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.
Last Friday, April 6th, we had the pleasure of presenting Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish LP release party at House of TARG along with The Creeps, Finderskeepers, and Joe Vickers. For us, it was a no brainer to put this one on. Great friends, great bands, and one night to remember.
Jon Creeden is one of the hardest working musicians in this town, and he’s paid his dues for years. It was a dream come true to have The Creeps on board, as they have been making noise in Ottawa since 1999 and have shown no signs of slowing down. Finderskeepers reunited after a three-year hiatus (and two babies later) to play an electrifying set. Joe Vickers, a true purveyor of genuine Canadiana folk, happened to be rolling through town, too, and he opened the night with a gripping set. DJs Captain Concussion and Ted Dancin’ (Eric and I, respectively) also spun vinyl all night to keep the part going. Check out the incredible photos by our photographer Aidan Thatcherbelow!
The video begins with clips of Jon and various members of the Flying Hellfish out on tour making you think this will most likely be a tour montage video. Instead we are treated to the band rocking out on stage wearing their now signature Hawaiian shirts, a tribute to JS Belleau—a member of the Ottawa music scene who left us too soon.
Most of the video was shot during the band’s set at Pouzza Fest 2017 in Montreal by the very talented Jonah Aspler. It is a lot of fun to watch the band playing on stage to so many familiar faces in the crowd even if it isn’t in Ottawa. And it is awesome to watch Richard Barrie (Positive Charge) give Jon a big kiss and later when Jon cheers the crowd with his tall boy of PBR.
Watch the video below and come live a live Jon Creeden & the Flying Hellfish performance for yourself at their Stall album release show this Friday April 6 at House of Targ supported by The Creeps, Finderskeepers and Joe Vickers, more details here.
There is a new band in town, partners, and they are full of alt-country, twang, and heartache.
GINNY is the latest band formed in the nation’s capital with members of a bunch of other great bands. Fronted by vocalist Lesley Marshall (Bonnie Doon), guitarist Catriona Sturton (ex-Plumbtree), and bassist Kristy Nease (Area Resident), GINNY’s haunting country styling arrives just in time as we flirt with the return of spring but keep being reminded of the harshness of winter.
GINNY’s first single, “Choose the Wrong Man,” is a slow-building little alt-country number about having bad luck in love. Have a listen below as Marshall’s ghostly vocals of country singers past shines over the band’s blues-tinged and rock-influenced country sound.
The band is poised to release their debut EP on Friday March 16th at The Concorde Motel in Ottawa, supported by The Railway Hotel and Ommie Jane (details here). We interviewed Marshall ahead of the show to get a better sense of how the band came to be and what to expect of this little known venue.
Ginny is quite a shift from your other project, Bonnie Doon. What attracted you to making country music?
I drifted towards country music in the last five years. I’ve always been a big fan of folk rock and folk music but I got really into classic country when I heard Loretta Lynn, Townes Van Zandt, and Patsy Cline. They were all singing from the heart in a way that really resonated with me.
We used a Patsy Cline song “Crazy” as a temp track in one of my first films and I began to sing it a karaoke, then I started to singing Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” and started to really see myself in that music. I had been writing a lot of sadder and melodramatic songs since high school on a tiny air organ and they didn’t fit into the party vibe of Bonnie Doon. I fell in love with some of the romanticism of country music and wanted to learn more.
Learning the history of racism and blues and the industry’s separation of the genres that exists today—interesting stuff, but yeah, it was the emotion that was coming out of my voice that led the way. I couldn’t describe it and, well, it was friends that said it was country. I was with DJ Lamb Rabbit one day too showing her my tracks and she showed me Mary Margaret O’Hara “Miss America” and was like— “did you know that this is what you’re doing?”
The band is somewhat of a local super-group, made up of Catriona Sturton and Kristy Nease (Area Resident). How did it come to be?
Oh my gosh. Yeah, well I am a lucky duck here. I had been spending time with Catriona and Kristy as they are buds and Kristy at the time was doing a lot of Gamelan Orchestra and Catriona was starting to tour on her own. I had told Catriona about some of my songs and she mentioned she wanted to tour in the southern states the following winter and visit her friends at Dollywood with another drummer friend from a Philadelphia band The Pretty Greens and asked if some of my songs would fit as an opening act. I am a person of the variety who says yes even if I am unsure—so I said yes! Being on tour is kind of my dream state, even though it is very hard.
All this to say, I had wanted to explore working on these songs and so I brought them to Kristy to help nail down the musical framework. Kristy is a a genius with the bass and percussion so she took the demos I made and we jammed them out to the songs they are today with Catriona coming on with those heavy blues guitar riffs. The first incarnation of the band was a drum machine, an air organ, Kristy on the bass and me singing through a 16mm projector. We later added a drummer to get that classic country feel. I had always intended the project to be a newer eerie kind of country, so this show at the Concorde will feature DJ Jas Nasty on the theremin.
A glimpse at the mysterious, seldom-used venue called The Concorde Motel. Photo taken from Facebook.
And how is it working with them on this project?
Working with Catriona and Kristy is a dream come true. Kristy has supreme work ethic and execution and Catriona is a wizard. She just kind of comes in and brings her ideas and flare with the her classic guitar sound. They both have such great taste and understanding of music it’s like breathing in and out. I feel like coming in with my voice, I have to bring a lot and do!
The release show is taking place at The Concorde Motel, quite an unusual and unknown venue to most. Can you tell us a little about it and why you chose it?
The Concorde Motel is just down the street from my partner’s house in Vanier so we started going for drinks there. The first time I walked in I was blown away by the absolute size and decor of the bar. It truly is a relic. Back in the 1970s and 80s it was one of the ‘go-to’ spots for country music as there were 6 active country clubs with live bands playing 7 days a week. Times sure have changed and they stayed open as a bar but stopped operating as a venue. Since the bid to change the whole block including the Motel into the controversial super shelter came around last year, we thought it would be a rare chance to have a show like this there.
What should people expect from the live performance on March 16?
March 16th is gonna be a full night of hanging out in the Concorde, people can play pool, and listen to the jukebox between bands and expect a whole night of great music from Ottawa Alt-Coutry Folk and Blues with Ommie Jane and The Railway Hotel opening up the night. GINNY has a full set and will be playing songs from our self-titled debut EP, but also songs on the air organ that couldn’t fit on the EP and guest performer and singer Matt Miwa will be adding his lounge singer-songwriter air.
We finally got around to checking out the latest release by Ottawa’s own Worn Robot, called Worn Robot 3.
The 19-track album, their third, starts with the first track “More Than You Know” sounding reminiscent of the brooding darkness of Elliot Smith but then quickly shift to more of an industrial and heavy sound in the second song, “Astral Leaf.” Then just as you get used to the change of pace, the next track is right back to those sombre acoustic sounds for a few tracks.
The fifth song, “Glitch in the Shell,” revs up the intensity again with its instrumental industrial edge, taking the listener to a completely different place. The harsh breaks between songs and the changes of pace becomes a noticeable pattern throughout the album. The experimental pieces that appear every couple songs gives the impression of an alter-ego creeping out of everyone once and while, taking some risks and pushing the limits of his thoughts and sound. It really keeps listeners on their toes, and I am very intrigued to see how this plays out live.
A song that really stuck out after a couple of listens, through, was “How Many More Times” with its acoustic-grunge feel to the chord progressions and the sound of fingers sliding between chords. The first slide gave me chills. The song also really flows well into the next instrumental, which is heavier and a little more rocking but still grunge-laden in sound. You really don’t hear enough instrumentals in that style.
Worn Robot 3 was definitely influenced by grunge but there is also those aforementioned industrial elements and even some modern hardcore that breaks through. I encourage you to carve out some time in your busy schedule and actually sit down and take in this album from start to finish. This album is an experience, not just ambiance.