Interview: Lesley Marshall of Ottawa’s new band GINNY
There is a new band in town, partners, and they are full of alt-country, twang, and heartache.
GINNY is the latest band formed in the nation’s capital with members of a bunch of other great bands. Fronted by vocalist Lesley Marshall (Bonnie Doon), guitarist Catriona Sturton (ex-Plumbtree), and bassist Kristy Nease (Area Resident), GINNY’s haunting country styling arrives just in time as we flirt with the return of spring but keep being reminded of the harshness of winter.
GINNY’s first single, “Choose the Wrong Man,” is a slow-building little alt-country number about having bad luck in love. Have a listen below as Marshall’s ghostly vocals of country singers past shines over the band’s blues-tinged and rock-influenced country sound.
The band is poised to release their debut EP on Friday March 16th at The Concorde Motel in Ottawa, supported by The Railway Hotel and Ommie Jane (details here). We interviewed Marshall ahead of the show to get a better sense of how the band came to be and what to expect of this little known venue.
Ginny is quite a shift from your other project, Bonnie Doon. What attracted you to making country music?
I drifted towards country music in the last five years. I’ve always been a big fan of folk rock and folk music but I got really into classic country when I heard Loretta Lynn, Townes Van Zandt, and Patsy Cline. They were all singing from the heart in a way that really resonated with me.
We used a Patsy Cline song “Crazy” as a temp track in one of my first films and I began to sing it a karaoke, then I started to singing Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” and started to really see myself in that music. I had been writing a lot of sadder and melodramatic songs since high school on a tiny air organ and they didn’t fit into the party vibe of Bonnie Doon. I fell in love with some of the romanticism of country music and wanted to learn more.
Learning the history of racism and blues and the industry’s separation of the genres that exists today—interesting stuff, but yeah, it was the emotion that was coming out of my voice that led the way. I couldn’t describe it and, well, it was friends that said it was country. I was with DJ Lamb Rabbit one day too showing her my tracks and she showed me Mary Margaret O’Hara “Miss America” and was like— “did you know that this is what you’re doing?”
The band is somewhat of a local super-group, made up of Catriona Sturton and Kristy Nease (Area Resident). How did it come to be?
Oh my gosh. Yeah, well I am a lucky duck here. I had been spending time with Catriona and Kristy as they are buds and Kristy at the time was doing a lot of Gamelan Orchestra and Catriona was starting to tour on her own. I had told Catriona about some of my songs and she mentioned she wanted to tour in the southern states the following winter and visit her friends at Dollywood with another drummer friend from a Philadelphia band The Pretty Greens and asked if some of my songs would fit as an opening act. I am a person of the variety who says yes even if I am unsure—so I said yes! Being on tour is kind of my dream state, even though it is very hard.
All this to say, I had wanted to explore working on these songs and so I brought them to Kristy to help nail down the musical framework. Kristy is a a genius with the bass and percussion so she took the demos I made and we jammed them out to the songs they are today with Catriona coming on with those heavy blues guitar riffs. The first incarnation of the band was a drum machine, an air organ, Kristy on the bass and me singing through a 16mm projector. We later added a drummer to get that classic country feel. I had always intended the project to be a newer eerie kind of country, so this show at the Concorde will feature DJ Jas Nasty on the theremin.
A glimpse at the mysterious, seldom-used venue called The Concorde Motel. Photo taken from Facebook.
And how is it working with them on this project?
Working with Catriona and Kristy is a dream come true. Kristy has supreme work ethic and execution and Catriona is a wizard. She just kind of comes in and brings her ideas and flare with the her classic guitar sound. They both have such great taste and understanding of music it’s like breathing in and out. I feel like coming in with my voice, I have to bring a lot and do!
The release show is taking place at The Concorde Motel, quite an unusual and unknown venue to most. Can you tell us a little about it and why you chose it?
The Concorde Motel is just down the street from my partner’s house in Vanier so we started going for drinks there. The first time I walked in I was blown away by the absolute size and decor of the bar. It truly is a relic. Back in the 1970s and 80s it was one of the ‘go-to’ spots for country music as there were 6 active country clubs with live bands playing 7 days a week. Times sure have changed and they stayed open as a bar but stopped operating as a venue. Since the bid to change the whole block including the Motel into the controversial super shelter came around last year, we thought it would be a rare chance to have a show like this there.
What should people expect from the live performance on March 16?
March 16th is gonna be a full night of hanging out in the Concorde, people can play pool, and listen to the jukebox between bands and expect a whole night of great music from Ottawa Alt-Coutry Folk and Blues with Ommie Jane and The Railway Hotel opening up the night. GINNY has a full set and will be playing songs from our self-titled debut EP, but also songs on the air organ that couldn’t fit on the EP and guest performer and singer Matt Miwa will be adding his lounge singer-songwriter air.
New Music: One fifty five by Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas
New kids on the block Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas have released their debut album One fifty five.
Some of you may recognize Chris Landry from his other project the much heavier The Glorious Moonrockets or as that super friendly long-haired guy in a leather jacket at seemingly every punk and metal show in the region. But with One fifty five, Landry and his Seasick Mommas showoff that he is no one trick pony as they explore a range of country and folk sounds.
The first full track, “Writing to explain,” opens with slow guitar picking and the crisp sound of cracking open a beer. This sets the stage for a sad and lonely album tinged with country and folk songwriting of old. This is not your modern day upbeat pop-country or folk that currently floods (or should I say, clogs) radio airwaves and arena shows. This is music made from a darker and lonely place with pure honest emotion and sentiment oozing out of every verse. The steel string guitar really adds beauty to this melancholy, especially paired with Landry’s hurting yet comforting voice.
“Yukon nights” is a temporary shift away from sadness and towards the old folk tradition of telling a tale in song. The duets with Kerri Carisse (of The Yips) during the chorus really elevates the track, adding that extra dimension to the tale. Almost sounds two parents giving advice to their children of a younger generation.
If you are looking for something a little more, dare I say “pop-like,” you need to sink your teeth into the song “2 bedroom apartment” which reminds me of Wilco’s lighter side. Upbeat music with sad lyrics, nice harmonies, and great guitar work. This is especially true near the end of the song when Landry sings “I want to hear you coming in at night / I want to yell at you to turn off the lights / And I even miss those fights and I can tell you now that you were right / In that 2 bedroom apartment / You’re gone and it’s getting late / I sit and I stare and I’m starting to fade.”
After getting this close to Landry through his songs, it is only fitting that the album like a relationship ends with a break-up song. I don’t know you Laura, and I am in no way picking sides. But your leaving certainly left quite the hole in Mr. Landry’s heart.
Have a listen to One fifty five below and go hear it live this Friday, May 12th at Irene’s Pub. More information here.
RBC Bluesfest Day 4: Iggy Azalea, Alvvays, Nas & Shakey Graves
RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Mark Horton
A sweltering Saturday
afternoon, with crowds that were much more manageable than on Friday
, made for a great day 4 of RBC Bluesfest
. Save for a bewildering set from Allie X
, everything I caught on the day was pretty captivating.
Shakey Graves performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Scott Penner
beamed with charisma and perfectly captured an Austin, Texas, vibe during his set in the early evening at the Canadian Stage. Indie-folk rock in the vein of Tallest Man on Earth with some blues sprinkled in, he even controlled some of the driving percussion with his own feet and a suitcase drum. He engaged the crowd and spoke of songwriting as a teenager, when everyone feels like they already know it all. For those in the audience who didn’t already know Shakey Graves, he surely left a lasting impression.
Nas performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11, 2015.
~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Scott Penner
Hip hop legend Nas
showed that he still has it when he rocked the Claridge Homes Stage performing hits from his career that spans more than a decade. Shouting out cassette tapes and former peers like A Tribe Called Quest and Boogie Down Productions, it was refreshing to see someone still commanding the stage so many years later. Opening with the energy of “The Don”, his set lost absolutely no momentum moving forward. Gems like “Halftime” and “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” had intro medleys that made them sound fresh and new. Though a veteran, Nas shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Alvvays performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Mark Horton
have gone from playing venues like Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox to the largest music festival in the world, Glastonbury
, in only the span of a year. This meteoric rise is likely based on the strength of their eponymous debut, and their infectious single “Archie Marry Me”. Their dreamy brand of indie pop, and the floating voice of lead singer Molly Rankin perfectly gelled with the fading day in Ottawa. “Adult Diversion” and “Ones Who Love You” join aforementioned “Archie” as highlights of the set.
Iggy Azalea performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11th, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images
The interesting thing about having Iggy Azalea
headline the day after Kanye West is that they’re both pretty polarizing figures. While Kanye West alienates some with his persona, no one can question his music. Iggy Azalea on the other hand poses some interesting questions when it comes to her place in hip hop and popular music overall. Having a hip hop icon like Nas basically open for her only serves to further that scrutiny. Despite all this, if you view Iggy Azalea as a pop artist (like how one would view Vanilla Ice in the early ’90s), then there’s not much that you can fault her for. She is dynamic, attractive, and knows how to work a crowd. She was engaging with choreography and her hits like “Fancy” and “Work” had everyone bouncing. Though her set clocked in at less than an hour, she worked hard on that stage. If you can get past her almost-offensive Southern US affectations, then you might even say that she’s a star. Looking around at the smiles in the crowd of mostly young females, I’m sure they’d say as much.
MEGAPHONO: Hintonburg Hang w/ Jim Bryson, Her Harbour, Winchester Warm and Jack Pine & the Fire
Day two of MEGAPHONO took me to Hintonburg to venue hop between the Elmdale Oyster House and The Record Center to see Jim Bryson, Her Harbour, Winchetser Warm and Jack Pine and the Fire.
Jack Pine and the Fire kicking things off at Elmdale Oyster House during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
The afternoon began at the Elmdale Oyster House for some delicious seafood and Jack Pine and the Fire. I settled in at the bar, ordered some delicious curry mussels, and watched some great twangy country music with deep roots influences. The slide guitar and stand up bass accompanied Gareth Auden-Hole’s vocals and acoustic guitar just right. The songs covered a wide range of country topics and it felt so right considering we were sitting in what used to be a tavern. Songs like “Credit River” about drowning in debt, “Home” about going back home, and my favourite “Lost in New Orleans,” about consuming all of the things you probably shouldn’t, as well as being about love.
Winchester Warm were the soundtrack to my delicious meal at Elmdale Oyster House during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
As I worked my way through my final mussels (I am salivating just thinking about how tasty they were) another local group, Winchester Warm, took to the stage. The four-piece kept the great vibe going with their indie-folk. Winchester Warm played a bunch of solid tracks of their latest album, Belle Attente, including the title track, “The Great Fall” and “Like an Anchor.” With the big overhead light above him, lead singer and guitarist Jonathan Pearce said, “This light is very inquisitive… I didn’t do it.” What he did do was play a wonderful soft set and delighted a standing room only Elmdale Oyster House.
Just before making my way to The Record Center for Jim Bryson, I had to have some oysters, because when in Rome… My oysters arrived promptly, some from British Colombia and some from Massachusetts. With them came a plethora of options to top them; fresh horseradish, lemon, three hot sauces, three Tabascos, cocktail sauce, a house sauce with shalots, salt, pepper and garlic I believe, as well as a vinegar shaker with scotch in it. Do they ever do it right at the Elmdale.
Jim Bryson playing to a packed Record Center during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON.
With some oysters in me it was time to run across the street to The Record Center and catch Jim Bryson. It was my first time there since renovations and did they ever do a great job. There is now a wonderful space at the front of the store where they can set up a band on one side and a DJ on the other, a very cool addition to the city. Jim Bryson also likes the place, but had one little criticism: “It’s really nice to play here, I bought my receiver here, I love this place. My only complaint is the microphone smells like a dirty bum. I mean a nice smelling mic is just regular maintenance I don’t expect a record store to do that to their mics,” said Bryson. He concluded with “So it’s not me , it’s the microphone.” Bryson has been playing solo for 15 years now and doesn’t grace a stage in Ottawa often enough in my opinion, so it was such a pleasure to see him live. Topping off the simple joy of seeing him perform, was the fact that he played my favourite track, “Constellation,” off the album The Falcon Lake Incident, an album where he teamed up with The Weakerthans. Bryson concluded his set with “The Depression Dance” a song where he masterfully used pedals to loop his guitar over itself giving the impression that we were watching more than just one man and a guitar in a record shop.
Her Harbour playing the Elmdale Oyster House during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Racing back to the Elmdale I was able to catch the last three songs of local gem Her Harbour. If you still haven’t seen or listened to Her Harbour you are truly doing yourself an injustice. Gabrielle Giguere’s powerful haunting voice reminds me of the voice of a siren luring you into her music. The music is dark, eerie and very emotional as Giguere strums her auto-harp and her band members add in just the right complementary subtleties. I walked in just in time to hear a new song, “Details of the Seaside” followed by the always wonderful “Cold Half Moon.” My afternoon of music concluded with a lovely song, “Bridge of Sighs” that had hints of a dark and haunted western to it.
RBC Bluesfest Day 2: Sly & Robbie + Bonobo + Jeff Tweedy
Bon bien: Bluesfest!
A Friday table d’hôte menu that starts with three local acts at the same time is torture for those inclined to stay in to eat. It can be hard to avoid gorging on the radio’s snacks or travelling to the smorgasbords of neighbouring metropolises, but once in a while there are feasts to be had here too. RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest opened the kitchen at 1800 hours and set locals Silkken Laumann, Cold Capital & Angelique Francis to begin feeding us.
Ottawa’s own Silkken Laumann (from Detroit, MI) played both sides of the border at RBC Bluesfest on the River Stage on July 4, 2014. Photo: Mark Horton, RBC Bluesfest Press Images
Silkken Laumann could easily be from Detroit, MI as Rolf Klausener introduced his newest band, but I swear I’ve seen that bassist Gary Franks before in another eponymous band of a female Canadian… And Pat Johnson & Adam Saikaley? We have two guys in Ottawa named exactly the same! Silkken proved pop EDM is good at any time of day, even though they ended their set slightly early. There’s something uplifting about Saikaley beaming as he buttons and Franks making love to his bass guitar as Klausener offers info: “This song is about not fucking it up,” and, “this song is about going on a post-breakup fuck-spree.” Peppered swear words and social commentary on American quality of life are also for any time of day! And cheers to the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” cover.
Cold Capital opening the Black Sheep Stage at RBC Bluesfest on July 4, 2014. Photo: Joseph Mathieu
I caught the middle of Cold Capital‘s set, playing some bluesy rock with a country twang for the patrons of the Black Sheep Stage. The local five-piece band have been featured at the Canadian Music Week in 2013 and are plowing through the country rock waves with lyricist Erik Hertzberg at the helm, his brother Nick on keys, John Cote on drums, Matt Muir on guitar & Andrew Erlandson on bass. We checked out their debut EP late last year, which is available for free download on their bandcamp page.
Inside, Angelique Francis, a young up-and-coming talent from the west end, filled the Barney Danson Theatre. This 16-year-old has a stage presence for which many performers strive perhaps because she’s already had nine years to practice on stage! Her voice ranges from warm to delicate, and from quirky to refined and she writes with a look into the life of a teenager that a lot of adults should and do appreciate. The effects of peer pressure (“Come on, baby”) and the increasing issue of homeslessness are just two examples of her subject matter. She was backed up by Michel Medrano Brindis on drums, Miguel de Armas on keys & the ubiquitous Marc Decho on bass guitar. She played an hour for the full theatre and for those of us lucky enough to have a closed circuit TV outside on a busy weekend for this local gem. Good luck tonight in T.O. Angelique!
Before I could make it back to the River Stage, I thought to exit the front of the Canadian War Museum but was blasted with solo act Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish fame singing about driving on the highway, not wanting to be a DJ and finding that perfect spot on the “Radio.” This, his third single from his third country album, was enough for me. I’ve read it rumoured on the wikis that he wrote an R&B album before going rural but I wasn’t going to wait around to find out if he played any.
Bonobo, AKA Simon Green, played with vocalist Szjerdene & a four-piece band on the River Stage at RBC Bluesfest on July 4, 2014 Photo: Joseph Mathieu
Possibly the most anticipated act for me that evening was a fine Brit by the name of Simon Green, better known to the world as DJ & producer Bonobo. Is there anything better than watching something you know to be good turn out to be great? The man on the bass & buttons was flanked by five other artists who added dimension to his downbeat electronica but who also let him play solo so we could meet the hard-working multi-instrumentalist he truly is. See “Cirrus” from The North Borders & “All In Forms” from Black Sands for some solid chill out tracks.
Szjerdene, the finespun voice on his newest album The North Borders, held sway over the audience from her first appearance. The sun setting on the River Stage, the weather so beautiful as to be completely unnoticeable, and her dress the likeness of a nebula only made us love the set even more. Her spectral voice sang her own songs from Bonobo’s fifth studio album and my favourites by Andreya Triana from Black Sands (“Stay the Same“).
Loose rock rubadub reggae from music legends Sly & Robbie and The Taxi Gang at RBC Bluesfest on the River Stage on July 4, 2014. Photo: Joseph Mathieu
The stage was set for Sly & Robbie and The Taxi Gang, the hardest working dream team of legendary rhythm producers from Jamdown. Holy crap, you guys. Find a list of their collaborations and you’ll come across their well-rounded estimate of 200,000 songs played or produced. If we use the well-rounded estimate of 40 years of their work together (since they joined forces mid-70s), we can suppose that they would have had to work on 13 and a half songs a day for the last 14,610 days… This is only possible because percussionist Lowell “Sly” Dunbar & bass boss Robert “Robbie” Shakespeare are a maelstrom of creativity, and because they are sought after by thousands of artists who know their sound to be the sickest. Their hypeman Nambo Robinson fulfilled his duty without putting his trombone down all night. When he wasn’t pumping us up with his horn he had it in the crook of his arm, introducing the Taxi Gang and special guest Bitty McLean. Their road manager Peter G made his way to the stage as a prime vocalist with a penchant for serenading the prettiest lady he could find in the crowd. “I don’t like how far I am from the people right now,” he cooed, probably to the relief of that prettiest lady’s boyfriend.
After a history lesson in the evolution of roots, reggae & rock you’d think the night would be over… but over at the Black Sheep Stage Jeff Tweedy started playing his own “blues.” The charmer from Illinois quipped: “Blues isn’t about making yourself feel better, it’s about making the other guy feel worse. And that’s how I can call my music blues.” His position as an alt rock household name is secure and so is his dynasty now that he’s begun jamming & producing tunes with his son Spencer. The scion Tweedy drove the drums behind his father last night, as they are practicing their songs from their collaborative album Sukierae, which will be out in September. Once the crushing electronica bass from the Bell Stage started to make its way over the Museum, the sire Tweedy pulled out the big guns: Wilco & Uncle Typelo tracks. The rolling hills of the crowd were alive with many sighs and cheers that night…
Zedd crushing it on the Bell Stage at RBC Bluesfest on July 4, 2014. Photo: RBC Bluesfest Press Images
What I missed on the Bell Stage were two superstar deities cut from very different cloth: Journey, the demigods of arena rock from an era past, and Zedd, the daemon prince of EDM sent from the future. Crowd-pleasers to be sure, but since I’m not pleased by crowds I settled for hearing & seeing their shows from afar. Frankly, I didn’t really have the option to avoid them completely because the one thing they do have in common? Ils font du bruit en tabarnac!