Welcome to Downtime, a regular series in which we ask our favourite artists for their cultural recommendations. This month, we catch up with TOPS.
It feels impossible not to get swept up in TOPS’ wistful sound. Their strain of AM pop, with its warm guitar licks, soft synths and 60s-indebted vocal melodies, evokes the feeling of your most carefree Sunday mornings. Established in 2011, the Montreal band, composed of founding members Jane Penny, David Carriere and Riley Fleck, have continuously built on their nostalgic aesthetic, with their latest studio album I Feel Alive the most realised vision of their craft yet. For Downtime, singer Penny and drummer Fleck give us a glimpse into the literature that inspires them on the road.
Blood MemoryBy Martha Graham
I usually read autobiographies when I’m on tour. I find it hard to immerse myself in a fictional world when the environment around me is changing everyday. Reading about someone else’s life from their perspective helps me consider my own outlook and keeps me inspired. One of my favourite autobiographies is Blood Memory by Martha Graham. It’s full of sharp insights and entertaining stories, and she wrote it right at the end of her life so it has the comforting tone of her infinite wisdom.
The FlamethrowersBy Rachel Kushner
Our drummer Riley has recommended a lot of the books that I’ve enjoyed the most, and this is one of them. Kushner draws upon her own life with the main character, who is a young woman navigating the New York art scene in the 70s. Motorcycles play a big part in the story, so it’s a cool universe to inhabit. Kushner has a way of describing commonplace events in these really unique ways that perfectly encapsulates their essence.
– Jane Penny
I Can Give You Anything But LoveBy Gary Indiana
Gary Indiana is a connoisseur of the specific disappointments and resentments that guide people’s lives. This book isn’t necessarily my favourite of Gary Indiana’s, but I still loved it and it’s the one I read most recently. It’s somewhat of a memoir but reads like fiction, and like his books about other real people, I suspect he filled the holes in his memory with nuanced emotional insight.
Forbidden ColoursBy Yukio Mishima
Forbidden Colours is about a beautiful young man named Yuichi who is caught between his fiancée’s family’s upper class 1940s Japanese society and a clandestine queer underground. His resentment towards compulsory heterosexuality and personal constraints necessary for social mobility warps into misogyny, and sordidness ensues!
After Leaving Mr MackenzieBy Jean Rhys
This book came out in 1931 and is about Julia, a too-sensitive-for-this-world young woman navigating her way through Paris and London after being dumped by a wealthy man, leaving her upset and destitute. Julia’s life is similar to Jean Rhys’, which I suspect contributes to the intimacy of Julia’s shifting inner world that is simultaneously passionate, indignant, romantic and depressed. It’s an interesting look at how class and gender interacted for artistically inclined women at the time.
– Riley Fleck