Leah Fay is having what you might call a life-changing year.
The sweet-sounding singer, who shares lead vocals opposite the deep-voiced Peter Dreimanis in Toronto alt-blues-rock band July Talk, is up for breakthrough group at Sunday night's Juno Awards in Winnipeg.
"It's like a nice pat on the back from Canada," said Fay, who was doing demos for the next July Talk album - expected in 2015 - with her bandmates at a home in Burnstown, Ont., the day of the Juno nominations.
"It feels really good. We were totally blown away and completely surprised. And didn't expect it at all. We woke up to a slew of text messages and tweets from people who were watching in Toronto saying, 'What the f---? You guys got nominated for a Juno!'"
July Talk - rounded out by guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton and drummer Danny Miles - have so far just released a 2012 self-titled effort (re-released in 2013 with some new songs) but have extensively toured Canada, and more recently the U.S., and have two sold-out dates coming up at Toronto's Lee's Palace on May 2-3.
In addition to the Juno nod, Fay's been cast as the lead in a new Canadian film Diamond Tongues (by the same team that did the 2013 Canadian feature Everyday Is Like Sunday) playing an unpleasant wannabe actress after Fay was "discovered" at a TIFF party last year.
"It's going to be nuts," said Fay. "We kind of go to the Junos and then start (filming) the following Monday. I don't know how it's going to be. I've never really acted before. I've been performing since I was four. I don't have a traditional education. I'm overwhelmed. It's so different from working at coffee shops and being able to make my weird performance art and just stay home all the time and hang out with all the people I love."
We caught up with Fay in Toronto before July Talk plays Saturday night's Juno gala dinner before the Sunday broadcast where they are presenters.
Do you think you have a shot of winning in your category?
I don't know that we do. But I don't know if that's important. We're totally not expecting anything. We are so happy and honored to be nominated. And I'm not just saying that, I really do mean that. But we're babies and so all of the luck that comes our way, we feel so happy.
What were you doing before July Talk?
I was working at some cafes and slinging lattes for money and then I was playing in a band. I kind of dabbled with performance art in Mothers of Brides, with my best friend, and getting to live to the beat of my own drum. I went to school (at Concordia) in Montreal for four years (studying contemporary dance).
Most first-time Juno nominees say their parents were particularly thrilled to hear the news. Was that the case for you (Leah is the daughter of Toronto Sun/Sun Media columnist Lorrie Goldstein)?
Definitely. They've been super supportive since day one. I'm really lucky for that. But obviously as you reach these more larger Canadian milestones that your parents' heroes all went through in their careers as well, maybe it makes them bigger fans or something like that. They feel proud in a different way.
How did you meet your July Talk bandmates?
I was at the (Toronto bar) Communist Daughter and it was the anniversary of the black out. And on Ossington, all the bars, turn out their lights and have a candlelit lovely evening and so I happened to be there with my friend who was in Mothers of Brides with me and I know the bartender and I was like, 'Hey, can I play this?' and I started playing guitar and Peter was there with a guy that he played in a band with.
How did July's Talk sound take shape?
Our sound was so influenced by us being on the road and touring and learning from the other bands we were playing with. On the recording, our highs and our lows, our darks and our lights, are so magnified. My persona kind of lacks aggression on the recording and Peter's always this really low, gravelly, aggressive voice and when were playing shows, different sides were coming out and there was all this grey area. (On our next album) I think we're looking for something a little more reflective of our live show.