Interview: Do Make Say Think – Justin Small

I did this interview a very long time ago when Do Make Say Think performed at The Billiken Club last semester.

Do Make Say Think is a mostly instrumental quintet from Toronto, Canada and although they’ve been together for more than 12 years, have yet to play St. Louis. How they found themselves playing the newly deemed “Best Rock Venue” is appropriately fitting. But to their surprise and confusion, they came to see that the venue was more a Mexican restaurant with a makeshift stage.

I found myself sitting next to Justin Small as he attacked his party of a quesadilla. He was dressed as a “usual rock star” fronting a t-shirt and jeans with self diagnosis of Bronchitis.

They were promoting their newest album, You, You’re A History of Rust, released back in February. This was their 5th album and you can tell that these guys have been working really hard.

“It’s been rough. We had the van breakdown twice in one day, back in Boston. The van wouldn’t start. The alternator was broken and black smoke was coming out. It was not safe. Now we got a new van. Amit (the tour manager) had to drive 15 hours to get the new van to the band. Other than that, it’s a great time and the band never sounded better.”

Do Make Say Think have grown so much from the past from a humble beginning of 3 people, to a core of 5 and at times, 8 people. Do you find it harder to write music with more people because it seems you guys are much more meticulous with your sound?

“Well, we have a core of 5 members and we come up with parts and arrangements (for other members outside of the 5 core).”

In the past, you guys used to improvise much more during your live shows, but now you seem to stick to the usual arrangement, why is that?

“We have road maps, we try to get back on the high road and try not to much (to get off it). Improvising is taxing on the creativity.”

You guys have very unique song titles. What’s the meaning behind them and is that symbolical of your thinking for when you wrote the song?

“We are mostly wordless music, but we try to leave it up to the listener and let the wisdom reveal itself. Sometimes it’s just names of places where the song was written like “Federica” which is a town.”

So what’s your favorite song to perform?

Inner Outer & Secret because its challenging, epic and fun.”

So what album would you say you are currently obsessed with?

“Back in Toronto, I work at a record store. Over the summer, I got into some oldie, Ethiopian, psychedelic jazz. Their called the Etheopique’s and they are a group Ethiopians from the 60s-70s who released 5 cds. It’s cool because they released their music under suspicion of the muslim government.”

So if you could be any instrument, what would you be?

“Saxophone. I take that back. An Ampeg SVT 810E cabinet.”

Pictures courtesy of Chris Sanley off The Billiken Club website.
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