Electronic duo headlines North Van’s inaugural Shipped Waterfront Festival

Humans, TD main stage – Shipped Waterfront Festival on the North Vancouver City waterfront, Saturday, Aug. 11. Show: 8:30 p.m., with other performances scheduled throughout the day (shippedfestival.com).

The man in the gallery saw his face on the wall.

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The artist saw his face on the man in the gallery.

Of course the two met. They had to.

Robbie Slade was there to help his girlfriend serve booze, not to appraise the surreal, post-apocalyptic manga-inspired, pro wrestling-influenced, psychobilly-fuelled splashes of wonder and madness festooning the gallery walls. But he found himself pulled to the art and the closer he was drawn the more he noticed the resemblance.

Peter Ricq was the artist responsible for that resemblance – although he didn’t know it.

Ricq had drawn what he imagined was a 1910 time traveller named Parnell. He drew Parnell over and over, unaware that he looked like somebody he didn’t know yet.

Slade came up to him to talk, Ricq recalls.

“A lot of people say that your drawing looks like me,” Slade told him, he recalls.

“They kinda do,” Peter Ricq replied.

And, like Jimmy Stewart seeing Kim Novak during the art gallery scene in Vertigo, the two formed a bond.

Ricq remembers someone asking him if he was in love with his bandmate, after all, “you draw him all the time,” they pointed out.

“No, no, no, I drew him before I met him,” he remembers saying.

As far as Slade, he thought the uncanny resemblance was pretty cool, Ricq says.

“I drew him and he came to life.”

Ricq knows the value of having the right look. His uncle played drums for a “successful-ish” Quebec band whose lead singer was offered a record deal on the condition he fire his band. The singer refused and the record deal vanished.

“If you have to fire your not-as-good-looking band, do it,” Ricq says, not seriously. “Is that the moral of the story?” he asks.

Growing up in Montreal, Ricq went through a range of musical phases. He had a Beach Boys era, a Radiohead period. There was a time when he was into drum and bass and a time when he hearkened back to the 1970s rock of Black Sheep.

Ricq had only been in Vancouver for a few years when he met Slade.

Slade was in a band at the time and asked Ricq to design the T-shirts.

Ricq checked out the band. They had good lyrics, nice melodies, and, especially important, no solos.

“I hate solos,” Ricq explains.

Impressed, he invited the band back to his place to jam and maybe record something.

“Robbie’s the only one who showed up,” he says.

They weren’t a duo yet, but they each liked what the other had to offer. Slade played folk music and Ricq was more interested in electro-crash. The clash of their two styles created something that sounded fresh, Ricq explains.

It was all going well until Slade planned to take off for the summer for a seasonal firefighting job.

Ricq knew Slade probably needed the money, but he also knew they’d lose momentum if they split.

“I think we’ve got something going here,” he remembers telling him. “Do you wanna stay?”

Slade stayed and the duo eventually formed Humans.

They considered People as a band name, but Ricq thought there was something funny about an electronic band called Humans.

“It’s easy to remember,” he says. “And we are humans.”

The two stacks beats atop notes atop sounds and then drop melodic vocals in the middle like a tulip on an assembly line.

“You can’t really pinpoint the Humans sound ‘cause there’s so many influences,” he says.

When it comes to writing, Ricq tends to listen to music and think about what his take would be on certain songs. He likes to arrive at the studio with a song that’s been started but not finished. That way, he explains, the songs’ gaps can accommodate that day’s ideas.

“The really good songs, you can’t plan those,” he says. “It’s like having a baby and then it turns into an adult and it’s everything you did want.”

Asked why someone should check out Humans in their headlining role at the Shipped Waterfront Festival, Ricq offers two words: “It’s free,” he says with a laugh.

It’s also one of the group’s first live sets in a year.

“I have to start practising again,” he says.

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