Open Waters | CONTRA sits down with Morgan Waters of Sweet Thing
On a damp Toronto afternoon, a lanky, frazelle-haired musician walks into Lakeview restaurant at Ossingon and Dundas. He wears clear Ray-Ban sunglasses and a purple hoodie beneath an oversized black jacket.
If you don’t know his name yet, it’s Morgan Waters, and he plays bass for a Toronto band called Sweet Thing, another name you should know. Why? Because this band is going to be big and you want in on the fun.
Sweet Thing is music you can dance like a dork to. It’s that catchy tune you just can’t shake. They’re fast, they’re furious, and they’re successful not despite the fact that they play pop music, but because they play pop music; Sweet Thing is pop music done right. They sound like milkshakes, juke-boxes, and everything else you love about the fifties meets tattoos, and graffiti, and everything punk about the eighties.
I first heard Sweet Thing play four months ago, when they opened the Pheonix Concert Theatre. Before the show, the floor was packed with twenty-somethings scrambling to secure their spots for the main act. “Who is opening?” the crowd asked, over and again, to which someone would reply, “Some Toronto band.” That band was Sweet Thing and they stole the show.
Sweet Thing executes each song viciously, ferociously, with all the sweat and fever you’d expect from five dudes in their sexual prime. They’re committed, they’re confident, and by the time they’d finished their first set that night at the Pheonix, the entire audience knew their name.
Morgan Waters, the bands’ bass player, took the time to sit down with me at Lakeview restaurant in Toronto to discuss the band, their music, and his latest role as director for the band’s “Lazy Susan” music video.
“We’re just five dudes who make music to entertain” Waters tells me as he munches on french fries and a milkshake. The dudes he refers to are Alex Winter (guitar) Tyler Kyte (drums) Owen Carrier (lead vocals) and Nick Rose (guitar). Waters moved to Toronto from Victoria to host the CBC children’s show The X, before trying his funny bone on The Morgan Waters Show, a six-minute sketch comedy act. While in Toronto, he met Owen Carrier, who had formed Sweet Thing with high school friend Alex Winter. They hooked up with drummer Tyler Kyte, and guitarist Nick Rose, who were roommates at the time, and the five started making music.
I ask Waters at what point during their formation did the five guys look up at one another and realize that they had something here. “We didn’t” he replies. “There was no definitive moment for us; we just kept playing.” Play seems to be the key word here, since much about Sweet Thing’s music is about creative play. These guys never take themselves too seriously, a quality that translates through their witty lyrics and hilarious music videos.
Take their hit single ‘Dance Mother’ for example (above). In the music video, the band races down the highway in a car-cum-motorboat-cum-airplane all in pursuit of a scarlet-lipped blonde.
“The lyrics for the song ‘Dance Motherfucker’ were kind of an accident” Waters tells me. “We were rehearsing, and I thought Owen said ‘I don’t want to dance motherfucker’ and we all liked it, so it stuck.” Despite the band’s commitment to fun and creative play, Waters is a hard worker. On a typical day, he gets up and works like everyone else, only he writes lyrics and composes music while other thirty-year-olds commute to cubicles.
“You want a pop song to sound effortless, but it’s not” he tells me. “It’s actually really difficult to make something sounds simple.” Waters says his work ethic is opposite to band member Tyler Kyte, who takes a more laissez-faire approach to his work. “Tyler wants everything to be fun, whereas I think work should be a struggle.” At this, Waters smirks, “we fight sometimes [over our work ethic]”. When I ask for a juicy anecdote, he doesn’t spill. “I suppose our differences balance each other out” he replies, rather generously.“ And then there’s Alex,” Waters continues, “who writes a lot of songs and plays guitar, so he brings a kind of soulful component to the band. He’s actually the one who wrote “We’re on Fire Tonight,” the only real slow song on the album.” But the real performer of the quintet is lead singer Owen Carrier. After watching them on stage that night a the Pheonix, I’m convinced Owen was Frankie Valli in another life, or at least a member of a barbershop quartet. Owen, or “the ham” as Waters calls him, is sharp and spunky with a voice that packs a punch.
Water’s latest project: directing the video for “Lazy Susan,” the second track off the band’s debut album, which he composed on Garage Band. “Everything else on the album was fast, so we wanted a spinning, kind of Hall & Oats-inspired song” he says.”We spent a lot of time watching Abba videos before recording to get some of the hand gestures down, and we also watched takes from this British comedy show called “Look around You.”
“Look Around You” satirizes educational films from the 70s and 80s, and isn’t too far off from the “Lazy Susan” video, which, says Waters, is “a complete parody of everything a music video is supposed to be.” “Lazy Susan” like most of Sweet Thing’s music, has a quirky narrative element to it, telling a story about a lazy girl (Susan) who hangs around watching soap operas all day. When I ask Waters about the background story behind Lazy Susan, he says it isn’t based on one particular girl, or at least not one that he’s willing to name.
The video captures the essence of the band: performative, funny, full of energy, and just silly enough to remind me not to take life too seriously. What’s next for Waters? “I want to do everything” he says. With the band’s upcoming tour scheduled and their second album in the works, this Toronto-based boy isn’t stopping; it’s all open waters from here.