It’s always a treat to meet blooming talents. We understand you four were friends, but how did that friendship begin?
Liam: I knew Binh from school and Arsenii through him. One day Jake came up to me in class and was like “I hear you play music, we should jam.” Very direct, very Jake. I brushed him off for a while, but he didn’t give up, and here we are
Jake: I should add that they are Canadians so being brushed off by a Canadian is like really unusual.
How did you go from being buddies hanging out, to becoming members of a band generating music?
Binh: Arsenii and I played in a band together before called mayfields, before we lost our bassist to Ireland and got kicked out of our old practice space. We lucked into a new huge place and started throwing shows there where we would occasionally play Weezer covers with Liam to pad bills, until Jake came along to play an ATDI set with us and the rest is history.
What is the story behind the band’s name?
Jake: There’s a Jesus Lizard song called Horse Doctor Man. It had a certain appeal. But it was cemented when Binh used a pair of rusty pliers to remove an earplug that got lodged deep inside Arsenii’s ear.
Binh: I always thought it was because we met in graduate school where we would eventually become doctors but not real doctors, more like snake oil salesmen.
Liam: There is also a Corb Lund song called Horse Doctor, Come Quick, but that is unrelated.
Jake: Yeah apparently there’s also a show in Korea called Horse Doctor. We’d eventually like to be used as the theme song for a remake of that show.
Arsenii: We tried to use spreadsheets to help us pick a band name and this was the outcome.
Working during the pandemic must be burdensome. What are the most difficult challenges you faced?
Liam: It’s hard to write remotely, so we are focusing on recording all the stuff we wrote before.
Arsenii: I used to have complete control over Jake and Binh’s guitar tone, but with the pandemic I’ve lost that.
Binh: Getting distracted playing Starcraft Brood War when we need to be discussing recording and songwriting.
You progressed from making “At The Drive-In” covers to producing your own material. What is the most enjoyable and challenging aspect of each experience?
Arsenii: One of the more challenging aspects of making our own stuff is that we all strive for perfection, but have different philosophies on what perfection is
Binh: The most challenging aspect of playing ATDI covers is the sheer speed and complexity of the parts. We definitely came out of that with better cardio and lung capacity, and chops.
Jake: I always strongly prefer creating material from scratch to covers. For me it was actually interesting and fun to do covers for once. Being able to have a song completely playable in one session is a great leisure. I guess the biggest challenge in creating your own music is it takes awhile before a song is ready to roll.
Which ATDI song do you wish was originally yours?
Jake: Lopsided – I love how they how they build a progression of really unusual chords, but still make it sounds beautiful and accessible.
Arsenii: Transatlantic Foe – it epitomizes the happy-but-frantic energy I love about ATDI.
Liam: Rolodex Propaganda for the collab with Iggy Pop
Binh: Cosmonaut, the intro grips so hard and is so much fun to play
You’re unquestionably influenced by “ATDI.” What qualities do you think you have in common with them, and what qualities do you think that you have, but they don’t?
Arsenii: Well, they’re from El Paso.. Binh lived in Texas for like six months. That’s kinda similar.
Liam: I would like to think that we have some intensity in common. And that we both write songs that are complex but still fun. We pull from a lot of grunge, emo, and other styles too, and our songs are a lot more likely to have quiet melodic passages than most of ATDI’s work.
Binh: I take a lot of inspiration from their stage presence and energy, and try to make playing my instrument a full-body activity.
If you have the chance to re-create one of your songs all over again to enjoy the process one more time, which one would you pick?
Arsenii: Every song we’ve released has already been re-created multiple times so I wouldn’t pick any
Jake: And recorded thrice.
Binh: When we were writing one of our earlier songs “Sundrowner”, there was a moment when I realized it was an emo song and it all came together instantly and I could hear all the riffs in my head from then on. Kind of a zen moment.
Jake: There was a bit less collaboration on some of our earlier songs because I was bringing tunes and more or less directing. Some days I yearn from the simplicity of those days. But I think “Unaligned” would be my pick, because it was a song where the rest of the band stripped a lot of stuff away and it turned the song into something completely new and more original. That was a great learning experience for me, and it’s actually quite beautiful to have other artists go to town on your creation, and have it blossom into it’s own thing. It has some of your DNA, but not all of it.
You mentioned that your latest release “Playa” came after a hiatus. Tell us more about the process of creating it.
Arsenii was mixing our album and we had a summer of songwriting sessions without a drummer. When Arsenii finally came back, the songs we had written just weren’t vibing, and we were in a bit of a rut. But then we decided to get back to our roots, and we literally asked ourselves “What would ATDI do”. And the song just like, magically appeared and kinda wrote itself.
Arsenii: After our break, we started to take a different approach to songwriting where we would try and quickly pump out songs, focusing on overall vibe and structure and worrying less about the details. Playa was one of many songs that came out of that new approach.
What sentiments and thoughts should one have after hearing “Playa” to make you feel that your mission is done?
Binh: A pleasant satisfaction at having lived a moment so pristine that one could feel at peace dying then. I mean, that’s the emotion we’re trying to convey, not that hearing the song is the pristine moment.
Jake: In the ocean getting crushed by a wave but it was a fun time
Liam: I think of the song as being about nostalgia, so I guess nostalgic.
Arsenii: “wow, great mix”
Our conversation has run its course, would you tell us more about your future plans other than releasing a single every two months. And do you have any forthcoming live performance?
When we play live we like to make it an experience and often try to incorporate lights of various forms like floodlights, TVs on static, and light towers, and that definitely takes some work and is harder with everyone in different cities. We are hoping to be able to get everyone together to do a mini tour in 2022. In the meantime we are focusing on getting good recordings for the songs we have written, and getting them out in the world.