Homeshake’s Peter Sagar on the darker side of touring, internal pressures and The Last Waltz
Touring with Mac DeMarco sounds like the dream, right? Well it was for Peter Sagar, the touring guitarist with Mac and the crew, until the constant touring, the constant limelight began to affect his life back in Montreal.
HOMESHAKE fans know the rest. Sagar left Mac, headed back to Canada and began working solely on his solo material. This time was a point of reflection for Sagar, he had to begin again; as a musician, a friend and just a dude at home permanently for once in a long time.
This reflective period’s end product was Midnight Snack, an eclectic and beautiful Homeshake album that takes the relaxed, jazzy vibe he honed in the past, and injected it with more varied often conflicting elements – because “contrast is good, not everything has to match.” It’s the most powerful statement he’s made, taking the side out of the ‘side project’ once and for all.
Things are a lot better on the road for Sagar too, hence why he’s travelling all the way to Australia at the end of the month for a Homeshake tour. I chatted via a slightly dodgy skype link to Sagar whilst he was at home writing. He floats back and forth on his ideas; from being disenchanted with the guitar, to his views on self-inflicted pressure, the tolls of touring and whether it’s better to work alone or with others. It’s not a bad thing either, to me it demonstrated a constantly working, constantly rethinking approach to his own music – and that’s special.
Tom Hutchins: Let’s start with the album, Midnight Snack. Now that it’s been out for a while, how do you feel it’s been received?
Peter Sagar: Well… it’s kind of hard to tell you know. We haven’t been out on the road recently, and that’s where people tell you they like it the most often, so it’s hard to gauge… But, hopefully well (laughs).
Is the reception something you care about?
I’d be lying if I said no, I think everybody cares… I mean, I’m trying to make some money! I need some people to like it so I can eat (laughs).
That’s a pretty realist way to to look at it
Also music can be pretty selfish at the same time, so it’s pretty good if someone likes your music a lot and it helps them through a day. So I like when people like it, it feels good.
The previous Homeshake record, In The Shower, told the story of life on the road with Mac DeMarco; what stories does this record hold?
It’s the ending of [life with Mac] and the beginning of post tour life, getting my shit back together at home.
Has your writing always been personal?
Yeah, I mean once in awhile if I’m inspired I can write a song about a friend or something – but generally it’s all just [about] whatever stupid problem I think I’m having. A lot of it is therapeutic, you can write it out and sing about it and help move through a problem. Also it’s a way to connect with other people who feel the same way.
To me, Midnight Snack feels like it speaks about relationships, internal and external; am I on the right track?
Um, you’re probably right! It’s fairly relationship driven. Mostly about getting off tour and being able to spend time with my significant other. Like, real chunks of time, not just a few weeks here and there; being home and trying to reconnect with people.
Sonically, there’s a lot more of an electronic influence on the record – what about this genre made you want to dive into it on the album?
One thing was that I was becoming disenchanted with the guitar a little bit as a writing tool, and I found the more instrumentation you allow yourself, the more texture and feeling you can convey through your music. I just needed something else to work with… And I found a good synthesizer for a good price on craigslist, so that helped (laughs).
Why do you think the electronic elements worked with the more organic Homeshake instrumentation?
Contrast is good, not everything has to match. I think I had to move into a slightly new direction for my own sake; to not go crazy and fall into the same formulaic ideas that I think I was falling into. I needed them so I could create a new set of boundaries to work within.
It sounds like there’s a bit of internal pressure you place upon yourself when recording, has that pressure always been there when you go to write as Homeshake?
Yeah, I feel that if I’m not writing a lot, then I have to tour a lot. You have to do something, you have to work and this is what I want to do. Since tour is something I’ve been enjoying, and taking a little less time in my life to do, I just feel a little useless if I’m just sitting around or going out. I need to be writing and recording all the time.
You’ve touched on it, but it seemed that you left Mac’s band because of the limitations touring put on you. What parts of touring and being a musician in general do you find difficult to overcome?
As soon as you’re on the road, you have to assume a new identity. You have to change certain things about yourself to adapt, and that’s fine, it works fine; but if you find yourself in that zone, then you become this other person. You know, I’ve seen The Last Waltz, I don’t want to turn out like Rick Danko. He was so fucked up (laughs).
You can’t just be like ‘nup, fuck this I’m going to watch cartoons in my hotel room’.
Yep, you gotta perform; you gotta put yourself on some sort of line; and you have to allow for a room full of people to look at you. And that’s all great, and I do enjoy doing it. I just needed to do it less to enjoy it fully. The tours I’ve done as Homeshake so far have been really great and I’ve managed to find a better balance than I had in the past. That’s why I’m very excited to go to Australia.
Is touring still tough, or is it a completely different story with Homeshake?
It’s a completely different story, I feel a lot more pressure as I’m in charge of everything now; but it’s good pressure. It makes you work harder and think about your surroundings. And the guys in the band are great, we’re a balanced group of people; it’s really easy to be in a car with them all day long.
Are you going to bring the full band out to Australia?
Ohhh yeah! We can’t wait! (Laughs)
Speaking of Australia, Homeshake tours have started to branch out from your homeland and the US. What draws you to play in a country like Japan or Australia?
To be honest I had just always wanted to go to Japan, but had never had the opportunity. The first time we went [to Japan], I asked my friend Lucas (aka Jerry Paper) how he had toured there in the past, and he was like ‘well, I want to go too’. So we went together on a tour, played a few shows and it was a lot of fun and very beautiful. The food is so good! I loved it and I knew I’d go back someday, but I didn’t think it’d be twice in the same year. Some kids I met on the first trip, are in a band called Tempalay, and they wanted me to play their EP release in Tokyo – so they flew me out there.
I cut in to talk to him about his Kyoto show I attended. We spoke about how it was loud it was, how you can smoke indoors, backwards cigarette laws, littering, culture shock, a lack of bins. I’ve cut this out as it’s really not music related and is just me being a fanboy.
…Okay I should get back to it. What is it like to go to a place like Japan, not just as a tourist, and get to spend time with the local community?
Oh it’s great. Some of the best musicians I’ve met were from the two times I went to Japan, they had really interesting ideas I hadn’t been able to see before. Everything is different there and the music is too, and it’s really cool. I really really really enjoyed that aspect of it.
For instance the night in Kyoto, YPY played, he had a super dark techno set. He was just mixing on four track cassette recording machines, that was super cool. We stayed with him in Osaka, he’s one of the coolest guys ever.
Why is Australia next on your touring list? It’s not very convenient.
Yeah you’re right, it’s not very convenient! (laughs). The guys at Strange Yonder who are released the album in Australia invited me to come over and organise a tour… I wasn’t gonna say no. It’s hot there, it’s cold here man (laughs). I need to get out!
Will you tourist it up a bit when you’re here?
I’m gonna hit the beach, definitely gonna hit the beach (laughs). I don’t know which ones or where. The last time, with Mac, the only beach we went to was in Perth. So yeah, I’ll hit the beach, maybe… see some Kangaroos? I don’t know, probably just hang out and be mellow.
Are there any other countries you want to tour to after Australia?
We’re working on a European tour right now, but I’m recording a new album right now, so we’ll have to go back for that.
Any new ideas going into this record?
It’ll just be what it is I guess, I’ve only gotten six songs into recording, so it’s hard to say. It’ll definitely be recorded a little better. My friend Jackson, who manned the tape machine for Midnight Snack, and I learnt a lot about recording synths and drum machines that we were a little oblivious to before. So far it’s going very smoothly.
Do you prefer to record just one on one? Or would you rather have your other band members there?
I get pretty picky with the recordings, I kind of have to do it myself. But it’s great to record with somebody else, another set of ears is really useful in the recording process. [Jackson] will hear a detail that’s good or bad that I’ll miss; and then [the product isn’t] just recorded demo’s from my living room.
You’re not a bedroom producer that way.
Exactly, I like to have a little company. At the same I’m really controlling and have to have everything played a certain way, and the only way to do that properly is to do it all myself (laughs).
Catch Peter & co as Homeshake on his Australian tour, the dates are as follows:
Thursday 25 Feb
Brisbane, QLD @ The Brightside
w/ Good Boy & Donny Love
Friday 26 Feb
Gold Coast, QLD @ Elsewhere
w/ Donny Love & Leisure Guide
Saturday 27 Feb
Melbourne, VIC @ The Curtin
w/ Good Morning & Zone Out
Monday 29th Feb
Melbourne, VIC @ The Curtin
w/ SMILE & Kirkis (Solo)
Wednesday 2nd March
Sydney, NSW @ Brighton Up Bar
w/ MEZKO & Donny Love
Thursday 3rd March
Sydney, NSW @ Brighton Up Bar
w/ NOIRE & Donny Love
Words by Tom Hutchins