When the cold Ottawa winds start nipping around this time of year, there’s no better way to escape frozen realities of the north than going to a loud and sweaty show. That was certainly the case on Friday night, but the weather didn’t prevent people from coming out in droves to check out a special show at The Brass Monkey on Ottawa’s west side. Hailing from Brampton, The Flatliners headlined the night and played their groundbreaking 2007 album The Great Awake front-to-back. They were joined by A Wilhelm Scream (AWS) from New Bedford, MA, who also played their album Career Suicide from start to finish, never missing a beat. Both acts were preceded by London, ON’s Single Mothers and Little Junior.
After a lengthy trip from downtown to The Brass Monkey, I made my way into the venue for the first time to the sweet, sweet sound of Single Mothers exploding on stage. Approaching the place, I was surprised to find it located beneath a strip mall. Not exactly what you’d expect, but The Brass Monkey extended the whole way along and was packed to the brim with folks from all over Ottawa. It was pretty impressive to see that many people come together at this out-of-the-way venue for a show like this, but the sound there is known to be one of the best in town and that counts for something.
Single Mothers has been picking up steam since their debut LP Negative Qualities was released into the world in 2014, and gained notoriety for their brash and untethered live performances. This one was certainly no exception, as the band cranked up the energy immediately. The crowd wasn’t quite ready to warm up and get moving yet, but got there by the end of their set. Single Mothers released their second album, Our Pleasure, earlier this year and played a combination of tracks from both of their full length records.
Lead vocalist Drew Thompson channeled the full force of his band with his trenchant vocals in tracks such as “Half-Lit” and “Overdose,” seemingly ripping up his vocal cords with throaty and guttural delivery. But Thompson never relented, as he and the band kept the crowd locked-in with untamed stage antics and infectious punk rock. The group bucked any critics by playing a dynamic set which featured newer tracks such as “Leash” and “Long Distance,” offering us a glimpse into a side of the band that is more than the blunt-force trauma of distortion, but also layered with melodic elements and lyrical prowess.
I wasn’t that familiar with AWS going into this show, as melodic hardcore isn’t really my thing. But I gave their 2007 album Career Suicide a solid listen ahead of the show and was genuinely impressed by the sheer magnitude of the band’s sound. Although it’s not the kind of album I’ll put on every day, I appreciate how well it is composed from start to finish and looked forward to how it would translate live. I should also say that I appreciate that they named their band after a hilarious sounding stock sound effect, a recognizable scream which we’ve all heard in movies before.
AWS exploded into their set with a trio of fast-paced heavy hitters in “I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz,” “5 to 9,” and “The Horse.” Right away the crowd lovingly started belting out each line, word for word, as lead singer Nuno Pereira egged each audience member on with his interactive stage presence. His jugular seemed to protrude more and more with each song, and his liveliness was reciprocated by some of the die-hard fans up front. The onslaught that is Career Suicide continued, and the 15-song tour-de-force was fully realized in this live setting. The band’s tightness is undeniable, as each member seamlessly plays off the others without missing a single beat. Pereira took pause to tell a quick story in the middle of the set:
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! We got a message from the guys in Flatliners on MySpace asking if we could join them for their record release shows. We said ‘fuck yeah’ and had a great time doing it.”
The only thing that detracted from the music for me was extended guitar solos throughout, as I’m not a big “solo” guy. This detraction is merely preference, and certainly had nothing to do with the skill of the band members. AWS’ tendency to blend old-school So-Cal punk rock with metal and even prog-rock is a bit of a stretch at times for my liking, as the sprawl across styles can be distracting. But there is a definite primal feel to their music, an intensity and attitude that are distinctive and comparable to bands like Propaghandi. The near-perfect live execution of the complex song structures on this record are worth seeing, even for a layman like me who might not be as familiar with AWS’ catalogue.
The headliners of the night, The Flatliners, took the stage last and performed their much-loved 2007 sophomore album, The Great Awake. The band were Canada’s ska and punk rock darlings of the 2000’s, getting noticed by Fat Mike of NOFX’s label Fat Wreck Chords and getting the opportunity to play with well-known bands associated with the label at a young age. My first experience seeing them was in Detroit in 2008, opening for NOFX and No Use For a Name just after the release of The Great Awake, and I have fond (sweaty and bloody) memories of that show. Needless to say, a lot of us at the show were really amped to see the album played live front-to-back.
Right out the gate, the punching percussion of “July! August! Reno!” thundered from the stage and the raucous crowd burst into moshing as expected. “What do you do when doing what you love gets you nowhere? It gets you nothing. These loaded guns are nothing until they’re fired,” is a sentiment most of us endure at some point in our lives, and a powerful beginning to their set. Immediately after, the band transitioned right into my personal favourite, “Eulogy.” The song is a young person’s account of the death of someone close, a friend or family member, perhaps for the first time. This one hits hard for those of use who listened to it in the wake of tragedy.
The set went forward full-speed, and those who love the ska beginnings of The Flatliners got down to “The Respirator” and “Mastering the World’s Smallest Violin” but the band’s turn towards punk rock on this record was as well received in 2017 as it was in 2007. Chris Cresswell’s in-your-face vocals were absolutely mind-boggling throughout, which is a mystery to me since he’s abused his vocal cords for so many years. This album in particular is not a walk in the park, by any stretch.
The band ripped through their set, sweating up a storm and playing highlights such as “Mother Theresa Chokeslams the World,” This is Giving Up,” and “Hal Johnson Smokes Cigarettes.” Scott Brigham backup vocals and guitar riffs enveloped the crowd and kept the energy high until the very end.
The love for the record was felt through everyone that night, and I’m sure many of us had lost our voices by the end of the night. Overall it was a big treat to see all these bands play together, and have a hell of a party out in the suburbs of Ottawa.
Remaining shows on tour for The Flatliners
12/09 Montreal, QC – Club Soda ^
12/14 Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar ^
12/15 Phoenix, AZ – Marquee Theatre %
12/16 Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl %
01/12 Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge
01/13 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom #
^ with A Wilhelm Scream
% with Descendents
# with Twin Peaks, PUP
Chris Pagehas been an active musician and participant in the Ottawa music scene for two decades, and been in bands such as The Stand GT and Camp Radio, and currently Expanda Fuzz. Chris has also successfully released music as a solo artist and toured Canada many times.
My earliest recollection of I Love The Modern Way is somewhere out on Ontario Highway 17, touring in an old, blue Volvo wagon.
I had just gotten to know Andrew Vincent by way of his record A Short Trip With The Pirates and the two of us made a pact to do shows together in Southern Ontario. “AV” had the car, and the two of us had our guitars, sleeping bags, and a bunch of material to play for anyone who would listen. I was aimlessly stumbling into a solo career and I had just released Decide To Stay And Swim (which incidentally had a song title that paid homage to my new pal: AV In The Sunshine, Man). The gifted Ottawa troubadour was finalizing his new album as the two of us were climbing into that cozy, well-worn Volvo to hit the open road.
I loved ‘A Short Trip’; it was a lo-fi banger of a record, filled with Modern Lovers style rave ups and sing-alongs like ‘Gary Hache’ and the anthemic ‘Ladies, Ladies, Ladies (Houseboat)’. I had been in bars watching crowds sing the line ‘Have you ever seen such a good looking band?’ at the top of their supportive lungs, and I was enthralled. I wasn’t sure a better chorus had been written in the nation’s capital, or in all of Canada, for that matter. I was about to find out.
On that tour, AV had played tracks from I Love The Modern Way, and sheepishly explained to me the album title had come from a pseudo-landmark in Ottawa (I won’t give that away here so as to keep some of the Ottawa folklore intact!) But lyrically, the songs were a Gatling gun of poetic turns of phase that found ways to include Ottawa-area themes like Bronson and Somerset streets, 1310 (AM) on the radio, Highway 5 and moving down from North Bay. I was psyched to hear these new tracks, but it was seeing them performed live that really cemented them as potential Ottawa classics for me.
With his indie stock rising, AV had swung a swank CBC Toronto session on that trip, to tape live versions of the new material for some hip broadcast. Though our shows had been solo sets to that point, Scott Terry and Bryan Curry joined AV for that live CBC gig. I was the envious roadie, carrying Pirates’ gear through prestigious parking lots and vast CBC Toronto atrium. In hindsight, it was a striking metaphor for how many like to compare the two cities: 4 hungover, ramshackle, Ottawa musicians, lugging cheap gear through the monolithic and sparkling Toronto CBC building, whose authoritative walls towered over us, with an air of indifference.
My memories of that energetic session are pretty clear. Andrew Vincent and the Pirates absolutely careened through these songs with an almost-in-tune, reckless abandon that somehow felt so tight and just so perfectly right. ‘Martha’, ‘Bahamas’, ‘Cover It Up’, ‘Jonathan’ were songs that all had these shout-it-out-loud-until-your-voice-goes-hoarse driving choruses, fresh from a new LP that had yet to be sprung on the world.
My question as to whether the ‘Ladies’ chorus could ever be matched was certainly answered, as I Love The Modern Way stands as an all-time great Ottawa musical achievement.
Rewind is a new series where musicians, fans, and community members reflect on Ottawa albums from the past and write about their memories and experiences from that time. Every album has a story!
We’re thrilled to premiere a new video by Ottawa experimental psych-rock group Casa Lagarto for their track “Lights Out.”
“Lights Out” was previously released in January 2017 as a demo, however the polished version heard in the video will appear on their upcoming debut album which they have called Shed It, and will be exclusively released digitally on January 19th. Although the 3-track demo EP is all the band has released publicly since their inception in 2015, they’ve played live regularly in town and often taken an experimental approach to their performances. Casa Lagarto describe themselves as “some kind of experimental desert rock n roll. They are influenced by the sun, the sand, and the lizard,” and their music feels like the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel.
The band members are familiar musicians in the music scene here in Ottawa, featuring the talented lineup of Travis Kinnear (Fire Antlers), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse, and Jonny Yuma (The Yips). The video itself tells a story comprised of three separate car advertisements from the mid-1900’s and was produced by band member Jason Barkhouse. Barkhouse runs Black Lab Studio in town and has recently been more active in production/post-production of creative content and music videos for band like Del Bel (see that video here).
Casa Lagarto will be playing with Montreal’s Bloodshot Bill and Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas at House of Targ this Thursday, December 7th, so be sure to get out there and catch the band live. Doors at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. Check out the video for “Lights Out” below.
In 2007, a passion for music and dedication to female empowerment spurred the creation of Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls—a weekend of music instruction for teens and young adults. Ten years later, Girls+ Rock Ottawa is a multi-faceted organization with programs for girls, women, and non-binary youth to learn and experience music in a welcoming space. This November, Girls+ held their eleventh rock camp, showcasing tremendous growth and confidence in Ottawa’s women+ music community at the newly-renovated National Arts Centre.
Despite its recent success, Girls+ Rock is still a small, non-profit organization ran completely by local volunteers. Bianca Oran, a member of the organization’s Board, is a non-profit professional with a passion for music and development. She left a career in the music industry to work on sponsorships for the Ottawa Mission, and joined Girls+ a year ago to assist with on partnerships and communication. “It married my love of music with my day job and what I was already doing,” she says. “Music has been a huge part of my life for most of my life. I thought this would be a really good organization to get involved with in any way.”
“Since I’ve been there, it’s evolved a bit,” she says. This spring, the organization changed its name from Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls to Girls+ Rock Ottawa. “That’s because we’re more than just a once a year camp,” she explains. “We do workshops throughout the year, we have a drop-in jam space where alumni can come and practice. We provide that access space for them.” In addition to their new programming, the organization expanded to an older audience, hosting its first Rock Camp for Women+ this summer. The inaugural project was a huge success, proving a desire for welcoming music programs and communities in the city.
In the past year, Girls+ has also received an influx of funding, allowing the organization to pursue its new projects. They recently received just under $24, 000 granted from TD. “For a little organization like ours, to have that support is huge,” says Oran. The funding allowed them to purchase brand new instruments for their camps and jam sessions, providing for new and returning artists. “We purchased a lot of the instruments from local music shops,” says Oran, “so we put the money back into the community.”
The recent funding has been continued with the help of The J.S. Belleau Fund, which was established this summer. The fund was created after the passing of Jean-Sebastien Belleau, a young Ottawa local and active participant and friend of the city’s music community. “We were honoured and moved when J.S.’ family listed Girls+ Rock Ottawa as the recipient of all proceeds in his name,” says Tiffanie Tri, Chairperson and co-organizer of the camp. “We created the fund because we wanted to have a way to distinguish the funds that were donated in his memory. As in, have a way to track it and monitor its impact.”
Additional funds were also raised this summer at the I Love You J.S. Fest (ILYJS), a community festival and fundraiser hosted by Ottawa Showbox. Since his passing in March 2017, over $2,700 has been raised in J.S.’ name, and donations continue to roll in.
Girls+ has used the donations towards the the maintenance and upkeep of their new and growing inventory of musical instruments, “in order to sustain these investments, and to ensure that we can keep providing high quality instruments to anyone who wants to partake in our programming,” says Tri.
The new instruments were used this past month at the Girls+ Rock Camp, but the organization has more and much larger plans to use their new investments. Their main goal is to create a local music library for young musicians to borrow and rent instruments, following their mandate of providing access and resources to music in Ottawa.
In addition to their increasing funding and expanding projects, the organization has established partnerships with a variety of local businesses. Girls+ recently launched their own collection of merch, selling out of their first run at Victoire Boutique in Westboro West and online. The organization chose Victoire for its independent, local impact and dedication to ethical fashion. The new line (which includes t-shirts, sweatshirts and totes with handmade designs by local artists) marks a new beginning for Girls+, with a tangible showcase of identity, community and impact.
Girls+ is a unique non-profit made of young musicians, professionals, artists, and local supporters. The organization’s last year is proof of this, with its exponential growth and evolving identity. “We’re a community based organization that uses music to empower girls,” says Oran. “We have this flagship event, the camp, but we also want to create new partnerships in the community. We want to make sure were being as inclusive and diverse as possible.”
In the future, she hopes for a continuation of funding and community support. “How great would it be if we could take on more than 30 campers per year? Or if we could pay our volunteer teachers? We just don’t have the capacity or funding yet.”
Specifically, Oran is passionate about creating space and resources for women and girls interested in music. “It’d be great to have more support from the community, more spaces for alumni to host all-ages shows,” she says. Sustainability is important to Girls+, which inspired their jam sessions and women’s rock camp, so alumni can return to further improve their skills. Many have done so, with a handful of former students returning annually as teachers.
Ottawa is not an easy place to thrive as a young artist, especially as a young woman. Girls+ Rock’s mandate—to empower young girls and women through music—is evidently thriving and working to break down barriers for gender minorities. At November’s camp showcase, campers exuded a shared confidence and skill, nurtured through the program’s dedication to community. The programs offer an affordable, safe and inviting space for youth to pursue their passion.
From a $24,000 grant to community fundraising to multiple new programs, it’s been a massive year for Girls+ Rock Ottawa. Now, with secured funding and growing local partnerships, there’s no limit to the impact these young girls, women and local leaders can have in Ottawa’s music community.
It’s been almost two years since violinist-extraordinaire Mika Posen released her debut solo record under the new moniker Merganzer. Before that, she had studied violin with the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s David Thies-Thompson and gone on to tour with renowned acts such as Timber Timbre, as well as contribute her violin skills to the works of Forest City Lovers, Feist, Basia Bulat and Evening Hymns. Having grown up in Ottawa, Posen left the capital at 18 and lived in cities such as Toronto and Berlin until her return to her hometown after more than a decade.
These experiences, along with a Master’s degree in ethnomusicology from York, have provided Posen with disparate experiences from which to draw influences for her solo project. Merganzer is undoubtedly an extension of Posen, and the music we’ve heard so far—particularly off of the 2015 debut LP Mirror Maze—is eccentric, contemplative, and exploratory. The soundscapes are varied, as the listener is pulled between layers of mesmerizing beats, beautiful vocal melodies, enchanting string arrangements—like soaring gracefully through cavernous depths and over towering mountain peaks.
Merganzer has put out a new video of an unreleased track called “Cloud Cover,” which is exciting for those of us who have been chomping at the bit for more. It comes just in time for her upcoming performance December 1st at Mirror Mountain Film Festival (co-presented by Ottawa Showbox) along with Montreal media artist Sonya Stefan. The event is called Passé Composé, and will be a collaborative live performance based on the theme of transformation.
“The video was directed by Nick Dolinski (who lived in Ottawa up until a year or two ago) and shot by Ottawa media artist Tim Smith,” explains Posen. “We made it this past July on the roof of our Toronto apartment building right before we moved back to Ottawa. For Tim and I, it represents a final farewell to that big crazy city.”
We’re excited to present the first look at Nightshades‘ new video for “Double Vision,” which appears on the recent self-titled album released on November 15th.
The album is somewhat of a departure from their previous EPs, slowing things down and simplifying the song structures while maintaining the sludgy and gritty elements that many of us know and love. While the tempo has slowed a bit, lead vocalist and guitarist Mallory Giles chose to hone her songwriting skills and focus on lyrics and melody over speed and complexity of instrumentation.
“After the ‘Wendy EP’ we wanted to take some time to write a full record. Things came together pretty slow,” she explains. “I had a huge writers block last winter and it was scary. I thought ‘well that’s it. I guess that’s over’.”
“I was grabbing at straws, trying to find inspiration and I ended up borrowing a bass off a friend. I started fiddling around with it and it became this cool new way of looking at music. I wrote a few of the songs off this new album on that bass and transferred it to guitar. Just playing with power chords and slowing things down, developing less complicated structures. Just taking it easy, and focusing on melody and story.”
“I think that’s kind of where we were all at. Just growing up, and chilling things out. And once Dean joined the band, his style of bass playing was pretty relaxed, and we were into it. We still have some heavy songs that Geoff wrote, and I don’t think we’ll ever not be a heavier band, but things are less rushed now. I think I was kind of hiding behind speed before because I wasn’t very good at my instrument. Playing really super fast felt easier and less scary. Now that I’ve developed as a guitarist, and we’ve grown tighter as a band, we can take a step back and just like..go slower. It’s funny, cause we’re still pretty fast, just not as insane as we used to be.
Nightshades channel the fuzzy sounds of 90’s alternative bands such as The Breeders and Sonic Youth, bringing with them punchy and distorted tracks that draw listeners in. Any fans of Kim Deal-era Pixies will surely fall effortlessly into Nightshades as their new self-titled album maintains a fun and upbeat aesthetic throughout, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, the songs seem more carefully crafted and it’s obvious that the band took time to put this one together.
Another thing that doesn’t take itself to seriously is the video for “Double Vision.” Directed by filmmaker Rob Bennett, the concept sees Giles going on some terrible first dates which take psychedelic turns.
“On those dates I would see like figments of my imagination like masked unicorns and masked characters and they would try trip me out while I was out with these guys,” Giles says. “IOn the day of the shoot, we were sticking to the plan, but we ended up having fun and trying different shots of us dancing and stuff, and me lip synching… It turned into this whole other thing that we all found really fun, funny, and great. It feels like a real rock n’ roll music video now. Not too serious. Not too much sense made. The original concept was actually pretty dark. I think it’d be cool to write a play or a short out of it one day.”
“Working with Rob was easy. He had killer gear, was a total pro, and had some really great on-the-fly ideas too. Rob is a musical mastermind in his own right and knows a ton about rock n’ roll. So making a rock video with him was effortless.”
Nightshades are set to released their new album on cassette this Saturday at The Rainbow, along with Montreal art punks Smokes, Ottawa heavy-hitters Bonnie Doon, and up-and-comers Slow Dawn. Tickets are $7 and doors at 9 pm, 19+ only. Check out the new video for “Double Vision” below, and stream to the new album online here.
Toronto’s Casper Skulls are currently wrapping up with touring their first full length album Mercy Works, released on Buzz Records November 3rd. The band is one of the newest editions to the label’s boundary-pushing roster, and their latest effort follows the dense and complex lo-fi sound played through early 90’s tape decks. Mercy Works is an ambitious attempt to explore the unknown, examine self-growth, religion, grief, and real lived experiences, and was co-produced/engineered by Josh Korody (Fucked Up, Dilly Dally). The post-punk, garage, and art-rock influences are sprinkled throughout, as the album bleeds with thick guitar riffs and intricate instrumental arrangements.
We sat down with singer and guitarist Neil Bednis before their show this Friday to discuss the band’s sound, their new album, best sounding venues and touring as a couple. Check out the interview below.
Interview with Neil Bednis
In just a couple of years as a band you have already garnered comparisons to some of my all-time favourite bands such as Television and Pavement. How did that feel after only a 7-inch and an EP? And do these comparisons come into play when you are writing new music, such as your latest release Mercy Works?
NB: It’s flattering that people would associate our music with those bands. We were really influenced by that kind of music growing up and those bands are part of the reason we wanted to start playing music in the first place. Obviously with our early releases our influences are on our sleeves but I think that was necessary for us to discover our own sound. I think Mercy Works still has elements of those early sounds but we definitely moved into a more melodic direction. “You Can Call Me Allocator” was the first song written for the record and it set the tone of the writing of the record. I think that song in particular is a perfect example of what we are as a band. The verses are talky and the chorus is more melodic and lush. On the record I think we explore the extremes of both those sounds.
Speaking of Mercy Works, how was it to work with Josh Korody and Alex Newport, who have worked on releases by Fucked Up, Dilly Dally, At The Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie, just to name a few?
NB: We had previously worked with Josh on our Lips and Skull EP, so we already felt comfortable recording with him. After seeing our live show, Josh thought it’d be best to do a lot of the record live off the floor which had never done previously. I think recording that way created a really positive start to the record. We wanted to explore a couple different musical ideas on the record (i.e. strings, acoustic guitars, 12-string, baritone) and Josh kind of let us take the reigns on that stuff. It’s always a really fun time whenever we get to see Josh and I’m really glad he was part of the record.
We heard of Alex from his work he did on the first Weaves record and the Pissed Jeans stuff. Ian from Buzz Records had Alex’s information from working with him on the Weaves record and he was able to put us in touch. Alex lives in Los Angeles so we had to make most of the mixing notes over e-mail but we really love what Alex did to the songs.
Your sound seems like it would lend itself great both in a small club and in the big acoustics of a church. What are some of the favourite venues you have ever played and explored in live?
NB: Just off the top of my head, Lee’s Palace and the Garrison in Toronto are two of my favorite sounding venues. The vibe is always really nice at those venues and I haven’t really played a show where we’ve have had any trouble getting the sound we want. The Townehouse in Sudbury has a lot of sentimental value to us. Mel and I discovered a lot of great music going to shows there and we played our first show ever at the Townehouse as well. I also really enjoy playing this place in Washington D.C. called Comet Ping Pong. Our friend Lisa does a lot of the booking there and she creates a really homey vibe to the shows she puts on. It has more of a DIY vibe to it and you can eat pizza and play ping pong as well as watch awesome music!
For those who have never seen you play, what should they expect live compared to the recording on the album?
NB: I think the live show brings a more lively energy to the songs. I don’t mean to say the record isn’t lively but I think the show has a rawness to it that is different from the record. For songs like “Chicane, OH” and “You Can Call Me Allocator,” we’ll play the songs a little faster just to give the songs a bit more of a bounce. We tried to make the record have more lush moments with the strings and acoustic guitars which aren’t present in the live performance. Overall, I think if you like the record you’ll like the live show.
How has touring the new album been going so far?
NB: The tour has been going well! We’re happy to be playing these songs for people and seeing how they translate live. We’re really excited for the few dates we have with Land of Talk. They’re one of our favorite bands and we’ve been obsessed with their new record. We’ve been playing these songs in small clubs and have been kind of tailoring our set lists toward that. For these shows we’re hoping to play some of the more slow burners off the record that’ll translate better in bigger halls.
I have always been curious what it would be like being in a band as a couple?
NB: It’s really nice not to have to leave each other when we tour. I think sometimes we struggle separating band stuff from our personal lives. For example sometimes at dinner we just end up talking about band stuff so we need to check ourselves every now and then and just talk about other things that have nothing to do with music. Most importantly, we need to be a couple first and band mates second. It’s a really special thing to get to make art and share failures and successes with someone you’re with.