Hailing from the Toronto underground, Dean Tzenos and his newly-acquired bandmates are renowned for their involving, energetic live shows and a sound that dances between the jagged edges of arrogant noise-rock and the oft-hidden melodic flashes of industrial. If it sounds unusual, it’s because it is; Hard Boiled Soft Boiled is a sonic experiment as much as anything, with a narrative as vivid in timing as it is in theme. We caught up with Dean to discuss the LP, his involvement with Buzz Records and how tight-knit the Toronto DIY scene has become.
Noted: Since forming a band around you, has your songwriting process changed, or do you still mass-produce and cherry pick later? Are you more conscious of how others may impact your initial ideas?
Subject: I still have a similar approach of having more songs to pick from but we’ve been finding ways to make it an inclusive process. I usually demo an idea and bring it to the band and we deconstruct it and piece it back together. Sometimes it’s done right out of the gates and sometimes it turns into something unexpected. We all try to keep an open mind, you never what you might stumble across and I really respect everyone’s input.
I really don’t feel I’ve been critical of the Toronto scene at all, if anything I’ve been really doing my best to unify it.
Noted: You’ve built a reputation as one of Canada’s most exciting live acts – do you feel that being able to bridge the gap between audio and visuals is essential to capturing the ‘real’ Odonis Odonis?
Subject: Definitely, the project has always lent itself to both Audio and Visuals and it’s been a goal to incorporate both aspects from the get go. The process of everything being ‘real’ comes when you can deliver your concept live and that has been one of the most important goals. I’m glad that people consider us as being exciting live act, that’s a huge compliment to us.
Noted: Likewise, you’ve shown a willingness to play just about anywhere. Which venue has been the most satisfying?
Subject: That’s so hard to answer. We’ve played so many shows now that it’s hard to pinpoint one moment, but playing Psychfest with Metz and A Place to Bury Strangers at the Mohawk in Austin was a dream come true. I’m definitely taking that one to the grave and the outside stage at Mohawk has amazing sound. We still have people talking to us about that show all the time.
Noted: You’ve also been a little critical of the general Toronto music scene – could you pinpoint your derision? Is the viewpoint shared by others or are you on your own?
Subject: I really don’t feel I’ve been critical of the Toronto scene at all, if anything I’ve been really doing my best to unify it. If I had complaint it was back maybe 5 years ago when we had the cross arm crowds out at the bars and that isn’t relevant anymore. I think Toronto is having a heyday right now and everyone has been very supportive of the Buzz scene.
The process of everything being ‘real’ comes when you can deliver your concept live and that has been one of the most important goals.
Noted: Hard Boiled Soft Boiled feels like an on-the-nose description of the album’s narrative – was this an intentional contrast and how did the unique songwriting process fit into it?
Subject: The goal of the album was to appeal to both sides of the musical spectrum. Most bands rarely attempt anything like that and are successful. It’s risky if isn’t done right but I felt like it was the right time. Everyone listens to everything these days, it’s not like it use to be, if you were a punk rocker or raver that was all you listened to, I think people have moved outside of that and I wanted to put it to the test. The only thing that wasn’t completely planned was splitting the record half. Originally I wanted the contrast to be in your face but the narrative made more sense to people in this format. Let’s just say I had some time to play with the track order :)
Noted: How did your participation of the In Utero tribute album come about? Did you experience any anxiety about performing to a standard?
Subject: Shehzaad from Greys approached me about doing the cover. To be honest I was a little apprehensive about doing a Nirvana cover, it’s like covering the Beatles…it’s not something I really wanted to do but the song Shehzaad suggested felt like something I can work with and make our own. I feel like Shehzaad knew that going into it and we just rolled with it. There was absolutely no anxiety at all, it was a blast to do and I was blown away when I heard everyone else’s contributions. It could have been bullshit but everyone stepped up and nailed it out of the park. Makes me proud to be from Toronto.
Noted: You co-own Buzz Records, born from the now defunct Buzz Garage. It feels like you’re a traditionalist in so far as you’ve maintained a legacy of something you cared about — how did it come about?
Subject: The Garage meant a lot to both the Toronto music community and me. I feel like it was a second home for everyone and really broke down the barriers for so many different scenes in Toronto and unified everything. It was a true DIY movement so many bands cut their teeth there including us, Greys, Soupcans, HSY, Teenanger and tons more. I was sad to see it go and there came a point when we were releasing the Better EP where we had the choice of self-releasing or taking something we cared about and try to revive it. So Ian Chai and I decided to pool our resources and contacts and make Buzz a “proper” label.
We included Denholm (Odonis Odonis/Mexican Slang) and Jude (HSY) the founders of the garage in the whole process and have worked together to make something real and maintain the same ethos that started the whole thing. I never expected it to go this well, we are so happy about all the support.
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