Paragon Cause are the duo of Marnie VanKheul (Gatineau) and Kirwan Opthof (Ottawa).
When did Paragon Cause start?
Just over a year ago. I met Marnie on-line. Right off the bat we started writing and recording songs together. We’d never met before. We’d both been in other bands and we were looking for something different.
You met on-line?
There’s a site where musicians can meet. So Kirwan says, “Come and meet me in my basement lair.” And I’m like, “OK.” [laughs]
You’ve released one album ‘Escape’.
The songs on ‘Escape’ were the songs that we wrote as we were getting to know each other, oddly enough. So they were the first songs we did and we liked them enough that we said, “Let’s record and release them rather than waste them. It was a learning experience for the two of us to get some songs under our belt together.
Did you have a certain sound in mind that you wanted to create?
I used to play more blues rock. Back in Halifax I used to be the bass player for Rose Cousins. Then I was in band called Servo with the drummer from Joel Plaskett and Matt Mays. So I was in that scene and I got bored so I started doing electronic music just for fun. But I missed playing the guitar. For me it was just trying to find someone who had an interesting style. We never had a sound in mind.
It started evolving as we played and played together more. There were long jams, like hours and hours. We’d get totally lost in weird modalities and stuff. It was awesome.
There are certainly trip-hoppy vibes in your music.
We never really tried to sound like that whole lo-fi, vinyl-ie kind of old sound. But we both atmospheric music, even instrumental. A lot of our music would work as well with or without words.
Was it an adjustment becoming a duo?
Before I met Kirwan I never really played on a keyboard, only classical instruments and real pianos. I was a bit of a purist in that regard. Then I discovered the wonderful world of synthesizers. Now I’m so addicted, I love it. It was a lot of learning — how sounds are made. It’s awesome. Now I have the chance to blend all of those together.
Are you conscious of the sound that you will ultimately create when you are writing?
Whenever I write music I have a melody in mind and lyrics. For the first album I was going through some not so pleasant experiences. So it was my therapy essentially. It was certainly creating a mood whether I was aware of it or not.
Is is difficult to re-create your sound on stage?
I would say it isn’t, because a lot of the songs started out “live”. For example, “Curiosity” is a actually a live recording. We recorded it in one take. We wanted to challenge ourselves — we wrote the song and said, “Let’s just record it”, and we did it. On stage I work a drum machine and I have a guitar pedal that’s a sampler and a looper. We’ll sample and loop as we play live, plus we have 2 or 3 keyboards and some vocal effects. A few songs are a bit more challenging because there’s a lot of coordination with the drums. But overall it’s not too bad. The next album is going to be more of a challenge, however.
Yeah, we’re going to need a drummer.