Interview: Imaginary Cities

bill bodkin interviews the canadian hotness…

Chance meetings sometimes have the best outcomes. For the Winnipeg, Canada born group Imaginary Cities, a chance meeting has lead them to form a formidable band beloved by indie rock fans the world over, open for The Pixies and earn a spot on this year’s Lollapalooza.

And just imagine if Rusty Matyas had decided not take the gig mixing sound at the Winnipeg club The Cavern where Marti Sarbit was fronting a Motown-inspired cover band? None of it would’ve ever happened.

Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin caught up with the band as they came off headlining gigs at The Mercury Lounge in NYC and just about to head out on the road with MeWithoutYou.

Pop-Break: Your website says that the band was born in a club called The Cavern in between sets. Can you talk about the fateful night that you guys came together?

Marti Sarbit: I had a weekly gig singing with a soul cover band and Rusty was doing sound there. After about a year, Rusty approached me and asked if I’d sing on a motown song he’d been writing. I did that and we had so much fun that I eventually asked him if he’d help me make a demo of songs I’d been working on. That’s when we wrote the song Say You. It ended up being a collaboration that we were super excited to continue with.

PB: Within a short period of time Imaginary Cities has won numerous awards, skyrocketed to the top of the Canadian college charts and toured North America with nationally recognized bands. Now hindsight being 20/20, did you have any inkling, when you two first met that this band could something more than just a collaboration? Did you feel there was something magical here, that you could take this project to great heights?

MS: I think I can speak for both of us when I say we had no expectations or insight into what was to come. We were truly just recording for fun and didn’t even consider making it an album until at least a few songs in. I definitely felt that we had something special, but that was merely my own opinion. I didn’t know that others would eventually enjoy our music as well. It’s been a fantastic ride so far.

PB: With the proliferation of indie music out there and so many sites to grab music from these days — why should people be giving a listen to Imaginary Cities?

MS: If they like it I would think that’s reason enough. If not, they shouldn’t force themselves into listening to us. Obviously we’d love for them to like us.

PB: You toured with The Pixies last year — what was the most important thing that you learned from touring with such an iconic band?

MS: I learned so much from the PIXIES tour. For instance, how a real professional tour runs. It was pretty mind-blowing to see how well the crew got along and how hard they work. They treated us so nicely too, when they really didn’t have to.

PB: In what US cities has your music been the most well-received?

MS: It’s really hard to say at this point, since we’ve only done a few shows as a headliner in the US. I remember having an amazing audience response at the Fox Theatre in Detroit when we opened for the PIXIES, Napa was a good one too. Anytime people have positive things to say about our shows in the US is super exciting for us since our album was only released there a month ago.

PB: Say someone reading this interview has never heard your band perform before, but their interest is piqued after reading the piece. If you had to recommend a song for them to listen to first, a song that you feel really defines who you are as a band — what would it be and why?

MS: I’d recommend they listen to the song “Say You.” It’s the first track on our album and it’s the first song we recorded together. I think it really captures our sound by showcasing our soul/pop combo.

PB: You’re going to be hitting the road with Mewithoutyou this summer — what are you looking forward to the most about touring with this renowned band?

MS: It’s always interesting touring with and meeting new bands. It’s like going to summer camp, you never know who you’ll be spending all that time with and you hope that you can all get along. I’ve been watching youtube videos with interviews and performances of MeWithoutYou and they seem like really nice guys so I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the 5 weeks and getting to watch them live.

The duo that brought it all together

PB: Talk about being selected to Lollapalooza. It’s got to a really cool honor to be performing on one of the most important outdoor music festivals of the year. Also, who are you looking forward to seeing perform on the show?

MS: We’re all really stoked to play at Lollapalooza. It’s crazy to even be on the same list as most of the other artists, so I’m definitely going to check out as many as I can. I’m pretty sure Jack White’s the headliner on the same day we play. The Sheepdogs and Florence and The Machine are playing too. Hopefully I’ll get to check them all out.

PB: Going with, what’s your opinion on playing massive festivals. Do you prefer the small, intimate club setting like when you’re headlining the Mercury Lounge in NYC or does it not matter at all?

MS: I guess you could find the positive and negative in both. Festivals are great for exposure, though only if you’re lucky enough to have some buzz around your name…which can be very difficult with so many other bands in the equation. They can be a little overwhelming, but can also be a very exciting atmosphere to be immersed in. Venues, on the other hand, have much more of a comforting factor to them. There’s an excitement in sharing your music with a new city every night and each city always has a venue with it’s own unique character. I’ve always loved the intimate setting because it’s what I’m more used to, but I hope to do more and more festivals in order to get to that same comfort level as in the venues.

PB: What do you have planned for the rest of 2012?

MS: We’ll definitely be touring lots and whenever we have time, Rusty and I go into the studio to work on new songs. We’ve got lots of demos ready for the next album, it’s just a matter of letting Temporary Resident run it’s course first. I’m super excited for this year and can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites