I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Shadrach Kabango, better known as the Juno-winning Canadian hip-hop artist Shad, as he came through Ottawa while touring his new album Flying Colours. Here is the interview I conducted with him before his stellar show, which you can read about here.
I have been listening to the new album since it dropped and I really like it. Where does the album title, Flying Colours, come from?
The title comes from the phrase passing with flying colours. I knew I wanted to talk about success and failure, and knew that it would be a thread throughout everything. I just like the idea that we are all doing well, in some kind of grand scheme and ultimate sense. Particularly because it comes as a surprise to everyone, we are so self-critical and to our surprise we are all doing quite well.
What is your favourite colour?
I like grey because grey clothes are easy to wash, hahaha. I also like blue and maroon. I can’t just pick one.
Throughout your new album, and your previous albums, you make a lot of sport reference. What is your favourite sport?
What is your favourite sports team?
I don’t have a favourite sports team that I cheer for year in and year out. Some teams that have been close to my heart over the years are, the Fab Five Michigan, the Penguins of the Lemieux years, Vince Carter’s Raptors, the Golden State Warriors with Hardaway, the Knicks in the Ewing and Starks days and the Stockton and Malone Jazz. My loyalty shifts from team to team, but stays with core players.
Those are some great teams, when it comes down to it you clearly love good sport. What is your greatest sporting achievement?
My greatest… I’m going to have to take it down to two. Grade 9 high school city champs in basketball. I won a three-point contest at a charity tournament I defeated a lot of very good players.
Those are some pretty sweet memories to have. Now to get back to your music. The media and many others say that you are a positive and uplifting hip-hop artist. You do have a lot of positive lyrics, but you also deal with some very serious and troubling subjects. What leads you to be more positive in a style that often focuses on the negative?
At this point, one challenge that I like with lyrics is to try to find hope and name it. Really put a finger on it and put words to it. It is a creative challenge that I like, to try and do it without short cuts or over-simplifying. Confronting the reality of who we are and the reality of the world, but also finding some hope in it.
Sticking with that theme, mainstream hip-hop is seeing a little shift into popular and comedic lyrics like yours, with the likes of Macklemore tearing up the charts for example. How do you feel about that and why do you think it is happening?
It is great, it speaks to what resonates with people. People like to feel good, it just makes sense. People also don’t always feel good, so they don’t always want to hear happy music, and I can understand that. A little aside, in fact the whole musical tradition in America is essentially sad, comes from the blues and it is all sad music. Music elsewhere does not have a tradition like that, it is mostly happy. There is a place for positive. That is what people use music for to a great extent. It can be a release in terms of negative emotions, but also it is a place people go to for joy, to dance, have a good time and remember the world is a good place.
I really like the song ”Keep Shining” off of your 2010 album T.S.O.L. It focuses on the need to get more women involved in hip-hop. I was hoping you could talk a little about why you believe hip-hop needs more women?
It is a curious thing that hip-hop has grown since its inception in so many ways, sonically, creatively, globally but not in terms of female participation. I like to think of it in term of, every guy knows what it is like to be talking with 5 to 10 dudes. You share a brain and there are ways of talking you just wouldn’t do if females were part of that conversation. I see hip-hop to be the same way, if there were more females being a part of that conversation, things would change for the better. From the general tone of the conversation of the music would improve, people’s understanding and the kind of perspective that they share would grow. I like to think I went into it a little with the song. And I hope songs like that are an invitation and create space for women.
What is the biggest difference in Shad from last album to Flying Colours?
That’s a good question. I feel like I have learned a lot. I have grown a lot, learned a lot about myself. With this album my process was a lot more disciplined, I found that I was working harder, I felt more mature with the whole process and approach to it.
Well speaking of that new album, I absolutely love the track ”Stylin.” I think it is one of your most complete tracks so far, and was hoping I could ask you rapid fire questions inspired by the lyrics of the song?
Thank you. And of course.
What is white music?
Off the top of my head, Vampire Weekend, hahaha.
What is your favourite white music?
Simon and Garfunkel are at the top of the list.
You speak of haikus and highbrows, what is your favourite Shakespeare?
One of the silly comedies for sure, like Taming of the Shrew.
You’re out of my league you’re the MVP, you’re 23. So Lebron or Jordan?
Oooooooooooooooooooooooh! I wish I could say Jordan, but I am more of a Lebron personality.
Fair enough, but who is better?
You’re the best draft, MGD. What is your favourite beer on tap?
Mill Street Organic.
You are an MPP, what is your slogan?
It would be a play on the word party… let’s say I have a party affiliation, let’s say I’m part of the NDP like I reference in the song. My slogan would be ”turning the NDP into a real party.” Hahaha, something like that.
Ok last one for rapid fire, not from ”Stylin” but you have mentioned Star Trek and Star Wars on other tracks. So Star Trek vs Star Wars?
Star Trek, no Star Wars. I think I was most the into the first one, Episode IV: A New Hope.
You recently mentioned Bonnie Klein’s Order of Canada acceptance speech on your blog. Can you talk about why you liked it and what you thought about her view of Canada and the United States?
I thought it was cool it came out the same day as my ”Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)” video, so I highlighted and shared it. It speaks to the feelings that a lot of people have had and have, and the conversations I’ve had. I think it is true of our country and our own selves, we can have values, we can have principals, and be proud of the things that we have done, but if you don’t make an effort to progress those values and principals… you lose them. Things don’t just stay in a steady state, you are either getting better or getting worse. I think that is something a lot of us feel about our country. A lot of things we take pride in, many of us feel they are disappearing.
Here in Ottawa we are making national headlines politically, and Toronto is making them internationally. As a politically-minded artist, how do you feel about the state of politics in Canada?
There is an old way of doing politics and a lot of people of my generation have grown so detached, if you know what I mean. I am sure Rob Ford is a talented person for doing work in the city, there is a reason he got elected, and I am sure he is a decent man. But the way that he does politics, there are a lot of us who really resent it. There is obviously a lot of lying, a lot of deceit, a lot of bullying and we are sick of it. Then there are the other political games that we see going on in Ottawa. It’s like I think our generation is hoping there is a better way. We are so disengaged, it just creates this gulf between the people and what goes on in these rooms through all the layers of deceit. Then it just becomes common practice and how is anyone suppose to get engaged.
So you were raised in London, Ontario. It is not exactly known for being the mecca of Canadian hip-hop. How was carving out your career there?
I didn’t really start my career there exactly. Growing up there and going to high school there, music was fun but nothing I took seriously. I think a big part of that was that it was London, and there was not a whole lot going on. You could freestyle with your friends, maybe hop up on some stage at a talent show. That being said, once I started, London has been super supportive and awesome. A lot of my first shows were there and that is great. London was super supportive, places like the Embassy, Call The Office and the whole music community there. I love London.
How was it to present at the Giller Prize ceremony a few weeks ago?
It was a cool opportunity to meet different people. How many people get the chance to talk to very talented thoughtful writers. It was a very cool night. The guy I was presenting, Dan Vyleta, wrote a very amazing novel and it was cool to get to talk to the guy. You don’t normally get to read the book and then talk to the guy who wrote it. I thought it was very cool of the CBC to include me, because there were probably some more likely people to put up on that stage.
Sticking with literature, what are some books you would recommend?
I would recommend ”Becoming Human” by Jean Vanier and ”All Rise” by Robert F. Fuller. Both are very cool and non-fiction.
Keeping with recommendations, who is the one of the best underground hip-hop acts in Canada no one is talking about and that you would recommend?
I would tell people to check out the group called Freedom Writers from Toronto. They are basically a super group of Toronto underground kings. Some of the most talented guys in the city from the last 10-15 years. Very intense, very political music.
Final questions. You have won a Juno, put out killer albums and proven yourself time after time. Why aren’t more people talking about Shad?
I don’t know man. I am happy I get to do what I do, and I get to work hard at this. I get to have awesome experiences, and get to contribute my little piece. It feels really nice to feel like you have something to offer and to get to contribute it. Everyone has that one little thing to give man, I am just glad I get to give mine.
He is one of the smoothest and smartest hip-hop acts going, and he did not disappoint. The sultan of Canadian hip-hop performed a great high intensity set that seemed to never end, in the good way. Shad and his band (gotta love live instruments in hip-hop) played plenty of tracks off his new album Flying Colours, but did not neglect his other albums either, digging deep into his repertoire. Some of my favourite tracks of the night were ”Stylin,” ”Progress (Part 1: American Pie , Part 2: The Future is Here)” and ”Rose Garden.” But nothing was cooler than when he stripped it down and did an a cappella rendition of ”Epilogue: Long Jawn.” You could truly see how he is head and shoulders above the competition.
We Are the City played before Shad providing a little dose of rock between the two hip-hop acts. This three-piece from Kelowna, now based in Vancouver, BC had a lot of depth in their sound. And I loved that they didn’t shy away from the fact that they weren’t hip-hop, they owned their sound. If I had to compare them I found like they sounded a little like a proggy Cage the Elephant. The band was very well received and they were feeling it, none more than their lead singer who dove off the stage and crowd surfed.
Ottawa’s Zoo Legacy getting crazy and wild at Ritual.
Getting the show on the road was some great hometown talent Zoo Legacy. As previously mentioned, I love it when it is a hip-hop band, aka live musicians rocking out supporting the MC. Zoo Legacy do it very well. I liked their song ”Light it on fire” which was dedicated to the women in the audience, as well as their closing track “L.K.U.T.”
Toronto’s Grounders played their inaugural album tour show in Ottawa at Cafe Dekcuf with D.C.’s Deleted Scenes & Ottawa’s Ashleys on Nov. 9, 2013
When bands play Ottawa for their first time above Mavericks‘s folk metal night, they assume Ottawa is mostly comprised of metalheads. Who are we to say otherwise, when the downstairs tremors of frenzied bass is encroaching on their tunes? Luckily the three bands that played last night at Cafe Dekcuf were made to rage in their own experimental rock way.
Ottawa-based Ashleys warmed up the early crowd. Four lads from New Brunswick who grew up within 20 km of each other ended up in Ottawa on a fluke and decided to form their band. They insist they are all boys but their name is suspect. Their album is but a year old but I think its quirky indie rock will carry them far. They wrote a song about a couple fighting called “Terry & Tory,” and if Mike the frontman hadn’t let me know if was an obvious pun on “territory” I wouldn’t be writing about it. Funny dudes with three toques, three mics, a wild drummer, and a lot of basement party rock started us up just as their lead guitarist broke two strings at once and had to borrow one from Deleted Scenes’s frontman Daniel Scheuerman.
Ashleys: four lads from NB who formed a band in Ottawa, and are almost definitely not girls.
The helpful Deleted Scenes band was formed in the District of Columbia in 2005, a long time coming for four friends who met in grade school. They are a prolific band, as you can see in the description of their Bedbedbedbedbed EP and from their recording history. I mean two albums & two EPs, the second of which was released just this week, is a good ratio for an eight-year-old band. Their next album Lithium Bird is due to come out in 2014 and will feature the songs from their Stutter 7″.
Dan pointed out that besides a distinct difference in the graphic design of our road signage, the US & Canada are not that dissimilar. And he spread the word that D.C. has also seen its mayor Marion Barry caught in a video smoking crack back in ’89 during a sting operation. He did his time and ran again for mayor in 1994 and won… Since declared “mayor for life” (in hearts & minds, not in office) his example is something Canadian mayors can look up to. Cause when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. A reputable journalist said that once, when he was really fucking high.
A band after my own heart, they’d love to get postcards from you. Their first LP, Birdseed Shirt, came out in 2009 and they’ve have since made their way around the continent with a mess of organ-like keyboard sounds, a drummer with a wicked double bass drum & a fantastic machine called the monome. Dan’s style of screaming & wrapping the mic cable around his neck made me cringe in delight, also I thought he was going to throw up. Lively! In the states they work under Park The Van Records, north of the 49th they are with Nevado Records along with their colleagues Grounders.
Deleted Scenes from Washington, D.C. on the move.
So Groundersjust released their first EP, Wreck of a Smile. This has been something many people have been waiting for, from a band that regularly plays POP Montreal every year and tours extensively. I have to hand it to an independent band trekking across Canada & the States with not just CDs and vinyl, but audio cassette of their sound with their own art on the cover. And then you listen to them. There’s hints of dance music coupled to catchy guitar riffs and Andrew Davis’s lyrics. I heard them on All in a Day on CBC Radio 1 this Thursday, “Along the Line” got me excited for the show and you listen to it below. I got to sit down with bassist Mike Searle to ask him about it, among other things, just before the show. Check that out here, if you’d like.
When they hit the stage the Cafe had filled up to a warm buzz, drowning out the bass below. After their first song Andrew suggested, “If you could all just take five huge steps forward that would be great.” And everything fell into place. “This song is called Duncan,” he continued. “It’s about my roommate. His name is Duncan.” Enjoyable in person and in sound. For a first show in Ottawa they played their avant-pop rock matched to their synth-surrounded instrumentalist belting out electronic joy. It was a great way to announce that Toronto has spit out a feel-good group of five who are ready to take to the streets with their newly recorded material. Let there be more music, we’re ready.
Just before the doors opened at Cafe Dekcuf last night, I sat down with Mike Searle, bassist for Toronto’s Grounders. The band has been touring with Deleted Scenes in Canada recently and will follow them into the American eastern seaboard for a quick US tour. Being on the road and promoting their new music is what the travelling band is all about, as I discovered chatting with Mike.
Tell me a little bit about Grounders.
We started in 2010, an amalgamation of a few other bands that folded. We came together and started practicing lead guitarist Andrew’s songs. He had a lot of ideas which he brought to Dan, Rob and I, and we just hashed them out together. About a year later Evan joined the band and we’ve playing ever since.
It seems like fans have been waiting for you to come out with an album for a while. Did you feel that way too?
Yeah, we put out our EP last March and we’ve been touring that during spring and summer with Yukon Blonde & Zeus. Then we went out again with The Besnard Lakes to end the summer, but since then we’ve just been writing. We’re going to start recording in January. So, it’s coming. Please be patient guys, it’s on its way! We’re just finishing all the writing right now and we’re rehearsing in December. It’s definitely been on our minds quite a bit.
When did you sign on with Nevado Records?
That happened about a year ago. We met Nick Bernal when we played a show with one of his bands, Great Bloomers. He liked it, so we met a few times and worked something out. The record is coming out with them here and with Park the Van in the states. That worked out well, we have a good relationship with Nick & Nevado. He’s given us lots of great opportunities from the EP.
Whose idea was it to have every medium of music available for Wreck of a Smile? You’ve got digital download, CD, vinyl & audio cassette available on your bandcamp.
We just wanted to get it out on as much as possible. We obviously really wanted the 10″ vinyl, and CD of course, but before we signed with Nevado we did a run of cassettes on our own. We made like 50 and they all sold out at our release show. When we were talking to Nick about it he said we should do another run of them. So we did, and lots of dudes in trucks who live out in the country like ’em, cause they don’t have CD players. We like that it’s on as many mediums as possible to give more people a chance to listen to it, no matter what they use.
Do you have a large audience in the country? Are you from rural backgrounds?
Well Andrew is from Hamilton and Rob is from Bolton, which is out there. Dan & I are originally from Calgary and we really like playing out there. The biggest place for the cassettes are placed likes Saskatoon, Winnipeg & Calgary.
So what’s the best part about being in a travelling band?
The drugs & the drinking. No! I’m just kidding. Probably the coolest thing is just playing in front of as many people as we can, and hanging out with as many of them as we can. Hopefully connecting with them, cause we’re pretty chill guys, anyone can just come over and talk to us. And seeing as many cities as possible. We’ve been all over the place the last year and we’ve seen some cool places none of us have never been to.
Tell me a little about POP Montreal.
We’ve played there the last four years and it’s great. It’s one of my favourite festival to play, it’s just really fun and well organized. The guys over there do a really great job and we’ve always been treated well and on good bills. And obviously Montreal is hilarious and the food is amazing. We always have fun in Montreal, and we’re going there tomorrow!
So what’s next for Grounders?
After this mini-tour with Deleted Scenes we’re going to finish writing and get the recording, mixing and mastering all done. That’s the next big thing. After these shows we probably won’t play for a bit I guess. The next shows are in March, so now just grinding it out for the record.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan putting on a show a Babylon.
You don’t just listen to Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, you are immersed in the theatrics and the epicness of the show.
I had no idea what to expect when I decided to attend the Yamantaka // Sonic Titan show. Needless to say I was blown away. The mind boggling began early on, with the cardboard cartoons on stage, band members sporting painted faces, and the epic entry of the vocalist escorted through the crowd by someone carrying an ancient Chinese style war banner as another band member crashes cymbals together. Some songs you would almost think the soft vocals of Bjork had teamed up with a prog band, while the next song has hardcore distorted riffs, double pedal thrash drumming and yelling. The hundreds of people in attendance at Babylon were in the same trance I was, mesmerized by what we were witnessing.
My favourite songs live were ”Whalesong,” which starts soft and grows into a mesmerizing finish where they sings, “They rise/ Into battle with the tide.” The other track that really blew me away was the bone-chrushingly heavy song where they sing ”Yama looking back at me” which was awesome and induced a mosh pit.
The Yips just killing it as always.
Ottawa’s gloomy and ghostly dance rockers The Yips hit the stage before Yamantaka. With the smoke machine in full effect they played a set full of new songs. The new stuff sounds excellent, especially the unreleased song, listed as “Sub” on their set list. Their upcoming album is definitely my most anticipated upcoming local release. It was very cool to see lead singer, Kerri Carisse, dawn a guitar for a song. But shackling her with an instrument limits her stage presence and energy. The tune sounded good but I prefer when she is set free. Even though almost the entire set was new tracks, they did find time to play one of my favourites, “Blood Meridian,” which is always awesome live.
Blue Angel opening the night at Babylon.
Getting the night started was Blue Angel. The Ottawa psych/punk band, is formed of members of Boyhood, Organ Eyes and Roberta Bondar. They wore matching masks, matching sequin dresses and rocked with a ton of distortion. I loved the guitar riffs on one of their last songs, something about “I don’t need you, I don’t want you.” This was the first I ever heard of this band but I am really looking forward to seeing them more, I really like their potential. I’d also like to know why the drummer shrieked and moaned between songs, it worked, I am just curious.
I went to the awesome Veara show at Luneta Cafe on Wednesday November 6th (review here) and got to sit down and chat with their drummer Brittany Harrell afterwards.
Where does the name Veara come from?
Well there’s a local music store where we’re from in Augusta called Jay’s Music, and when we were younger and growing up there used to be a lady named Veara who worked there. She had kicked some of us out of the store before for picking up a guitar or whatever, and well, she was kind of a bitch.
So when we started the band we were like, “she sucks! Let’s name it after her!” So it was that kind of mentality that kinda stuck with us.
How long since you left home in Augusta?
Well we did our record release on September 20th in our hometown of Augusta, technically that was our first day but we were at home. We’ve been out since then, almost two months. We’ve been in Canada since November 1st.
Augusta is not known for punk rock, but it will be now, what else should they be known for that they aren’t?
Well it’s already known for this, so I’m not sure if this counts, but the Master’s Golf Tournament? It happens there and it’s super popular. I don’t know though, thinking of something that it’s not known for but should be is hard. I’m going to say the food. One of my favourite restaurants in the world, and we’ve been to a lot of places in Europe and Australia, but one of my favourite restaurants is in Augusta, Georgia. I’m a total foodie, too. The Village Deli is “home of the gooey fries” so I’m going to say it should be known for that.
How are you liking Canada so far? What’s your favourite part?
We’ve played Toronto and Montreal before on previous tours, and also just played Montreal last night for the second time. We love this country, but the free Wi-Fi at the McDonalds is the best thing about Canada so far. We probably spent six hours at McDonalds today sitting there using their internet. Free Wi-Fi is like crack on tour, you don’t want to pay roaming.
You have traveled the world with the band, and I know you played Australia. Can you tell us a bit about that?
We were there in 2011 for Soundwave Festival which had Iron Maiden headlining, and it was one of the craziest tours we’ve ever done in our lives. We’ll be going back next year for Warped Tour Australia, too.
Excellent to hear you are going back. If I am not mistaken you will be playing with one of your biggest influences?
New Found Glory! They actually did Soundwave Festival the same year we did, so I made sure to go and watch them. We’re all friends with them and had a chance to chat. I mean we’re not call ‘em up buddies, but we know them and they know us so it’s always cool and watch them destroy because they are awesome.
I noticed a definite progression on your newer album, what do you think about your steps forward as a band?
Yeah, our new record Growing Up Is Killing Me took a step forward musically – I think we became better writers and musicians. With What We Left Behind, I mean, I love that record, but I think there were some things musically that we were scared to try earlier on. As far as dynamics go, we just stepped it up on the new record. Also, as far as writing goes I think it’s a lot more mature. I’m in the band and I can definitely hear a difference in how mature it sounds. So that’s something that’s different for sure.
How was working with Jeremy McKinnon of A Day to Remember earlier on? Still in touch?
Oh man, working with him on What We Left Behind, we were still writing and trying to figure out who we were as a band. Working with him and Andrew Wade really helped us zone in on our songwriting skills and musicianship too, which really helped us get to where we wanted to be. When we got to Growing Up Is Killing Me we already knew who we were as a band, this is what we sound like, not let’s take it a step further. We worked with Dave Korneff, who is amazing – amazing producer, amazing engineer – and he helped us take that next step.
For those not lucky enough to catch you, what can they expect from a Veara show?
Let’s see. If you’re going to come to a Veara show, you can expect sing-alongs, high energy, jumping around, people going nuts. Depending on the market, it can get pretty nuts. I mean, our bass player is a perfect example of our energy. We always try to get the crowd going and get people moving. Brad sings in people’s faces, just a great time with everyone having fun.
Veara has one of the most intense bass players I have ever seen on stage. He is jumping, flinging his bass, screaming, grabbing the crowd…what is his secret?
Yeah, he’s an awesome dude. I think he’s like all of us, once we hit that stage then a switch turns on and all we focus on the show and what’s in front of us. He’s crazy though. Sometimes I’ll be playing drums and I’ll look up and think, “HOLY SHIT, did he just do that?” So it’s pretty cool!
As mentioned before you played big stages in Australia for example, how do you like playing smaller venues like this one, 80 person capacity?
Big stages are fun and all, but when I’m playing a show like this (at Luneta Cafe) where we’re right in front of the crowd, nothing beats that energy. When you’re playing big shows, sometimes there are drum risers and the drummer is far back. So you gotta really try to maintain that energy, but smaller shows like this it’s no problem. I’ll never stop playing this kind of show.
The punk music scene is often seen as a boys club. And drumming is almost exclusively lefts to the boys. What motivated you to become a female drummer in a punk band?
I started playing drums when I was nine years old because of the band Hanson. When I was nine I saw them on MTV and was like, “Holy crap, I really like this a lot”, you know, that bubblegum pop was just irresistible. I saw that the drummer was close to my age, so I thought that if he can do that then I could do it too. I begged my parents and Santa for a drum set, and magically one day a cheap drum set appeared at my house. They thought it was just a phase but I stuck with it and took lessons. I played in middle school and high school, and just remembered that it was always just something I did for fun.
I remember not really practicing much, and then I heard Blink 182. I think “What’s My Age Again?” was the first song I heard by them and so I bought the CD. I listened to it non-stop, and I remember in “Adam’s Song” especially, the drums blew me away. It completely changed the way I looked at playing drums. I never thought you could play verses and choruses the way he did. It made me practice more and is what helped propel me to get better and really made me want to be in a band.
Any advice to girls who want to start playing drums and be in a punk band?
Yeah, I mean I’ve always been really competitive. I grew up with an older brother and was always going head to head with him, but I think I took that mentality and applied it to drums. I mean, you don’t really see a lot of girl drummers, but I didn’t go into it thinking “I really hope I can play this”, I went into with the mindset that I’m going to play the drums and it was something that I wanted to be good at. So my best advice to girls is to just practice lots, and don’t be gender specific. There are actually lots of female drummers that can run with the best, I don’t think gender really matters. Whoever is at the top of the game, guy or girl, that’s what I’m striving for. Always having someone to look up to and trying to achieve a higher level is really important.
Veara, July and a bunch of locals injected the Luneta Cafe with a steady dose of pop-punk Wednesday night.
Hailing from Augusta, Georgia, Veara lit it up with their great energy, despite some technical issues. The band, who I would describe as pop-punk with an edge, rocked through a set full of up-tempo, sing-along tracks, that had some die hards in the crowd rushing the mic and crowding the singer. If they weren’t in the singer’s face, Bryan Kerr, one of the most intense bass players I have ever seen on stage was grabbing them by the shirt and screaming the words at them. Yeah, the energy was there, and did I mention this was a Wednesday? Way to go Ottawa, coming out on a school night. Some of the songs that really stuck out for me were ”We have a Body Count,” ”The Worst Part of You,” and the killer tune they closed with, that got the a circle pit going, “My B-Side Life.” The band continues its Canadian tour in Toronto on Friday. (Check out a brief interview I did with drummer Brittany Harrell after the show here.)
The other touring act on the bill was July from Toronto. They were pure clap-along pop-punk, with a very talkative lead singer. He said such beauties as ”Hey don’t you find the guitarist looks like Freddy Mercury?” to which the guitarist replied, ”Thank you, Freddy attracted women and men.” Vocalist, Devin Moody, also made me laugh when introducing the song ”Second Best” which he said was about the guitarist’s ”hot mom, but it is called ‘Second Best’ because her sister, his aunt, is even hotter.” That song came in first place for me, and was the highlight of their set. As they concluded their set and tried to play the final chorus of their last song, the power went out on the amps and left them laughing in disbelief. They thanked us and walked off smiling, glad they stayed positive and didn’t blow any fuses…
Neighbours with a little help from their friends.
Before the out-of-towners took to the stage, Neighbours, from Nepean (they specify Nepean not Ottawa) rocked out. Delivering fresh tracks from their new EP, This Past Year. The six piece are very tight, and what would you expect from a bunch of guys who all live on the same street? Their set had a real local feel to it with a bunch of their buddies crowding the front and singing every word with them. It made for a very busy space, but I love seeing people jumping in on the mic. Nothing whipped the crowd into a frenzy on this night more than their anthem ”Late Nights” which had people belting out at the top of their lungs. How can you blame them when the pop-punk gem makes references to ”late nights spent on the 95” and a final verse which they repeat and commands singing along to: ”my friends never let me go, they never let me down, you’ll never understand what it takes to give your all, when your friends have your back you’ll never fall apart.” Pure gold.
Chris Benton, a solo acoustic act from Cornwall, brought a little bit of a different speed to the evening. The bleeding heart romantic with a guitar slowed it down and played some great sounding originals, such as ”Be All.” During the song he said, ”I think this is where people clap. It has never happened before but it could.” The crowd chuckled and gladly clapped along. Other than his own material, he played two covers which he did very well, Carly Rae Jepsen’s ”Call Me Maybe” and NOFX’s ”Linoleum.” Always have to respect a person playing a solo show, especially on a bill full of bands. He seems like a very cool dude and he even gave me a shout out for wearing a Belvedere tee shirt.
Opening the night was Ottawa’s Monsun. I only caught the last song, but they sounded pretty good. I hope to catch them again sometime soon to hear more of it live.
As a general rule, when a friend of mine offers up a new band they’re into I’ll give them a listen. It’s a tough life, you know. So much music out there, so little time. When this friend’s music taste is tried and true, AND they seem to be obsessing over the band, well… then there isn’t much choice but to listen, is there?
So it went with HIGHS, a relatively new Toronto band (formed in late 2012) that has been breaking out in the city’s scene with a purpose. (*NOTE: This band is not to be confused with ‘Estrogen Highs‘, a Connecticut band that I’ve never heard of but stumbled upon shortly after entering a search query for ‘HIGHS’. Points awarded for band name creativity, though.)