Montreal Character Series: David Mitchell and William Eau

  • Photo Brandon Johnston

This was a pretty casual interview.

I met David Mitchell in the fall of 2014. It was, in fact, for an interview much like this one. Since that first ill-fated, recorded encounter fell by the wayside, not much has changed. If anything, Mitchell has continued to chug along, unperturbed, steadily climbing.

Mitchell and his best friend and business partner William Eau are, ostensibly, two of the preeminent doers within the DIY scene in Montreal. If you want to make something musical happen, whether bands, shows, promotion, releases, you name it, these guys probably know how. Combined, the two run one record label (Stack Your Roster, which Eau founded and oversees), book shows for agencies around the city and play with several bands with varying levels of success.

I met them both for our second attempted interview almost exactly a year after our first conversation. This time, however, I was not the host. I met the boys at the Stack Your Roster HQ around suppertime on a rainy Sunday evening. I donned my rain jacket for one of the first times this fall, and trudged over, field recorder wrapped in a wool sock, and hands full of gift beer.

Like I said, this was pretty casual.

David Mitchell
24 Years Old
Born and Raised in Montreal

William Eau
24 Years Old
9 Years in Montreal

Tell me about how you met.

[The two share a very tender glance, which I immediately mention. They both laugh.]

Eau: We met in-

Mitchell: Grade 7. We knew each other in Grade 7 but we weren’t friends.

Eau: Right. We became friends in Grade 8 when after school, I was waiting to get picked up, I think, and you came up to me, and were like, “You play drums, right?” And I said yeah. And you said, “We should play music together.”

So when did you each get into music?
M: I remember buying Offspring’s Americana tape whenever that came out, I think I was like eight years old. That was kind of the most remarkable early purchase for me. I remember having the Sugar Ray tape around that year. I had Jock Rock and Jock Jams. So it was really, I bought a lot of tapes, when I was really young. I would set up a hockey net in my basement and just blast tapes and play hockey. Those were my beginnings with music.
E: For me…I guess it was….My godmother got me really into like…
M: Warren Zevon.
E: Warren Zevon, The Beatles, and like a little Frank Zappa. She’s pretty alternative. And she was already getting me into weird shit, at a young age, that probably my parents wouldn’t have showed me. I think the turning point was maybe just before I turned 11, my parents got me a small stereo for Christmas. And then I got some Linkin Park CDs, and I was, like, really into Linkin Park for a while. That was my first musical obsession.
M: I feel like your favourite bands when I met you were Linkin Park and Slipknot, or something, maybe my chronology’s off.
E: The Slipknot is slightly off…the Slipknot thing didn’t last nearly as long.

So you met and you started playing music together immediately?
M: Pretty much.
E: Yeah.

“If I envision something I want to do, and then I do it, that’s success for me.”
—David Mitchell

What were your first projects like?
M: It was only one project.
E: Bad pop rock.
M: Well, no, it wasn’t exclusively pop rock. I would just write songs that just transcended any kind of influence. I would try and meld anything I was listening to into different songs for this band. So, there’d be like a bad pop rock song, and then a bad ska song, and a bad punk song, and a bad Hawthorne Heights rip off. Like, every song could be contributed to a bad ripoff of another song. Like, I ripped off Bloc Party really hard for one song.
E: I discovered that years later. I was listening to a Bloc Party song and I was like, this is exactly like the shitty song we used to play. And then you said you had blatantly ripped off Bloc Party.
M: Blatantly. So, yeah. I was the only one in the band who bothered to write songs so it was just an awful amalgamation of basic influences.
E: I mean, we were 13.
M: It was very rudimentary in every way.

I won’t hold it against you.
How long have you guys lived together now?
M: It’s only been like a year, on and off.

So when did Stack Your Roster come to be?
E: That was when my friend Charlie was living here. He has this electronic label called Infinite Machine. He was originally deep into hardcore and screamo and stuff.
M: Like, he put out the Suis La Lune Heir 10”. He toured the West Coast with Kidcrash in like 2006.
E: He was deep into all that, but then sort of graduated from it, and started his electronic dance music label. I was living with him at the time, a couple years ago, and he kept talking about, “Oh, I want to start a sublabel for other music that’s going on with all new people.” For his more rock-oriented friends.
M: There was a lot of screamo bands that he was trying to just help out with releases. And I think WIll’s mandate was just, here are all these awesome local bands that are awesome and putting up releases that are just going up on bandcamp, and not having any sort of support system or anyone to help out with physical releases. We just sort of wanted a platform to create a community around a bunch of bands we thought were really cool in the city.
E: You lived with me for like a month after he [Infinite Machine’s founder] moved out, didn’t you?
M: Yeah, but that was like a year and a half after Stack Your Roster was a thing.

*Do you guys ever fight? *
[Immediate laughter, another one of those tender shared glances.]
M: Not really. It’s pretty cool. Unless Will has some pent up resentment

I guess I’m looking for advice here, cause you guys have such a marriage – you live together, you run a business, shows, you’re around each other all the time.
M: I think Will’s just very patient and good at containing his…
E: Yeah, I guess I have the same answer for Mitchell.
M: And you never annoy me, so. [laughs] The only thing you’ve done to annoy me in the past year was play slowed down drum and bass really loud the other day, while I was trying to go to sleep.
E: I guess we didn’t know you were trying to sleep, so we were like…[Makes IDM wrist-based dance motions]. I guess as far as advice goes…I guess you just have to know somebody for a long time, and be into all of the same things. But I guess that’s not great advice, really.

What informs how you operate SYR, as a distro, as a label, as a Haus?
E: I guess that ones like a little more of a time related thing. I guess, it’s just informed by all the half-assed things that started out as Stack Your Roster. We were printing botched cardbard and cutting them with scissors, and not anything with any precision, or quality, even. Definitely now I just look at what I’m into and what I would buy. And try to emulate that. I said early that professionalism is overrated, but at the same time, if I’m working on a press release or something, I try to be as professional as possible. Especially if I’m trying to get a press connect with somebody I don’t know. If I spent my time doing that as professionally as possible, it would take away from whatever allure may be there for the people who want to hook us up with a sick press thing, or anything.

What are ya’ll listening to right now?
[Music from Montreal musician and Stack Your Roster labelmate Devon Thomas is playing over this whole interview. The two laugh.]
M: Devon Thomas.
E: Literally right now. But…I’m listening to a lot of electronic music lately. I’ve been big on this liquid D&B [drum and bass] track that Mitchell and I discovered last week. It’s really good.
M: But slowed down.
E: I like it both ways. I woke up today with it in my head full speed, even though I listened to it like five times yesterday at 100 BPM [beats per minute]. What else? I’ve been listening a lot to the new toe record. It’s getting kind of old now, though. I should probably stop listening to it. What about you? Theme?
M: Theme is sick. This week, this band called Happy You
E: No relation to Jack Ü.
M: [laughs] No. None. Uh, Happy You, Spencer Radcliffe, Emily Yacina. The new Alex G, multiple times a day. The new Alaska album, multiple times a day. A lot of electronic music. A lot of ambient music.

Give my your first thoughts on these words.
The scene:
E: Beef.
M: I have nothing to add.

Growing up.
E: Moving on.

M: Awkward.
E: [laughs] Well this one is pretty casual.

[I sort of half-whisper an agreement and then cough as I bring a corona toward my face; It is pretty casual]

E: Piano
M: Nothing to add.

Has Montreal contributed to your successes?
E: The question assumes a couple things, but I’ll roll with it, and say yes, for sure.

Well, how would you define success?
E: Not what I’m involved with, necessarily. But I guess that my perspective is success is this weird thing that doesn’t really happy and you just constantly try to attain it, because otherwise what other motivation would you have to attain it? Yeah, maybe that’s defeatist. I’ll retool that.
M: I guess it’s just satisfaction or accomplishment. Feeling accomplished is success to me. I mean, it’s a pretty simple answer, but just realizing goals is how I measure success. Like if I envision something I want to do, and then I do it, that’s success for me. Not necessarily what the thing is, but the act of doing it.

Do you think you’ll stay in the city?
E: Yeah. I don’t know how long though. It’s definitely home.
M: [face full of frozen mango] Same.

It sometimes seems like you guys are always not being serious. Is it a choice, being constantly very joking?
M: Well, I think that we’re so serious, that we don’t want to come off as serious. So it’s masked by this playful jokiness. Cause, you know, if we came off as really serious, I think that’s sort of off-putting in many ways. So it’s good to have a balance of being serious, but not acting like it.
E: I don’t want to come off as an over-serious bro because I have a record label and a house where we have shows. I don’t even like referring to the house as a venue, like to me that’s too serious. But I think also part of it is our sense of humour is like one thing, together, so we’re constantly cracking jokes. Whether it’s about Post-Rock or Static X or whatever.

You both have like, quite a few friends. What attracts you to people? What makes you want to be friends with people?
E: I’ll defer to you. He’s been like that forever. When he would come over to band practice when we were 13 my mom would go, “Oh, David’s got so many friends, he knows everyone.” It’s just always been that way.
M: Which is weird because I definitely have some minor social anxiety. At least to myself, I don’t feel like I thrive in social situations. I think I just choose friends selectively, and then once I do, sort of, become friends with someone, then it’s awesome. I guess it’s a selective thing. Usually, it’s for dumb reasons, too – I guess I have a one track mind. Like, oh, you’re into cool bands, let’s become friends. Like anyone that’s into cool bands, I just want to be their friend. So, I guess maybe that’s what it is, I just surround myself with people that have similar interests.
E: And the nature of what you do is, necessarily making those connections.
M: I guess I’m trying to say that if I didn’t do the things I do, I think my personality would be a lot different. Which is a whole other conversation that I think about a lot, but, it’s weird. I don’t think I necessarily have the personality that fits with what I do. But I guess it works, and it’s fine because I think a lot of people that we’re friends with feel that way, and I think there’s a shared kinship, we all bond over this weird niche shit. I identify so strongly with people who share my interests, so I think it’s more of a let’s stick together mentality, than like a want to be friends with people.

What do you think you guys would be doing if you weren’t doing this?
M: Like this specific label and House? Or music?

Isn’t it all kind of a package with music?
M: I mean, not necessarily. I like to think that if I had never moved here, if we’d never started this label, I’d still be in music and doing stuff. It’s just another layer of my involvement with music, my desire to be involved in every aspect of music possible. I spent all afternoon writing a review of a record. I like booking shows, I like playing music, and I like helping out with this label. So I just want to be involved with every aspect of it. I just love it.
E: I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t be doing anything, because my predominant field of interest is music and making sure it’s put out and looks good, and that we’re involving friends outside of the regular sphere. I just want us all to be doing shit together, so I have no idea what I’d be doing otherwise. Probably being in a real band, and not making computer music.
M: I don’t know, the computer music thing has been awfully satisfying.
E: Yeah, it’s just weird not being behind a drumset.
M: Or getting behind a drumset and feeling like there’s a disconnect because we’ve been working through a computer screen for the last year.
E: Yeah, well, it’s just cause I haven’t been playing in that setting.

I have a lot of fear of losing talent and skill.
E: I guess I haven’t lost talent, but I’ve definitely lost skill. I’ve definitely lost endurance. Like, when I was playing with Commander Clark last week. We were jamming, and I was just tired. I just couldn’t do what I used to do.
M: [Face once again stuffed with mango] It’ll come back.
E: Yeah, it’ll come back.

So where is SYR going?
M: To America!
[both laugh]
E: I want to continue diversifying the roster. I don’t want to do it just because people are quick to say that we’re an emo label, or a math rock label, which is just, like, kind of preposterous, because if you just look at the roster there’s way more than that. Definitely going toward a website, that’s my biggest focus right now. I feel like it’ll bring everything together, be archival in nature. It’ll have all our information, so nobody can say daft things like it’s an emo label, which just isn’t true by design or practice or anything. So, for me, Stack Your Roster is going online, that’s my next focus. But definitely, I want to put out ripping music.
M: Yeah. I just think that for the first time, our focus is really starting to shift toward groups outside of the city.
E: Yeah. And I always want to keep that [basis in the city], but definitely bring in people who don’t live here. I was reading this interview with Mike Paradinas, who runs Planet Mu Records and performed under the name Mike P. Sort of like Aphex Twin, but probably less prolific. But he said that creating a record label is like a school of thought, a school of style, loosely.

What music do you think people really need to hear? What deserves more attention?
M: I’ll say the album Handwriting by Conner. It’s an album I rediscovered recently, and I think it’s really informed a lot of the music that I listen to right now, and is sort of something that’s been swept under the radar, and I think everyone should listen to the album Handwriting by Conner.
E: I would say….in terms of what opened my eyes to the possibilities and the limitations imposed by the boundaries of music, any early Tera Melos completely changed the game for me, definitely in terms of what I wanted to play and which rules I wanted to break, or felt limited by…definitely the first three Tera Melos releases changed everything for me. Which pretty much anyone who knows me would probably guess I would say in response to such a question.

What message do you want to get out there, as people?
E: Make art with your friends. Don’t be afraid to let people know that you make art.
M: I’d like to say that everyone should prepare for the imminent IDM revival of 2016. Call us if you’re making IDM in 2016. I want to hear all your IDM.

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