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Private Lives: Deceivingly Facile Melodies and Glorious Riffing

Last fall, the newly-formed Montreal four-piece Private Lives unveiled their self-titled debut EP through the always reliable Feel It Records. We spoke with vocalist Jackie Blenkarn to learn all about Private Lives and last year's tape steered the path for their planned debut album.

Photo by C. Vincent

The newly-formed Montreal four-piece Private Lives unveiled their self-titled debut EP through the always reliable Feel It Records last fall. Private Lives originally began as a recording project between husband and wife duo Chance Hutchison (Priors, New Vogue) and Jackie Blenkarn (Pale Lips) during the pandemic. With Hutchison already filling in on guitar and Blenkarn on vocals, the project later morphed into a full-fledged band with the addition of bassist Josh Herlihey (Plastic Act), and drummer Frank Climenhage (Lonely Parade, Alpen Glow). The five-track tape is brim full of soaring post-punk melodies and uncluttered, fuzzed-out guitar riffs that stick to your ears. Private Lives perfectly encompass Montreal's punk scene and we were lucky to speak with Blenkarn to find out all about her new band and how the new tape has steered the path for their planned debut album.

Paperface Zine: How did Private Lives begin and what was the vision when forming?

Jackie Blenkarn: Originally the project was a pandemic collaboration between myself and Chance. We were lucky to be bound together by law and COVID, so we demoed the songs together as a creative outlet.


PZ: What projects were you all in prior? Also do you maintain any other projects right now?


JB: I was a member of Pale Lips, Chance is still actively participating in his other projects like New Vogue and PRIORS who have a record due out shortly. Frank is currently drumming for Alpen Glow and previously drummed for Lonely Parade. Josh has been working on his own solo project Plastic Act (coming soon).


PZ: Take me through the line-up of Private Lives. What's something special that each of you brings to the table?


JB: Frank really brought the music to life. His drumming escalated the songs a great deal from the demos, which had just been a drum machine. It's been really fun working with Josh, a new transplant to Montreal (from Vancouver). It was a bit of kismet that we ended up connecting with him. He and Frank are both really chill and fun to be around, and breathe some new life into the songs. Chance is the creative backbone of the band, he conceives the songs in the basement and then brings them to the rest of us to do our parts. I can't answer this question about myself without sounding insane, so I'll just say that I will happily answer interview questions [laughing].

Photo by C. Vincent

PZ: What do you all do when not making music?

JB: Frank is into screen printing and photography; Josh is a design master and focusing on his solo record; me and Chance just bought a house so we've been working on fixing it up.


PZ: What does a typical band practice look like for you?


JB: Mostly just hashing out song ideas and a lot of laughs. We don't get to see each other as often as we'd like, so we use the time to catch up.


PZ: How do you approach your songwriting? How do your initial ideas for your tracks develop? Can you talk about some themes you explore across the new tape?


JB: Chance works out the songs as demos in the home studio and brings them to jam for further tweaking. Frank and Josh bring their own ideas to the songs at practice. I try to add vocals intuitively, sometimes using Chance's throwaway song titles as a writing prompt. Themes span from loss and yearning, to the frustration of never quite feeling heard, to the isolation and fear of pandemic living, which was actually quite intense in Québec, including mandated curfews.


PZ: Talk to me about the five-track debut tape you released last year through Feel It Records. When did you start putting it together and how did the recording go?


JB: We did one day of recording in early July '22. Everything was live off the floor with the exception of vocals, which were added later in the day. It was a pretty short and sweet ordeal, with huge thanks to Adrian [Popovich] of Mountain City Studios for being the best to work with.

Photo by C. Vincent

PZ: Are you currently working on an LP? If so how's that been going for you and how will it build from the debut EP?


JB: We are currently working on an LP. It's sort of an extension of the tape, all the cassette songs will appear on it, but there will be new songs as well. We have remixed everything a little bit to fit together after this latest batch of songs. We are excited, but I think in terms of plans for the LP, we have to remain tight lipped a little longer. But we are stoked to say it's in the works!


PZ: What has it been like so far navigating the Montreal underground scene? Are there any other bands there we should check out?


JB: Montreal has a pretty vibrant scene, there's always lots going on. Bands we love include Night Lunch, Helene Barbiere, Tha Retail Simps (shoutout to Celluloid Lunch Records), Paul Jacobs, Liquid Assets, Knitting, Tinkertoy Fog Machine, amongst others. Some new and exciting bands have popped up that we haven't been able to catch yet.


PZ: You played some amazing shows last year including some weekenders with Anxious Pleasers and of course that crazy one back in October with Tha Retail Simps, Snooper, fellow Feel It Records mates Silicone Prairie. What are your plans for shows coming up in 2023?


JB: 2023 looks like it will be busy for us especially in the later half of the year. Aiming to line up some Canadian summer festivals and then head south in the fall. We are hoping to use the first half of the year to work on more new material since we're always looking ahead.


Private Lives is out now through Feel It Records.


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