I called Julie Tuesday evening around 7:00 PM, Ottawa time. She had just gotten home from a busy day and has another one tomorrow. She has a 6:00 AM shift at the pool where she works as a lifeguard before an evening photo shoot and a plane to Ontario to catch the following morning. She’s yet to pack. We talked for almost an hour straight.
One would think waking up at 4:45 AM would be a loathsome task for a life-long touring musician, but Julie Doiron finds comfort in her routine. Not to mention the steady pay cheque that finds its way into her bank account every two weeks—a first in her adult life. Swimming, on the other hand, has been a constant since childhood, and it’s particularly important to her now.
“I need to keep my body strong in order to feel good, psychologically,” she explains, elaborating on how her schedule also includes teaching a weekly yoga class. When conversation turns to the four show tour she has booked this weekend, she laughs and likens it to a vacation in comparison to her current schedule and the intensity of the touring she did this summer.
Starting Thursday, September 13th in Toronto at the Garrison, Julie reunites with The Wooden Stars for three shows, the second of which will be here in Ottawa Friday night at St. Alban’s. The third on Saturday in Picton for Sandbanks Music Festival along with co-headliners Wintersleep. She will be playing an additional show in Montreal on Sunday at Quai des Brumes, before it’s back home to Sackville, NB for Monday.
“We tend to get together every two years, now” she says of the Wooden Stars reunion, referencing the string of dates they performed together in 2014 after a twelve year hiatus, and another slew of performances in 2016. She goes on to explain that they initially arranged these 2018 shows after accepting the Sandbanks Music Festival appearance and decided to add a few more dates. This series of shows has a greater significance than previous—it marks the last time they will be playing their former album in its entirety, because hal-eh-lou-yer, we’re getting another Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars album.
The Wooden Stars began backing Julie on tour starting in 1997 for her Loneliest in the Morning release. Their jazz-inflected musicality fit in well with her sparse, achey song-writing, and in 1999 they released Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. It won a Juno the following year for best Alternative Album and saw re-release in 2013.
While the songwriting efforts on that album were Julie’s alone, she believes the writing process will be more collaborative this time around. Co-writing is something not entirely unfamiliar to Julie, who cut her teeth in collaborative writing with the 2017 release of Julie & the Wrong Guys on Dine Alone Records.
“I was really blocked before that album” she says, explaining that between 2012 and the fall of 2017, she’d only written two songs independently—both of which were written on the way to the session where they’d be recorded. She credits her Wrong Guys collaboration in teaching her ‘to let go and not be in charge”.
Moving forward with new music, she talks of being a lot less preoccupied with the expectations of “making it,” writing a hit, or charting.
“It’s liberating, to no longer be burdened with those expectations.” In their absence, she can create the music she wants to create. This she credits to her age and experience—she is a 46 year old mother of three with 28 years in the music industry.
I ask her how her relationship with her songs has aged, curious how she feels having to revisit songs from her Broken Girl days, songs that as a listener are still so visceral and raw. “I haven’t forgotten what those feelings are like.” She pauses. “But I have changed a lot, and in a way I am grateful to be able to revisit those feelings from this distance.”
The Showbox Concert Series featuring Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars and Gianna Lauren happens Friday, September 14 at St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward Ave.), starting at 7:30 pm. More information can be found on the Facebook event. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here, or $12 at the door.
2018 is the year that CityFolk celebrates its 25th anniversary, and this year’s lineup pulls no punches. There’s a mix of old and new, rookies and veterans, old dogs and fresh blood. Even more, there is something for everyone in terms of genres. The organizers reeled in big name acts such as David Byrne and Hozier, which will be sure to draw big crowds.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the top acts to check out at the main festival over the coming days, and this can serve as a primer for you going in. Have fun exploring!
Sunday, September 16, 9:00pm – 10:15pm — City Stage
Portland, Oregon’s The Decemberists have been active for nearly two decades. Over that time the group has released eight full-length albums, all of which are distinct in sound, concept, and approach. Principal songwriter and frontman of the group, Colin Meloy, has waded through changing tides and been the cohesive element throughout the years. The Decemberists are known for their rambunctious live performances, and seeing their expansive catalogue played on stage is one opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
Friday, September 14, 8:00pm – 9:00pm — RavenLaw Stage
William Prince is a JUNO award-winning singer-songwriter who has made a name for himself by composing raw, emotional songs that are rooted in memories and stories from his past. Raised on the Peguis First Nation of Manitoba, Canada, Prince picked up the guitar and piano at age nine and hasn’t looked back since. His debut album Earthly Days won “Aboriginal Artist of the Year” at the 2016 Western Canadian Music Awards and “Contemporary Roots Album of the Year” at the 2017 JUNO Awards. With his unforgettable baratone vocal timbre, Prince’s music is quickly becoming part of the story of true Canadiana folk.
Friday, September 14, 6:30pm – 7:30pm —RavenLaw Stage
Flint Eastwood is an indie-rock brother-sister duo from Detroit, and the past year has been a whirlwind of successes for them. They released their Broke Royalty EP on Neon Gold Records, and garnered a significant amount of critical praise as well as spots on key festival lineups such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. One gets the feeling that this energetic young group is just getting started on their road to stardom, so better catch them now before they blow up.
Saturday, September 15, 9:15pm – 10:30pm—City Stage
This list would be incomplete without the inclusion of Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a.k.a. Hozier. His debut EP came out in 2013, and featured the smash-hit anthem “Take Me to Church.” Not bad for a 23 year-old. The mild-mannered Irishman (and son of a blues musician) has taken his time releasing new music, and his new EP Nina Cried Power is the first release in four years. His deep, rich vocals explode in songs such as “Rose Wine” and “Like Real People Do,” and it’s no wonder why Hozier one of the most anticipated acts on the CityFolk lineup this year.
Thursday, September 13, 9:00pm – 10:30pm—City Stage
This man needs no introduction. David Byrne has had an undeniable impact on the course of music history, primarily as the gonzo lead member of Talking Heads in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But he has also distinguished himself apart from the band in more recent years, and collaborated with the likes of St. Vincent, Brian Eno, among others, to create truly unhinged music like no one else. 2018’s American Utopia is Byrne’s first actual “solo” album in 14 years, and delves into the American consciousness as it stands in these turbulent times. You can’t miss David Byrne—his live performances are simply legendary.
Thursday, September 13, 7:30pm – 8:40pm — City Stage
Ani DiFranco is an American singer, musician, poet, songwriter, and activist. Her music has always reflected her socially progressive core values (she has backed grassroots cultural and political organizations supporting causes including abortion rights and LGBT visibility, among others), and she’s always maintained an arms-length relationship with the corporate side of the music industry. In fact, she created her own record label called Righteous Babe in 1990 to give her more creative freedom and flexibility. DiFranco’s music draws inspiration from jazz, punk, folk, and funk, and she’s released twenty albums independently and sold over four million worldwide. But you probably won’t be hearing her on mainstream radio anytime soon, so be sure to catch a rare glimpse at Ani DiFranco live at CityFolk this year.
Steve Earle & The Dukes
Wednesday, September 12, 6:00pm – 7:15pm—City Stage
Let’s be clear—Steve Earle is a songwriter that transcends generations. As a three-time Grammy Award recipient and 11-time Grammy nominee, Earle could very well be the epitome of modern Americana music. Not only does his music career span over 40 years and 20 albums, but he is also known as a novelist, a film/TV/stage actor, a playwright, an author, a record producer, and a radio host. Catch him and his band live to see history in action.
Thursday, September 13, 8:00pm – 9:00pm — RavenLaw Stage
A short, soft-spoken, long-haired dude from Regina, Saskatchewan? Not exactly who you thought would make this list. But let’s be honest—his third album The Party was one of the best albums to come out of 2016. It was shortlisted as a finalist for the Polaris Music Prize that year. It’s the kind of record you put on while looking out the window on a rainy day. The thorough instrumentation and delicate vocals are just the beginning of what make The Party so magnificent, and Shauf translates the ornate arrangements and emotionally-driven songs perfectly on stage.
Saturday, September 15, 6:00pm – 7:00pm — City Stage
Say what you will about modern country music, Canadian artist Lindi Ortega is one who demands to be heard. Ortega’s music is somewhere between Lana Del Rey and a Quintin Tarantino soundtrack, with a bit of Dolly Parton thrown into the mix. Although she’s originally from Toronto, she lived for some years in Nashville, TN, and cut her teeth in the land where country music thrives. She’s released seven full-length albums, the latest of which came out in March of this year. There’s a narrative to her music that makes it undeniably attractive, and she’s an artist that those who don’t normally appreciate country may actually fall in love with. Worth a try, that’s for sure.
Sunday, September 16, 6:00pm – 7:00pm — City Stage
If you’re a couple of talented musicians who end up getting married, why not just start a band? That’s what Luke Ducet and Melissa McLelland did. Whitehorse is a beloved Canadian indie-rock duo that is rooted in marriage but known for their explosive music. They won a JUNO in 2016 for their album Leave No Bridge Unburned, and have been nominated for CFMA’s and the Polaris Music Prize. Check these guys out to see why they’re a staple Canadian band to see live.
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Wednesday, September 12, 9:30pm – 10:45pm — City Stage
The Tedeschi Trucks Band is one of the biggest and best live touring bands going right now. The 12-piece ensemble—led by the husband-and-wife team of guitarist Derek Trucks and guitarist-singer Susan Tedeschi—takes the stage by storm and doesn’t let up until the last chord is struck and final note is sung. For blues rock enthusiasts, this band is pushing the envelope and exploring new horizons of improvisation and collaboration that the world of blues music has never seen. Strap yourselves in—the guitar solos will blow your hair back.
The House of Targ stage was rocked by three great local bands last week. Headlining the night was Ornaments, an Ottawa three-piece who hadn’t graced a stage in a while so it was very nice to see them playing live again. Saint Clare did what they always do and played their most excellent brass-driven rock that makes you want to dance and sing. Opening the night was the up and coming band Lost Acres who released a solid EP in December last year.
Check out the pictures below by our photographer Aidan Thatcher and keep your eye out for the next time these bands play live.
The third annual Hopped and Confused music and beer festival was capped-off by the Canadian rock group I Mother Earth providing everyone with a throwback to the 90’s, featuring their original lead singer Edwin. The day also featured performances that made you want to dance and sing along by Bleeker and The Damn Truth and was kicked-off by an absolutely rocking set by Julie and the Wrong Guys.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to capture all the action, check out the gallery below.
Kevin Bourne is the co-founder and Editor of SHIFTER Magazine, a hub for people with strong ideas, discerning tastes in culture, and an itch to create. Cover photo: City Fidelia.
Ottawa is in the midst of an urban music renaissance. Twenty-six years after the release of Organized Rhymes’ classic Check the O.R. and 16 years after Wassim “SAL” Slaiby and Belly started CP Records, also known as Capital Prophets Records, eventually releasing projects from Belly, Mia Martina and Massari, Ottawa is once again emerging as a hotbed for hip-hop and R&B music and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Night Lovell is racking up tens of millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube, and has been interviewed by top American media outlets like Genius, No Jumper, and Pigeons & Planes. City Fidelia has been featured in Vice’s Noisey. Belly, now based in L.A., was signed to Roc Nation, and in recent years Maurice Moore joined Kehlani’s Tsunami Collective and was featured in Billboard.
I’ve been following Ottawa music for some time now, but Bluesfest 2018 was a turning point for me, when quiet fandom turned into flat out excitement, especially when it comes to hip-hop and R&B. I saw artists going to each other’s shows, cheering each other on. There was a genuine excitement and energy in the air. Although it wasn’t what we planned, our team at SHIFTER magazine ended up covering more local shows than headliners, not out of charity but because the music and shows were that good. Artists like City Fidelia, Black Iri$h, Tapas, Morris Ogbowu, Aspects and Rita Carter put on shows that rivalled any headliner.
One of the knocks on Ottawa is we don’t support talent until they blow up outside of the city. Case in point, Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine.
As a result, we at SHIFTER launched an Ottawa hip-hop and R&B Spotify playlist called Capital Essentials. We believe it’s the most complete urban music playlist in the capital. It includes artists like Night Lovell, Maurice Moore, Vi, Black Iri$h, and lesser known artists like Melvin Elray. It also includes boom bap, R&B and trap, as well as Indigenous, Christian and French hip-hop.
We created this playlist for three reasons. First, so Ottawa can become fans of its own music. Second, so artists can become fans of each other and hopefully collaborate. Lastly, so the world can become fans of Ottawa music. Thanks to our Indigenous and French communities, Ottawa probably has one of the most diverse urban music scenes in Canada. It’s time to celebrate that and share it with the world, but it all starts with becoming fans of ourselves and what’s being created here.
Ottawa and its residents have the ability to decide what poppin’ in Ottawa. No one outside of Ottawa should decide what’s hot in our city. If we decide Drake and Travis Scott are hot in Ottawa that’s cool, but if we also decide that City Fidelia, Vi, and Buck-N-Nice are hot in Ottawa that’s up to us as well (and they should be). Although I salute the success of Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, what I hate is Ottawa radio stations and fans didn’t support them until they got a co-sign from CTV. In other words, a Toronto media outlet made them hot in Ottawa, not us.
If we’re going to keep our most talented artists and not lose them to greener, and larger, pastures, including Toronto and Montreal, we need to make sure they’re recognized and platformed here before elsewhere. The Beatles were already hot in Liverpool, with people camping outside their homes, before they ventured across the ocean and gave birth to the British Invasion.
I invite you to follow and share SHIFTER’s Capital Essentials playlist and become a fan of the hip-hop and R&B coming of Kanata, Centretown, Orleans, Gloucester, and Hintonburg. As a city, let’s give these artists the push, support and buzz they need to grow and eventually launch onto the national and international stage. After all, it’s well within our power to do so.
Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
The first band to rip open the night was Spell Runner, from Albany, New York. Their wild playing bordered power punk and garage punk, teetering from one to the other. The drumrolls, guitar riffs, and throaty screams melded together and created a chaotic unity.
The guitar playing was of higher pitch and let loose. Each stroke came quickly after the last while leaving a resonance that echoed in the background. Deconstructed and split into two parts, the guitars seemed to squabble with one-another whilst adding a spacey sci-fi-esque sound to the songs. It painted the atmosphere with several shades of electric green, and yellow. The solos were rapid and executed with ease. They provided teal splashes and they drew you in.
The vocals dominated with the throaty screams that ripped from the lead singer. They created the illusion of the instrumentals mellowing out around them. Amidst the technical issues, the stage presence and sheer power of the screams were enough to get people moving and thrashing. The wild screams blasted bursts of irritated reds through the soundscape and allowed for rusty oranges to come through in bubbles.
The bass rumbled in the background and incorporated deeper greens due to the heavy weighted tone. It wasn’t quite warm but it droned on, having kept a steady tempo while snapping in an aggressive edge. Buried in the midst of mass amount of noise, it found a way to stand out and rattle your ribcage.
The drumming remained warm and hollow. They didn’t boom and cling to the air. Instead, the sound fell short, one beat after another. The fills and rolls tied the songs together in a grimy fashion. Tainted in raw golden orange, sunset yellow, and yellow-green, the drumming provided something to thrash to while maintaining a welcoming presence.
Next up was Ottawa’s own thrash metal band World War 4. Crossing over to punk and doom metal, the band brings forth something unconventional yet they do it in such a way that it blends together near perfectly. The fusion of chaos and disorder find a mutual unity within this bands music.
The guitar progressed with violent chugs of muted chords that would unleash themselves wildly, deep navy blues and lime greens taking over progressively. The riffs had a sharp tone to them and splashes of celeste would spray across the field of vision. Meanwhile, the bass found a deep rumble in the background and served to stabilize the wild guitar riffs. It too was played without mercy and with brutal ferocity. It was the steel blue backbone to the mess.
The vocals cut in with brutality and rage. Throaty and as rough as the guitars chugging, they showed absolutely no mercy whatsoever. The vocals cut in with rusty oranges and brutal murky yellows. The sounds ripped from the very back of the throat were a deep stark burgundy, contrasting with the tones of the guitar.
The drumming was quick and each beat fell viciously after the next, having melded into a disarray. Vehement, the crash of the cymbals was brutally cold and sprayed trails of teal across the field of vision. Meanwhile, the snare and the toms found a thick, full, warm sound that couldn’t be ignored.
The last band of the night was High Command. Dissonant aggression and tight drumming, slow buildups, and wild basslines, the band did not disappoint.
The vocals came from exhaled screams, and quite literally ripped themselves free from the lead singers body. They were meant to comes out. Matched to the overall intensity, the seasick green that erupted from the vocal stylings was incredible. Backed by the enraged reds of the power chords, there was nothing held back. Every ounce of energy and soul was thrust into each song. The guitar playing was quick in tempo, and there was much tremolo, despite this, the hostility did not waver and only became more prominent.
The bass seemed to follow the guitar but would rip out its own deep solos that couldn’t help but catch my attention. Adding to the thrashing, it provides a depth to the pieces. Brutal, brisk, and murky, the swampy colours it radiated fit perfectly together and created a backbone to the guitar.
The drums were boney and full. Cold and thrashing, they held absolutely nothing back and gave everyone something to headbang to. The sheer frosty feeling they possessed took over the atmosphere and really drove the moshpit home. The brutality was remarkable and there was nothing quite like it.
A crossover show of punk and metal is something that is generally turned down or slightly frowned upon but I must say that these bands absolutely throw those notions out the window. They are must sees that will inevitably change your viewpoint on the genre.
The group consists of multi-instrumentalist Zachary Perron and songwriter/vocalist/synth player Amanda Lowe, who have come together once again to bring us a larger-than-life album that transcends sonic boundaries. On first listen, Collapse seems to inherit much from its predecessor in the Novusolis catalogue—the exceptional debut entitled Fevered Dreams.
However, when listening closer, there are some specific features about Collapse that set it apart—not only from the group’s past work, but also anything else that the nation’s capital has to offer.
Collapse is the product of some very clear growth by the band. It is an expansion of their sound, and a refinement of their approach and arrangements. Novusolis create an ethereal soundscape from which the listener can bask in, layering reverb-heavy backing synth parts with staccato guitar and restrained percussive elements. This is particularly evident in tracks such as “Closer” and “Collapse.”
Lowe’s vocals are the element that, for me, tie the whole thing together. While her voice offers a delicate cushion for the listener to fall back on, it is also a powerful and emotionally impactful aspect of the album. Lowe’s songwriting emanates her experience and growth as a musician, as she harnesses her own strengths and combines them more effectively than ever with Zachary’s instrumentation. The arrangements are complex, and truly create a dream-like atmosphere throughout. While I’m not particularly familiar with the genre of post-rock, their music certainly reflects the grandiosity of artists such as Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky. I’m sure that anyone who has an appreciation of those bands will fall into Novusolis with great ease.
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears out for live show announcements from Novusolis, as their live performance is something you don’t want to miss. Have a listen to their album Collapse below.
Ottawa;s very own Jonathan Becker & The North Fields recently played the album release show for their new album Sober Dawn at Babylon Nightclub in Ottawa. They were supported by other local favourites Claude Munson and John Aaron Cockburn. It was a wonderful night of music and an awesome way to celebrate such an excellent album. You can read our full write up of the album and have a listen here.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to catch the action, check out his photos below.