When I first started Ottawa Showbox in May of 2012, one of the first hip hop groups in Ottawa I came across was Antiks. Consisting of emcees Jayem and Lex, Antiks released their first mixtape called Here’s The Thing back in February of 2012 and it thoroughly impressed my eardrums. Their style struck me as some blend of Beastie Boys and Atmosphere, and production quality on their first record was great. I remember thinking that I’d really like to hear more from these guys.
Well, they’ve finally delivered. Adding guitarist Ryan Farrell and drummer Derek Hillier to the group, their new album called The Thing Is experiments with some new things and contains some interesting anecdotes throughout, some of which I’ll mention in a minute. But first, believe me when I say that there isn’t a bad track on this album. Not only have these guys succeeded in overcoming the sophomore blues by going a very different direction with the new record, they also collaborated with a few talented local producers and MC’s to make things a little more interesting. Produced by Ottawa’s DJ Greg Reain, with special production appearances by Jeepz and Crack Moses, each track on the album has its own character and proves to be integral to creating an overall “feel” while listening. Ranging from melodic, reverb-heavy tracks such as “Contra”, soulful ones like “Therapy”, and definitive anthemic tracks like their collab “Walk on By” with outstanding local hip hop artist G. Grand, Antiks dug deep to diversify their sound and make and album that stood out. Their song “Step To It” sums it up nicely: “Step to it, get to it, what ya doin? A million MCs in the world, you gotta move it”.
My favourite track on the album is “Contra”, a beautifully constructed and well-written song that demands attention from the listener immediately. Other must-hear songs include “Walk on By” (ft. G. Grand), and “Willy No Man” (ft. Dynamite Motel), but as I said, this album is an ear party all the way through. I also really enjoy the interludes included on the record, two of which feature emcees Jayem and Lex rapping over the beatboxing of MC Dimz, respectively. To me, this is what real hip hop is all about. You don’t need layers of tracks and loads of production to do that, and I found it refreshing to Antiks try out some interesting things such as interludes. Their lyrical flow and the quality of their lyrical content was evident throughout the entire the album.
My interpretation is that the album (or parts of it), in a way, is their tribute to Adam Yauch (“MCA”) and the legend that is the Beastie Boys. You can hear certain similarities to classic Beastie Boys albums like Paul’s Boutique, from which they sample “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” in “JAYem & Dimz [interlude]”. Their use of raw beatboxing by MC Dimz, sampling/use of funk/soul tracks and bass lines, and scratching by DJ SoNice, to name a few things, all subtly pay tribute to the Beastie Boys and remind us of their influence on hip hop music. Big high five, guys.
Other little treats on the album include a comically inspiring clip of Sylvester Stallone reciting a clip from Rocky Balboa, anda randominterlude called “The Rap Music” which samples Charles Aznavour’s “Parce Que Tu Crois”, slowed down and popularized by Dr. Dre with his hit “What’s the Difference” off The Chronic 2001. The last track “Fooled Ones” samples the song “Everybody Plays the Fool” by The Main Ingredient, a song nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Best R&B Song in 1973. What a perfect ending to an album, don’t you think?
One thing is certain – these guys are just getting started. Hearing what’s on this album, one can only imagine how far Antiks go with the kind of talent and production they have at their fingertips. I got in touch with emcees Jayem and Lex of Antiks, as well as G. Grant, to discuss The Thing Is. Read the interviews below:
Q&A with ANTIKS
(L = Lex, J = Jayem)
1. Can you guys give your take on the hip hop scene in Ottawa? What’s it like here?
L: The hip hop scene in Ottawa is definitely looking good. There’s some great groups out here, and with events like Hip Hop Karaoke, you see tons of people showing up so it’s obvious there’s a high demand for rap in the city. I think a lot of clubs focus on EDM just because the money is there right now. I like that kind of music but it’d be nice to see a few more clubs do some dedicated hip hop nights.
J: Ottawa has a very healthy rap scene. I mean there’s going to be terrible acts in every city, hopefully we’re not included with those, but with dope groups like Flight Distance, Just Poets, Zoo Legacy, and artists like G. Grand, it’s hard to say we’re not holding our own.
2. In what respects is your new album “The Thing Is” different from your previous material?
J: I think the tone on “The Thing Is” is much different than anything we’ve done before. When Lex and I started making music a couple years back we had no idea what the hell we were doing or what we wanted to sound like. We learned a lot since then so when we started recording this album, we were way more confident, knew what sound we wanted and the balance we wanted to strike in terms of humour. But ultimately we wanted to make a good hip hop record, something that we’d listen to, as opposed to trying to guess what others might like.
L: I think with this record, it’s the first time we tried to say something beyond a bunch of silly shit our friends expect us to say. Don’t get me wrong there’s some horribly immature stuff peppered throughout it, and some fun tracks, but we definitely opened up much more on this one. I think we were also trying to step our game up lyrically, a lot of that just comes with experience, so hopefully we didn’t suck to bad on that front.
3. Can you talk about your collaborations on this album?
L: We’ve got some super talented artists on this album that we were lucky to be able to scam into performing with us. G. Grand was a rapper that we’ve all loved, so when he agreed to hop on our track ‘Walk on By’, which was produced by our boy Jeepz, we pretty much sounded like a bunch of Japanese school girls that caught a glimpse of One Direction. We actually met Dynamite Motel through some friends, became friends, and then made it our mission to do a track with her. We got love for funk and jazz music so we’re glad that got represented on this record.
J: Ottawa’s got some sick producers and we were looking to showcase that. We linked up with Jeepz, who produced some awesome stuff for Just Poets and G.Grand. We got onto Crack Moses through the last Flight Distance record, reached out and thankfully he was down with working together. Greg Reain, who’s on the team, also killed it with his production. Hopefully we didn’t butcher their tracks too much or else we’re back to recording on my T-Pain app. Also shouts to MC Dimz who beatboxed on two tracks, dude is a mad talent, and DJ So Nice who did some dope scratches on ‘Perfect Machines’.
4. Which tracks are you most excited for people to hear?
L: I’m really excited for people to hear ‘Man vs. Food’ and the track we did with Dynamite Motel called ‘Willy No Man’. I think those tracks show the range of sound we can bang out.
J: For me I’m looking forward to seeing how people respond to our collab tracks. G. Grand has an awesome verse on ‘Walk on By’ and the beatbox tracks we did with Dimz are killer.
Alex Clare performing at 2013 Bluesfest on the River Stage. Photo credit to Marc DesRosiers
The capital’s most anticipated music festival of the year has finally arrived, Bluesfest 2013 is off and running.
Starting my festival experience this year was Barrie, Ontario’sBahamas. As I headed to Lebreton Flats the sky was full of dark clouds and a thunderstorm warnings looming. But Bahamas was too good for the sun to stay hidden and it finally rid us of the clouds and partied with us. Not only did Bahamas brighten our day, he had wonderful advice on how to survive the festival, ”Stay hydrated and drink light beer. Just kidding go really hard tonight and get your money’s worth.”
The only other time I saw Bahamas he was a solo act. This time around he had a full band and two amazing female back up vocalists which added so much depth. He played my favourite song, ”Hockey Teeth,” and then topped it off with a rocking cover of OutKast’s ”Hey Ya!”
I have always heard great things about The Cat Empire, but I had never seen them before. I decided not to miss it this time and am I ever happy I did. Their Latin gypsy styling with a dash of ska is pretty awesome, and even more so when you realize they are Aussies, not South American. Cat Empire had this one song that had absolutely everything. There was awesome brass, a bongo solo, a DJ scratching, two different vocals and a whole lot of dance. I like how almost every song became a jam session. A wonderful moment of the set was when they got polka circles going through out the crowd. Their new song, ”Still young,” had such an amazing super ska sound to it that now I really can not wait until The Specials.
With so many people flocking to headliners The Black Keys and Adventure Club, I made my way to Alex Clare for a combination of both, rock and some drum and bass.
The start of the set was the best ten minute delay ever, because I still got to hear three Black Keys songs while waiting. But once the Brit got going, it was easy to forget the Keys and be absorbed by the beauty. His incredible voice reminds me of Tracy Chapman during the ”Fast Cars” era. Complementing that voice was the excellent effects applied to the bass adding the DnB dynamics. I just wish it would have been louder. His originals were good, ”Caroline,” blew me away because I am such a sap. What really impressed me were his two covers, Etta James’ ”Damn Your Eyes,” and Lead Belly’s ”Irene (Goodnight Irene).”
Day one is in the books and it was a day of firsts. First time I saw Alex Clare, first time I saw Cat Empire, first time I saw Bahamas with a full band, first day of Bluesfest and first day of my vacation. Let’s go Bluesfest 2013, nine more days of music, sun and good times.
FEVERS have made it known that they’ll be releasing their new album “No Room For Light” on August 27, 2013, with album release party details forthcoming. It’s been an exciting few years for the band as they’ve achieved a lot of notoriety around Ottawa and across Canada since their original Passion is Dead EP (and even getting a shout-out from music mogul Alan Cross, who likes them for their “dark and danceable electro sound”). I have to agree with Mr. Cross. The album was produced both here in Ottawa and in Toronto by Laurence Currie (Sloan, Wintersleep, Holy Fuck) and contains an 11-song track list which is sure to have some hits on it. Listen to their first single “Dance Cry Dance” off the album below.
Fevers have released a new single from their upcoming album No Room For Light called ‘Dance Cry Dance’. In classic Fevers form, we get a perfect mix of just about everything. The dancability factor here is high, as funky guitar licks, synth-based pop fills, and tight percussive flows make this song a really exciting taste of what we’re going to expect on the album. To me, personally, it sounds like vocalist Sarah Bradley is becoming much more confident with her voice. Seeing her absolutely destroy Ottawa Rock Lottery 5.0 this past weekend with her throw-together band Black Usher confirmed this for me. The band definitely seems to be coming into their own, and I’m guessing this album will take them to brand new heights. Take a good listen to the track here. Then listen to it again.
Eric Scharf & Matías Muñoz hanging with ORL organizer Samantha Everts and Luca Fiore (Photo: Ming Wu)
The fifth edition of the Ottawa Rock Lottery, which was held at Maverick’s, blew me away. You are probably wondering what is a rock lottery? Well you take 25 members from local bands, pull their names out of a hat to form 5 bands. Then give them 24 hours to come up with 20-30 minutes of original music. And for an added twist, you assign each band a special instrument that they must integrate into their set. If all of that does not sound fun enough, consider that all proceeds of the event go the the Ottawa Foodbank and there were free draws between sets with a lot of merch from sponsors and bands.
The event’s special guest host was CBC Radio 1’s Amanda Putz. Amanda hosts the show Bandwith, which focuses on Ontario music. In her opening remarks she declared that not only does Ottawa have one of the best music scenes in the province (eat your heart out Montreal and Toronto), but “one of the greatest scenes in the country.”
First up was But I Don’t Want to be a Pirate. The band was comprised of Arturo Portocarrero (Miss Polygamy), Cody Allen (Cody Allen), James Rooke (Modern Era Pirate), Mike Libbos (The Goodluck Assembly) and Rory Lewis (Kalle Mattson). They were tasked with the coolest random instrument of the night, a keytar. Man can Rory rely shred on his guitar and he even did a solo on the keytar. They set the bar very high. And Ottawa is very lucky, as Jame Rooke won a three song EP recording from Audio Valley Recording Studio and announced he will use it to record with But I Don’t Want to be a Pirate.
The second band of the evening was Sextadeth. The band said the name was in honor of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who they assume will be sexted to death now that he is back on Earth. Fitting that the band that ended up with two drummers, also got assigned the spoons, and had an epic percussion finale. Sextadeth was, David Wisjman (Fire & Neon), Max Savage (StillNative), Peter Zachar (Those Gulls), Reverend Doctor D (The Pelts) and Riishi Von Rex (Riishi Von Rex). They played a really fun set, but unfortunately David announced at the end that “due to creative differences we are breaking up.” the crowd got a good kick out of that.
Black Usher was up third. They were two Keys, two MCs and a Macbook. The keys were Patrick Steele (StillNative) and Sarah Bradley (Fevers), the MCs were Atherton (Atherton) and HYF the GypsySun (Missing LinX) and the man on the Macbook was Jordan David (The Love Machine). Their set was awesome! The dynamics of the five members singing or spitting rhymes throughout their performance was very good. And the energy…oh lord the energy. They finished with the incredible “Weird, Odd, Strange” that could very well have been the song of the night. And it was fun to watch both MCs play on pots and pans with wooden spoons.
Fourth to the stage was Slow Dance Chubbies. As per their name, they slowed it down a little bit. Their set was full of guitar solos, incredible trumpet play and funny lyrics. The crowd got into their set singing along with the band. Slow Dance Chubbies was Connor (sorry no last name provided), Erik Hertzberg (Cold Capital), Gregg Clark (Pony Girl), Jake Ting (Zoo Legacy) and Shawn Desjardins. What happens when one band gets two drummers, another band gets none. But that did not stop Slow Dance Chubbies. Jake Ting, who had never played drums live before, took on the task and did a great job.
Closing the show was Nicolas Cage in Con Air. The band was made up of Craig Barlow (Loon Choir), Dave Nado (The Wicked Mercy), Jon Schofield (The Yips) Just Jamaal (Missing LinX) and Kalle Mattson (Kalle Mattson). All of their songs were named after Nic Cage movies, they opened with Ghost Rider Two, followed with Ghost Rider One, which led to Raising Arizona and concluded with Face Off. Nic Cage was an amazing combination of rap and slam poetry over rock. Their special instrument was the whistle, which they integrated into more than one song, the only band to do so. While the band tuned, Just Jamaal used his instrument, his vox, to keep the crowd entertained with some freestyling.
I think Amanda Putz said it best when speaking of the evening. “The talent tonight blew me away.” I overheard many people in the crowd saying “I figured this would be a train wreck, but this is awesome.” And I must agree, it was a great night. If you did not go this year, or are an artist and did not participate, I strongly encourage you to do so next year.
Every song from the show should be available by May 25, thanks to Audio Valley Recording Studio. Keep checking back at Ottawa Rock Lottery website for it.
Soul king Mike Mackey’s project Kings of Lowertown released the first single off their new album 60 More Miles due out October 2013. The track, called “Shotgun Preacher” is a short but sweet preview of what to expect form the upcoming album, and boasts dirty sounding blues riffs along with distorted vocals. It seems that this song could have very well come right out of the heart of Nashville, but Pembroke native Mackey delivers a genuine style that intersects somewhere between Alabama 3, Tom Waits, and The Doors. Too bad The Sopranos is all over, because the song would have fit right in there. 60 More Miles will be the follow up to Kings of Lowertown’s first self-titled full length, which was featured onThe Big Beat blogBest in Ottawa music 2012: 20 songs by 20 bands (Ottawa Citizen). Listen to the new track below.
Fire and Neon have released their new track “Good Intentions” in advance of their new album to be released May 3rd. The track is a great mix of synth-driven layers with well-placed guitar riffs and explosive percussion throughout. The song is a departure from previous material in the sense that it seems more matured – the band has come into its own a little bit more, and really developed their sound since their first Like Dance EP released in 2011. Another big announcement for the band was their Album Release partyannouncement, where they will be playing at Ritual on May 3rd with Ottawa heroes The Love Machine and Zoo Legacy.
Fire and Neon Album Release Party w/ The Love Machine + Zoo Legacy
Ottawa synth-pop supergroup Silkken Laumann has released their third single from their upcoming album Not Forever Enough, due out this summer. The band, which consists of Acorn frontman Rolf Klausener, local music genius Adam Saikaley, and resident beatmaster Pat Johnson, has been slowly putting out new material and playing shows here in the underground dancenight and DJ scene over the last year. The new track is a great listen, as it pulls from some of Klausener’s creative forces inspired by elecro and dance music. He and his multitalented best friends in Silkken Laumann are building anticipation to their album release, as the three tracks released thus far experiment with different sounds and techniques. Check out the video for the track, which was mixed by Jarrett Bartlett.
Yes, more new music. Last month Ottawa’sRoberta Bondarreleased a teaser video for the first new single from their upcoming full-length release from Bruised Tongue. The song itself is filled with moments of hectic intensity from the band and bellows from frontwoman Lidija Rozitis that provide the perfect preview of what to expect from the new material soundwise. The video was shot on location at the Kichissippi Brewery, and it uses some pretty interesting techniques by Hard Science that I fully do not understand… hence why I’m not in video production. But it really works especially given the nature of RB’s music, which involves a lot of experimentation with sounds, effects and instrumentation. RB will be releasing the album digitally and on cassette March 22, and have planned a shindig to celebrate the release on that night at Cafe Alt on campus at Ottawa U. Cheap beer, good music. Sounds good to me.
Here’s the video and some details about it!
From Roberta Bondar’s upcoming release on
Bruised Tongue (bruisedtongue.com)
!!! AVAILABLE ON CASSETTE TAPE & DIGITALLY: MARCH 22, 2013 !!!
Filmed in one take on January 5, 2013. Performed live and featuring live CRT video feed manipulation.
Directed by Travis Boisvenue.
Concept by Arturo Brisindi (Hard Science) and Travis Boisvenue.
Live video manipulation performed by Hard Science.
A new track has surfaced from Michael Feuerstack, the sentimental gentleman formerly known on the stage as Snailhouse. His first album sans-moniker is due out in May 2013, called Tambourine Death Bed (Forward Music). Feuerstack is one of Ottawa’s indie legends – now based in Montreal – he has many ties here including early work with Jeremy Gara of The Arcade Fire (also from Ottawa) and his Wooden Stars project that ended up winning a Juno for Best Alternative Album (with Julie Doiron) in 1999.
The new song “Bones in the River” is in the same open and honest vein of music Feuerstack is known for. The beautiful finger-picking of the guitar, the natural and unfettered character of his voice, they make for a great preview of what we might expect from Tambourine Death Bed. The song also appears on Beau’s new Spring 2013 Mixtape, which is chock-full of Canada’s greatest musicians.