Touring the US and Canada in the confines of a 2003 Toyota Sienna doesn’t paint a very glamourous picture, but Winnipeg band Living Hour makes it work, and delivers astounding music along the way. The five-man ensemble brings with them dreamy soundscapes, full of evocative lyrics, superior musical talent, and a lot of future promise. With a strong vocal backbone from Sam Sarty (vocals, trombone, keyboard), musicians Gil Carroll (guitar), Adam Soloway (guitar, vocals), Alex Chochinou (drums), and Mischa Decter (bass) are able to shine. Just a few months after releasing their self-titled album, the group has hit the road for a six-week tour.
Across the board, Living Hour’s songs instill a sense of nostalgia, of hazy summer sunsets and picturesque days. “There’s some powerful moments, and it’s very emotional,” Sarty said. “We try to make it ethereal and atmospheric and there’s a pop undertone that some people call shoegaze.” While Living Hour has some definite shoegaze qualities, they’re hesitant to identify fully with the genre. Guitarist Gil Carroll noted that upon its inception, Living Hour was more straight forward indie-rock, but the addition of Sarty’s vocals transformed it into a dreamier, more “pretty” sound. “I still consider us a really young band, so our sound is changing all the time and continues to develop,” he said.
Despite the profoundly airy quality of their music, Sarty said that, for her, the band’s name derives from the feeling of being more alive than ever while doing what she loves. “I like to think that sometimes people are a little turned off and not living in the now or being present,” she said. “I find that when you perform, it’s one of the most present moments that you can be in. You’re living in the hour.”
Kicking off a live set at Elastic Arts in Chicago, the song “Nude” set the stage for a solid performance. Underlying bass tones give the feeling of waking up slowly and starting out the day, with pops of drum to liven things up. Slowly, Sarty’s vocals merge in and the result is a layered, strolling song that leaves the listener wondering how nine and a half minutes have gone by in such a wistful blur.
Later, “Miss Emerald Green” showed the full range of Sarty’s vocals, as well as the skill of guitarists Carroll and Soloway. Starting with the inviting warmth of a lounge singer, Sarty belts out lyrics like, “You’ve grown so tired of the same scene/ You’ve been living in.” The singer says that she pulls from many different places for the feeling she puts into the song. “One day I’ll relate that to growing up in a small town like Winnipeg, or the next day I’ll think about ‘Person X’ and feeling isolated.” With Decter’s bass lines throughout, there is a strong feeling of longing, but right before it gets too heavy, a pop of horn keeps things upbeat. It’s a fun song that conjures the memory of a high school dance coming to a close.
With all of the feelings that their songs evoke, the creative process for Living Hour can take some time. Carroll said, “We’ll start with one singular idea but then everyone will just do their own thing and eventually it comes together.” He went on to say that long tour schedules can slow down the process, but also help hone new material. “We have several new songs that we’re playing [on tour] that aren’t on our new album. We’re trying them out and seeing what can be better and what we like.”
One as-yet untitled song highlighted a beachy, surf vibe and would have anyone listening wishing that they were watching the sun set over a rolling ocean. With a huge rise at the end, the song called to memory that one last perfect summer evening, the one that’ll go down in memory for years to come. Living Hour’s ability to create such vivid imagery with music is hard to come by and sure to be one of their strongest assets as they gain more recognition.
Pulling from many genres for influence and texture, the band creates music that speaks to a wealth of talent and knowledge. Sarty began singing in choirs at a young age, while the instrumental side of the group met in school and bonded over a love of music. According to Sarty, Carroll and Chochinou started off like so many other musicians- jamming in a basement- before they added more members to the mix. Together, the laid-back group has enjoyed some international success, touring in the UK and Europe earlier in 2016 and appearing at the Le Bateau Festival in Champagne-Ardenne, France. While that show was Sarty’s favorite to date, Carroll enjoyed playing to their largest audience yet. “We played at Rough Trade in New York and it was one of the biggest shows we’ve played in terms of people,” he said. “There was a lineup of people to get in. We played really well, and it sounded great.”
Playing live has garnered Living Hour new fans, to be sure, but online streaming has also helped get their music out. “We’ve taken the [approach of] the more exposure, the better, even if we don’t see a lot of monetary gains,” Sarty said. “You’re still getting that exposure, which is a different kind of currency at this point.” Songs “Seagull” and “Steady Glazed Eyes” have a combined 54.4K listens on SoundCloud alone. Additionally, social media has helped Living Hour find other bands to tour the country with. “The best part [about touring is] seeing and meeting like-minded people, some of the most creative people I can even fathom,” Sarty said.
Looking ahead, Carroll hinted that the band has already amassed some new material for their next album. After the Fall 2016 tour comes to an end in Berlin, Living Hour will take some time off to relax, before setting out again in January to escape the Winnipeg winter. Location aside, the band is just happy to be making music. “We’re pretty stoked to be doing what we’re doing so we’re all smiles,” Carrol said.