Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Talleen

Photo credit – Laurine Haddock. Courtesy of Nice Marmot PR.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

After universal praise for their 2018 debut EP ‘The Black Sea,’ Montreal-based quintet began work on a follow-up EP and set plans to record and play live shows, seemingly unaware of one unanticipated interruption – the emergence of a worldwide pandemic.

With all plans on hold for the time being, they sought to keep their momentum afloat and with an opportunity to both commentate on capitalism and show off their post-punk prowess, they released the video-single “Economics,” directed by Alex Ortiz (We Are Wolves) and serves as a sonic callback to 70’s-era PIL or Killing Joke.

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the dark wave collective – comprised of singer Alex Petersen, bassist Mike Rodgers, drummer Alex Crow and guitarists Alex Speechless and Alex Brianson – about “Economics” and more.

Music Bugle – What inspired your band name?

Alex Petersen – Talleen was originally and temporarily called “Guns.” Unimaginative, but at the time, we figured we’d eventually grow into something a bit more organic. At some point, I became obsessed with Estonia for some reason. I suggested “Tallinn” like the city and Speechless gave it a kind of twist and that was that – Talleen.

Alex Speechless – The name was inspired by the city of Tallinn. Petersen had a bit of a fascination of the place at the time and we decided to spell it phonetically because it sounds good and looked right, visually.

Music Bugle – What was your goal for “Economics”?

Alex Petersen – Something linear… streaming…

Alex Speechless – “Economics” was the first song we wrote after ‘The Black Sea.’ We wanted to go into a different direction, have a looser approach to our music and tackle different subjects compared to the more military/war-centered concept of the first album.

Mike Rodgers – Ultimately, I’m aiming for a reduction in my student loans.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?

Alex Petersen – The tragedy.

Alex Speechless – It’s urgency and the fact that it’s not rigid. We allow ourselves to experiment a bit. It’s also “fun” to be able to touch on your darker side.

Alex Brianson – I can dress in black.

Mike Rodgers – Not feeling constrained by any narrow sub-genre of punk or rock. Freedom to try different things, which can lead to some suprising discoveries. We have some cool new tunes we’re looking forward to recording soon.

Music Bugle – How would you describe Montreal to someone who has never been there before?

Alex Petersen – It’s a mixed bag. Wide-open spaces, but also homelessness. Good neighbors and then gentrification and there’s a constant political tension in a way. French, English… Really hot in the summer time and ice cold in the winter. 

Alex Speechless – Diverse, dirty and endlessly in construction.

Alex Brianson – It’s fucking cold in winter, there are too many people from France, but the beer is good, poutine is overrated, francophone music sucks and drugs are pretty cheap.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Alex Petersen – Funny enough, I rediscovered Hendrix for the first time in about 15-20 years. Every song is beautifully bled through. 

Alex Speechless – As far as newer stuff – Idles, Jesuslesfilles – our friends from Montreal, Eagulls and Ceremony. Otherwise, it’s mostly 80’s new wave/post-punk and 70’s punk.

Alex Brianson – Viagra Boys, Murder Capital, Amyl And The Sniffers, Iceage, Bambara and Refused.

Alex Crow – Beak, Autolux and Fontaines DC.

Mike Rodgers – Institute, Mdou Moctar, Sam Gopal, Flaming Groovies and Don Cherry.

Music Bugle – What is the biggest creative challenge in being a band with five members?

Alex Petersen – Finding consensus and compromise.

Alex Speechless – Some compromises have to be made at times, but we generally try to serve the song, so we think in those terms.

Alex Brianson – Realizing that we are, in fact, five in the band.

Alex Crow – Communication, but we’re working at it.

Mike Rodgers – Songwriting can sometimes be a challenge. It can be tricky to write a song when there are five people sometimes pulling in different directions, but I think that tension is what makes our music different and unique.

Music Bugle – Did the video for “Economics” come out the way you hoped? 

Alex Petersen – Not entirely, no, but maybe it was all jitters. Now that we can see from a distance and with everybody else watching, it feels a lot better to us.

Alex Speechless – We knew how lo-fi and experimental it would be going in, since it’s Alex Ortiz’s modus operandi – or M.O.. We didn’t want to be too literal with the song. We really like the result.

Alex Brianson – I would have preferred it to air on MTV with Beavis and Butthead.

Alex Crow – In the end, very much so, but there was a lot of back and forth in editing to get things to flow right. We’re very happy with the result.

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Alex Petersen – In many ways, as individuals. As a band, well, we had no live shows, no nothing. Hopefully, things from here on out can pick up nice and smoothly.

Alex Speechless – It stopped us from doing shows, but we focused on working on new material – we got an album worth of new songs – and worked on getting our single “Economics” a proper release.

Alex Brianson – I have been neither affected or infected. Amen.

Alex Crow – It put a damper on us moving forward for a bit, but Speechless and Petersen kept their creative juices flowing during lockdown and as soon as we could, we started working on new material.

Mike Rodgers – The first COVID wave derailed a tour we had booked for spring 2020. Obviously, that sucked, but in the big scheme of things, it’s pretty minor. A lot of people have died. We’ve all been fortunate to stay healthy and the lockdowns have allowed us to focus on songwriting.

Music Bugle – What do you miss the most about performing live? 

Alex Petersen – The trance. The hypnotization.

Alex Speechless – Just playing in front of people and feeding off of that.

Alex Brianson – Drink tickets and sniffing keys in the bathroom.

Mike Rodgers – Seeing the effect that our music has on people, the feeling of participating in some kind of dionysian ritual. Obviously, the free drinks and parties are nice too.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians? 

Alex Petersen – As it stands, we can’t see how it could hurt musicians. You can reach people in China, Chile, Hawaii. Anywhere. Hard to see it as a negative.

Alex Speechless – It helps, no doubt about it, but you definitely have to stand out. The only thing is, it’s becoming essential now. Good music will only get you so far, which is kind of a bummer.

Alex Brianson – OnlyFans never hurt anyone.

Mike Rodgers – I’d say it changes the playing field. Mostly in a good way, but it’s also gotten to the point where if you’re a great band with shitty social media, you’ll get overlooked. Meanwhile, if you’re a shitty band with a great Instragram, people will line up for that. I hope that doesn’t come across as too negative.

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