Montreal’s Warm Den on the non-sexual meaning behind their name, the magic of Craigslist, tennis as inspiration, and more

“When I was in school, me and my friends would pass around a piece of paper that we would fold up while the teacher was teaching.  One person would just do a squiggly line and then pass it to someone, and they would try to turn it into something. Then they would pass it to the next guy and he would turn it into something, and then by the end, it would be a coyote on a mountain,” smiles Simon White of the band Warm Den.

Now, imagine that being an idea, a sound, or a loop and you’ve got the premise to one of Warm Den’s undeniably unique songs. Somewhere in between space rock, experimental, and avant-garde is this Montreal-based trio of inventors, musicians, or magicians. Their music is full of unpredictable twists and turns, especially in “Yi!,” giving the listener a ride to remember. I first heard this unsigned band at an intimate show and was immediately sucked in, so when we sat around a table on the terrasse of Montreal’s Casa del Popolo, I was more than excited to talk to these friendly fellows – Adam Davidson (keys, sampler, guitar, vocals), Cameron Mitchell (synth, drums, sampler) and Simon (guitar, bass, vocals) – about their music.

Q:  How did you come up with the name Warm Den?

Simon: Low Brow [the original name of the band], for me, was a bit pessimistic and negative. It should be something positive, unless you are in a heavy metal band. To portray our music, which I wanted to be more uplifting, maybe melancholy sometimes, and hopeful, I wanted something that was safe and warm. When I was growing up in P.E.I., I spent a lot of time at my great aunt’s house and the den was the part of the house that had my great uncle’s chair in it and his desk; a safe zone to sneak in and look at his papers and pictures when I could. So the den was always that, and warm is warm. It has a nice feeling in your mouth and you remember saying it – “Warm Den”. Feels kinda elfish. Could be a different language.

Q:  So it doesn’t mean vagina?

Simon: [Laughs] Yeah, there has been that connotation too. I find humour is good. That’s okay.

Q: Tell me about Warm Den, starting with who are your influences?

Adam: Food is my influence, honestly. Tennis. Tennis playing is always good. Big influence on my life [laughs]. I like a lot of stuff. I’m a huge Krautrock fan. German influences: Kraftwerk, Faust, Can – all that kind of stuff.

Simon: My influences are friends and family.

Cameron: Anything and everything I can listen too. It’s all going to be an inspiration in some form or place.

Q: Simon is from P.E.I., Adam from Ontario, and Cameron is from Australia – So how did you guys meet?

Simon: All the credit goes to Craigslist, in all honesty.

Adam: I had a thing going way back with a two-piece. Members came and went. I met these guys, reformed as a three-piece from a four-piece [one of the previous members dropped out], changed the name, and changed the sound a bit.

Q: How long has Warm Den been together?

Cameron: As Warm Den, and the way we are going now, has been six months roughly. The idea has been there long, but the process has been shorter.

Adam: We’re still in construction mode: happy with the sound, but still tweaking and fine-tuning things.

Q:  Okay, the music – How do you compose your songs?

Adam: We are pretty democratic. If we all kind of see something in [a new idea], then we’ll jump on it for a while and either it will fly or it won’t. Then basically hack it around, work at a few parts, record it and sit on it, take it home, rework on it on our own, and bring in new ideas.

Simon: [We are] pretty unconventional. A couple times someone might come in with an actual song on the guitar.

Adam: But that’s rare.

Simon: Every song has been definitely different. If one of us came in every time with a guitar line, the songs would end up sounding similar and we would get boxed in.

Q:  Do you have a guideline at all?

Adam: We try to keep an open mind; free flowing. Don’t try to limit ourselves, but obviously put a certain stamp on things. If someone brought in a hip hop beat, we could put a spin on that. There is a certain mentality that we have. It’s just, we just don’t define it or write it down and say “This is what we are trying to do.” If anything happens, automatically it will form into something that represents us and our sound.

Cameron: It’s liberating to bring in anything you can and turn it into something totally different.

Adam: As long as it has a kick beat! [Laughs]

Q:  So what are some of Warm Den’s future plans?

Simon: I think we are going to start recording soon.

Adam: Right now we are fine-tuning. We are playing shows about once a month, just to keep us going and keep us focused. It’s good to get it out there and see the reaction to it. Then, go back on that, rebuild and reconstruct, and change what needs to be changed. Get a bit of perspective, basically.

Cameron: Recording is such a final thing, but live, the idea would be to be able to play those songs under a different light every time.

Adam: For us, it’s a never-ending process. It’s nice to know that you can always change things. It’s good to have a constant influx of new sounds, but at the same time now, we have to set lock on something.

Simon: To progress, you have to have something recorded.

In the meantime, I suggest sitting in your warm den with your eyes closed and letting Warm Den take you on a magic carpet ride through a dark cryptic tunnel, into the belly of a jungle, over an endless field, and then out into space. You can also check out the band live in mid-September and head to their MySpace for upcoming show dates.

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