Most album releases happen in a bar or club, with the usual merch station and a few opening bands. Not much to be surprised about. Jumpin’ Joel Flash & The Magic Machine, on the other hand, are not your typical band. The country-folk group from Ottawa consists of frontman Joel Elliot and his motley crew of band mates, offering an unusual assortment of tricks at their shows such as “opera-rock vocals, bouncy rhythms, musical theatre harmonies, and the occasional rain stick interlude.” However, for their upcoming EP release, they’re going way out into left field. Jumpin’ Joel Flash & The Magic Machine want to take you to prom.
That’s right. Whether you had a good or bad experience at your actual high school prom, this band wants to up the ante and make a whole new prom-music experience on December 8th at Maker Space North. Also on the bill are Scary Bear Soundtrack and Death Metal Witch, not to mention Capital Tease Burlesque. With booths, decorations, and surprises galore, the event almost sounds more like a carnival than a prom. But one thing is for sure, it will be a hell of a night at Maker Space North. Don’t forget to wear your prom attire.
I chatted with Joel about the EP release prom and more, have a read below.
Date: Saturday, December 8, 2017 Location: Makerspace North – 250 City Centre Avenue – Bay 216 Important: 18+, fully accessible, no outside shoes, no alcohol Website Facebook Event
We’re always a big fan of new ideas when it comes to live music, but you’re going back in time. What made the idea of hosting a prom-themed EP release so appealing?
A big show needs a big idea! An EP release is a big deal and should be memorable for more than just the music.
I put it to the Magic Machine to come up with a theme that could be built upon. We got together for a mind-meld, and someone tossed out ‘Prom?’ From there, ideas for deco and contests and messaging and promotion and costumes JUST KEPT FLOWING! When ideas are easy, you know you snagged onto something special.
I was searching for a theme that would be immediately recognizable and nostalgic. Prom has that, but with the added bonus of allowing for a ‘do-over’… not everyone has shiny happy memories of high school after all. Many folks were ostracized for who they are. Hated for who they love. Excluded for existing.
By pure luck, I was born a straight white anglo male in one of the safest and most recession-proof cities on the planet. I learn more about how privileged I am each and every day. As such, I wanted this Prom to be for absolutely everyone. A place to come and dance and love and be yourself. Provided you score one of the very-limited tickets, of course. 😉
Starting on October 1st, you released a single every couple weeks leading up to the prom. Can you talk about the songs and what they mean to you? What drove you to write this EP?
These songs are personal without being personal.
I’ve never felt emotion from song lyrics. Whether I’m hearing them or writing them. And I used to think I was crazy and weird. But I’m not. I get emotional responses from rhythm and swells and notes and groove. I feel music the way I write it: sound first, words second.
I wrote mostly in transit. Long car trips/bus rides provided a background hum that blocked out the rest of the world. I played with rhythms, tapped my fingers, hummed to beats. Eventually I had dozens of songs in my brain. And I just assumed they’d always stay there.
I grew up in an isolating, neglectful, emotionally abusive household and spent most of my life believing I was completely worthless. This is the reason I stuck with my first career for 12 years: while I was creating and composing my own music in my head, I rarely shared it with anyone, or even wrote it down. I sincerely believed that I was nothing, and thus anything I created wasn’t anything anyone wanted to hear. So I slogged on. Played in bands on the weekends to get my performance fix, and resolved that that was all my life would ever be.
And then I met my wife, Kim Valentine. She is the sole reason any of this is happening. She showed me I have worth. She gave me the courage to share my songs with others. She gave me the strength to go for my dreams. She saved my life, and I’ll forever be grateful.
The Magic Machine and the music it pumps out is everything I’ve always wanted to be. Twang without trucks. Toe tapping excitement. Fun, bouncy, sparkling, rainbowed, and happy.
Our first EP is exactly that. The first. Much, much more is coming.
You’ve also been putting a lot of focus on your team and collaborators leading up to this event. Who are some important folks involved in this album and show?
Collaboration builds community! I saw that in action over and over again in my ‘professional’ career… the more folks you have on your team, the greater and more successful your project will be!
First, The Magic Machine: Carolina Arnoni, Jasen Colson, Brad Cutler, Robin Hodge, Ashley Newall, Zoe Towne & Kim Valentine. These talented weirdos are the only reason there’s an EP to begin with! They’re a mix of visual artists, musicians, and theatre nerds that make the band, our sound, and our show, waaayyyy more fun than it has any business being.
A special shout out goes to Prom Art Director Kim Valentine, who has spent months brainstorming and lovingly crafting original and ridiculous Prom deco that will make your heart go pit-a-pat! She’s a visual genius and you’re gonna love what she’s done.
You need a good back end for a party, and our A/V Club is up to the challenge! Our sound/lighting/visual art crew has been lovingly plucked from Ottawa Theatre and Psytrance scenes! Kendrick Abell, Craig Macleod, Justin Ouimet, and Jason Sonier are ready to make sure this Prom goes down without a hitch!
Then we’ve got our two fabulous opening acts, Scary Bear Soundtrack and Death Metal Witch.! Scary Bear Soundtrack is all about dreamy synth-pop, and Death Metal Witch. is an acoustic force of nature!
Next, the partners! All-local orgs that help to make this city greater and more artistic! Our Promenade will feature a bevvie of artistic orgs like CKCU FM, The Ottawa Beat, Capital Rehearsal Studios, Makerspace North, The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, and more! Each of these partners provided in-kind support for Prom, either through promotion, services, or equipment.
I’ve been focusing on the partners due to their help of course, but there is another reason. I’d like to show performance artists of all types that this is a great way to build hype for your next production. Partner with a local org or two and immediately increase your reach! From the partners’ perspective, they get a chance to meet and mix with artists and fans, possibly building new collabs or business in the future. In return, the artist gets promo to their partners’ networks, without having to shell out advertising dollars! Win win win!
Collaboration = Community.
In March 2017 you left your job with the Conference Board of Canada to focus on your music. What’s life been like since taking that leap?
Well, I was able to create my EP, for one thing. 😉 But I’ve also been using my time as efficiently as possible.
Working at an economic think tank sounds boring. And it is. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that spending a decade figuring out how every industry in the country works wasn’t beneficial to my new funky artist life.
For most of my first career, I sold professional learning/networking events. And whether you’re holding a Risk Management Conference or an EP Release Prom, all the principles are exactly the same. I realized that quite quickly after taking the leap. The music business works just like any other. Though, I am appreciating that I’m not being booked for 8:30am meetings anymore.
I’ve lived in Ottawa my entire life, and am amazed at how much art is being created here without people knowing about it. I vowed to use my profesh(?) skills and newfound time to help make this place as vibrant and fun as it can be. I attended everything and met everyone. I made new relationships and built trust. And over time, I was able to become part of three great bastions of the local arts scene:
I’m the host of the Live! On Elgin open mic every Tuesday. As a proper arts venue smack in the core, Live! attracts performers of all types, all styles, all backgrounds, all ages! When I create art, it mostly comes out as country music. Being a part of this diverse, happy, excited, ridiculously-talented event has opened my musical horizons. I’m inspired by wild new sounds and performances each week, and I love it.
I also co-host The Monday Special Blend on CKCU FM with my good friend Trish Bolechowsky. Aside from the CBC, community cadio are the only airwaves that local artists have a chance of gracing, and I’m insanely proud to be a small part of it. Each week, we yik-yak about music, art, and characters that are working to make this place amazing. Local art does not happen without local love, and I use this platform to share as much love as possible.
Last but certainly not least, I was elected to the board of directors for The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition. It was my third attempt at election and I’m glad I kept up with it. In this role, I’m able to provide input on the future of the Ottawa music scene, as well as work directly with the high-level industry folks that are hiding all over this government town! It is very, very, satisfying to be able to share what I know for a purpose I really care about.
In 2019, I plan to engage further with artists and the community by speaking at industry events/conferences. I’d like to help lift the veil on marketing and promotion for artists, and show them how to build community from the ground up. I’d also like to make artists aware of exactly how many organizations are out there looking to profit off of their creativity, as well as call out unethical marketing firms that are pushing bots as a way to build a fanbase.
Word is that there will be some surprises at the prom. Anything you can spill the beans about?
We’ve set this up like a mini-music festival! There will be multiple stages, crazy visual art, a photo booth, and of course, The Promenade!
Were holding a Prom Royalty Contest for all attendees! Throughout the evening, members of the Prom Committee will be demanding votes from the arts-loving populace. The two winners will be those who received the most votes, and they MAY just have a special prize for winning!
We’re also offering Prom Loot Bags for every attendee! Lovingly hand-crafted by Art Director Kim Valentine, these unique ‘bags’ are gonna be filled with goodies and reminders of how much fun prom-goers had with a bunch of weirdos in a warehouse!
I can also say that there will be audience participationsegments during the show! We’ll be grabbing people to dance with us, shoving props in their hands, demanding they wear hats, all kinds of nonsense!
Burlesque! Can you tell us a bit about Capital Tease Burlesque, for those who may not know much about the troupe?
The Prom had musicians, actors, and visual artists….but where were the dancers? I saw Capital Tease doing their thing at this year’s Glowfair and I loved every second of it! It’s fun, it’s body positive, it’s silly, it’s sexy, it’s wonderful!
We’re going to be featuring performers Sassy Muffin, Koston Kreme, Bella Barecatt, & Randi Rouge! Randi has just recently opened the Rouge Studio of Dance, which offers in classes in burlesque, hip-hop, & belly dancing in a supportive and encouraging environment where you can let loose, explore your sensuality and build your confidence!
As someone who has long struggled with self-worth and body image, I was immediately taken in by burlesque’s focus on positivity, inclusion, and making everyone feel like a million bucks. Negativity and hate are not tolerated. Consent and positivity are paramount. The folks at Capital Tease are wonderful, and I know Prom-goers will think so too.
Anything else that concertgoers should expect?
You are going to walk in and not know what the heck is happening. Your senses are gonna be smacked in all the right ways. You’re going to forget you’re at a concert and instead believe you’ve entered a magical fairy land of artistic hippies. You’re going to be filled with positive vibes and love. You’re going to make new arts friends. You’re going to fall for every single performer. You’re going to wonder how you ended up dancing for 3 hours straight. You’re going to have your emotions tapped until you’re overflowing with heart for local art. You’re going to raise your hands in excitement and cheer your ass off. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’re gonna see even more. And then, as quickly as it began, you’ll be on your way home, wondering what the hell you were just a part of.
People should expect to remember this night forever. Or at least until the next time we throw a party.
Ottawa’s upstart pop-punk band Castlefield recently released their second EP, Tunnel Vision, and it is everything a fan of the genre could ask for.
Tunnel Vision is full of catchy hooks, intricate guitar play layered with off-beat drumming and crisp vocals delivering emotional and self-reflective lyrics. It takes me back a decade to when pop-punk and emo styles had melded together to take over the mainstream, but don’t be fooled—Tunnel Vision isn’t just a throwback. The EP is a fresh blend of the past with some modern twists and turns a long the way.
Vocalist and guitarist Ryan Fitz describes the EP as “something that I wrote during a time of my life where a lot of things weren’t going right and I used my songwriting as way to cope with it. The way the songs turned out are definitely a product of the environment and time they were written in. As far as instrumentally, we just write the music we want to hear… we just write how we feel.”
Listeners will be hooked from the opening drumming and riffs on “Best Laid Plans” and will stay for the great up-tempo music and relatable lyrics to all those going through early adulthood, or looking back. The EP closes with a slower jam, “Escape,” which features the lyric “I’ve always been shit out of love”— a line that will surely be screamed at the top of fans lungs live and find itself on band merch soon (if not already).
The album was produced by Anton Delost (Bearings, Seaway, Cleopatrick) and mastered by John Naclerio (My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Matchbook Romance, Midtown, and Brand New).
“We went in with very different songs and he worked us hard to make them the way they are now,” said bassist Matt Spafford. “Anton is the man and I can’t imagine the EP being done by anyone else.”
Interestingly enough, the EP was released on Penultimate Records out of Australia. Spafford explains they got “an email from a random man in Australia, if I’m honest! Jamie from Penultimate sent us an email one day, having never heard Tunnel Vision, asking if we’d be interested in working with him to release our next EP.”
“He was a big fan from Australia and wanted to help out however he could. He loved the new EP and we knew he had to be a part of it. After some communication, we signed a contract and the rest is history! Jamie has been unbelievably helpful and it feels cool to share every milestone with someone 12 hours ahead of us, across the globe.”
Go sing along with Castlefield this Friday, November 30th, when they rock out the Tunnel Visionrelease show at The 27 Club in Ottawa. You can listen to Tunnel Vision below in preparation.
My Friend PJ, the project of long time Ottawa music scene member PJ Catsiyannis, recently released a new EP titled Don’t Give My Love Away.
Yes, PJ Catsiyannis is back making music with his new solo project My Friend PJ, which features Michael Laing and David Gervais. Many people may recognize PJ from his most recent bands Stay Classy, The Gallop, and Brights. Others who have been kicking around the scene for a while may also remember him from his earlier punk rock bands Thin Ice and Rivals from many moons ago.
Don’t Give My LoveAway is a four song EP chalked full of emotional lyrics, as the title would suggest, and very catchy indie melodies, riffs and hooks, as we have come to expect from PJ’s projects.
While the title track is undoubtedly positioned to be the lead single with its great sing a long potential and a topic we can all relate to, the other three tracks are very strong in their own right. From the excellent harmonies and brake down in lead track “Liars,” to the beautiful self-doubt and guitar work in “Throw Me Away.” However the highlight of the EP for me is track three “Selfish Needs.” I love the return to some more punk rock sounds with the palms mutes, angrier tone in the vocals and on point drumming.
Don’t Give My Love Away is just the beginning as My Friend PJ intends to release more new music in 2019. If this is the appetizer, I can’t wait for the main course.
Have a listen Don’t Give My LoveAway below and go see them live at The 27 Club this Friday November 9, as My Friend PJ opens for Edmonton’s Scenic Route to Alaska, info here. Advance tickets can be purchased online on the Spectrasonic website, or at Vertigo Records and both Compact Music locations.
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.
Ottawa’s Jonathan Becker & The North Fields recently released their debut full-length album Sober Dawn. The album builds on the success of the band’s previous EPs as well as their excellent live show which has graced many bars and pubs across Canada—and a few big festivals such as Ottawa’s Bluesfest and Cityfolk.
The twelve-song release is soaked in roots and folk with country flares and a certain punk-rock ethos surely amassed by the various influences of the many members, some of which currently play or have played in several bands around town. With that in mind it isn’t hard to understand why Jonathan Becker & The North Fields are for fans of Lucero, Drive-By Truckers, Waterboys, Replacements and Leatherface.
Fans of the band will hear a familiar sounds right from the first song “Tiger Lilies” from the band’s 2015 EP Cigarettes, Strings, and Other Breakables. The track was previously my favourite song by the band and they somehow found a way to make it even better. The combination of Becker’s gritty voice perfectly meshed with Laura Sinclair’s delicate keys and Luke Pearson’s guitar had already wowed me. Then version on Sober Dawn sounds crisper and all the instruments and vocals complement each other just that much more this time around.
Another song that may be familiar to some is the lead single “New Blood,” which the band has been performing live for some time now. It is great to finally hear the song in recorded form. The very catchy chorus makes it perfect for sing-alongs, arms wrapped around your friends at the show or by yourself at home thinking of what to do next. I’m also a sucker for songs with local shoutouts, so the opening line about local tattoo artist Jesse Germs opening Otherside Tattoo parlour immediately puts a smile on my face.
Becker’s impactful songwriting and gruff vocal style is unavoidable in the best possible way. I love it when a band has a calling card or some great consistent feature that makes you go “That is 100% a Jonathan Becker & The North Field song” for all the right reasons. The songs on the album, while rocking and intricately assembled, are very accessible and ones so many of us can relate to. From love to cold sobering mornings of lost love, to the interwoven good and the bad side of alcohol consumption, you can’t help but feel like Sober Dawn is the best sounding house show you have ever attended with a friend needing to open up and share some introspection.
It is also important to highlight the musical progress of this band and not just their frontman. The instrumentation has gotten tighter and fuller over the years, while still feeling very true to their beginnings. I also love the additions of Marlena Pellegrino on violin and Pascal Desgagne on pedal steel guitar really help elevate certain songs to that next level.
Catch Jonathan Becker & The North Fields live at their “Sober Dawn” album release show July 27 at Babylon supported by Claude Munson playing with a duo, as well as Little Suns frontman John Aaron Cockburn. Details can be found here. In the meantime, listen to the album below and learn all the words so we can sing along together.
Following their most excellent show at Bar Robo in Ottawa on June 1, we caught up with Kingston’s doom-pop trio Deux Trois.
Deux Trois is the project of Nadia Pacey of Konig on drums and lead vocals, Benjamin Nelson of PS I Love You on bass, and Ben Webb of Carvings & We Are Adam West on guitar.
The band recently released Health—a must listen to album which is at times ideal for lounging in the shade on a hot breezy summer day and at time points transports you to a muggy sweaty dimly lit basement show. It has post punk ambience with hints of cosmic gloomy pop and sprinkles of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all wrapped up in very much their own sound.
Check out our interview below and then have a listen to Health.
Interview with Deux Trois
The three of you have all been involved in music projects in the past. What was the impetus for Deux Trois’ formation? What lead to you three making music together?
Ben Webb (BW): Serendipity.
Benjamin Nelson (BN): We met at the movie, Serendipity.
Nadia Pacey (NP): I had a contract with Princess Sammi Records in Kingston, ON, for which I was making a record as Konig. During some upheaval at the label, I started collaborating with Benjamin, and a few months later, after we’d toured some and decided that we needed a guitarist to give more heft to the mids, I happened to see Ben outside of his work for the first time in eight years, and knew that he would be right. There was a rightness – that what the sound needed was something that Ben would excel at writing, knowing his taste, history and skill.
Before the album release, Deux Trois released a few tracks—Dave and Late Night Girls. Can you talk about these songs and how they fit in to what you are doing with the new album?
BW: They’re definitely the most digestible songs.
BN: But they do –
BW: They have teeth.
BN: Those two are very good examples of the range of where the record goes—emotionally, thematically, the way the songs sound and feel, those are the opposite ends of the spectrum. The rest of the record is in between
Your music draws on 80’s influences that include post punk, dark pop, and synth. As this is a departure from all of your previous sounds, what has drawn you to the kind of music you’re making with Deux Trois?
BN: For me I think it’s all my education, time I’ve spent studying music that we’re now making – this is the band I’ve always wanted to be in.
BW: I think for me it’s like a natural sort of trying to – instead of trying to over-complicate anything, it’s all about serving the song as opposed to be the most complicated or heavy – this is the band I never knew I wanted to be in.
NP: Until I started writing music and reworking these songs with our band, I’d resigned myself to being quiet, being very shy about sitting behind a kit. I was afraid of being too loud; much apologizing for being so if I was. I was very uncomfortable with the snare in particular. Now it is one of my favourite instruments to play. I played tracks off of a computer or a cellphone for four years instead of performing music live because I didn’t have confidence in my ability to do it in front of people. Making the sound of the record, and it being a kind of thirty minute confession, was about finding a sound that feels good to play and not distancing myself from other musicians, or from musical experimentation; choosing to look right at some of my points of shame and challenge them rather than letting them sit in the back of my mind, where they can effect how I look at everything else.
What bands or artists are you listening to currently that inspire you or blow your mind?
BW: I’ve been listening to new Joan Of Arc – 1984. It’s a challenging listen at points.
BN: I don’t keep up on new music that much, because I like old music. The only new music I really hear by choice is top 40 radio, however, I am a big fan of Ariel Pink’s last record, entitled: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.
NP: I just spent an hour listening to rap in the car. I keep going a little nuts over Leikeli47, forgot how much I love Eminem produced by Dre. The video and song both for Childish Gambino’s This is America are, together, mind blowing music at its finest. Also, seeing Sylvia Wrath [recently], I felt my soul in her coolness and songwriting. I recently heard a song called Sleep by Sasha Slug as well—that was very good.
What was it like putting together the Health EP and pressing it out on vinyl? For newer bands that are looking to do the same, is it a difficult process?
BW: Well as far as design, I really didn’t have much to do about that. Nadia and Ben sort of had that pretty close to done by the time I joined the band.
NP: We started the design process in October, yeah.
BW: As far as is it difficult: it’s expensive and I think you have to decide if that’s worth it for you. There are cheaper ways to get your music out there. I know it was important to us to have a physical release because we all love that format.
NP: It helped us that Benjamin and I are both designers, but that in particular Benjamin is a record album designer and has been for a number of years. The pressing itself we did not do – it was done by Precision Pressing, whose project manager, Tristen, was great in sorting us out. Paul, the sales associate who we originally spoke with to get the project going, was also very helpful. But yes, it’s an expensive deal.
We gathered together to listen to the test pressings we received, and discussed what we heard beyond the music. Before approving vinyl you have to be able to discern what is different about different pressings and make comparisons between them so that errors, warps, or too much scratching, can be recognized and acknowledged. It’s not difficult, but it is expensive and requires some research beyond having enthusiasm to do it well and right. To know that our record is a 12″ 45rpm record, and that the grooves and information are given more breath in their imprint because of that, is a decision that I feel very good about, and am glad that I can appreciate now. I couldn’t before.
Can you talk about what’s in store next for Deux Trois as far as new music and touring goes after the Health EP is released?
NP: We have a couple shows coming up, and might be speaking with a booking agent for future work. We have been working on three new songs, all of which we’ve played live since writing. I’m looking forward to the point when we collaborate fully as songwriters for the next record, and going to places we might not have been before.
BW: I’m personally excited for Wolfe Island Music Festival. It’s a festival that I’ve been going to and experiencing the excitement of for years, and this will be my first year playing. I’m feeling really good about these new songs; we’re sort of moving in different directions and looking at new sounds, which is always super exciting.
Ottawa’s Rich Chris recently released his first full length solo album, Tales of Nostalgia.
The 14 acoustic tracks were recorded over the last four years while Rich Chris has been busy playing with countless other bands, most recently rocking out in Positive Charge.
From the 14-second intro track all the way through to the final song, which clocks in at over five minutes, Rich Chris has his heart on his sleeve, remnants of parties in his beard and stories to share. His punk rock roots certainly shine through in some of his strumming patterns, faster songs and vocals, but you can certainly can’t deny the folk influences and the ever present troubadour mentality emphasized with the harmonica. It is rather fascinating that an album which spans so many years—and consequently several important life changing moments and being mixed/mastered by different people in different places—can still feel as cohesive as it does.
My favourite thing about Tales of Nostalgia, and Rich Chris in general, is just how real and down to earth every song feels. He is not trying to paint the magnum opus. This is an album you can throw on and close your eyes and feel like Rich Chris is in your living room or around a fire performing for you and a bunch of your best friends about things you can all really relates with. As a life long resident of Ottawa, I’m also a sucker for songs that mention local landmarks and trigger fond memories from my past. Songs like “228” which chalked up full of trips down memory lane for me, that even if I didn’t know Rich Chris back then I feel like we had several similar experiences at parties and local watering holes like 1848 and Nostalgica during our university years.
Have a listen to Tales of Nostalgia below and kickback with the friend you never knew you had, or for those who know Rich Chris listen to your good buddy’s great work.
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.
Ottawa’s Fools of Love have been hard at work on their first full-length album scheduled for release this summer.
The rocking three-piece have changed their names, changed their line-up, powered through having their lead-singer and guitarist living in Toronto while the other two members live in Ottawa and followed up one of my favourite releases from 2015 with a solid new track “Heavy Head.”
We spoke with lead-singer and guitarist Adam Feibel about all that and are premiering “Heavy Head” below. So sink your teeth into their rocking new song in anticipation of the upcoming full-length album while you read our discussion with Adam.
Let us start with the new name, what drove the switch to Fools of Love?
Trademark law, really. There’s another currently active band that has the rights to our former name, so it was safer to change it to avoid running into problems.
You moved to Toronto but the band is still Ottawa-based. How do you manage this? And are there any advantages you see to having the band in two cities?
It’s not easy. I’ve spent a lot of time on the train and the 401. We get together as much as possible and make the most of that time. But we each have a lot going on in our lives individually, so we try not to put too much pressure on ourselves. Now that we’ve finished this record, the hardest part is out of the way–now it’s really just about playing wherever and whenever we have the opportunity. And it’s a nice perk that whenever we play a show in the GTA, we have a place to stay.
Tell me about the switch from a four-piece to a three-piece.
We actually started as a trio. Only three of us recorded the EP. We’ve gone through a few member changes, so we were four for a while, but by the time we headed into the studio again we were back to three. But we’re planning to play live as a foursome.
What do you think is the biggest musical difference between that first release and your upcoming album The Howl and the Whisper?
I think it has a wider range of influences, but also a wider range of feeling. That first one big, loud, and fairly dark. We let a lot of light in for this one. It’s got a lot of heart. There’s more instrumentation–we added piano, organ, harmonica, cello, along with the usual stuff–and I wanted every song to have a big, memorable hook. You should definitely still play it loud.
What led you to this new sound?
That’s hard to say. When I start coming up with new material, it just comes out–any change is usually subconscious, or at least starts out that way. Personally, one thing I knew that I wanted was for it to have more depth. We left some stuff on the cutting-room floor that just didn’t have a place, usually because it was too one-dimensional or it didn’t match the feel. I looked at songs and artists that have stood the test of time and thought about why. What makes them timeless? I think a lot of it comes down to whether your song sounds good regardless of the arrangement–if you strip it to the bone, does it still sound great? That’s what I had in mind. We’d start with something simple and build it into something intricate and huge.
How was it to once again work with Cory Bergeron at Pebble Studios?
I can’t say enough about how much I’ve loved working with him. We would be doing marathon sessions and it didn’t seem to phase him. He’d just keep working his magic, suggesting great ideas, coaching us into our best performances. Working with a person for the second time, you’ve built a rapport and a chemistry. I felt understood. And he’s hungry to learn and try new things, which is crucial if you’re hoping to make something layered and unique. It was long, hard work but it was a lot of fun.
What’s the story behind your first single “Heavy Head” and why did you choose it?
This song started out of protest, since I’ve been pretty angry and despondent about a lot of things that have been going on around the world in the last few years and all the terrible people with black hearts that you have to hear about every day. But I learned pretty quickly that I’m not hardwired to write out of purely anger, so it turned into something else. I ended up writing it about good people who don’t know their own strength because they feel beaten down, or like they barely have a voice. It’s about showing that you believe in them. We need good people to lead the way. And so the song has some bite to it, some apprehension, but ultimately it’s got this big, uplifting chorus that really anchors the whole thing.
Do you have any shows or tours planned to celebrate the release?
We’re working on all that at the moment. We’ll have a couple album-release shows, for sure. And hopefully we’ll get out a lot more. I’m really excited for the record to come out, and to play these songs for as many people as we can.
Noisy punk duo Deathsticks recently released their first video as a band for their new song “Finger Food” off their yet to be released EP Deathsnacks.
Originally from Peterborough, guitarist Matt Post and drummer Laura Klinduch now call the nation’s capital home, and the Ottawa scene is certainly better for it. The video revolves around the band breaking vinyls and using them in various ways such as throwing them against the side of a house, smashing them with a hammer, flushing them down a toilet and using them as a drum sticks or cymbals. They also light three different candles with pictures of dogs on them, one by one, throughout the video to ultimately have them all lit on a coffee table. Not sure what it represents, if anything, but they are pretty cool candles.
Watch the video below and catch them band live when they release Deathsnacks while opening for B.A. Johnston and Steve Adamyk Band on April 27th at House of Targ, details here.