Jade Bergeron, a.k.a. Flying Hórses, has done things that few artists in Ottawa/Montreal have done before. Her 2015 album Tölt was recorded in Iceland at Sundlaugin Studio with the help of producer Birgir (Biggi) Jón Birgisson of Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. The album is, as far as we’re concerned, a masterpiece in its own right (read our piece on it here). The emotional, cinematic soundscapes crafted by Bergeron are moving instrumental pieces, and a few of the songs –”Tölt” and “Attic” – have recently been made into music videos.
We caught up with Bergeron and spoke with about her recent endeavours, and her new videos for “Tölt” and “Attic” can be seen below. Be sure to catch Flying Hórses’ JUNOfest performance on Saturday, April 1 starting at 8pm at St. Alban’s Church along with Her Harbour, Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene), and Pugs and Crows and Tony Wilson.
What have you been up to since returning from Iceland? Can you talk a bit about your involvement with Banff Centre?
I’ve been pretty busy. I got back from Iceland just in time to perform my first two solo-piano concerts as part of the Festival de Jazz de Montreal. I spent the summer writing new material and collaborating with videographers.
I was invited to go work over at The Banff Centre in the fall. Waking up every morning to clean, fresh air, in the middle of the mountains, and to be surrounded by talented, inspiring artists was so amazing. I had my own studio, with a grand piano, harpsichord, vibraphone and a few percussive instruments. The other musicians in my residency we’re singer/songwriters and we’re working on two or three shorter songs, but I decided when I got there that I was going to compose one, longer instrumental, movement. I had written a small part of the new track over in Iceland but the entire rest of the movement happened really organically during my first week in Banff.
Being back in nature, really brought the song to life. I had heard about the residency through Charles actually, and being a fan of his post-rock band DO MAKE SAY THINK and of his work in general, I applied. I guess both himself and Brendan Canning thought I would be a good fit for the residency. I ended up meeting a classical guitarist and experimental cellist, Alex Mah out there, who was there working with Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and after hearing him play, invited him to record cello on my new piece. Charles played horns and a few other musicians also contributed to the movement.
I wanted the entire recording experience to feel organic, and stress-free. The new movement was mixed by Efrim (Godspeed You! Black Emperor over at Hotel 2 Tango in Montreal and I just got the master back from Biggi (Sigur Ros) in Iceland. It’s a pretty heavy listen, but it’s colourful and it represents a really important recent time in my life. We are shooting a short film/video for the single right now in Iceland. I’m very excited about the whole thing. It’s going to feature a very well-known actor/model in the Icelandic community, so I’m really glad to be working with this team, overseas. The new movement and video should hopefully be out in the spring.
The video for Tölt is a beautifully crafted, yet tragic story of two young people alienated from the world in different ways. Why were children the subjects? Can you expand on the concept?
I wrote ‘Tölt’ during a time of reflection on my own childhood. The entire record ended up feeling/sounding like a soundtrack to the past. I used a lot of instrumentation that represented the innocence of being young and wide-eyed. When Alex approached me with the idea of making a video/short film for that particular track, he already had a lot of great conceptual ideas, and before even bringing up what the track represented to me, he was already story boarding about a childhood trauma. We connected on the video, immediately.
My contribution to the video was limited. Once Alex and I went over the storyboard together, he began casting calls for the actors, and it wasn’t long before they them. Production spent some time in the fall working on production and the post-production happened in the winter. The whole process was really amazing. Both young actors really did a great job, and I’m so grateful for the level of professionalism the entire team demonstrated throughout. It’s been an honour working with all of them.
What does the piano mean to you? How has music helped you through past struggles and traumas?
My relationship with the piano has been a roller coaster since I was a kid. I’ve tried my hand at a few different instruments over the years, but my heart has always lead me back to the piano. It feels the most organic. I enjoy having the keys right there in front of me, I’m a very visual person. I really have no idea what I was doing with my life, before writing and composing music, and I don’t know what I would do without it.
Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming video for attic? Will it be related to the story in Tölt?
Attic was produced by Antoine S. Legault from Lonely Fire Productions. The song is one of the last tracks on the record. I never really intended for it to end up there, actually. It’s quite dark, heavy and creepy and I think is a transition between the really optimist, innocent, lullaby songs that start off the album, and the new single I’ll be releasing sometime in the spring. I wrote it while I was reflecting on memories (much like Tolt). The video opportunity came about organically, this past winter. I sat down with Antoine back in December and we talked about making this short film/video that was kind of dark, creepy and mysterious. Coming out of a bit of heaviness myself, I decided to focus the story on loss and melancholy. Antoine came up with the storyboard and we shot the video in one afternoon in an abandoned house. It was freezing cold and creepy, but it was a really awesome experience.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Juno festivities taking place in Ottawa?
I don’t perform very often. In fact I pretty much only played festivals last year. My focus has mostly been on writing new material, and catching up on the release of the record. Junofest asked me to perform as part of the only ‘instrumental/experimental’ showcase for the festival. It will be fun to share the stage with Charles Spearin again, and a good friend of mine Her Harbour is playing too. It’ll be nice to see so many great musicians roaming around Ottawa for The Juno’s.
When you put on the first song on Jenn Grant’s latest album, Paradise, you immediately know it’s different from her past work. The listener is greeted by trance-inducing percussion that stimulates sensory inputs – a feeling that continues the whole way through the album.
Jenn Grant was born in Charlottetown, P.E.I., but currently resides in Lake Echo, NS. She has become renowned internationally as a successful folk-singer. Recognized for her highly acclaimed album, Compostela, she has created a name for herself as a Juno-nominated Canadian artist, and this album follows suit.*
The unique sound of Paradise started with the chosen core instrument. This is the first album on which Jenn chose to play the piano. With the help of her husband, she then paired that base with synths, bits of soul, and electronics to build the majority of the sounds. This combination was also paired with a heavier percussion than in previous albums, which, with her vocals, created a powerful fusion of sound that fully immerses the listener. When asked about these fundamental differences between her albums, she put it very simply:
“The colours of this album are different.”
The majority of inspiration didn’t come from something, but rather the lack of something – the empty spaces found in music over the last year or so. Major loses include the likes of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, just to name a few. They were all powerful forces in their own right within the industry, and have all had an impact on Jenn and her music over the years. Coming through lucid dreams, Jenn looked through her connections in the music community to form the vivid new colours that can be found on the album.
Curious about her ability to have full memories of these dreams, I inquired about how this was possible. She explained the dream she had inspiring the song Rocket, sharing that the night after David Bowie died she found herself flying through space with him.
Straighten your tie at the end of a golden road, thank you for coming by. Looking sharp, I saw your face and thought, my god, is this good bye?
…let us not pretend now, that we’ve got all the answers.
It was on this journey that he told her she should embrace her gifts. Though she only recently started to keep a notebook by her bed again, Jenn explained that vivid dreams like this one leave a lasting impact. They are hard to forget, although she decided to start documenting the special ones from here on.
Growing up on the East Coast impacted Jenn as a person, which subsequently impacted her music. Finding a tight-knit group of local artists created a “special bond” for all of them. All having a unique perspective on music and touring, they support each other through the process. To her, it’s a group of likeminded artists sharing a life.
As for Jenn’s plans for Ottawa, she says the show will be more fun, highlighting her new material. She has always liked playing in the city, which became evident last week when she surprised Black Squirrel Books with a pop-in show alongside CBC’s All in a Day host Alan Neal. Each show Jenn plays is different.
Her show on March 25th at the NAC will be different for a lot of reasons, including performing in a larger room and having a bigger sound than previous shows. She promises that it will be dynamic. There will be new stuff, bits of old stuff, and of course lots of love. Pricing and ticket information for the NAC show can be found here.
Jenn’s Song I Wish I Wrote But Didn’t – I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, is made up of about 2,200 permanent residents, while Dartmouth has about 67,500. The City of Ottawa has more permanent residents than the entire province. It’s easy to be recognized, its easy to know of a lot of people, and if you are a public figure like Joel Plaskett, it’s no shock that pretty much everyone can find a connection to you.
Joel Plaskett is known around town not only for his music, but his work in the community. Advocating for the arts in Nova Scotia through organizations like the Khyber, growth of Dartmouth’s downtown core, and producing up and coming local artists. Encouraging growth in the arts is something that is found within many members of the Plaskett family. While living in Lunenburg, Bill Plaskett was one of the founding members of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. This festival has continued to be one of the towns flourishing events, highlighting local artists on its many stages, including Joel. The most recent project undertaken by the Plaskett duo has been the appropriately named Solidarity album released in February.
When I was told that I had a chance to speak with Joel, I knew that I wanted to highlight the importance of community, family, and to showcase the importance of that word solidarity. I chose to reach out to my community to find which questions they would want to ask. I was not disappointed. I learned more in that part of this interview process than I expected to in the whole thing. Many were interested in family, wanting to know what it was like to produce an album with his Dad, and how much of an influence his dad was on his career. Some were interested in his work in Dartmouth, some of his past experiences, and others interested in where he saw things going in the future.
When creating Solidarity, partnering with his dad changed the album’s sound from his usual influences, and it brought him a sense of grounding. The process led to the exploration of parts of the self, bringing back the sounds of traditional folk. Discussions of the album began about a year before they decided to go ahead with it, booking the tour before solidifying the albums production. The deadline was tight. They started the recording process in October of last year with a deadline in the first part of November, which gave them about 30 days to record and produce it in it’s entirety. Having shared a stage in the past with his father, Joel wanted to take that further and give his dad more of the stage. Bill takes lead on five songs on the album, which are rooted deeply in tradition. A sound that was also inherited by Joel, bringing him “full circle” in his dad’s influence on his music. This was an influence that started by digging through old record collections, finding interest in certain musicians that have impacted the sound Joel carried into his career. The guitar style he was interested in was very much his dad’s, an influence that he noticed come through more on this album than on other albums. This album mixes Bill’s ‘social’ musical style with Joel’s more professional approach to music production, bringing the “living room to the stage.”
Growing up, Joel was influenced by music from a variety of sources. His love of rock music began from a lesser-known source, which was his time spent at Camp Wapemeo. Located in Yarmouth, Joel attended this camp with Ian McGettigan and Rob Benvie, who would later join him to form Thrush Hermit. It was at this camp where Chef Bobby got up in front of the whole camp and air guitared Stairway to Heaven at campfire. For Joel, that moment wasn’t about the air guitaring, but about having his first taste of Led Zeppelin. He talked about his “a-ha” moment, sitting at the fire thinking, “WHAT IS THAT SONG?!” He was 12 or 13 years old, and he admits that those camp moments changed his life.
Camp, like most kids, left a lasting impact for Joel. Memories for him also included a song well known which was sung by all the kids at Camp Wapemeo. That song was Leaving on a Jet Plane. Years later, well into his career, Joel was asked to play at a camp located in Ontario. He ended up finding out that his song, True Patriot Love, became the “Leaving on a Jet Plane” song for that camp, and thinking, “Yes. I made it!”
Understanding the ins and outs of music industry is important when working the way Joel does. Running an all-in-one record store/barber shop/coffee shop/recording studio in Dartmouth keeps him in the loop about what the local industry looks like, while also giving him the ability to produce records for musicians on-site. The New Scotland Yard Emporium has provided the space for many locals like Mo Kenney to build their foundation in the music industry. Other renowned artists have gone through NSYE, such as Cancer Bats and, of course, Frank Turner who recently played a pop-up acoustic show while on tour last month.**
Growing this hub in Dartmouth has made the profession accessible for him, and other musicians in the area. Sharing worries about the financial sustainability of the industry, he says there is little money in recording and that artists can only find security through money earned while on tour. Streaming has impacted the ability to earn money off records, but has had an impact on developing a fan base for shows while away. Joel has been fortunate enough to develop an audience that has grown and gotten older with him throughout the years, many of whom are dedicated to coming to shows. Anyone who has been in that audience knows Joel takes pride in his shows, keeping it professional and casual. You’d find yourself excited to be there, and comfortable enough to go have a conversation with him after the show. Connecting with the audience and encouraging that his shows, and music in general, “is something everyone can be a part of.”
This mindset has kept him able to continue to work within the community. Avoiding the fan fair often associated with being a well-known performer, and wanting to maintain his ability to walk down the streets of Dartmouth. Relax and enjoy the simplicities in life, like disconnecting from the world of technology and telephones and going for walks around Lake Banook (one of Dartmouth’s many lakes, it is the City of Lakes after all). Keeping this small-town mentality allows for the ability to slow down, which, in true Nova Scotian fashion, also includes the boycotting of Sunday shopping – the belief that everyone needs a day of rest and relaxation.
Being on tour provides a different kind of relaxation for Joel. It provides the relaxing “feeling of being useful.” Knowing that in the moments while away, he is doing exactly what he needs to be doing. When getting on stage he is comfortable. He knows the tuning, he knows what to prepare, and knows that that first song should sound and feel like. Joel and Bill Plaskett will be playing the National Arts Centre on March 18th. He tells us to expect a shared stage. Opening for them is a “fuzzy-folk” duo, Mayhemingways, who have also been recruited to do some backing up for the Plaskett’s set. In addition to these openers, the tour will have Shannon Quinn joining for the first few shows, including the NAC. She is a talented fiddler who will be playing with them for the set, making it into a five-piece group in the end. This show will be different from what people are used to, and will showcase the fusion of Bill’s traditional folk with Joel’s upbeat rock. He also promised to bring in a few of his old songs as well.
Joel’s Song I wish I Wrote but Didn’t
Nina Simone – The Twelfth of Never (original lyrics by Johnny Mathis)_________________________________________________________
**Frank Turner and Joel Plaskett have a long-standing friendship after Turner went on tour with Emergency five years ago. Joel highlighted Turner’s stage energy, general positivity, and overall genuine kindness. Plaskett also highlighted how every so often Turner will be listening to Joel’s music and it will pop up on his twitter, and people from anywhere and everywhere will comment about checking it out. For that he gave a chuckle and thanks.
Century Palm will take you on a time warp and are happen to be swinging into town this week.
Century Palm was initially formed by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Payne in 2014 following the dissolution of garage-rock cult favourites, Ketamines. Ketamines featured 3/4ths of the eventual members of Century Palm (Paul Lawton, Penny Clark, Jesse Locke and Payne). Members also play(ed) in Tough Age, Zebrassieres and Dirty Beaches. Needless to say this talented group has a pretty impressive resume.
The band has certainly moved well beyond the garage sound of their past bands. Century Palm will take you back 20 or 30 years with new wave and post-punk musical styling that many like me have missed dearly.
Ahead of their show at House of Targ Saturday night, we chatted with the band about their evolution from Ketamines to Century Palm and their retro sound. Have a read below and travel back in time Saturday night (info here).
Beyond the different sound, what is the major difference between Ketamines and Century Palm?
Paul Lawton: Ketamines was a studio project with a rotating cast of players, Century Palm has always felt more like a hard-slogging band. Ketamines as a collab between myself and James Leroy, who I had been making music with since the 90s. Century Palm is (more or less) more of a collaboration between an entire band, it is a great deal more collaborative than Ketamines ever was.
Andrew Payne: Although I played in Ketamines for a year I didn’t write any music for the band. For me, Century Palm is a continuation of my last songwriting project, Zebrassieres, which was based in Ottawa when I lived there from 2009 to 2012. The main goal of Zebrassieres was to make people question the need to be serious, logical and mature. With Century Palm, I’m taking a stab at being serious, logical and mature. Both paths are valid ways to approach life.
Often when bands breakup, they get back together for high paying reunion gigs, not form another band with many of the same members. What brought you together to make music again?
Paul: I think that Ketamines might come back around at some point. It’s confusing – the version of Ketamines with myself, Andrew, Jesse and Alex dissolved after a stupid and highly charged cross Canada tour where we were doing Ketamines AND Zebrassieres with the same lineup. Andrew basically quit on a 30 hour drive home from Chicago to Toronto, I think that tour kind of broke us. Ketamines went on with Jesse on drums, and then Andrew formed Century Palm, and we basically all got back together again, without me as the ruthless uncaring leader, and it was instantly kind of better.
Andrew: The people are all great, I just wanted to make my own music and do something different than before.
Getting back to the sound, Century Palm sounds like something from the last century, more of a late 70s and 80s vibe to it. How did that come to be?
Andrew: I like the sweet spot in there when punk-influenced-bands were getting more creative, and right before a lot of those same bands started losing their edge. It was a time when everything was more bold, dark and stylish than the present. The fashion was distinctive and daring. The movies were full of slime, and actors would say, “Shut up, pukoid.”
Paul: I think we are victims of “overdocumentation” as Simon Reynolds says in Retromania. When I started playing in hardcore bands, we were basically influenced by whichever 7”s we could get in distros, or from the back of MRR or whatever HeartattaCk was into, but then filesharing just made musical eras and genre distinctions obsolete. In our van we are as likely to listen to WIRE as we are anything modern.
I heard recording this album was a lengthy process? Can you speak about the road from your last EP to your debut LP Meet You?
Paul: We recorded our first two EPs at Royal Mountain Studios with Nyles Miszczyk, roughly about a year apart – 2014 and then 2015. I was personally super happy with how it turned out. Then we moved into a real studio on the East End that we were sharing with U.S. Girls and Slim Twig, and I still had all my recording gear from when I ran Mammoth Cave Recording Co., so we just decided to take our time. Mixing was making me crazy, so we offloaded our mixing to Mint Records superstar Jay Arner, and so that allowed me to focus on crafting vibes.
We re-recorded most of the songs a few times until we were happy with it. I probably spent 1000 hours in there making sonic layers with everyone. It was fun, but we already have a second LP worth of songs and we moved out of that studio, so that will force us to go back to a real studio. I personally loved working with Nyles so we might try and make that happen again.
I like both singles, “King of John St” and “Then You’re Gone” for very different reasons, but “Then You’re Gone” really jumps out at me and shines on the album. Could you tell me a little bit about the song please?
Andrew: Then You’re Gone is about that moment you find out a friend, or anyone close, has passed away. It captures that helpless, spacey feeling where all you can do is question life while the reality of the news sinks in. When Penny’s synth solo kicks in, it takes me away to another dimension, which is a perfect response to the song.
You have played Ottawa a few times before, what is one or some of your favourite memories of playing the nation’s capital?
Penny Clark: My favourite time was at Ottawa Explosion where we got to play that super hot cave bar and it ruled.
Paul: We just like playing to a city of people that actually care about supporting bands and dancing and going off.
For people who have never seen you live before, what should they expect at House of TARG?
Andrew: They can expect to see new songs newer than our new album.
Jesse Locke: TARG has an amazing collection of pinball machines and my personal favourite game, Ice Cold Beer. Try the dessert pierogies too!
We caught up with Jordan Craig, the lead singer and guitarist ONFIILM ahead of their show this week. We had a great chat about the band, their sound, their live show and much more. Check it out:
I know you don’t like using a genre to describe ONFILM’s sound, I also hate genres but sort of get stuck with them as a writer. Can you please describe your band’s sound without defaulting to genres?
J: The band’s sound to me is a mix of all the madness, sadness, vulnerability and other exotic feelings that I feel when I’ m at home. All of our music is written and recorded right here. My best friends, and the most talented people I know are in the band, and we share a common love for sound and light. We are all in love with beautiful delicate tones, juxtaposed against pulverizing beats and mad, mad guitars. Colin Wolfson’s lead guitar is genius level, really bringing the sparkling intergalactic feel. Ryan Farrell holds down the bass without over complicating, and is always mesmerizing. I like to give the rhythm and chords (The fewer the better!) a chance to breathe, and enchant the listener just before we close the hatch and blast off. We take them to space, then bring them back home again.
How would you best describe how that sound translates live?
J: Every piece of the live show is designed to take the audience into our world. Maybe more specifically my world. It ’s pretty much a recreation of my life and what’s going on in my head. An expression of personal freedom. I want to show everyone through our video, music and dancing that whatever or whoever they are can be pushed to the limit. Our dancers interpret the music, while our glitch videos play over us and our instruments. The superimposed glitches break us apart, scramble us. It’s crazy.
Love the sound of the video/visual addition. Where did the idea come from?
J: It was a pretty natural thing for me to add visuals to our stage show. I’ve been a pro photographer for 15 years, and I’m from a family of visual artists. I first became enamoured with glitch video when I saw a movie called “Until the end of the world” by Wim Wenders. In this movie they record peoples dreams, and the result was beautiful. Wim Wenders is also an accomplished photographer, and I’ve always been interested in his methods. The other inspiration was the cover art for Renegade Soundwave’s album “Sound Clash.” A sexy figure with a whip, probably shot on a tv screen. That image is never far from my mind.
Who are the dancers? Are they at every show? What do you think they add?
J: The dancers are currently Tess Giberson and Zoë Menne. We are super lucky to have them at pretty much every show, although sometimes we have other dancers when we are on the road, or if one of them can’t make it. For instance, Tess was arrested for working at a marijuana dispensary and pointlessly thrown in jail on the night of our gig a few months ago. They are a wonderful and kind person, and it was shocking and horrible that they were treated this way. Zoë is an unbelievably talented visual artist in their own right, and I’m actually a big fan. Back when the band first started, I didn’t even have a drummer or bass player, so I felt that I needed more movement onstage. They worked out so well that I’ve kept that aspect of the show going even now that ONFIILM is a full band.
In your band’s bio you are listed as “a doctor of divinity,” care to explain?
J: Yes, I have an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Universal Life Church in Medesto, California. I am an Atheist, and I believe that everyone’s beliefs are just as valid as anyone else’s, as long as they don’t impose on others. I use this bit of paper to illustrate the absurdity of the whole idea of organized religion. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson had a Doctorate from the same place, so I’m in good company. ONFIILM and our fans are the Congregation, and our live show is the service. We are also federal tax exempt in the United States.
Very interesting. I also see you list two drummers, do you ever have two live?
J: Yes, ONFIILM is fortunate to have two ridiculously talented drummers, but not both on stage at the same time. Wes Leigh is our main drummer, but when he is not available Matt Sobb kindly fills in for him. They both have very different playing styles and bring more to the table than I could have imagined. Matt also plays in the Juno award winning band MonkeyJunk. I’m very proud to be working with both of these drummers, as they are both very accomplished dedicated musicians.
If so, how does that play out and what do the sound techs think? If not, why not?
J: It has certainly crossed my mind. I’m a big fan of the Allman Brothers, so two drummers is something that is not out of the question for me in the future. RIP Butch Trucks. Actually, the live sound engineer from the Allman Brothers Band came to the studio for a visit a few months ago. Got some really good live sound tips!
What do you know about the venue you are playing, The Dominion Tavern?
J: When you first walk into the Dominion Tavern, look up towards the ceiling, you’ll notice the bashed up mangled side of an old stock car. I was actually at the speedway that day long ago, and watched the damn thing race. A guy named Stu, who used to work there was driving. It was like a rolling version of the Dominion Tavern. A bit louder, and bit rougher than the other cars. Didn’t win the race, but had the best crowd.
Anything else you would like to add?
J: We are super excited that ONFIILM’s music is being used in an upcoming documentary series by VICE called “FUNNY: HOW?” . It’s a series about different comedy scenes around the world. Not much more I can say about it yet, as I don’t want to give anything else away. VICE has been great to work with, and they really understand ONFIILM’s feel, and leave us to our own devices to come up with music. We will make the songs for this series available for fans to download after it has aired.
We also working on our full length LP coming out later this year. I’d like to thank everyone involved in ONFIILM, and it’s a thrill to experiment every day.
Catch ONFIILM this Wednesday night at the Dominion Tavern as they open for the most excellent Heat from Montreal, info here.
The 2017 Megaphono Festival has begun, and has already rung in a number of successful music panels, events, and shows, bringing in a collection of talent from across Canada, the US, and beyond. On Thursday, February 2 at Barrymore’s, Partner joins I.D.A.L.G. and New Swears for what is expected to be nothing less than the punk rock party dreams are made of.
Hailing from New Brunswick, Partner’s Josée Caron and Lucy Niles are a musical match made in heaven. Their songs, which mix the uplifting sound of indie pop with the rough energy of post-punk, perfectly encapsulate the feelings of young adulthood.
Previously bandmates in Killer Haze, Caron and Niles decided to create new music based on the fleeting events and ideas of everyday life. Their Bandcamp lists intimacy, friendship, sexuality, and drugs as some of the elements behind their song writing – in what they call “part-musical act, part-teenage diary, and 100% queer”.
A large part of the artists’ musical inspiration comes from their sexuality: both open lesbians, being gay is a central part of the band’s identity.“It’s not that we thought it was a radical thing to talk about,” says Niles. “We’re not the first gay people to make music. We just decided that we were tired of not talking about it, to not be known as a gay band. It’s way harder to not talk about your sexuality than it is to talk about it,” she says.
The pair’s honest and accepting attitude towards sexuality allows it to be an important but relaxed element of their sound – it’s there, they’re not hiding it, but they’re not pushing it either. “It permeates your life in funny and mundane ways,” says Caron. This lighthearted style resonates in the band’s humorous and authentic songs and music videos. One of their most popular singles is entitled “We’re Gay but Not for Each Other.” Other singles include “The Ellen Page” and “Hot Knives,” both punchy songs that use playful lyrics to depict controversial subjects with a modern and nonchalant attitude.
As a young band, Partner has established a steadily rising career. They’ve already had a successful start to 2017, touring throughout Canada and the United States. It’s the band’s first time at Megaphono, returning to Ottawa after playing at the Arboretum Festival last year.
“It’s been great to play all across Canada,” says Caron. “We’re really lucky to be welcomed by various fests.” Niles agrees, saying “it’s been really cool to see people who are into the same stuff all over the place, but don’t know each other necessarily… there’s a common kind of bond.”
For the future, expect an announcement from the pair in the next month with “an exciting development” on their upcoming record. “We’re always kind of working on songs,” says Niles. “We have a lot of ideas we’ve been working on over the course of years.”
Partner’s easygoing attitude, loveable sound, and honest lyrical talent ensures a solid future for the band – their music is high-energy and high quality, appearing impressively professional while maintaining youth and authenticity. While you eagerly wait for their studio record, you can catch Partner at Barrymore’s tonight, February 2, at 10:30 pm. Ticketing and Megaphono wristband information can be found here.
Megaphono: verb. To amplify that which is heard locally, so it may reach a broader audience.
February 1-3, 2017 // Ottawa & Gatineau.
Jon Bartlett is the music industry veteran that started the Ottawa’s newest music festival, which is going into its third year. It’s a little bit weird, a little bit quirky, and very Ottawa. It’s still flying under the radar of many in the city. Yet Megaphono offers something totally different – it’s not just about bringing people to the show, it’s about who they are bringing to the city.
Megaphono is a showcase festival, which means they’re hosting music industry representatives to demonstrate regional talent. “There’s an appetite for Canadian music, and our city has way better than average music.” says Jon. Yet, we haven’t built a reputation much beyond our boundaries. That’s one of the goals of the festival, and one of the reasons why hosting industry scouts is a great investment for the city. Beyond showcasing the talent of local artists, it is part of building Ottawa’s creative brand. In this capacity, music, film, theatre and other creative industries are doing a lot of heavy lifting. “That’s what makes a good city,” says Bartlett, “I’m more optimistic than I was 5 years ago. There’s so much happening that I had no idea about. It’s made me want to dig a little bit, explore.”
Musicians from this region, Ottawa and Gatineau, can certainly represent. We have some success stories, but Bartlett admits “we don’t have a great reputation for being the mavens of championing our own artists before other people do.” Megaphono acts like an ear to the ground for hard-working artists, picking up sound bites and making sure they’re heard by the right people. It’s a well-curated festival, which is helpful to music industry reps, but equally so to normal people that don’t necessarily have time to follow the local scene.
The Ottawa Scene
Speaking about Ottawa’s music scene, Bartlett revealed some of the challenges of making it as a musician in Ottawa. It seems as though one of the biggest barriers for a musician committing to it. “People have cushy jobs. It’s harder to walk the plank and take that risk… Maybe that’s why those people move away. You need the friction of [pressure] to motivate yourself.” Geographically, we’re also quite spread out, so staying local can limit a musician’s growth.
Her Harbour performs at Megaphono’s 2016 secret warehouse tour. The festival uses unconventional venues to be more memorable.
Another challenge is Ottawa’s federal side. As Bartlett says, “We are bureaucratic Jedis. Everything is steeped in taking way too long and making decisions because two people wrote letters of complaint… You live downtown in a city.” Noise brings vibrancy, and we’ll have to embrace that as a city in order to grow.
There are opportunities of being based here – and one of the big ones is that we’re right between Montreal and Toronto, which are “the two main Canadian places you should be playing anyway”. There might be fewer resources, but part of the appeal of Megaphono is that it holds panels to share knowledge, and enables networking.
Building Cultural Capital
It’s not every day you speak to someone who is so upfront about the music industry being, well, a business. Those connections are happening more and more, and people are starting to buy into the economics of it. Jon spoke about one of the festivals sponsors this year, Lixar. “They really get it. Businesses are starting to understand that if you want to attract workers and you’re doing things that involve creativity – and a lot of those high tech industries do – people aren’t going to want to move here if there isn’t a vibrant music scene. That might actually be the most important thing to get people to move to a city.”
Megaphono, the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, and many other players are working hard to bring the city “to a place where the economic value of a good music scene is recognized, beyond filling hotel rooms during festivals, beyond being a handout to the arts – because investments in trying to build this industry are, dollar for dollar, a way better investment than most industries.”
Is Ottawa cooler than we think? We’re getting there. Let’s keep investing.
Kitchener’s Janice Jo Lee is bringing her tour to Ottawa this weekend, and is set to take over The Origin Arts & Community Centre. Presented in cooperation with Babely Shades, Lee is an award-winning musician, poet, and theatre performer who pushes boundaries through her art. A self-described hard femme queer radical, Lee insists on using the stage as a platform for interaction with her audiences – an interaction that is often full of witty humour, but also unhindered honesty.
Her folk-roots songs are not only eloquently crafted and beautifully executed, but they are also powerful, critical pieces. Her third album, entitled Ancestor Song, is set to be released in Spring 2017. I had the chance to speak with Janice Jo Lee recently, have a read below.
Don’t miss Lee perform with talented local artist Amanda Lowe at The Origin Arts & Community Centre on Friday night, starting at 8:30pm. More information can be found here.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO SEE AND LEARN, PERSONALLY, AS YOU TRAVEL ACROSS CANADA ON TOUR?
When I’m on tour I am hoping to share my stories with new audiences. Particularly I’m excited to perform to folks who are marginalized by racism, patriarchy, and classism, because I think my songs can be cathartic and healing. I am hoping to meet other artists and activists who are doing the work in their communities, because it inspires me to keep going.
ON YOUR LATEST ALBUM, SING HEY, YOU EXPLORE MANY DIFFERENT GENRES TRACK TO TRACK, YET IT STILL FEELS COHESIVE. IS STRAYING FROM ONE PARTICULAR “SOUND” OR GENRE OF MUSIC IMPORTANT TO YOU? IF SO, WHY?
That’s funny you say that! Because I thought Sing Hey was more cohesive than my first album Drown the Earth when it comes to genre. I would say the sound I aim for is heartfelt, and soul-full. My base is roots, and folk music, with a generous influence from 90s pop and RnB. Placing music in genres is a capitalist tendency I think, to make it convenient to market an artist to an audience. For me I say I am a folk artist because I make music for the people, telling our contemporary stories. The instrumentation is secondary to the music’s purpose.
YOU USE VARIOUS MEDIUMS THROUGH WHICH YOU TELL YOUR STORIES, AND YOUR SONGS AND POEMS ARE POWERFUL ANTI-OPPRESSION PIECES. HOW HAS TRANSFORMING DIFFICULT PERSONAL EXPERIENCES INTO STORIES FOR OTHERS TO HEAR HAD AN IMPACT ON YOU OVER THE YEARS?
Turning my hardships into songs and poems is a really excellent exercise in healing and letting go. My poem “Grasslands” is about the biggest struggle I’ve had with my body, the policing of my body hair. By turning that experience into a piece of comedy, I laugh at it now, and every time I share that story with others, it sits lighter on my chest.
My favourite thing to do right now is to turn my frustration with oppression into anthems for survival. They remind myself and my friends of our fierceness. For example in my song “Here I Am” the chorus says “Gotta spit the truth, gotta be fearless, gotta fight to survive, find joy in my life” which are basically my life goals. In another song “Take Space,” I say “Take that little bit of space you have and let’s make it free” which is about starting where we are and building outward. I use this language of “getting free” which is 100% taken from Dead Prez and their album “Let’s Get Free.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OR EXPERIENCES THAT YOU CAN RECALL WERE FORMATIVE TO YOUR ARTISTIC PURSUITS? PERHAPS SOMETHING FROM YOUR YOUTH THAT HAS TRAVELED WITH YOU?
I remember in my youth, sitting in the back of the car and hearing Alicia Key’s “Fallin” on the radio and my world stopped. I had been listening to mostly korean and american pop music my whole life, and this simple two chord blues song struck me in my soul. I remember thinking “What is this music?”
I always wanted to be a singer but it wasn’t something I ever thought would happen. My immigrant parents always pushed me to be a doctor, lawyer, professor, or politician. Somehow it happened for me anyway because the best way for my to be a politician was through art.
THE CLOSING OF SOYBOMB IN TORONTO RAISES SOME CONCERNS FOR THE FUTURE OF DIY VENUES IN THE CITY. K-W IS KNOWN TO HAVE SOME DIY SPACES OF ITS OWN. IN YOUR EYES, WHY ARE THESE SPACES IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE TO AN ARTS COMMUNITY?
DIY spaces are so important for local artists to flourish. I like to think of it as the power of the people right at the grassroots. For example I can book a show at Open Sesame in Kitchener, book an all BIPOC lineup, admission can be pay what you can, I can do a land acknowledgement and have an all-gender accessible bathroom. This doesn’t happen at Centre in the Square. Having decision-making power that is not influenced from a top-down system allows innovation and artistic freedom. In my experience, communities grow out of DIY spaces.
WHAT ADVICE OR ENCOURAGEMENT WOULD YOU GIVE INDIVIDUALS IN MARGINALIZED GROUPS WHO ARE LOOKING TO TAKE THEIR ART MORE SERIOUSLY, AND MAYBE PURSUE A CAREER AS AN ARTIST?
Canada does not have a great arts infrastructure. Culturally we do not value the arts as some other countries. It is hard to make a living as an artist. For marginalized artists I would say make the time to apply to grants. It is unpaid labour up front, but if you receive money, you can actually pay yourself to create and produce art. Especially right now with the overhauls at the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council, where centering marginalized artists is now a clear priority, apply for grants. Aside from grants, I would say know your own boundaries. Once you build up to a professional level as an independent artist-entrepreneur, the only person who has the decision to exploit you is yourself. There are only so many gigs I can volunteer for before I need to draw a line because I am exploiting my own labour. Your art work is real work!
When you are performing to white audiences and they respond with coldness to your work, do not let it ruin you! An artist who is ahead of the curve, and pushing the boundaries will not be warmly accepted until we educate audiences to be ready. Try to show your work to audiences who do “get” what you are doing when you can, to be encouraged. Artists who are more than entertainment and easy-listening, are dangerous. Canadians are way too comfortable. Be dangerous.
Cody Purcell, a.k.a. Cody Coyote has reached new heights in his musical evolution as an aboriginal hip hop artist in Ottawa. Coming from the depths of Ottawa’s east side, Purcell was exposed to drugs, alcohol, and crime at an early age. He’s also been vocal about his struggle with depression and attempted suicide before the age of 20. However, entering his third decade of life opened his eyes up to a new world – hip hop. Turning towards music changed Purcell’s life, and he refocused himself to inspire others and use his voice as a force for change. Since he started his journey as a hip hop artist less than five years ago, he has chosen a life of sobriety. Moreover, he has been nominated for a few 2015 Indigenous Music Awards and has been named a Top 10 finalist in a national talent search hosted by imagineNATIVE and Slaight Music.
We spoke with Purcell on the eve of the release of his new video for “Northern Lights” at Club SAW. More info here. Read our interview with him and check out the video below.
As an aboriginal artist, you’ve been vocal about using hip hop as a force for positivity and change. How did you get into hip hop and what made you realize that your skills could help others?
Originally I started writing poetry and lyrics as an outlet for many life experiences that I endured as a youth. Growing up I was always listening to various kinds of music but Hip Hop was something that really appealed to me because of the lyricism that was found within conscious Hip Hop. When I was first introduced to a studio that was built at my old high school, I found myself in a safe and creative atmosphere where I could escape to work on my art form.
My friends and I used to go into that studio to jam with live instruments which eventually lead to us experimenting with beat making programs. After making instrumentals in the studio we began recording our vocals and putting our lyrics over the instrumentals we made. This was the beginning of my journey with Hip Hop.
After being a nominee at the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards for the “Best Rap/Hip Hop CD” and “Single of the year” categories my music career really took off. I was getting booked for shows a lot more and I was invited to be a guest speaker/performer for various events in numerous communities. While guest speaking about my journey with music, my sobriety and other topics I was able to inspire my audiences to follow a positive lifestyle. I remember getting emails and messages on my social media from people telling me that I helped change their lives for the better. This is when I began to truly realize how much I wanted to continue to help others and that it was possible with the skills that I had with music, storytelling and walking in a good way.
The release party for your new video Northern Lights is coming up this Saturday at Club SAW. What can we expect from the video, and the night as a whole?
During the production of the Northern Lights music video we really wanted to capture the environment that we were in and display the beauty of the Northern Lights. The locations where the music video was filmed were in various parts of the Yukon Territory and Alaska. As far as expectations go, we really wanted to reach our audience with a positive and inspirational message. Many Indigenous people believe that the Northern Lights are the spirits of our ancestors dancing in the sky. This was something that really embodied the overall message that we wanted to reach our audience with.
We want to lift our audiences spirits, in particular youth, to overcome any doubt that they may face in their lives, to chase their dreams and aspirations, to shine like the northern lights, to shine like our ancestors.
A portion of the proceeds from the release party will be going to Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre operated by The Odawa Native Friendship Centre. Can you talk about the importance of their work?
I really wanted to ensure that a portion of the proceeds and that all donations would go to the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre because I strongly feel the work that they do is crucial for the homeless population of Indigenous people here in Ottawa. After volunteering for the Bannoc Bus program that was operated by the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre I saw first hand how important their work was for my community.
We drove around the streets of downtown Ottawa on multiple occasions handing out soup, Bannoc and warm clothing to those who needed it. I feel that the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop In Centre needs to stay open because they offer a safe space for homeless Indigenous people to learn about their traditions, food to eat, access to various kinds of programs, warm clothing and much more. With the centre running solely off of donations now, I hope to raise enough money and donations to help those in need.
You have overcome many obstacles growing up, many of which – like racism, drugs, and alcohol – are difficult to speak about. If you could send a message to young people struggling with similar issues today, what would it be?
If I could send a message to young people struggling with similar issues today it would be to move through life like a river. Overcoming those obstacles that are in their way, helping everything around them grow. My message to the youth of today is to never doubt yourselves, to focus on your dreams, aspirations, a positive lifestyle and walking in a good way. Focus on self love, love for others, love for the land and helping each other grow in a positive way.
Walk through life with an open mind and an open heart. Don’t ever stop learning and thriving to understand. You are the future generations of this world, remember to ask yourselves how do you want the future to be?
If you could collaborate with any artist or group alive today, who would it be?
Litefoot, The Roots, or Common.
You’ve been selected to play at Megaphono this year, an up and coming industry-focused festival that brings in representatives from across the continent. What is the next step for you in the evolution of your music career?
The next step for me in the evolution of my music career is to rock the stage at Megaphono this year and put on an amazing show for my audience! Then it’s back to the studio to work on my new EP entitled “Máámawi” (All Together) and have it ready for release in March, 2017!
I had the chance to speak with Mo Kenney about her upcoming show at the Gladstone Theatre on January 9. Sharing common ground with the Nova Scotian musician, we were able to talk about favorite aspects of Downtown Dartmouth and what it was like growing up in the Nova Scotian music industry.
Kenney’s most recent album In My Dreams has a different feel then her previous album. Her first album was more acoustic, and Mo did most of her touring solo. With this second album, she began touring with the full band, giving the whole album a full sound when performing live. Meeting local musician and producer, Joel Plaskett in her late teens has allowed her to produce her music and new album locally within Downtown Dartmouth. Writing everything in Dartmouth along with living up the street from the recording studio made it easy to keep her sound locally inspired. “I live like right up the street and Joel lives like a couple blocks away, and it makes it super convenient…” It also gave her the chance to support her favorite local shops while recording, like The Canteen on Ochterloney Street.
East Coast music is often assumed to have a Celtic feel, often supported with Scottish undertones. Mo Kenney does not hold a traditional east coast sound. Though she maintains her east coast roots in her music, Kenney’s latest sound has a much bigger rock-inspired sound. Her last pass through Ottawa was supporting Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and Northcote who played the Bronson Centre last spring.
Currently, Mo Kenney is working on her third album with the local label, New Scotland Yard. Her show on January 9th put on by Ottawa Music Bus is being held at Gladstone Theatre. Mo Kenney will be playing with her full band so we can expect a night of full sound alongside special guest Shadowhand. Tickets are $25 and doors will open at 7pm. You can find additional information about the show here.
Bonus: When asked what song she didn’t write but wish she had, Mo said Five Years by David Bowie, which she has covered at shows in the past.