We’re gearing up for the first-ever event of our Showbox Concert Series on Saturday, October 28th, and we’re giving away some free stuff! The show will take place at the incredible St. Alban’s Church, which offers stunning acoustics and an intimate atmosphere for concertgoers.
Headlining the evening will be Claude Munson, making a rare and intimate appearance with his full band. Acclaimed Montreal/Ottawa outfit Little Suns are also gracing the stage, and will be taking this opportunity to officially release their latest album ‘Zero’ digitally. An offshoot of Ottawa’s art-rock collective Pony Girl called mal/aimé will be performing their experimental chamber sounds to kick off the evening.
Advanced online tickets are $13, and can be found here. Physical tickets will be available at the venue on the night of the show for $15. We hope that you’ll join us to celebrate this new addition to the Ottawa music landscape!
We’re giving away two pairs of tickets and a CD/t-shirt from Little Suns leading up to the event on October 28th, so be sure to enter! The draw will happen on Wednesday, October 25 at noon.
Simply answer the question below:
Q: Little Suns’ frontman John Aaron Cockburn is the nephew and on-stage touring support for which famous Canadian musician?
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.
Masks. Clouds of smoke. Decked-out pickup trucks. Skulls. These are all reasons to love Ottawa surf-punk queens Bonnie Doon.
But there’s so much more to them than that. Their brand of fuzzed-out, bass-heavy sludge-rock is meant to captivate audiences and shock the senses. Their energy, weirdness, and overall “we do whatever the fuck we want” attitudes are what really define this group as something special.
Bonnie Doon’s latest album Dooner Nooner (released on Record Store Records) is an acid trip through and through, and will take you from heavier face-punching tracks like the opener “Haunted Life,” to wild lo-fi experiments like the closer “B-Hole.” Their latest video for “Now or Neverish,” which premiered on Clash Music this week, is probably unlike any you’ve ever seen—and it comes just in time for Halloween. Take a dash of classic surf rock, a pinch of doom, and a swig of spiked punch, and that’s what “Now or Neverish” feels like spinning on the turntable. But, you need to see it to believe it.
Watch the new video for “Now or Neverish” by Bonnie Doon below. Produced by MAVN.Stream and purchase Dooner Nooner here. Be sure to catch Bonnie Doon live at House of Targ on October 10, along with Weaves and Organ Eyes. Ticket info here.
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.
After 32 years and over one hundred million dollars spent to fund the production of music videos by Canadian artists, Bell Media announced this week that it is shuttering the doors on its MuchFACT program. The program, which has existed since 1984, was funded by Bell Media as a condition of its Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) license. For years, this arrangement made sense. Bell (previously CHUM) owned channels such as MuchMusic and could air music videos, with few upfront costs for content that covered hours of airtime. In return, the regulatory agency, CRTC, required them to contribute to a grant fund to produce a portion of that fantasticmusicvideocontent. As MuchMusic has slowly evolved to become simply “Much,” they’ve also shown far less music video content, so the CRTC, understandably, has decided that Bell is no longer obligated to pay to produce video content.
When Bell Media decided to officially cut MuchFACT, they sent out their president, Randy Lennox, who asserted, “we don’t owe anyone an explanation for this.” True, without the CRTC requirement, it is Bell’s prerogative to give its money how it sees fit, but MuchFACT was such an influential and particularly important resource to the Canadian Music community, that Lennox might have tried a little harder to articulate why the funding was being pulled. Lennox doesn’t seem to understand the value of the program, which has enabled emerging Canadian artists to re-imagine how they tell stories through video and multimedia.
My band, Future States, was lucky enough to receive a grant this spring from one of the final rounds of MuchFACT. As a young band, we’re not strangers to producing video content to pair with our music. Aside from the artistic impetus to create videos that extend our music in new and interesting ways, engaging videos are also a necessary way for us, in a saturated market, to place our music in front of a larger audience and attract new listeners who might otherwise have missed our latest release.
With few resources, video production for us has meant DIY–simple concepts, shot simply, as we learned what is involved in producing interesting video content. Likewise, it has meant relying on the kindness of our video artist friends to produce videos for little or no compensation.
MuchFACT allowed us, as musicians and artists, to move past resource constraints to explore bigger ideas and projects. The video that we produced with our MuchFACT grant is interactive, and will allow viewers to modify the visual/sonic elements of the video in real-time. Another interactive video recently produced with MuchFACT support is PUP’s choose-your-own-adventure video for Old Wounds. These types of large-scale projects are just not possible on DIY budgets. They require expertise from directors, videographers, coders, set designers, etc., and as a result, invite collaboration among artists who work in different mediums.
In our case, we were able to collaborate with multimedia artist, Aaron Krajeski. We expanded our ideas into a new realm, while Aaron built on his own artistic practice and skills. In this way, MuchFACT wasn’t only important for the material output it produced, but for the relationships and technical skills it fostered. This point has been mentioned elsewhere, but it bears repeating–MuchFACT fostered new talent in the video realm, with emerging creators given the opportunity to work on their first medium-sized productions, and cut their teeth before moving on to bigger projects.
Perhaps most importantly, MuchFACT support allowed us to pay fair wages to everyone who worked on our video. Too often, artists are either doing work for free or for favours. It’s a quid pro quo economy that is sustained because we all just want to make great work and help each other out. But it doesn’t allow for artists to work or live sustainably, and shouldn’t be thought of as a positive status quo. Grants like MuchFACT, while not perfect by any means (they tend to favour larger, more established acts, for example), offer support for artists to create new and original work, while also making fair wages.
In lieu of funding for MuchFACT, Bell Media has pointed to its support for a new CTV television show The Launch, as a way to develop artists in “more modern ways.” It should be obvious to just about anyone that the show, which “follows up-and-coming Canadian performers and famous mentors as they create a hit song” is a lousy substitute for a sizable pool of grant money spread across a large pool of artists creating completely original work.
The decision to defund MuchFACT in favour of reality TV content demonstrates a unique lack of imagination on the part of Bell, as to what music videos can be in the digital era. Rather than chopping the program, Bell could have reworked it to put themselves on the forefront of encouraging videos and multimedia content that pushes artistic and technological boundaries.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—one of the most rewarding parts of this job is discovering new artists making music in town. That is certainly the case with the young and aspiring singer-songwriter named Christine Jakel, who I crossed paths with at Bar Robo last year when she played with her other project, Grace Note. Her talents are immediately impactful, and draw listeners in like a tractor beam through the headphones or on stage. As someone with a degree in classical voice from the University of Ottawa and lifelong piano training at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Christine’s kind and modest demeanour struck me as endearing given the sheer level of skill and experience contained within her. Thus, I took a mental note and made sure to keep an eye on her music-related ventures.
Fast forward a year or so, and Jakel announces that she’s releasing a solo EP called Satellite Moons, once again at Bar Robo, on September 30. It came as no surprise, and it seemed to only be a matter of time before she explored her solo songwriting in a formal studio setting. While I’ve only heard a couple songs off of the upcoming EP, my initial impression is that she has a musical “sense” about her that is well beyond her years. The songs weave between genres and influences, as certain polarizing elements of jazz and folk are somehow drawn together and melded with one another in her songs.
Her vocal prowess is put on full display, as Jakel seamlessly reaches the highs and lows of her octave—and everything in between—with laser-sharp precision. The rest of Satellite Moons is sure to contain more treats for us to hear. In the years to come, Ottawa should prepare itself for Jakel’s inclusion into a group of local women such as Kathleen Edwards, Catriona Sturton, and Lynne Hanson, just to name a few, who have consistently shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ottawa valley and beyond.
I caught up with Jakel this week in advance of the Satellite Moons EP Release, which takes place at Bar Robo on Saturday, September 30th at 8 pm. She will be joined by Mike Giamberardino (drums), Szymon Szańczuk (bass), Dean Watson (electric guitar), and Charlotte Esme Frank (harmonies) on stage, along with opening acts Grace Marr and David daCosta. Tickets are $13, and include a download code for the album. Find more information here.
Interview with Christine Jakel
Can you talk a bit about how has music been a part of your life growing up?
Both my parents took it upon themselves to expose me to music growing up. My dad has been obsessed with jazz ever since I can remember and used to play jazz guitar in his spare time. There are some artists whose CD’s are deeply ingrained into my system from having listened to them so often: George Benson, Chet Baker, Diana Krall, Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson, to name a few. I’ve probably heard Autumn leaves thousands of times because my dad used to practice it relentlessly. He was also the one who introduced me to Joni Mitchell, now my main source of inspiration for songwriting. Her song Big Yellow Taxi was the reason I started playing guitar. Wondering Where the Lions are by Bruce Cockburn was the next song I learned. He was another artist that I heard a lot of growing up because of my dad. My mom was the one who made sure I was taking classical piano lessons starting at a young age and shortly after we moved to Ottawa, she enrolled me in an arts high school (De La Salle) where I chose the voice program and subsequently became actively involved in its various vocal ensembles, while being trained as both chorist and a soloist.
You explore many sounds and themes in your music. What is most important aspect you focus on when composing a song?
For me songwriting always begins with lyrics and melody. The song craft and the overall message of the song are as important to me as the music itself. This is also what I listen for in other artists’ music. I find that I am most drawn to songs that are cleverly thought out but also genuine and direct. This is what I aim for when composing my songs. Overall atmosphere, chords and instrumental riffs come are there to enhance those elements.
What was the Shot in the Dark experience like for you? Can you describe it for those who may not know?
It felt great to be a part of something that I knew was contributing to the local music scene in a positive way. Not only did I get one of my own songs recorded and filmed for the first time, but I had the chance to hear and meet so many talented local artists that I never would have discovered otherwise. In a way it acted as a spring board for me as a newly emerging musician because it led to more opportunities for shows and collaborations.
The performance itself was unlike anything I have ever done before and I don’t think it’s one I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. When I came on, Dean made the call to remove all amplification and to bring the audience close in around me, so there was zero background noise and I could feel everyone watching and listening to me intently. It was terrifying in the best way (I don’t think I’ve ever felt so exposed), and I couldn’t be happier with the result! (video available below)
What reaction or emotion do you hope to evoke from those listening to the new EP, Satellite Moons, for the first time?
I hope that anyone listening finds something they can relate to in my songs and feel moved or inspired by even if it’s just in a small way. I also hope to send an empowering message to other women out there who may feel intimidated or out of place taking up space or making themselves heard in the music scene. From what I’ve seen, the industry could really use more female representation. Knowing this reality is partly what fuels my work. Furthermore, I would love for people to perceive the depth in my songs and to hear beyond something that’s “cute” or “pretty.” Those are two words that I’ve been called my whole life, that bother me when they are used in a belittling way (whether intentionally or not), and that I’d like to break free from at least in the context of my music. This is why I’ve made sure to include some angry songs on the record.
Do you have a memorable concert experience that you can recount that perhaps influenced your music?
This past March I had the opportunity of seeing The Staves play live at the Bronson Centre. I was floored by how polished their performance was and by the wide range of soundscapes they managed to create using their voices and various instrumental skills. What I particularly like about them is that they stray from the traditional lead-singer vs. band setup. Each member plays an equal part in the singing and the balance between their voices shifts from one song from the next in fascinating ways. Their sound is very much contingent upon them gelling as a team. For me, the experience of hearing them opened doors to new realms of possibility when arranging music, which made me want to go home and write songs immediately.
Is there one venue or city that is on your bucket list to play? Why?
I am open to the possibilities of where my music might take me. Playing music is what makes me happy. Whether it’s in a noisy bar or the NAC or at an intimate gathering, I am grateful for any opportunity to share my work, the more unexpected the better! Short term, however, I do currently have my sights set on Megaphono. I have so many good memories from attending the festival as an audience member and it seems like something I’d like to experience and be a part of, hopefully as a performer this year.
What’s the next step for you musically?
In the next year I am hoping to gain regular instruction at guitar and to lock in a few more hours of practice per week than I usually do. Everything I know so far, I taught myself, besides the odd trick I picked up from my dad and my uncle, and there is so much I have yet to learn about the instrument. This would give me a whole lot more to work with when writing songs, which I intend to continue doing as much as possible. My goal is to have enough songs written by next summer to be able to start on an album. I already have a few on the go.
Over the past few years, Partner has taken the Canadian music scene by storm. Their sound is bold and unwavering, meeting at the unsuspecting intersection of classic rock riffs and 90’s grunge. Consisting of BFF’s Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, Partner is breaking down barriers and paving their own path. One show after the other, they satisfy exuberant and voracious crowds with power moves, electrifying riffs, and unimaginably catchy hooks that reel you in forever. Coming off the release of their brand new record In Search of Lost Time (You’ve Changed Records), I had a great chat with Lucy and Josée which you can read below.
Partner is playing Beau’s Oktoberfest in Van Kleek Hill this Saturday, be sure to catch their high-energy set at 4:30 pm on the Main Stage. More info here.
Interview with Partner
You’re playing Beau’s Oktoberfest this weekend? Have you ever been to an Oktoberfest before?
Lucy: We’ve never been to one before, but apparently it’s a really fun time with lots of schnitzel. Yeah, I mean hopefully we’re around there long enough to check some cool stuff out. I’d love to catch the Planet Smashers for nostalgia purposes. Also, our friends Julie and the Wrong Guys. Them for sure, and we’ll get stoked the day-of and hopefully catch more.
Your new album In Search of Lost Time was recently featured on Pitchfork. Do you take album reviews to heart?
Lucy: We usually only take them seriously if they’re favourable. Because if they’re not, then we’re like “Welp, some people have a bad sense of humour.” Sometimes we’re sad when people don’t get it, but then we get over it.
Josée: Most people have been super, super nice.
Lucy: Some people say the skits aren’t funny, but that’s the most negative thing they say. They just don’t get it!
You’re live show is full of energy, and people seem to go nuts when they see you play. How much do you feed off of that?
Lucy: It feels great. We love attention. It’s feels so good when that many people are paying attention. We feel very powerful. It’s just so fun, everyone’s partying together. We get into crowd and intermingle with everyone.
Do you have any go-to moves on stage?
Lucy: Josée has a little step that she gets on. Sometimes I’ll do the splits by accident. I have a new one where I just spin around in circles a bunch. They usually come naturally and then we just keep using them, and keep them in our toolbox.
I saw you had some family come to the SappyFest show. Do your folks like coming to see you play?
Lucy: I think Josée’s parents have seen us like six times this year. My parents live in Labrador so they don’t see us as much, but they all go to every show whenever they can. They’re pretty much super-stoked, always.
You’re based in Windsor at the moment. How much time have you spent there?
Lucy: We’ve been here for about a year. There’s a few cool things here, like the guy that rides backwards on his bike. There are a lot of sights to see for sure. There’s a gay bar that I recently went to with a secret patio.
Josée: Detroit. It’s right there.
Lucy: Oh yeah, that too. And there’s a billion antique stores. There are a lot of Neverending Story-type antique stores that probably have some magic talismans inside them, you know?
Josée: When we’re rich we’re going to move to the bigger city.
Lucy: Yeah, like even a closet costs $800 in Toronto, it’s crazy! I mean, we probably would live in a closet if we had that much money, but you know.
You have a connection to Sackville, NB, and SappyFest. Do you have any specific memories of the festival?
Lucy: There’s always like 100 things going on at once. You’re never going to get to experience everything, you just have to go with the flow. Multiple cool shows, and multiple cool groups of people doing different things. Just go where the wind takes you, that’s the best advice. As for specific memories, I don’t know, we have so many.
Josée: There was that year you broke your glasses…
Lucy: Oh yeah, that was a horrible memory of Sappy. I went crowdsurfing and broke my glasses. I couldn’t see, but it was a miracle because people helped me out and guided me around because I couldn’t see. We’ve been to every Sappy since Sappy 5, and it’s just consistently awesome. But yeah, it’s a such a neat vibe being there and that’s why people keep coming back. Those who have been there know what I’m talking about.
What does it feel like to get the new songs out into the world? They must have been brewing for a long time.
Josée: It’s great to have them all out now, and it’s kind of a weight off and on our shoulders. Now we can move on, a lot of these songs are so old.
Lucy: For us, it feels like we’ve beaten these songs to death in our minds!
Josée: It really does kind of feel like we’re presenting something that was written three years in the past, so it’s exciting to move forward. We didn’t want to sit on the songs that long, but it really was just how long it took to make the thing. Once The Ellen Page and Hot Knives came out as singles, we had those for a while but they weren’t exactly what we wanted for the whole album so we had to gather our resources, apply for grants, figure out a label, recording, all that. And since we didn’t have a whole lot of time for pre-production, lots of work happened after the studio, which when mixed with touring, was a lot of logistical stuff to consider.
What’s your next step as a band?
Josée: Just keep writing!
Lucy: Yeah, just gotta keep writing. We have a couple new tunes for our next album already. Lot’s of touring too, we have some good shit lined up for the fall and new year. We’ve playing quite a few shows in the States, too, because the mid-west is pretty close to where we are. And New England, too.
Do you find touring in the US different? Particularly given the political climate?
Lucy: I mean, it does feel different, but people are always super cool punks just trying to have a good time. They just have a shittier go because they don’t have stuff like health care available, and it’s a more precarious existence. But yeah, everywhere you go it’s the same thing, people helping other people put on shows and have fun with it. We’ve stayed with awesome people everywhere we’ve been, so I guess we’re not so different after all.
I think I saw Lucy walk by and cheer at Sappy Karaoke while my girlfriend was belting out Shania Twain. Are you big fans?
Lucy: I don’t remember the karaoke that well, but we love Shania. I think she was the first non-gay person that we were obsessed with, as children and then also later as adults together. She’s #1.
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.
Saturday night at CityFolk delivered. Throughout a jam-packed lineup that featured not one but two performances by Fred Penner (the later performance was just for adults), there was no shortage of quality in spite of the quantity. Father John Misty’s thunderous closing set was backed by an opening lineup seemingly hand-picked to complement the dynamism and stage presence of Mr. Misty. This was a night of huge personalities performing captivating sets.
At first glance, the odd man on the schedule was Penner, whose musical stylings are most often associated with the children’s section of Chapters or CBC in the 90s. But there seems to be a very strong contingent of Fred Penner fans amongs those of Father John Misty, and nostalgia was strong on the air as a hanger full of nineties kids belted out “sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine” as a 70-year old man serenaded them.
Penner’s set was wholesome fun. He puts on a great show, and is still just as charismatic as he was when his catchy-as-anything kids tunes first hit the playgroups. He has the energy of a man still doing what he loves after what he admits is quite a long time. Forgetting the lyrics to the second verse of a song requested by an audience member he exclaimed that he hadn’t played the song in 30 years, something of which most of the room’s occupants had no concept.
Also on the Ravenlaw stage, Common Deer played a dream-poppy dynamic set, with long harmonies over tight beats and fantastic musicianship across the stage. With cello, guitar, keas and violins blaring, the group is a great example of what can be achieved when innovative musicians approach indie rock tropes. Also, their name is good.
On the City Stage, The Philosopher Kings capitalized on a bit of the nostalgia thrown into the air by Penner. The Canadian band, best known for their cover of the Godley and Creme song “Cry” in 1998, is staging a comeback with the release of their first album in eleven years and a stylish new music video for the song “Still The One” (no, not the 1998 Shania Twain song).
The Kings put on a great show, and frontman Gerald Eaton proved that the 90s are most certainly not dead with his Timberlake-esque dance moves and microphone technique. To their set, there could be no greater contrast than that of Corb Lund and Ian Tyson which followed. The two legends sat throughout a beautiful set of country and blues tunes, harmonies echoing across the Lansdowne lawn. The audience followed suit, sitting in rapt silence as two of the greats did their thing. But soon the stage cleared for the main event.
Father John Misty is a thing to behold. So much could be said of his look alone. The bearded, longhaired man in tight pants and a sport jacket look has taken off in large part due to this man, and I can confirm that many people at the concert on saturday were sporting said look. It’s a good look, don’t get me wrong. But no one wears it like Father John, whose real name is Joshua Tillman.
Interesting side note about Josh Tillman: he has played in many of your favourite bands, including Fleet Foxes, Pearly Gate Music, Demon Hunter and many more. To me, Father John Misty seems like a persona of his, to which I attribute much of the over-the-top theatrics associated with the act.
That look of his features heavily in the show he is putting on. We know this because at every opportunity the lighting director (excellent job, by the way) found a way to backlight Father John so as to emphasize his form as he danced wildly, throwing his arms up like Michael Jackson used to do.
Misty himself takes on a role similar to that of a cult leader, asking his followers to eschew the foibles of modernity (cell phones, texting, etc.) and play acoustic guitar in heels. It’s a little funny to be lectured about modern life by a walking brand, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe the hipsters are onto something after all.
Unfortunately for Yours Truly, Matt Mays was so crowded no one was able to get in. I’m sure he was very good.