Canadian alt-rock band CIIVLIANA is a four-piece group of former high school classmates, who formed a band as adults. Their newest single, “Void”, continues a compelling three-song narrative originated in the group’s previous single, “Carry a Light” about the aftermath of a failed relationship, the search for a new identity, and ultimately the decision to explore new emotional and physical connections.
I got the chance to talk with Calen Trentini (lead vocalist and drummer) about how the band culminated into what it is now, their new single “Void” being the second part of a three-part musical narrative, what he’s nerding out about and so much more!
For those who might not have ever heard of y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?
CIVILIANA’s story began with our bass player, Spencer Daley, and I in middle school in a city 4 hours outside of Vancouver, Canada named Kelowna.
During the first day of music class in 7th grade, Spencer decided the bass guitar would be his instrument of choice and I chose to take on the drums. This was the beginning of a now 15 year-long musical relationship and friendship that has cultivated a strong artistic chemistry between us.
During high school, we realized we needed a guitar player to fill out our sound (despite Spencer’s best attempts at distorting his bass tone as much as possible to sound like a guitar) and we were introduced to a musician/guitar player at a neighboring school named Adam Wilson. It became apparent very quickly that Adam’s seemingly effortless songwriting ability, unique guitar playing ability and musical influences were going to be a great fit for us.
This was the beginning of the initial roster of CIVILIANA. However, it wasn’t until years later – when we were in our early 20s – that we brought on our childhood friend and music producer Dan Ponich to be the fourth member of the band.
Where did the name CIVILIANA come from?
Adam pitched the name Civilian at band practice one time. We all liked the simplicity and anonymity of the name and felt it represented our sound well. Ironically, later on, we decided to change it slightly to CIVILIANA to provide some differentiation and a more unique feel that was easily identifiable.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. You guys classify your sound as alt-rock, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
First and foremost, we want to convey our commitment to artistic integrity, musicianship, songwriting and performance. We put a large focus dedicating ourselves as developing songwriters and never compromising lyricism or authenticity in our art.
Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Between the four of us, we have a fairly eclectic background of influences – specifically Spencer who grew up loving and listening to hip-hop and electronic music along with rock. That said, we generally can all agree on a few artists such as Kasabian, Gorillaz, Arctic Monkeys and Death From Above 1979.
Let’s talk about your newest single, “Void”, which is the second part of a three-part musical narrative. What’s the story behind this song?
The story and meaning behind “Void” have to do with reflecting within yourself to find meaning as opposed to looking externally.
In this song, I am specifically referring to a situation where pressures to conform and find relationships led me to rush into a relationship that was not right for me. Even though that was the original source of inspiration, anyone who has lost their identity and direction as a result of their culture, ideology, gender etc. and had to look within themselves to truly understand their own purpose and meaning will relate to this track.
How does this song being part of a three-part musical narrative affect your writing process? Did you write “Void” first or one of the other songs in the narrative first?
In that case of these 3 singles, there was a lot we wanted to say about the experiences we were going through (and still are going through) in our mid-20s and the themes within the lyrics and songwriting all seemed to be interconnected and cyclical. I don’t normally talk about the singles in this order – given how cyclical the song themes are, it still works – but to address your question specifically, the last of the 3 singles, “Melt”, was written first. “Melt” discusses the idea of seeking new connections following the end of a relationship – along with the messiness and filthy nature of these new connections – whereas the first single, “Carry a Light”, speaks more about the moment immediately following a breakup where you aren’t ready to seek out new connections and longing and loneliness are the emotions dominating you. These new connections ultimately lead to new relationships, however “Void” discusses the importance of inward self-reflection to ensure that you are making the right choice for yourself.
In general, do you guys tend to write by yourselves or do you like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
We tend to stick to writing with just the four of us. Being in a band means you are masters at collaborating but also at compromising. While we do feel there is a lot to learn from other artists, we tend to not include them in the CIVILIANA writing process for the sake of simplicity.
Were there any major changes to “Void” that happened once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
There were! We had been playing “Void” live for a few months before recording the track and never felt the need to add in lyrics to the outro. Upon listening to the demo in the studio, we realized that the song was in a great place with the exploding outro but there was an opportunity to further deliver the song’s meaning through the lyrics and thus a vocal melody and lyrical pursuit to discuss the narrator’s “epiphany” was created.
You guys are still relatively new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
In the short term, we want to tour as much as possible. We really put an emphasis on developing a unique and energetic live performance that we want to share with fans across North America and beyond. Further to this, we want to continue developing our craft and focusing on creating art the speaks to us and our listeners through our studio tracks. We are currently in the process of writing and exploring future producers to capture these sounds.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
Speaking for myself, I’m looking forward to seeing Joaquin Phoenix in the movie, Joker. While I’m a bit fatigued from superhero movies, I feel this has a unique spin on the genre and they found the perfect actor, outside of Heath Ledger, to get the most out of that character.