By Justin Penney
VANCOUVER — Peter Sagar is at home in Montreal on a Tuesday afternoon, the Edmonton transplant is basking in the childhood memories stirred up by a free outdoor concert he saw the night before. Sagar was among thousands of rain-soaked fans getting a master class in butter churning and barn-raising from the undisputed prince of polka parodies, and he loved it. “Seeing Amish Paradise performed live was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life!”
Sagar is no stranger to music’s royal court, having spent a few years playing guitar for indie rock jester Mac DeMarco. Sagar released two albums and a couple of singles under the Homeshake moniker before quitting DeMarco’s New York-based band last year to pursue the project full-time in Montreal.
“It’s a great city because it’s so cheap. As long as you can get familiar with the language you can find a job that suits your lifestyle… otherwise people move here and end up washing dishes or working for American Apparel and those are both equally degrading.”
Sagar acknowledges his good fortune and sounds very content living in Montreal with his partner Salina Ladha, a visual artist whose work can be found adorning every Homeshake release, past and future. “No one else will ever do Homeshake cover art,” he confirms emphatically.
While the cover artist will always be consistent, Sagar is actively making changes to the way Homeshake sounds. While 2013’s The Homeshake Tape and last year’s In The Shower saw Sagar revisiting familiar sounds by featuring his familiar chiming, jazzy guitar style, Homeshake’s latest release shows a clear shift toward synthesizers and electronics and that isn’t sitting well with everybody.
“Yeah, I read some of the comments,” Sagar admits, referring to the video for “Give it to Me,” the first single from Homeshake’s upcoming album Midnight Snack. “They’re like ‘oh he should go back to playing guitar’… they’re crazy! Synths are awesome!”
The track features a sample of a gently-strummed guitar, and rides a slow groove reminiscent of ‘90s R&B slow jams. Sagar’s pitch-shifted vocals float hazily through the mix, giving the sensation of being serenaded inside a wind-up music box while gulping cough syrup. Sagar’s concern about negative online comments should be short-lived, because his music is just dripping with positive vibes that are impossible to ignore.
Thankfully for us, those positive vibes are coming to us live and in person. Homeshake embarks on a tour across Canada and the U.S. this month, criss-crossing the border a few times to keep the driving manageable and to try and avoid playing shows to empty rooms in small towns. As such, they will be skipping Thunder Bay, but Sagar sends his regards to Sheila at the Apollo. “She cooks a mean casserole, and her cats are lovely, but I’ve played too many empty shows there,” he recalls with a tone that is equally wistful and bitter.
The Homeshake tour van rolls up to the Biltmore Cabaret on August 21st, and Sagar is excited to be returning to Vancouver. Having played here many times in different bands, this will be his first time as a front man. While some artists embrace stepping out from the side stage and into the spotlight, Sagar sounds pretty relaxed about it, and we’re probably not about to witness the revelation of an outrageous stage persona.
“A while ago I got really self-conscious about what I would say on stage between songs so I just sort of stopped talking. I don’t really look up that much. Hopefully people come to the show and move around a bit. Or not, they can stand still too.”
But they probably won’t. Homeshake’s woozy R&B is bound to move some feet and raise the temperature of the Biltmore on an already hot summer night.
Homeshake performs at the Biltmore Cabaret on August 21.BC, Biltmore Cabaret, British Columbia, Homeshake, Peter Sagar