We noticed on Facebook a message circulating about Fred Penner’s daughter playing at the Mod Club. And then a few things happened in this order: Firstly, reminded of our favourite sing-a-long-puppets-in-the forest TV show that boinged on the air after Sharon, Lois and Bram, we immediately started YouTubing “Fred Penner’s Place” for some mid-afternoon childhood nostalgia. Secondly, we checked out Hayley Penner’s MySpace, and decided her band TUZO reminded us of The Cardigans, which means we “LIKE” a lot. It was apparent we needed to learn more about this budding musician. We hooked up a Q&A faster than you can spell “M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i”, leaving us jusssst enough time to promote her show this weekend, deets below.
SDTC: Let’s get this out of the way up top. Fred Penner’s your dad. Which of his songs is your favourite?
Hayley Penner: It’s true, Mr. Fred Penner is my pops. I have always loved, “The Goblin song.” It’s actually pretty scary but such an incredible piece of music. I particularly like that one because you can get a full taste of his writing chops. He’s such a wonderful song writer.
SDTC: Great. Moving on: What are three records you can’t live without?
Hayley Penner: That is such a hard question. “In the club, or at home…Tell you what…why don’t I just make you a tape?” -High Fidelity Quote.
For all you die-hard High Fidelity fans out there, don’t hate me if that quote isn’t exact, I’m working from memory here.
Okay, but back to business, at this moment, the three records I could not live without are:
1. Joni Mitchell – Court and spark
2. The Perishers – Let there be morning
3. Dragonette – Fixin to thrill
There are so many more…But these are my favorites right now.
SDTC: Tuzo came together as a writing team for a commercial project-what changes about your creative progress when you’re writing for work vs. writing for fun?
Hayley Penner: James McLeod (Co-founder of Tuzo) and I met at Eggplant in Toronto. Eggplant is an artist collective that does a lot of commercial writing and licensing. Though writing for Tuzo is a much more personal experience, I feel like writing and singing on commercials has really made me a better pop writer. The idea for a short TV spot is often to make the vocals catchy and memorable. So, every time I’m working on a commercial, whether I am writing or just singing, I am basically zoning in on the chorus out of the context of an entire song. And as a producer once told me, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” That being said, I do love a juicy, beautiful verse.
SDTC: What’s it like singing with your sister?
Hayley Penner: My sister Kendra sings vocals in Tuzo. Not only is Kendra an incredibly talented vocalist, she is a musician. It is the most rewarding and non-stressful experience to work with her. I never worry that the harmonies are going to be anything but perfect. And because we know each other so well, I can look over at her in the middle of a song and conduct her with my eyes to jump to the chorus or read my mind and just follow along. Plus, if I was a pie chart, I would basically be, 90% family while the other 10% schizophrenically juggled between baking, running, singing and writing. Work and family have always been closely linked for me. My other sister Danica actually designed the Tuzo EP art. She is also an incredible singer.
SDTC: What’s your favourite place to play in Toronto?
Hayley Penner: “The Mod Club” is probably my favorite place to play in Toronto. The sound is consistently great and the room always feels kind of cinematic to me. Another favorite is the back room at “The Cameron House.” It’s just classic and I love the raised seating, it makes it feel sort of grand.
SDTC: Who are some of your style inspirations?
Hayley Penner: I love Martina Sorbara from Dragonette. She is a huge inspiration for me. Her vocals are always so creative and catchy and I love how poppy she is while still remaining distinctive. My other main influence is Imogen Heap. Her song writing blows my mind. She is constantly pushing the boundaries in song writing and producing. Wait a minute…Do you have her hiding somewhere? Are you about to reveal her and say, “Well, Hayley, Imogen Heap is here in studio and has agreed to produce your record!” Then I start crying and launch into a southern, beauty pagent’esque accent…
SDTC: Give us some Hayley P homework: A book, film, and musician we need to know about
Hayley Penner: BOOK– I love Yann Martel, author of “Life of Pi.” I suggest you read one of his other works, entitled, “Self.”
It’s a really beautifully, oddly, interestingly written book about exploration and personal identity.
FILM- I recently saw a documentary called, “Catfish.” It is a pretty frightening story about social networking…wow…just wow, watch it. Also, go see the new Disney Repunzel movie, “Tangled.” I wept through a shocking number of scenes and laughed way harder than the dozens of children I was surrounded by. Plus, Mandy Moore is kind of my hero…Watch her in “Saved,” she is the best.
Also, I may or may not have bought the soundtrack on my iphone in the car on the way home from the movie theater…
MUSICIAN- I was recently introduced to Hanne Hukkelberg. Search, “Hanne Hukkelberg – A Cheater’s Armoury” on youtube.
I find her music mesmerizing. Also, if you aren’t familiar with “The Perishers” look them up.
Though, good luck believing in everlasting love after listening to them excessively. Good luck.
SDTC: You grew up on the road-what are some of your favourite places in Canada?
Hayley Penner: I love Peggy’s cove in Nova Scotia. I have spent a lot of time there over the years and it continues to be one of my favorite spots. Also, my family has a cottage a few hours out of Winnipeg. It’s right on the Lake and no matter how much traveling I do, all over the world, it remains one of my most favorite places.
SDTC: What’s an artistic goal you’d like to accomplish?
Hayley Penner: I want to be a cartoon. I have been doing an increasing amount of voice-over singing and acting in the last couple of years and I am dying to play some Disney princess or a Pixar alien superhero. I’m going to be working on a short film at the end of January with a local film maker here in Toronto. It will be my first stop-motion animation film and I am pretty excited about it.
And for Tuzo; I want to release a really great record and take over the world. Okay, I guess world domination isn’t absolutely necessary, I just want to sing and write songs that people want to dance to on road trips.
SDTC: Describe the vibe at a Tuzo show.
Hayley Penner: The Tuzo vibe is fun and sort of heavy. It’s a combination of straight up pop melodies and some serious dubstep. I would love to know how an audience member would answer this question. The way I perceive the vibe on stage is probably pretty different.
Show at the Mod Club on Saturday night, Jan.15th!
Tuzo on stage at approx. 10:30pm.