Blunt Chunks is the project of Toronto-based singer-songwriter Caitlin Woefle-O’Brien. Her self-titled EP is out now on Telephone Explosion.
Jasmyn, formerly of the Toronto band Weaves, is a singer-songwriter now based in Hamilton, Ontario; Caitlin Woefle-O’Brien, aka Blunt Chunks, is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter who formerly also used to live in Hamilton. The new Blunt Chunks EP is out today on Telephone Explosion, and Jasmyn’s record In The Wild comes out next month on ANTI-/Royal Mountain Records, so to celebrate, the two friends caught up about it all and more.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music
Jasmyn: So how did your EP come about?
Caitlin Woefle-O’Brien: Before I say that, I was going to say: You’re such a powerhouse with writing songs. I remember ages ago you being like, “Oh, yeah, I go to the studio, I write about 10 demos and one or two of them we work on.” I was like, “What? You go to the studio with your bandmates and write 10 demos in one day?”
Jasmyn: Well, I would go by myself. I guess I didn’t think it was strange because I just figured that’s what people do.
Caitlin: You’re amazing. So, the way it happened was I had all these songs from over the years and finally started to believe in myself and recorded some of them with a bunch of musician friends. That was like before COVID stuff. And then I just had all these stems for a year, and I just wasn’t sure what to do with them. I was trying to kind of produce them, but I couldn’t really get it right. I had met David [Plowman] — he was like, “I’d love to work with you or see about trying something,” and I just kind of avoided calling him for a while because I was like, No, I don’t know, being self-doubty and stuff.
Finally, I guess it was during COVID, I was like, Fuck it, I’ll just call him. We went in and we started working on “Natural Actors,” because I had all the beds for that. We just kept working on stuff, and then Nate [Burley] came into the mix and it was great, and we were working on more tracking. So then I started thinking about, should I talk to a label? And then a friend was like, You should send this to Jon [Schouten] at Telephone Explosion. Finally, the EP was nearly finished and I signed back in November officially.
Jasmyn: Did it feel good to sign something?
Caitlin: Yeah, it felt really good. The funny thing was, I was dating someone and we were in Montreal when I was signing this, and I was like, “Let’s go out and have a cocktail and celebrate!” And they were like, “I’m having a weird night,” and they kind of dampened the joy for me, so I didn’t get to really celebrate signing.
Jasmyn: You should just do it now, just take yourself out.
Caitlin: Oh, trust me, I’ve definitely celebrated since. I’m very, very happy to have now clear goals and a team and the things I really needed, and that I was avoiding even considering for a long time. I sometimes say, “Oh, I wish I’d done this sooner.” But a lot of people have said, “Maybe you weren’t ready, you know?” And I was like, “OK, I accept that.”
Jasmyn: I think with music, if you want to do this for your life, there’s no rush of, I need to have this accomplished by the time I’m this age. I think sometimes we prevent ourselves from continuing to grow when we think, I should have this all in the bag at 25, or whatever, you know? I know there’s a lot of conversations about being on a label, not being on a label, should you release music independently? But I do think there is something to being part of a community of artists on a label that you like working with, and who helps you with the vision. Because I think sometimes musicians, we do need a little bit of direction and goals to accomplish. And so I like being on a label. I think it’s a nice place to come back to, and they help you just organize your ideas a little bit. I would say it’s a good thing. So congratulations!
Caitlin: You too!
Jasmyn: It’s interesting because before the pandemic, I didn’t even really own a computer. I always recorded demos on my phone and it was always a really complicated thing. And then during the pandemic, I finally invested in a computer and gear, and I got Logic, and I was like, I’m going to just record to a computer. And then I kind of eliminate a lot of humans and I’m able to hone in. I think it is this confidence thing that you of have to believe in yourself before you get into this type of thing.
Before we jump into recording in that, should we say where we met? How do we know each other?
Caitlin: So, I’ll never forget the moment I met you, first laid eyes. It was when I was DJing for Bizarre on my mother’s birthday at the Regent Park Outdoor Show, end of July. I took my mom out for dinner and then we went to the gig. We opened for Weaves, and this was the first time I’d ever heard of Weaves, I’d ever seen you. And my mom and I were just flabbergasted, blown away. We’re like, “Who is this!?”
Jasmyn: That’s funny. I remember that because I think I wore a fisherman’s hat over top of my face.
Caitlin: Yes, you did. There was a net, like a fishnet thing.
Jasmyn: I forgot about that. That was early, early days. Like, I feel like that was 2014, maybe.
Caitlin: Yeah, it could have been earlier than that.
Jasmyn: That was literally probably the second show or something. That’s wild. It’s interesting — I remember seeing you because you had the big curly blonde hair, you were the DJ for this duo Bizarre, who were these weird alien ladies. And I was just like, “Who are these people? It’s amazing!” Iit was the best thing I’d seen. And I felt like Toronto had been so rock band-oriented at that point that it was cool to see young women just being weirdos and a little bit off the path of what the Toronto music scene had been at that point.
Jasmyn: But I guess that was early Toronto days, before the city was uber corporate.
Caitlin: Yeah. Brutal.
Jasmyn: I guess because when we were younger, I kind of think of Toronto at that time — like Hidden Cameras and Kids on TV — they were these older bands, and they were very strange and had a lot of people onstage. I think I even went to all ages shows at that point, I don’t think I was 19 yet, and just going to see all these cool [bands like] Mellow Grove Band and Death From Above. It was before Toronto was kind of hip, so I felt like we had this really cool experience of Toronto before it became, like, Drake’s Toronto. You know what I mean?
Caitlyn: Totally. Oh, yeah.
Jasmyn: Because I feel like it was a really interesting musical city. I remember at age 19, I think I was playing literally a gig a week. Every week there was multiple shows happening in Toronto and you could get on all these different bills.
Caitlin: I was doing that though. I was doing that until, like, 2016, ‘17 or ‘18 even. I was doing a lot.
Jasmyn: I know, it’s shifted a lot, though.It was just like underground, I guess, because it was kind of pre-Instagram. So it was still people just playing shows in little rooms.
Caitlin: Yeah, it feels maybe there’s more pressure now. When lockdowns happened, I was like, OK, awesome. I get to take a break from playing shows. Because I was playing everything, I just said yes because I needed money. And then I was like, there’s no pressure anymore. And then now things are opening up, and I feel like there’s double pressure. I’m like, Oh, shit, I actually have to play a show? Oh, no, oh, no, I’m not ready! I don’t know what I’m going to do! But I’m excited also.
Jasmyn: Will you have a full band with you?
Caitlin: Yeah, I think I’m going to do full band. I gotta find them, but… I do have like all my friends that are on the record who, I think some of them would be down. I was going to ask, are you going to play shows, or have you been playing shows?
Jasmyn: Yeah. I kind of have a mini tour coming up and then more things coming up in the future that we haven’t released yet. But yeah, I’m going to go on the road. I’m going to play with tracks this time, and then have one person on stage with me and get an interesting visual experience. So we’ll see, I’m like kind of building it right now. It’s scary going back onto the road. You’re like, Do I know how to do this anymore? Like it’s the longest, I think, a lot of musicians have gone without doing any shows.
Caitlin: It’s weird how things change. But, contemporary dance — I wanted to ask you about that.
Caitlin: So what happened? Because being an ex-contemporary dancer — well, I’ll always be a contemporary dancer. But, you know, that’s such a part of my life, and then I was like, Oh, yeah, Jasmyn’s doing the dances! How did that come about? Did you start working with a choreographer?
Jasmyn: Yeah. Well, Leah Fay from July Talk choreographed the first video for “Find the Light.” For this album, I created a bit of a manifesto — it’s like a document that I draw from for different visuals and everything.
Caitlin: That’s smart.
Jasmyn: It helps when you’re even just talking to video directors, because you have these pillars of what you want the visuals to be. And so within that, I had that it would be great to have choreography, movement. Because in the pandemic, there was a lot of pent up emotions, you were just sort of seated for two-and-a-half years. And I felt it would be fun to have movement and getting things out of your body. I saw a therapist before, and she had told me how literally just shaking can help to release energies. If you have any type of emotions in your body, it’s really good to move.
Caitlin: Osho was right!
Jasmyn: Exactly. And obviously it’s become a thing right now, where everyone’s dancing. But I was like, it would be cool to have that type of expression. I feel like the older I get, I understand dance more. I guess I didn’t really understand dance previously, but now when I see contemporary dance, when I see the ballet, I’m like, Wow, this makes sense to me now. I understand expressing yourself and feeling the music, and it’s a different way to express it outside of the music video or a press shot or something. So it can be used as an extension of the album, I think, which is kind of a cool thing.
So then when we did the video for “Edge of Time,” the editor [Michelle Hanitijo] also did the choreo. Which I thought that’s a genius skill to have, because you can kind of pace out the movement and know when you’re going to edit. But I was kind of terrified, because I had said to the director, Iris Kim, “I’d love to do choreo!” And then it ended up being a full thing, and I was never dancer, so I practiced so much. [Laughs.]
Caitlin: It was amazing. You nailed it.
Jasmyn: Are you working on a music video?
Caitlin: I just shot two videos, one of them is finished. I shot it with my friend Emma Cosgrove, and let me tell you, there is horseback riding. There is figure skating. There’s tobogganing. We went to the local bar, the only bar here, and we played some pool and set up the whole lighting system. They were just like, “Sure, whatever, we don’t care,” like on a Friday night. Just, like, five people were there gambling. [Laughs.] And we crashed my car accidentally, but that made it into the video too. It’s for the song called “Part of Me.”
And then Laura Lynn Petrick came up and we shot another video, and that one incorporates just lots of local stuff: where I’m living right now, which is really cool, and the cat that I live with, Bonnie, who’s sleeping on my bed right now. And lots of outfit changes. But yeah, I really want to do a dance video ASAP.
Jasmyn: Do you like making music videos?
Caitlin: Yeah, so much fun. I love it. All the ideas can come to life in one spot.
Jasmyn: I was listening to your song “Natural Actors,” and you mentioned being a caffeine addict. I was wondering if you’re a coffee snob, if you enjoy a cold brew. What’s the deal?
Caitlin: Normally, I just like a real good bean. A really nice bean.
Jasmyn: Like medium roast, dark roast?
Caitlin: Just like a luxury bean. Like, you know, notes of marshmallow, melon, lemons, lavender —a $20 bag of beans, basically. Freshly grind that up; pour over is the best way, but I don’t have a pour over situation here, so it’s been French press. Not my favorite. But honestly, I take what I can. The coffee that I was talking about in that song was, I was in a Turkish coffee phase, which is hardcore. What’s that one? It’s the gold bag… Barzula!
Jasmyn: Barzula! I think the importance, regardless of the flavor, is like that you grind the beans right before you drink the coffee. Because I remember working at a cafe and our boss was like, “If you grind it right before, then all those natural aromas take place in the cup.” As opposed to if it’s ground and sitting there for a month at the grocery store, it’s stale.
Jasmyn: So I would say that would be my recommendation to people, is buy a bag not ground and grind them at home. It will make a big difference in your life.
Caitlin: Caffeine addiction does not stop at coffee for me.
Jasmyn: Yeah. How old were you when you started drinking coffee?
Jasmyn: Why did you start?
Caitlin: Cafeteria in high school — double, double, baby, and a chocolate chip cookie. [Laughs.] And then my mom is a hardcore coffee lover forever. She’s been drinking black coffee since 1960. Just full on. So, yeah, coffee runs deep. I always have to kind of go off it once in a while, though.
Jasmyn: I did one year without it. I did rooibos tea instead, and I felt good. But when I drank my first cup again, I was like, Yeah, I don’t need to not drink this. Like, I don’t have many vices.
Caitlin: It’s the most addictive drug in the world, apparently, or it’s the hardest drug to get off of in the world.
Jasmyn: It’s so good.
Caitlin: Because it’s so common and accepted and stuff.
Jasmyn: And that really wakes you up. You feel good.
Caitlin: It changes your whole nervous system, actually. It’s a thing.
Jasmyn: We’re both from Toronto and we moved to Hamilton — seven, eight years ago was when you first moved, I guess?
Caitlin: I don’t remember what day it is. What year is it? [Laughs.] Wait, it was 2016.
Jasmyn: So why did you leave Toronto?
Caitlin: Well, I really wanted to move out of my mom’s place, and I had moral belief that paying $600 for a room in Toronto when my mom had a house in Toronto — I should just live there if I’m going to live in Toronto. It was a weird. I should have just moved out and lived on my own, but I was kind of like, No, I refuse to pay that much money to live on my own. And then at the same time, I met my ex-boyfriend and we were just so in love, and he was like, “You should move to Hamilton.”
Caitlin: I was spending a lot of time there because he was there already, and he had to move out of his place so then we decided to move in together after three months of dating. And that’s why I moved to Hamilton. But I just love to try new things. Within a year, we were basically broken up, and then I had a job, and I just went to another apartment, and went to another apartment after that, another apartment after that. And then eventually I was like, This is not for me, this place. So I left. But honestly, looking back and having so many growing pains and a lot of good times, actually, in Hamilton, I do miss it sometimes for sure. But anyone who knows me from that time is like, “You hated Hamilton.” But I don’t know. I didn’t really hate it. Things are more complex than just one thing, like. I did often talk shit about it, but I didn’t actually hate it.
Jasmyn: Maybe the things you were doing, or the mindset you were in — maybe the external things. But you had a really nice place and you met some interesting people.
Caitlin: Yeah. And that was kind of the golden years of the Hamilton arts and music scene. All that awesome stuff: Strange Barn, Strange Waves, HAVN, CASINO. I’ve heard now that a lot of people have moved out of Hamilton, and I know HAVN is closed down. I know that This Ain’t Hollywood is closed down. That was actually a really special time. But I feel like a lot of people have moved to Hamilton for different reasons than to be part of the art scene. It’s more like to have a more stable living environment.
Jasmyn: Yeah, the housing is cheaper than Toronto, I guess. But you found people from Hamilton have also left — I feel like there’s always shifting things in life where people are coming in, others are leaving.
It was funny because we lived across from each other and I didn’t even [know].
Caitlin: That was crazy.
Jasmyn: I was like, “Oh, I moved to this street,” and you were like, “I live across the street from you.” I was so nervous moving to Hamilton. I was kind of just jumping off a cliff a bit, and just sort of sick of living in the city. And it was comforting when you were there — because even that Halloween, we gave out candy to kids.
Caitlin: God, that was so cute!
Jasmyn: Because you had an outdoor barbecue, and I met some people there that I ended up becoming friends with. When I moved to Hamilton, I had been touring a lot constantly and going to busy cities, and then I’d come home to Toronto and I wasn’t feeling relaxed ever. So I liked moving to a place that’s a little bit quieter. My family lives there as well now, they moved to Hamilton before me.
I think every place has its pros and cons, you know, and I feel like it’s nice to live in different places throughout your life. You often get stuck in a thing of like, Oh, I’m from Toronto, I’m never leaving Toronto. And I feel like it is nice to experience other places and sort of open your eyes to other people and their way of living. I guess after Hamilton, maybe I’ll move to Vancouver for a while and give that a shot. I think there is something to trying different places in the country you’re from or going abroad. I think it just helps you to have a bigger perspective on people’s ways of living. I think it helps with writing, too, as a musician. I think it definitely helps you to be more creative in certain ways when you’re like in a different space.
Caitlin: Yeah, even if there’s only one song that comes out of it. I look back and I’m like, Oh, I hated my apartment. But “Natural Actors” came from that. When you’re talking about living in a new environment, it is a test of your resilience. And I think a lot of people get comfortable in a place, and its contentment and its safety and whatever. But for me, I know that I’ll always just give a shot to different places. That has been just who I am. And I think it’s definitely a thing with artists, songwriters, painters, anything — you’ve got to explore the world.
Caitlin: And if you can’t explore the world, that’s fine, too. Hopefully you can explore deeply your own environment, your inner world.