I called Julie Tuesday evening around 7:00 PM, Ottawa time. She had just gotten home from a busy day and has another one tomorrow. She has a 6:00 AM shift at the pool where she works as a lifeguard before an evening photo shoot and a plane to Ontario to catch the following morning. She’s yet to pack. We talked for almost an hour straight.
One would think waking up at 4:45 AM would be a loathsome task for a life-long touring musician, but Julie Doiron finds comfort in her routine. Not to mention the steady pay cheque that finds its way into her bank account every two weeks—a first in her adult life. Swimming, on the other hand, has been a constant since childhood, and it’s particularly important to her now.
“I need to keep my body strong in order to feel good, psychologically,” she explains, elaborating on how her schedule also includes teaching a weekly yoga class. When conversation turns to the four show tour she has booked this weekend, she laughs and likens it to a vacation in comparison to her current schedule and the intensity of the touring she did this summer.
Starting Thursday, September 13th in Toronto at the Garrison, Julie reunites with The Wooden Stars for three shows, the second of which will be here in Ottawa Friday night at St. Alban’s. The third on Saturday in Picton for Sandbanks Music Festival along with co-headliners Wintersleep. She will be playing an additional show in Montreal on Sunday at Quai des Brumes, before it’s back home to Sackville, NB for Monday.
“We tend to get together every two years, now” she says of the Wooden Stars reunion, referencing the string of dates they performed together in 2014 after a twelve year hiatus, and another slew of performances in 2016. She goes on to explain that they initially arranged these 2018 shows after accepting the Sandbanks Music Festival appearance and decided to add a few more dates. This series of shows has a greater significance than previous—it marks the last time they will be playing their former album in its entirety, because hal-eh-lou-yer, we’re getting another Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars album.
The Wooden Stars began backing Julie on tour starting in 1997 for her Loneliest in the Morning release. Their jazz-inflected musicality fit in well with her sparse, achey song-writing, and in 1999 they released Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. It won a Juno the following year for best Alternative Album and saw re-release in 2013.
While the songwriting efforts on that album were Julie’s alone, she believes the writing process will be more collaborative this time around. Co-writing is something not entirely unfamiliar to Julie, who cut her teeth in collaborative writing with the 2017 release of Julie & the Wrong Guys on Dine Alone Records.
“I was really blocked before that album” she says, explaining that between 2012 and the fall of 2017, she’d only written two songs independently—both of which were written on the way to the session where they’d be recorded. She credits her Wrong Guys collaboration in teaching her ‘to let go and not be in charge”.
Moving forward with new music, she talks of being a lot less preoccupied with the expectations of “making it,” writing a hit, or charting.
“It’s liberating, to no longer be burdened with those expectations.” In their absence, she can create the music she wants to create. This she credits to her age and experience—she is a 46 year old mother of three with 28 years in the music industry.
I ask her how her relationship with her songs has aged, curious how she feels having to revisit songs from her Broken Girl days, songs that as a listener are still so visceral and raw. “I haven’t forgotten what those feelings are like.” She pauses. “But I have changed a lot, and in a way I am grateful to be able to revisit those feelings from this distance.”
The Showbox Concert Series featuring Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars and Gianna Lauren happens Friday, September 14 at St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward Ave.), starting at 7:30 pm. More information can be found on the Facebook event. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here, or $12 at the door.
It’s that time of year when we realize that summer is winding down and the air starts getting chilly. But there’s good news! Not only is the CityFolk lineup a solid one this year, but we’re giving away two full-festival passes!
Some of CityFolk’s heavy hitters this year include David Byrne, Hozier, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Lindi Ortega, Andy Shauf, Ani DiFranco, and many more.
To win the pair of full-festival passes, all you have to do is answer the question below correctly in the drop-down menu. The draw will happen on Wednesday, September 12, at noon so be sure to enter before then!
Which headlining act at this year’s CityFolk Festival released an acclaimed collaborative album with St. Vincent in 2012?
The group consists of multi-instrumentalist Zachary Perron and songwriter/vocalist/synth player Amanda Lowe, who have come together once again to bring us a larger-than-life album that transcends sonic boundaries. On first listen, Collapse seems to inherit much from its predecessor in the Novusolis catalogue—the exceptional debut entitled Fevered Dreams.
However, when listening closer, there are some specific features about Collapse that set it apart—not only from the group’s past work, but also anything else that the nation’s capital has to offer.
Collapse is the product of some very clear growth by the band. It is an expansion of their sound, and a refinement of their approach and arrangements. Novusolis create an ethereal soundscape from which the listener can bask in, layering reverb-heavy backing synth parts with staccato guitar and restrained percussive elements. This is particularly evident in tracks such as “Closer” and “Collapse.”
Lowe’s vocals are the element that, for me, tie the whole thing together. While her voice offers a delicate cushion for the listener to fall back on, it is also a powerful and emotionally impactful aspect of the album. Lowe’s songwriting emanates her experience and growth as a musician, as she harnesses her own strengths and combines them more effectively than ever with Zachary’s instrumentation. The arrangements are complex, and truly create a dream-like atmosphere throughout. While I’m not particularly familiar with the genre of post-rock, their music certainly reflects the grandiosity of artists such as Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky. I’m sure that anyone who has an appreciation of those bands will fall into Novusolis with great ease.
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears out for live show announcements from Novusolis, as their live performance is something you don’t want to miss. Have a listen to their album Collapse below.
Last weekend was stacked with good shows. No matter what I chose to do there was an equally solid show happening elsewhere. One of the options was Mushy Gushy, No Aloha, and Casa Lagarto at Black Squirrel—and there are no regrets.
The night started off with friends hugging and smiles abound. It’s always nice to see a lineup where the bands know each other or have worked together in the past. The weather was warm and soggy, but the sky was clear and folks began to trickle in as local garage-psyche marvels Casa Lagarto took the stage.
Casa Lagarto is a mashup of well-seasoned artists in the community, including Jonny Yuma (formerly of The Yips), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse (Black Lab Studios), and Jonathan Pearce (Winchester Warm/Mushy Gushy) filling in for Travis Kinnear who just recently celebrated the birth of his first daughter. Their set was tight and their arrangements came through crisply into our ears.
Casa Lagarto at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—Casa Lagarto’s music could be the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel. I mean that in the best way possible. I feel like their music would fit perfectly into an acid trip on a desert highway in Nevada somewhere. Casa’s sound is clearly influenced by psych and rockabilly, taking elements from various styles and making them their own. Johnny Yuma’s low, brooding vocals enthralled the audience and his exquisite clean guitar tone could give you goosebumps. Jon Pearce filled in perfectly, and somehow knew the songs like the back of his hand. Some key tracks they played were “Lights Out” and “Scarecrow,” and I highly recommend you go dive deep into Casa’s albums on Bandcamp. The group layered their sound well in the live setting, using the intimacy of the bookstore to enhance their individual instruments to create a warm and rich atmosphere for us all to enjoy the show.
Next on deck was No Aloha, a summer-friendly garage rock group from Montreal that has some loving fans here in Ottawa. As an aside, we presented No Aloha at Mugshots back in 2015 along with Bonnie Doon and Nightshades and it still remains one of the funnest shows we’ve ever done to date. They are fresh off the release of their new EP Cigarettes for Optimists and rocked the house at Black Squirrel.
No Aloha at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
This group may seem like a bunch of slacker rock dudes, with their long hair and rarely-groomed faces. However, they’re anything but. This band is well-rehearsed and have a chemistry that is instantly noticeable when they hit the stage and start playing together. With flying guitar riffs, impactful percussion, and Ben Griffiths’ smooth vocals, this group injected some energy into the room. They dug into their impressive catalogue from the past few years throughout the set and pleased the audience and got some bodies moving. Black Squirrel is a versatile venue for all kinds of shows, and the place was perfect for the diverse sounds of this lineup. Lets hope these dudes come back to Ottawa soon, because they’re a party.
Last up was Mushy Gushy, an Ottawa “butt-rock” band that takes a fun spin on rock and roll. While it’s hard to imagine these guys ever not having fun, this night was bittersweet. Kyle Woods, the original drummer and founding member of the band has recently moved to Toronto and got a job there (congrats to him!). But the show must go on. Thus, this show was to be his last as he moves on to new journeys. While this kind of mutual parting is difficult for friends and band mates, it was clear that the sweet outweighed the bitter. Kyle was radiating smiles and hugs, and obviously this was to be a memorable night for him and the band as they decidedly wanted to end his tenure with a bang.
Mushy Gushy consists of more music scene veterans here in Ottawa—bassist Jon Pearce (Winchester Warm), drummer Kyle Woods (fmr. Kalle Mattson), guitarist Cory Lefebvre (fmr. Baberaham Lincoln), and vocalist Dave Gervais (fmr. The Gallop). But more than anything, this group of buds just wants to have fun, and that is evident in their compositions. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s refreshing.
Mushy Gushy at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
The ‘Gush have released two excellent EPs so far since coming together in 2016—Tight Snake and More Butter. I just can’t wait to hear what their third release will be called with titles like that. We presented their tape release party at Bar Robo a few years back, and let me tell you—it was a time. Kyle carried the whole set through, and he played the drums more fervent than ever. His rhythm was flawless and his beard was flying to-and-fro to the uptempo rock and roll his group performs. Cory’s fluttering guitar riffs flew over Jon’s steady bass lines as the tracks kept the crowd energized and engaged. They had the crowd singing the irresistible catchy “Oh Oh Ohs” in “Heartbreak Motel” and had booties shaking during “Summer Lusting.” Closer to the end of their set they played their most well-known jam, “Schemestress,” at which point the night hit its climax. The song is a feel-good summer tune, and the hook will grab you and hold on tight. David Gervais’ songwriting is on point, and his vocals add the finishing touch to their part pop, part-garage rock sound with just enough catchiness and grit to go around. All in all, it was a night of good vibes and good memories were made.
Hip hop is like any other genre in the music industry. There are some real artists that work hard and pay their dues to bring listeners and fans material that is impactful in one way or another. But there are a lot of people out there that find shortcuts, step on others in their community, and rip off material to get ahead, too. That’s the music industry, in any genre—it can be a dark, dark place.
Buck n’ Nice is a group that consists of two entities. On one side there is producer, beatmaker, Cypher radio host, and DJ—DJ So Nice, who has been cutting his teeth in the art of hip hop beats since he was 13 years old. He’s a huge grassroots community supporter who throws some of the best parties in town, not least of which is the monthly Hip Hop Karaoke at Elmdale Tavern. On the other side, there is Sawbuck—a proven MC who came from difficult circumstances and worked his way to where he is now. His honesty and untethered lyricism fist in seamlessly with his masterful delivery, digging deep into his hip hop influences such as Mobb Deep, EPMD, Wu Tang, and Gang Starr.
That’s the subject of Ottawa hip hop duo Buck n’ Nice’s new album EMAG. Good hip hop is clever with words (obviously), and it took me a second to realize what “EMAG” actually meant.
“After getting our feet wet with our debut album, we learned from the inside out how backwards the industry is,” they say. “It’s a machine filled with appropriation, shortcuts to success and all-around deception. This is the theme of EMAG, an album titled so because the GAME is backwards.”
With the duo’s sophomore release, they aren’t mincing words or beating around the bush. Having gained momentum in Canada’s hip hop landscape with multiple releases since 2014, Buck n’ Nice have taken from their real life experiences in the music industry and applied them to their new record. It doesn’t take long for them to sink their teeth into the subject, as they dive right into it on the second track, also called “EMAG.”
It’s important to mention that although this concept may sound jaded or negative, I don’t get that sense when listening to the album all the way through. They’re not saying “fuck the music industry” per se—they’re pointing out the problematic parts of it, the deception and fakers, the toxic people and money that drives a lot of the music made in it. To me, what goes part-in-parcel with these criticisms are the things that do matter in music—things like community, real life experiences, people’s everyday struggles, and most of all, valuing more than just money when making art. One of my favourite rhymes from the album is from the track “Leader”, which goes “What’s the difference between me and you? I see the bigger picture, you crop the image just to see the view.”
On EMAG, the duo collaborate with talented artists such as Prufrock Shadowrunner, REKS, Freddy Printz, Whitney Delion, Cheko Salaam (a.k.a. Hyf), as well as Patience and Bender of Flight Distance (RIP Bender), among others. These guys are part of a hip hop community that is stronger and more cohesive as ever. On tracks like “Le Coeur” with Cheko Salaam, both he and Sawbuck bounce words off each other, with rhymes that weave seamlessly and that effectively builds the climactic pillars on the album. In “Ocean or Shallow End” with the guys from Flight Distance, So Nice slows things down and the sample includes strings. Their metaphor of “Ocean or Shallow End” comes across effectively, and hits the listener right in the face. The brilliance with tracks like this is that although the beat is more restrained, the rhymes and lyrics are highlighted to an even greater degree. The same can be said for “Three Sides” close to the end of the album—there’s no letting up here.
After giving EMAG a few listens, any hip hop fan should know that these guys are for real. There’s no filler. There’s no bullshit. Buck n’ Nice had something to say and they did that by packing all of their ideas into an album with a tonne of dynamite and then lighting the fuse. The result is an intelligent, groove-laden record that pays homage to hip hop of old, while keeping true to their own style and modern interpretations of rap. This album will stand the test of time, and will surely make waves across communities in Ottawa and the country as a whole.
Buck n’ Nice are officially releasing EMAG at a party called ANIMAL HOUSE this Saturday, July 28th at The 27 Club (27 York St.), where a triple album release will be taking place. Other releases at the party will be the Feel EP by Freddy Printz, and SpaXe Camels by Missing LinX. Needless to say, if there’s one party you don’t want to miss this weekend, this is it.
Stream EMAG below or click here for full list of streaming links. Check out their full album video on YouTube here.
I’ve been in Ottawa for five years and believe it or not, this year’s Bluesfest was my first. Despite it being Friday the 13th, this day was anything but unlucky. The crowd at the City Stage was treated to three amazing shows by artists who have all had considerable success worldwide.
Starting off the night was Juno Nominee J.W Jones. The Ottawa bluesman, who’s played with the likes of Buddy Guy and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, is known for his high energy shows and improvisational skills. He sure did not disappoint the crowd. Up next on the City Stage was Sturgill Simpson, who’s 2016 release “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” earned the Grammy for the Best Country Album and a nomination in the Album of the Year category. He played tracks off his most recent major label release, some classics from his independent days and a surprising amount of covers, including Willie Nelson’s “I’d Have To Be Crazy”.
Finishing off the night was the incomparable Beck. I discovered Beck as a child. I was going through my family’s then “state-of-the-art” Windows ME and found the track “Beautiful Way” from 1999’s “Midnite Vultures”. This track was used as a demo track for Windows Media Player at the time. Later in my teenage years, I dove into his extensive and eclectic discography. I became a huge fan of Beck and his way of mastering which ever music genre he touches.
Before the show, I had heard a lot of people say that the Beck show would either be hit or miss. I kind of felt that way too. Having seen a few of his live shows online. I had friends ask me if I was excited to see Beck and I told them “It’s just Beck—I’m just going to the show to say that I saw Beck.” Boy, was I ever wrong.
Beck arrived on stage around 9:35 pm. The crowd was filled with people of all ages. It seems as though people have forgotten the amount of hits this guy has pumped out over the years. He started off with “Devils Haircut” from his 1996 album “Odelay” and then went straight into his breakthrough single “Loser” soon after. I was afraid that tracks from albums like 2002’s “Sea Change” and 2014’s “Morning Phase” wouldn’t exactly fit in with his upbeat repertoire in a live setting, but I was wrong again. In the middle of his Bluesfest show, his band got their acoustic instruments out and they played “Lost Cause,” “Debra” (with a medley into Prince’s “Raspberry Barret”), and “Blue Moon.” The crowd sang along, and it was definitely an intimate moment. One of he best moments of the show.
Beck finished off the night with yet another hit and quite possibly one of his biggest—“Where It’s At”. Mid-way into the track, he introduced his band, which featured studio musician and ex-Jellyfish member Jason Falkner.
Beck was definitely a highlight for me. It was a highlight for a lot of people at Bluesfest this year. I believe it was a highlight for Beck himself, who stated mid-way into the show that it was his first time in Ottawa and that he would love to visit the nation’s capital.
Beck has such a Beautiful Way of showing off his genre-bending discography. One could say I was completely WOW-ed by what happened at the end of the show: I was lucky enough to pick up one of the setlists from the stage. It was then time to Say Goodbye. Setlist in hand, I walked off and told myself that the Beck show—That’s Where it was at… Good one right?