Claude Munson works hard. When you meet him, there’s an instantaneous spark of life that radiates from his words and demeanour. For the last two years, he and his band The Storm Outside have been focusing their creative strengths on putting together their new self-titled full-length LP, released in December 2012 through Up & UP Music. Munson has been on the local music circuit for a while now, playing original material at open mics to start, building his name and fan base through various projects such as his former band Marabou, and playing locally as a solo artist at small venues around town. It seems like fate eventually drew the unique talents of each band member together, creating a chemistry that sees songs come together on the album so naturally. The album deals with various themes and motifs, such as fear and loneliness, and is a true journey from start to finish. Everything passed has led he and his band mates to this.
The band consists of four permanent members: Philippe Charbonneau on the (haunting) stand-up bass, Jean-François Delaquis on electric and slide guitar, brother Pascal Delaquis on drums, and of course, storyteller and vocalist Claude Munson. The album is rounded out by the inclusion of special guests Ellorie Mcknight (viola, cello) and Louis-Philippe Robillard (trumpet, harmonica) – adding an extra bit of depth to an album with an already immersive sound. At the December 20, 2012 CD Release Party at Mercury Lounge, the band blew everyone at the sold out event away with an incredible, mesmerizing set. Their next performances will be at the one and only Blacksheep Inn with Sound of Lions January 19th, and February 17th at Café Campus in Montreal.
I sat down with Munson to discuss the album, the band, and where some of the music comes from.
Tell me a bit about The Storm Outside. How has playing in a band differed from your solo endeavours?
It’s really fun to play with a band. I’ve been playing solo for a while because that’s just what I started doing. But when I met these guys, there was this cohesion and chemistry that takes place on stage or at practice. You don’t even have to say anything verbally, it just happens musically and we try to capture that. I would say it really adds to my solo music too, but there’s something to be said about playing alone, too. I think you’re much more in touch with your instrument and voice.
How did you guys meet? When did that chemistry first happen?
Well, I started playing open mics on my own all over town, places like Café Nostalgica and we just started playing and jamming songs in different circles. Not necessarily with this band, but with other singers and players – we got this band together called Marabou. It was a 7-piece French-Folk Gypsy-Reggae thing, and it was a lot of fun. We had really danceable music, and that’s when I met the drummer Pascal Delaquis and the guitarist Jean-François Delaquis who are brothers. So in rehearsals we started practicing, and there was a bit of shyness at first about what to do. And I kept doing stuff with them over the years, and as things calmed down a bit with that band, we started taking on some of my own songs. I started booking shows – I had played solo and built a bit of a base doing house shows and places like Umi Café. So we had a strong trio, and then a few months later we got the bass player Phil Charbonneau on board as well. I really wanted an upright bass player – it brings an acoustic, rustic sound that we were going for on the new album.
How did you personally get into music?
It’s sort of hard to say, these days I don’t think about it too much about why I do it, I just kind of do it. I started playing music in Grade 4 and really got into the violin. I wanted to get into the violin because I listed to a lot of Celtic music with my parents, like Ashley MacIsaac and that sort of thing. I had a teacher in school who replaced library class with a music sing-along and we would sing these French songs that were called “La chansons à répondre” and he would play the songs and we’d sing back. It was really inspiring, the group thing, and the guitar was mesmerizing. So I started playing guitar in Grade 6 and went to a really artistic high school and jammed with lots of people. That’s really when I really fell in love with music, you gain so much clarity and feeling from it. And that’s where the song Driftwood came from, it was all sort of in chunks in the early stages. It didn’t have to do with a girl or sadness or anything like that. The lyrics changed a lot, but the chords and structure were there, it all kind of happened in a night.
Can you explain the concept behind Driftwood?
Well the music itself came from a mix of feelings I was experiencing, I was working at a café and I was alone a lot and friends were further away. Not necessarily a complete absence of friends, but the close ones weren’t right there. And you go through times when you’re lonely and I thought about times when I was being picked on in school and overcoming it, and I just kind of drift away from it. It’s a song that makes me realize through my emotions that I’m very unique and there’s this underlying mission and self-awareness I had to go through. So it’s a song about loneliness, and then finding a place where you are good – coming back to yourself. Making these realizations that life is challenging, but there’s ways to overcome that.
Does the rest of the album go along with the theme of loneliness and self-discovery?
Yeah, well there are a few tunes that are about sadness and fear. I talk about that a lot because myself, and most people, grow up with a lot of fear. In high school I never spoke or talked to anyone, but in my social circles I was very talkative. So there was frustration there, like why am I so shy when the finger is pointed at me? And why am I afraid to express my emotions and feeling? The song Out The Door is about my fear of performance, I was really afraid to sing in front of people. So I closed my eyes and finally the lyrics came, I had recorded the chords and came up with structure earlier on and they were just about that insecurity of performance.
What approach did you take to writing the album?
I’m the principal songwriter, but there are so many integral elements that the band contributes, and they add such important arrangements to the album. We did quite a bit of over-dubbing because we had the freedom to do that, it became kind of an add-on game in the end and I was really excited about that. It really gave me the freedom to explore the ideas in my head I had about certain songs, and really helped define the parts we play live. But there are also three songs on the album that are recorded live off the floor, which is a whole other experience. We just jammed out and it sounded really tight. Some songs I wrote in the earlier stages about three years ago, and then others I wrote in the middle stage in between. I had been working with the drummer and guitarist for over a year before we met. Once we had the group dynamic going, their suggestions were incredible and things kind of created themselves. There was something very natural going on and that’s where the name The Storm Outside came from – like, here’s Claude’s songs and the sound of the exterior added to it, these buddies of his. Kind of like a storm, and it all makes sense, it’s crazy and the rain’s falling and you’re in it. It just feels so natural, so whole.
Do you have any plans to tour in 2013?
Yeah, I’ve really wanted to kick myself in the ass and get on the road, hitchhiking and play wherever I could. I have that wandering vagabond in me like many artists do. It’s just been kind of limited because I felt like I needed a strong recording of what I’d been doing, and once that happened it became a totally different thing. Now we have an album and we can do it, our first gig outside Ottawa is in Montreal on February 17th at Café Campus, which should be really fun. We’ve started applying to festivals too, so we’re waiting to hear on that. If we can get in then we can start booking bigger events. I’m from the East Coast so I have this desire to bring my music there. With the imagery of the album and everything, I feel like we’re bound to make it there eventually.
Are there songs that you hold really close on the album?
Well Driftwood is the strongest expression of the album, and then you have recurring motifs and themes through the rest of the songs. We got a sound that we really liked and held onto that for most of the tracks. Each song has a quality that brings me back to a place where I wrote that song. So the newer ones on the album, like Tumble Over, are more representative of where I’ve been emotionally the last year and a half. Whistle Train is a really dark and fun tune to play too. The Gaslight is my favourite, it’s in the middle of the album and it’s one we don’t play live. I wrote it on ukulele and I played it at a few open mics early on. We transformed it into the experimental jam, it has the oldest vocals on the record, it’s got something weird in it. I remember listening to it and thinking I don’t like it, but I love it. It’s not how I meant it to sound, but let’s keep it because it has this thing about it. It sounds like you’re out in the middle of the ocean and there’s foghorns… maybe stoned? I don’t know.
Why did you decide to go with a full-length over a shorter EP?
Well I got a grant to record this album. We started doing an EP and then we decided on the LP, and sort of jumped back and forth for a while with the ideas. But after recording some of the newer songs, it was clear that we had all the songs for an LP. After two years of working on something, I think putting out the full-length is really something to be proud of. I feel like we could have done even more, maybe record a few fresh songs. But things really do take time, and this project is one that has shown me that you really do need to take your time to put something out that you’ll feel good about and that you’ll give to people, and ultimately stand behind. It was a fine balance of not giving too much, and also making sure what we put out is as tight as it can be – and we really feel that’s the case. We’ll do it even better for the next record. We even played a few new tunes at our December CD Release Party at Mercury Lounge, so there’s just so much music in the band right now. It’s all coming together slowly and I don’t want to stop, that’s for sure.
Take a listen! Buy the album if you like it…which you will 🙂
Check out this brand new video by Partus Films for Claude Munson & The Storm Outside’s (Up & Up Music) song “Driftwood”. This is the first song released from their upcoming EP, which will be coming out at next week’s release party at Mercury Lounge on December 20th. The video really compliments the beauty of the song well, using an intricate stop-motion technique that must have taken a lot of time to film.
Here’s the press release along with the video. Have a look!
We are proud to present Driftwood; a stop motion adventure that takes you from the shores of a seaside village to the depths of the imagination. The video breaks wave with the release of Claude Munson & The Storm Outside’s self-titled debut. We wanted to craft something that embodied the underlying tone of the album; a vessel of maritime imagery, magical vistas and of course, the conflict of a storm burning both within and beyond. Follow a young boy whose loneliness is doused by the comforts of a ghostly entourage and discover an artist’s music that has the power to lift you above your storm.
Driftwood is a Partus Film
Video produced by Claude Munson & Craig Allen Conoley
In this second installment of our two-part interview with Polaris Prize shortlist nominee Cadence Weapon, he discusses his philosophy towards songwriting, how community has impacted and influenced his music, and some of the unique characteristics of his album Hope in Dirt City.
Along with exclusive live footage from his performance at the Arboretum Music+Arts Festival, Rollie opens up about why keeping himself free from genre confines has opened up infinite possibilities for him to continue his reign as a ‘sonic pioneer’ and also to attract new audiences to his brand of hip hop.
Anyone who has seen him perform quickly realizes that he seems to light up the stage. His performance at Arboretum was electrifying and completely in line with the spirit of the festival. Bringing enthusiasm and lyrical mazes to an already amped up audience made for a climactic set, as everyone countered the cold air of the night with beat-driven movements inspired by Cadence Weapon himself. I think that if it were possible, he would have had us all up there for an all-out stage party.
Here is Part 2 of our interview with Rollie:
SAW Video is an artist-run centre committed to supporting the ground-breaking artistic production, presentation and programming of independent video and media art. SAW Video provides many services to its members including affordable technical facilities and a wide range of programs. Its services and programs are designed to create an atmosphere that inspires production through the exchange of ideas around form, content and style.
ARBORETUM is Ottawa’s newest boutique music and arts festival. Inspired by progressive arts festivals around the world, we’re a carefully curated, intimate, community-driven festival highlighting the best in local music, food and arts.
Cadence Weapon performs at the inaugural Arboretum Music+Arts Festival 2012 in Ottawa.
These last few weeks have been very exciting. I’ve been doing this whole music writing thing since May, and that seems like a lifetime ago. The Arboretum Music+Arts Festival, which was held on September 15th at the Jail Hostel, marked a point for me when I realized that so many things were coming together in Ottawa, musically. It really hit me that there is a kickass music community here in this city, one that is humble but not afraid to break out of its shell and come together in glorious fashion (as they did at Arboretum). But enough fuzzy wuzzies.
The festival also marked the first video interview by Ottawa Showbox and Partus Films – a collaborative venture between myself and Craig Conoley that blossomed from the same passion we have for Ottawa’s music scene and a desire to find the most effective way to reach a wider audience in the city. We will be continuing the web series on a regular basis in the future – featuring artists of all kinds from Ottawa and across Canada, speaking with them candidly and honestly, or perhaps having them play an exclusive session for us. The possibilities are endless, and with the motivation shared between Craig and I, we believe that this new web series can be a platform for Ottawa’s artists to show what they are made of to the entire country.
The interview with Cadence Weapon filmed at SAW Gallery is the first step. We’re excited to be teaming up to bring these videos to you, and hope that you enjoy them as much as we enjoy making them. Well, here it is… Part 1 with Rollie Pemberton AKA Cadence Weapon.