Programm multi-instrumentalist Jacob Soma (it’s a band of multi-instrumentalists with a core membership of Soma and the Games, Jackie and Mark, and drum duties shared between Andrew Reesor and Steve Reble) says they try to play at least once a month but have been spending a lot of time writing and recording their debut album. The debut, five years in the making, will be released as a series of EPs; the first, a four song EP “Like The Sun” is now available on The Hand Records. An appropriately an overcast, sexy video accompanies the titular track.
The four songs on the EP all have a menacing quality to them, a dark underwater feeling and its only when vocalist Jackie Game’s siren-like voice breaks through that there is any light to swim towards. Of course we know how following the Sirens worked out for Odysseus and his crew so do not swim towards the light People!! Programm also have two covers available, Clinic’s “Walking With Thee” and “Venus In Furs” by the Velvet Underground. Throw in a cover of Joy Division’s “ Atmosphere” with the aforementioned and you may have an idea of Programm’s overall sound but their influences are varied and each track on the EP is distinctive while still retaining their eerie atmospherics.
“I have a lot of influences and I have to force myself somewhat to stay within a certain boundary”, says Soma. “I would never stray too far, but because I'm writing for a band and not just myself, I have to stay within a certain area or the demo won't make it past the initial chopping block. Which is actually a good thing. Anything to help narrow down my options is helpful. That said, you'll hear our sound branching out quite a bit as these first EPs start to come out. Or that's the way we hear it anyways. To me, the first album seems like every song is different. There isn't another "Like the Sun" on the record, or another "ZeroZeroZero". They're all one offs in a way. Though the few that have heard the first album claim there's consistency. Which is great, but it's hard for us to hear. We're too close to it."
Soma says the members all have the same vision and while they have worked with several producers, including Alexandre Bonenfant (METZ, Crystal Castles) they prefer to absorb the advice and fit it to their ideas for Programm.
“We don't make rock music. We make, not sure how to put it, emotionally intense music, so it's our guts that are on the table, and no one else can really tell you how that's supposed to sound” he says. “If something is even slightly off in a song it can drive us nuts and kill the mood. Making music is like painting with emotion and if one of the colours is off we won't put it out there unless we've fixed it.”
Where outside help is most useful, he says, is on the technical side; the mixing, the production and the live experience. Signing to a label also helps; The Hand take on much of the admin work and that allows the band to write more, “That in itself is a dream come true,” he says.
Soma says he has been making use of that extra time to stroll around Toronto listening to mixes of new songs and writing lyrics. He says he realized while walking he likes lushly arranged songs that augment reality and add another layer to the experience of being in a moment.
“It adds another level to reality, and maybe we like to stir up certain emotions that are impossible without music, like a thick, concentrated mood that you pass through temporarily,” he says. “Recently I listened to "Awaken" by Yes, a song I hadn't heard in a long time and had a bit of an epiphany about where my influence comes from. My parents took me to see them when I was around 7 years old, and I remember at the time, being too young to really understand, it seemed like the stage was the gates of heaven, and they were these demi-gods surrounded by light and making this enormous, lush, gorgeous music. I think it had a big impact on me. That and the albums my parents would put on. My mom loved “Hounds of Love” by Kate Bush, which is quite lush with adventurous production. My Dad loved pro- rock and they also took us to see ballets and operas from a young age, as well as turning me on to contemporaries like Phillip Glass and the like. So I like really orchestral arrangements, as do the other members so I guess we try and push the limits of how big we can make it sound with just 4 people. On recording there are no limits of course but we have to make sure that it will translate live.”