Catching Up With Bishop Morocco's James Sayce

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Toronto natives James Sayce and Jake Fairley have been Bishop Morocco since they recorded their self-titled debut in 2008. Though influenced by the likes of Joy Division and The Cure, the duo have created their own sound in an unlikely fashion. It involved recording the first album in an apartment in the Netherlands, and the second EP in a guest bedroom in Toronto. Though their recording means might be humble, it’s not always easy, considering they live on different continents. The effort of traveling back and forth over the Atlantic to make it happen is a reflection of Bishop Morocco’s ambition.

The band’s efforts, which recently signed with Arts & Crafts and released the six-track EP Old Boys, are a telling representation of things to come. After a thorough discussion about the weather in our different locations, Sayce shared his plans for the future.

Paste: You and Jake are both from Toronto, but started making your music in the Netherlands. Did you two just happen to meet over there?
Sayce: No, what happened was I was in school and started doing an exchange program over there. Jake had been living in Berlin since high school, pretty much. We were still friends, had been since high school, and he wanted a change of pace. I was in Groningen, so we decided to form this band while we happened to both be in Europe at the same time. So he took off to Groningen, met me there, and we built a studio into an apartment and just started recording.

Paste: Did you play music together in high school or were you just friends?
Sayce: We were in bands together in high school, but Jake moved to Berlin because he got more into electronic music. At the time, nowhere in North America really had much of that scene, so he had to go to Europe. It’s still sort of the same way.

Paste: So when you started making music together as Bishop Morocco, did you both leave your other side projects and just focus on that?
Sayce: I was in a band called Tangiers and another called the Deadly Snakes. Those two bands came to close, so I started making music with Jake. But Jake still makes a lot of electronic music under the name Fairmont.

Paste: You recorded your first album in an apartment, and the newest EP Old Boys in a guest bedroom. Were you guys trying to avoid studio expenses or did you just have everything you needed?
Sayce: Well, we have a lot of gear, basically enough to build a studio wherever we want. You have a mixing board and a computer and a lot of other equipment that is pretty easy to carry around. Jake goes back and forth across the Atlantic. He’ll go back to Berlin or wherever he’s spending his time, and then he’ll come back to Toronto pretty easily. This time around, for the recording we’re doing now, we’re going to be using live drums. In the past we were just using sample drums. So we’re going to be splitting up our time between a more conventional studio and the studio that we will probably build into an apartment somewhere.

Paste: You have two new band members, Ian Worang and Jon McCann, right?
Sayce: That’s right. Jon will be playing live drums and Ian will be playing a lot more guitar stuff on the LP that we will release later this year.

Paste: Any idea when that will come out?
Sayce: We have to finish recording first. I could guess, but I think it’s going to come out sometime in the winter.

Paste: You just recently performed at SXSW. What was the response like to your new material?
Sayce: Austin was really fun. The best part was just being there with friends. All of a sudden it’s like summertime in Texas when it isn’t where we’re from. You’re walking around in shorts and tee shirts and living off of tacos and beer. That was a welcomed change after a long winter. We had a really good time. Played a couple of good shows and just kinda bro-ed down. We had a male bonding experience.

Paste: Are you planning to do a U.S. tour before the release of your LP?
Sayce: We’ll probably go down to New York. A lot of time you can do four or five big shows in New York, something similar to what you’d do at SXSW but just in New York, and then you play Montreal and Boston on the way down—just make it sort of a week-long jaunt. We’ll try out some of the new material; see what the reactions are before going back in the studio and mixing. We’ll see if there are any last-minute changes we want to make. We’re planning right now to probably do that in August.