Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.
If Dear Rouge’s method to writing Phases could be summed up in a simple idiom, it would be this: “grit and gloss.” This idiom sums up the equilibrium of glossy music and gritty lyrics that fills the latest Dear Rouge album. The album, which was recorded in multiple studios around North America, helped the band to create freely and aided in making a record that is raw and honest, while also being instantly accessible. Recording in unfamiliar environments forced the band to hone in on their sound and to refine their process.
Dear Rouge, which consists primarily of Drew and Danielle McTaggart, has an impressive roster of awards, despite a relatively short career: a B.C.–based radio award, numerous songwriting prizes, charting singles, and a 2016 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Not bad for a girl from Red Deer, a small town in Alberta, Canada, and her husband.
Yet, while the McTaggart’s rode high from the success of their musical careers which they were now devoted to full time, Drew’s cousin passed away (He is memorialized on the track “Stolen Days”); and other friends faced severe privations. In the fashion of true artists these experiences, these contrasts between their own highs and the lows of their loves ones, bled over to their creative sides.
Dear Rouge realized that change was inevitable. Life was and is a constant state of flux: Equal parts hopeful and harrowing. That realization is at the crux of what became Phases. Fashioned through sessions with judiciously selected collaborators including Steve Bays, producer Ryan Worsley, Tawgs Salter and Mike Wise, Canadian indie visionary Dan Mangan and pop savant Sterling Fox. Phases furthers the bands’ evolution and, with a title like Phases, the flux of life is at the heart of everything.
The results are self-evident. Phases marks a new direction in Dear Rouge’s development. It’s a musical diary that is bluntly honest and unabashedly personal.
But, none of that matters if the music isn’t any good. That's not the case here. Phases is an awesome listen, from beginning to end.
They say that being in a band is like being married. So, what's it like being married to a person and also being in a band together? That's question that I was I dying to know when I sat down with Danielle McTaggart of Vancouver, B.C.'s Dear Rouge.
The Interview, with Danielle McTaggart
Justin W Price: How and when did Dear Rouge form? What's the current formation of the group?
Danielle McTaggart: We formed as a band about 5 years ago now. It started very organically when Drew and myself decided to make a project simply for the passion of music. With no destination or plan… just for fun. We had our first EP finished and just sitting there for a year. Got married and basically moved on. Thought that was the end of the story when one day we heard about this radio contest in Vancouver, Canada called The Peak Performance Project. Decided it might be worth it to enter our EP. Long story short we ended up winning the contest and that gave us a new found confidence to go after music as a career option again. We had both been a part of other projects and had honestly thought we were just going to be in music for a strong hobby. Life is cool how it leads you to new opportunities you thought you would never have. We feel really blessed to be where we are today… making music and creating every day.
Drew and I are a duo but we always play with a full band. Our sound is Alternative pop. We love guitar and bass lines.. but we can’t help ourselves with old analog synths.. and strong hooky melody lines.
JP: That leads into my next question. Who are what are your biggest influences?
DM: We are very influenced by old classics.. such as David Bowie or Blondie. But we have a lot of love for strong female fronted bands. Yeah Yeah yeahs, St. Vincent, Metric, The Kills. Bands like that.
JP: Where did the name Dear Rouge come from?
DM: We had thought of hundreds of different names. Made lists actually. But seemed to only come across names that had already existed in some form. We thought.. it would be amazing to make up a name.. so when you look up our band, all you find is us. So we decided on Dear Rouge. It plays off my old home town, Red Deer, Alberta. Basically standing for the fact that you shouldn’t forget where you came from. That's who you are, and why you're where you are today. And trust me...being from a small town, you gotta own it. Many embracing moments that you thought some how were cool. ha. Happy to have moved on, but always grateful for my history.
JP: What is your favorite song to play live? Conversely, are there any songs that you never play live?
DM: Favourite song to play is probably the song that got us out there first. “ I Heard I Had”. It just has a nostalgia to me. The fact that it got us attention always made me so excited. And people can sing a long really easy. I love that
Song we don’t get to play really is a song off our old EP called “Diamonds”. It is a feel good track about getting to live your dreams. We don’t play it cause it’s really old...but I think some of our first fans would be stoked to hear it live again. Maybe we will bring it back some day.
JP: What are your five desert island movie?
DM: Lord of the Rings (All three), Brave Heart, and Money Ball (Drews Favourite movie)
Catch Dear Rouge in a city new you!
- Dear Rouge
The official website for Dear Rouge. Check out the latest news, videos, tour dates and more.
DEAR ROUGE'S TOUR KICKS OFF ON MAY 31ST AT THE ANALOG CAFE IN PORTLAND, OREGON.
The interview, continued
JP: Where do you see Dear Rouge over the next decade?
DM: Playing arenas shows all over the world. And never forgetting the people that got you there. OH and winning a Grammy… gotta dream big you know;)
JP: Is there any lyrical theme that you find yourself returning to?
DM: We seem to draw from personal experiences the most. I think that's probably really normal. Poetry of life. Love, loss, joy, pain.. many different feelings. I guess the most would be loss though. I think that's easier to lament about.
JP: Give my readers a glimpse into your songwriting process.
DM: We often right (sic) together in the same room. But it’s not glamorous let me tell you... We are usually arguing over the parts we want most. Then we will take the first idea and move to separate spots to work out what we think comes next. I’m on lyrics most times and Drew will share melody ideas and hooks on music. But we each play a roll (sic) in both. It’s very 50/50 often. It’s a ton of fun. But we will include people we love in to the mix. I think more voices the better. Unless it distracts you from doing you, cause that's what the world needs to hear.
JP: What do you like to do in your free time when you're not on the road or performing?
DM: We love outdoors. It gets the creative juices flowing. We camp, hike, kayak. And we love family hangs. Also big in to painting and fashion. I have a little room for all my creating and I love just being there to make shit happen.
JP: What's your favorite thing about performing?
DM: I LOVE performing. It’s my favourite part of the whole deal, just putting our music out there in a live setting. I love the energy you feel when a bunch of souls come together. There's nothing like connecting with other humans in a creative space. It’s what we were created to do.. celebrate and be together. Its an amazing feeling.
JP: Are there any particular shows or festivals that strike you as a favorite or as the most memorable?
DM: We had one in Canada called Way Home. This was back in our first years as a band. It was the first time I felt legit. The crowd was amazing and we felt the love from them. Like finally we had a relationship with the audience. It was beautiful.. and I will never forget it.
JP: How often does Dear Rouge perform?
DM: We play a lot in chunks. Tour life is amazing...and with in the time frame we perform almost every night. We have a tour coming up this fall through out Canada and the States. Can’t wait for that:)
"Boys and Blondes" by Dear Rouge
JP: Do you have any advice to aspiring songwriters and musicians out there?
DM: Stay true to who you are. It’s what the world needs.. it needs you being authentically you. I know that's hard to do at times.. and we have sold doubt… but that's ok. Shake it off and keep on the path. Don’t let a bad day bring you down.
JP: How do you juggle being in a band with being a married couple within a band?
DM: Non stop re- evaluation. It takes a lot to have balance in life. Making constant positive decisions that counts. Little steps to good things. But it’s not easy at times. Just take it day by day.
JP: What is your favorite food?
DM: Pizzaaaaaa…. hands down.
JP: Does living in and being from Vancouver, BC effect your music or lyrical themes?
DM: We don’t feel like it effects us much. We lived in New York for the year in 2017.. and that changed us a lot. Vancouver is beautiful though and I think peace and nature are the most creative forces. To be cool with you and to breath in fresh air helps a lot to make music authentic to you.
JP: What is your dream tour lineup for Dear Rouge?
DM: Yeah yeah yeahs, Spoon, Strokes, St. Vincent, Killers. Oh man.. there's so many bands we would love to tour with.
JP: Which person, living or dead, would you have dinner with?
DM: Robert Plant… because he is a living legend.. and would have some amazing stories.
JP: There's a ton of bands out there. Why should people invest their time and money in Dear Rouge?
DM: I think we offer who we are. We are trying to do our best at being us. And if our colour and instincts are something you like.. you should listen to our music cause we would connect. And that's what we all want, authentic connection. So listen.. and let us know what you think. We hope it meets you in your place or phase of life. And we hope you really feel the love and authenticity.
JP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
DM: Thanks for reading. Come hang out some time soon.:)
Dear Rouge "Tongues"
© 2018 Justin W Price