By Levi Manchak
EDMONTON — Even the title of their first LP Heavy Metal Sunshine shines a spotlight bright enough to leave a sunburn on Diamond Mind’s ability to craft clever irreverence into a graceful statement. The music of Heavy Metal Sunshine takes a similar path, navigating baroque-pop sensibilities with a compass and map aiming toward classic indie rock. When BeatRoute asked primary songwriter Liam Trimble about the group and their new LP, he enlisted his narrative skills transforming our questions into this charming, quixotic interview.
BeatRoute: How was Diamond Mind formed?
Liam Trimble: We were formed about one billion years ago in the Earth’s mantle, as carbon-bearing minerals were subjected to unthinkable pressure and heat forming a cubic crystal lattice that would, many, many years later, be excavated from a shitty Edmonton bungalow basement jam space.
BR: How did Heavy Metal Sunshine come to be?
LT: After a run of fun-sized EPs, we decided to append a couple of extra songs to the end of the next one and call it a long player. The previous releases were quick and easy cassettes that just barely let us stretch our musical legs. With Heavy Metal Sunshine we went into a studio proper (Edmontone, under the supervision of Jesse Northey) and spent a much, much longer time layering and tamping down sounds.
BR: Are the songs on Heavy Metal Sunshine written as a band or are you the main songwriter?
LT: In terms of songwriting, let’s just say that the majority of the time I, Liam, am bringing in the slab of angel food and then we all have a bit of fun with the icing guns. And the result is an off-putting, off-brand Minions cake.
BR: I recall you mentioning that you’d started playing guitar in your teenage years, had you played other instruments or sung earlier? Did you take lessons?
LT: I still have the synthesizer my sister and I received for Christmas when I was maybe eight years old but it wasn’t until the summer of Edgefest, ‘90s Alt, and blue camo bucket hats that the spark really took and the guitar became my life. It would be about another decade before I opened my mouth to sing.
Concerning the guitar, I only had the privilege of going to lessons twice and they were with a man who was as equally in love with Steve Ray Vaughan as I was so we were quite a match before the plug was pulled.
BR: There’s a distinct refinement to the songs on Heavy Metal Sunshine. Where do you cultivate your inspiration from? Do you noodle around to find riffs, or do you approach writing with a more defined idea?
LT: Practically every single one of my songs – or at least the ones I like best – were written without an instrument in sight. They’re formed in the shower, at the office, walking around eavesdropping. A phrase or an image or the squeaky break of a rusty Tercel will leap out at me as unimpeachably mellifluous and I’ll have the nucleus of a song then and there.
BR: Besides the core members of Diamond Mind (Liam, Aidan, Matthew) are there any guest musicians appearing on Heavy Metal Sunshine?
LT: In addition to the core members, the album features some local Edmonton flavour. Cantoo’s Aaron Parker, Mitchmatic, then-member Ian’s brother Andrew and our very own Aidan made up the Last Minute Brass Ensemble (“Tijuana give that another go or should we auto-tune it?”) heard on the title track. Also, in addition to engineering and arranging, Jesse Northey stepped up to play synthesizer here and there. Finally, and most importantly, we coerced our best pal Samantha Savage Smith into singing with me on the sad, millennial duet “Webster’s,” making for what is probably my favourite moment on the album.
BR: Some of the lyrics on Heavy Metal Sunshine are playfully literate. Are you a big reader? Have books or poetry found their way into the thematic content on the album?
LT: I initially want to answer “no” but scanning back through the songs I realize there are a few literary influences tucked here and there. American lit’s favorite gasbag Jonathan Franzen taught me the term “anhedonia,” which, in addition to fuelling album track “The Janks,” provided me with a catch-all excuse for all my maladies on the order of fibromyalgia. Album track “Hades Proper” is a pretty ham-fisted dilution of the myth of Persephone. Finally – and this is my favourite – the album contains a Lord of the Rings reference so blatant you’ll miss it your first few times through. I haven’t decided whether I’m embarrassed about that yet.
BR: How long did Heavy Metal Sunshine take to finish?
LT: One year and one month.
BR: How did you connect with Wyatt Records for the release?
LT: Our relationship with Wyatt Records grew right out of our friendship with Samantha Savage Smith. She’s been our biggest supporter, and an incredible compass since the beginning and when Wyatt was conceived I feel like it was a pretty natural step to stumble into their beckoning arms.
BR:Has living as an artist in Edmonton had any effect on the songs or creation of Heavy Metal Sunshine?
LT: Edmonton is in absolutely every crevice and pore of this album. In spite of the title, recording sessions would start in the pitch black 6 p.m. of an Edmonton winter evening and I feel like that’s tangible in the creaks of our voices and our stiff little digits trying to hammer out the songs. Less tangibly (far less tangibly), these songs and the images they fire in my brain as the songwriter – they all represent a row of sad little snow globes lined up on a windowsill. Each one is a moment of my life in this city, trapped in a little bubble, moments in our dim bars, weird little parks, on our pockmarked streets.
BR: Any general thoughts on the Edmonton music scene?
LT: I’ve spent the past 20 minutes trying to patch together a Miller analogy describing how Edmonton produces the champagne of weirdo bullshit music but it sucked. Edmonton is beautiful and warped and will always be my home.
BR: What’s next for Diamond Mind?
LT: Two words: the moon.
Diamond Minds’ Heavy Metal Sunshine is out via Wyatt Records on October 7th. They’ll play Broken City in Calgary on October 20th and an Edmonton gig (venue TBD) Nov. 11.AB, Alberta, Broken City, Diamond Mind, Heavy Metal Sunshine