My Firsts: Robin Dann of Bernice | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Firsts: Robin Dann of Bernice

Pride and Extreme Fear

Mar 05, 2021 Photography by Colin Medley 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 Robin Dann of Toronto five-piece Bernice.

Bernice have released a new album, Eau De Bonjourno, today via Telephone Explosion. Eau De Bonjourno is the band’s third full-length, the follow-up to 2018’s eclectically named Puff LP: In the air without a shape. Shahzad Ismaily produced Eau De Bonjourno. As well as Dann, the band also features Thom Gill, Dan Fortin, Felicity Williams, and Phil Melanson. In a press release announcing the album, Dann said the LP “openly plays with the shape of a pop song.”

Dann added: “We have an impulse to open doors that you might not expect, and that translates from groove to melody to lyric. Phil and Thom have this strong aversion to building a beat that sits there in front of you and does exactly what you expect it to do. We come out of so many musical traditions and are trying to make something that’s not a direct descendent of any of them. We’re trying to make the music that feels like us right now.”

Read on as Dann talks about her beloved childhood pet dogs, peach schnapps, and being traumatized by Hook.

First word?

Doo-tee” (cookie) and Nowee” (Nico, my brother) who I apparently used to constantly call from the top of the stairs after naps. First best friend?

Zoe. :) We would play elaborate multi-hour games of trolls in the big bay window. I loved going to her house and being with her wiener dog, Boris, and eating English muffins with butter in the sun room. I was devastated when she left my school in grade 2.

First pet?

Smike the corgi, always grumpy, always hungry. Named by my dad, after the character in Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, which he was reading when we brought Smike home. We tried to cheer him up by getting a second corgi (named Larkin, also after a Dickens character I think?) but Larkin had very little going on in terms of brains (never learned to sit) and just annoyed Smike constantly. They had the exact dynamic of Garfield and Odie. When Larkin passed away, though, we buried him in the woods behind my step-grandma’s house and I remember Smike laying down on the spot where Larkin was buried and staying there for a good while. So in the end I guess he did love his pal.

First broken bone?

Never broken a bone! First time you had to go to the hospital?

Split my head open in the schoolyard in grade 2ish, and I got to go to the hospital in an ambulance. I remember feeling a combination of pride and extreme fear climbing into the ambulance…. I have a memory of a very large chair, being given a brown stuffed bear, and being told I could still become a rocket scientist. I refused to stay overnight at the hospital (too scary) so my parents had to wake me up every hour that night to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. First person you kissed?

That’s a personal question. True kiss? I guess it was Tosh Weiman on the Toronto Islands at a very glowy summer bonfire with a huge group of friends. I think I was 16. I was a late bloomer. It was a brief romance, but that was a beautiful party.

First movie you saw in the movie theater?

I was five, and my whole family went to see Hook in theatres. I was so excited and I got so scared in what I think was the first five minutes of the film (the bit when you see the HOOK being dragged up the stairs, ripping up the wall) that I threw up everywhere and my mom had to take me home. I still haven’t seen Hook.

First album you bought?

When I was seven or so, my dad and step mom took us on a road trip to visit family in BC (West Coast of Canada) and I got a brand new Walkman. My older brother Nico was already deep into music and I wanted to do everything exactly like him, but I felt the urge to select my own first tapes without his help. So I asked my cool cousin Eric. He recommended Bryan Adams’ Waking Up the Neighbours and Metallica’s Black Album [aka Metallica], which I convinced my dad to buy me. The way I remember it, Nico wouldn’t let me listen to Metallica because there were swear words on it. So I got really into Bryan Adams that trip.

First album you memorized top to bottom?

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

First time you got drunk?

I think I was 14 or 15, it was that magic September end of summer/beginning of the school year time. We “shoulder tapped” (anyone?) to get some peach schnapps of all things. That’s the one and only time I’ve had peach schnapps, come to think of it. We spent the night in High Park (Toronto) climbing the kids jungle gym and falling off skateboards. Very good times. :)

First roommate?

Maddy Maillet! I knew I would love her at first sight when we met (in residence in our first year of university) because she had hand written lines of poetry all over her jeans in sharpie and had this super gorgeous sneaky smile with big dimples. We lived together in second year in an apartment with no kitchen, just a fridge in the middle of the living room and a counter in the hallway. Great stuff.

First recording device?

My pink two-cassette tape deck which you could record onto. My friend Claire and I would record ourselves playing “sister,” which was basically an elaborate improviszed two woman show. We were named Jenny and Sarah after our favorite babysitters but we both always wanted to be Jenny. Those fights were on tape too.

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