The Tall Poppy Interview - Neil Haverty, The Boston Letter
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The Tall Poppy Interview – Neil Haverty, The Boston Letter

2005-04-17-neilhaverty.gifIt’s one thing to have an idea, it’s another thing to put it into action.
Neil Haverty, along with several others, thought it would be an interesting idea to start a collective of artists who could share a common space for art. They then formed the Concrete Arts Collective and are now making that art happen. Neil Haverty’s art is music. He goes by the name The Boston Letter.
Where are you from? Where do you live?
I was born in Hamilton, Ontario and lived there until I was 18 or 19. I moved to Toronto for school and stayed because I met a lot of people that were into the same things as I was. It’s a lot harder to live in Toronto, financially anyways, but there’s always something inspiring going on so I think it’s probably worth it. It’d be nice if my rent was cheaper though.
How would you describe the music you create under the Boston Letter name?
Well, I’d like to think it’s somewhere in between the math rock and indie rock I loved when I was growing up and the electronic music I’ve learned to love over the last couple of years. I can’t really sum up The Boston Letter because every song is informed by the samples I choose to base them on. I simply organize the little pieces into melodies and beats. The samples totally dictate what kind of sound the song will take on. I just like interesting sounds. Is that a good enough explanation?

Good enough. Where can we find your music? how simple is that? I finally put up a website a couple months ago and have included every mp3 that I have available. The whole TBL EP, a couple of cover songs and samples of other projects I’m involved with can be found there. Pretty much everything I’ve ever released has been made available for free download because, at least right now, I think it’s more important for people to hear the songs than to make a little cash. Eventually I’ll have to start selling some records. It would be nice to make music my day job, but for now I want the music to find as many people as possible. If you like any of the mp3s I have on my site, please share them with your friends.
Are you working on new material? Are you taking a new direction with it?
Well, I think that the Boston Letter is changing and will probably continue to change every time I work on something new. The first EP was an experiment in taking samples from music I liked and re-contextualizing them into something that suited my voice. I was also trying to make electronic music that was hard to move to and completely untraditional.
But I’m working on a new companion EP now and have been trying to do things the opposite way. This time I’m trying to fit my voice into songs that are a little more danceable and based on more traditional electronic sounds. Some people might be upset that I’ve moved away from the strange time signatures and more organic sounds but I wanted to see if I could make a bunch of songs in 4/4 that still manage to sound interesting. Those people shouldn’t worry though. This is just a minor detour. I’m hoping to have a full-length out this year too and that will probably end up sounding a little less straight up.
How did the idea of the Concrete Arts Collective come about? What plans does the group have for the immediate future?
All of my friends in Toronto are artists, writers and musicians. I didn’t necessarily plan on that but it’s sort of just the way things happen when you spend all of your time toiling with creative endeavours. We all run our ideas by one another and help each other out but it’s always been casual. We thought it would be nice to have a sort of clubhouse where we could all create and work together. There are about 20 of us and we are hoping to move into a big space just off of College sometime in the next few months.
How does the collective plan on supporting its costs?
We’re each paying a monthly membership fee to make sure the rent is paid. But really, it’s all about fundraising. It costs a fair chunk of change to rent a space that large so we’re all working as one to put on events that will cushion the blow a little. We have a lot of really neat ideas planned for the next couple of months. I’ll keep my site up-to-date with all the information so please check in every now and then. We need the support to get this thing off the ground and we hope we can eventually make the space into a fully-functioning showroom that everybody can enjoy. It’s not going to happen overnight but we’re all working hard to get things running by the end of the summer.
What kind of equipment do you use for recording?
I have a really basic home recording set-up. It’s just a laptop and a soundcard. Nothing special really. For the Boston Letter stuff, I’m more reliant on good software than expensive hardware. I’ve assembled most of the instrumentals using Fruity Loops (I know, it’s a simple program, but you’d be surprised with what it can do) and I track the vocals with Cubase. It’s a set-up that pretty much anybody with a working computer can have. I’m not a gearhead by any stretch of the imagination. As long as my computer is in working order (which isn’t always the case), I can make due.
What’s your favourite place to get a beer in town?
I’m partial to Sneaky Dee’s for some reason. There’s something that’s very ‘no bullshit’ about it. It’s not an especially nice bar but it’s easy to spend a lot of time there. I was standing outside Sneaks last night and overheard some really dolled-up, airheaded ladies say ‘I was walking by this place yesterday and I thought, I would NEVER go in there’. That says something for Sneaky Dee’s, I think.