I had just gotten to know Andrew Vincent by way of his record A Short Trip With The Pirates and the two of us made a pact to do shows together in Southern Ontario. “AV” had the car, and the two of us had our guitars, sleeping bags, and a bunch of material to play for anyone who would listen. I was aimlessly stumbling into a solo career and I had just released Decide To Stay And Swim (which incidentally had a song title that paid homage to my new pal: AV In The Sunshine, Man). The gifted Ottawa troubadour was finalizing his new album as the two of us were climbing into that cozy, well-worn Volvo to hit the open road.
I loved ‘A Short Trip’; it was a lo-fi banger of a record, filled with Modern Lovers style rave ups and sing-alongs like ‘Gary Hache’ and the anthemic ‘Ladies, Ladies, Ladies (Houseboat)’. I had been in bars watching crowds sing the line ‘Have you ever seen such a good looking band?’ at the top of their supportive lungs, and I was enthralled. I wasn’t sure a better chorus had been written in the nation’s capital, or in all of Canada, for that matter. I was about to find out.
On that tour, AV had played tracks from I Love The Modern Way, and sheepishly explained to me the album title had come from a pseudo-landmark in Ottawa (I won’t give that away here so as to keep some of the Ottawa folklore intact!) But lyrically, the songs were a Gatling gun of poetic turns of phase that found ways to include Ottawa-area themes like Bronson and Somerset streets, 1310 (AM) on the radio, Highway 5 and moving down from North Bay. I was psyched to hear these new tracks, but it was seeing them performed live that really cemented them as potential Ottawa classics for me.
With his indie stock rising, AV had swung a swank CBC Toronto session on that trip, to tape live versions of the new material for some hip broadcast. Though our shows had been solo sets to that point, Scott Terry and Bryan Curry joined AV for that live CBC gig. I was the envious roadie, carrying Pirates’ gear through prestigious parking lots and vast CBC Toronto atrium. In hindsight, it was a striking metaphor for how many like to compare the two cities: 4 hungover, ramshackle, Ottawa musicians, lugging cheap gear through the monolithic and sparkling Toronto CBC building, whose authoritative walls towered over us, with an air of indifference.
My memories of that energetic session are pretty clear. Andrew Vincent and the Pirates absolutely careened through these songs with an almost-in-tune, reckless abandon that somehow felt so tight and just so perfectly right. ‘Martha’, ‘Bahamas’, ‘Cover It Up’, ‘Jonathan’ were songs that all had these shout-it-out-loud-until-your-voice-goes-hoarse driving choruses, fresh from a new LP that had yet to be sprung on the world.
My question as to whether the ‘Ladies’ chorus could ever be matched was certainly answered, as I Love The Modern Way stands as an all-time great Ottawa musical achievement.
Rewind is a new series where musicians, fans, and community members reflect on Ottawa albums from the past and write about their memories and experiences from that time. Every album has a story!