In Search of Lost Time isn’t the first music released by Canadian rock outfit Partner. They’ve released multiple excellent singles (i.e., “The Ellen Page” and “Personal Weekend”), and founding members Josee Caron (vocals and lead guitar) Lucy Niles (vocals and rhythm guitar), and Kevin Brasier (bass) already had Canadian indie rock scene credentials with their former bands Mouthbreathers and Go Get Fucked (possibly the best band name ever). So it isn’t surprising that their first full-length record is witty, full of hooks, and one of the best pop-punk albums I’ve heard in a long while.
“Everybody Knows” starts the album with squealing, heavy guitar riffs and brings in a favorite subject of Partner’s – the goofy things that happen when one is high. Caron sings about freaking out in the grocery store while in a euphoric quest for chips. Niles sings about getting high while waiting for a friend and then realizing she can’t hide the fact that she “sparked another one” while waiting on the friend’s porch. Oh yeah, Caron’s guitar solo on this will leave you stunned.
Niles’ guitar on “Comfort Zone” (a song about the joys of slacking) reminds me of Television riffs. “Gross Secret,” with its sharp guitar work and dual vocals from Caron and Niles, reminds me of Sleater-Kinney if Sleater-Kinney would relax a bit now and then. “Angels from Ontario” is about a perfect pop-punk love song you’ll ever hear. The hooks and beat are instantly infectious and it bursts with enough energy to fill an opera house.
Caron reveals her love of shows like Judge Judy and The Maury Povich Show on “Daytime TV.” Niles sings about the dangers of snooping in your roommate’s room on “Sex Object.” “Ambassador to Ecstasy” is a solid rocker about trying to woo a hot girl and the possible complications that can come with such an endeavor.
“Play the Field” is a fun song about having a crush on a hot female athlete and contains what might be my favorite lyric of 2017 from Lucy Niles – “…to see you in your sports bra, though, just might change my life.” “You Don’t Have to Say Thank You” is, without question, the sexiest song on the record as Caron tells her lover she doesn’t have to thank her for an amazing night since “your pleasure is my delight.” Zowie! As if that weren’t enough to sell you on it, wait until you hear the wall-flattening guitars and drums (from Toronto indie rock drumming legend Simone TB).
“Creature in the Sun,” a song about the joys of mindfulness, might be my favorite cut on the record. It’s somewhere between new wave, post-punk, pop-punk, and spaghetti western music. I guarantee that if you hear this on the radio or in a wrecka stow, you will instantly stop and think, “Who is this?” The 1990’s alt-rock vibe is heavy on “Remember This,” which isn’t surprising when you consider the album was mixed by Chris Shaw who has worked with Weezer and Ween (among many others).
The closer, “Woman of Dreams,” has Caron and Niles pining for a lovely lady but realizing the best they can do about it (for now, at least) is write a song about her. It reminds me of Fountains of Wayne‘s harder tracks with its punchy hooks and clever lyrics.
I haven’t even mentioned the sketches, which include various goofy telephone conversations with photographers, Caron’s father, and others. I’ll let you discover those on your own.
This is one of those albums that will reveal new stuff to you every time you hear it – a drum fill, a wicked guitar lick, a funny lyric, etc. I don’t know if Partner will get back the time they’re searching for, but they didn’t waste any making this record. It won’t waste your time either.
Keep your mind open.
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Josee Caron and Lucy Niles, otherwise known as Partner, were kind enough to sit down for an interview in the Schuba’s green room before their first-ever appearance in Chicago on January 22nd. I learned about the origin of their band’s name, their love of pop music, that Josee Caron has a delightful laugh, that Lucy Niles has a mischievous smile (and is willing to destroy a coffee table to open a bottle of beer if necessary), and more.
7th Level Music: I discovered the two of you when I almost got to go to [Chicago’s] Riot Fest last year.
Lucy Niles: We almost got to go, too.
7LM: I was researching bands, and you were the second band I looked up.
LN: Oh, nice.
7LM: I heard “The ‘Ellen’ Page” and went, “Holy cow, I have to see these ladies,” and after that I found “Hot Knives” and I thought, “Yeah, I have to track these ladies down.”
LN: You found them.
Josee Caron (laughing): You were sold.
7LM: Yeah, two songs in and I was in.
7LM: So it fell through and I couldn’t make it to Riot Fest, but then I found out you two couldn’t make it either. I’m sorry you couldn’t make it.
JC: It’s all good. The visas were delayed. There were a bunch of applications and the processing time just took longer, but we used that time to find who was going to mix the album and stuff. We took that week to finish the record and got it sent off, so it was really a blessing in disguise.
7LM: When’s the record coming out?
JC: We don’t really know.
LN: We’re looking for…(looks at Josee, and then points at a mini-fridge) Actually, you go. I’m going to grab one of these beers.
[Lucy will spend the next few minutes attempting to open a bottle of said beer without a bottle opener since one (for reasons unknown) wasn’t in the green room.]
JC: We’re looking for an American label to help us put it out. We’re kind of working behind the scenes right now. Everything’s done. It just needs to be mastered. It’s mixed by a guy named Chris Shaw. He is known for working a lot with Ween, and he mixed the “blue album” by Weezer. We wanted our guitars to sound kind of similar. We don’t know when it’s going to come out, but sometime this year, likely the fall.
7LM: So you two were first in Mouthbreathers?
LN: Mouthbreathers, yeah.
7LM: [And] I found a great clip of you two in Go Get Fucked.
LN: Oh wow! Where did you find that?
JC (almost rolling with laughter): What?
7LM: You were playing at some deli or something.
JC (still laughing): Yes! That is crazy!
LN: Who posted that? I thought our friend was the only one who had that! That’s awesome.
7LM: It was hysterical. It was a set where, Lucy, you dropped a drumstick halfway through it and kept going. I thought, “That’s the greatest thing.”
LN: Yeah. That was a long time ago.
7LM: The name alone is amazing.
LN: That’s sweet.
JC: That’s how it all started, actually.
LN: That’s when we were younger.
JC: We were younger. We had a lot of energy.
LN: We used to get drunk three times a week and practice. Actually, [touring bassist] Kevin was in that band, too.
7LM: I’m really intrigued with how you settled on the name Partner. I didn’t know if you approached it from the noun or the verb, as in to partner or team up with someone.
JC: Definitely the noun.
LN: It was kind of an elaborate joke. We were kind of making fun of “normy” adults.
JC: We both worked at cafes and lots of the people there were like, “My partner…” It was a word that we heard a lot. To describe our relationship, we’re not partners.
LN: We thought it was funny because we’re not partners. Obviously everyone thinks that we are, but we’re not.
JC: So it’s very tongue-in-cheek.
7LM: I was going to ask you to finish this sentence: If we had two bucks for every time someone thought we were a couple, we could buy…
LN: A lot of weed.
7LM: I figured it was something like that.
LN: I guess we could buy some other stuff, but that’s probably what we would buy.
JC: We just love the word, because we have partners. It’s just tongue-in-cheek because we’ve never…
LN: My tongue in your cheek?
[More laughter erupts.]
7LM: Tell me about the five-piece, because you’re touring as a five-piece, right?
LN: Yeah. We’ve got Kevin [who] plays bass and he also does a lot of administrative work. Brendan plays drums and does most of the driving. Dan plays third guitar, and he’s a great bandmate. We’ve had various other friends of ours fill in, and that’s pretty much our core group right now, but we keep it open if one of them can’t make it then we have other people who know the songs.
JC: This is our solid touring line-up. We all moved to Windsor together.
7LM: Is this your first tour in the U.S.?
7LM: How’s it going so far? I know this stop was fairly early.
[Lucy manages to knock the cap off the bottle of beer by banging it on the edge of a coffee table, forcing her to chug most of said beer before it spills all over the floor. She then attempts to open one for Josee in the same manner, but all of us decide she needs to save her hand – and teeth – “until we can get group insurance,” says Josee.]
7LM: Where are you off to after this?
JC: We’re just doing three dates, still getting our feet wet.
LN: We did Hamtramck (Michigan), which was awesome.
7LM: Was it good, then?
JC: It was awesome.
LN: It was so great. We ate delicious pizza.
JC: We played a little record-book shop called Lo and Behold.
LN: With a bunch of really cool, like-minded folks. It was pretty crazy. It was the night after the election, so we were pretty interested to go and see what everyone had to say. [There] were a lot of queer kids and queer kids of color who had a lot of interesting input. The next day we played Kalamazoo, which was awesome. The American punk scene is pretty cool to be observing.
7LM: I was going to ask you two about bands up your way that you think people should know about.
LN: A lot of our friends have sweet bands. [Looking at Josee] Who’s a good active band right now?
LN: Toward are a sick, sick, sick band from Montreal.
JC: They kind of have an L7 vibe.
JC: We’re from Sackville in New Brunswick. A lot of our friends’ bands started there.
LN: It was like a snowball effect. There were a lot of people that happened to be playing in bands, and then everyone who didn’t play music started playing music because everyone else was doing it. It was very accessible, and there’s not that shitty, macho vibe to the punk scene at all. It’s very inclusive in Sackville.
7LM: I’d heard that you guys had a really collaborative thing going up there.
LN: We had fairly limited resources, but the resources that were there were awesome. We’d share gear, share a shed, and take advantage of the radio station. Everyone had a lot of energy. [It’s] a beautiful spot.
JC: Yeah, we’re really lucky to have art all the time there.
7LM: Are there any bands that your fans might be surprised to find you’re influenced by?
LN: Our fans would probably be surprised by most of the things we like. We don’t really listen to cool music anymore. We’re really into exploring super bizarre music, and not necessarily cool bizarre music.
JC: Yeah, I listen to music for different reasons. I got different things out of it. I listen to a lot of pop music. I love to do research and listen to really good songs. I really love Rihanna. Anti is such a great album, obviously.
LN: All the best albums last year, in my opinion, were the mainstream popular albums. What a crazy year for music! Beyonce, Solange, Frank Ocean, all that shit. So crazy, so good, so much more avant-garde than most punk music, I find.
JC: We’re really excited about that.
LN: We love mainstream music, and really not mainstream music.
JC: We’re constantly in pursuit of true expression, unfettered self-expression.
LN: Sometimes really weird or bad-sounding synth, but when you can tell it’s exactly the statement someone wanted to make…
JC: Yeah, we’re really into exploring that.
7LM: I always say that as long as it’s good, I’ll listen to it.
LN: Sometimes when it’s not good, we’ll listen to it.
JC: As long as it’s pure.
7LM: Do you have any favorite misheard versions of your lyrics? Do people come up to you and say things like, “I love your song ‘Hot Wives?'”
LN: All our wives are hot!
JC (laughing): Hot Wives!
LN: There’s probably some good ones.
JC: People have trouble hearing the words because most of our stuff is live. We don’t have a lot of content, so people don’t really have the opportunity to mishear anything. It’s just a mess anyway.
LN: We try to be as audible as possible.
JC: So they can hear all our punchlines.
7LM: Lucy, who do people say you look like?
LN (pointing at Josee): So she’s Ellen Page, obviously. I’ve gotten [Dinosaur Jr.’s] J. Mascis. I think it’s the hair and the glasses. People say that I look like my sister sometimes.
JC: Yeah, you really do, and your Mom.
7LM: I get Christopher Walken a lot.
LN: You look like this guy Anthony we know.
JC: Yeah! From the cafe!
LN: She looks like a kid from a horror movie, the Ring girl.
JC: When I used to have long hair. That used to really bug me, but I’ve embraced it now.
7LM: You should rock that. Easy Halloween costume.
JC: Yeah, start a goth group.
7LM: I’m not sure if you’ve done this, but if you go to Google and type in “Partner band,” one of the most common things to come up is this exercise…
JC: Yeah, the partner band!
7LM: So what’s your favorite weird exercise?
LN: We should start doing that. We should start exercising.
7LM: That’s a whole video right there.
JC: We’re going to start getting into dance soon. Lucy has a more natural talent for it. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for me
LN (nearly doing a spit take): Because I learned that dance last week? A friend one day taught me this line dance to “Chattahoochee.”
JC: I was pretty impressed.
LN: It’s pretty sick. I’ll teach it to you.
7LM: Where can people go to find your stuff? Your Bandcamp page, obviously…
JC: On my Dad’s YouTube channel, TheStones1965, you can find tons of bootleg vids of our live performances that I did not give him permission to post.
JC: It’s all partner_band across the board. You can find us there and send us messages.
LN: And failing that, you can catch us wherever we’re playing.
JC: We’re going to go shoot a video for the first track that we’re going to release off the LP. We’re going to film that in February and it should be out in March or April.
7LM: Will it involve elastic bands?
JC: No. Hell no.
LN: It’s called “Comfort Zone,” so we won’t be exercising.
7LM: One last thing about the new record, was it you two in the studio playing everything?
LN: No, that was our original dream. Our EP is all us.
JC: Yeah, so everything you’ve heard is all us.
LN: I played drums, she played guitar, and we both played bass. [On] our new record, we had our friend Simone TV play drums. She’s a big Toronto drummer in tons and tons of different cool bands, Kevin played bass, I played guitar, and Josee played fifty more guitars.
7LM (motioning toward Josee): I caught of video of you rockin’ a double neck.
LN: We might have the double neck tonight.
7LM: Double neck guitars, and if a band has Orange amps it’s going to be a rockin’ show.
JC: We don’t own amps. We’ve gotten this far not owning any amps.
7LM: Wow! Nicely done.
JC: Well, Lucy owns one. It was her graduation present.
LN: My Dad bought it for me for graduating. Thanks, Dad. Well, we’ve got a hundred dollar Peavey amp.
JC: It’s communally owned.
LN: Brandon has a lot of gear in his basement, and that’s where we practice. We really depend on our friends.
JC: And other bands. Shout out to all the bands who have ever helped us.
[Shout out to Mar Sellars for setting up this interview and getting me press credentials.]
Keep your mind open.
I was happy to learn just a couple weeks ago that Canadian pop-punk band Partner were playing at Schuba’s. I wanted to see Partner at Chicago’s Riot Fest last year, but my plans (and theirs) to attend fell through and I couldn’t make the festival.
I was still able to catch them on only the third show they’ve played in the U.S., however, and shame on you if you weren’t there.
First up were local post-punks So Pretty, who were like a combination of X-Ray Spex, Witch Mountain, and Bikini Kill. Guitarist / co-lead vocalist Rachel Manter unleashed vocal fury at our new President on “Progress,” lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist Ashley Holman screamed about wanting to be “punk rock royalty” on “Blueberry Blues,” and they got funky on “Limbo” (with bassist James Seminara on vocals).
Next up was another local band – Faux Furrs. They played a neat mix of shoegaze, surf, Americana, and dream pop. There were songs about everything from robots falling in love to building a colony on the moon. They had a clean, crisp sound that’s hard to pull off live.
Partner closed the show, and told me before their set that they hoped everyone would like it. Kevin, their bassist for the tour, said they were very happy about the number of people there. The people there were happy they showed up because Partner knocked their first Chicago show out of the park. Seriously. You will be upset that you missed this show when Partner become the Next Big Thing out of Canada.
Opening with “Born to Rock,” and proceeding to blast Schuba’s harder than a New Brunswick blizzard, Partner ripped through soon-to-be big hits like “Personal Weekend” and “Hot Knives.” “The ‘Ellen’ Page” is better live than you can imagine. Other fun moments were “Gross Secret,” “Everybody Knows You’re High,” and “Sex Thing.”
One of the best parts of Partner’s set was their reaction when it was finished. They were humbled at the outpouring of praise from everyone afterwards and elated that their first foray into the States had been full of great audiences.
“That wasn’t even the full album (which, hopefully, is coming this fall),” Josee Caron told me after their set. “We’ve got about fifty songs.”
Let’s hope for more stuff soon. They’ve whet our appetites and left us craving more. Again, you’re going to regret missing this show.
Keep your mind open.
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