TOPS are a four-piece band from Montreal, Jane Penny (vocals, keyboard), David Carriere (guitar), Riley Fleck (drums) and Madeline Glowicki (bass). We chat with Jane ahead of their European tour in May 2015.
We started TOPS in the Spring of 2011
David and I had already been playing music for a couple years but it was mostly just fucking around, we would make songs in his room on a computer. I'd just started to get really into synthesizers and David has always played a guitar, we wanted to be in a proper band with instruments instead of computer music so we asked Riley to try jamming with us. He would practice at this loft space we all used like everyday for hours by himself so we figured he'd be pretty good, and we were right! He's great.
A lot of nights we'll be at the studio really late
we've got a little recording and rehearsal room set up at the Arbutus Records Office. Sometimes we'll be walking back down Parc Avenue and I'll have the song we were working on in my head, when it's sounding real good and your excited about the beginning of a new track and it's circling around in your brain, those are a lot of the best moments. That and there have been a lot of really great times at shows.
The first songs I learned
were songs that David wrote with our friend Sean Nicholas Savage. They convinced me to start singing because they'd written a bunch of songs for a girl to sing. Before that, when I was a teenager I got really into playing flute, specifically playing Charlie Parker solos, that was the first music that I really loved playing.
I admire musicians who have a unique voice
and an intellectual inner life that guides the art they make, like Joni Mitchell. I also really like musicians that make really satisfying music to listen to, like J Dilla or Chic or Art of Noise. Sorry I'm not very good at explaining my taste, I just like what I like.
I've been listening to Jessica Pratt and Kendrick Lamar lately, their new records are both very inspiring to me. The Doldrums record too, it's coming out soon.
My first instrument
It was a cheap flute, probably cost my parents like 200$ at the local music store. There was a piano at my house growing up but I didn't get into playing piano until much later so even though I play it a lot now I would consider my flute my first instrument. I left it on the bus once growing up, I was freaking out but the bus driver picked it up so it was all good.
It just happens
The bigger struggle is doing the normal everyday shit properly so my life can keep going, like getting groceries and replying to emails. That other stuff is constantly in the way of time I would like to spend by myself working on music but you have to handle your shit if you want to live off music. I'm hoping that at some point in the summer I can take a few weeks to just work on new songs.
A day in the studio
It depends on what we're up to, but usually I wake up at home and make coffee, then play my synth at home for a while. David usually heads to the studio early and he'll start doing stuff on the computer or playing guitar and I usually show up around 2. We'll work on stuff, record or whatever and then Riley will come by the evening and we'll practice for like 4 hours.
It's really everything to me. It helps me get through life, but it also is my life in the sense that I define my success on this earth by how much time I devote to it and my progression musically, playing instruments or just improving my musical consciousness.
Jane Penny from TOPS | TOPS Tour Dates