Amos The Transparent: Video for “Says The Spark” & Tour Info
One of Ottawa’s main exports as far as Canadian indie music goes is Amos The Transparent, a band that has been flying high form the critical acclaim of their first two albums and receiving praise for the most recent release Goodnight My Dear… I’m Falling Apart. Personally, the band has grown on me for a few reasons. First, out of all the music that’s out there, songs or bands appeals to us for various reasons. Sometimes it’s image, catchiness, or lyrics – in the case of Amos, it’s a bit of everything. But to me the most attractive aspect of their music is honesty. The honest composition and delivery of their music is refreshing every time you put on their albums, and none more so than their latest release. Their announcement of festival dates at Pop Montreal and Halifax Pop Explosion affirms that they are serious about making their voices heard across Canada.
Tonight they are set to play Zaphod’s, I’ll be following up this post with a review/interview with the band in collaboration with Apartment 613. In the meantime, here are their tour dates and latest video for “Says The Spark”.
Aug. 10 @ The Branch, KEMPTVILLE
Aug. 16 @ Zaphods, OTTAWA (w/ Battle Mountain Band, Ben Caplan)
Aug. 17 @ Rivoli, TORONTO (w/ Revelstoke)
Aug. 23 @ Maxwell’s Music House, WATERLOO (w/ Sandman Viper Command)
Aug. 24 @ APK, LONDON
Aug. 25 @ Phog Lounge, WINDSOR (w/ The Archives)
Arboretum Festival lineup: Ending summer the right way
On September 15, Ottawa is going to get a first-hand view inside the creative mind of Rolf Klausener (The Acorn) when the inaugural Arboretum Festival kicks off. This unique collaborative project will meld all different aspects of what makes Ottawa such an amazing city: music + gastronomy (which, if you don’t know, is the art/science of eating food) + visual art. While there isn’t a thick wooded area surrounding the Arts Court, the Ottawa Jail Hostel should prove to be an excellent venue for all types of Ottawa personalities to make an appearance and share their trade with us. Many of you may have already seen the beautifully designed posters up around the city, I was almost caught doing a fist pump in the air when I saw Cadence Weapon’s picture staring at me today. With artists such as Cadence Weapon, Adam Saikaley, Roberta Bondar, Andrew Vincent and Ohbijou taking part in the festivities, the talent is nothing short of extraordinary. Of course, music is only part of the equation… this festival promises to bring together the best arts, food and culture Ottawa has to offer. Take a glance at the full lineup here, or alternatively, check out the poster below. As the festival motto goes, ‘We are totally doing this!’ Tickets $25 – more info here.
Photo of Adam Saikaley courtesy of MWPhotos
Interview: Ottawa’s MC, Atherton
I’m currently sitting on a Greyhound on my way back from a great weekend in Toronto, awkwardly typing away and trying really hard to drown out the snores from some guy in front of me. One of last week’s highlights for me was having the opportunity to sit down and meet Devin Atherton, an Ottawa MC who’s been making a name for himself and his music in the last several years. I met him originally a few weeks back at the ‘4in1’ Acoustic Park Session at which he performed some really impressive acoustic versions of his songs. He was kind enough to invite me over for a few beers, and we sat around listening to tracks and talking about music for a few hours. I don’t claim to be huge into the hip hop scene here, but I’ve always taken an interest in MCs who have something substantive to say. Following the footsteps of other Canadian rappers like Shad, Cadence Weapon and Classified, Atherton not only brings lyrical skills, but also intelligent and relatable themes that make his songs very accessible to listeners. Not to mention that he is his own boss, producing the majority of beats on his new album No Threat himself and guiding almost all aspects, from the artwork to which artists are featured. He’s also the founder of Ottawa’s Hip Hop Karaoke at Mugshots Jailhouse Hostel & Bar, and is a major personality in support of Ottawa’s hip hop scene and music community as a whole. It was exciting for me to be able to chill with him and discuss music, our respective projects, and life in general. To top everything off, we went out to a new establishment on Somerset called Union, which I have to say might become one of my new favourite spots. There we ran into some of his friends, including Jordan from The Love Machine and DJ Calkuta from Flight Distance, two groups which I hope to feature on Showbox in the near future. I have included a link to Atherton’s Bandcamp page where you can check out No Threat in its entirety, as well as the interview we had.
Tell me a bit about Vinyl Tap and how it came to be, and how you hooked up with some of the artists.
Vinyl Tap in the beginning was a label, and the idea was to kind of go at it with a strength in numbers philosophy. Got all my friends on, we’re making music, doing things, to get behind one name and one symbol and just push the Ottawa music scene through that. It still is a label, in the loosest sense of the word, you know? It’s currently whatever I want it to be… an online magazine, it’s a promotions company, a fashion company – when I’m doing business, those are the two words that I hide behind.
With you new album No Threat, why is it special to you and how has it deviated from your previous work?
This album is extremely special to me because it’s more of me than I’ve ever put out. It’s my work essentially, you know? I did most of the music on it, wrote all the lyrics to it, had the concept of the title for it, I knew exactly what I wanted for the album art, the features on it I knew what I wanted, I really got to dictate everything from start to finish whereas before I had at least one other person working with me. So this was my most ‘selfish’ album, where I had the most control. I think a lot of artists have that, it’s my most egotistical album but also my most honest album.
How did you bring in some of the artists you wanted on the album?
Well they’re all just friends, everyone I approached to be on the album is someone I already had a loving relationship with already and are people that I respected musically. Patience from Flight Distance used to be my roommate, I’ve been playing shows with Whitney (Sound of Lions) and watching her blossom for years, Dave Wickland used to play in a band with me, Kilgore who recorded the whole thing and engineered it, produced my last record and produced the first beat on the album. So, you know, they’re all my friends, everyone on that album is someone I’ve made music with but that I also hang out with.
What were your experiences like at Canadian Music Week and NXNE?
I think the first festival I played was Canadian Music Week and that was in 2006, so six years ago, and then it seemed so overwhelming… it was the be all-end all. We were going to break through because of this festival. Being on the other side of it now, playing both festivals a number of times, I just look at it as a really good weekend to see great music and be a part of something greater than what I do. There’s lots of potential to meet other musicians. I’ve never gone extremely hard networking with people there, and I think there is more that I could get out of those festivals and people do get more out of those festivals, but I just like seeing some great shows and hopefully perform the best that I can. The last two years at NXNE I was given showcases, small club called the Painted Lady, and that was great because I could bring in friends. A few years ago I brought in The Love Machine, last year I brought Flight Distance, so it was just cool to bring friends on to a well-respected festival.
All-time, who is your favourite MC and why?
All time? Paul Simon. Paul Simon was the best rapper to ever exist. I love Paul Simon. Rhymin’ Simon, that’s who he is man. But the first rapper to ever blow my mind was KRS-One, and a song from his self-titled album called “The Truth”. It’s a song about Christianity, and about the obvious flaws in taking the Bible literally… he picks it apart. Some lines on it “What if Jesus Christ was shot in the head with no respect, we’d all have little gold guns around out neck.” It just made me think in a new way that I’d never thought before, made me realize the power of hip hop at that point – the power of words in a song. People are attracted by the beat or the rhythm, but the true hip hop fan stay for the lyrics and that’s when I was like ‘shit’ there’s something happening here… Not to say that image doesn’t hold weight anymore, because those are the initial things that attract you, you know? It’s like a girl, if she’s beautiful then you want to get to know her better and maybe find some depth to it. I don’t front, if a rapper wants to uphold a certain image then that’s great. If that attracts you to that rapper and gets you to listen to his or her music, then you find out whether or not it’s something you want to get into.
Do you find it tough to come up with good samples?
Well, other than the first beat which was made by Fresh Kils, Track one on the album, the rest of the album, tracks two through ten were completely sample free. That was a very enjoyable aspect, fiddling around in my room coming up with melodies. I mean when you put your mind to it, it’s so easy to make music. Especially if you’re by yourself, to be a one-man band. The possibilities with electronic music are ridiculous, which is why I think a lot of people can get into right away, and why there are so many rappers and beatmakers out there. You really just need a laptop and the ability to download and crack a program, you’re just a Youtube video away from learning how to do that (laughs). So for me, it’s harder to write the lyrics, because the lyrical aspect is a lot more personal and a lot more direct and I feel like at the end of the day that’s what I’ll ne judged upon. That’s what will attract someone to the music, that’s what will keep someone there you know?
What do you want people to take away from your music after listening?
My biggest hope is, at the end of the day, I hope they relate to it. I hope they’re like ‘shit, this is good’, I hope they can dance to it, but more importantly I want people to be like ‘hey, I could be friends with that guy’, you know? For me it’s just about relating, and understanding each other.
Down To Earth: Cardboard Crowns @ Zaphod’s July 26
This past week has been pretty hectic, moving into a new place and helping friends move apparently takes a while. I wanted to write about a show I went to last week, one that was probably one of the funnest I’ve been to all summer.
The bill was a wild one, with The Dead Zone starting things off with hardcore punk and then the Musettes calming things down with their beautiful harmonies and melodic music. I had been meaning to see them play for a while now, hearing great things about their live performances. Not only were they happy to be on the bill with a few punk bands, they got the crowd at Zaphod’s on their side immediately. I was curious how the contrast in genres would play itself out, but I was completely blown away with how talented these girls were. Check out their CBC Music page here.
As far as ska/punk goes, it’s a really tough genre of music to break into. It’s one of those things that has been done so many times that it’s hard to imagine anything original being brought to the table. Not to say that these bands don’t have something to offer, reggae and punk-influenced music by nature is limited in terms of style. Ottawa’s own Cardboard Crowns are an example of a band that refuse to be part of the herd. They get that it’s not always about the music, but about the identity of the band as a whole. What separates them from the pack is their character on stage, and the fact that their primary goal isn’t to get money or fame. It’s to get people together and have the best time possible, not taking themselves too seriously. Between the goofy clothes and funny on-stage banter, it was pretty evident that Joel, Matt, Frank and Tokyo were having as much fun as everyone watching the show.
The obvious highlight of the show was the encore. The lead singer Joel told everyone to come on stage, and almost the entire crowd got up and danced the rest of the night away. The last time I saw something like this happen was when Iggy & The Stooges did the same at Lollapalooza in 2007. Getting the crowd involved in the fun made the night that much better, as the energy from their set reached a peak. Their set included my personal favourite, “Down To Earth” as well as great new tracks “Global Citizen” and “Long-Armed Bandits”. As far as shows at Zaphod’s goes, this one was the most fun I have been to. Keep an eye out for these guys playing in Ottawa again, the Crowns do not disappoint.
Weekly Pick: Hannah Georgas – “Enemies”
Canada has been serving up some of the world’s best female singer-songwriters since before many of us were born, and I can’t see any signs of things changing anytime soon. Musicians like Feist and Kathleen Edwards have helped carry the torch to a new generation of Canadians, bringing honesty, beauty and divine musicianship that seems lacking in a time where women in popular music are presented as an image instead of a artist. Hannah Georgas is set to release her sophomore album this October under her new label Dine Alone out of Toronto, who also represent others such as City & Colour, Hey Rosetta!, Yukon Blonde and Dinosaur Bones. Her new single “Enemies” is an example of a musical evolution, she breaks out of her shell and borrows elements from different genres to make the sound her own. There is an ethereal aspect to this song that brings together poeticism and beauty in her vocals and instrumentation that caught my attention instantly. The new album will also feature Graham Walsh from Holy Fuck, Ryan Guldemond and Ali Siadat from Mother Mother, Ted Gowan from Tegan and Sara, and Andrew Braun from Rococode. It’s just too bad that we have to wait until October to hear it, and if it follows the gripping nature of this track, should be one of this year’s best. I’ll leave you with opening lyrics from the song and a live, in-studio performance of the song from an exclusive CBC Music Session.
We’re in a sea full of sharks
Just swimming around and around if we get caught
They’re gonna taste our blood
You leave a trail and the word will get out
That we’re all lost and ready to kill
Weekly Pick: Cadence Weapon – ‘Hope in a Dirt City’
So the weekly picks haven’t been quite ‘weekly’ recently, but I’m working on that. The point here isn’t to make you like the same music that I do – it is to give you something (possibly) new to listen to while getting dressed or baking cookies. And if you want to read my two cents about it, you are welcome to do that as well.
Lately I’ve been totally immersing myself in new music, new genres and different approaches to composition. With an open mind I’m rediscovering the art of listening to an album – although albums these days are just binary code on the computer, I’m relieved that musicians still write quality full length albums and not just singles. I still miss the excitement of unwrapping a new CD and popping it in for the first time though. I also used to be one of those guys who religiously listened to rap in grade 10, thinking Tupac Shakur was the messiah and that the 7 Day Theory was actually true. Since then, my taste in music has matured a bit but I’m still always open to listening to good hip hop. A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys and J5 opened my eyes to intellectual hip hop and the power it has to represent real skill and technical ability over the gangster image.
A lot of times Canadian rappers remain under the radar, as hip hop seems to be disproportionately centred around the United States. Not to take anything away from what Drake has achieved, but his breakout came from getting signed by Lil’ Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment. Even more, I still think a lot of it is about the fame and fortune. It still boggles my mind how rappers make money from writing about how much money they have – it’s like a never-ending circle that promotes being a douche. I guess that’s one of my main problems with so many rappers, that they are consumed with the wrong things and then writing songs about stuff I would never care about. I can’t connect to something I don’t care about. The pretentious aspect of it all takes away from the core of what hip hop is all about: the human condition in urban culture.
Obviously this isn’t a blanket claim. The fact is that most ‘real’ hip hop remains unseen and unheard by the general public. I’m not claiming to know everything about underground hip hop, far from it. I’m only starting to get back into it again. One Canadian artist that stands out is Cadence Weapon (Rollie Pemberton) of Edmonton, AB who now resides in Montreal. His latest release Hope in a Dirt City through Upper Class Recordings has been getting huge reviews and critical acclaim. His recent short-list nomination for the Polaris Music Prize is a result of delivering a risky, yet dynamic album that forges different styles of music together. It includes everything from jazz-influenced intrumentation to 80’s sounding bass lines – the rules of hip hop composition have been thrown out the window in favour of a completely original sound.
The overall approach to this album is the use of unconventional approaches. The lyrical phrasing is often ‘sloppy’, but intentionally so. Pemberton goes back and forth between verses with rhyme and flow to ones that are more disjunctive and almost spoken. The use of synth to create a darker aura in several songs, and there aren’t many repetitive loops or samples. This makes the album one that requires a few listens to really develop an appreciation for – with so many different things happening, it might come across as strange at first. Personally, I’ve had it on repeat since I downloaded it.
Part of what makes this album a success is the way Pemberton explores darker themes, and how he reflects them through lyrics. The narrative changes throughout the album, songs like ‘Hype Man’ look at the hip hop scene through different perspectives and tell a story through an interesting dialogue. Tracks like ‘Get On Down’ really focus on the technical aspects, as he provides an unrelenting and intense flow that makes you wonder when he has time to take a breath. His skills as a DJ and producer are apparent throughout the entire album. The production is more intricate and developed than his 2008 album Afterparty Babies (also a Polaris Prize nominee), and offers listeners a much different sound to almost anything out in the music world right now. Overall, listening to this album is a refreshing experience.
I recommend giving all the Polaris Prize shortlist nominees a listen. This year’s crop of artists won’t disappoint. I recently saw Pemberton on Discovery HD’s National Parks Project, an incredible documentary-style series that brings together Canada’s rugged and beautiful landscapes with our nation’s most promising and talented musicians. He joins musicians Laura Barrett and Mark Hamilton in Waterton Lakes National Park, AB, where they band together and create incredible music that reflects their experience. I can’t recommend this series more, it is impossible not to enjoy. Check out the Waterton Lakes EP features Cadence Weapon, Barrett and Hamilton here.
5 Worst People to Stand Beside at a Concert
We all love the experience of looking forward to a good live show. When the day finally arrives, the excitement piques and you gather with your compadres in front of the stage to get your fill of eardrum abuse. Unfortunately, not everyone who comes out knows that there is a certain unspoken etiquette to which most of us adhere. I’ve been waiting almost a decade to get this list out one way or another, and dammit it feels liberating. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it covers some of the big ones. And when I refer to ‘you’, I’m not speaking to you the reader, but to the perpetrator of each respective crime. So here it is, the 5 worst people to get caught standing beside at a concert.
5. The Guy Who is a Drunken Fool
This is the guy who spends most of his time at the bar and not actually watching the band play. He comes up beside you double fisting a couple tallboys with spills on his shirt and starts yelling incomprehensible words and slurs, making a point to yell louder than the lead singer’s vocals coming out of the PA. I’m not against drinking at shows, I do it all the time. But if you go to a show with a primary goal of drinking to get sloshed with the band as background music, then we have problems. Handle your liquor and don’t ruin it for the rest of us trying to enjoy our time.
4. The Guy Who Smells Like Sewage
Here is the guy who thought it was a good idea to avoid showering for a week before attending the event. A little bit of sweat and odor are to be expected at shows, and in most cases it is part and parcel of the concert-going experience. But if you walked into the venue smelling like a pair of old, urine-filled sneakers then I must ask why, WHY couldn’t some level of personal hygiene been reached? Neither me nor my friends at the show appreciate being more overpowered by your smelling body than the band in front of us.
3. The Guy Who is a Karaoke Singer
This guy thinks it’s Monday night karaoke at the local pub. I definitely don’t mind people singing along with the lyrics, in fact this is a great part that both fans and the band can enjoy. But there’s a limit. If you are belting out every song like you do when trying to impress your friends singing Living on a Prayer on said Monday night, it’s too much. No one came to hear you mutilate every lyric of the the band’s repetoire. Plus, the lead singer is RIGHT THERE in front of us singing the songs the HE/SHE wrote. I’m pretty certain they don’t want to hear your version. Ever.
2. The Guy Who Thinks the Stage is a Jukebox and the Band is the Music Library
We’ve all been to pubs where the musician is happy to take some requests and please the crowd. That’s why they play covers, because people love hearing the songs they know. But if you’re at a show and the band is playing a variety of songs that they wrote, it’s because they want the crowd to hear more than what you may have heard on the radio. Yelling out something that you want to hear isn’t just annoying, but insulting to the band who already has a setlist drawn up just for us. It’s not about you. And for the record, if you hear some guy yelling ‘shut the fuck up’ right after you request your favourite song, it’s me. Chances are if you wait patiently until the end, you will walk out of the venue feeling pretty satisfied with what you heard.
1. The Pusher
This one is the worst, but it may not apply to smaller shows. It is also not gendered, because I’ve had this happen to me by both sexes. Some people who are really excited for a concert wait in lineups for hours, uncomfortably, just to get a great spot up front when they enter the venue. It’s what hardcore fans do. It takes perseverance and a strong will. Often times it’s a one-shot thing to be able to get that close to one of your favourite bands in general admission. So, as the gods of fairness dictate, those who wait less don’t get as good a view because they didn’t put in the time. If you are the guy who thinks it’s fine to just torpedo your way through the dangerously packed crowd of people in order to get a spot up front you think you deserve, then you are a bad person. In your head you are probably thinking ‘I don’t care what people think, I’m doing this bro’. Everyone you push through is thinking of the best way to end you life. There is no greater spectacle of douchebaggery than someone who thinks they are entitled to their space at the very front with others who have waited for hours in order to be where they are.
Douchebag (n): An individual who has an over-inflated sense of self worth, compounded by a low level of intellegence, behaving ridiculously in front of colleagues with no sense of how moronic he appears.
The selfishness and ego it takes to pull this off demonstrates the kind of thing that is wrong with our society today – advancing oneself without regard for others. This doesn’t only apply to douchebags, but chicks too. If you think that you are so hot that you can just waltz up to the front, you are wrong. You are ugly, on the inside. And you aren’t going to sleep with the drummer.
Looking back at June: Zoo Legacy & Silkken Laumann
|Silkken Laumann (Photo: Ming Wu)
Ottawa musicians seem to be hard at work this summer (which begins in early May according to my internal life calendar). With Fevers releasing their debut music video for “Passion is Dead (Long Live Fashion)” a few months back, alt/hip hop trio Zoo Legacy just dropped their first video for “L.K.U.T.” off their upcoming album City Light Glow. The Acorn frontman Rolf Klausener’s experimental side project Silkken Laumann also released a new video for the song “House of Common Problems”, the second single from the forthcoming album Not Forever Enough. Both videos are strong precursors for their respective band’s full-length release, giving us visual stimulation on great tracks while we wait. And both are dance-party worthy, so check out both new videos below and have a dance party.
Escapade Music Festival Set Times
Here comes that daunting task of actually deciding which shows to see at the Escapade Music Festival. Being a veteran of large festivals myself, I dread this process and sympathize with anyone who thought buying your ticket was all the work you had to do. You will have to make terrible compromises, often causing nightmares of pain an regret just before the festival. Hopefully most of you will survive this ordeal, despite the stressfulness… Let’s be honest, you can’t really go wrong. Check out the set times here:
Interview: Paper Lions @ Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival 2012
|Paper Lions @ Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival 2012
Last night marked the beginning of this year’s increasingly popular Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival 2012, and I popped by Mooney’s Bay to soak in the evening sun and catch some of this year’s bands. What’s even better is that these events are free all weekend, which means people of all walks of life can witness some great Canadian bands in action – from families to die-hard fans.
I was most excited to see Prince Edward Islanders Paper Lions
, as their ever-growing catalogue of great music captures the spirit of what Canadian indie is all about. After releasing their acclaimed full-length debut Trophies
in 2012, their recent EP release At Long Creek
has been turning heads and was the #1 most listened to stream on Exlaim.ca.
Bringing enthusiasm and on-stage character, these guys rocked the diverse crowd into the night as the warm sun set over the festivities. Plus, seeing kids dancing like no one’s business up front is an excellent indicator of a great sounding band… it brought a little warmth to my heart knowing they may be the inheritors of this great Canadian sound in the future. After a fun set in which the crowd was involved with singing a few refrain melodies, I was able to meet Colin, David, Rob and John of Paper Lions backstage and get a few words from a couple of the guys: