Interview: P.S. I Love You
It began as an outlet for singer-guitarist Paul Saunier in 2006 and turned into a duo two years later with the addition of drummer Benjamin Nelson. Since then, P.S. I Love You’s searing, beer-soaked anthems of lost love and desperation have taken the duo out of the shark tank of Canada’s indie rock scene and on to international success.
Now, with the release of Death Dreams (2012) — the follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut, Meet Me at the Muster Station (2010) — Saunier and Nelson find themselves upping the emotional ante in what is their most sophisticated release to date. With their signature guitar histrionics and Frank Black-like vocal delivery still intact, songs are longer this time around, with several surprising departures from their usual brand of grunge.
Groove Korea sat down with PS I Love You during the Seoul stop of their Asian tour — which closes out at Vinyl Underground in Busan on Saturday – to discuss touring in China, the new album, and the state of Paul’s reoccurring death dreams for which the album is titled.
Groove Korea: How was China?
Paul Saunier: It was kind of a hard grind. Really long bus rides that were scary, a 29-hour train ride, lugging our gear through crowds of people staring at us…
Benjamin Nelson: When our luggage fell off our little carts, they’d laugh and stare, and take pictures. We just had to get used to it.
Paul Saunier: It was exciting. We were mostly just tired and jet-lagged and completely spaced out the whole time. So it was kind of an unbelievable experience. Coming to Korea almost feels like coming home in the weird way. Because, I don’t know, it’s a lot easier to take; it’s overwhelming in a way that’s only good.
So you’ve been enjoying your time in Korea then?
BN: So far it’s a great change from China. How can I say this in a nice way? I feel a lot more comfortable here, a lot less stressed out. And maybe it’s because this is the end of the tour — we’ve been through China and it’s made us tougher and prepared us for any additional stress that comes along — but it’s been good.
PS: Also I really dig the weather... China’s the most intensely humid place I’ve ever been. It was crazy. My eyes were burning from the smog and stuff.
Let’s talk about the new record. What did you do differently this time around?
PS: Well, we wrote the songs together this time. The first album was of songs that I had written, and most of them had been around for years. This time around it was new and fresh and things were approached slightly differently. Our producer Matt Rebalsky worked hard on getting a bigger, better sound which was exciting. We kept a loose schedule, which is kind of what we did the first time around, too. We would record a couple songs then go on tour for a while then come back. We actually started recording it right after our first album was released so it took us a year to finish it.
Lyrically, it seems like a bit of a departure.
PS: Yeah, I mean, at its core they’re all sort of shitty love songs.
BN: But our life is different. There’s a lot more road and touring-oriented stuff on the record.
PS: Leaving home, coming back home, things changing, love gone bad, that’s the thing I always sing about. Lyrically things got a lot more repetitive. I got more into sort of making up these weird slogans that seem to adapt to any situation we found ourselves in.
What are these slogans?
PS: There are some that are actually unsaid, which is weird when we’re talking about lyrics. Dreaming about death is in every song, at least to me, and also saying “all I want is more than I ever had,” is kind of a big deal. It’s about the last couple years of my life, feeling like I’m kind of growing up more and figuring out ways to get what I want out of my life instead of being a totally useless, depressed person, I guess. And it’s kind of uplifting in a way: uplifting by route of sadness.
So the title of the album is named after the reoccurring death dreams you’ve had. Do they persist?
PS: Kind of. I guess I’m just a morbid person. I’m always thinking about when I’m going die and what it’s going be like so I think that shows up in my dreams a lot. It’s different now though. The song “Death Dreams,” the first instrumental song on the album — this sounds totally flakey but I actually think I heard it in a dream. So that’s why I named it that. It’s like this marching band in New Orleans in my dream. We spent two nights in New Orleans on a tour once during Mardi Gras. It had a profound effect on me. Again, it’s uplifting through darkness. I think I’m less scared of it.
Aside from music, what do you guys do for fun?
BN: I screen print shirts and design stuff for our band and other bands. I don’t know, you like Star Trek?
PS: Yeah, I like Star Trek, I collect a lot of records. I try to DJ parties whenever I can. I don’t know, there’s not much in my life besides music. Sometimes I work shitty jobs in cool cafes.`