When Montreal’s HOAN formed in 2015, there was an intention to deviate from the path of jangle-pop and explore new horizons. Cutting their teeth in the DIY scene, HOAN’s music is simultaneously pensive and audacious. Their new EP, Modern Phase, is a 7-track effort that fuses dark and reverb-laden instrumental layers in a post-punk foundation. Alex Nicol’s vocals and lyricism whisp us away, but we’re constantly grounded again by noir moments of frenetic energy. Three of HOAN’s members were in the now-defunct band Kurvi Tasch, and have taken this window of opportunity to write music outside of a box and experiment with electronic elements, as well as explore more issues in the social and political realms in their lyrics.
I spoke with singer/guitarist Alex Nichol as HOAN get set for their show at Bar Robo on Thursday, August 31, with Organ Eyes. Be sure to catch them live, they’ll be playing most of the tracks on Modern Phase live. Doors are at 8 pm, and tickets are $10 at the door.
Interview with HOAN
Some Ottawa folks might remember Kurvi Tasch, a group that contained most of HOAN’s members. Has the change in name signified a larger shift for the band’s approach to music?
Kurvi Tasch was a guitar-based band with a pretty limited sonic palette. We made a bunch of releases under the name and felt like we wanted something new. Alex traveled to India with his computer and began making electronic music. This kind of propelled the idea for HOAN, and it became clear that the music we wanted to make did not make sense under the Kurvi Tasch name. ‘Modern Phase’ was recorded in this transitional period. The next release will have more synths, programmed drums, and so on, as we continue to expand our approach to music.
Modern Phase is not only sonically intriguing, but it also touches on many themes and ideas that we deal with as individuals and a society as a whole. Can you expand on some of these ideas, and what caused you to go that direction?
Yea, sure. The first theme that strikes through is the notion of technological advancement at all costs, without the ability to manage or deal with the impact it has. ‘Technocracts’ is the best example of this. I feel like it’s rampant all over the world since industrialization in the West, and will have similar impacts in places that have yet to fully industrialize. Take fracking, for example. You would think that people realized in the beginning that it is harmful on the environment. But the science was there to extract the oil, and there was such a demand for it, that alternative approaches to fueling cars never really had a chance. I feel there is a lot being ignored in discussions around innovation, namely how to sustain communities, give proper job training, the white-washing cultural impact it can have, and so much more. The title, ‘Modern Phase,’ is kind of poking fun at the idea of a “Modern era” in the hopes that people look at the human and environmental costs a bit more closely.
Is there an artist that you’re listening to – either locally or not – that you think people should hear?
Lido Pimienta is great. So is Perfume Genius. Locally there is tonnes of great stuff: Un Blonde, Maggy France, Loon, Blue Odoeur, ANEMONE, Slight, Blanka, the list goes on.
What was the most exciting part about making Modern Phase? Did you try new things? Mess around with new instruments at all?
The best part was trying out a whole bunch of keyboards we never knew existed. A lot of them made it on the record!
Ottawa has a small, yet strong DIY scene, and that ethic translates into a lot of pretty cool music here. Can you talk a bit about the Montreal scene? What are some of the challenges the scene there is facing these days?
Gentrification is gonna hit pretty soon, as the area around Parc and Beaubien is bracing for a new University of Montreal campus next door. There will be a few new spots opening up in Park-Ex and over on St-Hubert, but for the time being it’s pretty solid with the Plante, Drones, Poisson Noir, the Bog, and a couple others.
You’ve played a lot of dates in the US over the last several months. What is the atmosphere like down there? Was general social discontent pervasive in music clubs? Or was it business as usual?
We had some apologetic Americans in NYC in March, and in general a lot of discussion about the socio-political climate at the moment, that’s for sure. A lot of musicians are quite engaged in fighting the good fight – like our friend Richie in Hamtramck who runs a record store on a shoe-string budget in an area that is gentrifying fast. I think the Trump presidency will bring more people into the political process, which is actually a good thing. I look forward to seeing where people are at when we head out for 10 shows at the end of September.
On a sunny day in June during Ottawa Explosion Weekend, I caught up with Vancouver self-proclaimed powertrash band Needles//Pins. Their new album Good Night, Tomorrow was released in July of this year, and signaled a shift in the band’s sound and production. It’s more polished, and more grandiose than anything they’ve done in the past. But the grittiness quality of songwriting is still there, and fans old and new will fall right into this record.
They’re set to play House of TARG on Friday, August 25th along with Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, and NECK. Check out this candid interview with the trio, where they talk about the new album, Ottawa roots, and throw themselves under the bus.
Interview with Needles//Pins
You guys have played Ottawa Explosion Weekend before and stopped in Ottawa many times on tour. What’s your relationship to the city?
Adam Ess: Tony and I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, so we grew up about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa. So we started coming to the city in our teens to see shows, and I was in bands since I was fifteen years old playing places like Club SAW. I’ve known OXW organizers Emmanuel (Sayer) and Luke (Martin) for fifteen years or so as a result. I know Emmanuel from when he used to live in Windsor, we played with his old band called Searching for Chin. Then he moved to Ottawa and joined Buried Inside and others.
I guess the first time we played here as a band was the first ever Ottawa Explosion, it was our first cross-Canada tour. We’ve played every year since except last year, that was the only one so far that we haven’t played.
Do you get to spend much time in Ottawa when you’re here?
Tony X: It’s pretty much in and out. Usually it’s between Toronto and Montreal so we don’t have much time to take the extra night in Ottawa, we can’t lose that prime night of playing in other cities. I kind of wish we could just be here all weekend to be honest.
Needles//Pins played with The Smugglers at OXW for the Mint Records Showcase. How did that come about?
Adam: I think one of the impetuses for doing the Smuggs thing is because of Grant Lawrence’s book. It’s all part of the presentation of the book, and with the Mint Records connection we played the Vancouver show and it kind of took off from there.
Tony: Mint probably leaned on them a bit for us to play the show, I don’t think The Smugglers were begging us to play with them haha.
Your new record Good Night, Tomorrow is a bit of a different direction for the band. What is it that you are most excited for the bands to hear?
Adam: The general sound of the record, I think. It’s just such a huge sound, and that’s what we wanted out of it.
Tony: Just like you said, people are noticing it’s different and in a positive way and that’s really great.
Adam: And for us there’s no worry about that, I mean if you liked the band before then you’re going to like the band now. It’s hands-down way better, there’s no doubt about that. They’re the best songs we’ve ever written, the production is so much better, just everything. We took almost a year and a half to write and record the album, we took our time on it and wrote it in chunks, and recording as we went.
Tony: At some point we were recording and thinking, “oh good, it’s only been a year,” and then our producer Jesse told us we started in June… we were like, “oh, fuck…”
If I remember correctly, the last time you guys played Ottawa Explosion before this year there was something that literally exploded on stage.
Macey Bee: Oh shit, I forgot about that.
Tony: Yeah an amp! That was two years ago!
Macey: I think I was also on fire.
Tony: I just remember Adam was out of tune and he blamed me for it, but it actually was him. I just want to clear that up. He blamed me, but it was him. IT WAS NOT TONY, for the record. I don’t know about the amp though.
Adam: Ok then, since we’re going on the record, I am the one that coined the nickname “12 Grain” for Macey.
Tony: Oh I guess we’re recording everything now, airing the grievances. What is this, Festivus?
Have you had any other disasters happen while on tour?
Macey: I think touring with these two is a fucking disaster in general (laughs). I mean I’ve been doing it for a while now and I guess I’ll just have to keep doing it until I die.
Adam: Or until one of us dies, at least. There haven’t been any major disasters though, really. Knock on wood!
Tony: We’ve played shitty so many times, though. The worst show we ever played was in LA, and I’ll go on the record by saying it was all my fault.
Matias: You’re really throwing yourself under the bus here.
Macey: I was going to say that I played really well that night. You fucking blew it man.
Adam: That was a doozy.
Tony: I just didn’t play the right notes. There might have been some technical issues, I don’t know.
Macey: Yeah, technically your fingers didn’t hit the right notes on the bass.
Chicago’s The Blisters are rolling through Ottawa on their way to the River & Sky Music/Camping Festival which is taking place about 4 1/2 hours north-west of Ottawa passed North Bay.
The Blisters play River & Sky Saturday at 4 pm, a couple hours after Ottawa’s very own New Swears, and the same day as PUP, Heat and The Lonely Parade. Before that we are lucky enough to have The Blisters in Ottawa at Pressed this Friday, July 21 along with Toronto’s Giant Hand (info here).
In anticipation of the show we had a chat with The Blisters’ drummer Spencer Tweedy (yes, he is the son of Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy) about the band, touring, and the new album.
What are the main inspirations for The Blisters as a band, musically or otherwise?
We started in 2002 when we were all seven years old. The main inspiration for the band was just that we all wanted to be in a band… We played and we thought it would be cool. I (Spencer) actually started with another friend of ours, who’s not in the band anymore, but Hayden and Henry joined shortly afterward. Tory joined during high school, and we’ve had that same line-up ever since. It feels pretty cool to have been a band together for so long.
For people who haven’t seen you live before, what is a Blisters show like?
We play some loud songs and we play some quieter songs. We don’t typically have moshing or anything like that, but it’s fun when it happens. Typically we see a lot of gentle head bobbing.
You guys are playing River and Sky Festival this weekend. Was this something you guys applied for or did they come looking for you?
Our friend Brett approached us with the offer. I told him that we’d love to play, but that we’d probably need to set some other shows up in Canada to make it feasible. He very kindly helped us do that, too.
How does it feel to be touring in Canada right now? Any highlights so far?
We’re only just arriving in Canada, but I’ve been here before and I love it. We’re all from Chicago and we love that city but Toronto feels like the closest thing to it outside of it. I think we all have the feeling that Canada is a kinder, cleaner America.
You are touring a new album, are there any cool stories or anecdotes from the recording or about the songs you can share?
We made Cured at our friends Liam and Sima Cunningham’s studio, with Dorian Gehring. We made it in about a week and it’s a pretty straightforward record. Henry wrote some of his most badass, roots rock material for it. We always experiment when we’re recording but this one ended up pretty straightforward.
Many people could guess what lead you to music, but what lead you to the drums in particular?
I don’t know what led me to drums. The first time I played was when I was two years old and someone plopped me on a kit in the basement of my mom’s bar, Lounge Ax. After that my parents bought me some sets over the years, and I kept on learning. I’ve played guitar for roughly as long, too, but at some point drums became my main thing. I like the James Brown story/myth about him telling his band that they’re all drummers—guitarists, bassists, etc., all drummers. I’m not a “drums supremacist” but I think that’s a helpful way for everyone to look at music.
Tribe Royal is a four-piece band from Ottawa formed in 2014 who cannot be placed in a box. The band explores all sorts of nooks and crannies within the rock genre with zero reservation. Another thing that really helps the band stand out is it features three vocalist who all bring very different singing styles and influences to the table. This has lead to the band generating quite a bit of buzz while touring and releasing a couple of records along the way.
We caught up with songwriter, singer, guitarist, and pianist for the group Terry O’Brien to chat about the band and their upcoming performance on the main stage at Bluesfest. Check out the interview below and have a listen to the band before you catch them rocking Bluesfest at 6:00 PM on Thursday July 6th.
1.You have been playing Ottawa now for more than three years, but for those who don’t know you guys, can you please describe your sound?
We’re a mix of modern and vintage inspired rock. A little throwback, rootsy and even edgy at times. There’s elements of folk as well as americana with a focus on melodic songwriting and vocal harmonies. The spectrum of genres we touch on is pretty wide and we definitely love to explore.
2.What drives that interest in the sounds and influence from decades past?
The physical connection to the instruments and music that allows us to express ourselves is really what drives it. There’s no feeling quite like performing music with a group of your closest friends, there really is a magical aspect to it. Part of the influence comes from our parents and what we were exposed to at a young age. There’s an unmatched warmth to the way things were done back in the day. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy new music, things are just done a little differently.
3.What have been some of your highlights a long the way over the last couple of years?
Creating, recording and performing music with our best pals. Travelling has definitely been a highlight. We’ve been out to the east coast a few times now as a band and there’s just something about the ocean and the overall vibe out there that keeps calling us back. You really learn a lot about each other and about life in general when you’re travelling the country living out of a trailer with six people. Meeting and hanging out with interesting people has always been a highlight for us. It’s so cool to hear someone’s story and trade experiences. It really makes everything worthwhile when we see people connecting with our music and it keeps the love of creating and performing burning strong.
(Shot in the Dark is a live on the floor video session hosted by Gallery Recording and JustPixl which brings together the Ottawa music community)
It was a lot of fun, very liberating. We had been looking to film a high quality live video for quite some time so it was perfect for us. There was definitely some sort of pressure to get a good take but we were really happy with how we played. We recorded our latest record at Gallery Studio with Dean Watson so it was cool to be back and recording a live version of one of our singles in the same space. I would definitely recommend it to any artist considering Shot In The Dark.
5.What was your reaction when you found out you would not only be playing Bluesfest, but be opening for Sam Roberts?
When we got the email it was pretty overwhelming. It’s quite an honour to be sharing the stage with one of our idols and we’re really excited about it. It has been quite the journey to get to this point and it’s a huge step forward for us.
6.Have you been planning anything special or doing any game planning for being on the big stage?
We’ve practiced a few times. We’ll tune our guitars, do some hip rotations, and hit the stage ready as ever. But in all seriousness we’ve got a few things prepared for the big show..
7.What else does the band have in store for this summer and the rest of 2017?
After Bluesfest we’re hitting the road for our third east coast summer tour. We’ll be gone for almost a month and it’s always something we look forward to. After that we’re lining up some shows for the fall and talking about going out west with maybe some recording in there as well. We’ll see what happens but it’s looking like it’s going to be busy for us!
If you’re a fan of Canadian music and follow CBC, you’ve probably heard of the CBC Searchlight contest. It’s a competition that attracts thousands of submissions from musicians across the country, and the search for the nation’s most talented undiscovered performers occurs over the course of several months. In its fifth year, CBC has partnered up with Canada Scene and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in the annual competition.
The contest has wrapped up with Vancouver’s The Long War being crowned winners (and, coincidentally, also have an Ottawa connection). The west coast folk rockers took the prize with their song “Breathe In Breathe Out,” beating out singer-songwriter Jaryd Stanley, as well as Saskatchewan trio The Wolfe and hip hop/R&B phenom WILL, who moved to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago at the age of five.
The Long War are set to play their biggest stage yet, Ottawa’s newly-renovated National Arts Centre on July 2nd. The night will be hosted by Canadian songwriting staple Royal Wood, who worked with them during their residency at The Banff Centre, and will also feature exhilarating performances by the runners up.
I spoke with The Long War’s singer Jarrett Lee about the CBC Searchlight competition, and the road ahead. Read the interview and watch their performance of “Breathe In Breathe Out” below.
The CBC Searchlight Live! event will be held on Sunday, July 2nd at the National Arts Centre’s beautiful Babs Asper Theatre at 7 pm. Find ticket information and purchase links here.
Interview with The Long War’s Jarrett Lee
Now that the CBC Searchlight competition is over, what was your biggest takeaway from the contest? Did you learn anything from the process as a whole?
Our biggest takeaway is something that we continue to remind ourselves everyday and that is Searchlight is an opportunity. We need to work hard and take full advantage of that. There’s a lot to learn in the music industry and we need to embrace those learning experiences while continuing to grow musically as a band. We’re so excited for what’s to come, and so grateful CBC and Searchlight has helped put us in this position.
What does it mean to you to come play in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre for Canada’s 150th?
Ottawa is a special place, it’s like a home to me. The first stage I ever performed on was in Ottawa. I met my bandmate Chad in Ottawa when he was cutting his teeth in the music scene before moving to Vancouver. The NAC is an incredible venue, I saw one of my favourite bands Wilco play there. And to be playing a venue so renowned on Canada Day 150 alongside Royal Wood to my family and friends is truly surreal. It’s an important chapter in this journey and we’re so thrilled to be a part of the celebration.
Winning the competition is a huge feat, with so many other acts that entered from the start. Did you get a chance to listen and become a fan of any other artists? If so, whom?
There were a lot of talented artists in Searchlight, I’m a fan of Will, Jaryd Stanley and The Wolfe all of whom will be hitting the NAC stage July 2nd. They were our Searchlight finalist peers and we spent some serious time together going through the process. That experience was a special one that we all shared connecting us in a way. They’re also really great songwriters and awesome people worth checking out.
What was it like playing “Performance in the Park” in from of a sold out crowd in Banff?
It was like nothing I’d ever experienced! There were two thousand plus in the crowd, the weather was cold and wet but people came out and were so interested in sharing in the experience of live music and so engaged in the performance. We have a song called “Lake Louise” and everyone sang along. Magical things happen in Banff.
How much longer will it be until the Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup?
Great question! Patience is a skill, not a virtue. We’ve got a hard core Montreal fan in this band who I’m sure would love to answer this if he could. Missed opportunity, sorry Chad!
Moving forward, what does the future hold in store for the band? Do you feel like there’s a lot of music in you to give?
We’re releasing an album called “Landscapes” in January that we recorded at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga with Producer Kevin Dietz. We couldn’t be more excited about it. We’re always writing and already have lots of material we can’t wait to play. There’s plenty of music flowing through us, we’ve already planned our follow up album!
The Flatliners are a band that have never shied away from trying new things. While they’ve left behind the frenetic ska punk that helped them explode onto the Canadian music landscape in the mid-2000’s, the band has stayed true to themselves through sincere songwriting and exploration of new sounds. Moving on from Fat Wreck Chords and signing to Dine Alone and Rise Records in 2017 for their new LP Inviting Light, The Flatliners have embraced change. Inviting Light istheir fifth studio album, released April 7th, and is an unhindered effort to explore new musical territory. The band explores new melodies, down tempo rhythms, cleaner guitar tones, and subdued vocals by lead singer Chris Cresswell. But don’t let this assessment deter the fans of The Flatliners of old.
There are peaks in valleys with respect to the energy in Inviting Light, and plenty of dirty growls and riffs to go around. The album itself is an embodiment of what it feels like to near your 30’s, particularly after spending half your life (15 years) in a band and touring tirelessly around the world. It’s wiser, weathered, and perhaps a little worn. But the songs on Inviting Light are closer to the heart than anything we’ve heard before. The lyricism and songwriting are arguably better than ever, and lay bare exactly who this band is at this point in their career. For many of us who grew up with this band, Inviting Light feels like home.
I had a great chat with lead singer Chris Cresswell leading up to their Ottawa tour date with The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, which has to be one of the best lineups of the year. Have a read below.
The Flatliners play Ottawa on Wednesday, June 14th, at Babylon Nightclub with guests The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs. Presented by Spectrasonic. Tickets information and purchase link here.
Interview with Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners
What’s your favourite part about being on the road with great bands like Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs and The Dirty Nil?
Chris Cresswell: It’s pretty akin to the current state of the Canadian music scene. It’s incredible right now, and we’ve always had a strong music history spanning back decades with Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, not to mention 90’s alternative and the the birth of punk with bands like D.O.A. . I think we’re experiencing a fervour in the air right now, and something really great is happening. There are so many great bands out there, look at the Dirty Nil – they just won a well-deserved Juno! Then there’s PUP, a band which is known around the world now. There’s bands like Greys, Secret Satanists, Weaves, Dilly Dally. They’re all so talented, and all so different. I think we’re witnessing a pretty positive time in the Canadian music scene, and if we can bring bands like The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey with us on tour, that is great because those two bands rip.
Sometimes it’s just a coincidence that so many great bands come out of one place, it’s kind of like the Philly scene right now, too. You’ve got bands of all shapes and sizes coming out of that market, bands like Menzingers, Hop Along, Modern Baseball, The Restorations, and so many more. They’re all incredible and most of them friends, I don’t know what makes that ecosystem of creativity.
I think part of it up here is being Canadian, we’re able to get a lot of funding for music. I know FACTOR has been under fire a lot, but it’s still pretty incredible that our government funds the arts the way it does. I think maybe that frees up more time for artists to focus on their craft. And I think there’s some magic happening too!
Just having so many exciting Canadian bands doing their own thing, you’ll see a few bands like the ones I mentioned before doing something different and that inspires others to create, too.
What are some of the ways you’ve learned to live with each other on the road, and still enjoy making music together over the years?
Chris Cresswell: It helps that we’ve all known each other for a long time – this year the band turns 15-years old. Scott and I have known each other since kindergarten, and Scott and I met Jon in grade two or something. Then we met Paul when we were 11 or 12-years old, and started the band a few years after we met him. So we’ve known each other most of our lives, and knowing each other so well as people definitely helps. I think you never really know someone until you travel with them, and luckily I think we’re pretty good at that.
That being said, we tour so goddamn much that the close quarters definitely has its effects and it’s important to let people have their alone time. The same thing applies to any kind of relationship, whether it’s romantic or not, people need their own time. There’s late nights on the road, there’s early mornings, there’s drinking, there’s often terrible food involved, but then there’s a really fun show at the end of the night.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that the show itself is only such a minute part of your day that takes up almost no time compared to everything else. There are so many determining factors the can affect how you feel walking on stage. As long as you’re doing what you love, that’s the important part. Not every day on tour is going to be the best day of your life – you’re going to have rough days, bad days, and great days. But you just gotta try your best to take the good with the bad. If someone’s having a bad time, then if they want to talk about – talk. If not, then don’t. Let people go for walks, sometimes that helps so much. Going for that short walk in a city you don’t really know that well while on tour kind of lets the whole situation sink in – that you’r part of a band and that’s really important.
That’s one of the biggest touring lessons we’ve learned. You just have to roll with the punches, especially on the bad days because they’re going to happen once in a while.
The evolution in sound since the early 2000’s has been significant, and obviously music changes as people change. Is this progression in the band’s sound a conscious choice? Or is it more or a natural move that reflects where you are all at now?
Chris Cresswell: It’s been an extremely natural thing, for sure. Even if we’re not making an explicitly “conceptual” record, each one is still conceptual in its own way. It’s a snap shot of time from your life, experiences, encounters, friends’ stories, and stuff like that. I’m not really one to write songs from a fictional standpoint with characters that are made up.
That being said, my life changes all the time. The easiest way I can explain it is this: think of a friend that you’ve had for a long time but haven’t seen for a few years. When you see them again for the first time in a few years, they’re a different person. Now attach any kind of artistic outlet to someone and you realize that their art and craft changes with them, too. Just like in any job, the longer you spend at it, the hope is that you’ll become better as time goes on. For us as musicians, it’s been a natural thing because not only do we love making music together but we also tour together – a lot. So I feel like it would be strange if the new record sounded like the last one, because we played that last one 500 times and people have already heard that. Something just changes in you I think.
That being said, wanting to explore the new avenues is a conscious choice. I think you’re betraying yourself as an artist if you don’t pursue new ways to express yourself, and no one wants to hear the same thing over and over again. It already exists, so move forward.
With Inviting Light, there was an awareness that we were exploring new territory and we got curious as to how people would react. But it just felt good, and if it feels good you just keep on with it. Especially when you’ve been doing this as long as we have, you just keep going for it – especially if it feels right!
It’s not a slight on the records we’ve made in the past, of course we love those songs. But it’s incredible to see your fan base grow with you, too. There are a lot of fans who are our age, which is really cool. We made records at pretty formative years in our lives, the first one was when we were 16-years old. If we keep on making records when we’re 40, there will be a lot of 40-year olds listening to those records. It’s been cool to have so many people come on this ride with us.
And one last thing – what is really neat to think about is how awesome it will be to mix in these new songs with the old ones when on stage, because it’s all about touring and playing those songs live. That’s why we recorded our entire last album, Dead Language, live – we wanted it to sound like it does when we hit the stage, and I think we did a good job of that. If you over-do it in the writing process, then you’re thinking, “shit, I still need to play this live,” you know? It’s been so exciting to think about how all these different songs can be put together on stage as a setlist.
I saw an interview with a musician recently who said something interesting. They said instead of making your next record, make your first record. That’s kind of a cool thing, to burn the whole thing down and start over each time. It takes away some of that pressure, and then you can just enjoy the music as it comes. I really like that mentality, just make the best first impression you can make. With this new record, this is mentality we’ve taken. Once we realized the direction the record was taking, we kind of just let everything fall into place. And that being said, the record was done before Dine Alone and Rise became involved.
Inviting Light is the first record album released through Rise Records and Dine Alone. Was the transition from Fat Wreck Chords difficult? Or was it something that you were all ready for moving forward?
Chris Cresswell: We always record in secret. Nowadays, everyone loves to post their daily lives on social media and share everything instantly. But for us, that’s a distraction when it comes to making a new album. We came here to work, not post shit on the internet, you know? That’s way we did Dead Language and the same way we did Cavalcade, and that is in two chunks with a lot of time between. That’s such a great way to record because you fall in love with the material again. The reason you make the songs you do and play with your friends is because you are a fan of your own band. Of course we like our own band, we better! Because we have to play these songs so many times, you gotta like it. So we’ll go to the studio, come up with a bunch of ideas, and then just sit on them. That’s why there’s always so much time between our albums. If we like an idea when we come back to it later on, then we’ll stick with it. And in the meantime, we’ll have written more songs and work those in. Then we’ll put it all together and see what happens. That’s when Dine Alone and Rise came on board, basically. I guess they just wanted to hear it.
We had an amazing ten years with Fat Wreck Chords, and it was hard to have the conversation to try something else. But in the end, that’s all it was, just curiosity. They took such a huge chance on us as 19-year old Canadian kids. Mike took us on tour with NOFX to so many places around the world, and we’ve met so many great people and made friends with some of our fucking heroes. In the end it kind of inspired us to think about where else we want to go with it.
It was difficult, but everyone at Fat is so lovely. Whenever a band leaves a legendary, staple record label, people always think there’s bad blood or something. So often that just isn’t the case. The record label is often just like, “look, you guys gotta do what you gotta do. It’s your band.” That was the case with Fat, everyone there was just super pumped for us. We will always be part of that family. It just inspired us to see what else we can do with this band, and we never dreamed we’d be where we are. Being an almost 30-year old young man (and I use that term very loosely), it kind of makes you think “shit, ok, it’s time to do something else!” And that’s really exciting.
The folks at Rise and Dine Alone have been so great, it’s exciting to have new people listening to your music and basically everything has been awesome. We’ve been able to play these new songs live now a few times and it feels really good. You know, you spend a few years of your life on these tracks and when the album finally comes out and start playing these songs, sometimes it’s like… this is better than sex! Not to get weird or anything, but it’s a very, very strong feeling.
You started the band at a very young age, and know what it’s like to be a young music fan. Do you see young folks at your shows connecting with your music?
Chris Cresswell: It’s super cool to see. That Weezer run we did was really cool, because they have such a huge and diverse fan base. I mean, playing with Weezer to begin with us crazy awesome. But in some cases it was a kid’s first show going to see Weezer, and we were the opening band. So we were the first band they ever see! That’s so cool! And then you’ll see a 60-year old woman and she’ll dig it. I mean, most of our shows are 19+ just because our fans tend to be a drinking crowd. Not that we don’t want to do all-ages shows because we know how important they are. They were important to us when we were kids, that’s how it started. Imagine if we couldn’t see NOFX, Rancid, Suicide Machines because they were playing 19+ shows, that would have sucked. When those all ages shows happen, it’s a really cool thing.
One of the Ottawa region’s pride and joy is Beau’s Brewery, the purveyors of all kinds of delicious beer. You guys have worked with them before in the past, do you have a favourite beer of theirs?
Chris Cresswell: Oh, buddy. Beau’s Beer. Those guys are all incredible. I’ve known a lot of them for over ten years, and I’ve known Steve Beauchesne since before they started Beau’s and was still in the band called Constable Brennan. Lug Tread is incredible, and one of my favourite beers in the world. It’s like that first impression we were talking about earlier, like, make the best beer you can possibly make. I’ve been drinking it for ten years and every time I have it I’m like, “damn, that’s a good beer”. They have so many good ones, another one I really love is St. Luke’s Verse, which is a lavender gruit ale. They’ve been buddies for a long time and have been so good to us. They’ve just been killing it and we couldn’t be happier. It’s cool to see hard work pay off, the reason they’re doing great things is because they respect the process and treat their employees really, really well.
Their support of bands stems from a place of their love for music. Before they were a brewery, those guys were huge fans of music. So supporting music is something that comes naturally for them, and it encompasses the lives of many people around them. It’s a really cool thing to see what they’ve done.
Any secrets that singers like you and Luke from Dirty Nil use to keep your vocal cords from exploding night to night?
Chris Cresswell: It’s insane. A few years ago I blew my vocal cords out and couldn’t talk or sing for a few months. This was before we went to Europe for the first time and I was afraid I did permanent damage. So I called up an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, and they put a camera up my throat and I saw the damage I had done. When you sing the way I do, you can’t avoid singing like that. You can do all these things to avoid it, sooth it, maintain it, but you can’t really get around the fact that singing this way causes damage. Luke from Dirty Nil has an incredible voice, and Stephan from PUP, too. He had some pretty terrible things happen to his voice in the past few years. His damage was a lot worse than mine, but he’s a lot better now and learned a lot from that experience. It’s truly a story of human perseverance.
The biggest thing I’ve changed is that I can’t go to a loud bar after a show anymore. That used to be a huge thing, you finish your show and go to the bar for some drinks. Trying to talk to each other over loud music in a packed bar, they say that is more harmful to your voice than actually singing. It makes no sense, but it’s true. I also do more vocal warm ups, and test out how my voice is doing before shows. I try to be healthy, too. Try to avoid eating too much dairy. I avoid smoking too, I used to smoke a lot of weed on the road a lot and I don’t do that at home. I’ll do that at home. Apparently drinking is bad, too. Basically anything fun is bad for your voice.
But yeah, just little things to maintain the vocal cords, drinking more tea, getting more rest (which is hard on tour). One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t hit every note every time. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. You gotta realize you’re just a human being, and people don’t care. They’re there to have fun, so stressing out about it will just make it worse. Just like I said before, take the bad with the good. ✺
The Flatliners – Tour Dates (North America)
JUN 14 – Ottawa, ON at Babylon
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUN 15 – Waterloo, ON at Maxwell’s
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUN 16 – Toronto, ON at Lee’s Palace
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUN 17 – Toronto, ON at Lee’s Palace
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUL 07 – Buffalo, NY at Studio at Waiting Room
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 08 – Cleveland, OH at The Grog Shop
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 09 – Pittsburgh, PA at The Funhouse
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 11 – Washington, DC at Black Cat
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 13 – Asbury Park, NJ at Wonder Bar
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 14 – Brooklyn, NY at Knitting Factory
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 15 – Pawtucket, RI at The Met
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 16 – Boston, MA at The Middle East
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 17 – Philadelphia, PA at Boot & Saddle
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 20 – Belleville, ON at Empire Rockfest
JUL 21 – Rimouski, QC at Les Grandes Fetes Telus
JUL 22 – Saguenay, QC at Festival des Bieres du Monde
JUL 23 – Quebec City, QC at Bar L’Anti
with Downstater, Mental Fix, As One Man
AUG 26 – San Bernardino, CA at It’s Not Dead Festival
The Famines are a Montreal-based noise garage music duo made up of Raymond Biesinger (who also happens to be an incredible illustrator) and Drew Demers. But they are not just a band, the duo is also a “DIY-minded experimental record label thing” called Pentagon Black.
In early 2016 Pentagon Black released it’s first compilation containing 23 unreleased songs from bands from across the country as a 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with download code. They had 17 compilation release shows including 30 bands at various locations across the country for it. In April 2017, they did it again with compilation number 2, once again on 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with a download code.
Pentagon Black are back with another compilation, and while they stayed true to their other compilations, they changed it up a little. Pentagon Black Compilation No. 3 is a “phone comp.” It is named as such as 16 diverse bands between Edmonton and Saint John recorded original unreleased tracks live via phone (no multi tracking allowed). This time they went with a smaller format of a 6X6″ postcard with download code.
Eric took some time to discuss with drummer Drew Demers about being a band and being a record label, as well as the story behind the compilation and the inclusion of bands from Ottawa.
Interview with Drew Demers of The Famines/Pentagon Black
What inspired/motivated the two of you to not only be a band but be a label?
Drew Demers: After releasing music on vinyl for the better part of a decade, we realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage/produce. Turn-around times don’t work in anyone’s favor. We were sitting on a recorded full length and didn’t want to have to wait an additional 4 or 5 months just to get a test pressing back. On top of that, the cost was just too great for us to be enthused about it anymore, so we decided that we would just produce things as cheaply and quickly as we could on our own.
[…] we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists.
Subsequently what pushed you to put out these trans-Canadian compilations?
Drew Demers: We had already released a single and a record on the newsprint poster format, the latter as Pentagon Black and the former in partnership with Psychic Handshake in Montreal. We were discussing what to do next, and the idea started as a split record with The Famines on one side, and then another band on the other. The problem was, we were at odds over whether it was going to be Century Palm or Kappa Chow. We played a show with a ton of pals at this crazy fest called Strangewaves outside of Hamilton.
The lineup included a ton of bands that ended up on the first compilation, and it was beautiful because there was hardly anybody at the show outside of band members. We all just got up and played for each other and there was this sense of communal spirit behind everything. It took us maybe one day to realize that we needed to make something bigger and connect more scenes together, and the first compilation was born out of that notion. BTW, the lineup for that show: Strange Attractor, The Famines, TV Freaks, Mick Futures, Century Palm, Kappa Chow, Lizzie Boredom, and Flesh Rag.
How did you select the bands and decide how you wanted the first two to sound?
Drew Demers: The first compilation was an amalgamation of friends we’d made on tour. There really weren’t that many artists we didn’t personally know on the thing. The second time around, we wanted to focus on hitting specific zones we hadn’t traveled to in a while, and so we enlisted some close friends to give us suggestions on who we should talk to that might be interested in a project such as ours. There are a small handful of people involved in the second compilation we’ve actually never met.
In terms of the sound that we were going for, we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists. There is an obvious tonal undercurrent that runs through all three of the compilations, but there are significant departures happening on each of them as well.
What makes this third compilation special?
Drew Demers: This third compilation is all about spirit. The songs are rough, in many cases unfinished, and in all cases under-produced. It’s exciting to think that sonically it’s an even playing-ground for each of the tracks. For the most part, it sounds like all the bands recorded in basically the same room with the same gear. It’s also special because it’s the first time we’ve outsourced the art side of things. Historically Raymond has taken care of the art side of Pentagon Black/The Famines, but this time we placed the project in the esteemed hands of Lisa Czech. We explained the project to her and she absolutely nailed the chaos with her cover art.
This has been our most inexpensive and rapid turnover for a compilation. The postcards cost basically nothing to print, and all of the bands recorded their tracks in a three week time frame. Also of note – this one was released not too long after our second compilation, and it came out as a surprise. We were originally planning on dropping it the day of our showcase at Ottawa Explosion, but instead we just decided to jump the gun because we felt like it this week, and a project like this allows us the freedom to do that.
I am excited to see Ottawa bands on all three comps, what drew you to the Ottawa bands you selected ?
Drew Demers: We have a ton of respect and admiration for The Yips, and knew that we couldn’t release our first comp without them involved. Bonnie Doon are officially Pentagon Black royalty. They were on the first two comps, and played both the compilation releases with us in Montreal. Deathsticks are actually fairly new acquaintances of ours, but we feel connected by the sisterhood of two piece bands. They were suggested to us via our pal Karol aka garbageface in Peterborough. We can’t wait to play with them and hang out with them in Ottawa next weekend!
If you track Raymond or myself down in person, we can become pen pals and send you a postcard.
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can head to a show in your town featuring any of the 48 bands we’ve worked with and ask them very kindly to dig one out for you.
What do The Famines and Pentagon Black have planned next?
Drew Demers: Famines have a couple things up our sleeves, including but not limited to writing material for a full length album to come out under Pentagon Black sometime in the next decade. Ottawa Explosion is actually the only show we have booked right now, and it’s exciting facing a blank canvas. As for Pentagon Black, we intend to keep things fast and easy. After releasing the PRIORS record, we realized that we’re open to the idea of putting out music for other bands and want to move forward with that in the future, however that will work.
For an Ottawa band that has only been around for the better part of two years, PINE has already experienced some major success. Not only has the band toured extensively in the US and Canada, in March of this year the band also announced that they were being signed to No Sleep Records. No Sleep is an independent label based out of Huntington Beach, California, known for having harboured such acts as Balance and Composure, La Dispute, The Wonder Years, Touché Amoré, and many more. Needless to say, being signed to a label such as No Sleep Records is a tremendous feat for a young band from the humble capital of Canada.
PINE is on the verge of releasing their first EP through No Sleep Records, an emotional five-track effort that spans genres and bring the listener into a world free of sonic boundaries. Their songs “Viable” and “(Un)rest,” which can be steamed below, are raw and untethered pieces that use intricate instrumentation and emotive lyricism to create a powerful experience for listeners. I caught up with guitarist Holden Egan to talk about PINE’s new direction and their new album Pillow Talk.
PINE will be releasing their EP Pillow Talk at House of TARG on Saturday, June 10 along with guests Safe To Say, Heavy Hearts, and Kamen. The physical album will be available in limited edition pink vinyl. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Vertigo Records. Doors at 9pm. Presented by Spectrasonic.
Interview with Holden Egan of PINE
The band announced the signing to No Sleep Records a few months back. How does it feel to be part of that family?
It feels awesome. Ever since I knew of No Sleep Records, Topshelf Records, and Run For Cover Records, and the bands associated with them, I’ve always wanted to be on one of those labels. It feels really good to be at this stage.
The single “Viable” is an emotionally jolting song that grabs listeners right away. Can you talk about how that track came to be?
It’s a funny story with that song! Our drummer Joey had written a song a few years before he was in the band, and when him and I moved in together we started pre-production on a few songs and he pulled that one out. I thought, “Woah, that actually works pretty well with some riffs I have.” So I worked on it, dissected it, and spun it backwards, added some riffs and jammed on it a few times. We recorded it in my bedroom and ultimately we had to leave that place because our roommate at the time didn’t want us to do music anymore. We toured with that song when we did our split with Dead Leaves, and we had a different lineup then so the song sounded a lot different, too.
So when we went to record it for this EP, Cory Bergeron (who mixed and mastered it) had a few great ideas on how to spice it up and bring it to the next level for this album. He made it a drum and bass intro and it kicked in with everything.
Having heard that song, what can listeners expect when diving into Pillow Talk as a whole? Are there some themes that resonate throughout?
The theme revolves around the struggles being in relationships when you’re younger. Cory and Darlene are both in touring bands, and the song “(Un)rest” is a song about dealing with being in a relationship and alone, away from your loved ones. It’s hard, especially when touring in the US where texting is expensive.
Your sound obviously has some roots in emo and post-rock of the 2000’s. In your mind, what attracts you to making music like this?
I think it has to do with our appreciation for soundscapes and production. When we’re touring, we’re always sitting and dissecting songs together and talk about why they’re good. We try and write music that takes little aspects like that and translate it in our own way the way we like. For example, I like a lot of post-rock and shoegaze. But our guitar player listens to a lot of singer-songwriter and progressive stuff. Our drummer listens to Mac DeMarco and the Chili Peppers, and Darlene listens to bands like Lydia and Sufjan Stevens. There’s a lot of diversity in the EP’s tracks. We’re not confined to just one sound, we incorporate different things into each song. We even have an acoustic song at the end, because we all like acoustic tracks with piano, cello and additional instrumentation. We all get off on that stuff.
If there were one band you could share the stage with, who would it be?
Slowdive, hands down. I would love to play with them. I’d probably cry if I found out that was a possibility.
PINE has toured quite a bit over the last few years. Is there some place that is on your dream list to visit?
This has always been a dream for me since I was like 15. Brixton Academy in London, England, is a venue I would love to play. I mean it’s kind of unrealistic at this point because it’s like a 5000 cap venue, but it’s a dream. But I’d love to play there. A place that’s a little more realistic to play is probably Manhattan. I’ve visited there a few times and I love New York City. I’d love to bring our music there and be able to say we played there, it’s on the bucket list for sure.
What can new listeners who attend the EP release at House of Targ on June 10 expect from PINE’s live performance?
I hope that they get the feel of the soundscapes we’re aiming for live. When we go to shows, we’re always paying attention to the tones. We’re all gear nerds and own lots of pedals. We’re really going for a wall of sound, and we’re not trying to make you happy but we’re also not trying to bum you out either. It’s moody, we want people to stand there and get lost in the music. It’s sort of like cinematic experiences. Slowdive uses their music to capture a cinematic moment or mood, and I guess it’s kind of emo in that way since we’re trying make you feel stuff. I’ve been in a hardcore band before and there’s a lot of aggression at shows. But I feel like our music is a bit different. We’re trying to make people feel something, and feeling soothing in some way.
Less than a minute into Tunic‘s song “Disappointment” is all it took to get excited about this Winnipeg-born-and-bred noisy punk trio. This June, the band will be leaving beautiful Manitoba for a 2-week tour that will take them to the United States and across central Canada, including their first Ottawa show on June 6 at Pressed.
Their Ottawa date will also feature two of Ottawa’s most stoke-worthy bands: post-hardcore veterans The Dark Plains with Matt Deline (aka Ottawa’s Ian MacKaye) on vocals and bass, Andy Cant (from Okara!!!) on drums, and Chuck Saso (who must eat Shreddies for breakfast because.. well.. he absolutely shreds) on guitar, as well as Ultra Love who have just recently sprung out of the incubator, or maybe a time machine, bringing back a post-hardcore sound with a healthy (and unapologetic) dose of 90’s screamo influences. Needless to say, you will not want to miss this show, and in the meantime, you can get to know Tunic a bit better as guitarist/vocalist David Schellenberg answers a few questions for us. Have a read below.
Interview with David Schellenberg of Tunic
Ok, so first things first – who is Tunic and can you give me a short history of how the band came to be?
DS: Tunic is David Schellenberg, Rory Ellis, and Sam Neal. Tunic was started by Sam and I as a way for us to hang out, experiment and for me to try my hand at playing guitar in a band. Rory was my roommate at the time so he started playing bass after a couple jams. This was around 2012, I’m pretty sure.
How would you describe your sound?
DS: Abrasive, angular, noisy punk music.
Are you all originally from Winnipeg and what is the scene like in Winnipeg these days?
DS: We are. Winnipeg is a unique city with a lot of cool bands and artists. Since we’re extremely isolated by our geographical location we all have to put in a lot of work to get shows to happen and for there to be things to do, so Winnipeg is pretty cool, a lot of people work hard to make sure it doesn’t suck.
What are some of the pros/cons of being a band in Winnipeg?
DS: The only con is our location. Pros a lot of great local bands to do shows with.
Will this be your first time playing Ottawa? If so, what have you heard about the Ottawa scene?
DS: This will be our first time playing in Ottawa. I’ve heard some nice things from our pals who’ve played there before, they say it’s a lot of fun, so that’s exciting.
Sometimes it does feel like Ottawa and Winnipeg are worlds apart even though we’re provincial neighbours. Not to mention that there are probably a lot of great local bands from our respective cities that neither of us will ever hear. Have you all played in other bands in the past?
DS: We’ve all played in a lot of bands, too many bands really. Rory and I played in a bunch of indie bands we don’t need to talk about, and Sam played in a bunch of cool black metal and d-beat bands like Willing Feet and Noose that were super sick.
Help us get to know you a little better: outside of music, what other interests, hobbies or projects are taking up your time?
DS: We mostly work our jobs so we can do this band and other music related things. Sam does graphic design, Rory works in a school and I work at a bar.
Finally, what are you listening to these days?
DS: I can’t speak for Rory or Sam, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Spray Paint, The Coneheads, Wings, and Cocteau Twins.
Don’t miss tunic at Pressed on June 6 alongside The Dark Plains and Ultra Love, event here. For out-of-towners and roadtrippers, here are Tunic’s tour dates:
Tunic Tour Dates
May 31 – Reverie, Minneapolis MN
June 1 – The Burlington, Chicago IL
June 3 – Foam Doam, London ON
June 4 – This Ain’t Hollywood, Hamilton ON
June 6 – Pressed, Ottawa ON
June 7 – Smiling Buddha, Toronto ON
June 8 – Turbo Haus, Montreal QC
June 9 – Poisson Noir, Montreal QC
T. Thomason is zipping through Ottawa tonight, and we thought we’d kick off a new interview series called Quick Fix. Yes, it is exactly as it sounds. We shoot a few quick questions at an artist touring through Ottawa and get a sense of what they’re up to. No strings attached. Get your quick fix with T. Thomason below.
Be sure to catch T. Thomason at House of TARG tonight along with Cameron, Alanna Sterling, and Mosely. Doors are at 8 pm and cover is $10. More information here.
Quick Fix with T. Thomason
Lyrically, what does your music speak about? What drives the themes of your songs?
My music is greatly inspired by the personal relationships in my life. Issues of human connection and trying to understand/empathize with others drives a lot of my writing. More and more these days I’ve found bits of the state of the world and political issues creeping into my every day thoughts (as I’m sure a lot of people are finding) and that has rubbed off on my writing. I’m also inspired by the artists I listen to regularly: Lana Del Rey, the Killers, Bob Dylan, Cherry Glazerr, Drake.
All those folks have inspired my lyrically or sonically and I’m always looking for new bands to obsess over.
What is one (or a few) live performance that stick out in your mind? Do you have specific memories that made you want to hit the stage yourself?
I remember knowing I wanted to do music forever when I was about 13. My dad was running a theatre company and put on a fundraiser that was a Bob Dylan tribute. I remember going on for the encore with everyone who had played, seeing the audience standing and clapping, everyone singing along to “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere”. It was awe inspiring and I remember going home and writing in my live journal (lol – remember that?) that I knew what I wanted to do.
What’s next for you in your musical endeavours?
I currently working on 2 follow up EPs with Dave Henriques who produced sweet baby, to complete the trio. I have some big dreams for the live show to tour those projects which I’m really excited about. Thankful for my theatre kid upbringing and planning to bring some of that to the stage soon 😉