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July Talk: a 3-song Junos primer

Andrea Warner

With 10 acts and artists confirmed to perform so far, this year’s Junos broadcast on Sunday, April 2, promises to be one of the biggest in the award ceremony’s history.

From emerging artists like Ruth B to established acts like Sarah McLachlan and Billy Talent, there’s something for every music fan, and there are also a lot of great opportunities to discover exciting, new-to-you artists for your earbuds —to punch up your playlists or add to your record collection, or scope out for when their tours come to your hometown.

Think of the live Junos broadcast as an opportunity to survey just a little bit more of the country’s music scene, its depth and breadth, and then keep checking back daily as CBC Music posts its handy three-song primers for each artist and band, as well as a few quotes to help deepen your appreciation of all these great musicians.

July Talk

The Toronto-based alt-rock band has scrappy, art-punk hearts and a killer pairing in the chemistry of co-frontpeople Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. Their give-and-take vocals are a playful twist on stereotypes of good and evil (Fay’s young-sounding voice is all angel-winged and heaven-sent, while Dreimanis’s growl sounds like it’s dragged up from the belly of the beast itself). But July Talk is a feminist band, and it's constantly subverting the gendered expectations of Dreimanis and Fay's vocal performances with twisty lyrics, clever arrangements and music videos that thrash and soothe with an intensely charged intimacy.

July Talk won a Juno for alternative album of the year in 2015 (for the self-titled debut) and is nominated again in the same category this year for the band’s 2016 followup, Touch.

Below are three essential songs that provide a bit of shape and context to the band’s evolving sound, as well as some quotes and interview excerpts to help you get to know the real July Talk.

Song: “Paper Girl”
Album: July Talk (2012)

Dreimanis and Fay’s meet cute (Nylon, 2016):

How did you guys come about?

Peter Dreimanis: I was playing in a few other DIY punk bands with a few of the members of July Talk now. I walked into a bar in Toronto and Leah was sitting with a woman, singing with acoustic guitars. She was covered in face paint and a bike helmet and was sitting in the back of this candlelit bar. I don’t think I immediately thought, "We should start a band together." But there was an immediate reaction of, "Who the hell is this human?" I was a bit overwhelmed with ideas of who she might be. So, after chasing her around for a week or so, I convinced her to come and play some music with me in this dirty old jam space that I had been staying in at the time. After a few times getting together, we just thought it was boring playing these folky duets we had been playing. It was just so obviously not what we wanted to do. It was kitschy. We wanted to be more chaotic. We were young and dumb. We were going for it.

Leah Fay: We were living in bars and living in the front row at shows and wanted to embrace that lifestyle of chaotic rock 'n' roll.

Dreimanis: We didn’t have any aspirations of this band becoming our careers and all of these things. It was something that started very organically with people who all really liked the same music and wanted to live together.

— Nylon

Song: “Guns + Ammunition”
Album: July Talk (2012)

An excerpt of Dreimanis discussing his side hustle with July Talk bassist Josh Warburton (, 2013):

Josh [Warburton] and you have a production company called Vulture Culture films, that has done music videos for July Talk and other stellar bands like Silverstein, Born Ruffian, Cancer Bats, etc.

It is awesome! Working on our own project has been especially fun because whatever we say goes. Also being able to work with our talented friends in film is awesome. We have had friends in films for so many years, and now we are starting to get to a point where we can call them and ask what they want to do with this idea or find out their vision. It becomes more of a community project.“


Song: “Push + Pull”
Album: Touch (2016)

Fay has been outspoken about the misogyny and sexism she’s experienced as a musician. Last year, she wrote an open letter to an abusive audience member following an incident at the band’s show in Buffalo, N.Y. Here is an excerpt:

“Tonight at the Town Ballroom someone yelled ‘show us your tits’ in a football-voice at the beginning of a song about home. Not quietly in silence to see if anyone would laugh, nor loudly during a song to see if anyone would notice, but in one of the most fragile and silent moments to ever emerge on our stage. We told you to leave.

You were drunk + full of testosterone. I know this because you punched someone on your way out after trying to blame someone else for your wrongdoing. And I know it’s not entirely your fault because your father also tried to fight a security guard while they escorted you out.”

— Leah Fay

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

More to explore: 

Sarah McLachlan: a 3-song Junos primer

Arkells: a 3-song Junos primer