LISTS The Many Sides of Homeshake By Jesse Locke · March 25, 2024

No matter where he calls home, Peter Sagar can likely be found strumming his guitar while watching TV. Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, the laid back R&B-influenced slack-rocker shared a duplex with the family of fellow guitarist Michael Rault. Their dads played in bands together, inspiring the youngsters to start jamming with another teenager: Mac DeMarco. Years before Sagar launched his solo project, Homeshake, he played with various groups and under a variety of pseudonyms, many of which can still be found on Bandcamp.

Since 2013, Sagar has issued seven albums as Homeshake, alongside the 126-song compilation, Pareidolia Catalog. His latest release, CD Wallet, began as a series of “indie rock riffs” recorded into the voice memo app on his phone as he strummed guitar while watching TV. Reminiscing about the artists he discovered in the 1990s on Canada’s MuchMusic video network such as D’Angelo and System of a Down, Sagar realized these lo-fi slowcore instrumentals could be paired with lyrics about his early years in Edmonton. 

Returning to his hometown for the first time in a decade, now equipped with a driver’s license, Sagar filmed a video for the album’s title track while rolling around town in a pick-up truck. “One shot in the video is me driving past the house I grew up in,” he explains on a call from his current home in Toronto. “It was really trippy driving around Edmonton because I knew how to get everywhere, even though I had never done that before.”

Leaning into the album’s lyrical themes, CD Wallet will be released on compact disc by Homeshake’s in-house label SHHOAMKEE. With this curated guide to his discography, Sagar shares insights into various recording processes alongside speaking openly about his mental health struggles and challenges in the music industry. Sometimes you have to go back home to start moving forward again.


Subatomics
Big Smoke

In the early 2000s, Sagar played drums in the garage-rock trio Subatomics with young Edmonton musicians René Wilson and Travis Bretzer. Their fast, fuzzy songs were recorded in Wilson’s childhood bedroom, using a pair of karaoke mics, a cassette deck, and a newly acquired copy of Pro Tools. Originally slated for release in 2006, the Big Smoke EP would not see the light of day until 2013. “René really wanted to get all four songs on a 7-inch, so we played them as fast as we could,” says Sagar. “I remember being really self-conscious about dragging at the end of every song, because I wasn’t strong.” 

Outdoor Miners
Disgust

Swiping a name from his favorite Wire song, Sagar’s next band featured Alec Meen (who currently plays keyboards with DeMarco) and drummer Sean McIntosh. “Sean is definitely the best drummer I’ve ever played with,” says Sagar. “They’re out of control with it.” Though Outdoor Miners only survived long enough for a pair of 7-inches on local label Pop Echo Records, their jangly, growly, post-punk jams still sound great. “That was a fun band that we took really seriously,” says Sagar. “We did one tour that went badly and then it disintegrated.”

Mac DeMarco
“Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans”

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette

In 2011, Sagar left Edmonton for a Montreal apartment around the corner from DeMarco. With his vocals pitched down for jokey songs about “boogie woogie women,” Rock and Roll Night Club introduced the gap-toothed crooner to the world. Sagar earned a co-writing credit on the album’s slinky, denim-loving centerpiece, contributing to its yacht rock inspired sound with his buoyant guitar riffs. “Mac called me up and told me to come over because we were going to make a song called ‘Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans,’” he recalls. “Then a month later he signed his deal with Captured Tracks, and we went on tour for three years. Mac said yes to everything at that time, so it was a lot.”

Homeshake
The Homeshake Tape

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Cassette

For the lo-fi, sample-filled songs of The Homeshake Tape, Sagar stepped out on his own yet again. Recording the drums in a single take at Montreal DIY venue/studio Drones Club, he used DeMarco’s eight-track to complete the remainder of the cassette-only release. That album was the first thing I did after I left Edmonton and felt like I had a blank slate,” Sagar says. “When I got to Montreal, I decided that everything I made would be under the name Homeshake. I studied jazz piano as a kid and put a lot of that into it. Since I was in a new place, I decided to start fresh and see what I could do.”

Homeshake
In The Shower

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Cassette, Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

Homeshake’s warbly, mid-fi debut LP opens with two signature songs: “She Can’t Leave Me Here Tonight,” and “Chowder,” Sagar’s tribute to his partner Salina Ladha, who also created the album’s cover art. Once again recorded with Nova Scotian transplant Mike Wright at Drones Club, In The Shower was released by Captured Tracks sister label Sinderlyn in 2014. “It’s the 10-year anniversary of this album in 2024, which is weird,” Sagar says. “In the Shower is the oldest thing I’m proud of.”

Homeshake
Midnight Snack

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)

Homeshake’s synth-heavy sophomore LP is based on Sagar’s deep appreciation for his girlfriend’s cooking. Working with producer Jackson MacIntosh, the project’s guitar-forward sound was replaced with soft pads and chiming electronic beats, unfurling at a narcoleptic pace. This was partially due to necessity, after Sinderlyn refused to pay for the clearance of samples on the original version of In The Shower

“I had to redo all of the interludes on that album, so I bought a Korg Poly 61 synth and SP 404 drum machine ,” says Sagar. “Going into Midnight Snack, those became much more primary instruments, because I was really excited about them.”

Homeshake
Fresh Air

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette

Immediately after wrapping up Midnight Snack, Sagar returned to the lab with MacIntosh, mastering the sound of dreamy, downtempo bedroom R&B on Homeshake’s third proper album. “When we started working together, neither of us felt like we knew how to record drum machines properly because we were more ‘rock’ guys,” Sagar laughs. “By Fresh Air we had a better handle on that side of things, so it sounds a lot better.” As always, the lyrics of his songs were the final elements to appear. “If there’s ever a theme of an album, I only see it after the project is half-done,” he says. “Learning about myself in that way is one of the most rewarding parts of making music.”

Homeshake
Helium

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP, Cassette

While his previous albums were studio collaborations, Helium was recorded and mixed by Sagar alone in his apartment. He delivered pop jams like the bass-heavy “Mariah” and the twinkling “All Night Long,” yet at the time, Sagar felt unprepared to pull together a cohesive collection of songs. If this downcast, meandering 2019 release sounds slapped together, it’s because it was. 

“I made Helium to get out of my record deal, which was awful,” says Sagar. “This is how little I understood: I thought it was three albums, but it was actually one plus three. No idea why it would be written that way, or why I can’t do math. Hire a lawyer, everybody!”

“I like the interludes I made, but I don’t like that album very much,” he continues. “Trying to tour it was a nightmare because it wasn’t meant to be played live. I wish I had more foresight about that as well, because afterwards I went into a deep, deep depression. I probably would have gotten to that emotional place anyway, but this was the thing that knocked me down.”

Homeshake
Under the Weather

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette, Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl

After several years of therapy, Sagar felt well enough to start writing songs for the spacious, downcast Under the Weather. “The theme of that album was a bit clearer as I was making it,” he says. “The whole thing is about depression.” When COVID put touring plans on pause, Sagar renegotiated his deal with Sinderlyn and released Homeshake’s sixth album — featuring instant classics like the gloopy, grooving “Vacuum” — in September 2021. 

“It felt good to write something about what I was going through, and those songs went over a lot better live,” says Sagar. “That made things a lot easier, instead of worrying how I’m going to go onstage and blow it.” 

He and his Homeshake bandmates are now even more excited to perform CD Wallet’s songs live, looking all the way back to the indie rock origins that first brought them together. “We’ve been doing a Deftones cover lately, and it’s awesome to watch the band play some big ass riffs,” Sagar concludes. “I’m bringing a distortion pedal on our next tour for the first time since I was a teenager.”

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