Busted limbs, broken noses, and a little bit of blood on the face is nothing out of the ordinary for Ottawa’s party punk rockers New Swears. They’ve just released a video for the track “Dance With The Devil” off of their new record And The Magic of Horses, and they crank up the gore factor to 11. That’s why we love them, along with the fact that their music will incite a party anytime, anywhere it is played. And The Magic of Horses is the band’s third full-length album, and their first with Dine Alone Records to be released June 23rd. The 10-track album is sure to be chock-full of summer party anthems with dirty melodies that beg to be blared in backyards across the country, which should go perfectly with the smell of barbecue smoke and pissed off neighbours.
The video’s timely release today also coincides with the Ottawa Senators’ first game of the NHL Conference Semi-Finals, a game which will surely have the streets packed with booze-filled hockey lovers. While we all hope the Sens avoid the kind of injuries that the band sustains in the video, we certainly wish them the best. Get amped up for the game and watch “Dance With The Devil” below, just make sure the kids are out of the room.
Don’t miss the New Swears Weekend happening at House of TARG June 23/24, they’re going full force with two record release shows back-to-back. Tickets available here.
Here at Ottawa Showbox we don’t tend to cover a lot of theatre. Actually this may be the first time. But after speaking with Megan Carty of the local theatre company Cart Before the Horse we felt we needed to start.
Cart Before the Horse was formed in 2014 by Megan Carty and Paul Griffin. They strive to use theatre as a powerful outlet to explore topics we as society are otherwise afraid to talk about. Cart Before the Horse primarily focuses on plays that explore how the world of young women has been expressed by playwrights in contemporary Canadian theatre. In doing so they have been nominated for several awards and won the Prix Rideau Award for Outstanding Direction for their 2016 adaptation of Judith Thompson’s Perfect Pie
Their latest production continues where they left off. girls!girls!girls!, written by Greg Macarthur, is a gritty drama written in response to the events surrounding the brutal death of – in Victoria, BC and the Columbine massacre in Colorado, USA. It is a fictionalized story where four young teenagers seek brutal revenge on the winner of a gymnastics competition and go on a hunt to obtain her red ribbon.
We had a quick chat with Megan Carty, co-founder and artistic director of Cart Before the Horse and producer of this show, while deep in a technical rehearsal before opening night.
How did your production of girls!girls!girls! come to be?
Being an Ottawa-based artist I find myself very hungry for gritty theatre that pushes boundaries and makes me think/feel. I came across this script about a year ago when a fellow actor of mine lent it to me and I was immediately hooked. It explored the same murder trial as a show I did a few years earlier called The Shape of a Girl, only it was a much edgier, more stylized, and a cartoon version.
I applied to the TACTICS festival for the second year in a row, assembled my dream team of local emerging artists who were drawn to the same kind of theatre and style of work as me, and then we all a boarded the roller coaster and never turned back. This process has been especially unique because although certain people wore certain hats in the rehearsal room (ie the actor hat, the director hat, the sound designer hat, etc) we all created this show together as a collective. Everyone had an equal voice in the room and each artist/idea influenced the other artists and ideas. It was extremely rewarding and the result is something I could have never imagined, behind my wildest expectations.
Given that Showbox focuses mostly on music, can you please tell me about the play’s music?
My partner, Martin Dawagne, is a professional and highly skilled composer and sound designer from Belgium. We met two and a half years ago in Toronto and instantly connected because of our passion for creation and relentless pursuits of our perspective arts – his music and my acting. Since our first encounter we have collaborated on a multitude of projects that fuse his composing with my theatre, including four productions with my company.
The sound in this piece really is a complete character of its own. It drives the entire show and has a massive presence, not just in the transitions but in the undertones of every scene. Since the play deals with themes of teenage pop culture, we chose a bunch of popular pop songs to drive our story forward, recorded original covers of our cast singing them, and then he went crazy with effects, layers, samples, and looping medals to make them as distorted as the story itself. The music of this show is not just a soundtrack, it is a full on score that elevates the production value in every way. A lot of Martin’s choices as a designer really influenced the direction we took with all the other elements – lighting, set, costume, acting choices, etc.
How important is it that we incorporate original scores in our plays?
It is written right in our mandate that EVERY production has an original score so I would say it is of extreme importance. We are a very dynamic company and I love to choose scripts that call for a lot of movement and physical theatre onstage. Of course the best thing to pair with so much action and choreography is music. And if course the music is better if it is crafted to specifically fit the needs of this specific script and production. I really believe that something magic can be created when interdisciplinary arts work together in unlikely ways. Martin and I have found that fusing our respective arts and passions really lifts the quality of both our work as artists.
If you are looking for something a little different, go see girls!girls!girls! with its wild music and which is sure to spark a dialogue with a story that will follow everyone in the audience home. girls!girls!girls! begins April 27th, with shows from April 27-30 and May 3-6 at 8pm, as well as May 6 at 2pm. Tickets available here.
This article appears in the April Edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column. Photo: Malak performs at Shot In The Dark Sessions. Credit: SITD YouTube channel.
Tucked behind the corner of Bank Street and Fifth Avenue sits a quaint church with strikingly blue doors. On the main floor is a typical chapel; in the basement is a bohemian space brimming with recording equipment, colourful mod furniture, and a mini fridge crammed with craft beer. Hidden in the basement of 2 Monk Street is Gallery Recording Studios, run by local musician and producer Dean Watson. An Ottawa music veteran, Watson is a quietly talented figure whose expertise in record production drives a new and upcoming project in the local music community – the Shot in the Dark sessions.
Shot in the Dark is a collaborative group effort that feeds on the talent of local musicians, bands, filmmakers, and photographers, all tied together by Dean Watson and his partner in the project, Jonathan Kischel. Kischel, a local videographer and President of the digital production company JustPixl completes the film aspect of the endeavour. Together, and with the contributions of dozens of local musicians, they’ve created a unique and innovative project with a high quality output, it’s hard to believe that it is so small-scale.
Starting in 2004, Gallery Recording Studios has been producing records and music videos for all kinds of local artists. Shot in the Dark, its most unique and extensive project yet, began with a simple yet hopeful idea by Watson and Kischel. It materialized last year, and quickly grew to become an all-consuming and wildly successful series for them both.
Introduced only a few years ago, the pair’s mutual interest in the arts became a central factor of their future business relationship. Watson had previous experience with a similar project called Crowded Room, a live concert video shot for The Split. “People just loved it,” he says, “and it got a lot of traction from the band.” Due to lack of sponsors, however, the project didn’t continue. “It fizzled out,” he explains, “but I kept the idea going.”
Raphael Weinroth-Brown plays Shot In The Dark Sessions. Photo: YouTube.
Watson’s creative idea resurfaced once he met Kischel, whose experience in multidisciplinary video brought the project’s visual aspirations to life. “Over the years we chatted about this idea of having a live music series,” says the young videographer. “The fall of last year, we were fed up with just talking and decided to just do it and try it out. The first one was a leap of faith.”
“Fortunately,” says Watson, “it took off.”
Through the producer’s knowledge of Ottawa’s music network, bands quickly jumped on board for the experiment, and before too long the first session was filmed. “Before the first session was even released,” says Kischel, “the second was already shot.” Since then, each session has attracted more artists and a wider audience.
The series’ success can not only be attributed to its entertainment factor, but also to its ground-level connection to the local music market. The videos provide accessible and high quality content for up and coming bands in need of a digital repertoire. “It’s really filling a niche in town,” Kischel explains. “To get into bigger festivals, a lot of bands are judged off of their live videos. Bands need a higher quality piece other than just a cellphone in a crowd. This fills that middle ground. As the artists grow, we hope they trust us to come back for recording and music videos when they have bigger budgets.”
The videos follow a specific style, using clever lighting, foggy haze, and a subdued set to focus on the artists of the moment. All other musicians from the session also appear in the background of each video as audience members. “We want a band to jam together like they’re practicing,” says Kischel, “with all the artists from a session around them, listening and part of their crowd. It builds off the community of the Ottawa music scene.”
The simplistic, intimate aesthetic of the videos produce content that is both familiar but high-quality, creating a versatile style that can be applied to any type of music. The series boasts an impressive variety of musical genres, including but not limited to the work of folk, rock, soul, and hip hop artists. They have aspirations to expand even further.
“It’s a bit of everything,” says Kischel, and that’s the goal. “Introducing people to what is in Ottawa….We want to become a hub.” The pair hopes to work with classical musicians in the future, as well as hip-hop and spoken word artists. “We’re tying to cater to anyone who’s making art in the city,” says Watson, who hopes the project can be a local resource for both artists and music lovers in Ottawa.
Not only do the sessions provide varied content for viewers, but its collaborative, community-based nature has brought together members of the local musical scene in a supportive and innovative environment. “After the first video we realized this isn’t just a shoot,” says Watson, “it’s a networking event. A bunch of these guys connected, set up gigs together, went to each other’s gigs… which was a really cool side effect.”
The project is mainly artist funded, but has attracted the resources of Irene’s Pub and Collective Arts Brewery, who provide their local food and beer to production days. “We’re trying to build the community around it,” says Kischel. “Moving forward, we’re hoping to get more sponsors on board. Just kind of building as we go and with the artists.”
As for the future, Shot in the Dark is set for a more expansive and larger scale production. session five will be the last shot at Gallery’s location, with a realization that the project has “outgrown” its current space. “For session six,” says Watson, “we’re looking at a different, bigger venue.” The pair also hopes to partner with more local companies to help fund the project.
With the Shot in the Dark sessions being only over a year old, it’s clear that the project has an incredibly optimistic future. Watson says the pair was “caught off guard” from musicians’ interest in the project, and is still adjusting to the growing number of musicians and production assistants involved (including local Harrison Koyman, who provides high-quality photographs of each shoot).
Evidently, the project is a collaborative effort that relies on the specific talents of everyone involved – whether it’s a singer, guitarist, videographer, producer, or craft brewery. “There’s so much talent around,” says Kischel, and the Shot in the Dark sessions make that clear. The project has already outdone the pair’s expectation of their hopeful idea, but the future of the series is undoubtedly positive. More than anything, the series proves the versatility and comradery of the Ottawa music community, and its ability to connect people of all positions, backgrounds, and levels of experience to produce something incomparably creative.
House of TARG is one of those unique places that makes you feel at home when you walk down the dingy basement stairs. The room was probably about a billion times hotter than it should be and only got worse through the night. That being said, it didn’t discourage people from having a party.
“How does one make a punk show out to be a party?” one asks. Well, the answer to that is simple, booze, good tunes, and lively bands that either know what they’re doing or have no idea what they’re doing but do it well. That’s exactly what went down on the 7th April, and of course, continued until the early morning of the 8th.
When my best friend and I walked in, we were greeted by Matias who then introduced us to a long-term Showbox writer, Eric. He also introduced us to Eric’s girlfriend, and both were exceptionally kind to the two of us. After some conversation, we headed to find a table and patiently await the show to start.
Robots! Everywhere! was the first to perform and he put on an acoustic set which reminded me very much of a band by the name of AJJ. He sang about sports, going to the park with his daughter, and terrible dates. Phil does not take himself very seriously, which is something that you don’t see very often in the music scene, and much less in a punk music scene. He embraces forgetting the words to a song with no shame and jokes around with the crowd, even looking at a notebook he placed on the floor to remind himself of what songs to perform. Through the night, with friends there to support him, a smile did not leave his face. He even performed a song that he doesn’t perform live and he let us in on a little secret; it’s because his girlfriend is typically at shows and well, the song is called “Call Me Some, If You Are Looking for a Time”. The song consists of the lyrics “If you are ever bored and you want to get married… call me.” And yet he is not. He brought forth an energetic show, one that would remind you of summer camp where you’d gather around the fire and sing together, just way better and with a little more yelling. Seeing Phil live is well worth your money if you don’t take yourself too seriously, or even if you do, you can’t help finding his music infectious.
I wish I had the time to talk to Phil after his set, however, Telecomo took the stage immediately after and who was I to complain? Telecomo brought a more serious vibe to the bar, opening with brand songs that I couldn’t find anywhere on the internet yet. They completely shifted the mood. Not only did they make it feel like they belonged playing in bars due to their sound, but they made you feel like you were in your friend’s garage, watching their band go at it with heart. I found every song infectious and the composition was incredibly well done. I have also never in my life seen a bassist move around as much as Gary did. His basslines shook the floor with its power. I have always deeply admired strong basslines, and Gary’s blew me away. It’s something that really added to the songs and the experience.
The third last song Telecomo played was “I Met You.” It reminds me so much of a song from my childhood and yet I can’t for the life of me figure out which one. This is probably one of the reasons that I have a strong love for that song. They played their last two songs, “For Sale” and “Lipstick” then began to pack up after their very heartfelt thank you. Their drummer and friend, Pat Johnson, was revealed to be working double time because he was also the drumming for Steve Adamyk Band that night. He seemed very modest and began to shake his head when a round of applause was asked to be given for him.
I managed to talk to Adam and Gary after they performed, who were both incredibly sweet people. They even talked to me about my photography and Gary mentioned how he tried to “muck it up” for me, and hoped I got some good shots. They were very genuine people and even asked for my social media. After that I went to find Phil, which Matias kindly directed me to, and I managed to exchange some info with him. Phil, if you manage to talk to him, is a sweetheart. Not only did he make sure everything was alright, but he kept checking in with my best friend to see if she was enjoying the show and if she was okay. This wasn’t something we asked for, but it was certainly much appreciated. His friend chimed in and even told us that we had very nice smiles and that although we occupied the table that he had been eyeing all night, he couldn’t be mad at us for it.
Telecomo will be releasing their debut LP For Sale in June, it is a must-have and will be available on vinyl as well.
As things began to settle down, Steve Adamyk Band began to set up. I was pretty excited to hear them live for the second time because their recorded stuff doesn’t do this band justice. When do CD’s, LP’s, or cassette tapes ever do a band justice though? They opened with “Through My Fingers” and really threw themselves into the music. Pat was going at the drums with every ounce of energy that he had within him. Later that night I learned that he had broken something close to sixteen drumsticks, and two kick pedals because that’s how rock and roll works. I even managed to snag a photo where his drumstick is breaking. Their sound is pop punk with a dash of fuzz added to it. Their energy got people on their feet and dancing, and got me bobbing my head to the fast pace of their songs. Unfortunately, on this night they were a trio as opposed to their usual foursome but their delivery was still spot-on despite this fact. They talked to the crowd and all in all were incredibly friendly people. If you want to listen to a song of theirs that will for sure get you on your feet I highly recommend “False Teeth.” It’s a little gloomy sounding at first, but it picks up fast and gets you moving with a strong baseline that draws the song together.
Talking to Steve was a pleasure. Not only was he thankful for the photos I was taking, he spoke to me about how he loves talking to people who were born and raised in Ottawa and even talked some about how Ottawa is a home to many bands they’re friends with, officially and unofficially. We spoke briefly, but in that time we spoke of the local music scene. These guys have a passion for music that’s so clearly written on their faces, in performance, and in conversation. After thanking Steve for the time he gave me, I headed over to Matias as I got very excited about a photo of Steve Adamyk Band that I took. It is by far my favourite photograph of the night and I knew I could not wait to send him the photo. I needed to show him there and then.
There was a wait period between Steve Adamyk and B.A. Johnston. The whole vibe suddenly shifted, whether it was because it was the opening act or because a significant amount of people immediately flooded towards the front, I don’t know. All I really knew about B.A. was that he makes a joke out of everything and anything, and that in his shows he includes a performance art component to it which most people don’t actually consider an art. Watching this man perform was incredibly absurd. Not that it was bad by any means, it was just incredibly strange. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Not only did he wear three sweatshirts, but at the very beginning of the show, he ripped a pair of Velcro pants off. His humour consisted of not understanding how an iPhone 5c (his Walkman) worked, and writing songs with very oddly specific names. He had even written a song about GST cheques. Besides that, his humour gave off the vibe of Hamilton, Ontario (so he claims), which is where he’s from. He went around the crowd belting out lyrics in his hoarse voice and crushing beer cans on his head whenever he was handed one.
His sound can only be described as something you’d hear from video games from the 80’s, with a mix of pre-programmed beats, synthesizer, and a few acoustic songs. His guitar is a clear indication of the type of act he puts on. A modge-podge of various bits and pieces stuck on, and stickers littering the old thing. There were even carvings in the face of his guitar, and even a metal pick guard somehow stuck on to it. If you paid close enough attention, you could see his feet floating above the ground from time to time as he played. He later claimed to be “a forty five year old man whose only pleasure is forcing people to drink Sourpuss”.
His act went on well past 1 a.m. and although I didn’t stay for the last few songs, I guarantee that there was a lot more drinking, dancing, and singing going on as the show came to an end. I got a cab home and Matias made sure my friend and I stayed safe, walking out in front of TARG with us.
The night was overall filled with great people, fantastic music, and most of the vibes were incredibly positive. Everyone was incredibly friendly and grateful, no matter how drunk or tipsy they were. The live music allowed the room to surge with energy, and as soon as the bands played everyone crowded around TARG’s stage.
If you’re looking for lazy punk, garage punk, punk with some fuzz to it, or folk punk with a side of comedy, this was the lineup for you. And if you want and incredibly wild night with no regrets (except for that headache you’ll be sporting), come on down to see these incredibly talented artists next time they play.
Standing in the Westin picking up Juno Awards media passes, my phone buzzed. A screenshot from a friend of a tweet saying there was a pop-up Arkells show at a *secret* location, hosted by CBCq and Tom Power. What the hell is that, you ask? Pop-up show? Secret location? Challenge accepted. So, The Great Hunt for The Arkells Pop-Up Secret Show hosted by CBCq began.
As we left the hotel we made a plan. It was 1:30pm, the show was at 4pm. Start the clock.
1:32PM – We narrowed down possible venues for such an event in Ottawa. The tweet said that the first 50 people who emailed CBCq would get access to the show. We knew it would be small.
1:37PM – We hauled ass to the car, snow flying down everywhere, and decided first stop would be at the source. Off to CBC we went. Once we parked and found our way around the the entrance that actually let us in (harder than you’d think, there’s like five doors to that place). The security guards were quick to stop us, we showed them the tweet and I’m pretty sure they thought we were off our rockers. Thankfully, one gentleman didn’t think we were completely loony and offered to help us out by introducing us to the CBC host he was waiting to meet. Amazingly enough, the host he was waiting for also happened to be the moderator from the morning’s panel discussion on Ottawa As A Music City. Though he also had no idea what we were talking about he was nice enough to wish us luck as we left on The Great Hunt for The Arkells Pop-Up Secret Show hosted by CBCq
2:05PM – Next we tried to think logically. CBCq hosted an event at the Bronson Centre the day before. Perhaps they were holding all their gear there for the broadcast. So once again, off we went. We got inside only to have the person behind the desk look at us like we have eight heads. This was becoming a theme. We thought this was a logical choice, but failed to consider the size of the Bronson Centre, and how it could fit many more than 50 people.
2:30PM – Though we didn’t admit defeat, we decided that CBC probably knew a thing or two about keeping secrets. We carried on with our day.
3PM – Out for lunch where I ended up with a full pint of beer in my lap and ate perogies that would later nearly kill me (that’s a story for another time).
3:45PM – *Phone buzz.* What’s the line up outside LIVE on Elgin? We once again hauled ass to the car.
4:05PM – Late for the 4PM start time, we parked, j-walked and carefully knocked on the door of the venue. Security opens the door and quickly starts questioning. We got a quick no, and a door close.
4:07PM – Some parts of this story need to remain a mystery, right?
4:10PM – WE GOT IN! The Great Hunt for The Arkells Pop-Up Secret Show hosted by CBCq was a success!!! We quickly stripped off coats, rigged up cameras with lens, and flew like the wind towards the stage. Arkells were going full tilt, we started shooting. Max flew everywhere through the crowd. He was dancing, throwing his mic stand around, finally just took the glasses straight off my face. Insanity. Private School, Drakes Dad, Happy Birthday, Jackson Five.
4:50PM – Post show CBC Host Tom Power striked up a conversation with us. We hesitantly told him details of The Great Hunt for The Arkells Pop-Up Secret Show hosted by CBCq, unsure of the response we would receive. He got a laugh, seemed impressed, all was fine, the end.
4:55PM– Still losing our shit, we went on with our day. The rest of The Juno Awards awaited us, little did we know there was much more in store for the weekend. Check out the full photo gallery for more of what I got up to throughout Juno Weekend.
Join us next time as I tell the story about how I puke outside Petrocan before meeting another CBC radio host.
Whether it’s the white-knuckled knee-stompers, the whiskey-soaked ballads, or anything else in between, Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers make music that raises eyebrows. They are road dwellers, travelling around the world and picking up adoring fans along the way. His hard-hitting and sometimes poignant lyricism has become nationally renowned, and his melodies draw from traditional Eastern European and Jewish traditions. As Ben and his band get set to play at Shenkman Arts Centre this weekend, we are trying something a little bit different. We got the opening artist, Gareth Auden-Hole a.k.a. Jack Pine, to interview the scruffy songwriter.
Be sure to catch Jack Pine share the stage with Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers this Friday, April 7th at Shenkman Arts Centre. Ticket information can be found here.
Artist on Artist: Jack Pine interviews Ben Caplan
Jack: How’s it goin’?
Ben: It’s goin’ well. Yeah we’re just sittin’ in the van cruising on the way to Sudbury. Should be there in about an hour and change. Today is day 3, we played Kingston last night, Montreal the night before that, and we had one solo gig… sort of a leaving home gig… in New Brunswick last week.
J: Cool, sounds like fun!
B: Totally, it’s been a nice run so far.
J: And you were’t home all that long, were you? You had a really long tour ending in the fall?
B: I did, yeah, I had maybe two and a half months off or something like that… then back out into the world.
J: And you were overseas for much of that last tour. Do you have a favourite place to play in the world?
B: Ooh, tough one… I mean, there’s so many different kinds of gigs, and places. It’s hard to pick. But I really loved the last show we played in Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands. Some really, really cool shows there, and that last one was just amazing.
J: Yeah, I hear that touring Europe is a lot of fun and provides like a different audience experience…
B: Absolutely. It’s like a completely different valuation of the role of art in culture and in society. It’s a great place to hang out and a great place to play shows!
J: And what about Ottawa? I mean, other than amazing opening acts, what’s your favourite thing about touring through Ottawa?
B: I dunno, I like Ottawa. It’s a city I’ve had the privilege of spending a bunch of time in, I did a lot of the post-production on my album in Ottawa. And it’s got a cool arts scene and it’s got a lot of cool people… my drummer Jamie Kronick lives in Ottawa, so that’s a nice connection. I’m looking forward to it!
J: For your post production, you’re talking about Phil Bova’s studio?
B: Yeah, totally! Great guy.
J: You seem to put a lot of effort into creating really unique arrangements in your recordings, and you also have a reputation for truly unique and distinct performances from show to show. How should a live performance relate to the recorded version?
B: Well I don’t think it matters at all… the song is what matters, right? I think that the live performance and studio performance are two completely different mediums. You have different tools that are available to you, and also the way that people are going to interact with your art is totally different in the two different mediums. So with this last album I tried to really experiment with everything that the studio format offered offered that the live format was incapable of doing. So for example, there’s no way I’ll ever have a harp player on tour with me. It’s not in the budget, it’s not the first of 10 instruments or instrumentalists that I would hire. But in the studio you need to pay somebody for like a day, so what sounds could you experiment with and how would that impact an arrangement? Those are the kinds of questions I was asking when making my record, and then live it’s about how do you use your own energy and the energy of the people on stage with you to create an emotional experience that will be impactful and beautiful for the people standing in front of you
J: I totally agree! I record bands myself and when we’re in studio I often say “when you’re in studio you’re trying to make the best album you can and on stage you’re trying to make the best show you can,” and they aren’t always the same thing.
That said, for this show I’m planning the opposite approach in that I’m basically trying to recreate my Lone Wolf EP on stage for the first time.
B: Amazing, I’m looking forward to hearing that!
J: Yeah me too… I mean… I’m looking forward to doing it!
Now Birds with Broken Wings was your second album and I’ve heard you talk before about the “Second album syndrome” during production… can you comment on that experience?
B: Sure, I guess my first album gave me a platform and the resources to make another record, but suddenly there was this demand – you know, nobody gave a shit if I made my first album at all, I did it for myself. And then suddenly there was this feeling of weight and responsibility and obligation to people other than myself – the people who would be working with me, business partners, and primarily to my audience. And then to myself with sort of this pressure to keep rolling this stone up the hill and an illusion of being further along on some path… I felt the pressure to perform. You know you have your whole life to write the first album and then writing a follow up record, you have to do relatively quickly, so I felt all of these interesting pressures. But it was great because it pushed me to think big, to think in grandiose terms, and to try to surround myself with people who I could trust and who I enjoyed collaborating with. So it was an interesting sort of pressure cooker, crock pot situation that I found myself in, but I think it was a good thing for me. A good learning experience. And now reflecting on that, I feel this third album pressure and I’m more able to remind myself that it’s all kind of illusory and that my responsibility is to the art, and to myself and to the songs
J: So what will be different about the 3rd album syndrome?
Ben: Well, you know, with the thirst album I don’t think think I have anything to prove. I think I’m just going to make something that I like and hope that other people like it. Hopefully that works out for me.
J: So as a singer-songwriter-producer who’s finally putting the final polish on my own 2nd album, do you have any advice for battling the second album syndrome?
B: No. I don’t haha! You just have to work through it. As I was saying, just being rigorous and serving the song, that’s all you can ever do.
J: Your influences seem to be extremely broad and I can definitely respect that a lot. Who’s on your must-see-before-you-die list for live performances?
B: Hmm… geez… well you know when you’re on tour as much as I am, in a funny way the last thing I can picture wanting to do is going to a show when I don’t have to. But… uh… can I take a pass?
J: Well, mine would be Tom Waits… a rare live performance to see. I feel like you could relate to that.
B: Well, I got to see him a couple of years ago. I saw him perform at the Bridge School Benefit concert, a yearly concert that Neil Young puts on. So I went to Mountain View, California, to go see that show and it was pretty cool.
J: Specifically for that show?
B: Totally! Yeah, it’s like ‘well I’m not going to get many opportunities to see Tom Waits, I’m sure. So now that there is one, I’d better fly to California.’
J: Exactly… it’ll happen for me eventually, too.
B: Here’s hoping. My fingers are crossed. You just have to be willing to fly to California, that’s all.
J: Totally possible.
I saw that Uptown Funk video that you did with Old Man Luedecke. Is that something that you do with the band often? Or just a one off?
B: It was a one off. The CBC asked us throw together some sort of Top 40 hit to perform as a collaboration between Old Man Luedecke and I, and we were totally gob-smacked as to what to do because neither one of us listens to a ton of Top 40. So trying to figure out what we could collaborate on was tricky, but I wound up suggesting that one. And it was a fun exercise to like try to figure out how to arrange that with those musicians and throw it all together. I practiced it a few times with the members of my own band and then with Old Man Luedecke. We had maybe an hour in the studio to try to mash it together and make it happen. I’m pretty pleased with how it came together.
J: Yeah it was pretty tight!
B: I credit everyone else around me.
J: You say you don’t listen to a lot of Top 40 hits, but do you have any guilty pleasures? I won’t tell anyone, I swear…
Ben: Please, you can report on it all you like. Yeah, I dunno, I definitely have enjoyed stuff from Britney, to Adele, to Katy Perry… I have no intrinsic beef with those genres.. Justin Bieber… you know these production teams, the songwriting, it’s all undeniable in my opinion. It’s really, really excellent music and it’s going for a particular thing that’s really different from the thing that I’m going for but even tho it’s rarely the thing that I would think to put on, when it does come on I have a deep appreciation for it. Playing with Jamie Kronick definitely lends to that sensibility on my behalf because he’s a shameless pop fanatic, so I wind up being exposed to a lot more Top 40 than I would normally, through Jamie.
J: Last question. If Shenkman goes well on Apr 7th, do you wanna take me on tour with you?
Ben: Sure… haha we have one more show after that!
Jack: Yeah, fair enough. Well maybe not this tour then, but I’ve got you on the record for that!
Ben: Right on, well I look forward to hearing it, man
Jack: Sweet, and I look forward to seeing you too. It’s going to be a great show, I think!
There were countless options for live music Friday night thanks to JUNOfest, and I chose to rock out with New Swears, NO BRO and Blve Hills at the Bourbon Room.
It was a tight fit in the Bourbon Room, but that didn’t slow the moshing, crowd surfing, confetti shooting, beer drinking and general chaos that is New Swears.
My night began with Blve Hills who took the crowd on a psychedelic journey. Most of the set kind of felt like a well organize psych jam session, and I mean that in the best way possible. They were a bunch of musicians having fun and not taking themselves too seriously, but still rocking out. At one point a large stuffed snake was tossed into the crowd and thrown around for a couple of songs. Just confirming my point that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Then, out of nowhere, the set shifted from psych to a stronger, more punk rock style tracks to finish off. This climax of the set really switched the mood and got everyone ready for what was to come next with NOBRO and New Swears.
Setting the stage for New Swears was the most excellent three-piece NOBRO from Montreal. The ladies were excited to be back in Ottawa and were ready to shred. “Nice to be here in the nation’s capital for the Junos where everyone is a winner,” they said with a smirk. Their set was high energy and ripping, especially when they played songs of their aptly called EP Stoke Level: High. My favourite was “Call the Doctor,” where guitarist Marianna Florczyk really shines and shows off her skills. I strongly urge everyone to see NOBRO next chance you can, you will not be disappointed.
I have seen New Swears more times than I have fingers, but they are still one of the most entertaining acts to ever come out of this city. The set was no exception, and was filled with all the tracks I love from over the years. They stirred the crowd into a frenzy and had great stage antics, such as a rock n’ roll pyramid and playing guitar with a bassist’s legs wrapped around your neck, as we have all learned to expect. But now I’ll do a mostly non-punk rock thing and give a big shout-out to security. The two bouncers that were working probably had no idea what they signed up for. The moshing was one thing, but the stage divers (a.k.a human projectiles) during “See You in Hull” was next-level for a venue that is not used to this stuff. The two gentlemen did a bang up job of keeping people safe but also letting us all have a riot. New Swears, never change.
New Swears being New Swears during JUNOfest in Ottawa.
NOBRO ripping it at Bourbon Room in Ottawa during JUNOfest.
Blve Hills getting all psychedelic on us at Bourbon Room in Ottawa during JUNOfest.
JUNOfest kicked off Thursday with a few shows around town, and I decided to make my way to Zaphod’s to check out Operators along with supporting acts Charly Bliss and Potential Red.
Juno fever was in the air, and you could feel the excitement building in the city. The first act to hit the stage was a newer post-punk group in Ottawa called Potential Red. I’d heard about these guys through the grapevine but hadn’t seen them before, and they impressed everyone in attendance with a strong set. There aren’t a lot of Ottawa groups writing songs in the footsteps of late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s post-punk and new wave bands, and these guys do it right.
Right away Potential Red captured the audience’s attention and held on tight as they blasted out heavy bass-driven grooves layered with reverb-laden guitars and flutters of synth throughout their songs. Dare I say that lead singer David Sklubal’s moves on stage were reminiscent of Ian Curtis’, frantically exuding his energy into the crowd and getting the front riled up. I heard some of A Place to Bury Strangers in some of their songs, which I certainly connected with. Sklubal nearly broke the neck of his guitar as he jumped around on stage, just before launching himself into the crowd with reckless abandon. This is definitely a local band to keep an eye on, their live performance is not to be missed.
Next up was Brooklyn, NY grunge-pop band Charly Bliss. The four-piece churned out the kind of power-pop that we all know and love, channeling a sound that many of grew up with in the 90’s. Front-woman Eva Hendricks stole the show with her stage antics, having fun with the set and luring the crowd in with her energy. In all honesty, this is the kind of band I’m skeptical of going in. Having not heard their music before, I felt like they might toy with my emotions and try to pull some nostalgic strings without executing it properly. This happens sometimes. I was admittedly looking for something not to like about Charly Bliss, but one can’t help but fall in love with those catchy hooks, overzealous performance style, and honest songwriting delivered with a bow on top into our eardrums.
The band’s stage chemistry was obvious, and it wasn’t difficult to tell how close they are. They have opened for Veruca Salt, Sleater-Kinney, Tokyo Police Club, PUP, and are currently touring with Operators. Needless to say, catch Charly Bliss at small venues while you can because I have a feeling they’ll be playing bigger clubs any day now.
The headlining act Operators hit the stage as the crowd packed in tight. I would be remiss to leave out that I am a huge fan of Dan Boeckner – he has the Midas touch and all of his projects rule. I’m one of those old Wolf Parade fans that fell in love with Handsome Furs, and then Divine Fits, and then Operators. I’m sure there are a few curmudgeony Wolf Parade die-hards that don’t like the direction he’s gone in, but I for one am excited to see him playing with new toys and collaborating with great musicians such as Devojka and Sam Brown. I had the chance to chat with Boeckner last year, an interesting piece which you can read here.
Analogue synths abound, Operators’ modern take on post-punk has really taken shape over the last few years. This was the best set I have seen them play yet, and the road has surely tightened up their live performance. Boeckner’s comfort in this role is evident, and the smile on his face suggests that he’s loving every second of it. The songs off of Operators’ debut LP Blue Wave translate extremely well live – it’s part 80’s new wave, part dream pop, part dark post-punk – but whatever you call it, it works.
A couple highlights of the set were their performances of “Cold Light” and “True,” each of which electrified the room and got the crowd into a frenzy. Some of their songs had the audience a little unsure of themselves with respect to their dance moves, but the bodies kept flailing nonetheless. Sam Brown’s dialed-in drum beats were mesmerizing – even I got lost in his incessant, fixated rhythms. Devojka’s electronic wizardry provided the high-voltage energy of the set, complimenting both Boeckner and Brown perfectly.
My favourite part of the night was when Operators were cheered back onto the stage for an encore, during which they played a Handsome Furs track “Damage” from 2011’s Polaris-nominated Sound Kapital. I left with a smile, as night one of JUNOfest set a pretty damn good tone for the rest of the festival.
Many familiar faces in the local music community gathered at the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards for the “Ottawa as a music city” panel on Friday, March 31, presented by the Juno Host Committee. We were in attendance, along with many other stakeholders to hear an in-depth discussion with speakers Amy Terrill (Executive Vice President of Music Canada), Scott May (owner of Bar Robo), Kelly Symes (General Manager – Festival of Small Halls Ontario), artist/entrepreneur Kathleen Edwards (Quitters Coffee) and Lixar ‘s Shelley Fraser. The productive discussion touched on topics including audience development, challenges and opportunities, and how Ottawa can potentially expand as a “music city.”
A highlight of the event occurred during a speech by Mayor Jim Watson, as he announced that the City of Ottawa will, in collaboration with the industry and the municipality, commit to developing and implementing a concrete music strategy for the region.
The announcement comes as momentum in Ottawa music continues to grow. The first major step came in 2015 with the release of the Connecting Ottawa Music report, which laid out significant challenges that Ottawa faces moving forward as a music city. Since then, the city has funded the creation of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to growing the local music industry. The city’s commitment to a music strategy comes in the wake of a dedicated effort by OMIC, Music Canada Live, long-time music advocate Councillor Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward), and more.
“The Mayor has seized an important opportunity,” said Music Canada Live Executive Director Erin Benjamin, “to leverage and grow the value of the local music economy. His leadership and support, as well as Councillor Leiper’s, are what will ensure this strategy is a success and, no doubt, one that will inspire other cities to do the same. This is an historic day made all the more meaningful by being able to share this with our national industry colleagues during this year’s JUNO celebrations.”
OMIC will be spearheading the development and implementation of the music strategy. The strategy commits Ottawa to join a growing number of cities – nationally and internationally – in building music industry activity and striving towards achieving benefits including economic growth, cultural development, job creation, increased tax revenue.
We’ll be keeping tabs on the strategy as it moves forward, so be sure to keep checking in for details.
To learn more about next steps, please visit http://ottawamic.com/. To learn more about Music Canada Live, the voice of Canada’s national live music industry association, please contact Executive Director, Erin Benjamin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scary Bear Soundtrack performs at Mirror Mountain Film Festival 2016. Photo by Petr Maur Photography.
Mirror Mountain Film Festival is accepting proposals from musicians and media artists for the live music and visual portion of the event. As the presentation partner in this year’s festival, Ottawa Showbox is helping to pair the city’s best and brightest musicians with the independent film festival which takes place December 1st–3rd 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 May 15, 2017 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.
To submit a proposal, follow the link to the official call here.
Check out CHUO‘s promo spot and some past performances by Scattered Clouds and Scary Bear Soundtrack below.