, and it’s surprisingly quite versatile. The raucous EDM vibes that are normally dominant in there were absent for that show and it was moody and very, very sick.

P: I don’t have a favourite venue. I find the band could make any experience memorable. Like Robbie said with his answer, Celebrities’ EDM vibes that usually dominate the dance floor were non-existent during their performance. For me, I saw Young Fathers at Venue and it was incredible. Such great vibes and when I’d walk to get a drink, I could see the whole crowd looking at the stage with a smile. It was something special.

All-time favourite Vancouver venue, including those no longer standing?

R: Easy – Richards on Richards. I had the honour of playing that venue twice to a sold out crowd opening for Jon and Roy back in the day. It was such an amazing room. Seeing the two levels of people dancing was really amazing.

P: I came to that last show Robbie played at. For me, Richards was the best too. I saw Does It Offend You, Yeah? there. I saw Shout Out Out Out Out there twice. I saw so many other bands and almost every Jason Sulyma’s Half Alive event and it was bonkers and pleasant vibes every time.

How often do you guys go out to see other musicians play?

R: Well, me not so much right now, as my little girl is only 6 weeks old… but I already have some things on my to do list – like this new secret jazz night that’s happening on top of the Yale that I’ve heard about from a client at Smallworks (my day job which I love).

P: I go once or twice a week.

How important is it to you to get out and take in other live music performances?

R: It’s pretty important. On one hand, it’s important to be “in the scene”, but to be honest I really enjoy infiltrating weird subcultures. Like the blues night that happens at the Cottage Bistro, for instance. I think that curiosity is crucial to really navigating every nook and cranny of your creative potential.

P: I like seeing what’s out there, to get ideas, get inspired and see also maybe what not to do.

For someone who’s never been to a HUMANS gig before, what can we expect from your upcoming show at Celebrities?

P: Bring a good pair of dancing shoes and find out.

How about a gateway song that you recommend to someone who has never heard HUMANS before?

R: Listen to Water Water. It’s a pretty good representation of what we do – Going Late, as well!

What’s the key to your lengthy musical relationship, do you think?

R: I honestly have no idea. Peter’s patience?

P: Knowing when to listen.

What’s your ideal sort of venue and setting to play?

P: The one with a good sound and a solid sound guy.

What Vancouver non-venue establishment would you like to play?

R: El KARTEL! It’s such a cool store, And Pablo and MJ’s style just shines through. They have lots of Art shows and they’re very well attended. That would be a great place to party.

How long did it take to create “Going Late” from start to finish?

P: Like I said, there’s a track that’s 7 years old so… 7 years?

What makes “Going Late” different from your previous albums?

P: Every release is different from the last. Robbie and I grow between each album and listen and experience new things. We feel like it is our strongest and most mature release to date.

Besides making music, how do you both pay the bills?

R: I work for a company called Smallworks, and we almost certainly craft Vancouver’s finest laneway homes. We’ve been at it for 12 years, and we’re picking up a lot of momentum!

P: I don’t know how I manage it but I’m a film director, comic artist, painter, art director, illustrator, writer, TV show creator and somehow, between all that, I’ve managed to pay the bills successfully over 10 years.

I know that you both recently did the soundtrack to the horror film Dead Shack – which Peter also directed…how was the approach to that different than to any other HUMANS soundtrack?

P: It was different as you’re writing for a mood and not for a dance floor. It was fun though, I love trying out new things and that was on my bucket list.

Favourite horror movie of all time?

R: The Thing, or Drag Me to Hell.

P: The original Fright Night, The Thing, Evil Dead 2, Evil Dead Remake, Night of the Living Dead (90s remake), Hereditary, The Fly (remake).

Favourite soundtrack of all time?

R: The BEACH.

P: Akira and Isle of Dogs.

If you could create the soundtrack to any film – real or non-existent – what would it be?

P: I’ve got a lot of feature films in the works so stay tuned.

Who (besides yourselves) is providing the soundtrack to your own lives?

R: There is nothing I like more than strolling one of the off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods in Vancouver I’m exposed to in my job at Smallworks, while listening to Gabor Szabo.

P: The new Toro Y Moi, Voilaaa, Soulwax, Steve Lacy, Kali Uchis.

Okay, I’m gonna get a bit deep here…What’s more important to you, as musicians and a band: challenging yourselves and evolving, or perfecting your sound and vision?

R: I would really love to perfect my sound and vision.

P: Same answer. Perfecting your sound and vision is challenging yourself.

Now let’s get cheesy: if you weren’t (literally) humans, what would you be?

P: When I’m not making music, I’m doing it.

R: I’d probably be a fat houseplant of some sort.

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