It’s been a little over a year since Toronto’s Weaves released their debut LP on Buzz Records, rapidly becoming a household name in the Canadian independent music landscape. They have been quick to garner international praise for their brand of unconventional guitar pop with not-so-subtle hints of improvisation. The self-titled effort was largely, considered a great success by music publications far and wide. Their album also scored them a short list nomination for the Polaris Music Prize this year, which they performed at a few weeks back after a year of relentless touring. Let’s just say that this is one band you can’t miss seeing live.
Weaves isn’t kicking back just yet. They have just released their second LP called Wide Open, and are out to prove that there is no obstacle too big for them to scale. Their answer to the challenge of following up a hugely successful debut is to keep creating, and continue to push boundaries wherever possible.Wide Open bounces from calm to chaotic, and pulls listeners in every direction. Early listens from publications like Stereogum indicate that Wide Open will surpass expectations, and even critically out-do their debut. I chatted with founding member of Weaves, Morgan Waters, about their success, their approach to following up their first album, and new steps they’ve taken as a band.
Weaves seems to tread a line between people’s comfort zones. Is keeping listeners on their toes something that comes naturally to the band?
I think with any art you don’t want to be boring. And with us it’s always a mix, we don’t really plan anything out. It’s about showing all the influences crashing up against each other. We want to surprise the listeners, and surprise ourselves. The mix of the artistic and the pop gets thrown into the blender where there’s no genres or anything like that. It’s all fodder for something new.
In what ways did the road and your experiences after the debut release influence songwriting on the new LP Wide Open?
Jasmyn starts everything and it all seems to come from her initial spark. She doesn’t really write anything down, she kind of ruminates about things for a while without telling any of us. It seems to come out of her when she goes to the rehearsal space by herself, recording, looping, figuring things out, and from there it all comes out pretty fast. When she’s in that mode, it’s a quick and fertile ‘brain’ thing going on with her. Then we hear the demos she comes up with and we work on it from there, but within 20 minutes of writing a song the lyrics are all usually there and never change.
You and Jasmyn have an obvious chemistry together in the band. In what ways do you compliment each other as artists?
I think Jasmyn is more impulsive and emotional, and I’m more of an editor. I help present her initial ideas in a way that elevates them. That mix of impulsiveness and my revising or editorial skills kind of complete each other. She loses interest quickly and I never stop obsessing, so we temper each other in that way.
A lot of the time I’m sort of translating her ideas, where I’ll sit there and say what I think will work for whichever project we’re focusing on. I’m very happy to work that way and cycling through the ideas, I have an endless amount of patience. I’ll work hard to try to find the “thing” that clicks for both of us.
Many of us were really excited to see that a collaboration with Tanya Tagaq was included on Wide Open, and the Polaris gala performance of Scream was incredible. How did the partnership come to fruition?
We met Tanya at Iceland Airwaves, on the airplane ride over there. Spencer and Zack kind of knew a few of her band members, and we sort of hit it off the whole weekend. We went to her show, and ever since then we always sort of thought that it would be really great to work with her on something since she takes a very improvisational approach to her music as well, which we’re into. It’s all about capturing a moment, and “Scream” seemed like the perfect song to collaborate with her on.
There is a distinct visual element to Weaves, in things like music videos and album art. What role does visual art and aesthetic play for the band?
It’s a major consideration, but it’s also something that just happens. Similar to our music, we like to leave our videos kind of open so that we can improvise on the day-of. On “Scream” we had a white room studio and a good DP (Director of Photography), so Jasmyn and Tanya were able to move around the space freely. It’s personal expression first, and then concept or theoretical parts are secondary. It’s really about freedom of expression, and that factors into our videos. We shoot stuff and see what happens.
Weaves was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize this past year, and there were a lot of incredible artists in the running. What do you think Lido Pimienta’s recent win means for Canadian music?
The best part was that we were given the opportunity to perform live, since playing on stage is where I think we can really stand out. So performing on stage with people like Feist and Lido was a way for us to really show what we’re all about. To us, that was much more important that any sort of competition or win in our books. The concept of “winning” in art is weird. So just the fact that we got to play, and play a new song “Scream” with Tanya was the biggest part for us, really exciting.
I think with Lido’s win, I don’t know if it shows what direction Canadian music is going… I’m not really sure how the voting works and all that. It’s so great that a DIY artist like her can win something like that, and I think that will become the norm as labels keep shutting down and people keep doing things themselves. There are no major label budgets and funding isn’t always there, so artists need to be able to do it themselves. Lido winning shows that you don’t need all that other crap, it’s about the music. It’s about what you have to say. You don’t really need teams if you have the work ethic.
Gatineau’s Outside I’m a Giant is set to release their much-anticipated debut album in Wakefield, QC, on Saturday night. The ambient folk trio was founded in early 2016 by Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist, Jérémi Pierre Caron, and have made their presence in the Canadian music scene known by their inclusion on bills at CityFolk Festival, Black Sheep Inn, the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, and venues scattered along the east coast while on tour.
Their debut record, Point Comfort, is the culmination of many of these early band experiences. Their hard work over the past two years has led them to the Black Sheep’s stage once again, this time celebrating the release of the spectacular 12-track effort. Its influences are likely numerous, but it is impossible to listen to Point Comfort without hearing—and feeling— the brooding, simmering echoes of Leonard Cohen embedded in their work. While Caron’s songwriting takes a more direct approach, the contemplative storytelling and enthralling musicianship ooze from this record in a similar way to Cohen’s body of work. One may simply find themselves sitting in silence in the moments after the record finishes, ruminating.
The intricacy and scrupulous instrumentation that is woven throughout Point Comfort is made immediately apparent, and the cinematic qualities that each song contains evokes moving imagery draped over emotions. Caron’s deep, rumbling vocals compliment the storytelling and instrumentation beautifully, grasping the listener in a comforting way while guiding us through the tumultuous journey. It some ways it is reminiscent of The National’s Matt Berninger, and Caron similarly utilizes his vocal prowess in ways that indulges the eardrums without overpowering the gentle instrumental moments, or distracting from the tapestry created by the strings.
If you’ve never had the chance to catch Outside I’m a Giant live, there’s no better place to see them than the Black Sheep Inn tonight in Wakefield. Ticket information can be found here, and at $10 each, it’s a steal.
Casual Hex presented a show at Pressed that brought forth good tunes and good times last week. With a line up like Steve’s Job, So Sensitive, Tough Age, and Jay Arner, there was always dancing, singing, some banter, and the very few strange mishaps here and there throughout the night.
Opening with a calmer vibe, but not closing off the same way, was Steve’s Job. Despite the few shows they’ve played, this one being Steve’s 4th job, they really harnessed an energy from what they’re doing and hold a very specific stage presence that’s hard to ignore. Subtle and loud, indie but with kick of a new flavour, the band makes the show fun and positive. Guitars light and airy with a good strong baseline and vocal harmonies that range from monotone to expressive. The band is a sight to see and one to listen to. Banter is always included!
Not only that but the band recently began using a chorus pedal and they have it down. It creates an emphasis on verses and lyrics, forming the effect of the band surrounding you completely. You get lost in the soundscape that these incredibly talented individuals create, and it draws you in differently every single time. They’re silly, fun, and they’re the perfect mix of something melancholy and their own upbeat summer sound. I’ve mentioned it before but if you’re going on a road trip, roll down your windows, turn up their tunes, and just listen to the music these people make. It swept the crowd away with its elegance, sweet talked it with its grace and air, and of course got them swaying to the sweet melodies produced. There is absolutely nothing this band can’t get the crowd to do. They’re loud, light, airy, and overall provide great tunes and sweet times for all friends and spectators alike.
The Pixies effect is used by many bands but keeps coming back as a unique and outstanding trait in music. So Sensitive captured this vibe, fusing indie and rock together in a progression of loud, to quiet, to louder. Despite it being their first show, the group is composed of former members of BB Cream and members of Deathsticks. The band brought an air confidence with them, mouthing words to their own songs when only one person would sing and they would dance around while performing. It is grit, but polished grit, and quite frankly the solos played over simple chord progressions seemed so much more complicated than they actually were. Bands that manage to turn simplicity into a beautiful and complex soundscape never fail to blow me away because they’re taking so little and creating so much.
So Sensitivehas a stage presence that seems to push others to let loose and get lost in all the intricate tonality of each and every composition the group has come up with. Each is unique but tied together in a similar sense, often with the shift in mood or pace. They have a solid sound with the power and volume that screams rock. Soft vocals add to that smooth sound that recalls The Pixies’s Kim Deal, and really set a mood for the show.
My best advice is that you look out for the next show they play and head on down to hear some very sweet and joyous tunes that will be sure to get you moving and smiling.
Tough Age, a Toronto based indie rock band, took the stage not too long after and from the very first note had the crowd hooked. The crowd moved in waves, pumped their fists in the air, danced, and sang along to this high energy band. The vocals were in no way clean or polished. That set the tone completely and added a sense of looseness and comfort to the atmosphere.
The bassline is quick and prominent, and the guitar follows up right behind, the two instruments creating harmonies that get you hooked and dancing. The raw passion that is used to play the bass and guitar are absolutely insane. Tough Age play with such fire that within the first few minutes of the set one of the strings of Jes’s guitar snapped and he ended up playing through a song with five strings.
The drums are quick and prominent. I didn’t see a moment where Jesse wasn’t smiling. Despite the rhythmic pattern being continuous through certain songs, it didn’t stop him from playing with his whole heart or from breaking a drumstick. There’s much use of the cymbals and this creates a new layer to the songs that wouldn’t normally be found. The fills are perfectly placed and there’s just enough to keep each song interesting but not overly complex. There’s depth and thought placed into it but it’s loud and proud.
Tough Age fall nothing short of a must-see band. If you haven’t seen them, you’ve probably heard of them… and if you haven’t even heard of them, well, now you have.
They’re a high energy band with lots of passion for what they do.
Jay Arner, a psychedelic new wave sounding band from Vancouver was the one to headlined the show. The harmonies the member created where smooth and layered with precision. Close to what the Arctic Monkeys have done and continue to do but with more of a Joy Division meets The Smiths vibe. They grab at your attention the moment they step on stage. From the instruments to the way they dress, there isn’t anything that doesn’t get you itching to hear their tunes.
The vocals are soft and beyond their generally flat sound, there’s an evident play of tones. Jay creates an almost soft spoken effect while singing and harmonizing with the rest of the band. This adds unspoken feeling and power to the songs despite keeping a mellow resonance.
Synths are used for effects that pull you in and make you feel like you’re floating through space, the drums keep you in the loop and provide you with a beat to move to. Fast, slow, with intricate fills or without, the drumming falls nothing short of fast paced and muddled together. This is done in such a way where it sounds clean despite the fact that the cymbals were being hit with a fair amount of power.
Spacey, lost, colourful—this is what the sound makes me think of. You’re floating in zero gravity, dancing as if nobody is watching, just completely in time and tune with the music. It takes you in and captures your attention because it’s not something that is often found in music in this day and age. The band kicks it old school in terms of sound and brings a nostalgia forward that you weren’t even aware of.
All the individuals are incredibly talented, and each band brings its own unique styling to the shows they play. It’s never a repetition of the same sounds or progressions and the banter is always different. It ranges from untraceable, unlikable websites to self-depreciating jokes and general thanks for supporting the bands. So make sure to get yourself down to Pressed for some wicked shows by some wicked cool and talented individuals.
For those who don’t know of Avant Garde Bar, it’s a very cosy and intimate venue where you can chose to show up for the art, the music, or simply for the drinks. It’s a bar and a gallery rolled into one.
On the 9th of September Avant Garde hosted a show that was well, a little avant garde. The show consisted of five different bands and each had pulled out of their comfort zone to one degree or another to play this acoustic show. Four of the bands are rock bands with four or more people and aren’t as used to the acoustic setup but they made it work very well. The fact that these individuals played their own rock songs as acoustic ballads really presented the audience with the sheer talent that the individuals possessed.
The first act was a performer who goes by the stage name of Vee Nella. She used to play in a band called The Cowards but has since pulled away from the music scene. Despite this, her sister called her in when the actual opening band dropped out, and she happily replaced them. She had informed me that it was her first time taking the stage completely alone.
With nothing but a guitar and her vocals, she captured my attention. Her voice is a very strong and powerful one and it really dominates the room it resonates in. It really shows that her influences have stemmed from early Gwen Stefani and the 1990’s grunge band Hole. Her lyrics are directly from the soul and they’re not only catchy, they’re also meaningful. It’s very clear that a piece of Vee is placed in every single song, and each is sung with such raw emotion. It’s out in the open, like a diary open to the public.
The guitar is very powerful but it takes a mellow tone due to the show being acoustic. It’s a contradiction all on its own but because it’s a stripped down show, and because the lyrics are so raw, it melds together like no other combination. The emphasis was heavy on the lyrics and less on the techniques used while playing the guitar.
The second band was composed of two members from Arms of the Girl and a temporary but very endearing member who goes by “Butters”. The performance was by Cee Cote and her band member Dave. The two played intricate riffs over an acoustic melody all while Butters played the Cajon.
A Cajon is essentially a percussion box. You hit the surface of it with your hands, fingers, mallets, and it will produce a sound similar to that of drums but with a more hallow sound.
Arm of the Girl is usually a four piece rock band but had to tone it down. Similarly to Vee, Cee (Vee’s sister) is an open book with her lyrics. Ranging from topics like breakups to life experiences, she covers it all. Her voice is raspy but with a country feel to it, especially when performing an acoustic show and she captures the attention of those around her not only with her soulful voice and harmonies with Dave but with her well humoured banter and upbeat energy.
Cee is an artist that you need to really listen to and not just watch because it’s all in the lyrics and not the act itself. The impression she gives is cheery but when it gets down to the deeper aspects, her lyrics are known to be like an excerpt torn out of a diary. They’re raw, emotional, and don’t hold much back.
From Carleton Place, CeVilain took the stage with their two acoustic guitars. The band is heavily inspired by the band Thrice and has mentioned that inspiration was also drawn from MUSE. CeVilain is a full band but only Marty Strong (Kurtis) and Cliff played the show on the 9th. The two play around with blues sounds and scales and they bring it all together with ease. There isn’t a doubt that the two are incredibly skilled musicians.
You can’t compare the vocal stylings to that of another musician, CeVilain has a unique vocal styling and it gives off a unique vibe that can’t seem to match up to anybody else’s. Cliff doesn’t strain his voice but instead puts a clear passion into it. Watching his stage presence makes it seem like he gets completely lost in what he’s doing, and in turn it’s hard to peel your eyes, and ears, away from the performance. The transitions from various parts of their songs are smooth and well executed, almost as if there couldn’t be a flaw in there.
The pair had mastered their acoustic performance and swept me away with the variety they presented. Energy went into every song, note, and chord and every song played on a different sub-genre of rock. They covered a broad range in the time they had and really made the best of it. Although there wasn’t much harmonizing, there was a sense of life brought to every song. They weren’t pushing to be anything they weren’t.
Tay Sera was the next band to play and the duo took over the stage and radiated a calm energy that is only described as easy going and light. The band is an easy one to listen to, and draws influences from Hey Ocean!, Norah Jones, and a variety of other bands such as Sam Roberts and Alicia Keys. Their lyrics touch upon love, heartbreak, and stumbling and falling only to pick yourself back up. They’re a folk band that comes from Oshawa, Ontario and not only to they use typical instruments such as acoustic guitars and Cajon to get the airy and whimsical sound they desire, Taylor actually plays the ukulele for the band. Her vocals demand your attention because they’re light, and reach soprano ranges but mainly keeping to more alto tones.
They’re upbeat and certainly funky but without elements of funk. While she sings lead, Justin adds depth and more dimension to the song with his backup vocals. Not as prominent on records but certainly in his stage presence, he adds to the songs in a positive fashion. The two balance each other out and create a positive dynamic that seems to bring not only the two closer, but the audience together as well.
Taylor has a voice that sounds like that of Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine but with her own unique stylings to it which is what really makes this band one worth listening to. It grabs your attention. It’s new, it’s old, and it’s everything in between and you’re left thinking about it. The familiarity draws you in, but the uniqueness of it is what gets you to stick around. They band manages to tie everything together through its light tones, vocals harmonizing with it and flowing smoothly and without the grit that you hear from singers who often touch the same genre. What I’m getting at is that you should probably grab a pair of comfortable shoes and come let the music sweep you from your feet as you sway to the sweet melodies and harmonies that Tey Sera composes.
Despite every single band bringing an intense amount of pure talent, my favourite was Crossing Jane, an Ottawa band for the soul purpose of the grit that came with the vocals. They reminded me of the late Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, and the band is in fact influenced by Linkin Park. They played a tribute to the recently deceased lead singer, and genuinely encapsulated the emotions of the song near perfectly. If any band were to do the same cover, they would need to work very hard to get the same feel out of it and Crossing Jane.
The band is clearly one that puts thought and effort into every song, the placement of each note, and how they would accentuate the vocals and at what point during the song. They know how to play with the emotions of a crowd and really put their hearts into what they’re doing. There’s the saying “go hard or go home” and quite frankly, this has been one of the best representations of it as far as I see. The band has taken an acoustic set and turned it into a nitty, gritty, out of the gutter grunge performance and has made it sound amazing.
With backup vocals from Andrewto bring out some more mellow bits and even it out, and his drumming to accompany the guitars, it was truly astonishing. The vocals parts are in general by Joel but they are shared between all the members as four piece harmonies and all vocal aspects are equally distributed. Joel has a very unique vocal styling and it’s gritty but he can mellow it out as he wishes. The control over the vocals and feedback from the single electric guitar used are quite astounding and perfected especially when paired with the two acoustic ones. With little to no feedback coming through, it was clean and heavy.
The band creates an audio masterpiece unlike any other acoustic performance I’ve witnessed or heard. They know how to work the crowd and they certainly know how to compose. It’s very difficult to give you a good representation of what they’re like, but I’ll tell you one thing, and it’s that there’s no doubt that the band puts their hearts and souls into the work that they produce. It’s raw, emotional, and very real. It sways the crowd and adds a fiery energy to the atmosphere all around, and it certainly leaves you wanting to hear more.
The final day of Ottawa’s CityFolk was the perfect end to a festival with a lot of highlights (my personal favourites thus far included Broken Social Scene, Matt Mays, and Suitcase Junket). The Ottawa weather finally cooperated with the entirety of a music festival for the first time this summer and though the fatigue was starting to show in the crowd, the best was perhaps yet to come.
The first act I was able to catch was Guelph’s “Nefe“, who was a pleasant surprise. Her debut EP Mama was released early this year and successfully combines R&B, pop and reggae elements into one smooth package. Her powerful, soulful voice made the crowd take notice, as did her harmonies with her band. Highlight of the set was her solo performance of “Mama,” a powerful R&B ballad that segued into a standing ovation.
Bahamas next took the stage in what almost seemed like a disguise, sporting a camo hat and a large, billowy t-shirt. His trademark banter was in rare form and with the outfit, he almost resembled a fun uncle at a backyard BBQ. Appearances aside, his classics sounded as good as ever with backing vocals from the always lovely Felicity Williams (who also performs with Bernice). Highlights included the classic “Lost in the Light” and a rare performance of “Stronger Than That”. He also debuted a handful of new songs, which seemed to intermittently connect with the crowd, which led to some jokes regarding the seagulls circling overhead. Encouraging crowd participation with his new song “Bad Boys Need Love Too,” he talked about the advantages of blowing a kiss instead of flipping a bird to those that may have let you down (“you know what I’m talking about”). With the sun shining down, his chill vibe and positive messages were warmly received.
Up next was the first Canadian performance for New Orleans’ Tank and The Bangas, the band that I was most excited to see all festival. For the uninitiated, the past year has been a whirlwind for the band after having won the 2017 contest to get on the famous Youtube series “NPR Tiny Desk“. Having been chosen from 6000 entries by a panel of judges, the video has been seen over 2 million times and has won them legions of fans across the globe (myself included). It’s the type of experience that has to be seen (at least until their recordings catch up to where they’re at now) but even I could not anticipate the force of nature that was this band.
Tank herself is aptly named, demolishing everything in her path with a powerhouse presence and voice that seemingly effortlessly changed on a dime, from playful Nicki-Minaj style raps to Saul-Williamsesque impactful poetry to soulful gospel vocals (perfectly complimented by her back-up vocalist Anjelikla “Jelly” Joseph). Packaged into “Quick” was an unexpected verse in which Tank proclaimed “I’m not the sea, I’m the ocean, I’m not the water, I’m the well”, a statement which now seems an understatement. The band rapidly oscillated between hip hop, soul, funk, R&B, spoken word poetry (and more) and had the crowd more lively than any in recent memory. So much so that they returned to the stage to play a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” for an unexpected encore.
The absolute highlight of the set was their song “Rollercoasters,” a song which Tank describes as her first discovering what love could look like. It takes place at a New Orleans theme park called Jazzland, which takes on added meaning as it’s never reopened since Hurricane Katrina. The song took the crowd on an emotional ride, and the refrain “I’m getting back in line” seemed a perfect one. Wherever they’re going, I suggest going there and getting in line early (they play Toronto on September 19th).
Rodriguez hit the City Stage next, to a crowd of adoring fans. His mythology is well known (if you’re not familiar, please go watch Searching For Sugarman on Netflix) and his current success is a heartwarming story, following 40 years of relative obscurity. He played a collection of originals and covers, with the assistance of a solid backing band (one of his many across the world). While his covers of The Doors “Light My Fire” and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” were pleasant, it was his folk anthems “Sugar Man,” “Rich Folks Hoax,” and the upbeat “I Wonder” that had the crowd most engaged. It was a treat to see the man in action, and his banter was well received. He remarked that the simplest way of practicing peace is to smile. After 5 days of solid festival tunes, it was likely that most in the crowd already were.