Interview: TOPS

TOPS 1 Kendall Stephenson

Montreal’s TOPS have released two very solid albums for Arbutus Records: 2012’s Tender Opposites and last year’s Picture You Staring. The quartet thrives on a sleepy brand of indie rock that draws ever so slightly on their dream pop forebears and electronica contemporaries, providing an enticing sound to a variety of music enthusiasts.  We recently caught up with Jane Penny, the lead singer of TOPS, via email to chat about tour life, central influences, and upcoming projects.


Hearing Gold: You guys recently returned from touring around Japan, which I imagine must have been quite the experience. Do you have any stories that really stick with you?

TOPS: Japan was incredible; we all really enjoyed the food and the people there. There were a lot of cool kids at the shows and they all wanted to party and go out for food after we played. We made some friends that came to shows in multiple cities. We played a show in Kyoto in a venue that was next to a metro entrance that went until 6 AM, there were so many good bands and DJs. We also went to an island with a temple that was full of these miniature Japanese deer. They weren’t afraid of people at all so you could pet them and they would try to eat the contents of your pocket. People also got me to sign their iPhones which was a first.

HG: Your upcoming tour schedule looks pretty busy. Are there any cities or venues that you’re really looking forward to spending some time in?

TOPS: Vancouver was really fun because I have quite a few friends who moved there from Edmonton. Actually the West Coast was generally really great, I love it. I also really like playing in Detroit and New York, and of course Montreal and Toronto will be nice too.


HG: I’d imagine all the time spent on the road is a great way to get caught up on other music that’s been coming out. What have you been digging lately, either collectively or individually?

TOPS: We’re actually on a drive from Seattle to Minneapolis right now; it’s 24 hours of driving over 3 days. We put 17 hours of music from our bassist Jenni’s computer on a playlist and actually listened through it. The standouts for me were J Dilla, Arthur Russell and Gil Scott-Heron. I think J Dilla is one of the greatest artists of all time. I just made a new playlist with Cocteau Twins, Lush, and my friend Joanne Robertson’s new album that’s really great, Black Moon Days.

HG: Picture You Staring is really wonderful; you all manage to blend crucial traits of a variety of genres into a really distinct sound. Can you speak on the influences surrounding this album, and TOPS in general?

TOPS: It’s a huge mix to be honest. I think we all feel that we can incorporate any influences that we want. For this record, Chic, Sade, the Pretenders, the Stranglers, and Julee Cruise all directly influenced certain songs. As a vocalist I’m inspired by a lot of singers but never attempt to consciously imitate anyone, that way I know whatever we do it’ll sound like TOPS.


HG: Do you all still spend a lot of time in Montreal when you’re not on the road? What excites you about the music scene there these days?

TOPS: Right now there are a lot of younger people starting to do stuff. It’s a cool city because it attracts a lot of young people constantly coming to the city, and that keeps everything developing in a nice way. My favourite bands out of Montreal right now are She-Devils, Doldrums and Homeshake.

HG: Aside from touring, what’s on the docket for TOPS in 2015? Any plans to return to the studio?

TOPS: Yeah, we’re gonna make a new record!

HG: Awesome, we can’t wait! Thanks Jane, for taking the time out to chat with us!


You can purchase TOPS‘ most recent album Picture You Staring via Arbutus Records here.

Be sure to check out the band’s 2015 tour dates here.