band crush: tops

montreal's newest noisemakers.

photo by rebecca storm

New York, LA, Austin, and Nashville are amazing and all, but when it comes to music scenes, it's hard to find one more fun than Montreal. The Canadian city is already known for churning out talented artists like Arcade Fire, No Joy, and MacDemarco, and its latest export is equally as buzzworthy--and irresistible--as the rest. Hailing from the same loft scene as Grimes, TOPS are a four-piece (two guys, two girls) making waves for their down-and-dirty indie sound. Just in time for their new 7" to drop (as well as their full-length album, out this fall), we quizzed lead singer Jane Penny on the band's sound and their secret for turning performances into disco dance parties.

How did you guys first start playing music together? Was it intended to be a professional thing, or just for fun?

I started singing for fun. I was 19 going to school in Montreal, and David, the guitar player in TOPS, had written all these pop songs with our friend Sean Savage, for a girl to sing. I'd never sang before,  but David knew that I was really into music and that I would be in Montreal for a while so he got me to come over to his house and we got 40's and recorded vocals for the whole record in one night. With TOPS we want to be a great band, so we spend a lot of time on the music. I love making recordings and videos, so it's cool when I feel like I'm a pro. It's my life now so I try to enjoy it as much as I can and get better everyday. 

How did playing in lofts around Montreal influence your sound/direction?

The city gives you space and time to create whatever you want so we have a unique sound. People influence and support each other, but we find inspiration for our songs from old recordings, from hours playing together, from everywhere. I'm lucky to know a lot of great people here, artists and very entertaining personalities, who get together often and who keep life interesting. That's good for the sound, definitely. 

What's the craziest show you've ever played before?

Oh man, I've played a lot of different shows. Sometimes they're crazy because everyone is going nuts. Usually house shows and loft shows are the ones where people go bananas and my mic gets wrapped up in people and everything gets unplugged. My favorite shows are the ones where everyone starts dancing, the place becomes a disco and no ones really watching anymore but everyone is feeling the music. I've also played a couple very small shows where the crowd is focused and it's like the walls are listening, and those are crazy, too.

If TOPS could soundtrack any movie, what would it be?

Right now we're working on music videos for our new record so I'm trying to make a short film out of each one, to make them as cool and creative as possible. I think TOPS would be great in a film too, playing in the back of a club like Julee Cruise in Twin Peaks or that alien band at the bar in Star Wars. I love films where there's a band featured over the course of the movie, like Alan Price in O' Lucky Man. Composing the soundtrack for a movie has been a dream of mine for a while now. I'd love to do the soundtrack for something really bizarre and surreal made by a contemporary filmmaker. I spend a lot of time playing synthesizers, so it would be fun to do the instrumental stuff. 

Listen to more TOPS!