“Where’s the jazz?” I heard someone comment recently about this year’s TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. I guess at first site it seems true—the festival this year boasts some larger scale acts such as Feist and Kenny Rogers who don’t bring jazz imagery to mind.
But look beyond the surface and you will see a festival that, year after year, really entertains the question: “what IS jazz?” And personally, I like the Jazz Fest because they understand me as a fan of jazz in 2017. They understand that my love of Herbie Hancock also makes me love soul music, such as the many times Jazz Fest brought the spectacular Sharon Jones to our city, and even the queen herself, Ms. Aretha Franklin.
They understand that my love of John Coltrane also makes me love funky, beautiful, free jazz music, such as Kamasi Washington’s incredible performance last year (read that story here). They understand that my love for New Orleans style jazz is not limited to the traditionals, but also extends to funky new artists like Trombone Shorty or the Dirty Dozen Brass, both of whom were hosted recently. And best of all, they understand that I love groups like Snarky Puppy who take all of the above and mash it together.
This year is no exception. This is undeniably the most diverse and beautiful lineup of any festival this year. Below I’ve created a list of my top 10 acts for fans of jazz, soul and funky vibes at the ’17 Ottawa Jazz Fest.
Ottawa Jazz Fest takes place at Confederation Park from June 22 to July 2nd, with artists performing on the grounds or at the nearby National Arts Centre. See the full venue and purchase your passes here.
Top 10 picks: Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Theatre
Monday, June 26th at 7:00pm – Tickets here
Fans of classic soul and R&B know Mavis well- her voice that can go from honey-drip to wildfire in one phrase was a major part of The Staples Singers’ success. Chances are you’ve heard Mavis sing even if you’re not sure. Maybe you’ve heard Staples Singers’ classic tunes “I’ll Take You There” or “Respect Yourself” play on the jukebox somewhere. Or maybe you’ve heard her incredible vocals in The Band’s final performance of the classic “The Weight” shown in their Last Waltz documentary. Since her equally talented sister passed in 2013, which closed any potential for future Staples Singers performances, Mavis has seemed to come onto the scene even stronger as a solo artist. Her humble acoustic performances with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco took the internet by storm a few years ago, and the recent release of her 2016 album “Livin’ on a Highnote” has been well received by soul fans everywhere. The NAC theatre is a perfect spot for Mavis to take the city by the horns this year–we can’t wait!
CHARLES BRADLEY & HIS EXTRAORDINAIRES
TekSavvy Main Stage
Friday, June 30th at 7:00pm — Tickets here
In 2012, I went to see Daptones Record’s Charles Bradley perform one of his two shows at Bluesfest. I was a big fan of his debut album at the time, and thought I was on the cutting edge… so I arrived 45 minutes early to get a good spot. Unfortunately 45 minutes wasn’t early enough, as hundreds of fans stood around, many holding signs, shouting his name and amping one another up. It was an amazing sight to see so many people I’d never seen excited about soul music. But even as huge fans of the album, I don’t think any of us knew what we were in for. Charles’ energy was incredible, and his humbleness shone as he broke down crying before the encore, hugging fans at the front and exclaiming repeatedly how lucky he was to live his fantasy every night.
Any skeptics who went to that show were surely fans by the end. Unfortunately, last October those same fans, who have since grown with Charles over 2 more albums and a fantastic documentary, were horrified to find out that Charles had to cancel his Bronson Center show due to health issues. With the recent loss of our Sharon Jones, we’re still a bit touchy. For me, finding out that Charles was coming back was not only exciting, but a hopeful indication of good health. Charles–we’re ready if you are!
MACEO PARKER & THE RAY CHARLES ORCHESTRA FEATURING THE RAELETTES
TekSavvy Main Stage
Monday, June 26th at 8:30pm – Tickets here
For fans of funk music, the name “Maceo” is a staple. His work with James Brown and (every branch of) Parliament is considered some of the most important in funk history. He is not only an incredible sax player, but a pioneer of funky rhythms and harmonies that created the framework for all funk to come. However, it seems that he’s coming to Ottawa with a different vibe in mind, with his tribute to Ray Charles. For long term fans of Maceo’s work this may definitely seem like a departure. However, for any fan of Ray Charles and his orchestra-led work like “Modern Sounds in Country & Western,” this sounds like a match made in heaven, especially considering that Maceo has never put out an album without a Ray cover (so the affection is obvious). Truthfully, I have been searching desperately online to find out if his two partners for the show; the Ray Charles Orchestra or The Raelettes, contain any original members, but I guess I will have to go to the show to find out for sure!
ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES
TekSavvy Main Stage
Thursday, June 22nd at 8:30pm – Tickets here
St. Paul & The Broken Bones shocked soul fans across the world a couple years ago when hundreds of videos began to appear on YouTube, showcasing a raw, minimalist, and tough-as-nails approach to soul music by a band that was NOT on the Daptones label. Even more, the lead singer loved to dance. For Ottawa, it was timely, because shortly after the hubbub the band appeared at CityFolk in 2015. For a new band, their performance there blew me away. They recently released a new record called “Sea Of Love” which shows a fuller and more mature sound, but it will be interesting to see if they can deliver it with the same raw intensity we saw before. Looking forward to finding out!
ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT
Tartan Homes Stage
Monday, June 26th – Tickets here
R&B keyboardist Robert Glasper has been slowly gaining steam through the 2000s, even beating the dreaded sophomore slump and signing a deal with Blue Note records. However, it wasn’t until Black Radio volumes 1 and 2 that maybe of us started to take notice. I like to think that this was because he and his band had matured into a slinky, stanky, post-R&B powerhouse, but let’s be honest: the cameos were a huge help! Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Common, Brandy, Anthony Hamilton, Musiq Soulchild–these were huge namedrops! These albums have definitely put Robert Glasper Experiment on the map, but However, I’m glad that despite Glaspers’ recent successes, Ottawa Jazz Fest are treating us right with a late night performance–always a must for a sweaty dance party.
Tartan Homes Stage
Friday, June 30th at 10:30pm – Tickets here
Jacob Collier is an anomaly. In fact, many of us are constantly trying to determine if he’s human at all. His ability to build entire songs out of funky, thick vocal parts is incredible, all done with a voice that can be as sweet and melodic as Rudolph Wainwright and as low and gritty as Isaac Hayes the next. Next comes his prowess as an instrumental jazz musician- he’s proven himself incredibly skilled at jazz piano, as well as very capable on the bass guitar, drums and assorted percussion. In fact, just last year he released a song with Jazz Fest favourites Snarky Puppy, showcasing that both his talents as a vocal looper and as an expressive piano player translate perfectly in real-time. For fans of weird, wacky, funky and beautiful, Collier is your man this year.
Tartan Homes Stage
Wednesday, June 28th at 10:30pm – Tickets here
True jazz or not, jazz-laced hip-hop is a love of mine, and from what I’ve experienced, a huge love of Ottawa’s. Nomadic Massive have shown their promise as a talented, hard-working group reminiscent of The Roots for years. What’s more to say? The last time they came through town they slammed Ritual (RIP), and it’s great to see them back. For fans of thoughtful and hypnotic hip-hop music with fast raps, organized chaos and funky instrumentals, this is the band to see!
Tartan Homes Stage
Friday, June 30th at 7:30pm – Tickets here
Hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, Bixiga 70 are a ruthless afro-latin powerhouse. With complex rhythms and horn lines that cut like a knife, these guys take instrumental afrobeat to a new pace and energy. For fans of brass dance bands like Hypnotic Jazz Ensemble, afrobeat trads like Fela Kuti, or afrobeat moderneers like Antibalas, these guys cannot be missed! This may be the sweatiest, craziest late night show this year- bring an extra t-shirt and your best dancing shoes.
SHABAKA & THE ANCESTORS
Tartan Homes Stage
Tuesday, June 27th at 10:30pm – Tickets here
Last year spiritual jazz fans rejoiced when Kamasi Washington was able to bring his The Epic through the festival. This year is no different- for fans of pulsing, rhythmic, spiritual jazz- Shabaka & The Ancestors may be your favourite act of the festival even if you’ve never heard of them. Shabaka Hutchings is an incredible saxophone player and arranger, and it’s obvious that he brings all the pioneers into these arrangements, from Coltrane and Miles to Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders- The Ancestors toy with it all. The great thing about this kind of jazz is that it’s free playing at its finest while being accessible even to the modest jazz listener- a great introduction to soul fans looking to dive further into the jazz canon.
HIROMI DUET: FEATURING EDMAR CASTANEDA
National Art Centre Studio
Tuesday, June 27th at 7pm – Tickets here
This is an interesting one for me, because I’ve sat in awe at online performances by both of these artists over the past few years, but never expected to see them combine forces. Pianist Hiromi Uehara is known for her blazing fast fingers and expressive passages, and has performed in recent years with many greats like Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Anthony Jackson. I always appreciate her ability to fuse genres together, and her synth work is definitely intriguing. On the other hand, Edmar Castaneda on the other hand, is an incredible harp player who has been rewriting public perception and understanding of what the harp can achieve. His work is experimental but always pretty. I’m really excited to see what these two will do together, and the NAC seems like a great choice of venue for these two instruments to shine.
THE PEPTIDES – Pop soul with nailed harmonies, political undertones and the most theatrical show in Ottawa Tartan Homes Stage
Tuesday, June 27th at 7:30pm
TROPIKOMBO– The sambafunk band to give “world music” its name back- blistering hornlines and rhythms from dance music around the globe Mercury Lounge
Thursday, June 22nd at 10pm
BANK STREET BONBONS – These guys are everything the “brass band” genre is good at, borrowing spirits from klezmer and latin music but always keeping that N’Orleans bounce Tartan Homes Stage
Friday, June 30th at 1pm
ED LISTER’S PRIME RIB BIG BAND – There’s not enough swing bands in Ottawa, let alone those that play original arrangements and keep the energy up. Check these guys out! Tartan Homes Stage
Sunday, July 2nd at 2pm
ROMMEL RIBIERO – A great player of guitar and cavaquinho, Rommel always delivers the groove with rhythms borrowed from Brazillian and reggae music Tartan Homes Stage
Wednesday, June 28th at 11am
SLACK BRIDGES – Soul music with greasy rhythms and pretty chords. Tartan Homes Stage
Thursday, June 29th at 11am
Garett Bass is an Ottawa musician and showgoer. Not stuck to one genre, he has played and enjoyed soul, jazz, reggae, folk, hip-hop and ska music since moving to Ottawa in 2005.
Tiffanie Tri is almost a typical Ottawa bureaucrat—she studied Political Science at Carleton, lives downtown, and spends her days working 9-5. But on the weekend, she plays keyboard in shows as large as Bluesfest. She’s part of Scary Bear Soundtrack, a local band that’s grown exponentially in recent years. She’s also the Chair of Girls + Rock Ottawa, a non-profit organization that teaches music to self-identifying girls, and now women, in Ottawa.
The organization began in 2007 and introduced its main event, a weekend rock camp, a few years ago. Over three days, girls 13-17 learn a rock instrument of their choice and are grouped into bands. The finale is a showcase of what they have learned in a concert for family and friends. “The transformation by Sunday is amazing,” says Tri.
Since then, the project has expanded to jam sessions, workshops, and starting this month, a rock camp for women. This recent growth included a slight change in the organization’s persona, going from Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls to Girls+ Rock Ottawa. “With all this stuff going on, we didn’t feel like it was representative anymore,” says Tri.
“It’s also to signify and celebrate gender diversity. One of our biggest focuses is a safe space,” she says, explaining that all their programs are welcome to self-identifying girls and non-binary youth.
The organization has also increased their public presence, with organizers appearing at panels, events, and similar programs to promote their work. In the future, Girls+ hopes to partner with more local groups on their growing program. They’re also working on more programming outside of camp, with a goal to teach all areas of music production—a field that’s not always accessible to girls. “We’ve kicked off someone’s interest in music, how do we sustain it?” says Tri. “How do we keep engaging these youth?”
Girls+ does so with inviting programs that teach music in an encouraging way. Like myself, Tri learned classical piano as a child, and wanted a more flexible, accommodating way to learn music. Jam sessions and workshops teach music skills in a way that works with girls’ interests and needs.
The workshops also aim to teach real world skills—applicable lessons that teach youth all sides of music production from concert photography to planning gigs. Together, the projects work to break down barriers that keeps young adults from practicing music—whether it be venues, resources, or an accepting space.
This summer’s Rock Camp for Women+ is a pilot project, expanding on their flagship camp. “The same reason we do it for the girls—women want that safe space and community.” The aim is to teach women+ the rudimentary skills of music, without the intimidating nature of music lessons, which can be especially difficult later in life.
For the future, Girls+ are asking “How can we sustain someone’s music interest and potential career?” New workshops, jam sessions, and special events aim to bring campers back to learn new skills from songwriting to recording to self-promotion. “That whole journey—I’d love to support every step,” says Tri.
The growing organization also hopes to do more panels to discuss issues as women in the music industry. They’ve partnered with local businesses, groups, and artists, and plan to expand further. Throughout, creating a welcoming music scene for girls, women, and non-binary youth remains the organization’s main goal. “Mentorship and representation is a key part,” says Tri. As a woman of Asian heritage, she herself struggled with lack of representation and racial stereotypes in music. “When girls grow up and don’t see themselves in media or on album covers,” they miss out on opportunities to pursue music. Tri says that many girls have come to camp believing they just weren’t supposed to play rock instruments. Once they enter the male-dominated music genre, “they break down those stereotypes and myths without even realizing it, while they’re having fun.”
This year’s rock camp for Girls+ is in November, but the organization already has a number of events planned until then. The Women+ rock camp is this coming weekend, and will signify the start of a new chapter for the program. “I think it’s going to be so much fun,” says Tri. “We have no idea what it’s going to be like.”
All of Girls+ is run by volunteers, so proceeds of the Women+ camp will go towards future programs. “We’re trying to give that opportunity to people of a different age group,” says Tri. “Empower more people, reach more people as well as sustain our work.”
Organizing so much programming, marketing, and partnerships is evidently a lot of work for Tri and the Board of Governors, but it’s worth it. Doing Girls+ has allowed her to explore music and charity work in a new way, and balance her interests with her career and political background. “Knowing all that stuff helps me a better writer for music… that’s how you get a different perspective.”
Tri’s band comments on issues such as race, gender, and ethnicity, and their lyrics have been called controversial because of it. “It’s called political, and characterized as that,” she says. “We’re just writing the same song that everyone else has… it’s real experience. Political, to me, just means they don’t know what else to call it… it’s a synonym for different.”
She credits her open mindedness to her education and work background, saying “I don’t think I’d notice all those things if I didn’t have an understanding.”
Tri continues to make music about real life issues, unapologetically, and hopes to inspire girls and women+ to do the same. Especially in a small local scene, creating a welcoming learning environment for minorities in music is the first step to breaking down larger barriers in the industry. Girls+ programs teach girls, women, and those of non-traditional genders not only how to play music, but why their voices should be heard.
Rock Camp for Women+ runs from June 23-25, and for Girls+ November 3-5. Upcoming events and information can be found on their website here. Volunteers for future programs are always welcome.
Those who have been to shows in Ottawa long enough are probably familiar with the name Hard Science. However, chances are you didn’t know that the name associated was associated with music. Arturo Brisindi, a.k.a. Hard Science is an artist who has become known for his work with modular analog and video synthesizers over the years. His visual creations often take the form of projected video on walls, ceilings, and stages, and create breathtaking visual landscapes for us to bask in. While this is a world that I am admittedly not particularly familiar with, I have seen his work at events and can attest to its ability to transform a room. Those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s probably experience some nostalgia when watching his visualizations – I’m talking Windows ’95 era stuff. He has also created a video for a song on the soundtrack for the critically-acclaimed music documentary, I Dream of Wires featured on Netflix.
Hard Science has more up his sleeve. He is set to release his debut LP Dreaming in Stereo on Thursday, June 15, at Bar Robo. The album is a collection of tracks that have been produced from 2008-2016, a project that spans the better part of a decade. Dreaming in Stereo balances catchy synth pop with some experimentation, as Brisindi takes us on a sonic tour of his imagination. As we wander through the knobs and wiring in his brain, we find more than just drum machine loops and synthesizer effects. Hard Science draws us in through “pop,” but exposes the listener to a range of sounds produced from vintage equipment. These layers are also infused with interesting vocal samples and divergent arrangements, ultimately making it an album that is accessible enough for average listeners unfamiliar with this kind of production, but also complex enough for the hardcore gear and sound connoisseurs.
I had a chat with Hard Science about the new album, have a read and listen below.
Hard Science will be releasing the album at Bar Robo on June 15, doors at 8pm. Dreaming in Stereo will be available in vinyl at the event, as well as online through Analog Kitchun Records and streaming on Bandcamp.
Interview with Hard Science
Can you explain briefly how this album came to be?
The album really flowed from my vintage synth collection and all the exploring that I did as it grew (I guess you could call it gear-driven?). It all started back in early 2009 when I scored a Roland Juno 60 and a Roland Jupiter 4, along with 707, 909 and 808 drum machines. Throughout the years, I acquired more and more of these classic vintage synths, drum machines and tape echoes. With every acquisition came a new song. With every song came the urge to get more synths. Synths are sort of like chips; you can’t have just one.
Starting around 2012, I got into video and took a bit of a break from working on the album and music in general. Most of the groundwork for the album was done, with the exception of vocals and non-synth instruments. These parts came together between 2013 and 2015 with the help of Caleb Abbott and Olexandra Pruchnicky (vocals), along with Jason Redmond (bass), and Jose Palacios (guitar).
Unsure of what to do, and doubting that people would even like it (what would any self respecting artist be without crippling self doubt?), I put it on the back burner for a few more years. It wasn’t until this past winter that I decided to release the album, with a little push from my friends Grant Young, who released the vinyl edition on his label Analogkitchun Records, and Max Harwood, who offered to design my album cover out of the blue! I can honestly say that without Grant and Max, this album would still be sitting on my hard drive. So here we are, 9 years after recording the first song, and the album is finally out there.
What do the worlds of analog video and synth music have in common?
Quite a bit actually. Video synthesis uses some of the same fundamental building blocks as audio synthesis. It’s not uncommon, specifically in the modular video world, to see oscillators, mixers, modulation sources like LFOs and envelopes, VCAs, and filters. The main difference between audio and video is the frequency range. Audio is limited to 20Hz to 20,000Hz, whereas video signals can go up into the megahertz! Overall though, the methods used in modular video synthesis are almost identical to those of audio subtractive synthesis.
Can you talk about the synth scene in Ottawa?
The Ottawa synth scene is starting to hit its stride. With things like the Switched on Synths series and SOSFest at House of Targ this weekend, Possible Worlds’ Producer Meet-up Series, Not Normal, National Drone Day, synth meets, plus a bunch of other events popping up here and there, we’re starting to see a lot more engagement and comradery. With the Ottawa Synths Facebook group, people from all over Ottawa/Gatineau have a place to mingle, talk shop and sell their wares. I’m seeing collaborations between members and friendships forming. It’s a beautiful thing.
What can newcomers to this kind of music/performance expect from the album release?
I’m a fan of pop music, so I try to make music that’s catchy and accessible. But at the same time, I’m a stickler for tone and atmosphere, so I try my best to add a very specific character to my songs. A lot my songs have that eighties feel to them. Nostalgia is a huge factor for me. I’m a child of the eighties, and there’s just something about that wobbly, drenched-in-delay synth sound that grabs me like nothing else. That and a heavy dose of gated reverb on the snare.
For the album listening party at Bar Robo (June 15th), we’ll just be putting Dreaming In Stereo on the loudspeakers for all to enjoy. It’ll be pretty laid back. For my SOSFest set at Targ (June 16th), I’ll be performing a whole new set of songs that aren’t on Dreaming In Stereo, but are still a similar style.
Let’s rewind to the mid-2000’s, a time when Ottawa was bursting at the seams with garage, rock, and punk bands that would play often and play hard. Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party wasn’t just a party where people would dance, drink, and see new bands—it was a meeting ground and an incubator for the music community.
Luke Martin, OXW co-founder and musician, and Brad M., aka DJ B-Rad, started the weekly pizza party in late 2006 at Babylon Nightclub. Soon after Emmanuel Sayer, OXW co-founder and DJ, also jumped on board in spring 2007.
The party then moved to Bytown Tavern in February of 2008 where it had its longest run until February 2009 and really caught its stride.
“Brad and I started it the last weekend of November 2006,” Martin recalled. “Brad was working at Babylon and they wanted a new Thursday weekly so we jumped on it. I came up with the name and idea of giving away free pizza every week from a band photo shoot that involved slices of pizza. It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party stuck to a simple formula: Doors at 9. Bands at 10. PWYC if there were bands, and free if there weren’t any bands. DJs all night, with a lot of guest DJs. Free pizza at midnight or later.
“This happened every single Thursday for years,” Sayer said. “The pizza literally came from 2 for 1. Literally out of our pockets. We didn’t really make any money at this and that tradition continues to this day!”
At one point in 2009, the pizza party was out of a spot and ended up at The Royal Oak for a few weeks.
“The manager went back on our deal to have us there,” Sayer said. “We immediately relocated, but the first week we were gone they hired some dude to play “rock” music CD’s and he was spotted in the empty bar eating pizza.”
Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party was a crucial first chapter in the story of OXW. It was a place where new bands could play, people could meet up and share stories or start bands, and where touring bands could come and play to a room full of energy on a regular basis. Although the party got moved around a lot, and eventually folded in 2010, it was a major chapter of the OXW story.
“I met Ian Manhire (of White Wires and Voicemail) for the first time at Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party,” Sayer said. “Shortly thereafter he released the first few Going Gaga zines then started releasing records and put on the first Gaga Weekend in 2008. RRPP was always the opening night for Gaga Weekend.”
Going Gaga: Gaga Weekend
If Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party was the ongoing heartbeat keeping the community’s blood pumping, Gaga Weekend was the adrenaline jolt making Ottawa’s heart race. The two events coincided like pepperoni and cheese.
Gaga Weekend was the brainchild of Ian Manhire, a devout participant in the garage/punk scene in Ottawa at the time who published a zine series called Going Gaga, and also ran Going Gaga Records. The first edition was held in 2008, and was molded out of some great festivals like Gonerfest (Memphis, TN) and Budget Rock (San Francisco, CA) which focused on inclusivity and everything being done as cheaply as possible.
“There were lots of great bands, lots of great parties, everything was done on the cheap, it was all about good times,” Manhire said via email. “I really liked the idea of a local celebration too. There was the feeling that we had our own world here in Ottawa, and it was (still is) special.”
“There were 3 Gaga Weekends, and a lot of traditions!” Manhire continued. “The opening night was always at the RRPP, usually with three or four bands playing, lots of late night drinking and then lots of free pizza! The Friday show was always a basement party, just a total shitshow in one of the many basements we used to party in. I loved those basement shows—59 Argyle, Cozzie’s place, A&A Speedshop.
Then on Saturday it would be an [all ages] matinee show with like 12 bands at Yogi’s Meatlocker. Fun in the sun! Really relaxed. Great bands inside, people hanging out in the parking lot outside. Then the Saturday night we’d go down to Babylon for a big blowout, usually three or four bands. I’d always get DJs to flip records at all the shows, that was a great part of it too.And then there would be an after party, which I remember 200+ people in Davey’s backyard!”
This yearly get together was yet another hotbed for people in the community to meet new friends, play with new bands, and have a great excuse to party for three or four days straight.
A treasured keepsake of the Gaga era is the Ottawa Gaga Compilation, Vol. 1, of which there were only 330 pressed on vinyl with a zine included. The compilation was recently posted on Bandcamp, and thankfully is still available for all to hear. The concept was to avoid going the standard compilation route and record all the songs live off the floor at the old Capital Rehearsal Studios on Bank Street, now located at City Centre, in order to maintain a cohesive feel.
“The idea was to record a small snapshot of some of the bands in the scene, at the time,” says Jordy Bell, one of the sound engineers of the compilation and member of Crusades,The Creeps, and Cheap Whine.
Ultimately, Gaga Weekend only lasted three years but its impact cannot be understated. Manhire decided it was too much to carry on Gaga Weekend on his own, and at the time he was collaborating a lot with Martin and Sayer on a lot of projects. They sat down and talked about Ian’s departure from Gaga and what it would mean going forward.
“I asked Emmanuel if he wanted to take over and do his own thing,” Manhire said. “He didn’t need my permission, but things like that are basic respect. Plus, our friends all looked forward to that weekend in mid-June when all of our bands would get together. He was doing a great blog at the time called Ottawa Explosion, and he and Luke were on fire booking bands. So I stepped completely out of the game and they started fresh and just rolled with it. And look at it now! The evolution of OXW was natural… and crazy impressive!”
OXW’s first edition took place in June of 2011, featuring over 40 bands from Ottawa and other cities. Each year the festival has grown in scope thanks to key personnel like Azarin Sohrabkhani, who manages the administration, business, and logistical elements of the event. As the Industry Director at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), Sohrabkhani’s experience with festivals and events have provided much-needed expertise to the organization. From nurturing partnerships to co-ordinating volunteers, her collaboration with Martin and Sayer to achieve common goals has proven successful year-in and year-out.
Even more, OXW has become catalyst for inclusivity and representation of minorities in the music scene.
“I’m very proud that OXW is still around and has stayed true to its independent and DIY approach,” Sohrabkhani said. “I love looking around and not being the only PoC at a show, this feels like a big development. I think that has a lot to do with learning from our community and working on fostering inclusive spaces and programming—which is always a work in progress.”
“I’m also stoked that we have a new generation of emerging and young artists, fans, and volunteers at the event. For organizations like ours, growth is only compelling if it comes from engaging with those who will feed the future of arts and culture in this city. I believe we’re doing that and it’s pretty darn exciting.”
OXW continues to be one of Ottawa’s strongest community-based music festivals. Although the story has evolved a lot since the mid-2000’s, the event’s importance as an incubator for new music remains, and will continue to encourage a new generation of musicians and friendships.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2017 occurs Wednesday, June 14 – Sunday, June 18. Weekend bracelets available for $80, day passes also available. More info/purchase passes, click here. For full festival schedule, click here. This article appears in the May Edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column.
The Flatliners are a band that have never shied away from trying new things. While they’ve left behind the frenetic ska punk that helped them explode onto the Canadian music landscape in the mid-2000’s, the band has stayed true to themselves through sincere songwriting and exploration of new sounds. Moving on from Fat Wreck Chords and signing to Dine Alone and Rise Records in 2017 for their new LP Inviting Light, The Flatliners have embraced change. Inviting Light istheir fifth studio album, released April 7th, and is an unhindered effort to explore new musical territory. The band explores new melodies, down tempo rhythms, cleaner guitar tones, and subdued vocals by lead singer Chris Cresswell. But don’t let this assessment deter the fans of The Flatliners of old.
There are peaks in valleys with respect to the energy in Inviting Light, and plenty of dirty growls and riffs to go around. The album itself is an embodiment of what it feels like to near your 30’s, particularly after spending half your life (15 years) in a band and touring tirelessly around the world. It’s wiser, weathered, and perhaps a little worn. But the songs on Inviting Light are closer to the heart than anything we’ve heard before. The lyricism and songwriting are arguably better than ever, and lay bare exactly who this band is at this point in their career. For many of us who grew up with this band, Inviting Light feels like home.
I had a great chat with lead singer Chris Cresswell leading up to their Ottawa tour date with The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, which has to be one of the best lineups of the year. Have a read below.
The Flatliners play Ottawa on Wednesday, June 14th, at Babylon Nightclub with guests The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs. Presented by Spectrasonic. Tickets information and purchase link here.
Interview with Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners
What’s your favourite part about being on the road with great bands like Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs and The Dirty Nil?
Chris Cresswell: It’s pretty akin to the current state of the Canadian music scene. It’s incredible right now, and we’ve always had a strong music history spanning back decades with Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, not to mention 90’s alternative and the the birth of punk with bands like D.O.A. . I think we’re experiencing a fervour in the air right now, and something really great is happening. There are so many great bands out there, look at the Dirty Nil – they just won a well-deserved Juno! Then there’s PUP, a band which is known around the world now. There’s bands like Greys, Secret Satanists, Weaves, Dilly Dally. They’re all so talented, and all so different. I think we’re witnessing a pretty positive time in the Canadian music scene, and if we can bring bands like The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey with us on tour, that is great because those two bands rip.
Sometimes it’s just a coincidence that so many great bands come out of one place, it’s kind of like the Philly scene right now, too. You’ve got bands of all shapes and sizes coming out of that market, bands like Menzingers, Hop Along, Modern Baseball, The Restorations, and so many more. They’re all incredible and most of them friends, I don’t know what makes that ecosystem of creativity.
I think part of it up here is being Canadian, we’re able to get a lot of funding for music. I know FACTOR has been under fire a lot, but it’s still pretty incredible that our government funds the arts the way it does. I think maybe that frees up more time for artists to focus on their craft. And I think there’s some magic happening too!
Just having so many exciting Canadian bands doing their own thing, you’ll see a few bands like the ones I mentioned before doing something different and that inspires others to create, too.
What are some of the ways you’ve learned to live with each other on the road, and still enjoy making music together over the years?
Chris Cresswell: It helps that we’ve all known each other for a long time – this year the band turns 15-years old. Scott and I have known each other since kindergarten, and Scott and I met Jon in grade two or something. Then we met Paul when we were 11 or 12-years old, and started the band a few years after we met him. So we’ve known each other most of our lives, and knowing each other so well as people definitely helps. I think you never really know someone until you travel with them, and luckily I think we’re pretty good at that.
That being said, we tour so goddamn much that the close quarters definitely has its effects and it’s important to let people have their alone time. The same thing applies to any kind of relationship, whether it’s romantic or not, people need their own time. There’s late nights on the road, there’s early mornings, there’s drinking, there’s often terrible food involved, but then there’s a really fun show at the end of the night.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that the show itself is only such a minute part of your day that takes up almost no time compared to everything else. There are so many determining factors the can affect how you feel walking on stage. As long as you’re doing what you love, that’s the important part. Not every day on tour is going to be the best day of your life – you’re going to have rough days, bad days, and great days. But you just gotta try your best to take the good with the bad. If someone’s having a bad time, then if they want to talk about – talk. If not, then don’t. Let people go for walks, sometimes that helps so much. Going for that short walk in a city you don’t really know that well while on tour kind of lets the whole situation sink in – that you’r part of a band and that’s really important.
That’s one of the biggest touring lessons we’ve learned. You just have to roll with the punches, especially on the bad days because they’re going to happen once in a while.
The evolution in sound since the early 2000’s has been significant, and obviously music changes as people change. Is this progression in the band’s sound a conscious choice? Or is it more or a natural move that reflects where you are all at now?
Chris Cresswell: It’s been an extremely natural thing, for sure. Even if we’re not making an explicitly “conceptual” record, each one is still conceptual in its own way. It’s a snap shot of time from your life, experiences, encounters, friends’ stories, and stuff like that. I’m not really one to write songs from a fictional standpoint with characters that are made up.
That being said, my life changes all the time. The easiest way I can explain it is this: think of a friend that you’ve had for a long time but haven’t seen for a few years. When you see them again for the first time in a few years, they’re a different person. Now attach any kind of artistic outlet to someone and you realize that their art and craft changes with them, too. Just like in any job, the longer you spend at it, the hope is that you’ll become better as time goes on. For us as musicians, it’s been a natural thing because not only do we love making music together but we also tour together – a lot. So I feel like it would be strange if the new record sounded like the last one, because we played that last one 500 times and people have already heard that. Something just changes in you I think.
That being said, wanting to explore the new avenues is a conscious choice. I think you’re betraying yourself as an artist if you don’t pursue new ways to express yourself, and no one wants to hear the same thing over and over again. It already exists, so move forward.
With Inviting Light, there was an awareness that we were exploring new territory and we got curious as to how people would react. But it just felt good, and if it feels good you just keep on with it. Especially when you’ve been doing this as long as we have, you just keep going for it – especially if it feels right!
It’s not a slight on the records we’ve made in the past, of course we love those songs. But it’s incredible to see your fan base grow with you, too. There are a lot of fans who are our age, which is really cool. We made records at pretty formative years in our lives, the first one was when we were 16-years old. If we keep on making records when we’re 40, there will be a lot of 40-year olds listening to those records. It’s been cool to have so many people come on this ride with us.
And one last thing – what is really neat to think about is how awesome it will be to mix in these new songs with the old ones when on stage, because it’s all about touring and playing those songs live. That’s why we recorded our entire last album, Dead Language, live – we wanted it to sound like it does when we hit the stage, and I think we did a good job of that. If you over-do it in the writing process, then you’re thinking, “shit, I still need to play this live,” you know? It’s been so exciting to think about how all these different songs can be put together on stage as a setlist.
I saw an interview with a musician recently who said something interesting. They said instead of making your next record, make your first record. That’s kind of a cool thing, to burn the whole thing down and start over each time. It takes away some of that pressure, and then you can just enjoy the music as it comes. I really like that mentality, just make the best first impression you can make. With this new record, this is mentality we’ve taken. Once we realized the direction the record was taking, we kind of just let everything fall into place. And that being said, the record was done before Dine Alone and Rise became involved.
Inviting Light is the first record album released through Rise Records and Dine Alone. Was the transition from Fat Wreck Chords difficult? Or was it something that you were all ready for moving forward?
Chris Cresswell: We always record in secret. Nowadays, everyone loves to post their daily lives on social media and share everything instantly. But for us, that’s a distraction when it comes to making a new album. We came here to work, not post shit on the internet, you know? That’s way we did Dead Language and the same way we did Cavalcade, and that is in two chunks with a lot of time between. That’s such a great way to record because you fall in love with the material again. The reason you make the songs you do and play with your friends is because you are a fan of your own band. Of course we like our own band, we better! Because we have to play these songs so many times, you gotta like it. So we’ll go to the studio, come up with a bunch of ideas, and then just sit on them. That’s why there’s always so much time between our albums. If we like an idea when we come back to it later on, then we’ll stick with it. And in the meantime, we’ll have written more songs and work those in. Then we’ll put it all together and see what happens. That’s when Dine Alone and Rise came on board, basically. I guess they just wanted to hear it.
We had an amazing ten years with Fat Wreck Chords, and it was hard to have the conversation to try something else. But in the end, that’s all it was, just curiosity. They took such a huge chance on us as 19-year old Canadian kids. Mike took us on tour with NOFX to so many places around the world, and we’ve met so many great people and made friends with some of our fucking heroes. In the end it kind of inspired us to think about where else we want to go with it.
It was difficult, but everyone at Fat is so lovely. Whenever a band leaves a legendary, staple record label, people always think there’s bad blood or something. So often that just isn’t the case. The record label is often just like, “look, you guys gotta do what you gotta do. It’s your band.” That was the case with Fat, everyone there was just super pumped for us. We will always be part of that family. It just inspired us to see what else we can do with this band, and we never dreamed we’d be where we are. Being an almost 30-year old young man (and I use that term very loosely), it kind of makes you think “shit, ok, it’s time to do something else!” And that’s really exciting.
The folks at Rise and Dine Alone have been so great, it’s exciting to have new people listening to your music and basically everything has been awesome. We’ve been able to play these new songs live now a few times and it feels really good. You know, you spend a few years of your life on these tracks and when the album finally comes out and start playing these songs, sometimes it’s like… this is better than sex! Not to get weird or anything, but it’s a very, very strong feeling.
You started the band at a very young age, and know what it’s like to be a young music fan. Do you see young folks at your shows connecting with your music?
Chris Cresswell: It’s super cool to see. That Weezer run we did was really cool, because they have such a huge and diverse fan base. I mean, playing with Weezer to begin with us crazy awesome. But in some cases it was a kid’s first show going to see Weezer, and we were the opening band. So we were the first band they ever see! That’s so cool! And then you’ll see a 60-year old woman and she’ll dig it. I mean, most of our shows are 19+ just because our fans tend to be a drinking crowd. Not that we don’t want to do all-ages shows because we know how important they are. They were important to us when we were kids, that’s how it started. Imagine if we couldn’t see NOFX, Rancid, Suicide Machines because they were playing 19+ shows, that would have sucked. When those all ages shows happen, it’s a really cool thing.
One of the Ottawa region’s pride and joy is Beau’s Brewery, the purveyors of all kinds of delicious beer. You guys have worked with them before in the past, do you have a favourite beer of theirs?
Chris Cresswell: Oh, buddy. Beau’s Beer. Those guys are all incredible. I’ve known a lot of them for over ten years, and I’ve known Steve Beauchesne since before they started Beau’s and was still in the band called Constable Brennan. Lug Tread is incredible, and one of my favourite beers in the world. It’s like that first impression we were talking about earlier, like, make the best beer you can possibly make. I’ve been drinking it for ten years and every time I have it I’m like, “damn, that’s a good beer”. They have so many good ones, another one I really love is St. Luke’s Verse, which is a lavender gruit ale. They’ve been buddies for a long time and have been so good to us. They’ve just been killing it and we couldn’t be happier. It’s cool to see hard work pay off, the reason they’re doing great things is because they respect the process and treat their employees really, really well.
Their support of bands stems from a place of their love for music. Before they were a brewery, those guys were huge fans of music. So supporting music is something that comes naturally for them, and it encompasses the lives of many people around them. It’s a really cool thing to see what they’ve done.
Any secrets that singers like you and Luke from Dirty Nil use to keep your vocal cords from exploding night to night?
Chris Cresswell: It’s insane. A few years ago I blew my vocal cords out and couldn’t talk or sing for a few months. This was before we went to Europe for the first time and I was afraid I did permanent damage. So I called up an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, and they put a camera up my throat and I saw the damage I had done. When you sing the way I do, you can’t avoid singing like that. You can do all these things to avoid it, sooth it, maintain it, but you can’t really get around the fact that singing this way causes damage. Luke from Dirty Nil has an incredible voice, and Stephan from PUP, too. He had some pretty terrible things happen to his voice in the past few years. His damage was a lot worse than mine, but he’s a lot better now and learned a lot from that experience. It’s truly a story of human perseverance.
The biggest thing I’ve changed is that I can’t go to a loud bar after a show anymore. That used to be a huge thing, you finish your show and go to the bar for some drinks. Trying to talk to each other over loud music in a packed bar, they say that is more harmful to your voice than actually singing. It makes no sense, but it’s true. I also do more vocal warm ups, and test out how my voice is doing before shows. I try to be healthy, too. Try to avoid eating too much dairy. I avoid smoking too, I used to smoke a lot of weed on the road a lot and I don’t do that at home. I’ll do that at home. Apparently drinking is bad, too. Basically anything fun is bad for your voice.
But yeah, just little things to maintain the vocal cords, drinking more tea, getting more rest (which is hard on tour). One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t hit every note every time. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. You gotta realize you’re just a human being, and people don’t care. They’re there to have fun, so stressing out about it will just make it worse. Just like I said before, take the bad with the good. ✺
The Flatliners – Tour Dates (North America)
JUN 14 – Ottawa, ON at Babylon
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUN 15 – Waterloo, ON at Maxwell’s
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUN 16 – Toronto, ON at Lee’s Palace
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUN 17 – Toronto, ON at Lee’s Palace
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs
JUL 07 – Buffalo, NY at Studio at Waiting Room
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 08 – Cleveland, OH at The Grog Shop
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 09 – Pittsburgh, PA at The Funhouse
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 11 – Washington, DC at Black Cat
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 13 – Asbury Park, NJ at Wonder Bar
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 14 – Brooklyn, NY at Knitting Factory
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 15 – Pawtucket, RI at The Met
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 16 – Boston, MA at The Middle East
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 17 – Philadelphia, PA at Boot & Saddle
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)
JUL 20 – Belleville, ON at Empire Rockfest
JUL 21 – Rimouski, QC at Les Grandes Fetes Telus
JUL 22 – Saguenay, QC at Festival des Bieres du Monde
JUL 23 – Quebec City, QC at Bar L’Anti
with Downstater, Mental Fix, As One Man
AUG 26 – San Bernardino, CA at It’s Not Dead Festival
The Famines are a Montreal-based noise garage music duo made up of Raymond Biesinger (who also happens to be an incredible illustrator) and Drew Demers. But they are not just a band, the duo is also a “DIY-minded experimental record label thing” called Pentagon Black.
In early 2016 Pentagon Black released it’s first compilation containing 23 unreleased songs from bands from across the country as a 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with download code. They had 17 compilation release shows including 30 bands at various locations across the country for it. In April 2017, they did it again with compilation number 2, once again on 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with a download code.
Pentagon Black are back with another compilation, and while they stayed true to their other compilations, they changed it up a little. Pentagon Black Compilation No. 3 is a “phone comp.” It is named as such as 16 diverse bands between Edmonton and Saint John recorded original unreleased tracks live via phone (no multi tracking allowed). This time they went with a smaller format of a 6X6″ postcard with download code.
Eric took some time to discuss with drummer Drew Demers about being a band and being a record label, as well as the story behind the compilation and the inclusion of bands from Ottawa.
Interview with Drew Demers of The Famines/Pentagon Black
What inspired/motivated the two of you to not only be a band but be a label?
Drew Demers: After releasing music on vinyl for the better part of a decade, we realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage/produce. Turn-around times don’t work in anyone’s favor. We were sitting on a recorded full length and didn’t want to have to wait an additional 4 or 5 months just to get a test pressing back. On top of that, the cost was just too great for us to be enthused about it anymore, so we decided that we would just produce things as cheaply and quickly as we could on our own.
[…] we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists.
Subsequently what pushed you to put out these trans-Canadian compilations?
Drew Demers: We had already released a single and a record on the newsprint poster format, the latter as Pentagon Black and the former in partnership with Psychic Handshake in Montreal. We were discussing what to do next, and the idea started as a split record with The Famines on one side, and then another band on the other. The problem was, we were at odds over whether it was going to be Century Palm or Kappa Chow. We played a show with a ton of pals at this crazy fest called Strangewaves outside of Hamilton.
The lineup included a ton of bands that ended up on the first compilation, and it was beautiful because there was hardly anybody at the show outside of band members. We all just got up and played for each other and there was this sense of communal spirit behind everything. It took us maybe one day to realize that we needed to make something bigger and connect more scenes together, and the first compilation was born out of that notion. BTW, the lineup for that show: Strange Attractor, The Famines, TV Freaks, Mick Futures, Century Palm, Kappa Chow, Lizzie Boredom, and Flesh Rag.
How did you select the bands and decide how you wanted the first two to sound?
Drew Demers: The first compilation was an amalgamation of friends we’d made on tour. There really weren’t that many artists we didn’t personally know on the thing. The second time around, we wanted to focus on hitting specific zones we hadn’t traveled to in a while, and so we enlisted some close friends to give us suggestions on who we should talk to that might be interested in a project such as ours. There are a small handful of people involved in the second compilation we’ve actually never met.
In terms of the sound that we were going for, we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists. There is an obvious tonal undercurrent that runs through all three of the compilations, but there are significant departures happening on each of them as well.
What makes this third compilation special?
Drew Demers: This third compilation is all about spirit. The songs are rough, in many cases unfinished, and in all cases under-produced. It’s exciting to think that sonically it’s an even playing-ground for each of the tracks. For the most part, it sounds like all the bands recorded in basically the same room with the same gear. It’s also special because it’s the first time we’ve outsourced the art side of things. Historically Raymond has taken care of the art side of Pentagon Black/The Famines, but this time we placed the project in the esteemed hands of Lisa Czech. We explained the project to her and she absolutely nailed the chaos with her cover art.
This has been our most inexpensive and rapid turnover for a compilation. The postcards cost basically nothing to print, and all of the bands recorded their tracks in a three week time frame. Also of note – this one was released not too long after our second compilation, and it came out as a surprise. We were originally planning on dropping it the day of our showcase at Ottawa Explosion, but instead we just decided to jump the gun because we felt like it this week, and a project like this allows us the freedom to do that.
I am excited to see Ottawa bands on all three comps, what drew you to the Ottawa bands you selected ?
Drew Demers: We have a ton of respect and admiration for The Yips, and knew that we couldn’t release our first comp without them involved. Bonnie Doon are officially Pentagon Black royalty. They were on the first two comps, and played both the compilation releases with us in Montreal. Deathsticks are actually fairly new acquaintances of ours, but we feel connected by the sisterhood of two piece bands. They were suggested to us via our pal Karol aka garbageface in Peterborough. We can’t wait to play with them and hang out with them in Ottawa next weekend!
If you track Raymond or myself down in person, we can become pen pals and send you a postcard.
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can head to a show in your town featuring any of the 48 bands we’ve worked with and ask them very kindly to dig one out for you.
What do The Famines and Pentagon Black have planned next?
Drew Demers: Famines have a couple things up our sleeves, including but not limited to writing material for a full length album to come out under Pentagon Black sometime in the next decade. Ottawa Explosion is actually the only show we have booked right now, and it’s exciting facing a blank canvas. As for Pentagon Black, we intend to keep things fast and easy. After releasing the PRIORS record, we realized that we’re open to the idea of putting out music for other bands and want to move forward with that in the future, however that will work.
Just when you thought winter 2.0 was here for good, the fresh new electronic group Eerie Loom have brought some warm weather along with their new video for “Wakened.” The band dropped a three-track EP on Bandcamp back in March, and are hitting the ground running.
While the trio is newly formed, the truth is that they are Ottawa music veterans and have all been in successful groups in the past. Jordan David was the lead singer of acclaimed group The Love Machine and organizes parties with music.art.ppl, while Matt Gilmour was a member of the group Hamilton and currently contributes his smooth vocals to Slack Bridges. Michael Holmes was a member of the now-defunct group many Ottawans know well called The Gallop. Needless to say, they’re no strangers to music.
“The idea of Eerie Loom came about rather naturally, premised on a longstanding friendship initiated by playing shows together, but developed through a mutual respect for each other’s art,” explains David. “We have all participated in rock bands for the longest time yet somehow, through our own ventures, discovered our pop sensibilities and an affinity for compelling electronic beats. Michael Holmes acts as our main producer, but we are all multi-instrumentalists that add our various insights, riffs, progressions, lyrics, and vibes. We have all been friends who have supported each other’s projects for over a decade, so collaboration creates both fun and familiar dynamics.”
Their music conveys emotions through electronic sounds and imagery, providing listeners with futuristic soundscapes to get lost in. The group also enlisted another friend as Creative Director, accomplished designer and artist Brendan Wilson.
“Our band has a love for sonic experimentation and sound design of all kinds, but we hope to bring a novel human element to our art as there many emotional ideas that still can be conveyed through an electronic medium,” says David. “When Brendan Wilson came on board as our Creative Director, we were thrilled. He had the idea of including images of geometry, space, and futurism blended with images of a humanity that is beautiful yet strange. The combining of visuals with our sonic aesthetic produced exciting art and fun dynamics.”
The longtime friendship between each of the members provides a strong basis for chemistry, and when you’ve made music for as long as these guys have, you know how to have fun with it. The collaborative approach to their music is evident from the first beat of “Wakened,” as the drum loops and synthesizers layer together smoothly to create delicate moments that transform into powerful hooks.
“The fundamentals of the tracks are often collaborative, but our ideas are all birthed from Michael Holmes home studio, where they are developed, recorded, and mixed into fulsome songs,” says David. “Our tracks were mastered by Philip Bova (who has mastered for Feist, Land of Talk, and Bahamas, among others). They are composed and produced using a variety of analog gear. Our project is still evolving and we are still discovering our sound, which excites us.”
As Eerie Loom experiment with new and exciting sounds, the band plans to start playing more live shows and continue to release new material. Watch the video for “Wakened” below, and stream the EP for free here.
For an Ottawa band that has only been around for the better part of two years, PINE has already experienced some major success. Not only has the band toured extensively in the US and Canada, in March of this year the band also announced that they were being signed to No Sleep Records. No Sleep is an independent label based out of Huntington Beach, California, known for having harboured such acts as Balance and Composure, La Dispute, The Wonder Years, Touché Amoré, and many more. Needless to say, being signed to a label such as No Sleep Records is a tremendous feat for a young band from the humble capital of Canada.
PINE is on the verge of releasing their first EP through No Sleep Records, an emotional five-track effort that spans genres and bring the listener into a world free of sonic boundaries. Their songs “Viable” and “(Un)rest,” which can be steamed below, are raw and untethered pieces that use intricate instrumentation and emotive lyricism to create a powerful experience for listeners. I caught up with guitarist Holden Egan to talk about PINE’s new direction and their new album Pillow Talk.
PINE will be releasing their EP Pillow Talk at House of TARG on Saturday, June 10 along with guests Safe To Say, Heavy Hearts, and Kamen. The physical album will be available in limited edition pink vinyl. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Vertigo Records. Doors at 9pm. Presented by Spectrasonic.
Interview with Holden Egan of PINE
The band announced the signing to No Sleep Records a few months back. How does it feel to be part of that family?
It feels awesome. Ever since I knew of No Sleep Records, Topshelf Records, and Run For Cover Records, and the bands associated with them, I’ve always wanted to be on one of those labels. It feels really good to be at this stage.
The single “Viable” is an emotionally jolting song that grabs listeners right away. Can you talk about how that track came to be?
It’s a funny story with that song! Our drummer Joey had written a song a few years before he was in the band, and when him and I moved in together we started pre-production on a few songs and he pulled that one out. I thought, “Woah, that actually works pretty well with some riffs I have.” So I worked on it, dissected it, and spun it backwards, added some riffs and jammed on it a few times. We recorded it in my bedroom and ultimately we had to leave that place because our roommate at the time didn’t want us to do music anymore. We toured with that song when we did our split with Dead Leaves, and we had a different lineup then so the song sounded a lot different, too.
So when we went to record it for this EP, Cory Bergeron (who mixed and mastered it) had a few great ideas on how to spice it up and bring it to the next level for this album. He made it a drum and bass intro and it kicked in with everything.
Having heard that song, what can listeners expect when diving into Pillow Talk as a whole? Are there some themes that resonate throughout?
The theme revolves around the struggles being in relationships when you’re younger. Cory and Darlene are both in touring bands, and the song “(Un)rest” is a song about dealing with being in a relationship and alone, away from your loved ones. It’s hard, especially when touring in the US where texting is expensive.
Your sound obviously has some roots in emo and post-rock of the 2000’s. In your mind, what attracts you to making music like this?
I think it has to do with our appreciation for soundscapes and production. When we’re touring, we’re always sitting and dissecting songs together and talk about why they’re good. We try and write music that takes little aspects like that and translate it in our own way the way we like. For example, I like a lot of post-rock and shoegaze. But our guitar player listens to a lot of singer-songwriter and progressive stuff. Our drummer listens to Mac DeMarco and the Chili Peppers, and Darlene listens to bands like Lydia and Sufjan Stevens. There’s a lot of diversity in the EP’s tracks. We’re not confined to just one sound, we incorporate different things into each song. We even have an acoustic song at the end, because we all like acoustic tracks with piano, cello and additional instrumentation. We all get off on that stuff.
If there were one band you could share the stage with, who would it be?
Slowdive, hands down. I would love to play with them. I’d probably cry if I found out that was a possibility.
PINE has toured quite a bit over the last few years. Is there some place that is on your dream list to visit?
This has always been a dream for me since I was like 15. Brixton Academy in London, England, is a venue I would love to play. I mean it’s kind of unrealistic at this point because it’s like a 5000 cap venue, but it’s a dream. But I’d love to play there. A place that’s a little more realistic to play is probably Manhattan. I’ve visited there a few times and I love New York City. I’d love to bring our music there and be able to say we played there, it’s on the bucket list for sure.
What can new listeners who attend the EP release at House of Targ on June 10 expect from PINE’s live performance?
I hope that they get the feel of the soundscapes we’re aiming for live. When we go to shows, we’re always paying attention to the tones. We’re all gear nerds and own lots of pedals. We’re really going for a wall of sound, and we’re not trying to make you happy but we’re also not trying to bum you out either. It’s moody, we want people to stand there and get lost in the music. It’s sort of like cinematic experiences. Slowdive uses their music to capture a cinematic moment or mood, and I guess it’s kind of emo in that way since we’re trying make you feel stuff. I’ve been in a hardcore band before and there’s a lot of aggression at shows. But I feel like our music is a bit different. We’re trying to make people feel something, and feeling soothing in some way.
May is always a nice time of year. The tulips start popping out, the trees start getting greener, and it becomes normal to slab some poutine onto your pizza slice. That’s right, May is POUZZA FEST month. In 2015 we took over Montreal and followed some Ottawa bands in a very, very DIY film called Ottawa Invades POUZZA FEST: A Documentary. If you were to watch that, you’d get just a glimpse of how POUZZA usually goes down.
This year, we couldn’t all make it to Montreal, but our photographer-extraordinaire Els Durnford did. Here’s a look at some of the incredible photos she took while diving into all the madness. Enjoy!
T. Thomason is zipping through Ottawa tonight, and we thought we’d kick off a new interview series called Quick Fix. Yes, it is exactly as it sounds. We shoot a few quick questions at an artist touring through Ottawa and get a sense of what they’re up to. No strings attached. Get your quick fix with T. Thomason below.
Be sure to catch T. Thomason at House of TARG tonight along with Cameron, Alanna Sterling, and Mosely. Doors are at 8 pm and cover is $10. More information here.
Quick Fix with T. Thomason
Lyrically, what does your music speak about? What drives the themes of your songs?
My music is greatly inspired by the personal relationships in my life. Issues of human connection and trying to understand/empathize with others drives a lot of my writing. More and more these days I’ve found bits of the state of the world and political issues creeping into my every day thoughts (as I’m sure a lot of people are finding) and that has rubbed off on my writing. I’m also inspired by the artists I listen to regularly: Lana Del Rey, the Killers, Bob Dylan, Cherry Glazerr, Drake.
All those folks have inspired my lyrically or sonically and I’m always looking for new bands to obsess over.
What is one (or a few) live performance that stick out in your mind? Do you have specific memories that made you want to hit the stage yourself?
I remember knowing I wanted to do music forever when I was about 13. My dad was running a theatre company and put on a fundraiser that was a Bob Dylan tribute. I remember going on for the encore with everyone who had played, seeing the audience standing and clapping, everyone singing along to “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere”. It was awe inspiring and I remember going home and writing in my live journal (lol – remember that?) that I knew what I wanted to do.
What’s next for you in your musical endeavours?
I currently working on 2 follow up EPs with Dave Henriques who produced sweet baby, to complete the trio. I have some big dreams for the live show to tour those projects which I’m really excited about. Thankful for my theatre kid upbringing and planning to bring some of that to the stage soon 😉