Band To Watch: Partner

Colin Medley

Band To Watch: Partner

Colin Medley

Few bands sound like they’re having more fun than Partner. Lucy Niles and Josée Caron have mastered the art of triumphant alt-rock songs about the everyday lives of queer goofball stoners. The Windsor, Ontario duo have been honing that creative chemistry for years, both as friends and as collaborators in two previous bands, the hardcore project Go Get Fucked and the indie rock outfit the Mouthbreathers. Since then they’ve relocated from Sackville, New Brunswick and begun channelling ’90s guitar heroes such as Weezer, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Veruca Salt plus the so-called “lesbian superfecta” of Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, and Tegan And Sara.

The results are spectacular. A soaring, harmonically charged anthem about going to the grocery store and realizing your intoxication is obvious to everyone; a chugging midtempo jam about discovering a sex toy while poking around your roommate’s bedroom; a power-pop ode to daytime talk shows marked by the lyrics, “There’s no one who can stop me/ From hanging with Maury/ And hanging out with Jerry” — In Search Of Lost Time, Partner’s forthcoming debut album, includes many such delights, all rendered in vibrant color with contagious enthusiasm. It’s also the first rock album in recent memory to be threaded with the kind of comedy skits typical of the ’90s scene that so informs Partner’s music. The whole thing is a blast.

One fine demonstration of the album’s M.O. is “Play The Field,” the new single and music video Partner are rolling out today. It’s another pop-rock banger with a clever lyrical hook, this time detailing a crush on a particularly athletic woman. The chorus is both funny and immensely catchy: “Girl, you make me want to play the field/ Can’t explain all the things you make me feel/ I want to join your team, and I’m for real/ There’s not a thing I wouldn’t do to hang out with you.” Director Lesley Marshall’s video, which depicts Niles and Caron rocking their best sports poses at the University Of Windsor, further crystallizes the Ontario duo’s appeal. Here’s what Marshall had to say about it:

We decided to get the band in front of the camera really quick so I threw every piece of sports equipment I had in a car and drove through the night to get to Windsor. We were really lucky to get such nice weather and have a nice contact at the University of Windsor to get to film there. Was really stoked to work with Partner who are some great women doing fun things in music and wrestle around in sports and comedy. Women really do not get nearly enough screen time in sports and it’s a total sexist shame – here’s to the future of increased representation for all folks left off screen – and a bunch of hot babes am I right?!!!!!

Watch the “Play The Field” video below and read on for an interview with Partner.

STEREOGUM: Can you begin by sharing the band’s origin story?

JOSÉE CARON: Our band origin story is that we were living in New Brunswick and both graduated from university, and our other bands kind of stopped going. Lucy and I were living in the same house and would spend a lot of time hanging out, and she finally got me to smoke weed, and then we started Partner.

STEREOGUM: Had that been a long-time challenge for her, campaigning for you to smoke weed?

LUCY NILES: Yeah, it took years. It probably took about four years. But it worked. Never give up!

STEREOGUM: Is it fair to say that the weed-smoking is essential to the attitude of the music?

NILES: I mean we’re always writing songs when we’re stoned.

CARON: We don’t really write about weed anymore.

NILES: We’ve pretty much said as much as we have to say about weed. But we still smoke it a lot.

STEREOGUM: One thing I really like about your album is that it’s not just musically strong, it’s also a lot of fun. Have you always been into goofing around and having fun with your music, or is that kind of a new thing with this band?

NILES: We’re definitely always goofing around, but I think we got better at realizing that you could talk about serious stuff sometimes but without, like, being serious.

CARON: I think it was really easy to goof around because I believe it was a good idea. I knew that we could kind of get silly and say everything we wanted to say.

STEREOGUM: So, what are you trying to say? What are some of the messages you’re trying to convey on the album?

CARON: I think it’s less in the songs themselves but more about the fact that we were possessed to write those kinds of songs as women and discovering ourselves and the true scope of our powers, which was much larger than I think we were ever brave enough to admit. So I think that’s a big part of what we’re saying on the album.

NILES: Yeah, like discovering that we can be powerful…

CARON: …from writing what we know, which ends up being those things.

STEREOGUM: Right, so it’s like you can write about your regular life experiences and the kinds of things you would joke about with each other and laugh about together, and it can translate into something meaningful and relatable.

CARON: Yeah, and part of writing a good song, I think, is when you really know what you’re talking about. And we really know what we’re talking about in those songs. I would hope that the listeners would be inspired to find their own ways and be like, “What do I really know about?”

NILES: Yeah, that’s true. It’s more about being honest in what you’re actually saying.

STEREOGUM: Did you feel like before starting Partner you were trying to fit a certain mold of what a band should be like?

CARON: Not really, because our old band, like, I did know it was coming from an authentic place, but I felt like after a while I’d said all of those things and the thing that we needed to say was a different thing.

NILES: And our old band was a hardcore band, so the thing that we were saying was, like, “BAAAAA!”

STEREOGUM: I haven’t heard skits on an album for a long time. Where did the idea for that come from?

NILES: We just thought it was too intense to have all those songs with nothing in between.

CARON: There’s that, and also, one of the best things about listening to an album is feeling like you’re in that world. And we wanted to create that world, to develop who we are and have an opportunity to do that authentically on the album.

STEREOGUM: It’s interesting that skits have fallen out of style even though there’s a lot of ’90s-influenced music right now, and I tend to associate skits on albums with the ’90s. You hear the styles coming back, but you don’t hear the skits.

NILES: I don’t know why that is. It’s got to be on the cusp of coming back. Like everyone our age listened to albums with skits when they were a kid. So yeah, maybe we’ll start a new revival trend. Hopefully!

STEREOGUM: You talked about writing what you know. How does a Partner song come to be?

NILES: Sometimes we’ll be talking about something and then there’s a phrase and I look into Josée’s eyes, and we’re like, “That’s a song.” That’s how it happens a lot of the time — like looking across a crowded room, like, “Oh shit, that’s a song!” When it pops up, we know.

CARON: The universe has to give it to you.

STEREOGUM: What was the process of recording the album like?

CARON: It was a very drawn-out process. A lot of home editing. A lot of overdubs. We exceeded our means in every way that we possibly could, and we did it over the course of years.

NILES: It was the least punk album that has ever been made.

STEREOGUM: Coming from a hardcore background, was it frustrating to be laboring over it for so long?

CARON: Well, laboring over it was more my thing. And honestly, I’m not really punk. It’s more Lucy that’s punk.

NILES: I just kind of had to wait around like “It’s almost done, finally.” We wanted it to be perfect, so there wasn’t really another option besides taking however long it was going to take. Because we didn’t want to half-ass it and then regret it.

STEREOGUM: You have a bunch of tour dates coming up. Do you tour with a backing band or just the two of you?

NILES: We tour with a full band. They don’t really get a lot of attention, but they’re great musicians.

STEREOGUM: That’s great because the album is obviously this big production. I remember when Colleen Green released her album, which was operating in a similar genre, and it sounded big and full on the record but she was doing most of her tour dates solo, which I felt was doing a disservice to the music. So when I think about the songs on your album, I’m glad they’re going to be presented in their full splendor, if you will.

NILES: We’ve played shows with just the two of us before, and it’s just a lot more fun when you can be loud and amplified. It kind of goes back to what we were saying about realizing that we’re powerful. You always feel more powerful with an electric guitar.


Check out Partner on tour beginning tonight:

07/31 Asbury Park, NJ @ The Anchor’s Bend
08/01 Boston, MA @ Great Scott
08/02 Providence, RI @ AS220
08/06 Sackville, NB, @ Sappy Fest
08/12 Kingston, ON @ Wolfe Island Music Fest
08/19 Elora, ON @ Riverfest
08/25 Bangor, ME @ Central Gallery
09/01 Burlington, VT @ Monkey Bar
09/02 Montreal, QC @ Mile Ex End Musique 2017
09/07 Peterborough, ON @ The Garnet
09/08 Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern (record release party)
09/15 Windsor, ON @ The Rondo
09/22 Hamilton, ON @ This Ain’t Hollywood
09/23 Vankleek Hill, ON @ Oktober Fest
09/28 Chicago, IL @ Township
09/29 Davenport, IA @ Village Theatre*
10/01 Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theatre*
*opening for PUP

In Search Of Lost Time is out 9/8 on You’ve Changed Records. Pre-order it here.

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