Here’s your new favourite band, Repartee, delivered with love from Newfoundland.
They’re also in the running to be Indie88 listeners’ favourite band, as the foursome (Robbie Brett (guitars), Josh Banfield (keys), Nick Coultas-Clarke (drums) and Meg Warren (vocals)) are among five artists nominated for the award, to be doled out Wednesday in Toronto as part of Canadian Music Week. “We were just looking at the nominees and were like, ‘Man, this lineup is stacked!’ So our chances are pretty slim,” says Robbie Brett, who, along with Josh Banfield, took time out ahead of the event to chat. “That’s such a great collection of people to be amongst. It would have to be severely rigged.”
Compelling though this may be, it is modesty. The reality is that Repartee (the last syllable rhymes with “bee”) have already conquered Newfoundland (they are five-time MusicNL Award winners, including Best Album and Best Group of the Year), and are now clearly making inroads in Ontario. One could be led to believe their path to success to be paved with gold but that would belie the years of hard work and touring the band have logged in the five years since they formed. “We’ve definitely been a band that has been playing a lot of shows and we’ve been doing that for a fair amount of time,” says Banfield. “All throughout last year we ended up on a fair number of tours… So far this year it’s been the same thing. We’ve done a tour with USS and we just got off a short run with [fellow Indie Best Band nominee] Virginia To Vegas… So yeah, we’ve definitely been keeping busy.”
The band now call Toronto home, as does their label, Sleepless Records — an influential factor in their move from the East Coast. Moving in with a partner can sometimes put a strain on a relationship but in the indie record label, Repartee seem to have found their ideal match. “As soon as we met our team that we’d be working with,” explains Banfield, “it all felt very right. We were looking around for a label and management to push the band forward from where we were at that point. I guess the main thing we were looking for were people that we felt were behind the band as much as were.”
Once signed the band re-examined the songs they had theretofore recorded and decided a fresh start was necessary, ultimately wiping the canvas clean to record a new set of songs. Those songs formed the track listing for ‘All Lit Up’, an eight-song album of exuberant guitar-tinged synth-pop (or synth-tinged guitar-pop, depending on your slant). Despite being recorded in several different studios by several different producers, the album’s cohesion is astonishing. Banfield explains how they achieved this: “The big thing for us is that we wanted the songs to stay consistent so any time we were working with another producer, we would show them, ‘Here’s what we’re aligned with right now,’ and just keep working towards the next best song. Any time we’d come off the road, we’d be, like, ‘Okay, let’s try to record one or two more songs,’ and slowly it created the collection that we have.”
One of those songs, “Dukes”, would be the band’s first official single, though it took the impartial ears of their label to convince Repartee of the song’s potential as flagbearer for the album. “We were trying to search for that one song that would hit the radio hard,” reveals Brett. “When Meg came to the band with the demo for ‘Dukes’ in the eleventh hour, we had the album ready to go, saying, ‘Okay, this is the album, this is going to be the single.’ When she came to the band and the label with ‘Dukes’, everyone on the team was, like, ‘That’s the song. That’s the one.’ For us, we were pretty exhausted about it. We had no idea. We were just, like, ‘What’s a good song anymore?'”
With its staccato verse giving way to a majestic, singalong chorus, the song would gain considerable support from Canadian indie radio stations and streaming services such as Spotify, where “Dukes” has been enjoyed over 730,000 times. The exposure has translated into larger shows with exuberant audiences who know the album like an old friend, dancing and singing every word.
For some bands, a hectic touring schedule would be anathema for the recording of new material but Repartee are taking positives from life on the road. “One thing about being on the road and travelling with these bands is getting inspired,” says Brett. “Within that, it’s always good to have a pad and paper by your side. The Macbook Pro charged up in the van so we can throw down a beat, guitar lines, keyboard lines. It’s always on our mind… to stay creatively active. Whenever we have down time, we’re hoping now, throughout the summer, if we have time to jam, we’re hoping to get in the studio or at least a writing room and workshopping some new ideas.”
As those new ideas germinate, fans can take comfort in the strength and durability of ‘All Lit Up’. Almost one year old to the day, the group’s debut continues to sparkle like the jewellery that adorns its cover.
Those in the Toronto area can see the band perform along with The Nursery, Dan Mangan, Wooden Sky, 54-40, and Hollerado on Wednesday, April 19, at The Phoenix, as part of Indie88’s Indie Awards.