By Nicholas Jason Lopez
The Actual Goners formed after a hedonistic ramble in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Tristan Armstrong, who lived in Toronto, had been in town to visit longtime friend Duncan Symonds, who attended university in Louisiana at the time. Near the end of that night, Armstrong suggested they get matching bumblebee tattoos to commemorate their years of friendship. Symonds held off, but suggested instead when his degree was complete, he’d move to Toronto and they’d start a musical project together.
Their latest single, “Temptation,” derives influence from current indie-pop heavyweights while it also pays homage to Canadian roots-rock musicians.
Music Bugle – Who would you consider some of your musical influences?
Duncan Symonds – Music has different things to offer and part of the love is finding inspiration all over. Lucinda Williams and Jason Isbell have such great lyrics. Wilco and War on Drugs have such a cool sonic aesthetic and ooze vibe. Kevin Breit is a local/not so local musician who just emotes and brings out the mood so amazingly.
Music Bugle – What’s the backstory behind ‘Temptation’?
Duncan Symonds – The idea for “Temptation” came to me a few summers ago. A friend and I were out walking and discussing some of the challenges life throws your way. I had just gotten out of a long distance relationship for about a year. The first half of which was really great, but the physical distance created some struggle after a while. My friend had been sober for a long time, but that choice required attention in her day to day. So…we had been talking about the idea of temptation in people’s lives, and all the forms it can take on and I thought, “song idea!” The concept is so universal.
Music Bugle – What kind of feelings would you say are conveyed through your music? What kind of emotional journey do you like to take your listeners on?
Tristan Armstrong – We’ve been having this conversation on and off for a while. It depends on the song really. Some are about sharing great experiences with people, others are more introspective. We try to create room for the listener to insert some of their own life into the song. Those are the songs I’ve always felt were most significant in my own life.
Music Bugle – What would you call your biggest frustration with today’s music industry?
Tristan Armstrong – It can be a bit daunting as a professional musician today, in the sense that there are many paths to pursue in terms of getting your music out there. It can be unclear at times as to where are the more effective places to focus your energy. That being said, it seems there are more options than ever before to promote yourself as an independent musician.
Music Bugle – What is your most meaningful song or set of lyrics that you always find yourself going back to?
Tristan Armstrong – “Outfit” by Jason Isbell is a song holds a special place. We saw him on back in 2011 at a smaller club called the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver. We had a chance to BS with him for a bit outside after the show, really nice dude. Last year, we saw him again and this time, it was at Massey Hall. It’s been cool to follow his career and really see it take off.
Music Bugle – What is your main source of motivation?
Tristan Armstrong – In talking to other musicians, it seems to be a common sentiment that….making music, it’s just what you do.
Music Bugle – What are some of your future plans in the long run?
Duncan Symonds – We’ve been writing and stockpiling recordings, so there is a bunch of music we are chomping at the bit to release. We are always excited to get into the studio and start bringing ideas to life. The next big goal is to get touring and playing shows everywhere we can!
Music Bugle – What is your biggest memory as a band?
Duncan Symonds – Late last year, we drove from Toronto to Nashville, TN to record with Steve Dawson at The Henhouse Studio. Working with Steve was so great. So was driving 45 minutes into the Kentucky forest looking for the Woodford Reserve Distillery. That place is haunted.
Music Bugle – What’s something you feel people should know about the band?
Tristan Armstrong – We put a lot of effort and thought into our recordings, but being onstage as a band is a whole other experience. We really encourage people to come check out the live show.
Music Bugle – What was your favorite show ever played?
Tristan Armstrong – With each show that we play, the band keeps getting tighter, and we also have developed the confidence to try to push things into new and less familiar territory. Our recent show at The Dakota in Toronto was definitely a highlight. We had a great crowd and the energy in the room and onstage made for a truly joyous experience. It’s one of my favourite venues in the city. See you there this fall for our ‘Curbside Finds’ EP release!