Paul Saulnier (left) draws nude pictures of Natalie Portman. vanessa hines

PS I Love You are a fuzzed-up, indie guitar-and-drum duo from Kingston, Ontario. What started as a solo project for multi-instrumentalist Paul Saulnier evolved into a two-piece when he found drummer Benjamin Nelson. Together, their songs fire off pop flash pots of heavy melody with succinct charges of distorted, emotive riffing. Saulnier shreds. And when he does, it's well timed and snugly fit into the pocket of the song. Live, he shreds, sings, and plays pedal bass with his feet at the same time. It's multitasking at its finest that unveils Saulnier's rough and subdued power. Vocally, he does a layered Frank Black take on his Joy Division/Archers of Loaf/Pere Ubu–aimed sound. PS I Love You released their debut full-length this past October, Meet Me at the Muster Station. The 10 songs are squalid gemstones shot with charmed and octave-pedal indie-rock love. Saulnier spoke. There was love. We almost curled.

What's it like in Ontario? Is it freezing-ass cold? Are there bears? Does everyone eat steak in Canada?

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Southern Ontario weather is very similar to the weather in New York. The winters are cold and snowy, and the summers are very nice. There are bears if you go farther north. My city, Kingston, is only about 60 kilometers from the US border. I don't know about the steak thing. I'm a vegetarian, and Benjamin eats only chicken fingers and cigarettes.

Do you curl? As in the Olympic sport curling?

I have curled. I own curling shoes. But I mostly bought them because they are cool-looking vintage Adidas curling shoes.

If you had to describe what life is like there, what would you say? What is the state bird of Ontario? You can make something up, like the condor.

Life, I think, is pretty good in Canada. It's a lot like America, except there's less attitude and different junk foods. And people care about sports in a different way. There's more passion, but it's a kind of quiet, inner passion. We don't have state birds because we don't have states. Canada is divided into provinces and territories. And, yes, there are provincial birds, but I don't know what the Ontario one is. I think it must be the 1992/93 Toronto Blue Jay.

Tell me a funny Canadian story.

One time, Ben drank all of my beers so I stole his smokes and called him a hoser, eh? Then he melted my igloo with hot poutine and I got frostbit, but it was okay because we enjoy free health care up north, eh?

Is it hard to get across the border coming into the United States from Canada? Have you ever been body probed?

It's not that difficult crossing into the US. We're pretty legit and we have P2 work visas that allow us to tour and perform and sell T-shirts legally. We mostly run into trouble going back to Canada. That's when we get mega searched. Last time, I had this cool rock in my pocket, and when the border guard asked me about it I mumbled, "Oh, that's just this neat-looking rock I found." And then he looked through my sketchbook journal, which is called my "Book of Secrets." That was embarrassing, because I have crudely drawn nude pictures of Natalie Portman in there.

Talk about the inspiration behind the cotton-ball cloud glued to your face with dangling aluminum-foil lightning bolts for your "Facelove" video.

The cloud symbolizes my big, stormy, brooding, sad brain, and my tears are the lightning bolts. I used to wear it as face paint and then I made a mask. Now I don't wear any of it, because I think people can see my stormy feelings pretty clearly when I perform.

Have you seen all the "extra nine minutes" of planet Pandora footage from that movie Avatar?

I have not. I haven't even seen Avatar. I thought it looked really shitty and stupid in a painful-to-watch, nonenjoyable sorta way, so I didn't want to spend money to see it. Piranha 3-D, however, was a near-perfect movie.

How long did it take you to master playing the bass pedal keys with your foot while you play? You and Geddy Lee from Rush do that so well. Geddy Lee is from Canada, too. That makes you a Rush fan, right?

It takes a lot of constant practice. I'm still not really a master, either. I got my pedal bass about 10 years ago. The Kingston Guitar Shop sold it to me for 50 bucks. I'm a Rush fan, but I grew up hating them. The song "Subdivisions" was the Rush gateway drug for me. I heard that song and loved it, and then I needed more.

Would you ever wear a ponytail like Geddy Lee?

I actually wore a ponytail throughout my teen years. Cutting it off was a very liberating experience. I have long hair again now after about seven years of short hair and I like it a lot, but I don't think I wanna go back to the ponytail. As a fashion statement, I think it's, like, sleazy. Like you mean business, sleazy business. Whether it's drugs in the alley or insider trading on 1980s Wall Street. Sleazy business.

Please talk about your song "Get Over." That fuzz distortion is unstoppable. What are you playing there? How did you get your sounds? Where did you record? Who produced? Get geeky for me.

The big fuzz riff in the chorus has been used in about three different songs over the past four years or so. I originally wrote it and would perform it on the bass. The verse riff was something that I would mess around with but had no plans for until I played it for Benjamin and he started playing this wicked drumbeat with clicky-clacky 16th notes. It really worked, and then it seemed natural that the old fuzz-bass riff would fit as the instrumental chorus hook. So I trashed the old song it was in and I started yelping about stuff into a mic and that's how we wrote "Get Over."

My friend Matt Kicul recorded it in a warehouse in Kingston. I'm playing a telecaster into an Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer into my Music Man amp. I also layered in a clean guitar and a bright-sounding bass guitar. The chorus riff is fuzzed by an Electro-Harmonix metal muff. The organ riff at the end of the song, like the fuzz-bass chorus riff, was from an old song that was going nowhere, so it got transplanted into this one. The organ is an early 1970s Yamaha electric organ. I used an MXR Phase 90 and an Ibanez Analog Delay and ran it into my Music Man amp.

Our producer is Matt Rogalsky. Matt is a professor of experimental music at Queens University in Kingston. He did a lot of magic editing and equalizing to get that sweet drum sound. He also did some sweet treatments on the fuzz-bass riff that make it sound extra synthy and fat. There's probably a lot of other stuff he did that I don't even know about. He's kind of mysterious like that. He does all this work and then plays it for me, and then I turn the guitars way up in the mix and it's done. That's pretty much the basic formula for all our songs. Also, how many times did I use the word "riff"?

What's your favorite distortion pedal? Where do you get your gear?

Probably the biggest life-changing event for me was when my parents got me a vintage Electro-Harmonix Big Muff for Christmas. I think I was 16. And it's all thanks to the Kingston Guitar Shop. I became friends with Gord, the owner, and I would skip school and hang out playing rad vintage gear. I would play this Big Muff every day for weeks, and he suggested to my parents that they buy it for me. So, basically, the Big Muff is my favorite distortion. But, my current live setup uses a ZVEX Fuzz Factory. That pedal blows my mind. I can get a tone that's a little more devastating than the thick, smooth Big Muff tone. It's not perfect, though. I think the perfect fuzz for me would be some kind of hybrid Fuzz Factory/Big Muff. The Muff Factory! I buy all my gear from the Kingston Guitar Shop and sometimes from Paul's Boutique in Toronto.

What guitar are you playing in the "Facelove" video?

It's a Vox "teardrop" 12-string. It's really sweet, but it's not mine. It's just a cool-looking guitar for the video. It was on loan from the Kingston Guitar Shop. I normally play a Fender Telecaster and sometimes a Fender Stratocaster. My friend Mark, from my other band False Face, loaned me his Danelectro 12-string for the recording of "Little Spoon." Someday, I will rock a double-neck combo 6- and 12-string guitar. Someday.

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When did you last play in Seattle? What do you think of when you think about Seattle, besides grunge? Since you're from Canada, you'll probably be jumping in the Puget Sound for a swim when you get here. People from Canada don't get hypothermia.

We played in Seattle this past fall and we had a great time. We listened to Soundgarden on the drive there, and we thought about grunge a lot. Grunge seems pretty weird to me. Like, how did that happen? The only other thing I think about is trees. Lots of trees. I don't go swimming because I have this hang-up about how I hate getting water in my ears. And you're right, Canadians don't get hypothermia. You know the X-Man Wolverine? He's Canadian, and we're all kind of like him. He doesn't mind the cold.

Grunge actually never happened. We just made it up to sell coffee and Boeing planes. What do you tell people when they ask you where your band name came from?

It was made up by some friends as a play on my initials, P.S. For a while, it was just a nickname, and I decided to use it as a band name to be kind of funny. Plus, all our songs are somehow love songs. recommended