Jimmy Fontaine

Vomitface Are Proud Of Their Humanizing Mistakes

The Toronto band talks to MTV News about recording with Steve Albini and why they fled New York for the Great White North

A Toronto noisemaking duo called Vomitface will release its loud, sludgy, highly melodic debut album, Hooray for Me — which the pair recorded in Chicago with noise legend Steve Albini — on Friday (August 26). That information, coupled with the way singer/guitarist Jared Micah loads phrases like "I like the way you comb your hair" with unsettling dread and guitar blares and drummer Preetma Singh sets the template for these 10 songs with her surgical strikes, is enough to attract interest. You hear the band name, you hear Albini, and "whatever schematics are in your brain say, 'You could like this,'" Micah told MTV News.

But Vomitface have drawn attention in the past month for another reason, as Singh said over the phone in early August: "Yesterday was not a very good day. You can probably tell my voice is hoarse, not because of fun but because somebody choked me."

In July, Micah and Singh were, in their own words, assaulted by a security worker at Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. It happened after Micah's wristband didn't scan properly at a VIP checkpoint. The worker apparently grabbed him, and Micah said "Hey, don't touch me" before the worker forced him down the nearby stairs. Singh said she called out, "Stop, don't hurt him!" when she saw what was happening, only to have the worker then choke her and throw her down. She uploaded photos of her bruises to Instagram. The two weren't playing the festival but there as guests.

Afterward, they said they called local police but no report was filed. So the two contacted the festival through a form on its website and on the phone and eventually heard back from a festival employee. "Asked what they would do, she played victim, tried to get me angry, talked over me + hung up, told to 'call back when I wanted help,'" Singh tweeted on August 4.

Below, Micah and Singh talk more about the incident, and also about Hooray For Me, which you can stream via Help Yourself.

MTV News: Have you had experiences like the Osheaga one before?

Jared Micah: We've actually like swallowed the shit down a lot. This isn't our first time to get assaulted by venue security. You see this not just at festivals but at local bars in New York. They get these random-ass meatheads to run the door and people get assaulted. People get fucked up for no reason.

Preetma Singh: Well, I get a lot of weird stuff.

JM: Preetma, as a minority woman in an Indian family that grew up in Arizona post-9/11, you just get a lot of fucking bullshit.

PS: I told my parents, and they were just like, "Yeah, that's what happens to your brother like all the time." He'll be on a date with somebody and people will call the cops.

JM: That just broke my heart. I started crying because she had to sit on the phone with her dad and have a conversation about how that's something that happens and you have to be ready for it.

MTV News: You used to be based in New York but have since relocated to Toronto. Why'd you end up leaving?

PS: I guess it's a combination of things. Yes, it is in regards to the bands — the scene wasn't really our thing, and yeah, maybe we don’t love all the music that's there, but that's not a reason to leave. It's also the access and how much nepotism there is we saw. It just stunts the creativity when either you have to have a trust fund or have to have a serious job and can’t spent time on the band. Even if you're great, you're limited in New York.

JM: My favorite fucking bands end up just phasing out or fucking quitting because no one gives a shit, and people aren't gonna quit their jobs and be like, "Fuck this, I'm just gonna look for the best music I can for my whole fucking life." It takes too much. There's too many bands, thousands every day that start, so they actually need proper representation. But those labels or management that could represent them would actually rather be on retainer from a fucking rich kid, or someone who's the child of a former Atlantic Records CFO — CEO, pardon. That one was specific. But that was our main issue, not necessary what sounds were coming out but why those sounds were happening and not others.

MTV News: What's it like to settle into the scene in a new city?

JM: Toronto's really removed from Wall Street, so less nepotistic, the artists less opportunistic, and it's very much more communal.

PS: There's still, in a good way, an innocence about it. I don't mean that in a derogatory way. You can still see the joy in the music. It hasn't just become some kind of drudgery. It's not as much ego.

JM: No one has any ulterior motives. We told Rory from [Toronto band] Alpha Strategy, I was like, hey, I'm moving to Toronto. He's like, "Oh, that's great! Do you need a job? Do you need any towels?" That's the Canadian spirit that we've come to love.

MTV News: Let's talk about songwriting. You recorded Hooray for Me mostly in single takes, so how do you build the framework for a song when you first start out?

JM: Most of the songs start out drum-driven, actually. The songwriting is a very diplomatic process between Preetma and myself. And I am someone who kind of needs an editor, so Preetma kind of produces me in that way. Most of the songwriting, I'll play a riff — "No, that sucks." So we want it to be very rhythmic and of the body and beating hearts and boners, so it usually will start strictly from the rhythm, and Preetma will play some sort of beat. We usually try to keep it kind of sparse.

PS: Jared is the melody guy and more of the musician. I just started playing drums a few years ago. I was going down a different path before I met him. But that's what struck me once we met is that I think he has a really strong sense of melody, which is rare. And I think he was even uncomfortable with it and even trying to obscure it, and I was like, why? I think it's such a special thing, to be cheesy, to be able to write a hook that stays with you.

MTV News: You recorded the album at Steve Albini's Chicago studio Electrical Audio. What are the production touches he adds to your sound as we hear it on the record? Is it just about microphone placement, or general feel, or practical tips, or something else?

JM: [He] does draw a line for that producer role. I think a lot of people fuzz up that word, like people keep printing that it's produced by Steve Albini. Well, no — it's recorded by Steve. He has no production credit. He refuses to produce. He wants bands in their element. So to say we did it in a very live way, that's what we wanted. We wanted it to sound raw. When you record digitally too, you lose some audio information, you turn your back and the engineer's added some fucking shit, and you're like, wait, why do I sound like I'm in a black hole now? This is corny as fuck.

There's literally no reverb on this album except for the third chorus of "Chew Toy." [Steve] was like, "I'm gonna add a little slap if that's OK because you scream the second time, and the third time, it's less jarring." I was like, OK. OK, that's fine. And at that point, I didn't know he wasn’t actually adding reverb. I was like, shit. This is a dry record.

PS: I think when we started the band, we thought about Steve Albini bands. That's what we want to sound like live anyway. We tweaked it even more. We paid a lot of attention to amps so we could capture it so beautifully. ... Every band's gonna make a mistake. Nothing's gonna be perfect when you do it live, but that's the character. That's what we wanted: really polished, even if it sounds harsh.

JM: It's the humanizing qualities. That's what you remember about your records growing up. You hear David Bowie turn his sheet music or something. It's an incredible experience. It feels like you're in the room with him. You can actually hear the mistakes on the record, and we're proud of the mistakes, and if you don't like the mistakes, you can eat our shit.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.