Originally meant as an outlet for songwriter Paul Saulnier, PS I Love You became a two-piece in 2008 when drummer Benjamin Nelson was brought in to help fill out his live sets. Four years later, after a series of EPs, singles, and a full-length, PS I Love You are back with their second full-length, Death Dreams, set for release this week (May 8th).
Recently, Consequence of Sound caught up with Saulnier to discuss the new album, its bigger sound, and his own style of songwriting.
I remember seeing you guys in one of our video hangouts last year, record shopping in New York, right? Did you get to Record Store Day this year?
Yeah, we did that. Uh, yeah, kinda. I mean, not too much exciting stuff happens in my city. I worked all day, so it wasn’t that big a deal.
You’re still up in Kingston [Ontario, the band’s hometown]?
It’s been said that your debut was about being from Kingston, and that maybe your new album is about being away from Kingston, essentially referencing your tour in support of Meet Me at the Muster Station. When you were touring, was that the first time that you guys had ever left home for an extended period?
Yep, pretty much… for months at a time, yeah. Aside from upstate New York.
“Everyday life becomes more important when in your dreams you’re already dead.” Now, that’s a bit dark and heavy; but listening to the album, the songs don’t seem to carry that weight musically. A lot of the songs (aside from the opener) are kind of up-tempo and upbeat.
I try to stay upbeat even when I’m dealing with heavy problems.
That’s a good way of approaching it. So, what was going on? Apparently, on the last tour you had recurring dreams around your own mortality. What was leading to that?
I don’t know what was leading to that. It was just this obsession in my mind that was sort of growing, and I ended up writing a bunch of songs about it.
Do you dwell on mortality often?
No. That’s why it was unusual.
Were you able to purge it all by writing, or was it more a matter of once you got off the tour the dreams stopped?
I think a bit of both.
How do you remember your dreams? I can’t remember any of my dreams, much less being able to remember songs in my dreams.
Oh, really? I remember them all the time. The last thing that occurs, I suppose.
This album definitely has a fuller sound to it, especially relative to some of the EPs and singles you’ve done before. Intricate, complex. I’m sure some people have even said unpredictable. Is this a result of your experiences on the road and touring the world?
That didn’t really have that much influence on songs. I think we just wanted to make a bigger-sounding album this time.
Well, you’ve returned with Matt Rogalski, who produced the last album. If you wanted a bigger sound, what was he contributing this time around?
I don’t know; it’s hard to say. He’s kind of a master with sound, and he just made it sound bigger, more complex. I don’t really… I just trust him to do that; I don’t really know exactly what he did.
So, the full-lengths with him, is that the only stuff he’s done with you, or did he produce your EPs and singles as well?
He’s done most of our stuff, almost all of it. He’s a prominent figure in Kingston. He’s a professor of experimental music at the university. He’s in a large ensemble folk-rock band called The Gertrudes. He records a lot of other bands in town. He knows his stuff, and he’s a good guy to work with.
You’ve released two proper full-lengths, but you’ve been prolific with singles and EPs. Was all of that collected on Figure It Out?
Yeah, pretty much. Instead of printing new 7”s and CD singles, we did the one record.
I have yet to get the opportunity to see you live, so pardon any naivete with this question: Songs like “Don’t Go”… that sounds like an epic number begging to be played in large arenas. With this bigger sound, how would you carry it over to the live setting? Do you plan on adding players to the band?
We do have another player that we’ve added for a couple shows. His name is Tim, and he’s really great at playing guitar and playing keyboards. He is not always available, but hopefully he will be for at least our first North American tour this year. For that song he’ll be playing keyboards, and I’ll be playing 12-string guitar. It’ll sound big.
Do you think that you’d ever add an actual permanent member?
Uh, I don’t know. I don’t think we really… I think that would be tricky because of the way that I write music.
How do you mean?
I do all the instruments except for drums; Benjamin does the drums. It’s like this problem where you have a song in your head and you have to do everything you can to get it recorded the way you hear it in your head. And I think that having someone else doing instruments with me, it would obscure that too much.
I love playing with other musicians. I play bass in another band called Try Harder. I like collaborating in that way, but when it’s my PS I Love You songs, I have this sort of obsessive-compulsive thing where I have to do it all.
Well, then why did you recruit Ben?
I played in a different band with Ben for a while, and I liked his drumming a lot. I was playing solo shows. I thought they’d be better with a drummer. He just kind of filled in for my drum machine, at first. I started showing him some new songs, and I liked what he was doing, so… that became a really interesting collaboration ever since.
You guys have been together, what, six years now?
Well, Ben’s been playing with me since 2008.
Do you still write on your Casio?
I loaned it to Ben a few years ago, and I never got it back. I write on keyboards sometimes.
The tour so far seems pretty short, only 12 dates, mostly up north. You’re gonna have a bigger tour, right?
Yeah, we will. Nothing’s really confirmed yet, so we haven’t announced anything.