Twist, So Young, & Trails @ Pressed
On Friday evening, three bands performed in front of the pair of welcoming café windows at Pressed for a fittingly full house. This evening of femmes, presented by Debaser, featured Toronto’s Twist, supported by So Young from London, ON, and Ottawa’s own Trails. Altogether an energetic night, audience members hopped, bopped, and swayed throughout the venue’s crowded floor.
Trails’ dreamy set began with fingerpicked guitar, arriving in starts and stops, and blanketed in airy vocal melodies like a winding mountain hike – up and up, and back down the trail again. This was a voice like a gentle summer breeze. Trails’ music is unconventional in structure, yet satisfyingly poetic – reminiscent, to me, of the disfigured crooning of King Krule, or the sweet singing of Daughter’s Elena Tonra.
A loop pedal allowed for a focus on lyrics and additional layering, as the performer soloed and twiddled, playing and noodling over hypnotizing loops. The reverberation and delay effects on the guitar and microphone bounced lavishly around the room, and the audience swayed gently, captivated by the sounds. 30-odd minutes slid by far too quickly, as I realized I had been whisked away by Trails’ spectacular solo set.
If Trails was a gentle breeze, So Young was a ferocious windstorm – one that would blow the hat clear off your head, or the head clear off your body. This band had an edge that silenced any remaining chatter in the room and left no head unbobbed.
Early in the set, the band and audience members became aware of a ‘ghost in the room’, a meddling poltergeist, a tinkering phantasm, a troublesome technology malfunction. Swiftly, the sound issues were overcome, then crumpled and tossed with the trash by So Young’s powerful rhythms, roaring guitar tones, and heart-stopping vocal harmonies. The band members jumped out of and into songs like impalas. With their powerful pop-rock sound, these straight-faced young men and women delivered a rock-hard set to a satisfied congregation of listeners.
Twist @ Pressed (Photo by Mckinley Leonard-Scott/Ottawa Showbox)
Lastly, the band Twist took the stage, immediately inviting the audience’s attention with a groovy bass-guitar/drum warm-up/soundcheck. This band was slick. Their music, built upon busy hybrid drumbeats, featured soaring lead guitar over fuzzy riffs and bar chords. During their song Albuquerque, frontwoman Laura Hermiston’s vocals stretched and reached, up and up, high into the sky towards the birds and the clouds and the ozone shield. Throughout the set, hazy guitar pursued pulsating basslines in blissful polyphony, while band members hopped in place both on and off the stage, or lurched during their more mellow songs. The audience lurched, too, at times, their dances landing somewhere between a wiggle and a laid-back twist. With their brand of attention-absorbing pop, something like Alvvays with extra grunge, Twist brought the evening to an energetic close for a packed Pressed audience.
Wild Domestic Breaks Loose
London, Ontario’s Wild Domestic is a band that has an ability to draw you into their music, captivate your senses, and then leave you wanting more. The band is with Out Of Sound, a London-based label with bands like WTCHS (Hamilton), Lonnie in the Garden (London), and Say Domino! under their purview. I sat down with them before their show at Pressed on Saturday to discuss their music, the band, and what they have up their sleeves for the coming year. They are currently on a short tour with Lonnie, expanding their horizons beyond London and proving that just because you come from a smaller city doesn’t mean your audience has to be small.
“I think it’s really easy to over saturate the market. You don’t have a very wide demographic to present to. In London especially, there’s a bureaucratic and political aspect to being in a town with a big university and college.”
“Those institutions and student organizations have the money to bring in big acts, and it often stifles other core urban venues. On the flip side, because things are so insular, you really get to know the people you like to work with (Like Savanah and Adam from Out of Sound). With the idea of over saturation, you have to be careful about playing too much. We played as much as we could for a while and we unknowingly over saturated the scene in London. Even in Sarnia, we over-played it and the same thing happened. Now we play every 4-6 months, the magic combination. We had a music teacher that specifically told us not to get stuck in London. Even though there is great support there, it’s so easy to get stuck. We have bigger aspirations.”
The band is actually from Sarnia, Ontario, and the guys were all childhood friends but didn’t start playing as a band until they moved to London. Once together, they began writing material and playing coffee shops and other local establishments. Like many groups, they have taken many forms, and even one time called themselves Kid Skeleton – a 7-piece outfit with a trumpet. In this evolution, they honed their skills as each member brought different abilities to the table.
“There’s a lot of people in the band, and frequently it so happens that someone comes with a riff or a groove in mind – just as a base – then we kind of build from that.”
“Sometimes that ends up being the infrastructure of the song and go with that, or it may just be one of the steps, or we might get rid of a bunch of things and what’s left is what we go with. It usually stems from one or two people. But it’s always a collaboration.”
Now a 5-piece, the band took the stage at Pressed and played several tracks from their 2011 debut self-titled release. One thing that is pretty cool about them is their instrumentation. With every member taking on an instrumental role, most of their songs are driven by the music and not lyrics. It’s one thing that really made Wild Domestic stand out for me – their ability to create layers of instrumentals and sounds that keep you listening. Sometimes instrumental tracks can get boring or repetitive, but their songs tend to come in waves. You get a wave of heavy percussion, then a seamless transition into a more dreamy/reverb-driven guitar part, and so on. The opening track “Universally Known/Already Forgotten” on their record is a perfect example of this dynamic.
“For us the instrumentation always comes first, it’s what we work on the most. It’s an unspoken, unconscious thing for us that we want to get the instrumentation as strong as possible. So that approach sometimes doesn’t leave room for vocals because it would muddle things up a bit.”
“I think a lot of the music we’ve written doesn’t have space for putting words in. It just wouldn’t fit well. Sometimes we think lyrics could go one place or another, but we don’t want it to feel forced. It’s not worth it for us to force something into the music.”
Something else that stood out to me right away was their use of dual drum kits. The song “What Once Ran Wild” begins with the two of them simultaneously unleashing on the drums, and as the song progresses, guiding the buildup and climactic parts, and then bringing things back down again. It was especially interesting to see Nate and Devon move as exact mirrors of each other on stage, then move into separate parts, and then come back together as if they were pre-programmed to do so.
“Our big dilemma was there was already three guitar players so we had to figure out who was playing what. So we decided to go with two drums, we weirded things up almost by necessity. We had to do something differently with so many people.”
It’s exciting that these guys will be looking to write more in 2013. I feel as though their style can really accommodate a lot of experimentation and incorporation of new arrangements and sounds. Right now they’re pretty stoked about a 7” split they are included on, which is the second edition that Out of Sound Records has released.
“It’s a great opportunity to get a good bill together and get a bunch of artists on one release. Fairly short, easily consumed so to speak.”
The 7” split includes Wild Domestic (London), Bleet (Guelph), I Smell Blood (London), and WTCHS (Hamilton) – all great bands on the Out of Sounds label. Keep an ear out for new music and more tour announcements, as the band is hoping to get an East Coast trip under their belt. Going out west is a goal of theirs too, and they want to make 2013 that year.
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