Peter Sagar, known by his stage name Homeshake, is often credited with the advent of so-called “slacker rock,” which was popularized by his long-time former collaborator and bandmate Mac DeMarco. The Montreal-based musician has released three albums under his solo project, the most recent, Helium, was released in February of 2019. The album strikes a more rhythmic tone, moving away from the guitar-dominated sound of his previous work. Helium shows Sagar is more interested in pursuing heady and cerebral, while distancing itself from the “jizz jazz” he created with DeMarco.
As an artist, Sagar is tight-lipped when it comes to his intentions, prefering to let the music speak for itself… the success of which has been met with less-than-glowing reviews. While deMarco’s openness and affinity for his listening public has certified him as an indie darling, Sagar seems to have gone the other way—shifting towards a unaffected, low-energy persona. It’s a quality that Ian Cohen lambasted in his Pitchfork review of Helium. At recent live shows, Sagar has been spotted replying to enthusiastic audience applause with an apathetic shrug. Compare that to the shirtless “werewolf yodels” of a DeMarco show, it’s hard not to think that Sagar is bent on delivering a different, if not defiant, kind of performance.
Sagar’s ambivalence is apparent over a La Fin du Monde Unibroue at Montreal’s Notre Dame des Quilles (the only spot for a decent pizza slice in Montreal, according to Sagar). Catching up with the laid-back musician, Sagar remains mum as to his musical objectives on his latest release. Because what’s cooler than being cool?
You’re about to head out on tour. When you’re on tour is there anything you try to drink in Montreal before you leave?
I pretty much only drink Budweiser, or any super plain lager—mostly rice beer. The really hoppy stuff makes me want to throw up.
What about when you’re on tour? Anything make sure to drink?
I don’t get that much time for that. When you’re in Europe, you’re getting kind of carted around. You have the driver and the van and you don’t really know where you are and your tour manager is telling you what to do. But when were in England I probably will get a nice, warm English beer.
You can’t do the same thing forever, it’s super boring. I mean, you can, people do it all the time. I just would stop all together, if that’s what was going to happen.”
I feel like a lot of time your work is referred to as “slacker rock”, which seems to be not really where you're working, while you’ve made a prominent shift towards R&B. Can you speak to that move?
You can’t do the same thing forever, it’s super boring. I mean, you can, people do it all the time. I just would stop all together, if that’s what was going to happen. When I was making Midnight Snack, I got a synth and a drum machine and that just kind of changed everything. I’d been writing primarily on guitar for 10 years or something, it was bound to fizzle out.
You describe the album as being produced in a much clearer headspace and the vocals on the album are much less obfuscated. Do you think this comes from a place of confidence or maybe maturity?
Yeah, I worked really hard on singing better.
What did you do to improve your singing?
I took a few lessons with my friend… We did two or three lessons together and it made such a difference.
When you record in a studio, it opens the process up to so many other people. Do you think recording alone changed the outcome?
Definitely, because nobody was there for any of it. My partner would walk by sometimes and say something nice, and I could play some things for her. It’s important to have another set of ears.
Your radio show on N10.AS gives a lot of insight to your myriad of influences. I know you’ve had it for a while, but do you find having a radio show useful in creating an album?
Yeah, actually because I am obliged. I mean, no one is forcing me, they just ask me to do it and I do it for free, but I’m holding myself responsible for putting together a full hour of music every month. It’s pretty stressful sometimes when I realize that I have a radio show in a few days, so I start scouring the internet. You find a lot of cool stuff there.
On the internet?
Yeah, on the internet (laughs). Lots of things you can download, things for purchase.
My dad, after reading my bio, started reading [Haruki Murakami] all over Christmas.”
Your bio mentions you’ve also been also reading Haruki Murakami.
Yeah, the guy who wrote my bio asked if I was reading any books (laughs).
I thought that sounded like something a label would put in an artist's bio.
He was like, “Were you reading anything lately?” and I was like, “Uh, yeah.” (Laughs) I’ll read a couple books from an author and then I won’t read anything for a few years.
Murakami is one of those authors who everyone assumes they’ve read it all. I’ve only read one book of short stories.
My dad, after reading my bio, started reading it all over Christmas. He was like, “Hey, I was reading your bio and [Murakami] is cool!”
If you were going to thematically sum up the album in your own words, how would you describe what you’ve produced?
I’ve been forced to think about that a lot lately. I’ve been doing interviews and people have been asking me about specific lyrics from specific songs, which has never happened before, because I’ve never published lyrics that have been available for people to read. I’ll probably have a really good answer to that question in a few months, but for now it is what it is. It’s happier than I used to be, probably. A little bit more grown up.
But I think that comes in the confidence of the vocals. I don’t have any questions about the lyrics.
That’s sick. I got a bunch of them last night and it was very difficult (laughs).