Ottawa’s upstart pop-punk band Castlefield recently released their second EP, Tunnel Vision, and it is everything a fan of the genre could ask for.
Tunnel Vision is full of catchy hooks, intricate guitar play layered with off-beat drumming and crisp vocals delivering emotional and self-reflective lyrics. It takes me back a decade to when pop-punk and emo styles had melded together to take over the mainstream, but don’t be fooled—Tunnel Vision isn’t just a throwback. The EP is a fresh blend of the past with some modern twists and turns a long the way.
Vocalist and guitarist Ryan Fitz describes the EP as “something that I wrote during a time of my life where a lot of things weren’t going right and I used my songwriting as way to cope with it. The way the songs turned out are definitely a product of the environment and time they were written in. As far as instrumentally, we just write the music we want to hear… we just write how we feel.”
Listeners will be hooked from the opening drumming and riffs on “Best Laid Plans” and will stay for the great up-tempo music and relatable lyrics to all those going through early adulthood, or looking back. The EP closes with a slower jam, “Escape,” which features the lyric “I’ve always been shit out of love”— a line that will surely be screamed at the top of fans lungs live and find itself on band merch soon (if not already).
The album was produced by Anton Delost (Bearings, Seaway, Cleopatrick) and mastered by John Naclerio (My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Matchbook Romance, Midtown, and Brand New).
“We went in with very different songs and he worked us hard to make them the way they are now,” said bassist Matt Spafford. “Anton is the man and I can’t imagine the EP being done by anyone else.”
Interestingly enough, the EP was released on Penultimate Records out of Australia. Spafford explains they got “an email from a random man in Australia, if I’m honest! Jamie from Penultimate sent us an email one day, having never heard Tunnel Vision, asking if we’d be interested in working with him to release our next EP.”
“He was a big fan from Australia and wanted to help out however he could. He loved the new EP and we knew he had to be a part of it. After some communication, we signed a contract and the rest is history! Jamie has been unbelievably helpful and it feels cool to share every milestone with someone 12 hours ahead of us, across the globe.”
Go sing along with Castlefield this Friday, November 30th, when they rock out the Tunnel Visionrelease show at The 27 Club in Ottawa. You can listen to Tunnel Vision below in preparation.
The mind of a creator can be complicated. The web of ideas and emotions that is spun making a record can take time to unravel, and this was the case with Steve St. Pierre‘s new album Stubborn Romance.
I’ve known Steve to be a wonderful artist, designer, musician, and person over the years. His work, no matter what form it takes, offers meaning through simplicity. He has the ability to boil down complex stories into a tangible message, a palatable serving for us to digest.
Stubborn Romance is a record that St. Pierre has been working on for seven years. A lot can happen in seven years. I’ve admired his candidness when discussing his struggles with mental health, as difficult as that can often be. The album delves into some of these struggles, but never without some of his dry humour and foul mouth poking through.
“…these songs. It needs to be said: they’re a bunch of assholes. They’re culled from over 400 voice memos I had lodged on my hard drive… That’s not meant to sound impressive. That’s mania.”
Stubborn Romance is gentle and devastating all at once. The album is an iceberg that requires a few listens to understand its true depth. There is no fancy production on this one. It’s rough, but honest. Ultimately, this album’s strength comes down to just that—truth. His unhindered exploration of his own struggles tell a story that many of us can relate with, navigating the tribulations that life inevitably hits us with.
Stubborn Romance was released back in September with an intimate performance at The Black Sheep Inn, and I chatted with St. Pierre about how it finally came to be. Have a read and stream Stubborn Romance below.
What was the impetus for Stubborn Romance? Can you take us through the back story a bit?
This record came out of both excitement and exhaustion. I was excited with how much I was writing, but I was exhausted with how much I was writing. I would record these half-baked ideas on my old iPhone and “My Recording 26” or whatever would get stashed away and I’d smoke another joint and write twelve more of those and forget about them in an hour.
I got frustrated with myself and called myself an asshole and decided to beat a record to death with a baseball bat. So I dug through the gross pile of demos and chose a bunch of guys that came and went and came and went and came and went until 13 decided to stick around and challenge me. And they did. But I came out on the other end with something I’m pretty proud of—particularly because I’ve never recorded a record on my own, but also because of the amount of honesty on there.
This album took you a long time to write. What made you take your time for this one?
I wish it felt like I took my time. There were too many periods of mania where I would sit and record 6-12 versions of each song. There was an entire record trashed because I was buried in the Barr Brothers for a minute and then realized I don’t have the talent or production skills to pull off the sounds I was hearing. Honestly, if I hadn’t booked my release show at the (Black) Sheep months ago, I’d still be working on this thing and I’d probably have my head permanently implanted in the desk in my studio.
I stopped when all the songs made sense. When I was finally able to understand the words that come out of my stream-of-consciousness/bullshit way of writing and form some lines that connected and made sense to me and what I was trying to get across. When the songs made sense, and with a few nudges and maybe even slightly terse words from my partner, I finally brought these 13 songs where they needed to be over a week and a half.
You’ve said that the songs are a product of over 400 voice memos and years of gathering your thoughts. How did you ultimately decide which songs made the cut onto Stubborn Romance?
The tracklist was the hardest part. There are so many fallen soldiers. So much so that there’s another release planned before the year is out. That’s besides the point. This album is a product of both too much time and procrastination—ultimately, the 13 are the ones that I felt best represented me and my place as a person and musician. I was able to find a whole lot of honesty in sorting out these tunes, and it feels good to stand behind each of them still, some as old as 10 years at this point, and still have context and understanding for where the root of the song came from. That sounds so convoluted. I’m so sorry.
Mental health is something you describe as a topic that circles the album like a vulture. It’s not an easy thing to talk about, let alone express through songs. How does mental health play into your songwriting process? And what do you hope others who are struggling take from Stubborn Romance?
I’ve always been a bit of a big mouth. I appreciate the art of talking shit. But after years of just glancing over my depression and issues with anxiety, I decided to finally kick the door down and try understand exactly why I feel like a bag of shit everyday. “Decided” might not be the right term. I think “it was imperative that I seek help” fits the bill a bit better. And with the help of some off-brand SNRIs, I’ve started to wade through the weeds and make sense of this sickness that has affected me in some way shape or form since I was six.
I can’t not bring that into my writing. It’s me. These songs wouldn’t be so fucking sad if I didn’t struggle with this horseshit ailment everyday, but I do, and so those lemons are gonna get squeezed. And I hope people understand that. And I hope those that suffer a) won’t get too bummed out by the record but b) that they can find a bit of themselves in there.
Now that Stubborn Romance is out into the world, what’s the next chapter in your story?
I mentioned an EP. That’ll be happening before the year is out. I don’t want to call them castaways from the record, they just didn’t fit the narrative. I think there might be some gems in there. But I’m excited to take my own pace with this. A mix of tortoise and hare. Music finally feels like its getting fun again, and I kinda want to bathe in that for a second.
Anything else you want to mention?
Supporting local isn’t a new idea, but I really want to encourage people to take in at least one live show a month. Date night with your partner. Solo night to have a beer and enjoy some good music. There is no shortage of talented, interesting artists in this city that, like you, just want to be a part of something a bit bigger than themselves. One night a month. Go.
My Friend PJ, the project of long time Ottawa music scene member PJ Catsiyannis, recently released a new EP titled Don’t Give My Love Away.
Yes, PJ Catsiyannis is back making music with his new solo project My Friend PJ, which features Michael Laing and David Gervais. Many people may recognize PJ from his most recent bands Stay Classy, The Gallop, and Brights. Others who have been kicking around the scene for a while may also remember him from his earlier punk rock bands Thin Ice and Rivals from many moons ago.
Don’t Give My LoveAway is a four song EP chalked full of emotional lyrics, as the title would suggest, and very catchy indie melodies, riffs and hooks, as we have come to expect from PJ’s projects.
While the title track is undoubtedly positioned to be the lead single with its great sing a long potential and a topic we can all relate to, the other three tracks are very strong in their own right. From the excellent harmonies and brake down in lead track “Liars,” to the beautiful self-doubt and guitar work in “Throw Me Away.” However the highlight of the EP for me is track three “Selfish Needs.” I love the return to some more punk rock sounds with the palms mutes, angrier tone in the vocals and on point drumming.
Don’t Give My Love Away is just the beginning as My Friend PJ intends to release more new music in 2019. If this is the appetizer, I can’t wait for the main course.
Have a listen Don’t Give My LoveAway below and go see them live at The 27 Club this Friday November 9, as My Friend PJ opens for Edmonton’s Scenic Route to Alaska, info here. Advance tickets can be purchased online on the Spectrasonic website, or at Vertigo Records and both Compact Music locations.
Ottawa’s lo-fi garage rockers Expanda Fuzz just released a new video just in time for Halloween, for their aptly named song “Ghosts and Flowers” off of their brand new LP Cotton Candy Jet Engine.
I mean I think we can all agree that nothing says Halloween like ghosts, flowers, blurred vision, and acetaminophen… or maybe they are waking up from a night of a little too much boos. Sorry I couldn’t help it.
The video is shot in a way that truly matches the band’s lo-fi vibes. From the shots of the sunflowers in the garden to the mannequin in the medic tent surrounded by old school medical supplies, this video really captures the fuzzy ambiance and slow driving flow of the song.
For anyone who has ever seen the band perform or seen their previous videos, note that this is one of the first time you ever get a chance to see Niki Nine Doors without her infamous 60’s mod chic white sunglasses.
Check out the video below and go listen to the rest of the most excellent Cotton Candy JetEngine and grab yourself of copy of limited edition cotton candy pink vinyl.
Area Resident, which is the brainchild of CBC journalist and beloved traffic guy Doug Hempstead, is set to release his third album in so many years this Friday, October 26th through Record Centre Records. Echolette is a collection of songs that are rooted in Hempstead’s real-life experiences, or (often ridiculous) stories that are based in the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais.
Death is a concept that is explored throughout Echolette, as Hempstead’s father sadly passed away during the recording of the album. While it’s not overtly about death, per se, there are references to mortality peppered throughout. For example, “Let The Holy Guest Wait” is about his father’s deathbed and the minister who got his name wrong three times at his funeral.
Somewhere “By the Water” is about Hempstead’s childhood cat Marmalade who kept going down by the waterfront in his dying days, seemingly hoping to have a waterfront view as he passed away.
“Marmalade died in the garage next to the Corolla at the age of 21,” Hempstead admits.
“Somewhere By the Water” has a deep southern blues feel, and contains bellowing harmonica and backup vocals by Catriona Sturton. To me, this track is a great microcosm of what this album is at its essence. It’s not trying to be anything else, and is distinctly part of the Area Resident cannon. Much like how The Tragically Hip has a repertoire of songs blues-influenced tracks like “New Orleans is Sinking”, “Blow at High Dough,” and “Boots or Hearts,” they were always distinctly their songs and their sound. Similarly, Hempstead has carved out his own approach to storytelling and defined his identity as a musician over three albums. Each builds on the other without contrivance.
The crunchy, reverb-laden guitar work throughout the album is kept tame only by the steady and controlled percussion. One of the tracks that caught my attention the most is “The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” There are subtle electronic elements to the song and Hempstead’s vocals are dipped in reverb, creating a soundscape immersing the listener in the story. Heavy over-driven guitar flourishes are scattered throughout, and the song stands out as something outside the box for us to take in. The song itself is named after a Star Trek episode, and is about a trip down the Creighton Mine in Sudbury to see the Neutrino Observatory.
While Hempstead plays with a live band composed of guitarists John Higney and Paul Jensen, along with bassist Kristy Nease, he composes most of the arrangements and plays the instruments himself on Echolette.
“The album is performed by myself, with overdubs by Jordon Zadorozny. Two tracks with Catriona Sturton and some French horn added by CBC workmate pal Trevor Pritchard, who used to do traffic before I did.”
Needless to say, Echolette is yet another album by Area Resident that stands at the top of this year’s local releases so far. Fans of true and gritty rock like Matt Mays and The Hip will fall into it with ease.
Be sure to catch Area Resident’s Echolette album release on Friday, October 26th at Irene’s Pub along with Still Winter Hills. Basic door price is $10, while $20 gets you in with a promo CD, and $30 gets you in with a deluxe vinyl LP. Watch the new video for “The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” below.
Ottawa heavy-metal “supergroup” Black Galaxy recently released an explosive new video for their track “Death Monster” with footage that will blow you away.
Black Galaxy is comprised of members from HELLbros! (Josh Roy on drums) Suns of Stone (Jordan Putinski—who was guitarist in Suns—but does vocals in Black Galaxy) and The Wicked Mercy (Dave Nado on guitar and Mark Sudiacal on bass). They layered heavy riffs and booming vocals over five different 1950’s cold war era nuclear war propaganda films & various news reels in the video for “Death Monster.”
The opening monologue of a military commander telling a large group of soldiers that “young men such as you… are doing most of the killing, American boys… you are killing your own people and your yourselves…” sets quite the tone. The rest of the video produced by local legend Jason Vaughan, and features amazing black and white footage of people running for cover in fear and a multitude of explosions.
One of the coolest portions of the video is just after the three minute mark when residents of Ottawa will recognize the scenery. Vaughan found Ottawa-specific scenes which show vehicles crossing the Alexandra Bridge and as well as an explosion rolling through the Rideau Canal Locks near the Chateau Laurier. The footage was pulled from the 1958 film called The Lost Missile.
Check out the video for some rocking riffs and a blast from the past:
Doug Hempstead’s project Area Resident is back with another full-length release called Echolette, slated for release through Record Centre Records in late October of this year. Echolette is the third LP for Area Resident in three years, preceded by a self-titled release and Delano.
Hempstead is a CBC Radio journalist and traffic reporter, his compositions primarily draw from his local upbringing and work as a journalist in the Ottawa region. For years he has made a habit of writing and recording songs and arrangements at his home. However, the live performances of Area Resident feature Hempstead on drums/vocals, John Higney (The Flaps) on guitars/keys, Paul Jensen on guitar, and Kristy Nease on bass.
Their live performances include regular shows in the Ottawa region, as well as appearances at Megaphono, Barnstorm, Marvest (CityFolk), among others.
Although we still need to wait a month for the full LP’s release, we’re excited to premiere the opening track and debut single from Echolette on Ottawa Showbox.
“The album is called Echolette, named after a vintage German tape echo unit on a shelf in John Higney’s basement rehearsal space,” explains Hempstead. “I spotted it and decided the album would be called that, before I’d even recorded a single bit of it.”
The album’s first track “It’s the Way I Am” —which can be streamed below—is an upbeat, crunch-lathered track that bursts to life right away. Hempstead’s calming and contemplative vocals balance out the track and compliment the soaring guitars, punching bass, and crashing percussion. If the rest of the album contains the prowess of this opening track, we’re in for a treat come its October release.
On a related note, Area Resident and The Bushpilots played a show at The Rainbow on Saturday night where all funds raised went to Red Cross relief efforts, aiding those affected by the recent tornadothat ripped through the region.
Listen to the debut single “It’s the Way I Am” off Echolette below.
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.
The group consists of multi-instrumentalist Zachary Perron and songwriter/vocalist/synth player Amanda Lowe, who have come together once again to bring us a larger-than-life album that transcends sonic boundaries. On first listen, Collapse seems to inherit much from its predecessor in the Novusolis catalogue—the exceptional debut entitled Fevered Dreams.
However, when listening closer, there are some specific features about Collapse that set it apart—not only from the group’s past work, but also anything else that the nation’s capital has to offer.
Collapse is the product of some very clear growth by the band. It is an expansion of their sound, and a refinement of their approach and arrangements. Novusolis create an ethereal soundscape from which the listener can bask in, layering reverb-heavy backing synth parts with staccato guitar and restrained percussive elements. This is particularly evident in tracks such as “Closer” and “Collapse.”
Lowe’s vocals are the element that, for me, tie the whole thing together. While her voice offers a delicate cushion for the listener to fall back on, it is also a powerful and emotionally impactful aspect of the album. Lowe’s songwriting emanates her experience and growth as a musician, as she harnesses her own strengths and combines them more effectively than ever with Zachary’s instrumentation. The arrangements are complex, and truly create a dream-like atmosphere throughout. While I’m not particularly familiar with the genre of post-rock, their music certainly reflects the grandiosity of artists such as Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky. I’m sure that anyone who has an appreciation of those bands will fall into Novusolis with great ease.
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears out for live show announcements from Novusolis, as their live performance is something you don’t want to miss. Have a listen to their album Collapse below.
Hip hop is like any other genre in the music industry. There are some real artists that work hard and pay their dues to bring listeners and fans material that is impactful in one way or another. But there are a lot of people out there that find shortcuts, step on others in their community, and rip off material to get ahead, too. That’s the music industry, in any genre—it can be a dark, dark place.
Buck n’ Nice is a group that consists of two entities. On one side there is producer, beatmaker, Cypher radio host, and DJ—DJ So Nice, who has been cutting his teeth in the art of hip hop beats since he was 13 years old. He’s a huge grassroots community supporter who throws some of the best parties in town, not least of which is the monthly Hip Hop Karaoke at Elmdale Tavern. On the other side, there is Sawbuck—a proven MC who came from difficult circumstances and worked his way to where he is now. His honesty and untethered lyricism fist in seamlessly with his masterful delivery, digging deep into his hip hop influences such as Mobb Deep, EPMD, Wu Tang, and Gang Starr.
That’s the subject of Ottawa hip hop duo Buck n’ Nice’s new album EMAG. Good hip hop is clever with words (obviously), and it took me a second to realize what “EMAG” actually meant.
“After getting our feet wet with our debut album, we learned from the inside out how backwards the industry is,” they say. “It’s a machine filled with appropriation, shortcuts to success and all-around deception. This is the theme of EMAG, an album titled so because the GAME is backwards.”
With the duo’s sophomore release, they aren’t mincing words or beating around the bush. Having gained momentum in Canada’s hip hop landscape with multiple releases since 2014, Buck n’ Nice have taken from their real life experiences in the music industry and applied them to their new record. It doesn’t take long for them to sink their teeth into the subject, as they dive right into it on the second track, also called “EMAG.”
It’s important to mention that although this concept may sound jaded or negative, I don’t get that sense when listening to the album all the way through. They’re not saying “fuck the music industry” per se—they’re pointing out the problematic parts of it, the deception and fakers, the toxic people and money that drives a lot of the music made in it. To me, what goes part-in-parcel with these criticisms are the things that do matter in music—things like community, real life experiences, people’s everyday struggles, and most of all, valuing more than just money when making art. One of my favourite rhymes from the album is from the track “Leader”, which goes “What’s the difference between me and you? I see the bigger picture, you crop the image just to see the view.”
On EMAG, the duo collaborate with talented artists such as Prufrock Shadowrunner, REKS, Freddy Printz, Whitney Delion, Cheko Salaam (a.k.a. Hyf), as well as Patience and Bender of Flight Distance (RIP Bender), among others. These guys are part of a hip hop community that is stronger and more cohesive as ever. On tracks like “Le Coeur” with Cheko Salaam, both he and Sawbuck bounce words off each other, with rhymes that weave seamlessly and that effectively builds the climactic pillars on the album. In “Ocean or Shallow End” with the guys from Flight Distance, So Nice slows things down and the sample includes strings. Their metaphor of “Ocean or Shallow End” comes across effectively, and hits the listener right in the face. The brilliance with tracks like this is that although the beat is more restrained, the rhymes and lyrics are highlighted to an even greater degree. The same can be said for “Three Sides” close to the end of the album—there’s no letting up here.
After giving EMAG a few listens, any hip hop fan should know that these guys are for real. There’s no filler. There’s no bullshit. Buck n’ Nice had something to say and they did that by packing all of their ideas into an album with a tonne of dynamite and then lighting the fuse. The result is an intelligent, groove-laden record that pays homage to hip hop of old, while keeping true to their own style and modern interpretations of rap. This album will stand the test of time, and will surely make waves across communities in Ottawa and the country as a whole.
Buck n’ Nice are officially releasing EMAG at a party called ANIMAL HOUSE this Saturday, July 28th at The 27 Club (27 York St.), where a triple album release will be taking place. Other releases at the party will be the Feel EP by Freddy Printz, and SpaXe Camels by Missing LinX. Needless to say, if there’s one party you don’t want to miss this weekend, this is it.
Stream EMAG below or click here for full list of streaming links. Check out their full album video on YouTube here.