It’s not every day you get to have a phone call with a Canadian composer who has dabbled in the worlds of alt-rock, comic rap, and classical piano over two decades. I recently had the honour of engaging in a lengthy discussion with the self-proclaimed “Musical Genius” himself, Chilly Gonzales.
One may assume that an eccentric, masterful pianist such as Gonzales (or “Gonzo,” as he is known to those close to him) would have little to say about the state of modern pop music. However, it doesn’t take much digging to see that he is fascinated by pop. He seemingly has a mission to help us understand the genre better through the lens of music theory and storytelling. In fact, some of his greatest successes have been collaborations with with Feist, Drake, Daft Punk (with whom he won a Grammy award), Jarvis Cocker, and Peaches.
Gonzales recently released his third and final album of the Solo Piano trilogy, one that adds to the mountain of achievements as a prolific composer-performer. To the common ear, Solo Piano III may come off as a contemporary take on classical music, a direction that few musicians have chosen to pursue as a career in the modern industry. However, Gonzales challenges himself to “play pop songs on a classical instrument,” transposing traditional pop structures onto more complex arrangements and instrumentation. It is an album that commands attention and embraces the listener, and each song is dedicated to a specific historical figure as per 19th-century tradition. If you catch him perform these songs live on stage, you’ll almost certainly hear him elaborate on the story of these dedications.
Chilly is known for his wacky stage persona. Photo credit: AFP.
Gonzales himself has been an inspiration for other composer-performers in the genre such as Nils Frahm, Jean-Michel Blais, Flying Hórses, among others, who have come out of the woodwork to pursue their music in the public realm and tread the Gonzonian path. Further to this end, Gonzales has set up his own conservatory of music—aptly called the “Gonzervatory”—whereby young talents are hand selected to attend an all-expenses paid series of workshops with Gonzales in Paris. It is “a place for young musicians to find and strengthen their musical voice, to journey deeper into the emotions and science of their art.”
With such a bizarre career path, it isn’t surprising that he is also the subject of a new biopic called Shut Up and Play the Piano. The film, which was directed by Philipp Jedicke, looks back at his life and career from his Montreal upbringing, to rapping in dark underground Berlin clubs, and the ultimate formation of his bombastic and flamboyant stage persona, Chilly Gonzales. The film had its North American premiere at Pop Montreal in September, and recently had a run of showings at The Bytown Cinema in Ottawa.
Gonzales is set to perform at the National Arts Centre here in Ottawa on October 22, where we’ll see him play a number of pieces from Solo Piano III by himself on stage, as well as some hits and hidden surprises from the rest of his repertoire with the accompaniment of Stella Le Page on cello and Joe Flory on drums. Tickets can be purchased online here or at the NAC’s box office.
Read my interview with Chilly Gonzales below.
MM: Your new album, Solo Piano III, is the final installment of your solo piano trilogy which has spanned nearly 15 years. You’ve said that “it isn’t an antidote for our times, but it is a reﬂection of all the beauty and ugliness around us.” On this album, how do you use the piano to describe the world we live in right now?
CG: Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far. When I’m an artist, I’m alone and not thinking about the audience or any extra-musical elements. I need to shield myself from that kind of thinking when I’m composing an album. I need it to remain a mystery to myself in order to do that. I work in an abstract musical world, I don’t think of people, places, song titles, concepts, or even what musical tools I may be using. But at the moment when the artist becomes the entertainer, where water turns to gas, I change form. In that moment I become very much audience-conscious. I would very much like to offer an experience to people who don’t often listen to piano music, for example. So, in that moment I start thinking about puns I might make, and things like that. And if you don’t like the puns in my album and song titles, then you should see the ones I don’t use. There’s an iPhone file with hundreds of rejected ones, ones that I feel are meaningful beyond their bad joke.
Anyhow, I just make music as anyone does, in a blind way. But there’s a moment where I become my own A&R person, and I step back to think about stuff like who I’m going to dedicate a certain song to, or a song title that will get people interested or listening to it in a heightened state. That includes looking at what I do and say, “Oh look what weird thing I did with those scales on this album!” Maybe there’s an eighth note scale with one surprising note. Then I get a whole stage routine out of it where I talk about scales, about how scales can’t be music because they’re so predictable. But what if you add a surprise ninth note in an eighth note scale? That is literally something I thought of two years after I wrote a piece. But it serves to include people in the process, in a way that I hope brings people in who would normally not be into this kind of music.
Maybe younger audiences who normally listen to music with lyrics. I try to make pop music, and pop music is about being attentive to the audience. Some people think I make classical music, which isn’t true. I make pop music with a classical instrument.
MM: You have been known to break down the music of modern pop through the lens of a classically trained pianist. You always seem optimistic about the music you’re discussing in the masterclasses, and passionate about the way different aspects make the listener feel. What captivates you about today’s pop music that most people maybe overlook?
CG: The storytelling, combined with the reduction. Music has always been reduced starting from the moment that it became a commodity. I trace that back to 19th century Romanticism, artists like Chopin and Liszt, you think of the genius figure. And that’s what we’re still dealing with —there’s no Kanye West without Liszt. He was the first to make the music more powerful if your personality is there to amplify it, make people feel closer to you. The irony is you do that by being larger than life, in the way that Liszt essentially allowed the rumour to be spread that he was possessed by the devil. He knew it would increase the powers of his music, and this got coupled with the birth of the bourgeoisie and democracies, concepts that informed our modern society, culture, capitalism, the role of the artist. That all got invented in Europe somewhere between 1830-1880. We’re still sort of living in that time, and since that moment music has been reduced, there’s less and less but it’s still telling a story.
I still like to listen to music that supposedly has nothing in it, but if you take the microscope deep enough, you’ll find storytelling, you’ll find theme and variation, tension and release, question and answer, the hero’s journey. Whatever you want to call those concepts, those are storytelling concepts. Even though music seems more and more repetitive, it’s not what you think. There’s always some element of change, and of contrast, otherwise it wouldn’t work. Especially in big pop songs, because they can’t become big if there’s not some element of storytelling in it. You can’t reach millions of people without the storytelling element.
MM: Few instruments are as emotive and expressive as the piano. What would you say to young musicians thinking about taking up the piano today?
CG: I would say that it doesn’t matter what instrument you play. Piano is valid. Computer is valid. Drums are valid. Drum machine is valid. Rapping is valid. Producing beats is valid. It’s all the same, but don’t forget to do it with other people. If you only do it alone in your room and get that little rush of “wow I put a song online and so many people have listened to it,” that’s a great start. But it’s not going to get you to musical ecstasy or a career. So on a pragmatic and spiritual level, don’t forget music was performance for thousands of years. There was an abhorration called recording that we’re still living in, but in another way the music business has again been reoriented towards performance—which is the one thing that can’t truly be replaced. We just have to keep that in mind.
I started the conservatory to remind people to always think of music as something always being performed. Remove the barrier between composition and performance, and ironically that’s how the Romantics did it. Chopin, Liszt, they were all composer-performers. In the classical world, when I hear people say “it’s amazing that you bring an audience to your acoustic classical music. Classical music is dying, what can we do?” It’s having more composer-performers. That’s how this whole thing was created. Now there’s this separation where we have a lot of living performers playing dead people’s music. With the conservatory, they have to erase that line so that every composition is also a performance.
MM: Jeremy Dutcher is a young piano virtuoso, much like yourself, who just recently won the Polaris Music Prize. While classically-influenced musicians have typically flown under the mainstream industry’s radar, do you think more attention is being given to artists like Jeremy, Flying Hórses, and Jean-Michel Blais?
CG: Flying Hórses! A wonderful Ottawa reference! Yes, I think it’s the return of the composer-performer. Jeremy Dutcher sings in some of his songs, and I know he sings in an endangered indigenous language which is very important. And of course my buddy Jean-Michel Blais was also shortlisted for the prize, and those are wonderful moments.
I only had a couple of role models when I started on my first record. Yann Tiersen, the Amélie composer was maybe the closest thing to being someone in the pop world making music with acoustic instruments. I was very inspired by his existence. And now there are more of us, and that’s so inspiring. And there are some I like more than others, of course. But I’m not to everyone’s taste, either. Just the fact that we have the chance to play in venues now that may have been closed to us in the past is a good thing. I’m really happy that there are people popping up who are daring to do that difficult thing, which is to try and reach a pop audience without lyrics or electronics. Well, some use electronics, like Jean-Michel Blais or Nils Frahm, who bring people in by incorporating electronics on stage into what they do. It’s yet another strategy.
There are so many ways in, and I’m glad more people are doing that. Every time I see an instrumental performance with a VJ, I think “this isn’t what I would do, but isn’t this better than the tyranny of everyone saying ‘but there’s no lyrics’ all the time.” It’s a refrain that many musicians have heard for a really long time.
MM: A new biopic about you called Shut Up and Play the Piano opened October 5th in Canada, and it seems to accurately portray how wacky your career has been so far. Can you talk a bit about the film and where this idea came from?
CG: Well, the director came to me with a pitch and wanted to tell my story. He said that when he saw me in Berlin I seemed so crazy, and yet I went through all of these evolutions while still remaining myself. And now I live in Cologne, leading a pretty mellow life in a mid-sized city. It’s probably not dissimilar in vibe from Ottawa in size and feel, actually. I choose my moments when I have to be in larger metropolis cities. And so I told him that I have this giant archive and would like to have my story told, and was into it as long as the archive had a role in the movie. So things rolled along slowly, as projects of mine usually do. I like to build trust, having been the subject of two documentary films before with results I was not happy with.
I was able to design the process with him in a way that I made sure I wouldn’t be disappointed, and we just took our time with it. Then we pulled the trigger, and I wasn’t really involved after the planning stage. I let the game play itself according to the rules we set up, and I’m so happy with the results. It has far exceeded my expectations of what a documentary about my work and life could be. I’m thrilled about it. I’ve only seen it twice, and I gave notes on a rough cut early on to help make it a better film. There are some moments that aren’t particularly flattering for me, they’re not all to my glory. It’s not a hagiography (or whatever the hell that word is), and by most accounts of people who’ve seen it, it’s similar to what it’s like to see me in concert. It goes by quickly, it is varied.
There are many emotions, some of which are touching and some of which are ridiculous. There are some moments that are even perhaps provocative, and slightly offensive or subversive. If I can combine all those things in a concert, then why shouldn’t that be able to come across in film? In that way, I think it succeeded.
The Weather Station is the modern folk project of Toronto’s Tamara Lindeman, whose music and voice are all at once potent, mesmerizing, and refined. Her fourth, and possibly most impactful, record to date is a self-titled release from late 2017 that explores bold narratives and untethered arrangements. The record itself is a tour de force, and was received with high critical praise almost unanimously, with Pitchfork calling it “Timeless… Measured, perceptive storytelling. A singer with an unmistakable & communicative voice, able to convey hope & hurt with equal clarity.”
The Weather Station plays the NAC’s Azreili Studio on Friday night, and more ticket information can be found here. I spoke with Tamara about the latest record, and you can read that conversation below.
Interview with Tamara Lindeman
Your latest self-titled album feels like it is a culmination of something. Can you talk a bit about how this 4th album stands out from the rest in terms of the conception and approach?
I think it stands out in a lot of ways. I think it’s the first time I really had a clear vision for the sound of the record, and the arrangements going in. It’s very sprawling compared to my other works, there’s a lot going on. I let it be that, instead of cutting things down to be more concise.
You self-produced this one. What was the reasoning behind that?
In a way it was a simple decision. There are always opportunities to work with other people, but I think it wound up being a positive decision. There are challenges too, especially towards the end when you can get really bogged down in mixing and mastering the project. It can be a bummer to not have someone else making decisions, but ultimately I think it was a really good thing.
You have mentioned you wanted the record to be a rock and roll album without the rock and roll. There are few artists who are able to root their music in traditional folk influences without getting firmly stuck in that box. How do you feel your music is evolving as you move forward in your career?
Yeah, I agree with you. It’s too bad that folk music gets stuck there and it’s something that I think about a lot. But honestly, I just pretend that I’m not making a folk record. Then it winds up seeming like a folk record because of the melodies and the way I go about music is so ingrained that it kind of evolves into that. But there are elements on this record that differ. For example, there’s a song with a rock and roll rhythm section with a folk melody on top. There’s also another that could be an Irish sea shanty.
So I was really thinking melodically folk, rhythmically something else. I think lyrically if I wrote about a train in the pouring rain then I would just die. There’s no point, there are hundreds of those already and we don’t need another one of those in our lives.
I’m always interested to hear what musicians are listening to these days. Is there an artist or band that you’ve been listening to a lot?
I always get into a lot of Toronto music to be honest. I really enjoyed the Bernice record that came out, I’ve really loved that band for a long time. I felt like that record really captures their essence and what they’re like live. There’s music from my friend Isla Craig that I really loved, too. Those are the newer records that I’ve been hanging onto. Oh yeah, and Sandro Perri has a new album out, too, which is exciting. I always like to check out the cool indie rock records coming out, but oddly enough I don’t usually like the things I would normally be expected to like. I’m drawn to music that’s not in the same genre as me.
You’ve talked about how this album came together after a period of intense worry and anxiety, which is something a lot of us go through. But out of that came your boldest and praised album to date. What allowed you to move past that difficult time and got you to start putting together the songs?
It was a long and complicated process. I kind of felt like I had to unravel my personality and belief systems. They were so interwoven with so many things I consider to be myself, it was like pulling on the poison thread, you know? It’s a very painful process to try to unbraid it, and really try and find your belief system. So it was that, and more practical things.
A big part of coming out of that was being on tour and being in a band. For a lot of people touring can be really unhealthy, but for me it’s good because it gets me out of my head. It gets me into a social space that I wouldn’t normally seek out. Anxiety is about fear, and to do something fearless like make a record, it’s like showing yourself who’s boss. If you do something courageous, that can change your fear. It was all connected for sure.
The Pack AD don’t mess around. They have been one of the hardest working, hardest touring bands on the cross-Canada circuit for over a decade, and the grimy garage-rock duo is at it again.
The band is currently in the midst of their “Catch Them While You Can Tour”, which has them traversing across Canada and the US, possibly for the last time on such a large stretch. Their pulverizing and explosive sound has been a constant, both on their albums and live on stage.
They’re supporting their most recent release DollHouse (Cadence Recordings) which was released late last year, along with the re-release of their acclaimed debut album TinType on vinyl, which comes out September 28th via Mint Records. Since its early 2008 original release, the band has played close to a thousand shows and released seven albums.
I caught up with guitarist and vocalist Becky Black in advance of their Ottawa show, which takes place tonight (September 21) at The 27 Club along with support from Basement Revolver and Land Line. More info on the show can be found here. Read the interview and check out the new video for “Woke Up Weird” below.
Interview with Becky Black of The Pack a.d.
The world seems a little darker these days, particularly given the state of things south of the border. At this stage in your career, how do you approach making music in this unstable climate? What is your mentality putting the pen to paper?
That’s a great question! I think there’s a lot of inspiration to be drawn from it, as an artist. You have to find the silver lining, it seems to inspire creativity. Things are pretty terrible, but it’s easy to get down about it. We’re in America right now actually at a travel centre and getting set to come back and play in Canada. Definitely looking to getting back there!
Do you notice more tension when playing shows south of the border these days?
Yeah, normally the people we’re hanging with have similar opinions and are just weathering the horrible situation they’re in. People in music communities are usually on the opposite side of spectrum as those currently in power, so yeah, I don’t know. It is definitely different here, though. It’s strange.
What do you hope people take away from listening to DollHouse?
I think the whole album itself is pretty short, it’s definitely worth a listen. We’re releasing a new video for “Woke Up Weird,” which is about climate change and being a human on this planet. There’s a lot to take away from it.
Is there a sense of hope on the record? Or is it more of a “let’s all get pissed” kind of listen?
It’s sort of in between, I think. Our lyrics always tend to lean towards being dystopian, I guess, to put it mildly. It’s more of a conversation, an acknowledgement. We think that’s a start.
The Pack AD are a band known for being extremely hard working musicians. What do you do to unwind? Any hobbies that not many people know about?
Yeah, we both read a lot. It’s a great way to stay sane on the road. Whether you’re at a hotel, on the bus, or whatever, there’s always a lot of time to read. I’m always trying to learn more about the world around me. But when I’m not reading, I’d say video games and Netflix, too. You know, the usual.
Are there any readings that you’d recommend?
I just read a magazine—Scientific American—that just revealed some groundbreaking new discoveries that could change the course of science. I found that fascinating, it was like the ten greatest discoveries this year.
You two have been playing music with each other for a really long time. If you had one piece of advice to younger bands about how to keep friendships together over the years, what would it be?
Well, you just have to find the right group of people. Sometimes with band personalities it’s like oil and water, and that can be difficult. But we’ve always been able to get along, and I think you always have to maintain respect for each other no matter what. We have different opinions and disagreements all the time, it’s not always happy and fun times but we always figure it out. That’s why we’ve been able to last so long I think.
Do you ever resolve disagreements with rock-paper-scissors?
Ahh, yeah. We have done that. Maya always does rock so she’s easy to beat.
Last but not least—Do you have a go-to place in Ottawa you visit every time you’re here? Burgers? Beer? Beavertails?
I really love the Byward Market, and the last time we played Ottawa we played House of TARG and that was awesome. So those are always great spots to hang for us.
Sept 21- 27 Club – Ottawa, ON Sept 22 Turbo Haus – Montreal, QC Sept 30 Neptoon Records – Vancouver, B.C. – Instore playing of songs from Tintype Oct 11 9th Ward – Buffalo, NY
Oct 12 Pauly’s Hotel – Albany, NY
Oct 13 ONCE Somerville – Boston, MA
Oct 14 Portland House of Music – Portland, ME
Oct 15 Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
Oct 17 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
Oct 18 Smiling Moose – Pittsburgh, PA Oct 20 The Pinch – Washington, DC
Oct 21 Pour House – Raleigh, NC
Oct 22 Smiths Olde Town – Atlanta, GA Oct 24 Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, LA
Oct 26 The Sundown – Dallas, TX Oct 27 Maxine’s – Hot Springs, AK
Oct 29 Magnolia Bar – Louisville, KY
Oct 30 Ready Room – St. Louis, MO Oct 31 Vaudeville Mews – Des Moines, IA
Intro by Matías Muñoz | Interview by Eric Scharf | Photo by Colin Medley
Shedding the past and moving forward from the confines associated with youth, heartbreak, and growing up in a small town is no easy feat. The Lonely Parade have boldly taken a stab at reconciling some difficult experiences and major life changes they’ve experienced as individuals, and as a band. They’ve also relocated from Peterborough to Montreal, which is a big step for the group.
The band has always had a knack for delivering the goods through their music. If you’ve ever stood at the front of a Lonely Parade show, you’d get an idea of how tight this band is. They rip. They always have. Their chemistry is obvious, and their songwriting abilities are jaw-dropping. Eric and I have seen them many times over the years, and every time we leave the show thinking “the world needs more of this shit.”
Their latest LP The Pits is out today (Sept 14) on Buzz Records, and it’s a culmination of years of hard work making music, and a way to deal with some difficult experiences and a toxic social scenario. The album is everything fans of The Lonely Parade would want, and more. It’s honed, and their brand of frenetic post-punk explodes from the seams. It’s full of crunch, angular riffs, writhing bass lines, percussive onslaughts, and profound lyrical depth rooted in real life experiences. Fans of groups like The Pixies, Hooded Fang, Ty Segall, and Jay Reatard are sure to fall in love with The Pits.
They’ll be playing their Ottawa LP release at Black Squirrel this Saturday, September 15th with BBQT and Sad Baxter. More info here.
Eric had a chat with drummer Ani Climenhage about the new record and where they are at now.
Interview with Ani Climenhage
I have been into your band since my friend first sent me a clip of “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show” years ago. Could you tell me about how that song and the band came to be?
That song is the product of starting a band and writing songs when we were just barely out of middle school. Back then we wrote songs together and they were usually more on the joke-y side or were so angsty we have to laugh at them now. The three of us have known each other since early elementary school. Starting a band just felt like a natural thing to do.
What was it like playing in a band at such a young age?
We were fortunate enough to have had an incredible all ages venue in our hometown called The Spill. It offered many artists who were just starting out a supportive space to perform to an audience. When we started playing shows in other cities, we quickly learned that not all bars and venues were as accommodating or welcoming to musicians under the legal drinking age. We had to deal with a couple years of being harassed by show promoters and getting kicked out of venues before we all turned nineteen. And now Charlotte and I get to do it all again as minors in the USA! Yee haw! All ages/inclusive music and arts spaces are so important.
How was your recent tour in the USA with T-Rextasy? Any fun stories to share?
They put on a good and weirdo show all the nights we saw them! And some friends of T-Rextasy took us to a Harvard business-boy party in Boston on our last night of tour.
You have already shared the stage with many awesome bands over the past 6 years. Which have been the most influential and or important to the band’s growth?
So many bands! In Peterborough we took influence from the bands we often collaborated with like Stacey Green Jumps, Prime Junk, Nick Ferrio, and Hello Babies. Plus artists we have met through touring like Wares (from Edmonton), Power Buddies (Edmonton), Best Fiends (Halifax). and Crossed Wires (Halifax). We have been lucky enough to share bills with bands we admire after years of enjoying their music (TV Freaks, Weaves, Fake Palms, Fet.Nat, Casper Skulls, etc.) That was a big plug but it’s hard to narrow it down!
Switching gears a little bit, you are touring a new album called The Pits. What is new with this release? And can you please tell me a bit about the themes and how it all came together?
It feels like we are finally coming into “our sound” with this new record. The songs formed a bit more naturally and we tried to write them with more of an intent to be played live. The year leading up to the recording ofThe Pits was a rocky one. Bad relationships, messy endings, and a depressing winter helped us decide that maybe we’d outgrown our hometown in some ways. We’ve gone back to our angsty teen roots but the lyrics are very personal to Charlotte and Augusta and feel a bit more nuanced.
What is your favorite thing about playing in Ottawa?
Sad to see OXW go!! R.I.P. But we’ve always played fun shows in Ottawa. We have always appreciated how age inclusive the Ottawa music scene is. Also there’s lots of good food in Ottawa so we eat well before any show.
What should people expect when you roll into town on September 15? Anything else you would like Ottawa Showbox readers to know?
The three of us haven’t seen each other in a little while because we’ve been so all over the place this summer so this weekend is not only an album release but also a reunion. We’re starting fresh this fall to tour The Pits and we’re nervous and excited to go all in. We are really proud of the new record and excited to share it.
I called Julie Tuesday evening around 7:00 PM, Ottawa time. She had just gotten home from a busy day and has another one tomorrow. She has a 6:00 AM shift at the pool where she works as a lifeguard before an evening photo shoot and a plane to Ontario to catch the following morning. She’s yet to pack. We talked for almost an hour straight.
One would think waking up at 4:45 AM would be a loathsome task for a life-long touring musician, but Julie Doiron finds comfort in her routine. Not to mention the steady pay cheque that finds its way into her bank account every two weeks—a first in her adult life. Swimming, on the other hand, has been a constant since childhood, and it’s particularly important to her now.
“I need to keep my body strong in order to feel good, psychologically,” she explains, elaborating on how her schedule also includes teaching a weekly yoga class. When conversation turns to the four show tour she has booked this weekend, she laughs and likens it to a vacation in comparison to her current schedule and the intensity of the touring she did this summer.
Starting Thursday, September 13th in Toronto at the Garrison, Julie reunites with The Wooden Stars for three shows, the second of which will be here in Ottawa Friday night at St. Alban’s. The third on Saturday in Picton for Sandbanks Music Festival along with co-headliners Wintersleep. She will be playing an additional show in Montreal on Sunday at Quai des Brumes, before it’s back home to Sackville, NB for Monday.
“We tend to get together every two years, now” she says of the Wooden Stars reunion, referencing the string of dates they performed together in 2014 after a twelve year hiatus, and another slew of performances in 2016. She goes on to explain that they initially arranged these 2018 shows after accepting the Sandbanks Music Festival appearance and decided to add a few more dates. This series of shows has a greater significance than previous—it marks the last time they will be playing their former album in its entirety, because hal-eh-lou-yer, we’re getting another Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars album.
The Wooden Stars began backing Julie on tour starting in 1997 for her Loneliest in the Morning release. Their jazz-inflected musicality fit in well with her sparse, achey song-writing, and in 1999 they released Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. It won a Juno the following year for best Alternative Album and saw re-release in 2013.
While the songwriting efforts on that album were Julie’s alone, she believes the writing process will be more collaborative this time around. Co-writing is something not entirely unfamiliar to Julie, who cut her teeth in collaborative writing with the 2017 release of Julie & the Wrong Guys on Dine Alone Records.
“I was really blocked before that album” she says, explaining that between 2012 and the fall of 2017, she’d only written two songs independently—both of which were written on the way to the session where they’d be recorded. She credits her Wrong Guys collaboration in teaching her ‘to let go and not be in charge”.
Moving forward with new music, she talks of being a lot less preoccupied with the expectations of “making it,” writing a hit, or charting.
“It’s liberating, to no longer be burdened with those expectations.” In their absence, she can create the music she wants to create. This she credits to her age and experience—she is a 46 year old mother of three with 28 years in the music industry.
I ask her how her relationship with her songs has aged, curious how she feels having to revisit songs from her Broken Girl days, songs that as a listener are still so visceral and raw. “I haven’t forgotten what those feelings are like.” She pauses. “But I have changed a lot, and in a way I am grateful to be able to revisit those feelings from this distance.”
The Showbox Concert Series featuring Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars and Gianna Lauren happens Friday, September 14 at St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward Ave.), starting at 7:30 pm. More information can be found on the Facebook event. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here, or $12 at the door.
Kim Villagante, better known as Kimmortal is a queer Filipinx visual artist and rapper from Vancouver known for her story like rhymes. She touches upon social and racial injustices, discrimination, and representation. Valuing education, inclusiveness, and liberation, Kimmortal coneys the messages in creative and storybook ways with captivating visuals. Fusing visual art with music, she uses it as an aid to decolonize, teach, and heal.
Kimmortal has played the Queer Women of Colour Festival, Filipino Arts Festival, Junofest, and SXSW. She’s currently working on an album that will be released in August.
Ev: DIY Spring is hosting one of your events, seeing as it’s an intersectional inclusive festival, how did you feel in regards to them hosting it?
Kimmortal: DIY Spring has been consistently supportive and truly DIY which means grassroots and well connected to artists in authentic ways. Bridging the possibilities artists dream up to reach a lot of the QTIBIPOC community in Ottawa, I believe it’s so essential for me to do my thing when I have trustworthy bookers and show producers around me. I’m very grateful for DIY Spring.
Ev: Yes of course! So I heard you studied visual arts and art history, how do you think that knowledge has affected your art or helped it develop?
Kimmortal: I’m inspired by the way I am a visual artist in the world of music. In art school I studied about performance artists like Dana Claxton, Peaches, Coco Fusco, while also listening to poets and emcees like Blue Scholars, Ian Kamau, Gina Loring, Climbing Poetree, and Invincible. My art is influenced by various artists in different mediums. I am working to tap into the same freedom I get when I’m doodling in my music. How I’m planning to do this is to time myself for like 2 hours max to produce tracks, and then write lyrics and record them in another hour.. 1..2..3… And then release the track online. Spontaneous art making is really good for me.
Ev: That being said, and watching your music videos and knowing that you’re a visual artist as well it makes me wonder if you built your own set for “I’M BLUE” and if you animated the video for “Brushing by Heaven’s Shoulder”?
Kimmortal: I animated the entire video for “Brushing by Heaven’s Shoulder.” I’m so proud of that thing. That film came about when I was sick for a good 2 weeks and was bored at home so I decided to film a music video for this song in my living room. It started off as an experiment. The white background is literally a white canvas that I nailed into the wall and filmed myself in front of. The animations are made up of drawings from my sketchbook that I taught myself to animate in After Effects. It was a lot of hours and I lost a lot of files. I wanted to throw my computer against the wall countless times but it turned out swell and has my black and white aesthetic. “I’m Blue” was directed by Entertainment Forever. All the art on the walls are my paintings and the book featured in it is my Visual Arts grad thesis project! The symbols on the trees are my work replicated by the Entertainment Forever team. I am ecstatic when I get my DIY on and pair my art with my music.
Ev: As a queer artist of colour, how did you find the journey to getting to where you are today?
Kimmortal: It’s hard to find other queer artists of colour “out there”. A lot of my friends who are local are queer and/or bipoc and so it’s been a very local journey if that makes sense. I usually meet other queer artists of colour through underground lofi shows I’ve been booked at abroad. I love being a part of punk, hip-hop, experimental, and DIY underground shit because I think that’s where I can cultivate the same intimate feel I get when I’m creating.
Ev: Well that’s certainly a real positive outlook. You have a clear and unique voice for what you do and you tell stories through your art. How did you come about finding that voice?
Kimmortal: I really value education for liberation because it’s where I have found myself and my community and the root to a lot of pain experienced individually and collectively. I am nurtured in conversation and my wisdom is from my ancestors and the people around me. I’m still finding my voice but I try to ground it in honesty. A friend and emcee recently told me that the best way I can stay authentic is by speaking from my experience and from what I know. As I get to know myself deeper, my voice inevitably becomes stronger. I am raised by the bold voices of mainly fierce Filipinx femmes in my life and QTIBIPOC poets, crafters and emcees. I am informed by my friends who are my extended community, who are agitators, healers, teachers, and outspoken voices.
Ev: You clearly address dire issues in our society that seem to be brushed aside, what made you decide to rap and sing about them instead of following the same path others do? Do you think your identity plays into that?
Kimmortal: The late Filipino Canadian youth alliance based in Vancouver was one of the first spaces I witnessed and got connected to radical brown and black emcees and poets. Dagamuffin, a friend, and activist who passed away was an outspoken rapper who was one of many Filipino activists who pushed me to keep repping. I have experienced what it feels like to see someone represent on stage and feel reflected. I want that to continue in this art so that we all feel activated to create. I see how art is not just a tool for activating and educating people, but it is also a wellspring for us to get the energy to keep going.
Ev: That being said, what do you see as the biggest and most important issue you’ve addressed through your music and art and why do you think it’s the most important issue you’ve addressed?
Kimmortal: I think all the issues are really connected. I can’t talk about my relationship to being Filipino without talking about my relationship to being queer and fluid and an artist, etc… I think the power is in the sum of our layers. Sometimes shows are geared towards one aspect of our identities, like a queer show, or like a women of colour show… for the first time, I get to perform on a stage on June 16 that will be featuring Filipinx nonbinary artists based on unceceeded coast Salish territory, aka Vancouver, and put on by Pinoy Pride in Vancouver.
Check out Kimmortal as they headline a DIY Spring show this Wednesday June 13 at The Origin Arts & Community Centre featuring King Kimbit and Throne Seekers, more info here.
Following their most excellent show at Bar Robo in Ottawa on June 1, we caught up with Kingston’s doom-pop trio Deux Trois.
Deux Trois is the project of Nadia Pacey of Konig on drums and lead vocals, Benjamin Nelson of PS I Love You on bass, and Ben Webb of Carvings & We Are Adam West on guitar.
The band recently released Health—a must listen to album which is at times ideal for lounging in the shade on a hot breezy summer day and at time points transports you to a muggy sweaty dimly lit basement show. It has post punk ambience with hints of cosmic gloomy pop and sprinkles of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all wrapped up in very much their own sound.
Check out our interview below and then have a listen to Health.
Interview with Deux Trois
The three of you have all been involved in music projects in the past. What was the impetus for Deux Trois’ formation? What lead to you three making music together?
Ben Webb (BW): Serendipity.
Benjamin Nelson (BN): We met at the movie, Serendipity.
Nadia Pacey (NP): I had a contract with Princess Sammi Records in Kingston, ON, for which I was making a record as Konig. During some upheaval at the label, I started collaborating with Benjamin, and a few months later, after we’d toured some and decided that we needed a guitarist to give more heft to the mids, I happened to see Ben outside of his work for the first time in eight years, and knew that he would be right. There was a rightness – that what the sound needed was something that Ben would excel at writing, knowing his taste, history and skill.
Before the album release, Deux Trois released a few tracks—Dave and Late Night Girls. Can you talk about these songs and how they fit in to what you are doing with the new album?
BW: They’re definitely the most digestible songs.
BN: But they do –
BW: They have teeth.
BN: Those two are very good examples of the range of where the record goes—emotionally, thematically, the way the songs sound and feel, those are the opposite ends of the spectrum. The rest of the record is in between
Your music draws on 80’s influences that include post punk, dark pop, and synth. As this is a departure from all of your previous sounds, what has drawn you to the kind of music you’re making with Deux Trois?
BN: For me I think it’s all my education, time I’ve spent studying music that we’re now making – this is the band I’ve always wanted to be in.
BW: I think for me it’s like a natural sort of trying to – instead of trying to over-complicate anything, it’s all about serving the song as opposed to be the most complicated or heavy – this is the band I never knew I wanted to be in.
NP: Until I started writing music and reworking these songs with our band, I’d resigned myself to being quiet, being very shy about sitting behind a kit. I was afraid of being too loud; much apologizing for being so if I was. I was very uncomfortable with the snare in particular. Now it is one of my favourite instruments to play. I played tracks off of a computer or a cellphone for four years instead of performing music live because I didn’t have confidence in my ability to do it in front of people. Making the sound of the record, and it being a kind of thirty minute confession, was about finding a sound that feels good to play and not distancing myself from other musicians, or from musical experimentation; choosing to look right at some of my points of shame and challenge them rather than letting them sit in the back of my mind, where they can effect how I look at everything else.
What bands or artists are you listening to currently that inspire you or blow your mind?
BW: I’ve been listening to new Joan Of Arc – 1984. It’s a challenging listen at points.
BN: I don’t keep up on new music that much, because I like old music. The only new music I really hear by choice is top 40 radio, however, I am a big fan of Ariel Pink’s last record, entitled: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.
NP: I just spent an hour listening to rap in the car. I keep going a little nuts over Leikeli47, forgot how much I love Eminem produced by Dre. The video and song both for Childish Gambino’s This is America are, together, mind blowing music at its finest. Also, seeing Sylvia Wrath [recently], I felt my soul in her coolness and songwriting. I recently heard a song called Sleep by Sasha Slug as well—that was very good.
What was it like putting together the Health EP and pressing it out on vinyl? For newer bands that are looking to do the same, is it a difficult process?
BW: Well as far as design, I really didn’t have much to do about that. Nadia and Ben sort of had that pretty close to done by the time I joined the band.
NP: We started the design process in October, yeah.
BW: As far as is it difficult: it’s expensive and I think you have to decide if that’s worth it for you. There are cheaper ways to get your music out there. I know it was important to us to have a physical release because we all love that format.
NP: It helped us that Benjamin and I are both designers, but that in particular Benjamin is a record album designer and has been for a number of years. The pressing itself we did not do – it was done by Precision Pressing, whose project manager, Tristen, was great in sorting us out. Paul, the sales associate who we originally spoke with to get the project going, was also very helpful. But yes, it’s an expensive deal.
We gathered together to listen to the test pressings we received, and discussed what we heard beyond the music. Before approving vinyl you have to be able to discern what is different about different pressings and make comparisons between them so that errors, warps, or too much scratching, can be recognized and acknowledged. It’s not difficult, but it is expensive and requires some research beyond having enthusiasm to do it well and right. To know that our record is a 12″ 45rpm record, and that the grooves and information are given more breath in their imprint because of that, is a decision that I feel very good about, and am glad that I can appreciate now. I couldn’t before.
Can you talk about what’s in store next for Deux Trois as far as new music and touring goes after the Health EP is released?
NP: We have a couple shows coming up, and might be speaking with a booking agent for future work. We have been working on three new songs, all of which we’ve played live since writing. I’m looking forward to the point when we collaborate fully as songwriters for the next record, and going to places we might not have been before.
BW: I’m personally excited for Wolfe Island Music Festival. It’s a festival that I’ve been going to and experiencing the excitement of for years, and this will be my first year playing. I’m feeling really good about these new songs; we’re sort of moving in different directions and looking at new sounds, which is always super exciting.
Since taking the reigns as Executive Producer of the NAC Presents series a year and a half ago, Heather Gibson has had the vision of bringing something new to the table. She recognizes the NAC’s importance in developing emerging artists across Canada and supporting the Ottawa/Gatineau region’s local arts scenes, and to that extent, has lived up to her word and is building upon her vision. The NAC is becoming a more accessible stage for local artists to cut their teeth, as well as garner more exposure and develop their audiences.
Moreover, her work in challenging the music industry’s problem of unbalanced opportunities for women and marginalized people has allowed the NAC to be a shining example of how music programming should be conducted. She is steering the ship in the right direction, and demonstrating that achieving diversity and gender parity isn’t rocket science.
Upon the announcement of NAC’s 2018-19 season programming—which includes over 55 shows—I spoke with Ms. Gibson on the phone about these topics, and the new theme of Changing Landscapes.
Interview with Heather Gibson
Can you speak about the theme of changing landscapes and what that represents?
I didn’t book with a theme in mind, it’s just the theme that came. We wanted to book the artists that we wanted, and then the theme of “changing landscapes” is what it ended up being. It represents many things—changing of landscape here at the NAC, changing direction, the idea that Canada isn’t one thing and that it’s a collection of art and influences. That’s how they all kind of fit into that theme.
What role do you see the NAC playing with respect to gender parity and diversity in the grand scheme of the Canadian Music industry?
I don’t think gender parity is hard. It’s really challenging to understand why people will program an entire festival where there’s one female artist over nine days or something. With all respect due to my colleagues, I think that they either don’t have the same goals or aspirations as the National Arts Centre, or they just don’t know how to do their job very well. Gender parity and diversity is part of doing your job as an Artistic Director—in any kind of art. So, the role of the NAC is far deeper than presenting a diverse program, it’s about getting to the root of the issue and what the NAC can contribute to changing that. I don’t find it difficult to book like that, but I hear a lot of my peers saying that it is difficult to book diverse acts at a headlining level.
There are arguments to be made that there’s a short list of women who will perform for $100k or $50k, but then there needs to be a focus on booking women in a secondary role, underneath the headliners and on the B-stage. Bringing up the development of women like we have been with guys for decades is important. We have a responsibility at the NAC to ask the tough questions, like why are there so few female conductors? We need to figure out how we can develop female conductors. Or if there are only a handful of indigenous artists who fit the bill, then how do we make sure there are more of them in the future?
It’s difficult, and a lot of those conversations are systemic. There’s a whole ecosystem here that hopefully we can influence, and the audience is involved in that. If they want to support diversity, then the audience needs to come to those shows.
Traditionally the NAC Presents and the NAC Orchestra have been their own separate entities. Can you speak to how that collaboration came to be this season?
Yeah, the series is called Sessions. Part of the challenge is that the Orchestra is booking into 2020 right now, so when I first got here and expressed interest in this collaboration, they were very keen on the development of Canadian arrangers and composers, as well as audience development. On my side of things, I’m interested in artistic development of singer-songwriters. With people like Lynn Miles, we’re doing a full-commission project from start to end with her, so archiving great Canadian songwriters is important as well. Through the years you’ll see more and more of that, and Lynn is actually the first one.
It was a conversation we’ve had, and the NAC Orchestra and Andrew Shelley (Music Director) have been very supportive of this idea. They’ve been keen on seeing what we can do. We have a mash of things this year, Lynn Miles and Tom Wilson are doing the first one on October 4th. Tom is coming with his book and doing the show he did with the Hamilton Philharmonic, and Lynn is being commissioned. We’re doing six or seven with her on this first one, and then eventually over a series of shows she’ll have a full one in a year and a half. And then Stars are a full commission in December, and that is giving us the opportunity to work with a lot of great Canadian arrangers, and probably a new Canadian conductor.
There are a lot of different parts to it, Patrick Watson has a lot of these symphony shows under his belt and I think there will be an opportunity to do a lot of neat stuff with him as his compositions have been getting more and more intricate. It will be interesting with the band in front of the orchestra. The Johnny Reid Christmas show is allowing us to work with local choirs and have him front this thing that will seem like a community Christmas concert. It’s allowing us to do new things and open doors. It will allow us to break down some things and have a different conversation about the NAC Orchestra and how they fit in the context of music, not just contemporary or classical.
How has focusing more on programming with local artists—mainly on the Fourth Stage—been beneficial to the NAC?
I think as long as I’m here this is something that will continue. On the local side of things, we live and breath here in Ottawa. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t be part of the local music scene. For a year and a half since I’ve been here, we’ve been trying to figure out what that looks like, and we certainly don’t want to be a glass institution where once you’ve reached a certain level, you get to play a show at the NAC every once in a while.
I very much want to be part of developing careers. Our next big challenge is how do we move beyond just being a presenting venue, and move towards developing artists’ careers? We 100% have to look at that locally, and the scene we have here—whether that’s Pressed, Bar Robo, LIVE! on Elgin, or the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield—we all have an important role to play. A band like Hillsburn will play at the NAC, and then go play a place like LIVE! on Elgin, and then come back here. The whole time they’re building their audience in the community.
It’s integral to me that emerging artists are involved in our program. I really don’t want to have a program where we wait until you can sell 900 seats and then we’ll put you in the Theatre. We need to be part of the development, and artists need to have the opportunity to have access to our gear, crew, and lighting, and I think emerging artists need the opportunity to play on this kind of stage. Then they go back out into the world like they do on tour, and then we’ll do it again in six months. We have to be a part of that.
As a bit of an overzealous freak when it comes to good folk music in Ottawa, it’s been a few years now since I first developed a weak spot for decorated bilingual duo, Moonfruits. With the release of their sophomore album Ste-Quequepart in 2017, my generally cynical outlook on concept albums started bruised and further softened. The album was crafted to play like the soundtrack of an old film, one I’ve now listened to in its entirety on at least a dozen separate occasions. On the train, on the bus, in the shower, walking home from Vanier at 4AM. I’m often in search of escape and, if you are too, may I just say that the friendly, quirky romanticism of Saint-Somewhere is just the place to go to forget about where you may be.
As an anglophone and someone with an ego as fragile as tissue paper, I wanted to write about the album for some time but wasn’t sure I could do it justice, given how I am generally quite focused on lyrical content. I do believe, however, that their ability to convey authentic emotion through carefully constructed melodies and complimentary harmonic arrangements transcends any form of linguistic barrier, and that as someone who cannot actually understand 80% of what is being sung, I feel a genuine connection. That being said, I did take the time to translate most of the lyrics, though undoubtedly crudely, and found that I was not entirely off-base in terms of assuming the lyrical content based on the tone. I did read all of the English prose that accompanied the release of the album, many of which have a distinct Brother’s Grimm sort of flair which primed me for the blending of the wholesome and the foreboding.
There is a sort of unsettling undercurrent alive throughout the record with the ambling twang of the banjo conjuring images of a dusty, rusty old town in which all its strange but friendly inhabitants talk a bit too slow, stare a little too long, and love a little too hard (I’m particularly thinking of songs “Roustabout” and “Big Bureau Blues” here). The album has the drama of a cinematic experience, something I wholeheartedly attribute to the chemistry between its sole members Kaitlin Milroy and Alex Millaire. Their uncanny ability to banter back and forth with a sort of playful, dramatic edge before seamlessly marrying their voices with such captivating tenderness and sincerity speaks to their success as partners, in and out of the industry. As a married couple making music together, there is a sort of intimacy necessarily afforded to the listener that sometimes clouds our perception of how much hard work goes into appearing effortlessly in sync.
I reached out to chat with Moonfruits a few weeks back, knowing they were back in town after an extensive BC tour and they were kind enough to answer a slew of my questions, most of which were specifically about how their working relationship has evolved over the years, as well as how the relationship between their music and their audience has changed. Below you can read our correspondence in its entirety.
How has your dynamic as a duo changed over the years? Your sound? Your songwriting? How has it evolved?
We started off as a very bare bones street duo with just one beat up guitar, our two voices and a mittful of shakers. In order to make ourselves heard over traffic, footfalls, and sometimes other performers who played amplified in the street, a lot of our first tunes were pretty loud and percussive. As we started building a following, gigging indoors (!) and, especially, playing to more listening audiences, we sought more subtlety and intimacy in both our sound and message.
With our second record, Ste-Quequepart—an entirely French-language album—and over a hundred shows across Canada to all kinds of folks, bilingual storytelling is another dimension that has opened really itself up to us. More on that later! As well, we both learned new instruments for this album, banjo for Alex, and glockenspiel, tambourine and kalimba for Kait. Now that we’re back home, we’re turning our attention to writing and recording again, (and spending time with Sully the cat). We’re excited to see where the music and live show go!
Are solo projects out of the question? Are you working on a new album?
We’re really hitting our stride as Moonfruits and have so much we’d like to say and do through our music and performances that neither of us have really considered any solo projects per se. One thing that’s for sure is that we have a wealth of material we’re planning to record with more tunes, stories, and ideas always coming out.
How was your BC tour? What are the challenges of touring? Where would you like to tour next?
Though we had performed a couple isolated shows in BC last year, this first proper tour of Vancouver and Vancouver Island with Sarah Osborne was downright magical. Coming from Ontario, it’s sometimes hard to believe how majestic and imposing the Rockies are. We’d be walking down a little Victorian street in Nanaimo or Courtenay and have our breath taken away by the sight of them, while the folks from there would just kind of walk on and give us a funny look. They’re obviously quite used to them.
The people we met were all extremely welcoming and eager to share all that BC has to offer, which in our case meant amazing veggie-burgers, badass coffee, purple gin, seaweed–no coincidence that the highlights are largely food-dominated … we love food! And music and artists (of which there is a seemingly infinite amount in BC) that we absolutely need to check out.
We felt an instant connection with Sarah Osborne–we had only shared the stage once with her in Ottawa this past December–and the tour quickly became a healing and cathartic time on the road despite a pretty hectic schedule.
The challenges of touring are also the best parts–it’s a question of learning to manage your energy, stay healthy and rested and on top of emails and promo, but also stay in the moment, stay inspired, connect with new audiences, meet other artists and have fun!
Touring plans are currently taking shape in the form of a bike-music tour of Ontario, an Artists On Board trip through VIA Rail’s awesome program, *fingers crossed* a first tour of Europe, and then an eventual release tour for the next album. Pretty exciting.
St. Quequepart, to me, is the perfect roadtrip album for the folk lover. What albums do you listen to on tour? Who are you current favourite Canadian folk musicians? Francophone folk musicians?
If we’re completely honest, we’re pretty boring people and get a lot of our mojo and new musical ideas from silence. The road is also when and where we get a lot of our thinking, imagining, and planning for the future done, and, for us, that often needs large tracts of silence as fertile ground.
That being said, when we need some tunes, we often turn to one of our absolute favourite bands on the planet, Du Bartàs, from France. The five members play cuatro, accordion, asian violin and a tickle trunk’s worth of percussion instruments, and sing in Occitan (a branch of Latin that’s a close cousin to Catalan) and Arabic.
We saw them perform by chance on our first busking trip in Europe as a band–incidentally it was also shortly after we got engaged–and were immediately hooked as much by their political messages, as their crunchy harmonies as use of rhythm.
From participating in a few years of Folk Music Ontario conferences, we literally have a box of new Canadian music–tant en français qu’en anglais–we chip away at listening to while we’re on the road, but a few faves are our dear friends, Georgian Bay, Leif Vollebekk, Kyra Shaughnessy and The Ramblin’ Valley Band. Spoon, Fleet Foxes, Kaia Kater, Earth, Wind & Fire, Radiohead, and Sigur Rós are also never too far behind.
What kind of response do you get from your bilingual fans? Your francophone fans? Your anglophone fans? How does the response change from across Canada?
We’ve found that the response between francophones, anglophones, franco-curieux and plain old music lovers is pretty well the same the country over. We feel that the music behind the tunes translates their meaning well enough that even if a language isn’t spoken, it’s felt. Bringing in storytelling from the imaginary village of Ste-Quequepart has infused the performances with a lot of humour and, we find, gives an emotional arc to the set that really allows us and the public to create this imaginary world together–one that we’re always adapting and improvising around depending on where we are.
The choice to be visible, as well as audible, is always a little political, which has always been a sort of pillar of folk music. Do you feel the pressure from anglophone institutions to be ‘more accessible’ to anglophones? What do you think can be done by the anglo music community to be more inclusive of francophone musicians and francophone listeners?
To be fair, because French is a minority language in Canada–though it is extremely well supported compared to other languages spoken across the country–we’ve more so had the experience of institutions having those kinds of demands on the French side of things. If we’re performing for an institution whose mandate is to defend la cause francophone, often times our contract will be so explicit as to specify a percentage of the number of songs that must be in French and will occasionally specify that we need to address our public in French between songs. Arts granting bodies often have similar formulaic approaches to cultural support and development.
We love French, we love performing in French and we’re quite happy to do as we’re asked, but while this kind of approach jives with organizational mandates, it fails to jive with our artistic expression as a bilingual band. We want to play for music lovers of all sorts and to do that we want to create a space for audiences to discover something new, musically and linguistically. Linguistic plurality suits us better. On the flip side, because English so dominates the industry in Canada as a whole, in order to reach the broadest audience, your show and your music needs to be accessible to them. There are no formal requests because English is the default.
As a side note, our dear friends in Georgian Bay regularly write tunes that seamlessly incorporate French and English in the same song. That’s something that peeks our interest, and we’d love to attempt it. It flies in the face of this notion of language purity and it makes for beautiful poetry.
If we have a comment for our hometown, Ottawa, it’s that it would be wonderful to see a bar or venue openly welcome francophone, bilingual and franco-curieux performers and audiences alike. At present, there isn’t a spot that comes to mind–that isn’t North of the Outaouais river–that offers that kind of an atmosphere.
Where can we see Moonfruits next? Any new, exciting projects coming up?
There are a few very exciting things on the horizon for us!
On May 14th we launched a music video for our song “Le Maire,” pulled from Ste-Quequepart. It was shot at one of our favourite bars, Belmont, in our very own neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South with 30 of our fans, friends, and neighbours who kindly stood in as villagers from Ste-Quequepart (Alex’s dad even dressed up like the priest!). Andrew Robillard was our videographer, Don Charette of Naskigo Productions produced the video (he also produced our album Ste-Quequepart), local players of renown Don Cummings, Michel Delage, and Toby Meis played the house band, and it also incorporates drawings by France’s O’lee Graphiste. All in all, we’re pretty stoked to share it with folks!
Friday of this week, on May 18th, we’re excited to be performing with Montreal-based folk-rock collective Cheshire Carr at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield.
On June 8th, we’re playing an afternoon show for the Festival Folk et guitares d’Aylmer and, on June 23rd, we have the amazing opportunity of playing a joint concert at the Francofest de Hamilton with the Ottawa-based hip-hop artist and L’Armure du Son owner-operator Le R Premier, Hamilton-based DJ Unpier, Toronto beatmaker Kenan Belzner and members of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ommie Jane is an Ottawa-based musician and writer for publications such as Ottawa Showbox and Ottawa Beat. She also runs the Ottawa Alt-Country Folk & Blues Facebook page, and occasionally promotes concerts through that name.
Ottawa indie-folk rockers Amos the Transparent are celebrating 10 years as a band with the release of their new album Anniversaries Saturday night at The 27 Club. And why not celebrate the occasion with some delicious craft beer? Music and beer go together like wine and cheese. The band has collaborated with Big Rig Brewery to release a special limited run of Amos Anniversaries beer—a 5.2% pilsener that will please the palate for many.
A decade and four albums later, Amos the Transparent have cemented themselves as a quintessential folk-canadiana. They have performed at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, CityFolk, SXSW, WayHome, The Strombo Show, CBC’s Q, and even the Big Sound Festival in Australia. They’ve also hosted an annual holiday show around Christmas time that always sells out. Needless to say, Ottawa loves Amos.
I caught up with lead vocalist and guitarist Jonathan Chandler to talk about the band’s longevity and the new album. Have a read below.
Amos the Transparent releases Anniversaries Saturday, May 12 at The 27 Club along with another veteran Ottawa group who have gotten back together for a few one-offs—The Love Machine—as well as Rumfit Mosey. Ticket and show information can be found here. Upcoming shows:
May 12 — The Ottawa 27 Club
June 21 — Ottawa Dragonboat Festival
July 8 — RBC Bluesfest
August 25 — Neat Café (Burnstown)
Interview with Jonathan Chandler of Amos the Transparent
This band has been together for 10 years now, which is much longer than most. What is the glue that has kept Amos around until now?
JC: Honestly, the fact that we are indeed friends has kept it fresh over the years. Because we genuinely like each other, I think that creates an open space for everyone to feel valued and feel free to discuss concerns or ideas. A band is indeed a relationship—a big complex family relationship—and just like a regular one, you need to work at it.
How have families, new business ventures (like Shoebox Recording Studio) and the passage of time affected how Amos approaches writing music?
JC: Scheduling has never really been an easy task with this band and it’s numbers but with growing families and big boy (and girl) careers, the windows become even smaller so that element of compromise and understanding has to be pretty strong. That said, we have our regular scheduled time that we meet weekly and everyone knows that that time is precious so we use it to the best of our abilities. Be that writing, rehearsing or just having everyone present to chat about concepts or ideas.
The band collaborated with Big Rig Brewery to make an Anniversaries beer. What is that about, and how did this partnership come together?
JC: Last summer Chris ended up running into Big Rig’s Brew Master Lon and Chris Phillips and they ended up, you know, sharing compliments about each others ventures. The idea of celebrating the 10-year milestone with a record came up and Lon expressed interest in helping out in any way he could, because, you know he’s a gem. Fast forward many months and we reached out to Big Rig and the plan of launching the Pilsner together was put in action. We’re really stoked about it—the beer is awesome and it’s just a cool piece of memorability to hang on to.
Is there anything you can think back and laugh about now when looking at yourself in your early 20’s being in a band?
JC: I laugh at the idea that I once thought we could take a 9 piece band on the road. Mind you when this band started, I wasn’t a newb to touring but my expertise was definitely not… seasoned. There are photos of us playing NXNE or festivals of the likely with trumpets and a line of singers… just absurd.
The new album explores many sounds and textures, keeping listeners engaged throughout. Can you talk about a common theme or meaning behind ‘Anniversaries?’
JC: From a writing perspective, these songs span a couple years. When I listen to the finalized album, I listen to the music and arrangements that we made as a collective, as opposed to the lyrics. I feel that musically speaking, the band is at its best and most comfortable right now and it shows with what we’ve made here, as a collective. I’ve always found myself struggling a bit with lyrics, trying to not sound redundant or foolish (which I know I’ve missed a couple times!). Regardless, there are many songs here about reflection and acceptance and I do feel that some of the words are among those I’m most proud of.
It seems like the band is still having fun. Does this mean we’ll get another anniversary in 10 years from now?
JC: I think we’ve explored the option of calling it quits enough times that we know where we end up at the end of that conversation—making another record! So, as long as folks might be interested in hearing new songs, I’m pretty sure we’ll supply some in one way or another.