Dekker and vàn Drìmmélén first started playing music together in Montreal, a place they called home for ten years. Both had been involved in a variety of projects and both were fully entrenched in Montreal’s music scene. Dekker and vàn Drìmmélén met at a party and started seeing each other shortly after, but they didn’t start collaborating together musically until Dekker joined vàn Drìmmélén’s band several years later. It didn’t take long before vàn Drìmmélén and Dekker realized that their musical connection was just as strong as their personal one.
“I don’t believe in soul mates or anything,” says vàn Drìmmélén “but I feel Kees and I are on the same page musically. When we discovered that this was the case, it felt very important and very lucky because we had been together for six or seven years before we started playing music together. When Kees joined my band Key of K, I thought to myself, ‘hmm, I really like what he is bringing to the table’ and that is when the light bulb came on for me that he and I could make music together. We did so shortly thereafter.”
When Dekker and vàn Drìmmélén ultimately decided to leave Quebec in 2010, they retired from Montreal’s busy scene to vàn Drìmmélén’s secluded family cabin in Saskatchewan and set to work recording almost immediately. The band’s 2012 release, Only Friend, documents these sessions, which were completed in the couple’s Oak Bay home studio the following year. As Dekker explains, The Backhomes owe their genesis to their Montreal exodus.
“I feel that we needed to start over and build a new music community,” says Dekker. “It just didn’t feel like Montreal was the right place for us and if we had stayed there, this band wouldn’t have happened. There was too much history there; sometimes, you need to leave home. If you’ve been in the same place for a long time, it is refreshing to leave and to find something new.”
While both Dekker and vàn Drìmmélén recognize the sonic limitations of their minimalist project and have considered recruiting a live drummer, they also enjoy the freedom of performing as a duo. In these economically stringent times, The Backhomes have benefitted from not having to juggle the schedules of multiple members in order to go on tour. Instead, Dekker and vàn Drìmmélén regularly tour up and down the West Coast, across the States, and as far as New Brunswick with not much more that a couple guitars and a drum machine in tow. As vàn Drìmmélén explains, however, The Backhomes have never seen their machine as a replacement for the real thing.
“I like that our sound does not attempt to reproduce an actual drummer. It is very obvious that this is drum machine and these are samples. We can do a variety of things to make certain parts of each track special, but I don’t ever want to lean on a robo-drummer: if we want that, we will have to find a real drummer and it is gonna happen someday when the time is right. We have had people come up to us at shows in Austin and LA and say, “Awe man, the whole time I was listening to your set, I was thinking, ‘I could totally drum to this!’” It is flattering, but we are not really looking right now, especially for someone living in LA.”
With propositions abounding, The Backhomes are happy to remain as a two piece for now. Their communication skills, honed over the course of their fourteen year relationship, continue to lend to the band’s distinct wash of beautiful guitar textures and ambient sounds reminiscent of War On Drugs and Kurt Vile.
Words by Nick Lyons, photography by Sara Hembree.