It’s been a little over a year since Toronto’s Weaves released their debut LP on Buzz Records, rapidly becoming a household name in the Canadian independent music landscape. They have been quick to garner international praise for their brand of unconventional guitar pop with not-so-subtle hints of improvisation. The self-titled effort was largely, considered a great success by music publications far and wide. Their album also scored them a short list nomination for the Polaris Music Prize this year, which they performed at a few weeks back after a year of relentless touring. Let’s just say that this is one band you can’t miss seeing live.
Weaves isn’t kicking back just yet. They have just released their second LP called Wide Open, and are out to prove that there is no obstacle too big for them to scale. Their answer to the challenge of following up a hugely successful debut is to keep creating, and continue to push boundaries wherever possible.Wide Open bounces from calm to chaotic, and pulls listeners in every direction. Early listens from publications like Stereogum indicate that Wide Open will surpass expectations, and even critically out-do their debut. I chatted with founding member of Weaves, Morgan Waters, about their success, their approach to following up their first album, and new steps they’ve taken as a band.
Weaves seems to tread a line between people’s comfort zones. Is keeping listeners on their toes something that comes naturally to the band?
I think with any art you don’t want to be boring. And with us it’s always a mix, we don’t really plan anything out. It’s about showing all the influences crashing up against each other. We want to surprise the listeners, and surprise ourselves. The mix of the artistic and the pop gets thrown into the blender where there’s no genres or anything like that. It’s all fodder for something new.
In what ways did the road and your experiences after the debut release influence songwriting on the new LP Wide Open?
Jasmyn starts everything and it all seems to come from her initial spark. She doesn’t really write anything down, she kind of ruminates about things for a while without telling any of us. It seems to come out of her when she goes to the rehearsal space by herself, recording, looping, figuring things out, and from there it all comes out pretty fast. When she’s in that mode, it’s a quick and fertile ‘brain’ thing going on with her. Then we hear the demos she comes up with and we work on it from there, but within 20 minutes of writing a song the lyrics are all usually there and never change.
You and Jasmyn have an obvious chemistry together in the band. In what ways do you compliment each other as artists?
I think Jasmyn is more impulsive and emotional, and I’m more of an editor. I help present her initial ideas in a way that elevates them. That mix of impulsiveness and my revising or editorial skills kind of complete each other. She loses interest quickly and I never stop obsessing, so we temper each other in that way.
A lot of the time I’m sort of translating her ideas, where I’ll sit there and say what I think will work for whichever project we’re focusing on. I’m very happy to work that way and cycling through the ideas, I have an endless amount of patience. I’ll work hard to try to find the “thing” that clicks for both of us.
Many of us were really excited to see that a collaboration with Tanya Tagaq was included on Wide Open, and the Polaris gala performance of Scream was incredible. How did the partnership come to fruition?
We met Tanya at Iceland Airwaves, on the airplane ride over there. Spencer and Zack kind of knew a few of her band members, and we sort of hit it off the whole weekend. We went to her show, and ever since then we always sort of thought that it would be really great to work with her on something since she takes a very improvisational approach to her music as well, which we’re into. It’s all about capturing a moment, and “Scream” seemed like the perfect song to collaborate with her on.
There is a distinct visual element to Weaves, in things like music videos and album art. What role does visual art and aesthetic play for the band?
It’s a major consideration, but it’s also something that just happens. Similar to our music, we like to leave our videos kind of open so that we can improvise on the day-of. On “Scream” we had a white room studio and a good DP (Director of Photography), so Jasmyn and Tanya were able to move around the space freely. It’s personal expression first, and then concept or theoretical parts are secondary. It’s really about freedom of expression, and that factors into our videos. We shoot stuff and see what happens.
Weaves was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize this past year, and there were a lot of incredible artists in the running. What do you think Lido Pimienta’s recent win means for Canadian music?
The best part was that we were given the opportunity to perform live, since playing on stage is where I think we can really stand out. So performing on stage with people like Feist and Lido was a way for us to really show what we’re all about. To us, that was much more important that any sort of competition or win in our books. The concept of “winning” in art is weird. So just the fact that we got to play, and play a new song “Scream” with Tanya was the biggest part for us, really exciting.
I think with Lido’s win, I don’t know if it shows what direction Canadian music is going… I’m not really sure how the voting works and all that. It’s so great that a DIY artist like her can win something like that, and I think that will become the norm as labels keep shutting down and people keep doing things themselves. There are no major label budgets and funding isn’t always there, so artists need to be able to do it themselves. Lido winning shows that you don’t need all that other crap, it’s about the music. It’s about what you have to say. You don’t really need teams if you have the work ethic.
With autumn just around the corner, we wait patiently for the air to cool and the leaves to turn and fall. As bummed as you might be to see summer drift away once again, we have some good news for you. We’re giving away a pair of open day passes (which can be used on any one day) to CityFolk happening September 15–18.
This year’s edition of CityFolk features acts such as James Bay, Dropkick Murpheys, Skinny Lister,Joey Bada$$, Dan Mangan, Basia Bulat, Vance Joy, Sonreal, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, and many more. Why not take a stab at getting some free passes?
How to Enter
Entering the contest is simple. Answer this question:
Q: Which Canadian act at this year’s CityFolk is nominated for the short list of the Polaris Music Prize?
Pick your answer from the dropdown menu below and click “submit.” A winner will be chosen at noon on Tuesday, September 13 and contacted via email. Good luck!
It’s not every day you get to see two of Canada’s most exciting bands hit one of the best performing arts stages in the country. The National Arts Centre has ramped up their programming heading into their 2015/16 season, the fifth anniversary of the Canadian music series. NAC Presents has done a spectacular job at celebrating musical and artistic diversity in our country, giving both emerging and established artists a chance to showcase their talents on the national stage.
It was a packed house at the NAC’s beautiful Southam Hall, and the excitement could be felt amongst concert-goers for the much-anticipated return of Yukon Blonde and Hey Rosetta! to the capital. Yukon Blonde was the first band to hit the stage, and right away it was obvious that the band was blown away by their reception in Ottawa. Smiles abound, the music started and the night got under way.
Yukon Blonde performed an assortment of new and old throughout their set. Early on they played “Wind Blows” from their 2010 breakthrough album which many of us fell in love with. In this song in particular, as with many others, the harmonies were perfectly executed and just further reinforced how good this band really is.
“Ottawa is one of our favourite places in the world to play,” said lead vocalist and guitarist Jeff Innes between songs. “You guys are always so good to us, and I know not all bands say that about this city, but we feel very welcome here. I know the guys in Hey Rosetta! feel the same way.”
Yukon Blonde playing at the NAC (Photo by Alexandra Campeau/NAC)
Yukon Blonde’s music is typically upbeat, fun and danceable – particularly on their new record On Blonde. However, a really special part of their set was when they played the touching new song “Hannah.” The song was written about Canadian songwriter Hannah Georgas, which Innes spoke about earlier this year:
Right around the time that my girlfriend and I had broken up and my step dad was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, I found myself housemates with one of my friends, Hannah Georgas. She guided me through one of the most difficult times in my life and as a result, she became one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
The set continued with great songs such as “Radio”, “Make You Mine”, and “I Wanna Be Your Man” with the crowd really getting into it and even getting up out of their seats to move their bodies The guitar tones were right on and the sound at the NAC was a music lover’s dream. The sound quality in the room allowed us to really hear all the intricate details of their music, which can often be lost when playing smaller venues or festivals.
Yukon Blonde ended their set with a bang, playing the leading single off On Blonde, “Saturday Night”, as well as the incredibly catchy “Stairway” off of 2012’s Tiger Talk. With the band having so much fun and the crowd really getting involved with clapping and singing, the tone was set for Hey Rosetta! to take their turn.
Polaris Prize celebrates their 10-year anniversary (Photo: Matias Munoz/Ottawa Showbox)
During the intermission, many people left their seats at Southam Hall to stretch their legs and hang out in the lobby. On display was an entire collection of beautifully designed posters for Polaris Prize shortlist nominees and prize winners dating back to its inception in 2006. The exhibition is in celebration of the Polaris Prize 10-year anniversary in 2016, and you can’t help but stand and stare at all the details in the designs. Best of all, the exhibition is free so if you’re passing by, be sure to check it out before it is finish on November 29.
As Hey Rosetta! hit the stage, the lighting came on and dazzled us all. The foil backdrop also enhanced the lighting effects as it offered distorted reflections. The atmosphere couldn’t be better, and there was an air of excitement and good vibes in the room.
They opened with “Promise” off their 2014 record Second Sight. I had been meaning to give Second Sight a good listen before the show, since I hadn’t heard the band’s new material yet. Instead, I decided to maintain an element of surprise and hear most songs for the first time live. I wasn’t disappointed. Almost every song off the new record translated nicely live, and I really felt as if they were a natural progression from older material.
The band maintained a constant push/pull of energy, keeping the crowd attentive yet engaged and moving. Songs like “Gold Teeth” would fill each corner of Southam Hall with a vibrant energy, while others like “What Arrows” would take it away and take a quiet hold of us all. This dynamic worked well, although so many people kept standing up and sitting down which got somewhat distracting at times.
Hey Rosetta! at the NAC (Photo: Matias Munoz/Ottawa Showbox)
A highlight of the set for me was their performance of “Alcatraz.” This song is the embodiment of the push/pull dynamic I have been referring to, and one can’t help but feel torn by emotions when listening. The hall’s incredible acoustics, along with the lighting, resonated with all of us and created a haunting and unforgettable mood through this song, as well as a few others.
Other highlights included their performance of “Harriet,” which included stunning cello work, and “Red Heart”, which is a Hey Rosetta! classic and a song that one can’t help but associate with great Canadian indie music in general. The crowd certainly did their part by belting this one out loud until the very end.
Their set ended with a powerful encore including their political anthem “Land You Love” which Yukon Blonde came on stage and sang with them (all clearly in good spirits still, given the election results). No Hey Rosetta! set would be complete without the crowd going crazy over their 2011 hit “Welcome,” and concert-goers obliged whole-heartedly. Their rendition of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” is one to remember, and by this point, I could hardly believe how strong lead singer Tim Baker’s vocals were. After nearly a decade of making music, I think this band knows how to do it right.
Although the night was ephemeral, the memories will remain with us. Great bands, a wonderful venue, incredible sound, and a vivacious crowd – what more can you ask for? Without a doubt, this show was one of the best of the year in Ottawa.
Shad, dope rapper & new host of CBC Radio 1’s q, is performing with Zoo Legacy, Story Tellers & Jesse Dangerously on May 2 at the Bronson Centre as part of Ontario Scene. Two (2, 두, II) tickets are up for grabs by entering Ottawa Showbox’s contest!
Shad’s 2013 album Flying Colours is not his latest, he released a collaborative EP with DJ T.Lo last December and two cryptic tracks known as “The Legend of Cy Borg Pts 1 & 2” as part of a Polaris Prize project released in September. The collab between the Polaris short-listed Shad & Holy Fuck known as Holy Shad are still keeping us in suspense about a limited 500 seven-inch run of the collusion. Hopefully we’ll find out more soon…
In the meantime, we are treated to daily exploration of culture as Shad takes on the host duties of q, all the while still creating and playing music. We’ll listen to Shad’s progressive, tongue-in-cheek, intelligent lyrics in person next Saturday and hope you can too. Shad cares about a lot of things, food, music & culture among them, but first and foremost it has to be language. Anyone who says otherwise might never have appreciated good hip hop in the first place, but we’re willing to let that slide.
Your education starts here.
How to Enter
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at us (@ottawashowbox) the name of Shad’s first album to be shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.
(Clue: he’s been shortlisted thrice. Not a clue. Just a tidbit.)