by Nancy Woo
When OnlineRock had the chance to talk with Cameron Findlay of Parallels, who is also the previous drummer of Crystal Castles, we snagged it. Parallels is the synth-pop concoction of Cameron Findlay and Holly Dodson, and they’re going on tour this week, so catch them if you can. Their album Visionaries was released last year.
OLR: Okay, so the band has been around since 2008 and released your first album called Visionaries in February of 2010. Youíre also touring in a week. You must be really excited, as it seems like Parallels was kind of your baby while you were in Crystal Castles - how does it feel to have the album finalized and be touring with it?
CF: It feels really good because Iíve been working on it for a while when I was touring with Crystal Castles in 2007 and 2008. The tour schedule there was just so crazy, it was hard to function as a part of a band and be able to do your own thing at the same time. But Iím happy Parallels got off the ground. If I had waited a little longer or done more with those guys, what with the traveling and playing all the time, I think I might never have had time to sit down and work my own stuff. So as soon as I got out, I was working on Parallels non-stop.
OLR: And from originally deciding to be a solo act, you added your vocalist and keyboardist Holly Dodson to the mix. How did you two meet and decide to work together?
CF: Well, weíd both been working individually for a while on tour, and this project of Parallels was sort of on the go. She had her own solo thing for a while, and weíd been friends for a few years already, through mutual friends. We basically just got in contact and shared ideas of what we wanted to create. I had already had some finished tracks with no vocals, and she came along, and it worked out perfectly to have her sing.
OLR: So weíve heard tell of a third member of the band Ė who is that?
CF: Joey Kehoe was in the band for a little while, but he ended up moving out from Toronto to LA. So Holly and I found ways to perform just the two of us. We were trying to figure out whether we could do it on our own, and it ended up working out better Ė there was less confusion, less baggage, you know, while touring and moving stuff around. I donít know, it actually just worked out, and Hollyís playing more keyboard now, which is good. We want to expand eventually, but instead of just adding someone to the mix, weíre doing it on our own for a while.
OLR: How do you feel about people referring to you as the drummer of Crystal Castles, rather than the originator of Parallels?
CF: Itís sometimes funny (laughs). I canít complain, people know of them, and they became pretty popular, so it doesnít bug me. Just as long as itís clear, the music is obviously not similar; itís a completely different style of music. Thereís really not much overlap except that I played drums for the first two years of their tour.
OLR: Why did you decide to leave Crystal Castles in the first place, and what kind of terms are you on with them now?
CF: Well, I just thought it was the right time, with the tour schedule being so time consuming. They were getting really big, so I wanted to take opportunity to start my own project. I just felt like it was the right time. Thereís no bad blood between us. The time was right to get my own stuff off the ground
OLR: And itís a good thing you listened to your intuition because now weíve got Visionaries. Ultralight was your first single, a dreamy beautiful pop song, and I also especially love Reservoir a lot. Holly has a great voice, and people sometimes make references to Madonna, New Order and other 80s synth bands. Whatís your take on that?
CF: Thank you. Itís nice to hear, itís a compliment. I grew up listening to bands like New Order and Kraftwerk, and I personally love the classic electronic sound. I donít really listen to much modern electronic music, and Holly has a great voice. Like I said, she just fit.
OLR: Whatís your musical background and how did you start making electronic music? You play drums and produce.
CF: I grew up being heavily into electronic music. Iíve played drums since I was a kid, ventured a little into piano, but drums were always my major instrument. I got into electronic music through the wave of accessibility of it. Iím amazed how easy it became in the past ten years for producers or musicians to just sit down with a laptop and keyboard, and only spend a couple hundred bucks at music store. Thatís not a bad studio set up. I started with a Rolling Juno 60 from the 80s and used that on most of the recordings. It just grew from there. I got into it because I wanted to make music. I wasnít particular about what kind, and electronic music was affordable and you can do it your own.
OLR: Yeah, definitely, music is moving toward being very electronic, and with the internet, bands can get their music online easily. Where do you see electronic music heading in the future?
CF: Hm, honestly I canít say. I donít know, but I like the beginning of electronic music, with minimal synth, stripping down to basics. People are always going to have huge respect for it. The best stuff recreates the early 80s and late 70s stuff, not necessarily being a throwback, but taking those influences and adding a modern approach. I just love the classic style of electronic music.
OLR: For me, a non-techie, I imagine a lot of gadgets and wires in the studio. Here at OnlineRock we aim to provide information for practicing musicians interested in the tools of the trade. What are the instruments you use?
CF: The Rolling Juno 60 is the basis of our composition. Iíve had for a while. Itís from the early 80s and has a great sound. Iíd say itís the easiest program to use; I think of sounds in my head and I can create them on the keyboard pretty easily.
The Nordwave is really good, too, especially for sampling. I just put a sample into the keyboard, then it processes and recreates the synth sound. There are endless possibilities.
So those are the basics, but I also have friends who are collectors. They have some ancient keyboards from the 70s, so I can always borrow from them. Thereís just lots of stuff that we use and sample.
OLR: Who are some of your music heroes or artists of influence?
CF: New Order, early electronic stuff, German stuff, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno. I always blank on this question, but a lot of soundtrack music, Gary Newman, John Fox. I canít speak for Holly, but definitely a lot of electronic bands.
OLR: Magnetics is one of those songs that just screams robots taking over the world to me. There seems to be a futuristic element to Parallels. Do you have a favorite science fiction book or movie?
CF: Yeah, (laughs) science fiction played a big part in influencing electronic music. I grew up listening to all that stuff, watching movies like Bladerunner, all through my post-secondary time when I studied electronic music in Montreal. So stuff like that, soundtracks, Brian Eno, not exactly science fiction but a similar feel to that I really enjoy.
OLR: Is there a place you want to see your music being played, like in a film? What about clubs?
CF: Oh yeah! Itíd be great to have a track featured in something, to have visuals on top of the music. Weíve been wanting to get something done in terms of visuals or soundtrack composition. Weíve touched on it briefly with the band, and we have some friends who are filmmakers. We might take part in a short film theyíve done. And not that Iíd say we want the music in films more than clubs, we definitely like the idea of films and soundtracks.
OLR: What are your goals or aspirations with the music you create?
CF: We always just hope people enjoy the music. Different responses are much appreciated. We enjoy writing and working on music, and we want to be doing it for a long time, so knowing people appreciate it is always nice. Getting in contact with us, like leaving comments on our pages is just a great response.
Weíre very honest with our song writing, and we just want people to acknowledge it. I donít think we come off as pretentious; we donít really go for any subversive meaning. I like writing simple pop tracks that can get stuck in your head and just have a good time doing it.
OLR: So tell me about the tour youíll be starting out on in April.
I guess a week from today, April 8, weíll have our first show in Cleveland, then weíll be driving around about 80% states for the next month and a half. (Laughs) There are quite a few dates, and weíve done short tours before, like 2-3 week tours, but nothing as lengthy as this. Itíll be a different experience, visiting different parts of America Ė weíve done the West Cast, New York, Miami, but thereís a lot of Middle America we havenít really hit. Weíll see.
OLR: Is there anywhere youíre looking forward to in particular?
CF: Hm, well, weíre looking forward to New Orleans, which weíll get to about midway through. Iíve been there before, but this time weíll have a few days to hang out. Weíre just looking forward to exploring all the different cities.
OLR: What kind of reception have you received so far in states?
CF: We played a bunch in Miami and New York, and the shows there have been great. Miami is just a nice place to play, and we were really well received down there. Loved playing there.
Weíre trying out a bunch of different places on this tour, seeing which cities we fit well with.
OLR: What are your live shows like?
CF: We try to keep it simple at our live shows. Itís the two of us, I play drums and Holly is skilled at piano and keyboard. Itís not difficult for her to do the synths and vocals. It actually seemed to work out well just the two of us right now, and weíre trying to keep it pretty similar to whatís on the album.
OLR: Thank you so much for your time, and best of luck touring Middle America!
CF: Ha, thank you.
For more information about tour dates and tickets, visit Parallelsí website.
Interview Bio - Nancy Woo, managing editor at OnlineRock, studied Sociology, Literature and Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz. A self-described "bohemian of sorts" she spends most of her time listening to music, reading, writing, freelancing in the world of journalism, tutoring writing, running, practicing yoga, attending live music and theater shows.