Mirror Mountain Film Festival is once again accepting proposals from musicians and media artists for the live music and visual portion of the event. The festival seeks to pair the city’s best and brightest musicians with the independent film festival which takes place July 26th-27th, 2019 at Arts Court Theatre.
The live portion will combine two key aspects – a live music performance and a film/media art performance that will run concurrently. Bands and filmmakers/media artists are encouraged to submit their proposals before the February 19th, 2019 deadline. The festival will pair successful applicants together for the performance, but bands that have a firm idea of a filmmaker or media artist that they’d like to work with are also able to submit their application together as a combo. Only one band and one filmmaker/media artist will be selected to participate in this year’s festival.
The mind of a creator can be complicated. The web of ideas and emotions that is spun making a record can take time to unravel, and this was the case with Steve St. Pierre‘s new album Stubborn Romance.
I’ve known Steve to be a wonderful artist, designer, musician, and person over the years. His work, no matter what form it takes, offers meaning through simplicity. He has the ability to boil down complex stories into a tangible message, a palatable serving for us to digest.
Stubborn Romance is a record that St. Pierre has been working on for seven years. A lot can happen in seven years. I’ve admired his candidness when discussing his struggles with mental health, as difficult as that can often be. The album delves into some of these struggles, but never without some of his dry humour and foul mouth poking through.
“…these songs. It needs to be said: they’re a bunch of assholes. They’re culled from over 400 voice memos I had lodged on my hard drive… That’s not meant to sound impressive. That’s mania.”
Stubborn Romance is gentle and devastating all at once. The album is an iceberg that requires a few listens to understand its true depth. There is no fancy production on this one. It’s rough, but honest. Ultimately, this album’s strength comes down to just that—truth. His unhindered exploration of his own struggles tell a story that many of us can relate with, navigating the tribulations that life inevitably hits us with.
Stubborn Romance was released back in September with an intimate performance at The Black Sheep Inn, and I chatted with St. Pierre about how it finally came to be. Have a read and stream Stubborn Romance below.
What was the impetus for Stubborn Romance? Can you take us through the back story a bit?
This record came out of both excitement and exhaustion. I was excited with how much I was writing, but I was exhausted with how much I was writing. I would record these half-baked ideas on my old iPhone and “My Recording 26” or whatever would get stashed away and I’d smoke another joint and write twelve more of those and forget about them in an hour.
I got frustrated with myself and called myself an asshole and decided to beat a record to death with a baseball bat. So I dug through the gross pile of demos and chose a bunch of guys that came and went and came and went and came and went until 13 decided to stick around and challenge me. And they did. But I came out on the other end with something I’m pretty proud of—particularly because I’ve never recorded a record on my own, but also because of the amount of honesty on there.
This album took you a long time to write. What made you take your time for this one?
I wish it felt like I took my time. There were too many periods of mania where I would sit and record 6-12 versions of each song. There was an entire record trashed because I was buried in the Barr Brothers for a minute and then realized I don’t have the talent or production skills to pull off the sounds I was hearing. Honestly, if I hadn’t booked my release show at the (Black) Sheep months ago, I’d still be working on this thing and I’d probably have my head permanently implanted in the desk in my studio.
I stopped when all the songs made sense. When I was finally able to understand the words that come out of my stream-of-consciousness/bullshit way of writing and form some lines that connected and made sense to me and what I was trying to get across. When the songs made sense, and with a few nudges and maybe even slightly terse words from my partner, I finally brought these 13 songs where they needed to be over a week and a half.
You’ve said that the songs are a product of over 400 voice memos and years of gathering your thoughts. How did you ultimately decide which songs made the cut onto Stubborn Romance?
The tracklist was the hardest part. There are so many fallen soldiers. So much so that there’s another release planned before the year is out. That’s besides the point. This album is a product of both too much time and procrastination—ultimately, the 13 are the ones that I felt best represented me and my place as a person and musician. I was able to find a whole lot of honesty in sorting out these tunes, and it feels good to stand behind each of them still, some as old as 10 years at this point, and still have context and understanding for where the root of the song came from. That sounds so convoluted. I’m so sorry.
Mental health is something you describe as a topic that circles the album like a vulture. It’s not an easy thing to talk about, let alone express through songs. How does mental health play into your songwriting process? And what do you hope others who are struggling take from Stubborn Romance?
I’ve always been a bit of a big mouth. I appreciate the art of talking shit. But after years of just glancing over my depression and issues with anxiety, I decided to finally kick the door down and try understand exactly why I feel like a bag of shit everyday. “Decided” might not be the right term. I think “it was imperative that I seek help” fits the bill a bit better. And with the help of some off-brand SNRIs, I’ve started to wade through the weeds and make sense of this sickness that has affected me in some way shape or form since I was six.
I can’t not bring that into my writing. It’s me. These songs wouldn’t be so fucking sad if I didn’t struggle with this horseshit ailment everyday, but I do, and so those lemons are gonna get squeezed. And I hope people understand that. And I hope those that suffer a) won’t get too bummed out by the record but b) that they can find a bit of themselves in there.
Now that Stubborn Romance is out into the world, what’s the next chapter in your story?
I mentioned an EP. That’ll be happening before the year is out. I don’t want to call them castaways from the record, they just didn’t fit the narrative. I think there might be some gems in there. But I’m excited to take my own pace with this. A mix of tortoise and hare. Music finally feels like its getting fun again, and I kinda want to bathe in that for a second.
Anything else you want to mention?
Supporting local isn’t a new idea, but I really want to encourage people to take in at least one live show a month. Date night with your partner. Solo night to have a beer and enjoy some good music. There is no shortage of talented, interesting artists in this city that, like you, just want to be a part of something a bit bigger than themselves. One night a month. Go.
Area Resident, which is the brainchild of CBC journalist and beloved traffic guy Doug Hempstead, is set to release his third album in so many years this Friday, October 26th through Record Centre Records. Echolette is a collection of songs that are rooted in Hempstead’s real-life experiences, or (often ridiculous) stories that are based in the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais.
Death is a concept that is explored throughout Echolette, as Hempstead’s father sadly passed away during the recording of the album. While it’s not overtly about death, per se, there are references to mortality peppered throughout. For example, “Let The Holy Guest Wait” is about his father’s deathbed and the minister who got his name wrong three times at his funeral.
Somewhere “By the Water” is about Hempstead’s childhood cat Marmalade who kept going down by the waterfront in his dying days, seemingly hoping to have a waterfront view as he passed away.
“Marmalade died in the garage next to the Corolla at the age of 21,” Hempstead admits.
“Somewhere By the Water” has a deep southern blues feel, and contains bellowing harmonica and backup vocals by Catriona Sturton. To me, this track is a great microcosm of what this album is at its essence. It’s not trying to be anything else, and is distinctly part of the Area Resident cannon. Much like how The Tragically Hip has a repertoire of songs blues-influenced tracks like “New Orleans is Sinking”, “Blow at High Dough,” and “Boots or Hearts,” they were always distinctly their songs and their sound. Similarly, Hempstead has carved out his own approach to storytelling and defined his identity as a musician over three albums. Each builds on the other without contrivance.
The crunchy, reverb-laden guitar work throughout the album is kept tame only by the steady and controlled percussion. One of the tracks that caught my attention the most is “The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” There are subtle electronic elements to the song and Hempstead’s vocals are dipped in reverb, creating a soundscape immersing the listener in the story. Heavy over-driven guitar flourishes are scattered throughout, and the song stands out as something outside the box for us to take in. The song itself is named after a Star Trek episode, and is about a trip down the Creighton Mine in Sudbury to see the Neutrino Observatory.
While Hempstead plays with a live band composed of guitarists John Higney and Paul Jensen, along with bassist Kristy Nease, he composes most of the arrangements and plays the instruments himself on Echolette.
“The album is performed by myself, with overdubs by Jordon Zadorozny. Two tracks with Catriona Sturton and some French horn added by CBC workmate pal Trevor Pritchard, who used to do traffic before I did.”
Needless to say, Echolette is yet another album by Area Resident that stands at the top of this year’s local releases so far. Fans of true and gritty rock like Matt Mays and The Hip will fall into it with ease.
Be sure to catch Area Resident’s Echolette album release on Friday, October 26th at Irene’s Pub along with Still Winter Hills. Basic door price is $10, while $20 gets you in with a promo CD, and $30 gets you in with a deluxe vinyl LP. Watch the new video for “The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” below.
John K. Samson—known best as the lead-singer and guitarist of The Weakerthans, and also considered by many as an unofficial Canadian poet laureate—played a very small and intimate show in Ottawa at Maker Space North.
The BYOC (bring your own cushion) show was held in one of the buildings’ hallways and sold out with less than 50 lucky attendees mostly seated on the floor. Samson didn’t even need to use his microphone as the small crowd sat in silent awe as he made us all melt in one of the most special shows I have ever attended.
One thing that makes Samson so special is how real, honest, and down to earth he is. He thanked us all for being there, thanked his partner for watching their dog and yellow bird Pickle as he toured across the country. He thanked Side Door for helping organize and manage his cross Canada house show tour, while ensuring most of the revenue found its way to him, the musician. “I’ll be making about $1100 tonight,” he said. “So thank you all so much for helping with my mortgage payment this month.” He thanked Shawn Scallen from Spectrasonic who has been involved in essentially every show he has ever played in town and then thanked the real heroes. “I’d also like to thank the two anti-depressants I’m currently taking who are the real reason I’m able to be here with you today.”
Equipped with his guitar and some notes on a stand, Samson played about 40 minutes of songs he had planned out, which started with “One Great City” and included many new tracks off of his latest album Winter Wheat. The set also featured the Virtute the Cat trilogy of songs back-to-back-to-back making the whole room quite emotional. Afterwards he took a short break to chat with us and take requests to build his next set.
Samson returned from the break telling us “Thank you for writing my set list… just so you know, some of them I won’t play very well but I’ll endeavour to do my best.” And his best is what he gave us, playing 11 more songs, some of which were smoother than others, but I’m 100% confident not a single person there was bothered by this. On top of taking requests from us in person, he had also invited people to send him postcards with request, which delivered one of the cutest moments of the night on a night filled with them. The parents’ of someone in attendance sent in a postcard, requesting “The Reasons” for their son who missed Samson in Winnipeg as he is now in Ottawa studying.
The crowd did pipe up breaking its silence during “Sun in an Empty Room” singing the chorus and backing vocals, which made Samson’s face light up in glee. He closed his set with my little brother’s request “My Favourite Chords” which beautifully capped off the wonderful night. Do yourself a favour and follow Samson’s web site closely as he doesn’t really have social media presence and I would hate for you to miss out on such an experience again. I feel so very lucky to have witnessed this performance.
The Weather Station is the modern folk project of Toronto’s Tamara Lindeman, whose music and voice are all at once potent, mesmerizing, and refined. Her fourth, and possibly most impactful, record to date is a self-titled release from late 2017 that explores bold narratives and untethered arrangements. The record itself is a tour de force, and was received with high critical praise almost unanimously, with Pitchfork calling it “Timeless… Measured, perceptive storytelling. A singer with an unmistakable & communicative voice, able to convey hope & hurt with equal clarity.”
The Weather Station plays the NAC’s Azreili Studio on Friday night, and more ticket information can be found here. I spoke with Tamara about the latest record, and you can read that conversation below.
Interview with Tamara Lindeman
Your latest self-titled album feels like it is a culmination of something. Can you talk a bit about how this 4th album stands out from the rest in terms of the conception and approach?
I think it stands out in a lot of ways. I think it’s the first time I really had a clear vision for the sound of the record, and the arrangements going in. It’s very sprawling compared to my other works, there’s a lot going on. I let it be that, instead of cutting things down to be more concise.
You self-produced this one. What was the reasoning behind that?
In a way it was a simple decision. There are always opportunities to work with other people, but I think it wound up being a positive decision. There are challenges too, especially towards the end when you can get really bogged down in mixing and mastering the project. It can be a bummer to not have someone else making decisions, but ultimately I think it was a really good thing.
You have mentioned you wanted the record to be a rock and roll album without the rock and roll. There are few artists who are able to root their music in traditional folk influences without getting firmly stuck in that box. How do you feel your music is evolving as you move forward in your career?
Yeah, I agree with you. It’s too bad that folk music gets stuck there and it’s something that I think about a lot. But honestly, I just pretend that I’m not making a folk record. Then it winds up seeming like a folk record because of the melodies and the way I go about music is so ingrained that it kind of evolves into that. But there are elements on this record that differ. For example, there’s a song with a rock and roll rhythm section with a folk melody on top. There’s also another that could be an Irish sea shanty.
So I was really thinking melodically folk, rhythmically something else. I think lyrically if I wrote about a train in the pouring rain then I would just die. There’s no point, there are hundreds of those already and we don’t need another one of those in our lives.
I’m always interested to hear what musicians are listening to these days. Is there an artist or band that you’ve been listening to a lot?
I always get into a lot of Toronto music to be honest. I really enjoyed the Bernice record that came out, I’ve really loved that band for a long time. I felt like that record really captures their essence and what they’re like live. There’s music from my friend Isla Craig that I really loved, too. Those are the newer records that I’ve been hanging onto. Oh yeah, and Sandro Perri has a new album out, too, which is exciting. I always like to check out the cool indie rock records coming out, but oddly enough I don’t usually like the things I would normally be expected to like. I’m drawn to music that’s not in the same genre as me.
You’ve talked about how this album came together after a period of intense worry and anxiety, which is something a lot of us go through. But out of that came your boldest and praised album to date. What allowed you to move past that difficult time and got you to start putting together the songs?
It was a long and complicated process. I kind of felt like I had to unravel my personality and belief systems. They were so interwoven with so many things I consider to be myself, it was like pulling on the poison thread, you know? It’s a very painful process to try to unbraid it, and really try and find your belief system. So it was that, and more practical things.
A big part of coming out of that was being on tour and being in a band. For a lot of people touring can be really unhealthy, but for me it’s good because it gets me out of my head. It gets me into a social space that I wouldn’t normally seek out. Anxiety is about fear, and to do something fearless like make a record, it’s like showing yourself who’s boss. If you do something courageous, that can change your fear. It was all connected for sure.
Doug Hempstead’s project Area Resident is back with another full-length release called Echolette, slated for release through Record Centre Records in late October of this year. Echolette is the third LP for Area Resident in three years, preceded by a self-titled release and Delano.
Hempstead is a CBC Radio journalist and traffic reporter, his compositions primarily draw from his local upbringing and work as a journalist in the Ottawa region. For years he has made a habit of writing and recording songs and arrangements at his home. However, the live performances of Area Resident feature Hempstead on drums/vocals, John Higney (The Flaps) on guitars/keys, Paul Jensen on guitar, and Kristy Nease on bass.
Their live performances include regular shows in the Ottawa region, as well as appearances at Megaphono, Barnstorm, Marvest (CityFolk), among others.
Although we still need to wait a month for the full LP’s release, we’re excited to premiere the opening track and debut single from Echolette on Ottawa Showbox.
“The album is called Echolette, named after a vintage German tape echo unit on a shelf in John Higney’s basement rehearsal space,” explains Hempstead. “I spotted it and decided the album would be called that, before I’d even recorded a single bit of it.”
The album’s first track “It’s the Way I Am” —which can be streamed below—is an upbeat, crunch-lathered track that bursts to life right away. Hempstead’s calming and contemplative vocals balance out the track and compliment the soaring guitars, punching bass, and crashing percussion. If the rest of the album contains the prowess of this opening track, we’re in for a treat come its October release.
On a related note, Area Resident and The Bushpilots played a show at The Rainbow on Saturday night where all funds raised went to Red Cross relief efforts, aiding those affected by the recent tornadothat ripped through the region.
Listen to the debut single “It’s the Way I Am” off Echolette below.