Canada’s TOPS have delivered their third album Sugar At The Gate via Arbutus Records (the people that bring you great music from Sean Nicholas Savage and She-Devils). Recorded at “Glamdale” – a mini-mansion and former brothel located in the Jewel City, Glendale, California – it’s an album of subtle cuts with irresistible melodies.
We linked up with TOPS vocalist-songwriter Jane Penny to ask her all the essential questions and talk Britney Spears and incarceration.
Do you believe in magic?
Umm, no [laughs]. I don’t believe in magic as in spells and curses and things but I believe in cosmic stuff like astrology and I do believe in magical thinking for sure.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Nothing surprises me about myself. Maybe how much I can sleep, when I’m at home I’ll sleep like 10 hours a night.
How was High School?
I was playing flute the whole time. I was a little bit of an outcast need type and I played flute in the band room all the time and all the other band members where these guys that I think were probably a bit scared or something, but they weren’t my friends. SO it was a fun time playing flute and going to art class and I was a mini vegan anarchist. I didn’t drive, even though Edmonton is a place where a lot of people drive, because I didn’t believe in it. I’ve gotten a lot less righteous since then, when you live LA you kind of have to drive.
Who is the most famous person in your phone contacts/dm’s?
I guess that would be Mac DeMarco.
Is punk dead?
I think punk only belongs to women and queers now. Otherwise, don’t bother.
When and why did you last cry?
I need to think about that. It doesn’t happen very often. I don’t know why I cried but I was alone and it was probably crushing existential anxiety and fear about my life and teh world and stuff. But I think it only lasted a couple of minutes.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Usually I do ‘Magic Man’ by Heart, sometimes I get the high notes.
How would you describe your sound?
Like melodic pop with a quiet intensity and real nice guitars and drums.
What’s your writing process?
Either with the band while we’re playing together or I get on the piano or guitar and I write songs like that, usually the piano or organ.
Have you ever broken the law?
Yes. Just your usual drinking and stealing, a little lite forgery. I’m like a diet outlaw.
Is celebrity culture going to destroy us all?
Yes, but only because it’s so tied to capitalism and all that crazy world ending horrible shit.
What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
Probably having a really good friend tell me I hurt their feelings, that I wasn’t thinking of them and I did something that really bothered them. I think that’s probably the worst in terms of how it makes me feel.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Is Britney happy now?
YES!! Do you look at her Twitter? She tweets hand written notes, like every eight or nine tweets she’ll be like ‘here I am writing in my notebook, isn’t it fun to go back to pen and paper?’ and like ‘look at this hand written now that this person made for me, isn’t that so nice?’ and I feel like that is her authentic personality, which I find extremely beautiful sincere and naive in a way. I think that she must be happy if she can get so much joy out of that.
What is a recent dream you’ve had?
Ok, so I had a dream last night, I just got my own apartment and it’s pretty nice to me at least because I get to make it nice for myself. I had this dream where they were like you can’t live in your apartment right now, you need to live in this other apartment which was even nicer than my apartment but was huge like a palace. There were all these queens, like older trans women that were really beautiful and sophisticated and they were living in all the other rooms and people just kept coming out of all these rooms and they were all older and wiser and teaching me how to live in this new palace. Then my sister came and we went outside and there was a grand park outside the palace and then I tried to call my sister a cab and the cops came and were really mad and were gonna arrest me because we had left and got lost in this huge park. The cops were really upset and the taxi driver was so angry and they were like ‘You live in palace, you have everything, you’re so privileged, you’re the worst’. I think it has something to do with the fact my band mates recently took some cheese strings from a hotel and threw them out the window and the concierge came up and demanded they give them £50 or else they were going to call the police, so I think it was a deranged re-imagining of that.
Is sex important to you?
Is the glass half full or half empty?
What’s the biggest problem facing humans as a species?
Climate change – easy.
What would you call your biography?
Janet Planet Step Into My World, that’s the name of my radio show as well.
What do your family think of your music?
They like it, especially my mum and niece.
If you could go back in time when and where would you go?
Probably on a film set from the 70s, like a Robert Altman film.
What are you afraid of?
Not much. Getting thrown in jail forever, incarceration terrifies me. I got arrested in New York for drinking 40’s on the subway. They booked us in the jail at the subway station and they made me finish the 40 while they were booking us and processing the ticket. They were like, ‘Well you can drink it you might as well finish it’ and we were already pretty drunk. We were sleeping on the couches at a venue so then after it all happened, all our friends lost us, it was like four in the morning by the time we got back and the first thing I did was puke in the girls bathroom for a long time because I was so sick. That’s the only time I was ever been in jail.
What’s for dinner?
The little Italian place down the road from the venue we’re playing.
Tops play these places on these dates: