The Anti-Queens are a fabulous Toronto-based band sitting on a hot, new self-titled album, due out via Stomp Records on September 13th (pre-order a copy here). Emily Bones, Valerie Knox, Dallas Conte, and Taylor Cos quite literally walked off the main stage at '77 Montréal, toweled themselves off, and made their way over to the press tent to talk with media. After apologizing to each other for how utterly drenched in sweat we all were (the afternoon heat was pushing well past the 40-degree mark by this point), we talked a bit about Toronto as I was setting up. I missed The Anti-Queens’ ‘77 performance as I was interviewing another band during their set but, fortunately, they will be performing several shows around the Toronto area before the year is done, including a record release show at the Bovine Sex Club on September 20th.
The audio for this interview is included here via SoundCloud. There is a bit of background noise; this interview was indeed recorded at the ‘77 Montréal Festival amidst a melee of music; scurrying festival workers, and press types. It’s decent enough audio that we deemed it worthy of a listen and included it for listeners who’d like to hear all four Anti-Queens members discussing their craft.
Can you talk a little bit about signing with Stomp Records and your upcoming album?
Emily Bones: “Yeah, it happened really quickly. We hooked up with our manager, and then we hooked up with Stomp, and then we wrote a bunch of songs and then we went into the studio all within around two or three months.”
So what did you wind up showing to them to get signed? Were there some demos that you had that they liked?
Valerie Knox: “Oh yes. We sent them a bunch of demos, and I guess we’ve kind of been in touch over the years. They saw what we were doing. I’m sure they heard the other EPs.”
Watch The Anti-Queens latest music video for “Worse Than Death:”
I was just interviewing The Gutter Demons, and I asked them what their favourite piece of band merchandise was, and they said the glow in the dark panties that they said you were selling.
Bones: “What? Us?” Knox: “That’s not us. I really wish it was us, though.” Bones: “Yeah.” Knox: “God Damn. Thanks for giving us the idea. I wish. It’s not in the budget just yet. But it will be.”
Can you talk a little bit about recording with Sarah Blackwood? How did that come about?
Bones: “Her brother produced our first two EPs. So it just kind of happened naturally, I guess. One day she came into the studio to hang out and say hi and we just got her to sing on one of the verses. We’ve done a couple of things over the years.” Dallas Conte: “Emily, you’ve done a few collabs with her before, right?” Bones: “Yeah.”
I miss her with The Creepshow. I know that she’s done so well for herself, but I do.
Bones: “Yeah, I know. Me too.” Knox: “She was great with The Creepshow.”
Can you talk a little bit about how you formed? When you got together and what brought you together as interested musicians and collaborators?
Knox: “Well, Emily started the band almost ten years ago. It’s one of those things where you have to keep finding the people that want to do it and put the time and effort into it. You have to find like-minded musicians, and it just takes time. You do that through playing and meeting people. Sorry. I took that question from you.” Bones: “No, you go for it. You’re nailing it.” Knox: “Basically, we are all in our Toronto scene and our own individual projects and just by chance running into each other and meeting each other and liking what everybody is doing. And supporting each other. And then an opportunity arose for me to jump in with Queens and I took it immediately. And we found Dallas when we needed a new drummer, and then we needed a new bass player, and we found Taylor, and it just feels complete now.” Taylor Cos: “It worked out quite well.”
Mike Bax’s photos of The Anti-Queens at ‘77 Montreal (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, Quebec) on July 26, 2019:
Can you talk a little bit about this festival in particular? Is this your first time coming to ‘77?
Knox: “Mm-hmm.” Bones: “Yeah.” Knox: “It’s super exciting. There are so many bands playing that we love.” Conte: “It’s huge.” Bones: “It’s so huge. It’s overwhelming.” Knox: “But we played Pouzza Fest earlier this year, and that festival is really big too, because it’s spread across the whole city. This is like the same kind of vibe but just all in one place. There are so many people and so many bands. Bones: “It’s like they built a city over here on the island.” Conte: “Yeah, it’s really exciting.” Bones: “It reminds me of Disney World.” Knox: “A punk rock Disney World.”
I love the way Evenko does these events. It’s like a European Festival.
Bones: “Yeah, totally.”
Can you talk a bit about what your gateway band was into music? Or even a gateway concert that opened your mind to the possibility of being a live musician?
Bones: “Well my first concert was Sharon, Lois & Bram. So, got a lot of inspiration from them I’d say.” Cos: “My first concert was The Cure, and that was pretty awesome.” Knox: “My first concert was a Toronto band called The Rheostatics. But I was really young. I went with my sister. But I think as far as playing rock ‘n roll and feeling that energy and wanting to do that too I would say it’s probably The Distillers. I saw them when I was in high school still, and I remember watching them and being like ‘Yup. I want to do that. That’s for me. That’s my job. That’s what I want to do.’” Conte: “My first concert was Cher when I was a child. But the first band that got me into music was Frank Zappa. And when I first started learning drums, my instructor was like this old ‘70s rocker and blues dude. He was really cool. He asked me if I’d heard Frank Zappa and told me to check him out. And I can remember going, ‘Oh man, music. This is cool.’”
From their 2015 release Start Running, Sarah Blackwood joins The Anti-Queens for the “Ladders” music video:
Legacy stuff. Awesome. Can you talk about what you feel is the most characteristic for the type of music that you play is?
Bones: “Sass.” Knox: “Yeah. That’s a great answer. And energy.” Bones: “Energy. Giving no fucks.” Conte: “Going out there and putting ourselves out there as we are. Just being as real as fuck.”
What piece of band merchandise have you ever owned that was your favourite? You don’t have to have it now. Just something that you treasured.
Knox: “I, one time, went and saw The Ataris at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. This is probably 2004, maybe? And this wasn’t technically merch, but we waited by the bus, and it was February, and it was freezing cold. Their guitar player came out and handed us all beers. And I was underage and just thought it was cool. But I didn’t drink it. I just took it home. And it sat on the shelf. I had this beer from The Ataris, and it just sat on the shelf for years.” Bones: “Do you still have it?” Knox: “It was a Moosehead.” Conte: “That’s merch.” Knox: “I don’t know. I definitely didn’t drink it. But it sat there for a while. I don’t know what happened to it, though. I moved. At this point, it’s like, ‘I can get that anytime now.’ The magic is gone.” Conte: “I’m boring. I’m just going to say a t-shirt. I always buy t-shirts. When I was a teenager, I’d say about 13, I went to see The Used, and that was one of my favourite bands. I bought this black tank top. And I still have it, and it still fits. I still wear it.” Knox: “As far as band merch, actual merch, I got a Brutal Youth t-shirt, and I cut the sleeves off it, and I swear I wear that shirt all the time.” Bones: “That’s true. There are so many photos of you wearing that shirt.” Knox: “It is a shirt that has stood the test of time. It’s so comfortable.”
Check out the artwork for The Anti-Queens’ debut self-titled release:
What do you feel is the best show you’ve ever played? And why was it the best show you’ve ever played?
Bones: “Well this would definitely be one of them.” Knox: “Totally.” Bones: “We’ve played a bunch of my favourite shows ever this whole summer.” Knox: “RockFest was amazing.” Bones: “Yeah. We’ve been playing a lot of festivals.” Knox: “We’ve had a lot of really great experiences just traveling and meeting new bands and playing new venues. They all stand out individually for their own reasons. And it’s always a great experience. There are different levels. You go an play a giant stage like today, and then you play a dive bar, and the energy is the same.” Bones: “New York and Salem were amazing shows.” Knox: “She loves New York. Indianapolis was great too. West Virginia. Florida. Everywhere.” Conte: “North Carolina.” Knox: “I’m going to buy a beach house in Pensacola one day.”
Do you find it weird playing on big stages? In a club, you really do connect with your fans a lot more. Festivals, you’ve got this gap between you and the first people in the audience, and that’s 40 feet away. Does it feel like your separated?
Knox: “For me, I can’t speak for the rest of them, but it takes me a song or two before I get into it. I realize I have all of this space around me, and I can move around freely and not worry about hitting your guitar or hitting a wall over here?” Bones: “A ceiling?” Knox: “Swinging my guitar around or something? Yeah.” Bones: “Getting a guitar stuck in the ceiling? That’s happened to me.” Conte: “I find the opposite almost. I guess that’s because I’m stuck at the back anyway with the drums? But I can get into the groove almost faster because the faces area little further away. It’s a little easier.”
From their Start Running EP, watch the lyric video for “Read My Mind:”
You’re also the hardest person to photograph.
Conte: “Yeah. Always.” Knox: “I think that’s just the way she likes it.”
How important is physical product to you as a band? The manufacturing of albums, CDs and cassettes. Whatever it is that you will be putting in front of your audience?
Knox: “I think it’s super important. Anytime you go and see a band; you want to take a piece of the evening home with you, right? It’s really important. You’re asking questions about what our favourite piece of band merchandise is, and we all have stories about it. So it’s super important. You’ve got to have something that they can hold onto forever and remember you by. And remember that night that they saw you. And then they will come back and buy more. It’s great.” Conte: “It’s an opportunity to have fun with your band making merch. You can do whatever you want, and it’s a lot of fun. To get merch and to make merch.” Bones: “Dallas has been designing a lot of our merch lately. She designed our album cover, and it’s our banner now. It’s probably pretty awesome to see your work up there and think, ‘Yup, I did that!’” Conte: “Oh yeah.”
Is that something you were good at from a young age? Graphic design tendencies?
Conte: “Yeah.” Knox: “She’s a tattoo artist.” Conte: “Yeah. I’ve been drawing since I was probably three years old. I’m happy I’ve been able to create some stuff for the band and have it on our album cover and on merch.” Knox: “We can keep that within our band too. It’s just another reason why.” Conte: “We’re authentic.” Knox: “It’s very authentic.”
I’m always let down when I look a merch table, and it’s all flaccid material. Or it’s badly designed. Or it just doesn’t match what your interpretation of the music is. I won’t buy it if it’s weak. It needs to have some aesthetic.
Bones: “Yeah. We try to keeping everything as authentic as possible. With our designs and our songs. The way we craft our songs, it’s got to be representing us. So anytime you see our merch, and you don’t like it, that’s too bad, that’s us. Buy it anyway!”
Released on June 8, 2015, you’ve go to check out the START RUNNING EP:
Did any of you use that FaceApp interface and make yourselves look older?
All of you? Wow.
Bones: “One of our friends did a group shot of us. A photoshoot. Turned us all old.”
Bones: “Taylor was pissed about it.” Cos: “It was sad. I was like, ‘I don’t want to see this!’ I wasn’t offended. I cried a little.” Conte: “I look terrifying. I love it.” Cos: “I’m not going to lie, I downloaded the app, and I did it, and I really hated the way I turned out when I was older. And I said, ‘I’m not posting that.’” Knox: “I did the same thing. I took a little picture of me when I was a little kid at Canada’s Wonderland and then I put the age filter on it and then put, ‘They grow up so fast’ as a caption with it. I thought that was pretty funny.”
What’s your favourite soundtrack album?
Bones: “Oh my God, that’s hard. Rocky Horror. Knox:Chicago.” Bones: “Empire Records.” Conte: “That Thing You Do. Doom Generation. That’s kind of a weird one.” Knox: “Josie & The Pussycats. I love that one.” Conte: “The Chef Aid. I know it wasn’t a movie, but it was the soundtrack of the special. That’s got a wicked Perry Farrell song called ‘Hot Lava’ on it. I love that song so much.” Knox: “Repo Man has a good soundtrack. I’ve never seen the movie, though.”
Experience the best of both worlds in The Anti-Queen’s lyric video for “Grow Up / Stay Young:”
Oh, you need to see that movie.
Knox: “I should. I like the soundtrack.”
Total punk ethos. You’ve gotta see that movie. (To Taylor) Yourself? Anything?
Cos: “I’m blanking.” Knox: “Rocky Horror though? She’s a big fan of Meat Loaf.” Cos: “I am. I love Meat Loaf so much.”
How much time a day do you spend looking at your smartphone? And do you feel it’s too much or too little?
Cos: “Always too much.” Knox: “Too much.” Bones: “Too much.” Conte: “It’s too much.” Knox: “I like the new thing where it shows you how much screentime you’ve had because I try to lessen it. I turned it off, but sometimes I check.” Conte: “I find I’m using it more for band stuff and promoting than moe personal stuff.” Bones: “Yeah, me too.” Knox: “I don’t really post on Instagram as much as I used to. I find that I have to remind myself to do it so people keep watching so I can promote the bands on there.” Conte: “I feel like I wouldn’t even have an Instagram or anything if it wasn’t for my day job. I hate how much I use my phone.” Knox: “I feel like I use it a lot though. I feel like it’s a really good way to connect with people that you might not get to see all the time and keep up with bands that you like and friends. I’ve got a ton of friends that live across the country, and it’s nice to be able to see what they’re doing without having to commit to a huge amount of time.”
That screentime number comes up at the end of the week, and I’m always depressed when I see it.
Bones: “Right? Just pick up a book or something. Or go for a walk. I have a dog, so I’m always out walking.”