These Estates are really, really, really bad at breaking up
MUSIC by Devin Pacholik
These Estates with Plywood and Witch Lips
Regina-based power-pop trio These Estates, featuring John Cameron (guitar/voice), Matt Carr (drums) and Mason Pitzel (bass/voice), was supposed to be done after their final show in September last year. Lies! These Estates plays a show at the Exchange on Aug. 20 — the day this paper comes out — with Plywood and Witch Lips. They’re promoting their 2015 live record How the West Was Won, which is physical proof These Estates is back from the dead.
Frontman John Cameron is a genuinely nice and caring guy; he’s also a sharp-witted and opinionated ass-hat. Cameron sometimes pisses off other music types, like the time he and bassist Mason Pitzel publically criticised Library Voices’ music video, “Drinking Games”. That mini-feud became the partial inspiration for Library Voices’ song “Regina, I Don’t Want To Fight.” How do I know this? Cameron told me over an e-mail conversation in anticipation of the Exchange show.
Cameron also talked about the city’s punk scene and criticized the fledgling Trifecta Music Festival, then accused himself of hypocrisy. He’s complex like that.
Here’s a condensed version of our conversation.
Your live record How the West Was Won is stunning. Are you aware? What’s your honest take on it?
The friends who’d loaned us gear deserve a lot of credit for how good it sounds, and even more deserving are the folks behind the recording and mixing. Like, we all figured we’d played pretty well but the actual quality of the recording totally blew me away.
Can you talk about These Estates’ rumoured vinyl record?
I gotta be a bit cagey here. The most concrete thing I’ll say about the status of a physical release of Triumph, Reign is that, with a little bit of assistance from an American friend of ours, Jon Solomon (who runs Comedy Minus One Records and also hosts an eponymous long-running radio show on WPRB in Princeton, New Jersey), we’re pretty darn close to putting the record out as a physical release.
Do you consider yourself a hipster?
I think some people just throw [the term] around to cast shade on someone who knows more about some cultural niche than they do, which is silly in no small part because it’s not like we don’t all have some cultural or identity-related thing that we’re all a little too invested in and a little too knowledgeable about. It’s also silly because having an interest in or a passion for stuff off the beaten path doesn’t necessarily lead to not liking stuff that’s on the beaten path.
You come from a line of Regina punk rockers. How has the scene changed?
Here’s a big thing that’s changed: it is as hard as it’s ever been to try and reach out to the all-ages crowd who are the backbone of the punk community. Show promotion has almost exclusively gone digital. Even Trifecta [had] no visible presence up in the northwest. You have to know somebody or know somebody who knows somebody in order to even know [something is] happening. That’s fucked up.
Can you follow up on your comments about Trifecta?
There’s sort of nothing tying any of the acts together. They don’t need to care about the dumb garbage I like! But saying you’re “representing the alternative culture” in the city with like four bands you mostly know because you’re friends with them isn’t as constructive for scene building as it maybe could be.1
What’s next for These Estates?
We’re all going to take a little time to get the recordings with all our other bands — like Chain Restuarant, The Bolans and Oiseaux — out into the world, then who knows. At this point we’re kind of loaded for bear. We’ll probably finish up the two new songs we’ve started working on since June and then figure out a long-distance way to tease out another release of some kind. I mean, we’ve always just sort of done things the way we wanted to, so why would this hiatus be any different?
1. Cameron later messaged me regretting his Trifecta comments, writing: “I basically woke up this morning and the first thought in my brain was, ‘Well, what have you done for alternative [scene-building]?’ Good point, brain.”