Since taking the reigns as Executive Producer of the NAC Presents series a year and a half ago, Heather Gibson has had the vision of bringing something new to the table. She recognizes the NAC’s importance in developing emerging artists across Canada and supporting the Ottawa/Gatineau region’s local arts scenes, and to that extent, has lived up to her word and is building upon her vision. The NAC is becoming a more accessible stage for local artists to cut their teeth, as well as garner more exposure and develop their audiences.
Moreover, her work in challenging the music industry’s problem of unbalanced opportunities for women and marginalized people has allowed the NAC to be a shining example of how music programming should be conducted. She is steering the ship in the right direction, and demonstrating that achieving diversity and gender parity isn’t rocket science.
Upon the announcement of NAC’s 2018-19 season programming—which includes over 55 shows—I spoke with Ms. Gibson on the phone about these topics, and the new theme of Changing Landscapes.
Interview with Heather Gibson
Can you speak about the theme of changing landscapes and what that represents?
I didn’t book with a theme in mind, it’s just the theme that came. We wanted to book the artists that we wanted, and then the theme of “changing landscapes” is what it ended up being. It represents many things—changing of landscape here at the NAC, changing direction, the idea that Canada isn’t one thing and that it’s a collection of art and influences. That’s how they all kind of fit into that theme.
What role do you see the NAC playing with respect to gender parity and diversity in the grand scheme of the Canadian Music industry?
I don’t think gender parity is hard. It’s really challenging to understand why people will program an entire festival where there’s one female artist over nine days or something. With all respect due to my colleagues, I think that they either don’t have the same goals or aspirations as the National Arts Centre, or they just don’t know how to do their job very well. Gender parity and diversity is part of doing your job as an Artistic Director—in any kind of art. So, the role of the NAC is far deeper than presenting a diverse program, it’s about getting to the root of the issue and what the NAC can contribute to changing that. I don’t find it difficult to book like that, but I hear a lot of my peers saying that it is difficult to book diverse acts at a headlining level.
There are arguments to be made that there’s a short list of women who will perform for $100k or $50k, but then there needs to be a focus on booking women in a secondary role, underneath the headliners and on the B-stage. Bringing up the development of women like we have been with guys for decades is important. We have a responsibility at the NAC to ask the tough questions, like why are there so few female conductors? We need to figure out how we can develop female conductors. Or if there are only a handful of indigenous artists who fit the bill, then how do we make sure there are more of them in the future?
It’s difficult, and a lot of those conversations are systemic. There’s a whole ecosystem here that hopefully we can influence, and the audience is involved in that. If they want to support diversity, then the audience needs to come to those shows.
Traditionally the NAC Presents and the NAC Orchestra have been their own separate entities. Can you speak to how that collaboration came to be this season?
Yeah, the series is called Sessions. Part of the challenge is that the Orchestra is booking into 2020 right now, so when I first got here and expressed interest in this collaboration, they were very keen on the development of Canadian arrangers and composers, as well as audience development. On my side of things, I’m interested in artistic development of singer-songwriters. With people like Lynn Miles, we’re doing a full-commission project from start to end with her, so archiving great Canadian songwriters is important as well. Through the years you’ll see more and more of that, and Lynn is actually the first one.
It was a conversation we’ve had, and the NAC Orchestra and Andrew Shelley (Music Director) have been very supportive of this idea. They’ve been keen on seeing what we can do. We have a mash of things this year, Lynn Miles and Tom Wilson are doing the first one on October 4th. Tom is coming with his book and doing the show he did with the Hamilton Philharmonic, and Lynn is being commissioned. We’re doing six or seven with her on this first one, and then eventually over a series of shows she’ll have a full one in a year and a half. And then Stars are a full commission in December, and that is giving us the opportunity to work with a lot of great Canadian arrangers, and probably a new Canadian conductor.
There are a lot of different parts to it, Patrick Watson has a lot of these symphony shows under his belt and I think there will be an opportunity to do a lot of neat stuff with him as his compositions have been getting more and more intricate. It will be interesting with the band in front of the orchestra. The Johnny Reid Christmas show is allowing us to work with local choirs and have him front this thing that will seem like a community Christmas concert. It’s allowing us to do new things and open doors. It will allow us to break down some things and have a different conversation about the NAC Orchestra and how they fit in the context of music, not just contemporary or classical.
How has focusing more on programming with local artists—mainly on the Fourth Stage—been beneficial to the NAC?
I think as long as I’m here this is something that will continue. On the local side of things, we live and breath here in Ottawa. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t be part of the local music scene. For a year and a half since I’ve been here, we’ve been trying to figure out what that looks like, and we certainly don’t want to be a glass institution where once you’ve reached a certain level, you get to play a show at the NAC every once in a while.
I very much want to be part of developing careers. Our next big challenge is how do we move beyond just being a presenting venue, and move towards developing artists’ careers? We 100% have to look at that locally, and the scene we have here—whether that’s Pressed, Bar Robo, LIVE! on Elgin, or the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield—we all have an important role to play. A band like Hillsburn will play at the NAC, and then go play a place like LIVE! on Elgin, and then come back here. The whole time they’re building their audience in the community.
It’s integral to me that emerging artists are involved in our program. I really don’t want to have a program where we wait until you can sell 900 seats and then we’ll put you in the Theatre. We need to be part of the development, and artists need to have the opportunity to have access to our gear, crew, and lighting, and I think emerging artists need the opportunity to play on this kind of stage. Then they go back out into the world like they do on tour, and then we’ll do it again in six months. We have to be a part of that.
CityFolk returns to Lansdowne Park once again September 12-16, 2018, for their 25th anniversary, and they aren’t pulling any punches with this year’s lineup. The festival normally does a good job of balancing the old and the new, as well as mixing in different genres to appeal to wider audiences. The five-day festival will see many stand-out acts hit the stages—most notably of whom is David Byrne of Talking Heads fame. Byrne is bringing his American Utopia tour to the capital for the first time since he played Ottawa Jazz Festival along with St. Vincent in 2013. Known for his stage antics and stunning visual performances, the much anticipated return of Byrne to Ottawa is sure to bring out the crowds. Let’s just hope the thunder and lightning stay away for his set this year.
Other well-known acts playing this year’s CityFolk are Hozier, Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Belle and Sebastian, The Decemberists, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Lindi Ortega, Tune-Yards, Whitehorse, and Andy Shauf, among many others. There could be more acts announced, too, so we’ll update this post as more information gets released.
Also returning this year is the free local music programming, called Marvest. While that lineup has yet to be announced, we can certainly expect a lot of great Ottawa acts to be playing this September.
Pre-sale tickets go on sale May 24 at 10 a.m. and regular passes for the general public go on sale on Friday, May 25. More ticket and festival info can be found on the CityFolk website.
Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Black Squirrel Books, among being a cafe and bookstore, is also a known music venue. Hosting an array of genres, there is always something for everyone to come see and enjoy. On April 19th, the cafe hosted an unforgettable lineup, one I deem to be for the books.
Katy Perry Double Feature opened the shows with such volume that it was certain to pull the crowd in. Despite the show being their first, their good humour and light banter made it all the more natural. Shrill screams, muddled guitar, cool drumming, and bass played absurdly low on the neck, Katy Perry Double Feature was something else entirely.
Distorted and fuzzy, the guitar came out as uneven and the tone is full of feedback. Riffs muddled into the background, almost robotic in nature and muffled by all else, the guitar pierced through the air and pulled the audience through a world of assorted hues. It droned on and kept a steady and bitter pace while other times it transitions to steady Sonic Youth-like riffs. Combinations of chords and notes struck creates a deeper and more immersive soundscape.
The bass wasn’t the expected deep resonant rumbling but rather played up the guitar neck. Creating odd yet suitable bass lines, it was not what would be expected of a noisy, and static rock band. Almost playing with a guitar-like sound, the bass blended itself into the mass amount of noise. Heavy and high, sounding muffled and distant, it sets a new tone to the songs played.
The drumming is cold and distant, almost as if detached from the rest. It echoes and presents as a bone fragment of the drum kit. Carefree and fun despite sounding shallow, hallowed out, and removed, it added a strange backbone. Sounding like it’s playing through some strange warped jukebox made it all the better.
Torpor played next and absolutely brought their all, packing a punch with each and every song they played. Chaotic, loud, and a whirlwind of emotion and energy, they gave the performance their all.
The guitar dominated with incisive power chords. The guitarist played with combining high and low octaves to create a space and pulled the listener into the vivid setting it paints. Rapid and rambunctious, all while maintaining a well-known aggression, the sound came out muffled and muted. Despite this, there was still a resonance that loomed in the air. The ragged and unclean nature of the playing creates feedback which drenched the atmosphere in a murky magenta. The contrast of higher notes and prolonged feedback splash yellow through the rest of the colour.
The bass was an absolute fucking powerhouse. The knock-your-socks-off, heartbeat-in-your-ears, feel-it-in-your-chest awe-striking bassline. The tonal range met is not the thing that’s the most prominent or striking, but rather the rage and energy placed in every single note. It melds deep and rusty oranges and blends them with rich earthy greens, overall producing a rare warmth.
The drumming was hollow and cold cold cold. It swept the crowd with an unspoken energy that got the body moving while being the personification of anger. It was abrasive and harsh, played relentlessly and lacking any form of mercy. Tangled within the acute sound created through the guitar playing, the drumming added spikes of icy blue and bright teals to the mix of colours the band created.
Raw, emotionally charged and delivered with a high in-your-face intensity, the vocals cut through the air like a knife. While they intertwine with each instrument, they depersonalize themselves as well. Higher pitched and angry, they packed a punch while drawing themselves out across the sound. Painting the atmosphere with vivid magentas and obnoxious purples, the vocals radiated an energy I found unmatched.
The last band to play was NYC’s Decisions. The band tore the floorboards apart with the sheer ferocity of the buildup of each song. Weighted and a sort of Frankenstein patchwork of aggression and awareness, the band spread messages important to their core values.
Filled with aggravation and bitter resentment, the vocals found their way to the front. They pushed the messages the lyrics give into your space. They rammed into you full force without room to stagger and riot against police brutality, among other pressing social issues. They’re ragged and fucking ripped with a passion pit into every last word. Lazily dragged out for a vocal effect, shaky but rather impactful, every scream was accentuated further due to it.
Built up and upon, the guitar playing was raw. Dirty melodies and slow contortions into power chords that sounded like they were played through a cheese grater, the playing is masterful. The riffs aforementioned lead to relentless releases of frustration that held a weight. Take the green spray paint and go to town with tagging because that’s what the guitar sounds like.
The bass was punchy and hollow, heavy, and warm. It jumbled itself with the rest of the instrumentals and gets buried within, yet it protruded. The bassline pronounced itself through the shake of the floor, through the ghostly and echoing sound. Adding rich chestnut to an array of hues painted through the air, the bass packed that earthy hallowed out sound.
The drums were frigid and dead as dust. Colder than the Arctic, but booming nonetheless. Their true potential was released when each beat falls in rapid succession to one another. Riding the ride cymbal all the way through the set, it was like a best friend—the tool most used and quite frankly used so effectively that people threw their bodies to and fro.
Each band brought something special to drive the crowd wild. Whether it was spunk in form of warped jukebox sound, uncontrolled relentless feedback, or playing so aggressive it got shred through a cheese grater before reaching our desperate ears, every band absolutely smashed it. Given the chance, I would urge you go see them perform. They all know how to move and mosh with the crowd.
As a bit of an overzealous freak when it comes to good folk music in Ottawa, it’s been a few years now since I first developed a weak spot for decorated bilingual duo, Moonfruits. With the release of their sophomore album Ste-Quequepart in 2017, my generally cynical outlook on concept albums started bruised and further softened. The album was crafted to play like the soundtrack of an old film, one I’ve now listened to in its entirety on at least a dozen separate occasions. On the train, on the bus, in the shower, walking home from Vanier at 4AM. I’m often in search of escape and, if you are too, may I just say that the friendly, quirky romanticism of Saint-Somewhere is just the place to go to forget about where you may be.
As an anglophone and someone with an ego as fragile as tissue paper, I wanted to write about the album for some time but wasn’t sure I could do it justice, given how I am generally quite focused on lyrical content. I do believe, however, that their ability to convey authentic emotion through carefully constructed melodies and complimentary harmonic arrangements transcends any form of linguistic barrier, and that as someone who cannot actually understand 80% of what is being sung, I feel a genuine connection. That being said, I did take the time to translate most of the lyrics, though undoubtedly crudely, and found that I was not entirely off-base in terms of assuming the lyrical content based on the tone. I did read all of the English prose that accompanied the release of the album, many of which have a distinct Brother’s Grimm sort of flair which primed me for the blending of the wholesome and the foreboding.
There is a sort of unsettling undercurrent alive throughout the record with the ambling twang of the banjo conjuring images of a dusty, rusty old town in which all its strange but friendly inhabitants talk a bit too slow, stare a little too long, and love a little too hard (I’m particularly thinking of songs “Roustabout” and “Big Bureau Blues” here). The album has the drama of a cinematic experience, something I wholeheartedly attribute to the chemistry between its sole members Kaitlin Milroy and Alex Millaire. Their uncanny ability to banter back and forth with a sort of playful, dramatic edge before seamlessly marrying their voices with such captivating tenderness and sincerity speaks to their success as partners, in and out of the industry. As a married couple making music together, there is a sort of intimacy necessarily afforded to the listener that sometimes clouds our perception of how much hard work goes into appearing effortlessly in sync.
I reached out to chat with Moonfruits a few weeks back, knowing they were back in town after an extensive BC tour and they were kind enough to answer a slew of my questions, most of which were specifically about how their working relationship has evolved over the years, as well as how the relationship between their music and their audience has changed. Below you can read our correspondence in its entirety.
How has your dynamic as a duo changed over the years? Your sound? Your songwriting? How has it evolved?
We started off as a very bare bones street duo with just one beat up guitar, our two voices and a mittful of shakers. In order to make ourselves heard over traffic, footfalls, and sometimes other performers who played amplified in the street, a lot of our first tunes were pretty loud and percussive. As we started building a following, gigging indoors (!) and, especially, playing to more listening audiences, we sought more subtlety and intimacy in both our sound and message.
With our second record, Ste-Quequepart—an entirely French-language album—and over a hundred shows across Canada to all kinds of folks, bilingual storytelling is another dimension that has opened really itself up to us. More on that later! As well, we both learned new instruments for this album, banjo for Alex, and glockenspiel, tambourine and kalimba for Kait. Now that we’re back home, we’re turning our attention to writing and recording again, (and spending time with Sully the cat). We’re excited to see where the music and live show go!
Are solo projects out of the question? Are you working on a new album?
We’re really hitting our stride as Moonfruits and have so much we’d like to say and do through our music and performances that neither of us have really considered any solo projects per se. One thing that’s for sure is that we have a wealth of material we’re planning to record with more tunes, stories, and ideas always coming out.
How was your BC tour? What are the challenges of touring? Where would you like to tour next?
Though we had performed a couple isolated shows in BC last year, this first proper tour of Vancouver and Vancouver Island with Sarah Osborne was downright magical. Coming from Ontario, it’s sometimes hard to believe how majestic and imposing the Rockies are. We’d be walking down a little Victorian street in Nanaimo or Courtenay and have our breath taken away by the sight of them, while the folks from there would just kind of walk on and give us a funny look. They’re obviously quite used to them.
The people we met were all extremely welcoming and eager to share all that BC has to offer, which in our case meant amazing veggie-burgers, badass coffee, purple gin, seaweed–no coincidence that the highlights are largely food-dominated … we love food! And music and artists (of which there is a seemingly infinite amount in BC) that we absolutely need to check out.
We felt an instant connection with Sarah Osborne–we had only shared the stage once with her in Ottawa this past December–and the tour quickly became a healing and cathartic time on the road despite a pretty hectic schedule.
The challenges of touring are also the best parts–it’s a question of learning to manage your energy, stay healthy and rested and on top of emails and promo, but also stay in the moment, stay inspired, connect with new audiences, meet other artists and have fun!
Touring plans are currently taking shape in the form of a bike-music tour of Ontario, an Artists On Board trip through VIA Rail’s awesome program, *fingers crossed* a first tour of Europe, and then an eventual release tour for the next album. Pretty exciting.
St. Quequepart, to me, is the perfect roadtrip album for the folk lover. What albums do you listen to on tour? Who are you current favourite Canadian folk musicians? Francophone folk musicians?
If we’re completely honest, we’re pretty boring people and get a lot of our mojo and new musical ideas from silence. The road is also when and where we get a lot of our thinking, imagining, and planning for the future done, and, for us, that often needs large tracts of silence as fertile ground.
That being said, when we need some tunes, we often turn to one of our absolute favourite bands on the planet, Du Bartàs, from France. The five members play cuatro, accordion, asian violin and a tickle trunk’s worth of percussion instruments, and sing in Occitan (a branch of Latin that’s a close cousin to Catalan) and Arabic.
We saw them perform by chance on our first busking trip in Europe as a band–incidentally it was also shortly after we got engaged–and were immediately hooked as much by their political messages, as their crunchy harmonies as use of rhythm.
From participating in a few years of Folk Music Ontario conferences, we literally have a box of new Canadian music–tant en français qu’en anglais–we chip away at listening to while we’re on the road, but a few faves are our dear friends, Georgian Bay, Leif Vollebekk, Kyra Shaughnessy and The Ramblin’ Valley Band. Spoon, Fleet Foxes, Kaia Kater, Earth, Wind & Fire, Radiohead, and Sigur Rós are also never too far behind.
What kind of response do you get from your bilingual fans? Your francophone fans? Your anglophone fans? How does the response change from across Canada?
We’ve found that the response between francophones, anglophones, franco-curieux and plain old music lovers is pretty well the same the country over. We feel that the music behind the tunes translates their meaning well enough that even if a language isn’t spoken, it’s felt. Bringing in storytelling from the imaginary village of Ste-Quequepart has infused the performances with a lot of humour and, we find, gives an emotional arc to the set that really allows us and the public to create this imaginary world together–one that we’re always adapting and improvising around depending on where we are.
The choice to be visible, as well as audible, is always a little political, which has always been a sort of pillar of folk music. Do you feel the pressure from anglophone institutions to be ‘more accessible’ to anglophones? What do you think can be done by the anglo music community to be more inclusive of francophone musicians and francophone listeners?
To be fair, because French is a minority language in Canada–though it is extremely well supported compared to other languages spoken across the country–we’ve more so had the experience of institutions having those kinds of demands on the French side of things. If we’re performing for an institution whose mandate is to defend la cause francophone, often times our contract will be so explicit as to specify a percentage of the number of songs that must be in French and will occasionally specify that we need to address our public in French between songs. Arts granting bodies often have similar formulaic approaches to cultural support and development.
We love French, we love performing in French and we’re quite happy to do as we’re asked, but while this kind of approach jives with organizational mandates, it fails to jive with our artistic expression as a bilingual band. We want to play for music lovers of all sorts and to do that we want to create a space for audiences to discover something new, musically and linguistically. Linguistic plurality suits us better. On the flip side, because English so dominates the industry in Canada as a whole, in order to reach the broadest audience, your show and your music needs to be accessible to them. There are no formal requests because English is the default.
As a side note, our dear friends in Georgian Bay regularly write tunes that seamlessly incorporate French and English in the same song. That’s something that peeks our interest, and we’d love to attempt it. It flies in the face of this notion of language purity and it makes for beautiful poetry.
If we have a comment for our hometown, Ottawa, it’s that it would be wonderful to see a bar or venue openly welcome francophone, bilingual and franco-curieux performers and audiences alike. At present, there isn’t a spot that comes to mind–that isn’t North of the Outaouais river–that offers that kind of an atmosphere.
Where can we see Moonfruits next? Any new, exciting projects coming up?
There are a few very exciting things on the horizon for us!
On May 14th we launched a music video for our song “Le Maire,” pulled from Ste-Quequepart. It was shot at one of our favourite bars, Belmont, in our very own neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South with 30 of our fans, friends, and neighbours who kindly stood in as villagers from Ste-Quequepart (Alex’s dad even dressed up like the priest!). Andrew Robillard was our videographer, Don Charette of Naskigo Productions produced the video (he also produced our album Ste-Quequepart), local players of renown Don Cummings, Michel Delage, and Toby Meis played the house band, and it also incorporates drawings by France’s O’lee Graphiste. All in all, we’re pretty stoked to share it with folks!
Friday of this week, on May 18th, we’re excited to be performing with Montreal-based folk-rock collective Cheshire Carr at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield.
On June 8th, we’re playing an afternoon show for the Festival Folk et guitares d’Aylmer and, on June 23rd, we have the amazing opportunity of playing a joint concert at the Francofest de Hamilton with the Ottawa-based hip-hop artist and L’Armure du Son owner-operator Le R Premier, Hamilton-based DJ Unpier, Toronto beatmaker Kenan Belzner and members of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ommie Jane is an Ottawa-based musician and writer for publications such as Ottawa Showbox and Ottawa Beat. She also runs the Ottawa Alt-Country Folk & Blues Facebook page, and occasionally promotes concerts through that name.
Ottawa indie-folk veterans Amos the Transparent celebrate their 10-year anniversary as a band this year with the release of a brand new album—fittingly titled Anniversaries. They also collaborated with Big Rig Brewery to release a special limited edition pilsener to mark the occasion. You can read more about the album and special edition beer here.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was on-hand at a packed 27 Club to catch the action. Amos the Transparent were supported by Rumfit Mosely and The Love Machine. Check out the gallery below.
Ottawa indie-folk rockers Amos the Transparent are celebrating 10 years as a band with the release of their new album Anniversaries Saturday night at The 27 Club. And why not celebrate the occasion with some delicious craft beer? Music and beer go together like wine and cheese. The band has collaborated with Big Rig Brewery to release a special limited run of Amos Anniversaries beer—a 5.2% pilsener that will please the palate for many.
A decade and four albums later, Amos the Transparent have cemented themselves as a quintessential folk-canadiana. They have performed at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, CityFolk, SXSW, WayHome, The Strombo Show, CBC’s Q, and even the Big Sound Festival in Australia. They’ve also hosted an annual holiday show around Christmas time that always sells out. Needless to say, Ottawa loves Amos.
I caught up with lead vocalist and guitarist Jonathan Chandler to talk about the band’s longevity and the new album. Have a read below.
Amos the Transparent releases Anniversaries Saturday, May 12 at The 27 Club along with another veteran Ottawa group who have gotten back together for a few one-offs—The Love Machine—as well as Rumfit Mosey. Ticket and show information can be found here. Upcoming shows:
May 12 — The Ottawa 27 Club
June 21 — Ottawa Dragonboat Festival
July 8 — RBC Bluesfest
August 25 — Neat Café (Burnstown)
Interview with Jonathan Chandler of Amos the Transparent
This band has been together for 10 years now, which is much longer than most. What is the glue that has kept Amos around until now?
JC: Honestly, the fact that we are indeed friends has kept it fresh over the years. Because we genuinely like each other, I think that creates an open space for everyone to feel valued and feel free to discuss concerns or ideas. A band is indeed a relationship—a big complex family relationship—and just like a regular one, you need to work at it.
How have families, new business ventures (like Shoebox Recording Studio) and the passage of time affected how Amos approaches writing music?
JC: Scheduling has never really been an easy task with this band and it’s numbers but with growing families and big boy (and girl) careers, the windows become even smaller so that element of compromise and understanding has to be pretty strong. That said, we have our regular scheduled time that we meet weekly and everyone knows that that time is precious so we use it to the best of our abilities. Be that writing, rehearsing or just having everyone present to chat about concepts or ideas.
The band collaborated with Big Rig Brewery to make an Anniversaries beer. What is that about, and how did this partnership come together?
JC: Last summer Chris ended up running into Big Rig’s Brew Master Lon and Chris Phillips and they ended up, you know, sharing compliments about each others ventures. The idea of celebrating the 10-year milestone with a record came up and Lon expressed interest in helping out in any way he could, because, you know he’s a gem. Fast forward many months and we reached out to Big Rig and the plan of launching the Pilsner together was put in action. We’re really stoked about it—the beer is awesome and it’s just a cool piece of memorability to hang on to.
Is there anything you can think back and laugh about now when looking at yourself in your early 20’s being in a band?
JC: I laugh at the idea that I once thought we could take a 9 piece band on the road. Mind you when this band started, I wasn’t a newb to touring but my expertise was definitely not… seasoned. There are photos of us playing NXNE or festivals of the likely with trumpets and a line of singers… just absurd.
The new album explores many sounds and textures, keeping listeners engaged throughout. Can you talk about a common theme or meaning behind ‘Anniversaries?’
JC: From a writing perspective, these songs span a couple years. When I listen to the finalized album, I listen to the music and arrangements that we made as a collective, as opposed to the lyrics. I feel that musically speaking, the band is at its best and most comfortable right now and it shows with what we’ve made here, as a collective. I’ve always found myself struggling a bit with lyrics, trying to not sound redundant or foolish (which I know I’ve missed a couple times!). Regardless, there are many songs here about reflection and acceptance and I do feel that some of the words are among those I’m most proud of.
It seems like the band is still having fun. Does this mean we’ll get another anniversary in 10 years from now?
JC: I think we’ve explored the option of calling it quits enough times that we know where we end up at the end of that conversation—making another record! So, as long as folks might be interested in hearing new songs, I’m pretty sure we’ll supply some in one way or another.
It was a windy night in Ottawa, but people were still lining up outside The 27 Club to get a chance to see the 2018 Juno Breakthrough Group of the year, The Beaches. With their debut full length album, Late Show, they took Ottawa by storm making a lasting impression for their first national headlining tour.
Taylor Knox opened the night with a commanding performance. He is no new figure to the Canadian music scene. He started his solo career in 2015 dropping his debut EP, Lines. Now, Knox has once again made his mark with his debut album Love. The Aurora, Ontario native made his way on stage and hit every show ‘requirement.’ The guitar riffs were tight and he pulled in some lower key moments to round out his time on stage. He asked the crowd if they would be cool with a ‘cool jam’ and oh they were. Finding the perfect balance between chill and pumped, the crowd, whether they were familiar with Knox or not, fed back the energy he was exuding with every chord and lyric. You could tell that he had really captured the crowd’s attention.
Then it was time, The Beaches brought the Late Show—well, the nice and cool 9:30pm show—but you get what I’m trying to say here. The anticipation throughout the room was palpable as drummer, Eliza Enman-McDaniel, took the stage with a beat that could shake you to your core, setting the tone of the set. A full house went wild as the rest of the band joined. Their sound was on point, and their overall look and vibe—flawless.
Lead vocalist and bassist Jordan Miller has an undeniable, incomparable stage presence, and Friday night was no different. Her vocals were captivating. She sold the emotions and playfulness behind every song with unfaltering ease. Guitarist Kylie Miller slayed with her crowd pumping guitar solos and Leandra Earl had one hell of a performance jamming out a perfect mix of keys and guitar with just a sprinkle of the tambourine. Their set was unreal and overall it was everything you could hope for in a loud, and amped-up rock show.
The quartet made a special shout out for May 4th (May the fourth be with you) and threw back to playing at Zaphods years before to a crowd less than half the size of Friday night. The show hit new levels when they started playing “Money.” The energy in the room skyrocketed with jumping bodies in sweat drenched t-shirts and fans belting their hearts out. They closed the night, pre-encore, poetically with “Late Show,” prompting a shower of Smarties thrown from fans to the stage. They came back and killed the encore keeping the crowd hooked for another two high energy, euphoric songs, leaving everyone in the room in a trance wanting more.
Basically, they are one wicked group of women that deliver one hell of a show. They are a must see, bringing new life to rock n’ roll, and owning the title, GRL BAND.
Ottawa punk rock veterans The Creeps are back, releasing their first album since 2014’s masterpiece Eulogies on May 4th. Formed in 1999, The Creeps are by far one of the capital’s most accomplished and appreciated punk bands. I should also add that personally, Eulogies is my favourite record released by an Ottawa band. So what could we expect from a new album? How would new material measure up to the immensity that was Eulogies.
Well, fear not. The Creeps have spent years playing shows, touring, and continue to have fun doing it. Sure, they may no longer be teenagers, plus there are a few kids and grey beard hairs in the mix now, but that hasn’t changed the fact that this band knows how to write damn good albums—front to back.
Beneath the Pines is an 11-track offering, and it’s packed with goodies. The group has taken a new direction on this record, one they have never taken before. Traditionally The Creeps have written crunchy, uptempo, and in your face pop-punk that many of us have come to know and love. Skottie’s soaring melodies always rode the over-driven tones of his guitar, carried by Ian’s flurry of bass notes and Jordy’s percussive onslaught. Moreover, their music usually uses disturbing imagery to touch on themes such as death and suicide, and other things that are generally…creepy. These are staple characteristics of The Creeps, and the band actually released Old Crimes: Singles Collection 2009-2013in April of 2018 in advance of the release of the new album, and one listen through this collection will give listeners a great sense of how the band approached music in the past.
The Creeps’ new album Beneath the Pines will be available on vinyl May 4th. Photo taken from Facebook.
But Beneath the Pines is a departure from what The Creeps have done before. To call this album “slower” than its predecessors would be selling it short, and imply that it doesn’t have the same grit—that just isn’t true. While the band moves away from the darker themes that they faithfully pursued in the past, Skottie’s irresistible vocals and lyrical phrasing and the group’s catchy buildups to epic choruses are what weathered fans will recognize instantly, and fall in love with. The compositions are recognizably The Creeps, but the band experiments with different tempos, guitar tones, and a more open sound.
Songs such as “Bottom of Things”, “Scared”, and “In My Mind” are all more restrained instrumentally than most of us are used to. However, that doesn’t take away from the tracks, as Skottie’s vocals come through much clearer, with slight reverb, giving a lot of depth to the melodies he and the band weave. It is pop punk taken to another level, illustrating the maturation of a band that started as kids, now translating their ideas through the lens of adulthood. Old fans who have grown with The Creeps will almost certainly love the direction Beneath the Pines takes, and new listeners will surely fall into this album and appreciate its subtle intricacies.