SEVEN NINES AND TENS: Bunch of Numbers

Seven Nines and Tens

Although my city of Vancouver’s progressive rock scene may be seen as fledgling at best, a small handful of bands have created a lively underground. Not least of all among these acts is Seven Nines and Tens,  a band whose compelling blend of “[p]ost rock, post metal, shoegaze and indie rock” has proven to be a deadly combination, particularly to ears that consistently enjoy at least three of those four styles! Opening a show for touring shoegazers Nothing, and the recently infamous (though disappointing in-person) Whirr, Seven Nines and Tens were easily the most exciting band on the evening’s bill. A big thanks to Dave Cotton and the rest of the band for taking the time to do this interview, as well as putting on a great show.

Your  band’s name is quite mysterious- is there a particular meaning or origin behind it?

It’s a bunch of numbers! [Laughs] No, it’s lyric from a song by the band Hum. The song name is Stars… Just thought it had a good ring to it!

It’s clear from the way you guys play that we’ve probably got a lot in common in terms of musical taste. There were a couple of parts you were playing during your set that even reminded me of the strange, twisting textures an experimental metal band like Gorguts might use! What artists do you think have inspired you most directly?

I’m really inspired by Cave In and Jesu alot…

Melvins, Johnny Cash, Sinatra… I’m all over the board!

Descendents, Dinosaur

We’re all pretty big on the 90s- we grew up while that whole thing was going. That’s when we all started our bands, we were in all sorts of bands. Back then, we were total misfits, we’d put shows together with no rhyme or reason, a random bill. At the end of the 90s, you’d have these weird bills where slow bands were playing with really fast bands, but the common ground we all share is rock from that time. Our parents’ records are huge- for me, it was The Guess Who, Elton John, Creedence Clearwater Revival. That shit’s all the same stream, regardless of where it goes. It’s all underlining what we do.

You can pick out the Gorguts- I love Gorguts, I think they’re great- but it’s not really where I come from. It’s definitely nice to play in a band where we can do whatever we want to do. I don’t know if you pick up on any of these nuances or if it’s coming from! I think we add our own thing. Dave [the frontman] has this amazing vision and we’re all buddies first and foremost… The only reason why JB [the guitarist], Shockk [bassist] and I [Mario Nieva, drums] got involved was because we were friends first. It’s kinda weird though because Dave‘s been playing with metal guys for years and years and all of a sudden he asked me to play, and I recruited a bunch of rock guys… in his metal band!

One of my favourite bands actually is from Chilliwack [in BC] called Mystery Machine. They played a sort of Sonic Youth, Swerve Driver kind of thing… They are one of my [Dave] favourite bands and Mario plays with them, so it was obviously a big deal for me. For the first couple of practices, I had to keep telling myself- “Don’t be intimidated!” [Laughs]. I had to stop myself from being intimidated from playing in someone from one of my favourite bands, so yeah!

Seven Nines and Tens

There’s usually two kinds of bands- bands that are deriving their sound from the influences of one person,  the other type being an amalgamation of different peoples’ tastes. The way it settles in the case of Seven Nines and Tens, there’s definitely a Hydra Head [Records] kind of harder edge to what you’re doing, but the sort of alternative rock-ish “modern prog” along the lines of Porcupine Tree is probably the firmest label I’d give you guys…

Yeah! I think [Hydra Head] bands like Neurosis and Isis have a great feel… they write songs! I find alot of people are doing prog just for prog’s sake- sure you can count to thirteen, but whatever! [Laughs] Those bands were huge. They all stem from other bands like Helmet and Jesus Lizard, and it’s really cool to see that kind of songwriting. I think that’s the sort of sort of songwriting we’d prefer to go for. We’ve heard the Porcupine Tree thing before. I’ve never actually heard their music, but I know they’re a sort of art rock act. Early in our existence, someone brought up Porcupine Tree as a comparison, but also asked if I’d heard My Dying Bride! So I checked out My Dying Bride and yeah, they’re fucking awesome. It’s cool to check out bands you get compared to that you’re not already familiar with- I’ll have to check out Porcupine Tree.

I was listening to the most recent album of yours, Constants & Axioms which takes a purely instrumental route. To be honest, I was pretty surprised to see such a heavy presence of vocals during your live performance! 

For five years now, people who have listened to us have kept asking ‘where are the vocals?‘ It’s funny actually, because I [Dave] have been singing longer than I’ve been playing guitar, so it was just a matter of time, really.

How’ve you found the process of integrating vocals into the music so far?

Females like us now, and parents! [Laughs] Seriously. Before, it was just a dude fest and that was cool! I didn’t add vocals to cater to anyone else, but that’s what I’ve definitely noticed for sure.

Even though Seven Nines and Tens find its origins in one person, what’s the songwriting process now that a full lineup has stabilized?

It’s basically me [Dave] at home widdling around with ideas. My M.O. is just to write every single day. I bring it in to jam and these guys just go fucking crazy.

I’ve listened to the first record Habitat 67 quite a bit. I was wondering, are there any plans for another full-length? (Constants and Axioms was only two songs long.) Anything in the works?

We’re doing a record with our producer Steve [Hanker]- I say ‘record’ but it’s going to be five songs, forty minutes around. Within the next year, I’d say.

Seven Nines and Tens

What other things do you have planned for the future?

We’ve never done a full tour before. I don’t have the savvy to book a full tour but it would be cool to play outside of Vancouver- you can only play inside Vancouver for so long, you know? But we’ve had a lot of people looking out for us, it’s really cool even in this local scene that people come together and help each other out with things like that. This didn’t use to be the case- it used to be a big competition between bands! Now, people like Chris Dyck [of prog metallers Ancieents, Nothing Is Heavy booking agency] have been helping to get people stick together, you see alot of amazing, talented bands playing on a Wednesday! [Laughs] It’s really inspiring.

The question of ‘prog’ labelling- alot of bands that girls are aware of [Laughs] tend to shrink away from the term itself, even if they fulfill the general M.O. and stylistic trends of it… bands like Radiohead! Would you guys prescribe yourself to the ‘prog’ label? I suppose it’s a heavy-handed or unnecessary question to ask, but I’m only curious due to the way Sevens Nines & Tens’ music often manages to feel lively and accessible in tandem with these progressive leanings.

I actually have a strong opinion about that kind of thing! I mean, if you’re a post-rock band, and someone implies that your music is post-rock and you disagree with them, I think that’s bullshit. It’s the same thing here- if someone hears progressive rock influences in our music and calls us a prog rock band, who are we to argue with that? I guess my point is that I disagree with bands that dictate their label. It’s up to the audience to decide.

For people who see us as prog rock, I definitely agree. We can all count, and we own Moving Pictures! [Laughs] Seriously, the Rush is there- it’ll never go away. It is what it is, really.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in terms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it… Any words of wisdom you’ve picked up as time’s gone on. The last words are yours.

The key is that if you have a project, don’t break up! Just keep going, whatever your endeavour is. Whether you’re an artist or a songwriter, just keep it up, every single day. It’s not like I’m on top of the world with success, but I think that’s my creative secret.

…listen to a lot of Crash Test Dummies… and Slayer!

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