Definitely not your
mother’s goth: on its fourth album, the Toronto
band gets a chance to flex its creative wings – and soars.
BY GIL MACIAS
Horror films and gothic music have a lot in common. They
might have huge followings, but both are mostly underappreciated and not
usually taken seriously in their industries. Horror movies get shunned by the
Academy and gothic music has always been the bastard child of genres at the
Grammys, but who cares? The point is, all genres have examples of quality that
stand out amongst the rest and make people think twice about their
The Birthday Massacre is one of those bands who probably (and
wrongfully) get brushed off and slapped with the “Goth” label because of their
dark exterior, when in fact, their music is a mash-up of genres and various
musical styles ranging from dark wave, electronica, synth-rock and in some
cases, pure rock ‘n roll. The Toronto-based band recently released their fourth
studio album titled Pins and Needles – an album that’s a pure revelation, loaded with strong melodies, haunting
vocals, ‘80s influence, and layered with just the right amount darkness.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The band has matured a lot
since their debut, the production value has gone up and frontwoman Chibi’s
vocals are more confident and powerful than ever. The album is their best
effort to date and we highly recommend you give it a listen. And to get a taste
of the band’s visual artistic style, check out their new video for “In The
The Birthday Massacre is currently on tour (check dates
here) and we were able to have a quick chat with Chibi to talk about the
evolution of the band’s sound and the making of their new album.
BLURT: What’s the
band’s obsession with purple? It’s the color of choice on every album cover.
CHIBI: I went to
school for fine arts and that’s where I met [band member] Rainbow. We did a lot
of color theory there. The whole band does contrasting things. So, you know,
red is a hot color, blue is a cold color, you put them together and you have
purple, right? So that’s sort of the fancy explanation. But it’s my favorite
color too [Laughs].
With this new one,
the production value went up quite a few notches. You guys sound more polished
than ever. What caused this leap forward in quality?
That actually means a lot, because we actually self-produced
this one. On Walking With Strangers 
we worked with Dave Ogilvie, he produced it and he’s very talented, but this
time we only brought him in to mix again. But yea, we self-produced Pins and Needles, so it’s really nice to
hear you say that.
Your voice also seems
stronger and more in the foreground this time. There are less vocal effects.
Did you do something to strengthen your voice?
That means a lot as well. I think I have definitely grown
singing-wise. I took some vocal coaching a few years ago but it all sort of
goes out the window when you’re on tour. Honestly, I think when you’re touring
and playing so many shows over and over, you’re learning how to perform when
you’re feeling sick, or you’re not feeling like doing it at all – I feel like I
am a much better singer now than I was at the beginning. I used to not be able
to do vocals with anybody in the room. I’d have to be alone. I just hated all
of it. But now I’m so used to doing it and being more confident with it.
Are there any
pre-show rituals you do to prepare your voice for a show and going onstage
before a big audience?
[Laughs] Being on
tour means you get to watch a bunch of cool bands every night and that gets you
in the mood to go onstage. So that’s something I always like to do. And
listening to music or having a drink or maybe six…y ou know, that can help too.
How much effort goes
into the band’s onstage look?
Well, we always want to try to look unified. So before we go
on tour, we’ll all plan what we’re going to wear so we can all match and stuff.
It’s important. A lot of our fans dress up when they come out, so we like to
make it fun. We put on an interesting live show, so we can sort of be with the
crowd like that.
recording, how do you all come to an agreement that a song is complete? Do all
6 of you have to be happy to stamp a song as finished?
Well, there’s 6 of us in the live band, but there are only 3
of us who are the primary songwriters; me, Rainbow and Mike Falcore. It’s kind
of dysfunctional at times and sometimes you do have to sort of do the vote on
what parts of a song sound good. If all 6 of us were writing, I don’t know what
we would do. With the 3 of us, we’ve known each other for years. Mike and
Rainbow grew up together, they’ve known each other since they were kids and
I’ve known both of them for 12 years now, so, we work pretty well together. We
all kind of know what’s going to piss each other off and try not to do that.
Where did the concept
for the “In The Dark” video come from? Great video by the way.
Thank you. Mike directed it. His whole thing is film. He was
really excited. I was like, “He’s not gonna direct the video.” [Laughs] I had like no faith, I know him
too well. But he did such a good job. Rue
Morgue, the horror magazine, they participated as well and co-directed with
him. We all love horror movies and we all grew up in the ‘80s, so there are a
lot of influences there like A Nightmare
on Elm Street and some Hellraiser stuff
too. It was the first time we ever
directed our own video too. We’ve always worked with this visual artist named Dan Ouellette on our past
videos. But this time it was all of our concept and we didn’t collaborate with
What was it about “In The Dark” that
stood out and made that your first choice as a single and music video?
picked that song really quickly. They wanted to have a video out almost
immediately when the album was coming out and all that stuff. Unanimously, we
all liked “In The Dark” right away. We were really excited about it, we thought
it was really strong.
Do you guys ever feel you’re not taking
seriously because of the band’s look? And do people try to brush you off as
Oh yea, of course. And if you put the stamp “goth” on
something, a lot of people will automatically dismiss it. Just like if you put “country,”
“punk,” or “metal” as a stamp on anything, people get really into their own
genres and get very protective and don’t like anything else. Some people will
say, “I don’t listen to them because they’re so Goth.” And other people say, “they’re not Goth enough.” So, we just try to incorporate
a lot of different things and hopefully no one gets put off by labels.
Everybody gets labeled and it sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it. [Shrugs]
Who do you get
compared to that annoys you the most?
[Smiles and clenches
teeth] A lot of times, well, not so much anymore but we would get compared
to Evanescence, which I totally don’t
understand—at all. I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan really and
then getting those comparisons would just… [Shakes
head]. I don’t sound anything like her, the music doesn’t sound anything
like them. I think it’s just because there’s a girl in the band with black
hair. If I had red hair, they’d probably say we sound like Garbage.
What musicians would
you say are the most influential to you?
My favorite band growing up was Concrete Blonde. They’re so
good. I love her voice. I always liked Heart as well. And my other favorite
band is Faith No More. I don’t sound anything like Mike Patton, but he’s a
really great performer.
I read that you were
trying to channel Ann Wilson while you were recording the title track “Pins and
We were joking around. I was working with Rainbow and doing
to vocals for “Pins and Needles,” and he was like, “Just be strong. Like the
girl from Heart.” And I was like, “Ann Wilson? I don’t sound anything like Ann
Wilson,” and he was like, “Do it anyway!” So I did my best to channel Ann
Wilson. It’s a powerful ballad and it’s got a very ‘80s feel and that’s the way
a lot of Heart’s stuff was. I don’t sound a thing like her, but I tried [laughs].
What’s in store for
We have a bunch of songs that didn’t make it onto this
album. They’re really, really good but we wanted to save them for later. So hopefully
we’ll grow and develop the sound we’re trying to do next.
Do you see this band
going on for years and years to come?
Probably for as long as it makes sense and for as long as
we’re having fun. We’ve always said if it stops being fun, then we’re not going
to do it anymore. If you’re miserable, and you don’t want to be on tour, or you
don’t even like the music anymore, why bother? But we enjoy doing it, we’re a
family and we’ve been together for a long time. We’ll be together as long as it
makes sense. We don’t want to be one of those bands where people go, “Why don’t
they call it quits?!” You know? [Laughs]
Check out the video
for “In The Dark”