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Ottawa-based ‘dad sports’ talk origins, creative process, upcoming release

The four-man band give us an inside look.

Band Origins

Combining soft sounds with the dreamy nostalgia of growing up, we get dad sports—a group of four goofy pals who share a love for playing video games and making lo-fi indie music.

The Ottawa-based band—composed of Alex Keyes on bass, Keith McDonald on drums, Gabe Pilon on guitar, and Miguel Plante on guitar and vocals—is discovering its groove as it grows and develops its smooth tunes.

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dad sports left to right: Miguel Plante, Gabe Pilon, Keith McDonald, and Alex Keyes | Photo by Brandon Smith

The band originated with two members, Plante and Keyes, who came together after they graduated high school. They reconnected over a shared admiration for a Hippo Campus song that Plante once posted on his Instagram story.

“We just started talking more and more, then every day,” Keyes explained. “I went over to his house one day and he was like ‘Do you want to learn how to play bass?’ and I was like, ‘Ok,’ not thinking much about it.”

From there, McDonald was added to the mix—knowing Plante from a music production class in school.

“We joked about making a band but I didn’t take it seriously at all,” McDonald said with a laugh. “Before that, I didn’t play any instruments. I played ‘Rock Band’ for a long time. That was all I really had going for me, but it was enough apparently.”

Pilon was the final member of the band. Like McDonald, he also knew Plante from a music production class in school.

“[Plante] messaged me and was like ‘Hey I started a band, do you want to play guitar for it?’” Pilon said. “After jamming with Keyes and McDonald, we liked how it worked. When I moved back [to Ottawa] is when we really started.”

dad sports’ Sound

The crew has come a long way since their first release “dog cuddles” in November 2018—released during the band’s time with only Plante and Keyes.

“When I uploaded it on SoundCloud, I put the song file up and was told I needed to put some album art,” Plante recalled. “I literally just opened my phone and scrolled down to the first picture that I saw and was like ‘Ah, that works.’ It was just a picture I took of Keyes jumping [in the air] at his place a few nights before.”

cover art for song dog cuddles
Cover art for ‘dog cuddles’ | Photo by Miguel Plante

Despite that cover selection being made at the last minute, the Polaroid imagery stuck around, at least for a while.

“For the second single, we thought we should keep the same theme,” Keyes said. “I went on a trip and took some Polaroid pictures during that trip. I took some cool ones and put them on a background and was like, ‘This is album art.’”

The band’s third single, “romeo,” completed the trilogy of having literal “pictures of pictures” as album artwork. By using the white-bordered images, a visual aesthetic was produced that fostered feelings of youthful reminiscence.

“Having pictures of pictures as your album art has memories for us as well,” Plante noted. “It fits in with the general vibe of the song. I’ll look at the cover and I’ll attach the memories of when I was writing the song to the memories in the pictures.”

“We’re stuck in our individual houses so we can’t have practices which means we can’t write songs together as a band and jam things out.”—Miguel Plante

Upcoming Music

In dad sports’ upcoming EP, it’s likely that these raw emotions will remain. However, rather than the cover art being created as an afterthought—as the band did with the first three singles—it will be made in conjunction with the music itself. dad sports recently started to collaborate with a new artist, Adam Elkhadem, who designed the covers for “out 4 a breather” and the band’s newest single, “name & place,” dropping tomorrow.

Elkhadem’s paintings are made from nail polish on cardboard and they incorporate vibrant colors with solid shapes. By unifying the audio and visual components, each piece of art is in a state of revision until it can most accurately represent the message being delivered.

cover art for 'name and place' single
Cover of ‘name & place’ | Art by Adam Elkhadem

“I send [Elkhadem] a work in progress version of a mix, and then he sends us back some artwork. Off of that, I can be inspired to change the song,” Plante stated.

While dad sports has grown familiar with switching things up in their dynamic visual process, they’ve also learned to adjust their music when playing their live shows to cater to their audience.

“Our live shows are extremely different in energy from our recordings,” Plante explained. “The recordings are very quiet, subdued, soft, and trying to be pretty. With our live shows, we take a very stripped-down approach to it. We could go on stage and try to recreate the songs as they are on the recording, but at some point, when you want to see a show, you want to have a good time. You want to play loud, you want to be yelling, you want the audience to have fun, you want everybody to be moving.”

The other members agreed, noting the distorted guitar and lively atmosphere present in their performances.

“You listen to ‘dog cuddles’ the way it’s recorded and you think ‘Nah, you can’t mosh to this,’” Pilon said. “You play it live and it sounds like surf rock. People are like, ‘Yea, I’ll mosh to this.”

dad sports live
dad sports jamming it out at a live show | Photo by Marc Lepage

Pandemic-Stricken

Of course, with the current pandemic, all of the band’s hopes of performing have been put on hold.

“In March we were planning a tour, working actively on our EP, and out of nowhere, the whole situation came about,” Plante disclosed. “We’re stuck in our individual houses so we can’t have practices which means we can’t write songs together as a band and jam things out. One thing we’ve been doing for parts is just sending files over the internet to get the songs assembled. We’re still able to create, it’s just a different approach.”

Social distancing has removed the spontaneous energy and instant feedback that spurs when the band is just collaborating in the same place at the same time.

“It’s hard when there’s no one to bounce stuff off of in real-time,” McDonald added. “It can drive you crazy after a while if you’re just sitting alone with your own material, getting tired of it. It’s good in the sense that we’re forced to do something while we’re here. The restriction can lead to more ideas that we have on our own.”

So for now, each member is sending off their individual thoughts in an attempt to form a cohesive project. While this new type of collaboration isn’t ideal, dad sports is putting in the extra effort to make it work. As they take steps forward to release their five-song EP, their creative process has slowed, but it hasn’t ceased. The band is going with the flow for the EP’s release date, speculating a drop sometime this summer.

In the meantime, as dad sports tries to collectively decide whether or not they officially endorse gaming, take the time to treat yourself to the series of singles they have out now and be sure to tune in Friday to check out “name & place.”

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