One-on-One with Doug Hoyer

Doug Hoyer at the Silver Dollar, May 15, 2014
Doug Hoyer at the Silver Dollar, May 15, 2014

by Michael Thomas

Doug Hoyer has no time to rest.

“For the next bit I’m obviously going to work on music. I’ve got a bunch of tunes that I’m sitting on that are like half-done, quite a few of them,” he says. “I want to put out an EP ASAP, before the end of the summer.  Then I want to put out an album ideally by the end of this year.”

And in addition to the music, he’s working on a play. “DugX: The Modern Human, and Why, and it’s just going to be an exploration into that we’ve evolved past homo sapiens and we’ve become homo Internetus, and we’re a totally new species. We now have six digits, one of which is a smartphone, built right into the hand. So it’s just going to be talking about the hivemind Internet and all that kind of stuff.”

So basically, he’s got a lot going on, and he probably always will. And Edmonton’s music scene is all the richer because of it—though he’d never say that about himself.

Hoyer was born in Prince George, British Columbia (as was his sister, a few years later) and settled in Edmonton when he was about six year old. His musical awakening would come a mere few years later, when his grandmother bought him an acoustic guitar.

“It wasn’t like ‘Oh, I want to play guitar so bad,'” Hoyer says. “There was this sort of indifference—and if only they knew they’d be fueling me with this lifelong desire and passion.” His first musical foray was that acoustic guitar before he switched to bass, the instrument he feels most comfortable on.

After his high school band broke up, Hoyer decided to pursue a solo music project, and brought on Jesse Ørjasæter on drums. He drew big inspiration from Jonathan Richman’s performance style, which Hoyer described “bring[ing] everything to them in a way.”

“Performing  sometimes without microphones, going out into the audience. That was a big thing when I first started that I liked doing.” Hoyer’s first EP came out in 2007 and even managed to feature Toronto’s Henri Fabergé on two tracks, playing trumpet. And at the EP release show, Hoyer would meet Christian Hansen, from whom Hoyer nows plays bass for in Alberta.

The next EP, Song From the Grand Marquee,  came out in 2008, and Hoyer said he began to take the arrangements more seriously. “I still actually really like those songs, I don’t know if the arrangements are amazing or anything—they’re not amazing—they’re good, but it very much captured what I was trying to go for at the time.” He would later work with Calvin McElroy (now known as Kuhrye-oo and a former member of Gobble Gobble) to put out Busy, Busy, Busy before his sound took a dramatic turn.

That turn would first be reflected in Walks with the Tender and Growing Night in 2011. What made this music so different?

“For those it was straight-up because I didn’t know how I’d perform them,” he says. “I wanted to make the kind of album that I want to listen to. That’s what I was going for. I didn’t want it to sound like a rock band. I wanted it to sound full and lush. At the time I didn’t even like the sound of a drum kit recorded unless I was listening to the Constantines. I liked drum machines or programmed drums, breakbeats.”

Then in 2013 he released the insanely catchy To Be a River. Around that point, he gradually began to assemble his current backing band, which includes Tasy Hudson (Consilience), Matt Gooding (Ghost Cousin), Jesse Northey (Jesse and the Dandelions), and occasionally Ashanti Marshall and Mitchmatic.

When he’s not playing in Alberta, though, he goes solo and plays along with backing tracks and a projection screen that is part TED parody and part video-synching machine. The idea initially came to him when he played at Denim Fest, an Edmonton musical festival put on by Old Ugly Co.

“All week, I had been practicing with this synthesizer that I hooked up to guitar pedals. I borrowed a projector from a friend and I projected an episode of Goosebumps with subtitles on,” he says. “So I practiced, I had all these different motifs and themes, and I did a live score, very John Carpenter kind of stuff, to this Goosebumps episode.”

His show at a now-closed venue called Elevation Room allowed him to experiment further, and he played a show that synched with a bunch of edited video clips. Then he discovered that PowerPoint presentations could include video, and his DugX show was born. Though it’s entertaining, Hoyer doesn’t want it to define him.

“I don’t want it to be a permanent shtick, I’m probably going to retire it soon,” he says.

As a backing member of other bands and the host of an Edmonton radio show, Hoyer has no problems talking about other excellent Edmonton acts.

Diamond Mind is the big one for sure. Diamond Mind is killing it,” he says. “In my opinion they’re the best band in Edmonton right now. The other band is Jom Comyn. That record is super dense, there’s a lot to chew on. It’s a lot of indie-rock guitar stuff but he balances it with these gorgeous songs. Like “Wish Upon a Storm” is one of the best songs out there. In terms of existential, reflective songs, beautiful arrangement, good stuff.”

Other honourable mentions go to Caity Fisher, Marlaena Moore and Royal Tusk.

With a play and recorded music coming down the pipeline, Hoyer will be busy, but first he wants to bridge two completely different musical ideas.

“I want to do these riffy, fun rocks songs that are Shotgun Jimmie-y, Joel Plaskett-y, riffy, fun songs. The other part of me, I totally want to write these funkier—I call it soft disco, where it’s not super cheesy but it’s just tight, mid-tempo, danceable grooves,” he says. “I want to do two different things and they’re completely opposite.”

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