InnerViews: Dan Taylor & Nikole Taylor
I recently had the chance to sit down with Dan Taylor and Nikole Taylor of Less Than Three and Waking Life. It was a wonderful afternoon chat over a delicious cup of java down at Blue Dog Coffee Roasters. Dan and Nikole were awesome. We got to talking about Brantford, music, relationships, food, and which pop group Dan thinks they’re most comparable to. 😉
Without further ado, InnerViews with Less Than Three / Waking Life
Chuck from BrantfordBands: What do you love most about the movie Waking Life?
Dan Taylor: I love Ethan Hawke. One of the most under-rated actors.
I like the director. He’s always got a vision.
That’s the same thing that we want.
Something that’s quirky, but works because he puts a lot of hard work into it.
It’s not just quirky for quirkiness sake.
Nikole Taylor: I found the dialogue through that whole movie to be really thought provoking.
That movie stuck with me.
Dan: I wasn’t thinking about the movie when Nikole brought up the name.
I’m not allowed to make up band names, because I make up Rotary Octopus or Toast Bonanza, high-school punk band names.
I come up with the names but we don’t use them.
CBB: Save those for song titles later?
Nikole: He picked Hate-filled Heart.
CBB: Did you write Hate-filled Heart Dan?
Dan: I wrote the music, Nikole wrote the lyrics.
CBB: Really? I would have thought because it seems to be about a break-up with a wife..
Dan: It could be from the wife’s perspective, reflecting back on it. It can read a few ways.
The emotion in the song cuts through. Ending relationships and the bitterness.
Nikole: It is about a relationship ending.
There’s a lot of reflecting that gets done after you end a relationship.
You reflect on your own behaviour.
How you acted. How you contributed to what was wrong with the relationship.
You fall into that place where you’re thinking ‘Oh they’re just doing it to be mean’
and you kind of forget that that person is a person.
They have their own thoughts and feelings about what’s going on and it’s not about you.
You’re not necessarily doing something to each other, you’re feeling your own feelings and working through them your own way.
A lot of people are surprised to find out that I wrote the words, but it was, for me, very reflective to write that song.
CBB: I did find that even though it has fairly dark lyrics, overall it’s a very positive song.
Nikole: Ya, the whole idea was to make it have the really dark, kind of miserable lyrics but have it be really upbeat and kind of fun.
Like with the line from the chorus ‘everything is better now that you’ve left.’
It’s a song about moving on and being OK with moving on.
People don’t like to break up, people don’t like the relationship to end, even when that’s the right answer. Because it’s safe, and it’s what you know. We don’t like change.
Dan: It’s like that food that’s in the fridge that you know has gone bad but you just don’t want to throw it out, because you wanted to eat it so badly.
You don’t want to waste that food but it has to be thrown out.
CBB: You should buy a new food.
Dan & Nikole: You need to buy a new food.
Dan: Wow, that’s very profound. You should buy a new food…
CBB: How did you meet each other?
Nikole: We were both playing with different bands at the time, we had a gig at Therapy Lounge.
He came up to me after my set, and he said “somebody take the pipes out of St..”
Dan: Somebody took the pipes out of St. John’s cathedral and put them inside you.
The way that she sang just filled up the whole place. Amazing voice. That’s what hooked me first.
Nikole: About a month or so later we were both at Therapy Lounge to see Pay No Mind play and we started hanging out and talking. One day we just started practicing songs together.
Dan: I was obsessed with a song.
Nikole: “The One That I Want” from Grease. I was like ‘No I hate that!’
Dan: The thing is, I like hits.
I teach music all day, the music is sort of all the same to me, I just like songs that make people feel good.
She likes songs that are very deep and obscure and are B-sides. The ones that have an edge to them.
Nikole: I like a lot of music that not everyone knows.
When we come together and try and pick songs that we’re going to play, for both Waking Life and Less Than Three, we try and have a good mix of both.
We do want to appeal to the crowd. They don’t want to hear a bunch of stuff they haven’t heard before, they like hearing what they know.
I would prefer, that if we’re going to play songs that people know that we’re trying to find songs that not everybody’s already played.
So they’re like “oh, I haven’t heard this song in so long, I love this!”
I want people to feel nostalgia when they hear our music, whether it’s because they love Johnny Cash and June Carter or it’s because we played some song from the 90’s like Elastica.
Every single song we pick, it’s a song that we like.
Dan: We’ll Waking Life-atize it.
Whatever the melody and the chords are, we play it our way.
We don’t try and do a copy of what’s on the album.
We just take it as a story and we tell it in our words.
Some people end up thinking “Did you write this?” because they’re obscure and we do it our own way so they don’t know.
Except for when we do Depeche Mode songs, people know it’s by Depeche Mode.
Nikole: Songs that people often ask if we wrote them are “Born on the FM Waves of Heart” by Against Me, or even the Jack White song “Love Interruption”
CBB: How did you guys meet up with Eric Davis?
Nikole: We had been doing the Less Than Three stuff for a while, and we decided we also wanted to try and put together a full band.
So we put a Kijiji ad out and Eric was one of the people that responded to it.
Dan: We tried a few more drummers, he wasn’t the first one, we had auditions.
Nikole: Eric sent me the reverbnation link for D.B Cooper.
They mostly do originals, some covers, even more obscure covers. They’re really good.
He came to practice at the Academy, because it just makes sense, everything’s there even a drum kit. That’s why he loves being in our band, he can just show up with his symbols and high hat.
So he shows up, Dan was in teaching a lesson, Eric and I were talking in the waiting room.
I mentioned that Dan was a drum teacher and his face just dropped.
“I have to audition in front of a drum teacher?”
I was like, ‘don’t worry, he’s really nice.’
CBB: He didn’t have to call you Mr. Taylor?
Dan: Just sir is fine.
Nikole: He came in and we jammed a bunch of songs.
Dan: He just fell right in.
Nikole: We clicked right away. As we got to know him better, he really fits in.
Dan: He’s a real solid guy. He’s both sick and solid. We love him.
We try to think about including him in everything.
I’ve been in a band that was just a couple, and then me. But we really want to build a band.
CBB: Will future songs be a written as a group effort or is there a designated writer?
Nikole: It’ll likely be Dan and I. Eric does offer a lot, and comes up with a lot of drum lines.
Dan: We’re thinking of another original. We’re coming up with ideas all the time.
Nikole: That sound that we went with for Hate-filled Heart, that’s not necessarily the sound we want to go for as an overall sound.
CBB: When do you first remember discovering your love of music?
Nikole: Do you remember the brown fisher-price tape recorder?
I had that, I used to record myself singing when I was like five years old.
I found an old tape of me singing my hardest “don’t put the credit on me!”
Dan: What song is that?
Nikole: Don’t put the credit on me. It was an original from five-year old Nikole.
I always loved singing. I didn’t think of it as an actual thing to do.
When I was in grade nine, I decided to try out for the school musical.
I got one of the main roles.
After that the music teacher basically told me I had to join the choir and had to take vocal music the following year. So I took vocal music every year after that, stayed in the choir.
Now I’m teaching singing.
CBB: How about you Dan?
Dan: Always. When I was younger we just experimented with stuff.
We had a VCR and plugged our mixer into it and record onto VHS tapes because it was better quality than the little cassette tapes. Or just get a ghetto blaster and put in the middle of the room, hit record and we’d all just play when I was fourteen.
I went to university for music.
It always felt like just playing, like a kid in a sandbox.
It never felt like work, I’ve never worked a day in my life.
All I’ve ever done is just play music and teach music.
It’s the easiest way to play like a kid, but still be a grown up.
Still be able to buy a new food when necessary.
I was in a couple bands in Brantford that didn’t pan out.
This one is really fun. It sounds good and we do it our way.
We get have the vocal harmonies that I like, we get to have the hardness.
Some bands will have the vocal harmonies but they won’t want to have the metal chugging part.
Some bands will get to have the different time signatures, some the pretty picking but they won’t get to have a real pop song.
This takes all of our weird stuff and glued together in one package.
Nikole: When we do our set list, I have to put a lot of thought into those set lists because of how different all of the music is.
We want to make sure that there’s still a good flow.
I remember before the show at NV, I wrote up the set list and Dan said,
‘let’s just see how that looks on the staff.’
So we draw up the staff, because we’re just nerdy like that, we drew the key of each song on the staff and it basically went perfectly.
Dan: Each key, turned into a note, made a melody that was an interesting melody.
It swooped up and down.
Nikole: We’re even considering writing an original using that.
Dan: Everything we want, all the hard rock, all the nerdiness, all the obscurity.
Nikole: We could basically say ‘that song is every song we play.’
Our original is every cover we play.
Another idea we talked about came when a friend of mine did one of those facebook quizzes..
CBB: I saw that, you guys were June Carter and Johnny Cash!
Nikole: Which we found really amusing because we do cover one of their songs.
So then we decided we’re going to watch Walk the Line.
By the end of it we were smiling like our faces hurt.
Both: Aww, they’re so cute!
Nikole: Then we decided we want to do a Johnny Cash and June Carter tribute set.
We want to do an hour set of that.
Dan: There are so many great songs by them.
CBB: You both really portray that same spirit really well.
Dan: It’s really the most fun thing to do.
To play these songs together, to sing the harmonies together.
It really brings you closer. I recommend it highly for everyone.
To do something. Take a cooking class together.
Nikole: Yeah, do a thing together. As adults our lives are so busy.
When we’re in a relationship, every relationship starts off one way, everything’s exciting.
And then you start to get into a comfort zone together.
And then you’re past the comfort zone to the point that you’re just like everything is the same every day.
Dan: You’ve become furniture.
Nikole: You’re not doing anything anymore. You’re doing the same things.
Even if it’s you’re going to such and such bar because we like this band that plays every week or whatever. But doing an actual activity together where you have to interact.
Dan: It brings you together. I couldn’t do alone. I need her organized mind, and she needs me to carry stuff.
Nikole: I need someone to pick me up at the door when it’s cold or raining.
Dan: I like doing things.
I want to just be out in the world just eating up life as much as possible.
Nikole: We kind of treat every day like that.
Every day that we have stuff to do we treat it just like
‘ok, these are things we have to tackle today.’
And we tackle everything in our life as a team.
This is what we’re getting done and we’re not super perfect.
We’re not perfect at all.
We fight probably just as much as anybody else does but we also know that getting through that fight is another one of those things we have to do. We have to work on that.
We have to communicate and sometimes it’s hard but we do it because it’s worth it.
Because then we get to go back to doing things and being a band.
And every time it happens we grow together.
Then the next time an argument happens, it’s not going to be about the same thing because we worked that out, we’ve done the things to try and avoid it happening again.
Dan: We’re like Kanye and Kim Kardashian.
Nikole: My butt is almost that big. *laughing*
No we’re not!
CBB: I would’ve went more Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Dan: I’m not a business man though. I’m more of just a wild dude.
CBB: So you guys switch. Nikole is Jay-Z and Dan is Beyoncé.
Nikole: That is more accurate. Dan is the dancer.
CBB: What’s do you love most about the Brantford music scene?
Dan: We really feel like we’re part of a scene in Brantford now.
There’s so many good musicians and they’re so thankful and so passionate.
I feel so welcome. I’m not from Brantford, I’m from Hamilton, but I’ve been living here fifteen years.
I’ve never felt more a part of a community.
Musicians who are helping each other and not digging at each other.
It’s a really good feeling.
Nikole: Everybody is so welcoming and kind.
A band from Cambridge, they’ve been here a few times to play and they’re friends of ours, and I remember the one guy from the band saying to me that the music scene here was so different from other places that they’ve played.
There’s not that snideness. The people in the bands get along band to band.
It’s not this band sitting over here and not talking to that band.
That’s another thing, there’s so many of us and we can network with the people we enjoy spending time with to make a good event.
At no point is it ever awkward.
I really noticed that too, for the most part, in my experience, I’m not getting a feel of any negativity.
CBB: What would you change about the local scene?
Dan: We want more people to come out and see shows.
Nikole: I would see more bands not playing with the same bands.
CBB: Like get out of their genre?
Nikole: Get out, yes, and you wouldn’t just be playing to your friends every week.
We’re not going to get new fans if every time we do a show we play with the same people.
You get into a comfort zone and you know you’re guaranteed a gig if you play at the same place with the same people.
I want to get out of that and I would love to see other bands in town start doing that.
Like when we went to Pi Day with Chris Strei at Buck’s.
They let us go up and do a few songs, we ended up meeting Jason Inberg and I thought maybe Waking Life and Innersha doing a show together.
CBB: That’d be awesome.
Nikole: I really like to see more bands play together that haven’t played together before.
That’s something that’s maybe in the works, a Waking Life and Innersha show.
That’s how the crowds are going to start growing, and that’s how the crowds are going to see new music.
Dan: That’s why Taylor Swift brought One Direction on tour with her.
They’re doing the same thing.
We’re just like Taylor Swift and One Direction.
Nikole: No! You don’t get to make the references any more either!
CBB: So you’re stranded on an island, yes I’m going for the old cliché, and you find a magical lamp, a genie pops out and the only wish he’ll grant is a record player and five albums.
What would you choose?
Dan: The one by the guy. *laugh* Phil Collins – Face Value.
Just so I could loop the “doo-dum doo-dum doo-dum”
That gated reverb on those huge toms.
Nikole: I would say The Big Come Up by the Black Keys.
Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes.
Clutch – From Beale Street to Oblivion.
And our own recording. How else can we still listen to ourselves?
We won’t be able to record.
CBB: When do you hope to have more music available, and where should fans watch for your newest songs to drop?
Nikole: Reverbnation & Facebook.
We are seeing that we may have a need sooner rather than later to actually have a website, but for now it’s pretty much facebook where we post everything.
All of our contact information is on the facebook page.
Dan: I would say spring.
Now that spring is happening, a new original song.
As I was falling asleep last night I heard it playing in my mind.
So it’s in there now.
It’s going to be this very straight-ahead hard rock.
White Stripes mixed with Jack White. And some Meg White. *laugh*
Nikole: It’s going to be White Stripes mixed with Jack White, eh?
Dan: Yeah. A little bit more full of the sound because we usually put more on it than just a guitar.
Nikole: We joke and we say we White Stripe-atized Love Interruption.
Nikole: Have you heard the original? It’s done with a piano.
Dan: And the oboes.
Nikole: And it’s beautiful. I love that song.
We just made it rock. We made it rock!
Dan: I play it Jack White style.
Nikole: I feel like we’re doing it his way, but in our own way.
We had a lot of fun with that song.
That was one of the first songs that we started playing together.
It was my nemesis. It was a sword in my side.
I taught Dan the song, but I couldn’t get my harmonies right.
I battled with that song for months and months.
There were times when we went to perform the song and I would have to back out of the whole song and let Dan just go. I would maybe sing the chorus with him, because I just couldn’t find the note anywhere.
Now I have a new nemesis.
Dan: The Shakey Graves song.
Nikole: Shakey Graves is awesome. I really like him a lot. He did this song called
Both: Dear Departed
Nikole: He’s soul. He did this duet with this girl, Esmé Patterson, and it’s so awesome.
My friend Brandy was the one that told me about it.
She loves Shakey Graves, they’re like her favorite artist.
I fell in love with this song. We decided we’re going to do it.
Then it came down to doing the Brantford Music Centre and I crapped out.
We were practicing and I was like,
“I don’t know what’s happened! We were doing it right or a week and now nothing.”
It’ll be fine for an upcoming show.
We were just going to do it with Less Than Three because it fit’s perfectly within that.
Then we decided to kind of jam it out with Eric.
It’s so awesome with the drums and the electric guitar.
That’s the next cover we’re working on that actually needs work.
I guess sometimes we have to find one that’s difficult for us.
They all seem to come so easily. We’ve been kind of spoiled.
CBB: You’re going out and challenging yourselves?
Nikole: Yes, and that’s what I always teach my students.
The only way you’re going to get better at something is if you do something you’re not good at.
Over and over and over again.
Dan: Right. You have to push yourself past your comfort zone and go towards what you’re scared of.
Then just do it and do it and do it until you’re comfortable with it.
If someone was asking me,
“How do I make it as a musician?”
or “How do I make it as an artist?”
or “How do I make it as a truck driver?”
or “How do I make it and be what I want?”
Both: Keep Doing It.
Dan: How do you get better at lifting weights? Well, lift a lot of weights.
No one digs a hole by taking one shovel full and saying,
“This hole’s not dug! I quit! I’m no good at this.”
Just keep digging and eventually…you have a grave.
Dan: Or, something nice.
Nikole: We got so much support from the community, from the newspaper, from your site.
But that came from working every day at this.
We spent the time trying hard and putting ourselves out there, booking gigs and playing gigs, networking with other musicians and doing all those things.
Right now, we’re up here floating since we had the show on Saturday and meeting Glen.
We haven’t come back down.
This is what we’ve been working towards.
Having people know about us and coming out to see our shows.
Everybody who comes to our gigs has a good time and we want more people to come out and have a good time.
CBB: Do you plan on staying local, or how far would you travel for a gig at this point?
Nikole: We talked with Waking Life, maybe an hour or two out of town.
Less Than Three we’ve played in Toronto, we’ve played in Niagara Falls and Simcoe.
We want to do some more out of town stuff.
Chris Strei is working on a Toronto gig now.
Waking Life is going to be playing in Toronto for the We Love Boobies event.
That’s going to be July or August.
CBB: You covered most of my questions without me having to ask, so that’s awesome, thank you.
It’s been a pleasure sitting down with you. Thank you both.
BrantfordBands would like to give another sincere thank you to Dan Taylor and Nikole Taylor for taking the time out of their busy schedules to sit down for a great chat.
We look forward to catching more of their live gigs in and around Brantford and suggest you do the same.
Watch BrantfordBands.com (real soon, promise 🙂 ) for an Artist Spotlight on both of Dan and Nikole’s bands, Waking Life and Less Than Three.