Music Interview: Sylvie does it the old way

By Nathan Atnikov

In the olden days–a whopping decade or so ago–the only way a band could break was through hard work, dedication, and touring, touring, touring. These days, with file-sharing’s ability to spread music to internet savvy people in the blink of an eye, you’d think getting your music to the masses would be easier than it was in the days where radio was the only doorway to recognition. Not so, says Sylvie guitarist/vocalist Joel Passmore, whose band–rounded out by bassist Riva Farrell Racette, guitarist Chris Nottenboom, and drummer Jeff Romanyk–still firmly believes touring like crazy is the best way to build up a fan base.

“[Our current tour] starts in Winnipeg,” Passmore says. “Then goes west through Calgary. Then we fly to Ontario and go east. It’s a bit of a criss-cross, but it’s been worth it.”

As Sylvie embarks on their second cross-Canada tour of the year in support of their second full-length release, An Electric Trace, Passmore and his mates are very excited about the crowd response so far. The band is also thrilled to finally be able to offer their fans some new music after a three-year layoff.

“We’ve had the album done for a year already,” Passmore says. “It’s just been a matter of getting the artwork and merchandising done.”

An Electric Trace is the band’s first album for Smallman Records, meaning Sylvie is due for some much-needed and deserved exposure. Playing shows across the country with bands like Death From Above 1979 and Hot Hot Heat doesn’t hurt, but Passmore believes there’s nothing quite like being signed to a record label, even a small one, to get a band some face time.

“Just the difference between going from the four of us to having a small team of people working to get us press and stuff like that makes a huge difference,” he says. “Even with our record not being out yet, having [the label] behind us has been a huge help.”

As their exposure and fan following increases, Sylvie will rumble back across the country yet again, filling the role of opening band for controller.controller, a role they have become familiar with, for better or worse. Often vilified, or just plain ignored, by audiences, Passmore is comfortable with the highs and lows of being the first band on stage. Possibly because Sylvie hasn’t had to deal with many lows.

“We don’t sound like any of the bands we’ve been on tour with,” Passmore says of his band, whose sound has been described as everything from post-punk to indie rock. “Either way, the crowd response has been really positive.”

With the release of a new record and a growing fan base, Sylvie is all set to be one of the next big Canadian bands.