If there’s one thing Petra Glynt is not, it’s subtle. Her thunderous sophomore album My Flag Is A Burning Rag Of Love is her most ambitious and impactful work to date. It is a fist-the-air protest album. It is a fuck-patriarchal-systems album. It is a punk album that doesn’t sound like punk rock.
Petra Glynt, a.k.a. visual artist Alexandra Mackenzie, has garnered her fair share of notoriety since releasing her first EP, Of This Land, in 2012. That EP was inspired by the Occupy Movement, and she’s been a strong voice against racism, sexism, environmental devastation—and My Flag is no exception.
Whether she’s addressing the lack of response to Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water crisis (“Health”), or profits-over-privacy with Facebook’s data hack scandal (“Surveillance”), her voice comes through loud and clear. She drops the mic with her powerful vision of the future in the song “New Growth,” which she describes as a feminist anthem of empowerment in the wake of #MeToo.
She’s been on a rollercoaster since 2017, which has included her being signed to Damian Taylor’s (Bjork, The Killers, Arcade Fire) new label Vibe Over Method, acclaim from Pitchfork, NOISEY, THUMP, FADER, Bandcamp, CBC, and BBC6, and to cap it off, detainment at the UK border in a high-security immigration removal centre. Needless to say, she’s been busy.
Petra Glynt’s My Flag Is A Burning Rag Of Love is out now from Pleasence Records and available to order here. She headlines at House of Targ tonight (Saturday, November 24) along with Bonnie Doon and Sparklesaurus. More info here.
Read Matias’ interview with her and watch her video for “No Consequences” below.
What was the impetus for My Flag’s release, so soon after your debut album This Trip in 2017? Was there something that drove its composition and release?
It took me a long time to figure out how to release my first record This Trip, and once I finally did, I had produced a lot of songs! So when Pleasence asked me if I wanted to release a record together I was basically ready to go. The music just needed to be tweaked a bit and mixed so thats what pushed it to get it out so quickly.
Activism and community engagement have both been central features of your music and art. What role do you think artists should play in the age of #MeToo and the Trump era?
I think as artists it’s hard to avoid the realities around us, they are effecting us personally so our art has naturally become more engaged. It’s not just politics, it’s all very personal, and if the artist has any clout or voice in the world it’s by telling their story from their perspective. I also think it makes for work that resonates more with the public because these things, especially the two you mentioned effect people across generations. We all have different ways of coping, but I feel that this makes for more powerful work.
How is your music related to your visual art? Are there concepts and elements that continuously seem to overlap?
At the moment my visuals act as a means to support my music as album art, tour posters, single art, and painting of these images, so they are inherently tied to it lately, but I have plans to give the visuals more legs to stand on and make them more independent of the music where the music and art are part of a greater sphere…so that’s tba. 🙂
Now that some time has passed, can you talk about your experience with Damian Taylor’s label Vibe Over Method so far?
It was great. Damian is awesome and supportive and really good at what he does. I’m really happy with how he mixed the music. It was also the first time for the both of us planning and executing an album campaign so it involved a lot of communication back and forth. I learned a lot from that experience if I ever wanted to self-release a record in the future.
Is there a reason you choose to self-produce and record your records?
I couldn’t imagine making my music any other way. It wouldn’t sound the same. It’s like painting or drawing or sculpting or collage…it’s composition! It’d be like commissioning another artist to make my art for me and it wouldn’t feel like my own that way.
You garnered some attention for your experience getting detained in the UK while on tour last year. Is there one take-away from that episode that you would tell other artists who are thinking of touring Europe?
You can tour Europe for up to 30 days without having to acquire a visa, but if you go to the UK you will need one to get in. You can acquire a visa by paying a fee per show and by doing other paper work. I would advise doing that because it should guarantee your entry. I went in with a permitted paid entertainment visa that didn’t involve paying a fee or doing any paperwork. It was a bit more risky in that sense, and I wouldn’t advise it.
With the world that surrounds us looking pretty grim these days, do you have any optimistic or hopeful perspectives before we go?
I’m trying to feel hopeful on a daily basis, every day is different, so is everyone’s ways of coping. I think keeping the people you love close, supporting them and the people you admire is a place to start. I saw Meredith Monk receive an honorary doctorate at Concordia a few days ago. She said something to the effect of there being so much hate in the world and it being harder to spread love and much easier to hate. This has to be true otherwise we’d see more love out there. So maybe we should work harder to be more compassionate for things we don’t understand.
3 days, 13 venues, and 4147 pictures later, MEGAPHONO 2017 is done for another year. I was honoured to be a part of such an event and help capture moments throughout. The festival brings together individuals from all areas of the industry to appreciate the time and work that goes in to creating their art. I could talk for days about the performances and people I had the chance to experience, but I would much rather let the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!
Crosss, Petra Glynt, Michael Rault and Kings Quest closed out MEGAPHONO‘s final show Thursday night at the Dominion Tavern in the Byward Market.
Kings Quest playing at the Dominion Tavern during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
The night began with an Ottawa band whose name lends itself so very well to a video game, Kings Quest. The wonders of Kings Quest lie within their very diverse vocal contributions. The band’s primary vocalists are two females, but there are also two other male members who contribute vocals, all of them are so different from one another but they work in such harmony. They mostly played songs off their latest release Fox Island, including the ultra catchy and excellent “Alana.”
Michael Rault playing at the Dominion Tavern during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Kings Quests name is medieval but it was Michael Rault that took us back in time. The Toronto-based singer, guitarist and songwriter was quite the flashback. The best way I can describe it would be the sound of people jamming to 70s and 80s rock and blues with a hint of psych coming out of a neighbour’s garage, and you just need to go visit. The songs that had me hooked right away was “Too Bad So Sad” and “Nothing Means Nothing.” Then there was the super fun “I Wanna Love You,” which reminded me of The Beatles’ cute love songs with some really sweet “oooohhhs.”
Petra Glynt playing at the Dominion Tavern during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was the show stealing Petra Glynt. She was a super energetic solo performer playing smashing drums with experimental and atmospheric sounds layered with looping vocals. She made amazing use of all pedals, knobs, drum machine and the floor tom at her disposal. Petra Glynt is a solo project out of Toronto of artist Alexandra Mackenzie and it blew me away, and I was clearly not alone by the complete silence and focus of the crowd at the Dominion. A song that truly stood out was the tribal influenced “OF THIS LAND.” It was a mesmerizing experience and one of the highlights of a festival that saw many really impressive performances.
Crosss playing at the Dominion Tavern during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Having the responsibility and honour of closing out MEGAPHONO was Crosss. This very heavy doom rock trio, often described as futuristic grunge, brought that rock sound the Dom is much more used to. The Montreal-based trio is led by multi-instrumentalist, and only remaining original member, Andrew March. March was playing his guitar upside down, the low E string was at bottom instead of at the top, something you certainly don’t see very often. Often overlooked are drummers but the drummer makes Crosss. He is so solid and driving, dictating the flow of the impressive wall of sound created by a three-piece. It’s a good thing the festival ended, as my neck needed some time to recover.
There is something a little unreal about Rocky Lalune, perhaps even ghostly. Where else could her best Debaser shows take place if not Mugshots? The ol’ jail hostel. Remember when you just used to say you were going to jail? If you’ve ever been to one of these shows, you would have likely seen a quiet young lady casting simple, yet mind-bending projections from an old-school projector your Grade 5 math teach used. Yup, that’s her.
We at Ottawa Showbox had the pleasure of working with Rachel Weldon on a few occasions. In the last few month we co-presented shows with Debaser for bands like Freelove Fenner, Gay, Street Meat, I Smell Blood, and Nemesisters. When we found out that she had made the decision to move to Montréal for school, it occurred to us that we had only just begun to get a sense of what Rachel is all about.
From our point of view, the world needs more Rocky Lalune’s. Her obsession with music, passion for the scene, and love for Ottawa are all qualities that she oozes. She’s the kind of person who makes sure touring bands get paid, and that all bands get their fair share. Artists want to work with her, not just because she has a radio show or because she’s a solid promoter. They work with her because she’s uncompromisingly genuine and in it for them. In an industry wrought with middlemen and money-grabbers, it’s refreshing to know someone on the ground level that supports sui generis artists so vigilantly.
Every Tuesday on CKCU, a show named Debaser neither degraded nor blemished the weird scene. It did the opposite: it directed our attentions, enhanced our playlists, and hinted at what was to come. Where was the nearest tear in the fabric, the entrance to the underground? How far were you willing to go past the fringe to see what there was to see? The guests on her show were often awkward, sometimes immature, always odd, and all of them makers of the highest order. Who cares that they weren’t scholars or artists-in-residence — they were all creators and each one was undeniably human. Rocky’s interviews were never degenerate, did not promote debasement of any kind, except perhaps that one time when some friends called her from a road trip…
The posters! Check ’em out below. Some stunning, some colourful, all beautifully put together.
Rachel is also one of Weird Canada‘s “wyrdians” – she’s is involved with artist relations at Wyrd Distro. Here are the values to which wyrdians ascribe:
This is the basis of everything Debaser.
So Rachel, this one’s for you. Thank you for being a leader in Ottawa’s cultural evolution and renaissance, and for being a conduit for artists from other cities to connect to Ottawa’s underground scene. You’ve made your mark here, and for that our city is indebted. We at Showbox try to speak for the 613 when we say best of luck in all your endeavours and if you decide to come back, we’ll be here with open arms!