The Toronto, Canada music scene is by far one of the most vibrant and vivacious locales of the modern age- and it is often vastly overlooked. , from indie rock’s most famous earworm-makers in Alvvays to the recent explosive energy of Dear Youth, from the balls-to-the-wall bone snapping crunches of Falsifier to the terminally infectious musings of Drake, our northernmost counterparts have delivered us decades of superb musicianship and superstars. Breaking in to the U.S. markets has always been tricky, regardless of the location, but time and time again, Canucks find themselves on international radiowaves and tour routes that criss-cross the continent. It’s especially difficult to break into the Alternative & Punk scenes, given that it is an already vastly oversaturated genre within equally oversaturated markets. It takes true gusto in addition to a hell of a lot of ambition and patience to break through, but this is no deterrent for four-piece pop-punk outfit Like Satellites.
Like Satellites are no strangers to playing the waiting game when it comes to developing quality. First formed in 2016, the band struggled through a high-turnover rate and burnout amongst members, but its core always stayed true to the course. Such determination has recently culminated in the dynamic release of their new single “Muscle Memory,” which pays homage to the scene they formed in and the music they grew up with, in addition to furthering the solidification of Toronto as a pop-punk and alternative hub.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Like Satellites frontwoman, Leah Gillespie, to talk in depth about her foundations in the Toronto music scene, her love and admiration of pop-punk, and what it looks like to wade through uncertain waters as they look towards orbiting their own bright future.
Ouch That Hertz!: Hey, Leah! How’s it hanging?
Leah Gillespie: Hey! I get to chat with you, so I’d say it’s pretty good.
OTH!: So, let’s get right into the thick of your budding music career. I noticed that your band’s biography discusses your specific work in the Toronto music scene, describing you as a “slow-burner.” I’m curious as to the full breadth of your involvement in Toronto music; what is your background as a musician, a fan, and a vocalist?
Leah: That’s a good one! I’ve been in bands around town for years now, and before that I was actually an acoustic solo artist for a while. When I wasn’t doing that, I was putting out covers on Youtube and Instagram. Really build up that recognition, you know? I love making music in any form, so I’ve been pretty focused on that since I was in high school. Most of my friends at this point are in some really incredible bands. It’s hard to tell when it happened, but at some point I realized I was absolutely surrounded by musicians who bounced ideas off of me, and who I bounced ideas off of. Now when I go out to shows people know me from my Instagram videos, or for my band. It’s insane; I make a lot of friends that way.
OTH!: Furthermore, why pop-punk? What drew you into this specific subgenre and culture?
Leah: I love the energy of it! I’ve been listening to music like We are the in Crowd, All Time Low, Paramore, and Taking Back Sunday since about 2005. For the longest time I was told that I couldn’t sing that kind of music, but I absolutely loved the kick it has. There’s really no other genre where you can find women doing what the women in this genre do. It was always super empowering as a person and as a vocalist. It allowed me to get in there are talk about feelings that are a little bit too loud and too honest for other genres. Coming into this genre and this subculture has always felt like coming home- there’s really nothing else I’d rather be making.
OTH!: Your biography also mentions that the band was formed back in 2016, but has only just begun releasing music, citing multiple lineup changes and slow-starts as you lot were searching for the “perfect balance of maturity and melodrama.” My question for you is is in two parts: 1. What, to you, is the perfect harmony of maturity and melodrama (what does that look like and sound like to you?) and 2. What were the defining characteristics and milestones that you were searching for before you felt like your feet (as a band) were on solid ground?
Leah: Asking all the real questions, I like it! It’s totally been a journey to get here. Being in a band is hard: you’re putting four or five people together to work on the same thing and everyone is going to want to get their hands on it. Maturity is a big part of what (in my experience) and will make or break a lineup. You have to figure out when to pull back musically, emotionally, sonically, in every way there has to be enough maturity and experience to know when to just let things rest. The punk side of pop punk wants to be very raw and it’s easy for musicians and vocalists to go overboard. It came down to learning when to pull myself back, and making sure that I was working with people who were able to do the same thing.
You know, I wouldn’t say that our feet are on solid ground. It was myself and Logan who decided to just go for it and release “Muscle Memory” despite not necessarily feeling ready. It had been so long since this project started that it felt like we would never really be “ready” and we would never really be safe. Right now everything is still in a state of flux, we just decided to dive right in and thankfully that paid off! We quite literally decided that we wanted “Muscle Memory” out before the last Warped Tour came through our city, set a date, and started promoting and just did it. All this music was written, we had people willing to put our band on their bills, at some point I guess we mostly just accepted that there was no right time, and waiting for it was just wasting the time we did have.
There’s really no other genre where you can find women doing what the women in this genre do.”
OTH!: Following up on maturity and melodrama: 2 years is a long time to try and maneuver that situation, all the while each of you are growing into your own concepts of personhood and iterations of self. What was this process of growth- from the humble foundations to the release of your brand new single “Muscle Memory” like?
Leah: It’s been a hell of a journey, honestly. There have been a lot of moments when one person or another wanted to just give up. Some people did, and I had a really hard time with that. Initially I took it all pretty personally, but I’ve gotten to be really close with people who came and went from our lineup at this point, which feels amazing. When I look back at who I was and where we were two years ago, it’s hard to believe we got here at all. There was a lot of just writing, learning what sounded right and what felt right, a lot of learning red flags and learning how to manage different personalities.
When I started with this band I was 21, I’d never tried to be serious about a band before but I had this idea in my head. Everything else had always been kind of a pipe dream, but Like Satellites seemed like something that could really be something. It’s mostly just been learning as we go, which is really hard, but it teaches you to work through problems when there’s no ‘better adult’ to help you do it.
OTH!: So, what makes now the time to strike for Like Satellites?
Leah: Now or never, am I right?
We actually decided to just go for it because this year was the last Warped Tour. I personally always wanted to play Warped, even if it was just the local date. The fact that this year was the last year the tour was coming through was a wake up call that we couldn’t keep waiting. I guess I wanted this release and this band to be a part of that era if only because our first single released before the tour ended forever. Shout out to Kevin Lyman, thanks for the kick in the pants.
OTH!: Speaking of “Muscle Memory,” let’s delve into that a bit further. You have this rich and raw tonality that reminds me very much of Stand Atlantic mixed with a bit of the early days of The Maine. I think the title is aptly fitting in this regard- a mix of the old influences with its own punchy sound. Can I also guess that it stands as testament to your slow-burning growth in the music scene as a culmination of all that you’ve been developing since 2016?
Leah: Thank you so much! I actually love both of those bands. “Muscle Memory” definitely gets to sound the way it does because of how many times it was turned over and edited. It’s actually about a former band I was in, so even the sentiments in it are about my time making music. There are little details that I think would have been missed if the people on that track and our producer Sam Guaiana weren’t as experienced as they are. There are some little synth sounds that brought me back to that old The Maine sound or We Are The In Crowd that you mentioned, but there are also some really cool bass lines that our old bassist Glen Faria laid down. I’d have never even thought to do that.
OTH!: While we’re here, why don’t you tell me a little bit about the writing process behind “Muscle Memory?”
Leah: The idea of “Muscle Memory” came to me in the middle of a shift at work, actually. So I wrote it down and hummed the chorus into my phone to work on later. If you listened to “Muscle Memory” then and compared it to now, it’s like night and day. I started writing it acoustic and then brought it to some people I played with a little bit, and got a sense of what I wanted it to sound like. Then I went back, angry and empowered from a bad band breakup, and I sat with my guitar to lay out a first demo. I re-wrote, edited, took things apart until I had a shitty acoustic demo that I was so proud of because I’d done it myself. It was probably 30 seconds longer than it is right now. That was when I met Mario Duke, our first guitarist. We’ve since parted ways, but I owe a lot of this to him. Mario and I sat down, we edited and demoed on his computer. There were no other members yet, he wrote a basic drum and bass line as well as his guitar lines and he cut pieces that were too whiney or just too long. It took about a month of writing with him before this sounded somewhat like the song you hear now. Then it was just about the different people bringing different parts. I think we all knew we had something special with this song. We all knew from the get go that this was the first song Like Satellites would release.
Shout out to Kevin Lyman, thanks for the kick in the pants.”
OTH!: So, with “Muscle Memory” now out, what is next from Like Satellites? Do you anticipate a slow and steady burn through the Ontario scene as a whole? Or is now the time for you guys to hit the ground running without looking back?
Leah: I think we’ve pretty much decided that we’re hitting the ground running. Still learning as we go even though we’re more experienced now. Being from Canada, it can be really hard to get out into the US market, but we’re hoping to start playing shows there with some friends we’ve made. Surprisingly, we’re also getting radio play in Australia right now too. Toronto’s our hometown, but we’re hoping for world domination.
OTH!: Furthermore, do you anticipate an upcoming EP of sorts? Perhaps a scattering of shows around the Ontario region?
Leah: We’re right about to do a mini weekend run – not an official tour, but three shows in five days in different cities – with our friends in Carried Away and The Wildhood for the first two shows, then with Calling All Captains and Rival Town for the last one. We’ve got a bunch of stuff booked all summer, but nothing else packed that closely together. Anyone waiting for a show somewhere in Ontario or Quebec, we’re probably going to be somewhere near you sometime soon!
At the moment we’re also working on booking some studio time for the winter or very early spring. We’re hoping to bring a six track EP of what we’ve been working out into the world by next summer. Like a little baby.
OTH!: Well, best of luck with all of your endeavours! As “Muscle Memory” has it, you appear to have all of the aptitude and attitude requisite for a steadfast career. Unfortunately, this is all the time I have for you today. But before I let you go, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Leah: Thank you so much for chatting with me and for all your kind words! Our website went live recently, so everyone can grab their updates at likesatellites.com now. Hope to see everyone soon at a show, let’s just all be friends and sing songs together. We love you all so much.