We Tried to Have a Beer with The Courtneys But They Only Drink WaterOctober 22, 2018
Even the most casual listener of The Courtneys’ bubbly slacker-pop could surmise that the Canadian trio is a pretty relaxed bunch. The Courtneys’ music lives in the too-pretty-to-be-garage, too-punk-to-be-pop realm of rock that fellow Canadian Mac DeMarco has presided over in recent years. A little Cali and a little Calgary, the fuzzy, driving tracks on their second album II inspire a carefree, sun-soaked nostalgia that makes you yearn for your first crush. These tunes are the soundtrack to an eternal teenage dream—perhaps most aptly illustrated on “Lost Boys,” a surprisingly faithful homage to the 1986 film’s “vampire teenage boyfriends.”
For the band’s inherent sense of chill, this writer is eternally grateful. Sitting down with The Courtneys on a chilly September afternoon after their energetic OctFest set, I’m already one beer deep following my interview with Hop Along. Seemingly prepared to ask some of the hardest-hitting questions in beer journalism, I’m reviewing my script of “What do you like to drink on tour?” and “Do you have a favorite macrobrew?” Unbeknownst to me until that very moment, The Courtneys do not drink at all on tour, and very rarely do so in general.
“Do you think people will be bummed that we don’t drink beer?” bassist Sydney Koke asks.
After the year The Courtneys have had, I doubt anyone is overly concerned with the band’s drinking habits. Since releasing II on New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records to critical and fan besottment in early 2017, the trio (comprised of Koke, drummer and lead singer Jen Twynn Payne, and guitarist Courtney Loove) has been playing their singular brand of fuzzy, melodic garage-pop in clubs across North America. After a bit of a break spent relaxing and writing, the band resumes its hard-touring routine alongside Cloud Nothings in late November.
Even with the absence of beer talk, The Courtneys and I fall into an easy conversation about trying to write an album together while inhabiting three different countries, the definitive pronunciation of a certain bubbly water, and what it really means to be a “Courtney.”
So, no drinking. Any tour vices then?
Jen: Spas! We go to Korean-style spas in every city.
Sydney: Touring is already so hard. I can’t even imagine doing it with a perma-hangover. I don’t know how people do it.
Courtney: We just try to go to sleep when we can, take mental health time, go to the spa, and, like, eat well.
Are you guys watching anybody else at OctFest today?
Sydney: There are so many good bands! Shopping, Girlpool, Flaming Lips.
Courtney: We want to see everything. I want to see Yo La Tengo.
Jen: Pretty much everything, yeah.
You guys released II last year. It’s been super well-received. What’s life been like since the record came out?
Jen: Right after the record came out we did a lot of touring. 2017 was a full touring year. This year has been a bit slower. We’re trying to write new songs.
Sydney: We’ve had some writing sessions that were really fun. One was in L.A., and one was on this little island called Gabriola in Vancouver. Both of those were great—both were in good weather, and we got to do some hangouts outside. And they were really productive.
So is that going to be III?
Jen: Maybe. Tentatively titled.
Can you tell me a little about your name?
Sydney: Ah! We have a new thing we can say now, because it’s been endlessly confusing for people. It’s really hard to name a band—we were just talking to Girlpool about it. It’s just like the Ramones. It’s like a Ramones thing. We’re all Courtney.
I like it. What’s your approach to songwriting? It seems like you all are pretty collaborative.
Sydney: Super-collaborative jam.
Jen: It’s very organic, I would say. I mean, I don’t know how other bands write, but I think a lot of people kind of have a “songwriter” that’s bringing a lot, but we’re all equally putting stuff into it.
Courtney: We usually write the music first. And then it’s kind of interesting, because I find out what it’s going to be about later. We’re at the stage right now where we have 10 or 12 instrumentals, but we don’t know what any of them are going to be about. They all have funny names right now.
Sydney: Sometimes we do leave those names. Like, “Country Song,” obviously, was a working title that just stayed.
Courtney: But we all live in different places, and we need to be together to write. So that’s why it’s kind of been a slow process.
Yeah, living in different places must make it tough.
Jen: In different countries, in fact.
Courtney: Jen lives in Vancouver, I live in L.A., and Sydney lives in Strausbourg, France.
Sydney: Yeah, I travel a lot.
Alright, I’m going to skip over these beer questions.
Jen: I’m curious to know what they were, though! Can you just tell us?
Here’s one that you might be able to answer anyway: what’s your favorite city to drink in while on tour?
Courtney: I can tell you right now—Zurich, Switzerland. They have the best water.
Water is so important!
Courtney: I get so excited when there’s good tap water. I’m, like, a water freak.
Jen: It’s true. The three of us pretty much drink water exclusively on tour. I’m so sensitive to any sort of stimulant. And carbonation—I won’t drink carbonated beverages on tour, I won’t drink caffeine, and I won’t drink alcohol. It’s just water.
Courtney: Water is always there for you.
Sydney: I drink a lot of kombucha on tour. So, I love America, because it’s everywhere. But I drink cider. Where has good cider? I guess France.
Another reworked beer question: What’s your favorite beverage?
Sydney: Probably kombucha, for me.
Jen: Ooh! Horchata! From Spain, specifically, is the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.
Sydney: I love that jamaica hibiscus drink. It’s dark red and super sour. I also like Martini Bianco, which is really popular in France.
Jen: Oh, LaCroix! Big fan.
What’s your favorite flavor?
Courtney: Probably the Grapefruit.
Sydney: I’ve never had LaCroix in my life.
Sydney: I don’t like sparkling water. I feel like it’s a waste of time.
Jen: You’ll get into LaCroix. I actually called the company to find out the pronunciation. There was some debate.
Sydney: Because I’m living in France and was like, “Guys, it’s La-kwah.” Everyone’s like, “No, it’s La-croy.”
Jen: So I called them on speakerphone, and they said, “Hello, La-Croy.” And I said, “Oh, you just answered my question.”
Top photo by Matt Allen