The bar is packed from wall to wall despite the icy Toronto weather. A half-dozen eclectic-looking musicians walk onto a small stage carrying a variety of instruments. The crowd falls silent, folding to the ground kindergarten-style, and all eyes are drawn to two diminutive women standing at the edge of the group. One wears a sheer blouse and high-waisted shorts, the other jeans and a simple white hoodie covering most of her bespectacled face; one holds a violin and the other is empty handed. They couldn’t appear more different, but the audience is uniformly spellbound.
Casey and Jenny Mesija, the sisters behind Toronto’s haunting orchestral pop band Ohbijou, seem to have a lot in common. When they agreed to talk clothes with WORN, I assumed that, along with genes and music, they’d have coinciding views on style. What is it they say about making assumptions?
Do you two ever share your clothes, now or in the past? Was a hand-me-down system ever put into place?
C: Not really, we have very different body types. There are articles of clothing that we each own that make us envious of the other; I often buy shirts that end up looking better on Jenny.
J: I never got hand-me-downs from Casey. It was usually her that borrowed (or sneakily took) my clothing.
How would you compare and contrast your style to your sister’s?
C: I don’t intend to be stylish. My sister on the other hand is incredibly fashionable. I’m lucky because I have a partner who knows how to dress so I get some help in that department, but my sister looks stylish in whatever she decides to wear.
J: Casey and I share a common attraction to all things neutral, and we’re not really attracted to patterns. We share similar tastes in cuts and fits of clothing, and seem to be most comfortable in loose fitting T-shirts.
Do you think that how you dress has any relation to the music you make? Is there a connection between music and fashion in general?
C: There’s definitely a connection. Every aspect of yourself is a part of your performance, from what you wear to the instruments you buy. When you feel the most comfortable, you’ll likely perform the best. If you feel good and confident with what you’re wearing then it will lend itself to a better performance. We try to dress in the same colour palette to keep a cohesive aesthetic on stage. We like to make every performance special and show our audience that we really care about what we’re doing, so changing clothes is a small detail that helps elevate our performance.
J: Style of dress doesn’t really have any relation to the music that we make or our performance. We’re going to make more of an effort to have performance dress in order to get in the mindset of a performer and have a more cohesive stage presence. I think that many musicians share this same outlook with stage dress. Stage dress allows musicians to get into the mode of the character or how they want to perform on stage.
What was your most memorable show and what were you each wearing?
C: One of our first shows was at a tiny festival in Guelph called Track and Field. My sister and I decided to pin red feathers to our grey shirts for that show — something about it felt very special. We felt in flight, perhaps, at ease and so lucky to be performing outside while the sun was setting — it was a perfect summer evening.
J: Our CD release show for Beacons. We all made an effort to dress up and when we changed into our outfits before the show it made us even more excited to get on stage to play.
Notice a pattern? The Mecija’s never saw one another’s answers; in the name of convenience, we communicated via e-mail. It was interesting to discover that, perhaps by virtue of their responding independently, they have drastically different ways of thinking about their world. Although Casey and Jenny share a last name, a hometown, and a band, and though often their aesthetics collide, the ideological paths they take to get there are unique.
Fashion has a very particular way of fitting people into groups. We look around and make assumptions daily: hipster, conservative, wealthy, slob. But generalizations don’t really describe much more than the surface. In fashion as in everything else, our motives are our own. That is, until we find our common ground.
How much of your personality is attached to what you wear?
C: I like to think that my personality is in the clothes I choose each day. Perhaps subconsciously more than anything — if I’m having a bad day I’d probably reach for dark clothing without even fully realizing.
J: I definitely have personal preferences in terms of styles of clothing and shoes that I will wear, but my style is something I don’t think too much about; I know what I like, and picking the clothes I want to have in my closet comes naturally.
Interview by Alyssa Garrison