The sublime sound of Canadian pop duo Prince Innocence
Falling in love with the right woman coaxed Josh McIntyre out of the shadows and onto a stage. With Little Girls—the cheeky name he chose for his post-punk solo project—the Toronto-based musician tried to take himself out of the picture: He muffled his vocals, buried them in the mix and obscured his face in photos. But when he began to collaborate with his girlfriend, Talvi Faustmann, on the icy electronic songs that became Prince Innocence’s repertoire, the two decided to put everything out there.
“With Little Girls, it was like I was trying to make it as far removed from myself as possible,” McIntyre says from Faustmann’s home in Montreal. “With Prince Innocence, it’s more upfront.”
“This band has a lot more sincerity to it,” adds Faustmann. “It’s kind of scary for both of us, because there’s nothing really to hide behind.”
Formed in the winter of 2012 against the backdrop of Faustmann and McIntyre’s long-distance relationship (she lives in Montreal, he spends most of his time in Toronto), Prince Innocence makes music that references the after-hours dazzle of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. You can hear traces of the sweat and sparkle of nightlife from all three decades—from discotheques to Blade Runner-esque new wave clubs to black-lit raves—in the duo’s hypnotic, swooning swirl of synths, programmed electronic beats and gauzy vocals.
Although it took them over a year to put out a proper recording—their just-released debut EP, Lapse—Prince Innocence quickly built up a following among international fans of ambient dance music and pared-down pop. They were flown to Paris to DJ for I Heart magazine last October, and went to London in March to record their forthcoming full-length album with lauded producer Jim Anderson, best known in Canada as the man who helped refine Cold Specks’s unholy folk-soul sound.
It’s taken some time for Faustmann to channel her inner diva. Early on, she was apprehensive about singing in front of anyone, even McIntyre—they’d sit in separate rooms, committing their individual parts to tape. But gradually she has been able to find her particular brand of ferocity. “Golden Hour,” from Lapse, pairs synths with a droning bass line and Faustmann cooing airy “la la las” like a girl-group backup singer. It’s in tracks like these that she bursts with pastel-coloured Shangri-Las choruses and evokes a 21st-century Diana Ross.
“I’ve always been inspired by the really over-the-top diva performances of ’70s figures, and the elements that go into those performances,” says Faustmann, who’s been known to bedazzle her own microphone. “It’s so campy, and such an aesthetic overload.”
Aesthetics are something both she and McIntyre take very seriously. Instant gratification, on the other hand, turns them off. “With Tumblr, there are so many beautiful images,” begins Faustmann. “But they’re almost cheapened,” continues McIntyre, “because you’re getting so much of them so fast.”
Speedy isn’t necessarily best for the two, whether they’re imagining the ideal tempo for one of their moody, evocative songs or the art for Lapse, which features a pair of spectral-looking legs. The legs belong to Faustmann and the image was a happy accident, a self-portrait shot after she and McIntyre had already decided on an album cover.
That serendipitous process is a perfect metaphor for how the two work best. “I feel like every time we overthink things is when we’ve not been happy with them,” says Faustmann. “It’s when we shut off our brains that we do something that’s just good and makes us happy.” n
“This band has a lot more sincerity to it. It’s kind of scary for us, because there’s nothing to hide behind.”
Styled by Eliza Grossman. Hair and makeup by Grace Lee for Plutino Group/Maybelline New York Canada