Reflecting on place and music
Living Hour’s Sam Sarty talks environment, emotions and their new album
The idea of Winnipeg as a muse may seem peculiar, even pedestrian to its denizens. But Living Hour’s Sam Sarty says their work, particularly their new LP Someday is Today, is deeply influenced by their environment.
“I feel like quite a bit of my work is influenced by place and where I am and how I’m interacting with what’s around me,” Sarty says over Zoom. “I have the deepest repertoire for that, because I grew up here, and I’ve existed here for so long in so many different ways and so many different lives and seasons of my life, that it just has layers and layers of experiences that I walk around in, sometimes.”
Living Hour has steadily earned recognition in the indie music scene and recently released their third full-length album. The quartet, composed of Sarty, Gilad Carroll, Adam Soloway and Brett Ticzon, has composed lushly layered, hypnagogic synth-pop since their self-titled debut, Living Hour, in 2016.
Sarty cites the indie-pop stylings of groups like Beach House, Yo La Tengo and Florist, among others, as influences on the band’s sound. But location is an important theme on their newest outing.
“Remembering if I’m just walking around the city, I’m like ‘Oh yeah, that’s where that was, that’s where this apartment (was) or where this happened.’ It’s just kind of this very strange feeling sometimes,” Sarty says. “Place is really important for me.”
Keen-eared listeners may notice direct references to the “world-famous” Palomino Club in the lyrics of track “Miss Miss Miss,” which Sarty describes as “a nod to Winnipeg.”
Recorded during a week-long stretch in January 2021, the band faced additional challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the traditional creative process.
Throughout the album, there is a strong emotional undercurrent, exploring themes of isolation and memory with wispy and ineffable lyricism. A collaborative project through and through, each member expressed their own personal experiences through the songwriting process.
“It’s pretty hard for me to name emotions ... so metaphors and imagery usually come first,” Sarty says. “I’ve always kind of used those as a tool to get into what I need.”
Guitarists Soloway and Caroll also contributed lyrics for “Curve” and “Exploding Rain,” respectively.
Sarty, a veteran in Winnipeg’s music biz, credits an auspicious local music scene for some of Living Hour’s mainstream success.
“We’re really privileged to have such a cool, welcoming scene where everyone is really collaborative and (we) have the time to figure stuff out together,” she says.
And as for personal standout tracks on the record?
“I’m really into ‘Hold Me in Your Mind,’ which is the first song, and then the second song ‘Lemons and Gin.’ We haven’t been playing those ones live, so to hear them again in their entirety, recorded, just felt really good,” Sarty says.
“They’re all good tunes. I’m biased, of course.”
Living Hour’s Someday is Today is available on streaming services and at record stores.
Published in Volume 77, Number 02 of The Uniter (September 15, 2022)