Most album releases happen in a bar or club, with the usual merch station and a few opening bands. Not much to be surprised about. Jumpin’ Joel Flash & The Magic Machine, on the other hand, are not your typical band. The country-folk group from Ottawa consists of frontman Joel Elliot and his motley crew of band mates, offering an unusual assortment of tricks at their shows such as “opera-rock vocals, bouncy rhythms, musical theatre harmonies, and the occasional rain stick interlude.” However, for their upcoming EP release, they’re going way out into left field. Jumpin’ Joel Flash & The Magic Machine want to take you to prom.
That’s right. Whether you had a good or bad experience at your actual high school prom, this band wants to up the ante and make a whole new prom-music experience on December 8th at Maker Space North. Also on the bill are Scary Bear Soundtrack and Death Metal Witch, not to mention Capital Tease Burlesque. With booths, decorations, and surprises galore, the event almost sounds more like a carnival than a prom. But one thing is for sure, it will be a hell of a night at Maker Space North. Don’t forget to wear your prom attire.
I chatted with Joel about the EP release prom and more, have a read below.
Date: Saturday, December 8, 2017 Location: Makerspace North – 250 City Centre Avenue – Bay 216 Important: 18+, fully accessible, no outside shoes, no alcohol Website Facebook Event
We’re always a big fan of new ideas when it comes to live music, but you’re going back in time. What made the idea of hosting a prom-themed EP release so appealing?
A big show needs a big idea! An EP release is a big deal and should be memorable for more than just the music.
I put it to the Magic Machine to come up with a theme that could be built upon. We got together for a mind-meld, and someone tossed out ‘Prom?’ From there, ideas for deco and contests and messaging and promotion and costumes JUST KEPT FLOWING! When ideas are easy, you know you snagged onto something special.
I was searching for a theme that would be immediately recognizable and nostalgic. Prom has that, but with the added bonus of allowing for a ‘do-over’… not everyone has shiny happy memories of high school after all. Many folks were ostracized for who they are. Hated for who they love. Excluded for existing.
By pure luck, I was born a straight white anglo male in one of the safest and most recession-proof cities on the planet. I learn more about how privileged I am each and every day. As such, I wanted this Prom to be for absolutely everyone. A place to come and dance and love and be yourself. Provided you score one of the very-limited tickets, of course. 😉
Starting on October 1st, you released a single every couple weeks leading up to the prom. Can you talk about the songs and what they mean to you? What drove you to write this EP?
These songs are personal without being personal.
I’ve never felt emotion from song lyrics. Whether I’m hearing them or writing them. And I used to think I was crazy and weird. But I’m not. I get emotional responses from rhythm and swells and notes and groove. I feel music the way I write it: sound first, words second.
I wrote mostly in transit. Long car trips/bus rides provided a background hum that blocked out the rest of the world. I played with rhythms, tapped my fingers, hummed to beats. Eventually I had dozens of songs in my brain. And I just assumed they’d always stay there.
I grew up in an isolating, neglectful, emotionally abusive household and spent most of my life believing I was completely worthless. This is the reason I stuck with my first career for 12 years: while I was creating and composing my own music in my head, I rarely shared it with anyone, or even wrote it down. I sincerely believed that I was nothing, and thus anything I created wasn’t anything anyone wanted to hear. So I slogged on. Played in bands on the weekends to get my performance fix, and resolved that that was all my life would ever be.
And then I met my wife, Kim Valentine. She is the sole reason any of this is happening. She showed me I have worth. She gave me the courage to share my songs with others. She gave me the strength to go for my dreams. She saved my life, and I’ll forever be grateful.
The Magic Machine and the music it pumps out is everything I’ve always wanted to be. Twang without trucks. Toe tapping excitement. Fun, bouncy, sparkling, rainbowed, and happy.
Our first EP is exactly that. The first. Much, much more is coming.
You’ve also been putting a lot of focus on your team and collaborators leading up to this event. Who are some important folks involved in this album and show?
Collaboration builds community! I saw that in action over and over again in my ‘professional’ career… the more folks you have on your team, the greater and more successful your project will be!
First, The Magic Machine: Carolina Arnoni, Jasen Colson, Brad Cutler, Robin Hodge, Ashley Newall, Zoe Towne & Kim Valentine. These talented weirdos are the only reason there’s an EP to begin with! They’re a mix of visual artists, musicians, and theatre nerds that make the band, our sound, and our show, waaayyyy more fun than it has any business being.
A special shout out goes to Prom Art Director Kim Valentine, who has spent months brainstorming and lovingly crafting original and ridiculous Prom deco that will make your heart go pit-a-pat! She’s a visual genius and you’re gonna love what she’s done.
You need a good back end for a party, and our A/V Club is up to the challenge! Our sound/lighting/visual art crew has been lovingly plucked from Ottawa Theatre and Psytrance scenes! Kendrick Abell, Craig Macleod, Justin Ouimet, and Jason Sonier are ready to make sure this Prom goes down without a hitch!
Then we’ve got our two fabulous opening acts, Scary Bear Soundtrack and Death Metal Witch.! Scary Bear Soundtrack is all about dreamy synth-pop, and Death Metal Witch. is an acoustic force of nature!
Next, the partners! All-local orgs that help to make this city greater and more artistic! Our Promenade will feature a bevvie of artistic orgs like CKCU FM, The Ottawa Beat, Capital Rehearsal Studios, Makerspace North, The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, and more! Each of these partners provided in-kind support for Prom, either through promotion, services, or equipment.
I’ve been focusing on the partners due to their help of course, but there is another reason. I’d like to show performance artists of all types that this is a great way to build hype for your next production. Partner with a local org or two and immediately increase your reach! From the partners’ perspective, they get a chance to meet and mix with artists and fans, possibly building new collabs or business in the future. In return, the artist gets promo to their partners’ networks, without having to shell out advertising dollars! Win win win!
Collaboration = Community.
In March 2017 you left your job with the Conference Board of Canada to focus on your music. What’s life been like since taking that leap?
Well, I was able to create my EP, for one thing. 😉 But I’ve also been using my time as efficiently as possible.
Working at an economic think tank sounds boring. And it is. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that spending a decade figuring out how every industry in the country works wasn’t beneficial to my new funky artist life.
For most of my first career, I sold professional learning/networking events. And whether you’re holding a Risk Management Conference or an EP Release Prom, all the principles are exactly the same. I realized that quite quickly after taking the leap. The music business works just like any other. Though, I am appreciating that I’m not being booked for 8:30am meetings anymore.
I’ve lived in Ottawa my entire life, and am amazed at how much art is being created here without people knowing about it. I vowed to use my profesh(?) skills and newfound time to help make this place as vibrant and fun as it can be. I attended everything and met everyone. I made new relationships and built trust. And over time, I was able to become part of three great bastions of the local arts scene:
I’m the host of the Live! On Elgin open mic every Tuesday. As a proper arts venue smack in the core, Live! attracts performers of all types, all styles, all backgrounds, all ages! When I create art, it mostly comes out as country music. Being a part of this diverse, happy, excited, ridiculously-talented event has opened my musical horizons. I’m inspired by wild new sounds and performances each week, and I love it.
I also co-host The Monday Special Blend on CKCU FM with my good friend Trish Bolechowsky. Aside from the CBC, community cadio are the only airwaves that local artists have a chance of gracing, and I’m insanely proud to be a small part of it. Each week, we yik-yak about music, art, and characters that are working to make this place amazing. Local art does not happen without local love, and I use this platform to share as much love as possible.
Last but certainly not least, I was elected to the board of directors for The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition. It was my third attempt at election and I’m glad I kept up with it. In this role, I’m able to provide input on the future of the Ottawa music scene, as well as work directly with the high-level industry folks that are hiding all over this government town! It is very, very, satisfying to be able to share what I know for a purpose I really care about.
In 2019, I plan to engage further with artists and the community by speaking at industry events/conferences. I’d like to help lift the veil on marketing and promotion for artists, and show them how to build community from the ground up. I’d also like to make artists aware of exactly how many organizations are out there looking to profit off of their creativity, as well as call out unethical marketing firms that are pushing bots as a way to build a fanbase.
Word is that there will be some surprises at the prom. Anything you can spill the beans about?
We’ve set this up like a mini-music festival! There will be multiple stages, crazy visual art, a photo booth, and of course, The Promenade!
Were holding a Prom Royalty Contest for all attendees! Throughout the evening, members of the Prom Committee will be demanding votes from the arts-loving populace. The two winners will be those who received the most votes, and they MAY just have a special prize for winning!
We’re also offering Prom Loot Bags for every attendee! Lovingly hand-crafted by Art Director Kim Valentine, these unique ‘bags’ are gonna be filled with goodies and reminders of how much fun prom-goers had with a bunch of weirdos in a warehouse!
I can also say that there will be audience participationsegments during the show! We’ll be grabbing people to dance with us, shoving props in their hands, demanding they wear hats, all kinds of nonsense!
Burlesque! Can you tell us a bit about Capital Tease Burlesque, for those who may not know much about the troupe?
The Prom had musicians, actors, and visual artists….but where were the dancers? I saw Capital Tease doing their thing at this year’s Glowfair and I loved every second of it! It’s fun, it’s body positive, it’s silly, it’s sexy, it’s wonderful!
We’re going to be featuring performers Sassy Muffin, Koston Kreme, Bella Barecatt, & Randi Rouge! Randi has just recently opened the Rouge Studio of Dance, which offers in classes in burlesque, hip-hop, & belly dancing in a supportive and encouraging environment where you can let loose, explore your sensuality and build your confidence!
As someone who has long struggled with self-worth and body image, I was immediately taken in by burlesque’s focus on positivity, inclusion, and making everyone feel like a million bucks. Negativity and hate are not tolerated. Consent and positivity are paramount. The folks at Capital Tease are wonderful, and I know Prom-goers will think so too.
Anything else that concertgoers should expect?
You are going to walk in and not know what the heck is happening. Your senses are gonna be smacked in all the right ways. You’re going to forget you’re at a concert and instead believe you’ve entered a magical fairy land of artistic hippies. You’re going to be filled with positive vibes and love. You’re going to make new arts friends. You’re going to fall for every single performer. You’re going to wonder how you ended up dancing for 3 hours straight. You’re going to have your emotions tapped until you’re overflowing with heart for local art. You’re going to raise your hands in excitement and cheer your ass off. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’re gonna see even more. And then, as quickly as it began, you’ll be on your way home, wondering what the hell you were just a part of.
People should expect to remember this night forever. Or at least until the next time we throw a party.
Ottawa’s upstart pop-punk band Castlefield recently released their second EP, Tunnel Vision, and it is everything a fan of the genre could ask for.
Tunnel Vision is full of catchy hooks, intricate guitar play layered with off-beat drumming and crisp vocals delivering emotional and self-reflective lyrics. It takes me back a decade to when pop-punk and emo styles had melded together to take over the mainstream, but don’t be fooled—Tunnel Vision isn’t just a throwback. The EP is a fresh blend of the past with some modern twists and turns a long the way.
Vocalist and guitarist Ryan Fitz describes the EP as “something that I wrote during a time of my life where a lot of things weren’t going right and I used my songwriting as way to cope with it. The way the songs turned out are definitely a product of the environment and time they were written in. As far as instrumentally, we just write the music we want to hear… we just write how we feel.”
Listeners will be hooked from the opening drumming and riffs on “Best Laid Plans” and will stay for the great up-tempo music and relatable lyrics to all those going through early adulthood, or looking back. The EP closes with a slower jam, “Escape,” which features the lyric “I’ve always been shit out of love”— a line that will surely be screamed at the top of fans lungs live and find itself on band merch soon (if not already).
The album was produced by Anton Delost (Bearings, Seaway, Cleopatrick) and mastered by John Naclerio (My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Matchbook Romance, Midtown, and Brand New).
“We went in with very different songs and he worked us hard to make them the way they are now,” said bassist Matt Spafford. “Anton is the man and I can’t imagine the EP being done by anyone else.”
Interestingly enough, the EP was released on Penultimate Records out of Australia. Spafford explains they got “an email from a random man in Australia, if I’m honest! Jamie from Penultimate sent us an email one day, having never heard Tunnel Vision, asking if we’d be interested in working with him to release our next EP.”
“He was a big fan from Australia and wanted to help out however he could. He loved the new EP and we knew he had to be a part of it. After some communication, we signed a contract and the rest is history! Jamie has been unbelievably helpful and it feels cool to share every milestone with someone 12 hours ahead of us, across the globe.”
Go sing along with Castlefield this Friday, November 30th, when they rock out the Tunnel Visionrelease show at The 27 Club in Ottawa. You can listen to Tunnel Vision below in preparation.
If there’s one thing Petra Glynt is not, it’s subtle. Her thunderous sophomore album My Flag Is A Burning Rag Of Love is her most ambitious and impactful work to date. It is a fist-the-air protest album. It is a fuck-patriarchal-systems album. It is a punk album that doesn’t sound like punk rock.
Petra Glynt, a.k.a. visual artist Alexandra Mackenzie, has garnered her fair share of notoriety since releasing her first EP, Of This Land, in 2012. That EP was inspired by the Occupy Movement, and she’s been a strong voice against racism, sexism, environmental devastation—and My Flag is no exception.
Whether she’s addressing the lack of response to Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water crisis (“Health”), or profits-over-privacy with Facebook’s data hack scandal (“Surveillance”), her voice comes through loud and clear. She drops the mic with her powerful vision of the future in the song “New Growth,” which she describes as a feminist anthem of empowerment in the wake of #MeToo.
She’s been on a rollercoaster since 2017, which has included her being signed to Damian Taylor’s (Bjork, The Killers, Arcade Fire) new label Vibe Over Method, acclaim from Pitchfork, NOISEY, THUMP, FADER, Bandcamp, CBC, and BBC6, and to cap it off, detainment at the UK border in a high-security immigration removal centre. Needless to say, she’s been busy.
Petra Glynt’s My Flag Is A Burning Rag Of Love is out now from Pleasence Records and available to order here. She headlines at House of Targ tonight (Saturday, November 24) along with Bonnie Doon and Sparklesaurus. More info here.
Read Matias’ interview with her and watch her video for “No Consequences” below.
What was the impetus for My Flag’s release, so soon after your debut album This Trip in 2017? Was there something that drove its composition and release?
It took me a long time to figure out how to release my first record This Trip, and once I finally did, I had produced a lot of songs! So when Pleasence asked me if I wanted to release a record together I was basically ready to go. The music just needed to be tweaked a bit and mixed so thats what pushed it to get it out so quickly.
Activism and community engagement have both been central features of your music and art. What role do you think artists should play in the age of #MeToo and the Trump era?
I think as artists it’s hard to avoid the realities around us, they are effecting us personally so our art has naturally become more engaged. It’s not just politics, it’s all very personal, and if the artist has any clout or voice in the world it’s by telling their story from their perspective. I also think it makes for work that resonates more with the public because these things, especially the two you mentioned effect people across generations. We all have different ways of coping, but I feel that this makes for more powerful work.
How is your music related to your visual art? Are there concepts and elements that continuously seem to overlap?
At the moment my visuals act as a means to support my music as album art, tour posters, single art, and painting of these images, so they are inherently tied to it lately, but I have plans to give the visuals more legs to stand on and make them more independent of the music where the music and art are part of a greater sphere…so that’s tba. 🙂
Now that some time has passed, can you talk about your experience with Damian Taylor’s label Vibe Over Method so far?
It was great. Damian is awesome and supportive and really good at what he does. I’m really happy with how he mixed the music. It was also the first time for the both of us planning and executing an album campaign so it involved a lot of communication back and forth. I learned a lot from that experience if I ever wanted to self-release a record in the future.
Is there a reason you choose to self-produce and record your records?
I couldn’t imagine making my music any other way. It wouldn’t sound the same. It’s like painting or drawing or sculpting or collage…it’s composition! It’d be like commissioning another artist to make my art for me and it wouldn’t feel like my own that way.
You garnered some attention for your experience getting detained in the UK while on tour last year. Is there one take-away from that episode that you would tell other artists who are thinking of touring Europe?
You can tour Europe for up to 30 days without having to acquire a visa, but if you go to the UK you will need one to get in. You can acquire a visa by paying a fee per show and by doing other paper work. I would advise doing that because it should guarantee your entry. I went in with a permitted paid entertainment visa that didn’t involve paying a fee or doing any paperwork. It was a bit more risky in that sense, and I wouldn’t advise it.
With the world that surrounds us looking pretty grim these days, do you have any optimistic or hopeful perspectives before we go?
I’m trying to feel hopeful on a daily basis, every day is different, so is everyone’s ways of coping. I think keeping the people you love close, supporting them and the people you admire is a place to start. I saw Meredith Monk receive an honorary doctorate at Concordia a few days ago. She said something to the effect of there being so much hate in the world and it being harder to spread love and much easier to hate. This has to be true otherwise we’d see more love out there. So maybe we should work harder to be more compassionate for things we don’t understand.
Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr are in town this Saturday, November 24, supporting Calgary’s Preoccupations at The 27 Club. Protomartyr are fresh off the release of their latest four-track EP, Consolation, which features Kelley Deal of The Breeders on two songs and is an extension of the politicized direction of their 2017 LP Relatives in Descent. They kick off their tour with Preoccupations in Toronto on Friday, and end it in LA after a whooping 18 shows. Ev Osmanovic sat down with Protomartyr’s Joe Casey to discuss their EP Consolations and the potential future endeavours. You can also stream the interview aired on CHUO via the player below.
Ev: Within the past year you had released your EP Consolationsand it sounded heavier both lyrically and instrumentally than Relatives In Descent did. Do you feel the same way, and was it deliberate?
Joe: Yeah I agree with you, I think what happened was those were songs that kind of came up at the same time we were writing the last record but they didn’t quite fit. I think if we would have put them on the album they probably would have sounded more like the songs on that album—more atmosphere. But we liked the songs a lot so we said, “Let’s just go down to Kentucky with our friend Mike and Kelley fromR. Ring and bang em out over two days.” I think that’s where the kind of rawness comes from. We just turned them around fast because after we recorded the last record, there was a lot of down time and we decided it’s better to use that time than sitting on our asses.
Ev: Is there anyone or anything that you drew inspiration from for the EP, or did it kind of all just come to you?
Joe: Basically with ‘Wheel of Fortune’ it was kind of a collection of lyrics that didn’t fit with other songs in a sense, or things that upset me. Originally I tried to fit all of that into ‘A Private Understanding’ from the last album. It was packed full of words and then I, you know, kind of took everything out. I was like, “Oh I really like this stuff,” but it would fit in this other song that’s definitely got the space for it and kind of threw ’em in there. So it was not like it was leftovers, but it was definitely orphans looking for a home and it kind of ended up in that song.
The biggest challenge when you’re writing lyrics is trying to fit the mood of what you’re saying to what the music sounds like. And that was the case where it was like, “Okay these words are kind of sinking the flow of ‘A Private Understanding’ but they work really well with these abrupt changes and more force. And just kind of finding what the tone of the song is, is kind of the challenge.
Ev: You used to just shout out lyrics to the music without them necessarily having meaning or structure, whereas now there’s a very clear socio-political message to your recent songs. Why has that changed?
Well, unfortunately people can hear me now. The lyrics always, when I thought about them, had… I won’t say a message… I definitely approached it as “this song is gonna mean this, this song is gonna mean that,” or “this song’s going to mean anything.” We’re just now working on putting out our first record again, re-releasing it. I have to go back and try to figure out what I was singing because I never wrote the lyrics down. It was all stream of consciousness stuff, and a lot of it I’m like, “I have no idea what I’m saying.” And while it made a lot of sense then, now it does less so just because the sound. Our sound has gotten cleaner, we’re in bigger studios, and so people are going to hear what I’m saying.
It’s more like the kind of political dent that was always sort of there. Especially in these last couple years it was like, I write lyrics about how I’m feeling (as cheesy as that sounds), and I was feeling pretty bad these last couple years so… that’s gonna be what the lyrics are going to be about. I would feel like a fraud if I was singing about something that wasn’t in some sense real to me. That’s why there’s not too many love songs in Protomartyr canon.
Ev:That being said, do you feel a greater responsibility coming along with Protomartyr’s expanded reach as a band?
Joe: You do because you don’t. Because nowadays when you say something stupid, immediately you’re going to be chastised for it and so you gotta be careful. I find that when you have some sort of platform you just learn to say less or you don’t try to engage with things that you don’t know about. You could blabber on about you opinions, but it’s best to just let the music speak for it. And also, I don’t wanna fall into the trap of becoming the kind of political band that stands on a soap box and tells people what to do. I think it’s a trap. Any sort of creative thing can happen if you’re like, “I have to talk about what’s happening in the world.” Then you start saying, “well here’s what we should do.” Then you start prescribing solutions, then people are wondering if you’re a scummy singer in a punk band. So I can only talk about how the world affects me and then I try to avoid opining things I know nothing about. Or at least admitting that I know nothing.
Ev: In one interview, I think you said that you tried to make your lyrics a kind of neutral ground so that people can interpret it in their own way. Is that right?
Joe: Well no, cause that sounds pretty close to both sides have an opinion and there’s definitely issues with where that’s 100% not true where there’s one side that’s completely wrong and one side that’s right. And I want to make sure that the lyrics are true to myself or if I’m writing in a character that this is a character speaking because a lot of people would be confused by that. You can write a song that’s not in your voice. A lot of times it’s not your voice. You’re almost writing in the third person, and people just don’t get that. They assume that if you’re standing on stage and you’re singing that, you know…
Ev: That it’s coming directly from you?
Joe: Yeah, that Freddy Mercury believes we are all the champions. It’s the worst thing and I don’t know why, and I don’t want to say that people are dumb, but I don’t know why people don’t get that. So you have to be clear and say that even though it’s coming from a personal space, this is being filtered through poetics and trying to fit into the song. It’s not a clear message. I don’t think music can ever be super clear. It’s more the subconscious coming out than bullet points.
Ev: Now to step away from the heavier topics, you have a very particular and striking stage presence. People have described you as a “drunk uncle” and then when you climb on stage, that demeanor just changes completely. So what do you think shifts between being off stage and then climbing into the spotlight?
Joe: Uh well, I have stage fright, and… well number one, I will cop to not looking like a front man for a band. And so I think that throws people off. I don’t have any leather jackets, I [laughs] don’t lhave, like, my shirt completely unbuttoned so that’s odd. People are used to image and music kind of matching. All the post-punk bands are all gonna be dressed in very artsy black, and they’re all gonna be thin as a rail and look like supermodels. Like Dracula, you know? And that’s definitely not us. So that’s kind of awkward and then on top of it I don’t feel like there’s a lot.
Every day we go up on stage and I’m like, “What am I doing?” That’s the thought going through my head—”Joe, you’re not a singer, you don’t have the kind of charisma.” Then having people look at you… I don’t handle it very well. So it’s a combination of trying to combat that and trying to get out what you’re trying to do. That immediately changes me when I get up on stage. And I’m glad because I think that having stage fright actually helps me. If I walked up there and did back flips and jumped around I think people would think it was ridiculous. I think what I’m doing is true to who I am and anything else.
Ev: That’s definitely the most important thing. To wrap this up, while you’ve been on tour, were there places Protomartyr wasn’t well received or was there something completely absurd that has happened?
Joe: I mean, there’s been some weird, weird things. We’re not universally loved that’s for sure. This is kind of a weird story but I’ll tell it.
We played in Italy and the place was packed full of people, and this drunk Italian kid came up to me and he’s all “Oh you’re my favourite band,” and you know, “I can’t wait to see ya.” We have to get through the crowd to go up on stage. We go up on stage and play the first song, I don’t even have my glasses while I’m on stage and I can’t really see, but it was almost was like there was a spotlight on that kid jumping around and being pretty aggressive. And not in a good way, and I was like “Oh, well that’s annoying” and then you know, the second song starts up and he starts punching people and it’s like “Okay, we gotta calm this down.
So I try to calm the kid down while I’m trying to sing and then he goes up to the front of the stage. And these girls have put their purses up on stage and he grabs a purse and a girl tries to stop him and he punches the girl in the face. So then immediately Greg stops the music—our guitar player—and he says “Okay, get the hell out of here.” This kid is screaming “I’m your biggest fan.” And later on, he has the gall to send us a message via Facebook or something saying: “I thought you guys were real post-punk. You proved when you kicked me out of your show that you’re not real punks. I was like, your biggest fan.”
Yeah, so it’s one of those ones that if we don’t fit your definition, then thank God because your definition is terrible. Sometimes that happens, especially when people assume that you’re one way and they’ll say, “Oh, no one was… there wasn’t a big pit at the show. I’m so sorry.” Well actually when I was young and went to go see shows I really hated the pit. I was really far in the back so I kind of like it. It doesn’t always have to be aggression, you know?
Ev: Yeah, recently there was one pit that I witnessed and it was just absolutely terrifying. Someone just pulled out a steel chair and I was just having any part of that.
Joe: No thank you! I’m not a pit expert, but I don’t remember people using so many elbows. The kids are having fun. Especially when they’re young kids. I’ve seen really great pits, I’ve seen pits where everybody is working together and they all had smiles on their faces. You can tell they’re having a good time and you can tell when somethings not good and when people aren’t having fun. You can sense when the crowd is not loving it. That’s one of those things.
That was definitely the weirdest interaction we’ve ever had with somebody with just like going from “Oh, this kid is great!” to “Oh, this kid is a monster”. So…
Shad is back in the game, and he’s returning to the nation’s capital on November 22nd alongside local hip hop troupe TAPAS.
Shad’s sixth studio album—A Short Story About War—was just released on October 26th and has already garnered some critical praise. His 2011 breakout album TSOL won the Juno for Rap Recording of the Year, and he himself has been garnering some notoriety in the US for hosting the Emmy and Peabody Award winning Netflix documentary series called Hip Hop Evolution.
A Short Story About War has all the telling pieces of a Shad album—insightful, thought-provoking lyrics, soulful arrangements, and rhymes that will trip just about anyone’s ears up. But the new record is more political that any of his previous works. It is essentially a concept album, one that takes a hard look at the state of our society, the divisions within it, and “holds a mirror to our world” by examining issues like migration, environment, politics, and the human spirit.
While the subject matter is heavy, Shad maintains a sense of hope throughout (e.g. his video for “The Fool pt 1” below).
We’re giving away two pairs of tickets to Shad’s upcoming show on November 22nd at The 27 Club, which is likely to sell out. Simply fill out the form below to enter the draw!
The draw will take place the day of the show, Thursday, November 22nd, at noon—so be sure to check your inbox.
Polaris-nominated artist Tanika Charles is making her return to the capital on November 23rd at the National Arts Centre, and we’re giving away a pair of tickets to the sold-out show.
Her acclaimed 2016 album Soul Run is heavy-hitting and chalk full of classic soul/R&B influences that transcend clichés. Charles digs deep into lived experiences and channels raw emotion into songs that possess an undeniable charm. Following in the footsteps of impactful musicians like Sharon Jones and Mavis Staples, the Edmonton native takes an honest approach to writing music that not only touches on heartbreak and vulnerability, but also resiliency and the spirit of overcoming adversity.
Charles and her band create infectious rhythms and hooks, reeling in listeners with unbridled instrumentation and vocal prowess. This is not only apparent on her recordings, but even to a greater degree in a live atmosphere. This isn’t a show to miss. For more information on the event on November 23rd, check out the NAC website here.
To enter the contest, simply fill out the form below. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, November 20 at noon. The winner will be contacted via the email address provided below.
Mirror Mountain Film Festival is once again accepting proposals from musicians and media artists for the live music and visual portion of the event. The festival seeks to pair the city’s best and brightest musicians with the independent film festival which takes place July 26th-27th, 2019 at Arts Court Theatre.
The live portion will combine two key aspects – a live music performance and a film/media art performance that will run concurrently. Bands and filmmakers/media artists are encouraged to submit their proposals before the February 19th, 2019 deadline. The festival will pair successful applicants together for the performance, but bands that have a firm idea of a filmmaker or media artist that they’d like to work with are also able to submit their application together as a combo. Only one band and one filmmaker/media artist will be selected to participate in this year’s festival.
The mind of a creator can be complicated. The web of ideas and emotions that is spun making a record can take time to unravel, and this was the case with Steve St. Pierre‘s new album Stubborn Romance.
I’ve known Steve to be a wonderful artist, designer, musician, and person over the years. His work, no matter what form it takes, offers meaning through simplicity. He has the ability to boil down complex stories into a tangible message, a palatable serving for us to digest.
Stubborn Romance is a record that St. Pierre has been working on for seven years. A lot can happen in seven years. I’ve admired his candidness when discussing his struggles with mental health, as difficult as that can often be. The album delves into some of these struggles, but never without some of his dry humour and foul mouth poking through.
“…these songs. It needs to be said: they’re a bunch of assholes. They’re culled from over 400 voice memos I had lodged on my hard drive… That’s not meant to sound impressive. That’s mania.”
Stubborn Romance is gentle and devastating all at once. The album is an iceberg that requires a few listens to understand its true depth. There is no fancy production on this one. It’s rough, but honest. Ultimately, this album’s strength comes down to just that—truth. His unhindered exploration of his own struggles tell a story that many of us can relate with, navigating the tribulations that life inevitably hits us with.
Stubborn Romance was released back in September with an intimate performance at The Black Sheep Inn, and I chatted with St. Pierre about how it finally came to be. Have a read and stream Stubborn Romance below.
What was the impetus for Stubborn Romance? Can you take us through the back story a bit?
This record came out of both excitement and exhaustion. I was excited with how much I was writing, but I was exhausted with how much I was writing. I would record these half-baked ideas on my old iPhone and “My Recording 26” or whatever would get stashed away and I’d smoke another joint and write twelve more of those and forget about them in an hour.
I got frustrated with myself and called myself an asshole and decided to beat a record to death with a baseball bat. So I dug through the gross pile of demos and chose a bunch of guys that came and went and came and went and came and went until 13 decided to stick around and challenge me. And they did. But I came out on the other end with something I’m pretty proud of—particularly because I’ve never recorded a record on my own, but also because of the amount of honesty on there.
This album took you a long time to write. What made you take your time for this one?
I wish it felt like I took my time. There were too many periods of mania where I would sit and record 6-12 versions of each song. There was an entire record trashed because I was buried in the Barr Brothers for a minute and then realized I don’t have the talent or production skills to pull off the sounds I was hearing. Honestly, if I hadn’t booked my release show at the (Black) Sheep months ago, I’d still be working on this thing and I’d probably have my head permanently implanted in the desk in my studio.
I stopped when all the songs made sense. When I was finally able to understand the words that come out of my stream-of-consciousness/bullshit way of writing and form some lines that connected and made sense to me and what I was trying to get across. When the songs made sense, and with a few nudges and maybe even slightly terse words from my partner, I finally brought these 13 songs where they needed to be over a week and a half.
You’ve said that the songs are a product of over 400 voice memos and years of gathering your thoughts. How did you ultimately decide which songs made the cut onto Stubborn Romance?
The tracklist was the hardest part. There are so many fallen soldiers. So much so that there’s another release planned before the year is out. That’s besides the point. This album is a product of both too much time and procrastination—ultimately, the 13 are the ones that I felt best represented me and my place as a person and musician. I was able to find a whole lot of honesty in sorting out these tunes, and it feels good to stand behind each of them still, some as old as 10 years at this point, and still have context and understanding for where the root of the song came from. That sounds so convoluted. I’m so sorry.
Mental health is something you describe as a topic that circles the album like a vulture. It’s not an easy thing to talk about, let alone express through songs. How does mental health play into your songwriting process? And what do you hope others who are struggling take from Stubborn Romance?
I’ve always been a bit of a big mouth. I appreciate the art of talking shit. But after years of just glancing over my depression and issues with anxiety, I decided to finally kick the door down and try understand exactly why I feel like a bag of shit everyday. “Decided” might not be the right term. I think “it was imperative that I seek help” fits the bill a bit better. And with the help of some off-brand SNRIs, I’ve started to wade through the weeds and make sense of this sickness that has affected me in some way shape or form since I was six.
I can’t not bring that into my writing. It’s me. These songs wouldn’t be so fucking sad if I didn’t struggle with this horseshit ailment everyday, but I do, and so those lemons are gonna get squeezed. And I hope people understand that. And I hope those that suffer a) won’t get too bummed out by the record but b) that they can find a bit of themselves in there.
Now that Stubborn Romance is out into the world, what’s the next chapter in your story?
I mentioned an EP. That’ll be happening before the year is out. I don’t want to call them castaways from the record, they just didn’t fit the narrative. I think there might be some gems in there. But I’m excited to take my own pace with this. A mix of tortoise and hare. Music finally feels like its getting fun again, and I kinda want to bathe in that for a second.
Anything else you want to mention?
Supporting local isn’t a new idea, but I really want to encourage people to take in at least one live show a month. Date night with your partner. Solo night to have a beer and enjoy some good music. There is no shortage of talented, interesting artists in this city that, like you, just want to be a part of something a bit bigger than themselves. One night a month. Go.
The night started off early with Roxbury, a three piece rock band from Seattle, who took the stage to open the show. The trio brought enough energy to power everything and everyone in the entire bar. The lead vocalist/guitarist and bassist complimented each other exuding their passion for rock and roll through head bangs and solos. Overall, they were loud, hyped, and set the tone for the rest of the night, letting everyone know that it would be a show to remember.
Prior to the show, I was not overly familiar with Shortly, the music project of Alexandria Maniak, but, backed by a full band, their set left me and the rest of the crowd, awe struck. Lead singer, Maniak, took the stage and her soft-yet-powerful vocals danced through the venue. Unfortunately, the bustling crowd talked over the music, but that was short lived. The soft tone took a sudden shift, as the guitar and drums erupted, and the bass and snare drums shook the room, anyone chatting jumped, and like that, the crowd’s attention was zeroed in on the stage.
The music itself struck the perfect mix. With flawlessly executed harmonics, thoughtful lyrics, and an ever-evolving tempo, Shortly’s set was shoegazey, powerful, and captivating, finding appreciation among the pop punk crowd. Maniak played with passion that connected with the audience, taking time to share the meaning behind songs that were composed, written, and performed with immense amounts of talent, attention to detail, and undying passion. Touring her debut EP titled Richmond, it was Shortly’s first night in Ottawa, but I know I’m not alone in saying I hope it was the first of many.
Oso Oso, who was back in town for the second time this year, touring his second LP, The Yunahon Mixtape, Jade Lilitri hit the stage with an indie rock flare. He played a consistent set starting off with his new album’s first track, the cool. He looked right at home on stage, hitting every note with ease, and taking the time to reminisce about previous tour stops in Ottawa when he used to play house shows earlier in his career. The crowd, feeding off his vibes, heads bobbing in unison, sang along, and enjoyed a solid performance. He closed his set on a fan favourite, reindeer games, another single from his new album.
Have Mercy ramped up the energy in the room when they began their set. Lead singer, Brian Swindle, immediately won the room over with his playful banter about the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada. He opened with “Smoke and Lace,” the first track on his 2017 album, Make the Best of it, then immediately began passing a wine bottle around on stage, for their post intro ‘wine break.’ Swindle thanked their bassist who stepped in for their Canadian shows, filling the crowd in, that it was only the bassists second time playing with them, something you would never have guessed by their seamless performance. The guitarist was just as entertaining, sharing stories about their time in Canada, especially their time in Quebec City the day before, breaking into song singing, ‘Alouette gentille alouette.’
Beyond their larger than life stage presence, the music was raw, unapologetic, and was accented by Swindle’s trademark raspy voice. The crowd’s energy hit a high when the band played a popular single from an older album, Let’s Talk About Your Hair. As everyone sang and jumped along, it was the cherry on top of an impressive group of opening performances.
I made my way to a platform at the side of the room to get the best possible view for the final act. As smoke filled the stage and the lights dimmed, you could feel the anticipation in the room grow as the crowd dressed in punk styled back-print t-shirts and hoodies grew even larger. The Wonder Years took the stage in front of a massive sea of hands and screaming bodies. They started it off with the title track from their new album, Sister Cities, as the crowd immediately sang along, word for word, the punk-pop vets showed everyone in the room how it was done. Their energy was unsurpassable, and the crowd fed it right back to them.
Front man Dan Campbell reminded the crowd that it had been a while since they had been in Ottawa, to his surprise six years. He promised to go above and beyond to deliver an amazing show—and he kept his promise. The guitar riffs were tight and the drums, ear splitting, which defended their pop punk reign with ease. The band played so hard and so loud, that mid-show, an amp blew—but, the crowd continued to sing, and carried the band through the rest of the song as they quickly addressed the issue, ramping the show back up and turning the volume back to 11.
The band never let their energy waiver, as Campbell belted out song after song, the crowd did the same. The room got hotter, as people jumped higher, sang louder, and moshed in unison. The set closed with a double encore. “The Devil in my Bloodstream” and “Came Out Swinging” were the chosen last jams that wrapped up what was, without a doubt, a must-see show for any punk fan. It was one that left you voiceless, sweaty, (maybe shedding a few tears) and remembering why you got into punk music in the first place.
Ottawa’s lo-fi garage rockers Expanda Fuzz just released a new video just in time for Halloween, for their aptly named song “Ghosts and Flowers” off of their brand new LP Cotton Candy Jet Engine.
I mean I think we can all agree that nothing says Halloween like ghosts, flowers, blurred vision, and acetaminophen… or maybe they are waking up from a night of a little too much boos. Sorry I couldn’t help it.
The video is shot in a way that truly matches the band’s lo-fi vibes. From the shots of the sunflowers in the garden to the mannequin in the medic tent surrounded by old school medical supplies, this video really captures the fuzzy ambiance and slow driving flow of the song.
For anyone who has ever seen the band perform or seen their previous videos, note that this is one of the first time you ever get a chance to see Niki Nine Doors without her infamous 60’s mod chic white sunglasses.
Check out the video below and go listen to the rest of the most excellent Cotton Candy JetEngine and grab yourself of copy of limited edition cotton candy pink vinyl.