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A Splendid Talk with... Animatist | First Contact

Animatist (L-R): Brent O'Toole, Ian Hinds, Danielle Fernandes, Steven Cook

Artist: Animatist

Location: Brampton-Toronto, ON, Canada

Peanut Gallery: Sound


Greetings Animatist, my good human_friends! Who is Animatist… what is an Animatist anyway? Where does this name come out of?

Animatist is a name I decided upon up in high school after googling “cool words” or some garbage like that. "Animatism" refers to the belief of inanimate objects having some form of consciousness. Conceptually it doesn’t have much to do with the band now, but we’ve never bothered changing it. One of those “It’s too late now” situations.

The band is Steve Cook (bass), Danielle Fernandes (saxophone), Ian Hinds (drums) and myself (Brent O’Toole). It’s funny to see all the ways people misspell or mispronounce our name. So we sometimes go under the monikers “Anal Mist” or “Animal Tits”.

I was introduced to the band during its current instrumental 4-piece incarnation by Danielle, as we shared some music courses at University of Guelph in the mid-2010s. The band has quite a unique history, from my understanding. How did Animatist first form and what kind of music did the band pursue when it started off?

That early music had vocals and was based on traditional psych rock, but the band has always been an attempt at my ideal band at the time. I had met Ian at my high school and his sense of rhythm and creative playing style were years beyond his age. I poached him from whatever bands he was in and used him to flesh out the musical ideas ruminating in my teenage head.

Seems selfish now but that kickstarted a decade long musical friendship that’s honestly the most fruitful I’ve ever been involved in.

Danielle and her mean flavourful saxophone skills came in later to make the band a quartet. How did she enter the fold, and how has she been essential in making Animatist’s present aura?

I met Danielle while at the University of Guelph. I went out on a whim and invited her for a jam session, not having heard her play before. The fit was nice because it felt natural. Having a third member gave Ian and I the flexibility and drive to pull the band back together into gigging form. Even though I never considered having such a strong saxophone presence, I couldn’t imagine it any other way now.

Danielle actually joined before our bassist Steve. He saw the three of us playing an early show and asked us how permanent our bassist was. After learning we hired him just for the one gig Steve said without hesitating: “I’m your new bassist”.

The riveting sound that Animatist emits could be described as a sonic eclectic whirlpool of musical genres and textures, molding together and ripping each other apart. How do you guys describe your music? What would you tell someone pre-exposed… to prepare them before you freak their minds out!?!?

I’d rather not tell them anything at all but of course that’s a pipedream. We mostly describe ourselves as some amalgamation of post-rock, math-rock, prog, and jazz. Like any genre description it helps to give a vague idea but you don’t know what you’re in for until you hear it.

How is music grown between you all? What is the creative process?

I like the use of the word grown, but our process is more akin to building. One of us comes up with a concept, groove, or riff and we construct a song around that. Though the initial ideas are developed in solitude we often construct the song in a group setting. It helps having the flexibility to hear a section fully imagined by the band as you’re writing.

You self-released your full-length debut album, Face Club, in 2017, and I still can’t get enough of it, having played through the album at least twice on my radio show, The Sentinel’s Marvellous Kaleidoscope. How was the album received? Were you satisfied with it?

It felt nice to finally release a full album as I’ve been dreaming of it with this project since 2010. The reception has been wonderful. Having a digital release allowed us to reach people online who couldn’t or just weren’t coming out to our shows.

I was certainly satisfied when we put it out but our current shows don’t feature a single track from Face Club. Now that it’s had time to sit in existence, that same anxious excitement I felt towards Face Club is all dedicated to our next release.

With the creation of such insane wicked awesome intensity, how do you keep yourselves sane individually and as a group? What do you do to relax and decompress?

The band has a lot of fun playing video games together, specifically wrestling video games from the N64 era. Those games are so beautifully stupid. Half of us smoke weed. We love the same bands and hate the same bands together. We also joke a lot as a band. Other than that I don’t think you’ll find many of us to be relaxed.

Animatist @ The Common, Guelph - Photos by Nicholas Cooper / Scope Overseer Photogenics

A recent announcement as of late has been that you have joined the Brampton-based independent DIY record label and recording/distribution service Glue Gun Records, co-operated by Jesse Alarcon and yourself, Brent! How excited are you to be with Glue Gun? What benefits can you see from this music business relationship?

Jesse is such an insanely hard worker and I feel honoured to be involved in something with him. He puts a huge amount of effort into supporting the community, and distributing the works of all the local artists and musicians... When I imagine our next album, I always picture a big fat Glue Gun Records sticker right on the front. It’s a vehicle for us to connect with other musicians and feel like part of a larger family. The music community as a whole is such a huge and beautiful creature. Glue Gun is my identity within and connection to that community.

How did you first hear and come to join Splendid Industries? What promise do you potentially see in this new music community?

It was Toys that originally contacted me through Splendid Industries near the release of Face Club. We were happy just to have another avenue to connect with artists and audiences. Now it looks like Toys is really taking it to the next level with engagement and artist connectivity. I’m not sure how it will all come together, but Danielle and I have already made some nice connections musically from the group.

What can we expect from the sovereign nation / cult of Animatist this coming year?

We’re working on more new material. We’ve got a few potent song ingredients that aren’t quite a finished soup yet. Most of us are living in Toronto now which is a nice step for the group. You’re gonna see a lot more work, more creative avenues, more shows. More of the same but… different… better.


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