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My Firsts: David Carriere and Marta Cikojevic of TOPS

Canadian Idols

Apr 28, 2020 Web Exclusive
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to David Carriere and Marta Cikojevic of TOPS.

TOPS released a new album, I Feel Alive, earlier this month. It was their first full-length for their own label, Musique TOPS, and their fourth album overall, the follow-up to 2017’s Sugar At the Gate. As well as Cikojevic (keyboards) and Carriere (guitarist), the band also features vocalist Jane Penny and drummer Riley Fleck. I Feel Alive continues the band’s modern and sophisticated take on soft-rock and was recorded in a basement studio in Montreal. It is the first album to feature Cikojevic in the studio, as she joined the band in 2017 as a touring member.

“From the first time we practiced with her it was clear that we were in sync musically, and we found ourselves improvising together at the first rehearsal,” said Penny in a press release announcing the album. “Having Marta manning the keys allowed me to reach for my flute, and gave me the chance to integrate my flute playing with the writing process, using it as an expressive instrument rather than more production element which it has been in the past.”

Penny had this to add about recording I Feel Alive: “We’d spent a lot of time apart, not working on new stuff or touring, just living life, all in different cities. When we went to make I Feel Alive we all had a good sense of what we were trying to do and a renewed energy towards playing together. The goal was to get in a room together and play, not holding anything back.”

Read on as Carriere and Cikojevic talk about early crushes, kids TV, their favorite music as a child and teenager, and performing in a snowsuit.

First word?

David Carriere: It was tops… go with that.

Marta Cikojevic: I’m gonna text my mom…

First best friend?

David: There was a guy—a child—who lived across the alley who had better toys than me.

Marta: The first day of kindergarten I immediately recognized that I would need backup in the form of a BFF… I pretended that I didn’t know how to tie my shoes and asked the girl beside me to help. We remained friends throughout the day. LOL.

First pet?

Marta: A fat tabby cat named Miss Kitty.

David: There was a cat named Charlie, and another cat named Earl. I don’t remember them but know of their existence through home videos.

First broken bone?

David: I’ve never broken a bone. I fractured my wrist playing soccer.

Marta: Same, but snowboarding, have never snowboarded since.

First time you had to go to the hospital?

David: When I was born. LOL.

Marta: Same!

First time you fell in love?

Marta: I fell in love with a boy in preschool, I can’t remember his name, but I told my mother I would marry him, I haven’t seen him since.

First person you kissed?

David: A girl name M#R#ND%—her so called friends threw a jacket over us and we smooched for like three seconds.

Marta: A guy at camp, he wore his hat to the side. Can’t remember his name.

First TV show you were obsessed with?

Marta: Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers. Magic School Bus. I had a Tickle Me Elmo, fucking creepy.

David: Sesame Street as well. And there was a public access show in Edmonton where some guy named Peter Hill took the bus around and just talked about all sorts of irrelevant stuff.

First record your parents played for you?

David: On Sunday we would do chores to Tracy Chapman or Phoebe Snow or stuff like this. They rocked classic rock all the time though.

Marta: My mom liked to drive to Queen.

First album you bought?

David: Early purchases for me were [Weezer’s] Pinkerton on cassette from A and B sound and [Nirvana’s] Incesticide from Dan’s Exchange

Marta: Probably Destiny’s Child or something like that.

First favorite band?

Marta: Spice Girls were popular.

David: Both Nirvana and The Beatles.

First favorite song?

Marta: Tony Orlando [and Dawn]: “Knock Three Times.” It was in the movie Now and Then.

David: There was a song off of the DanceMix91 cassette that I was feeling so hard that I asked an adult to show me how to dub it onto another cassette. It was called “And the World Keeps on Turning” by Candi and the Backbeat. When we finally got the duplication going we only recorded like a third of the song onto the other tape because I thought the adult I was with thought it was an uncool song and said that’s all I need of it.

First musician you had a crush on?

David: Victoria Beckham.

Marta: I think mine might have been Zac from Hanson or Usher.

First actor or actress you had a crush on?

David: Ariel from the mermaid movie.

Marta: JTT [Jonathan Taylor Thomas].

First time you got drunk?

David: In junior high with some cool guys. It was hip to skateboard and drink 40s.

Marta: I have a photo of myself being drunk for the first time.

First job you had?

David: I’m not sure if it was first but I worked a car wash/gas station and it was a very uncool time, I disliked cleaning out the vacuums quite a bit. I had the same job again when I moved to Montreal.

Marta: Cashier at an IGA.

First time you got fired?

Marta: I got fired from the elite tennis club I worked reception at when I joined TOPS.

David: Do you get fired if you quit at the same time?

First car you owned?

Marta: Chrysler Intrepid. I would slam it into grocery store carts, it was an old piece of shit.

David: I got to drive a 1990 Volvo 740 turbo for a bit but it wasn’t totally mine. I bought a red Doge Caravan (named Judy) with TOPS to go on tour.

First country you visited outside of your own?

David: The USA to go to the Sasquatch festival. And the again to the USA when I turned 21 to go drink in NYC with some cool guys.

Marta: United States.

First computer?

David: We had a shared MacIntosh Classic II in the basement.

First email address?

Marta: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) but I didn’t know what 69 meant! Everyone was using the number!

First social media account?

David: It was either Nexopia or Myspace

Marta: Does MSN count?

First roommate?

David: Shared a room with my brother.

Marta: Shared a room with two of my sissys.

First time you voted?

David and Marta: We both voted for Adam Lambert.

First instrument?

David: Violin.

Marta: Piano.

First band you were in?

David: I played cookie pan drums in a band with my brother and guy named Lloyd. We were called Lint and we had a song called ”When a Bull Sees Red” and a song called “Lint.”

Marta: I was the lead singer in a band with my two younger sisters. Our hit song was called “Walking Down the Street (One Day).”

First recording device?

Marta: I had a handheld tape recorder. I would record fake commercial jingles and had my own radio show, it was sick.

David: I did the same thing. I would sing the liner notes of different CDs and record it.

First professional recording session?

Marta: What!? You wouldn’t call that professional?

First time you performed in public?

David: Battle of the bands at my high school. It was a kind of screamo hardcore outfit called the girlsclub.

Marta: A piano recital in church, I was late so I was forced to play in my snowsuit.

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