On a humid and muggy day like this one, arriving early to a show at Black Squirrel Books and Espresso Bar in the heart of Old Ottawa South was nothing short of a blessing to me. Two reassuring words: air conditioning.
The venue was filled with an overwhelming sense of warmth and togetherness—welcoming faces, friendly reunions and collective enthusiasm for the closely approaching show. Three terrific bands, all of them seemingly close friends of one another, about to rock the fuck out of this cozy cafe.
Nashville, Tennessee’s Sad Baxter blasted out their first number under the dim lighting of Edison bulbs. Nirvana was the first thought that popped into my head—the 90’s grunge influence was clear as day. Their light-hearted banter contrasted with the gritty and sludgy tone of their music. The guitar was distorted and heavy, the bass controlling, and the drums (played by Alex Mojaverian) calculated and simultaneously chaotic. Deezy Violet’s vocals meshed with the instrumentals, her voice raspy and filled with longing and understanding. Her goosebump-inducing growls through “Sick-Outt” carried so much sincerity, and during “Baby” were supported by harmonizing from the bassist. Sad Baxter kicked off the show strong and confident, and were a good start to a night of great music and genial people.
It was hard for me to not smile like an complete and utter idiot when Montreal’s BBQT got onto the floor for their set. The power pop posse, ecstatic to be playing back in Ottawa since performing at Ottawa Explosion Weekend (R.I.P.) back in June, also came on with smiles on their faces. BBQT’s charismatic personality seems to possess the power to lift your mood no matter what and make any group of people feel like a family.
The band started off with “PEPSI”, a short n’ sweet upbeat song like many of their tracks. The sound from bassist Mikey Melikey was a thunderous quake that acted as a foundation for the fun, tweety instrumentals accompanying it. It blanketed the strong, catchy melodies and riffs. The sweet twangy-ness and slightly distorted guitar surfed around the bass, baiting it back and forth and up and down.
Bopping to the beat and sporting a string of fairy lights around her guitar was Amery Sandford, who absolutely killed the solos habitually played by guitarist Jack Bielli. Sandford giggled off the occasional slip-ups (which somehow added to their style) and jammed on. Solos mimicked her honest and carefree vocals, which she performed with the occasional wink to friends and family in the audience. Allison Graves passionately drummed a delicate surf beat as the whole venue belted out the lyrics to “HIGH WASTED”. Fun and punky and almost “post-ironic”, BBQT’s vibe made me forget just how damn quickly summer was coming to an end.
Last but undisputedly not least was Lonely Parade, who tonight celebrated the release of their newest LP “The Pits” with Buzz Records. Also based in Montreal, Quebec, Lonely Parade is a post-punk trio composed of long-time friends Augusta Veno, Charlotte Dempsey and Anwyn Climenhage. Going into this set, I wasn’t sure what to expect. To say the least, I was blown away. Their sound was weighty and almost unsettling, but in the best way imaginable. Droning, layered vocals gave me hints of That Dog—though tame, one could catch undertones of angst, determination and yearning. They begged to not be underestimated. Lyrics touched on the struggles and thrills of everyday life, and invoked a strange feeling of nostalgia.
Occasionally we’d get a fun sort of prologue to a song, a story or experience that inspired the music. For example, “I’m So Tired” was introduced with an anecdote about falling asleep in the car. You could envision yourself there: the stern and fluid bass steering you down a dark road, the guitar intertwining itself with it, often drifting away but always in sight. The guitar riffs kept you on edge, abruptly turning corners but always ending up back where they started. Moods would change as well as tone.
They’d go from a sort of calculated math rock to utter noise and spacey hysteria resonating Pavement instrumentals. It was fucking hypnotic. The drums kept everything moving. They were crisp and frigid and intimidating, sending shocks of icy blue through your veins. The temper the band created was so intriguing that the crowd refused to let go of it. After some eager persuasion to perform an encore, Lonely Parade closed effectively with “Grilled Cheese”, and it was time to return to the oh-so-fun humidity of the outdoors.
A truly stellar night it was. I urge you to catch at least one of these bands live when they return to Ottawa. Each band, though showcasing different styles, tied together seamlessly and turned the night into a fluent story. Each band was a new chapter and resonated a different mood, but all with the same underlying likeness. An experience like this is totally worth subjecting yourself to the ringing in your ears you’ll hear the next morning. No doubt.
Copenhagen’s Iceage brought their post-punk styling to town for an awesome show at the 27 Club in Ottawa, Ontario. They were supported by opening act Mary Lattimore, a harpist from Los Angeles. A little odd as a pairing, but we love to see promoters taking chances and matching artists that don’t fit in the same “box.”
Hull post-punk group Scattered Clouds recently released an incredibly well animated and intense video for their new single “Justice.”
The song is powerful and dark which makes sense given that it is inspired by the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of Ottawa Police. The band describes it as “a minimalist yet violent interpretation of the abuse of power and unlawful vigilantism rampant in the police force.” The band’s lo-fi sound, haunting lyrics and driving drums really complement each other and allows the emotion and rage to boil to the top.
The video has some very impressive animation work layered over some old nondescript black and white video footage. The intensity, anger and violence builds throughout the video, culminating with what appears like blood splatter pulsing on the screen to the beat of the drums. I was especially moved by the powerful imagery of the blows to the head under the watchful eye of the law during the chorus where “justice” is repeated several times.
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.
House of TARG hosted a killer mid-week show on Wednesday night, and our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to catch some great shots. Denmark’s renowned post-punk band The Foreign Resort headlined the evening, invigourating the crowd with dense basslines and intricate and reverb-laden guitar work. They were supported by locals Deathsticks andCoastal Pigs, which rounded out the show nicely. Check out the gallery below!
When Montreal’s HOAN formed in 2015, there was an intention to deviate from the path of jangle-pop and explore new horizons. Cutting their teeth in the DIY scene, HOAN’s music is simultaneously pensive and audacious. Their new EP, Modern Phase, is a 7-track effort that fuses dark and reverb-laden instrumental layers in a post-punk foundation. Alex Nicol’s vocals and lyricism whisp us away, but we’re constantly grounded again by noir moments of frenetic energy. Three of HOAN’s members were in the now-defunct band Kurvi Tasch, and have taken this window of opportunity to write music outside of a box and experiment with electronic elements, as well as explore more issues in the social and political realms in their lyrics.
I spoke with singer/guitarist Alex Nichol as HOAN get set for their show at Bar Robo on Thursday, August 31, with Organ Eyes. Be sure to catch them live, they’ll be playing most of the tracks on Modern Phase live. Doors are at 8 pm, and tickets are $10 at the door.
Interview with HOAN
Some Ottawa folks might remember Kurvi Tasch, a group that contained most of HOAN’s members. Has the change in name signified a larger shift for the band’s approach to music?
Kurvi Tasch was a guitar-based band with a pretty limited sonic palette. We made a bunch of releases under the name and felt like we wanted something new. Alex traveled to India with his computer and began making electronic music. This kind of propelled the idea for HOAN, and it became clear that the music we wanted to make did not make sense under the Kurvi Tasch name. ‘Modern Phase’ was recorded in this transitional period. The next release will have more synths, programmed drums, and so on, as we continue to expand our approach to music.
Modern Phase is not only sonically intriguing, but it also touches on many themes and ideas that we deal with as individuals and a society as a whole. Can you expand on some of these ideas, and what caused you to go that direction?
Yea, sure. The first theme that strikes through is the notion of technological advancement at all costs, without the ability to manage or deal with the impact it has. ‘Technocracts’ is the best example of this. I feel like it’s rampant all over the world since industrialization in the West, and will have similar impacts in places that have yet to fully industrialize. Take fracking, for example. You would think that people realized in the beginning that it is harmful on the environment. But the science was there to extract the oil, and there was such a demand for it, that alternative approaches to fueling cars never really had a chance. I feel there is a lot being ignored in discussions around innovation, namely how to sustain communities, give proper job training, the white-washing cultural impact it can have, and so much more. The title, ‘Modern Phase,’ is kind of poking fun at the idea of a “Modern era” in the hopes that people look at the human and environmental costs a bit more closely.
Is there an artist that you’re listening to – either locally or not – that you think people should hear?
Lido Pimienta is great. So is Perfume Genius. Locally there is tonnes of great stuff: Un Blonde, Maggy France, Loon, Blue Odoeur, ANEMONE, Slight, Blanka, the list goes on.
What was the most exciting part about making Modern Phase? Did you try new things? Mess around with new instruments at all?
The best part was trying out a whole bunch of keyboards we never knew existed. A lot of them made it on the record!
Ottawa has a small, yet strong DIY scene, and that ethic translates into a lot of pretty cool music here. Can you talk a bit about the Montreal scene? What are some of the challenges the scene there is facing these days?
Gentrification is gonna hit pretty soon, as the area around Parc and Beaubien is bracing for a new University of Montreal campus next door. There will be a few new spots opening up in Park-Ex and over on St-Hubert, but for the time being it’s pretty solid with the Plante, Drones, Poisson Noir, the Bog, and a couple others.
You’ve played a lot of dates in the US over the last several months. What is the atmosphere like down there? Was general social discontent pervasive in music clubs? Or was it business as usual?
We had some apologetic Americans in NYC in March, and in general a lot of discussion about the socio-political climate at the moment, that’s for sure. A lot of musicians are quite engaged in fighting the good fight – like our friend Richie in Hamtramck who runs a record store on a shoe-string budget in an area that is gentrifying fast. I think the Trump presidency will bring more people into the political process, which is actually a good thing. I look forward to seeing where people are at when we head out for 10 shows at the end of September.
Ottawa power-pop duo No Fuss have released their first full album, titled LP1. This is the band’s second release – last January they put out a three-song EP appropriately named EP1. I think I’ve spotted a trend here…
LP1 is a 9-track rocker of an album with only one song clocking in over 3 minutes. The album kicks off with an infectious and sing-a-long worthy tunes called “Up To You,” which would certainly call for you and your friends to rush to the front of the stage and yell “leave it up to!” right back at them.
Chris Cook takes care of the strumming and most of the singing, while Mark takes care of the drumming and backup vocals. Chris is the lead vocals on the majority of songs, and fans of FINDERSKEEPERS and The Sir John A. MacDonalds will recognize his unique voice and style. Mark’s vocals provide an excellent balance, and compliments Chris’ well. They do, however, feature more prominently on a few songs, such as “Rat Breath.”
My favourite song on the album is the seventh song titled “Old Truths,” which I fell in love with last summer when I saw them perform it live. It really jumps out at you off the album thanks to Mark’s rolling drums setting the stage for Chris’ opening line “We’ve both got symbols of things we lost / I’ve got my pictures and you’ve got your bloody cross / But we disagree of what’s deep inside / You think it’s spirit and I think it’s empty pride.” The song really paints a great picture of the importance of perspective when thinking of religion and how people talk about it and justify their acts with it.
Have about 35 minutes to kill? Listen to No Fuss’ debut album below and go see them play live tonight as they open for Screaming Females at House of Targ – show info here.
JUNOfest kicked off Thursday with a few shows around town, and I decided to make my way to Zaphod’s to check out Operators along with supporting acts Charly Bliss and Potential Red.
Juno fever was in the air, and you could feel the excitement building in the city. The first act to hit the stage was a newer post-punk group in Ottawa called Potential Red. I’d heard about these guys through the grapevine but hadn’t seen them before, and they impressed everyone in attendance with a strong set. There aren’t a lot of Ottawa groups writing songs in the footsteps of late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s post-punk and new wave bands, and these guys do it right.
Right away Potential Red captured the audience’s attention and held on tight as they blasted out heavy bass-driven grooves layered with reverb-laden guitars and flutters of synth throughout their songs. Dare I say that lead singer David Sklubal’s moves on stage were reminiscent of Ian Curtis’, frantically exuding his energy into the crowd and getting the front riled up. I heard some of A Place to Bury Strangers in some of their songs, which I certainly connected with. Sklubal nearly broke the neck of his guitar as he jumped around on stage, just before launching himself into the crowd with reckless abandon. This is definitely a local band to keep an eye on, their live performance is not to be missed.
Next up was Brooklyn, NY grunge-pop band Charly Bliss. The four-piece churned out the kind of power-pop that we all know and love, channeling a sound that many of grew up with in the 90’s. Front-woman Eva Hendricks stole the show with her stage antics, having fun with the set and luring the crowd in with her energy. In all honesty, this is the kind of band I’m skeptical of going in. Having not heard their music before, I felt like they might toy with my emotions and try to pull some nostalgic strings without executing it properly. This happens sometimes. I was admittedly looking for something not to like about Charly Bliss, but one can’t help but fall in love with those catchy hooks, overzealous performance style, and honest songwriting delivered with a bow on top into our eardrums.
The band’s stage chemistry was obvious, and it wasn’t difficult to tell how close they are. They have opened for Veruca Salt, Sleater-Kinney, Tokyo Police Club, PUP, and are currently touring with Operators. Needless to say, catch Charly Bliss at small venues while you can because I have a feeling they’ll be playing bigger clubs any day now.
The headlining act Operators hit the stage as the crowd packed in tight. I would be remiss to leave out that I am a huge fan of Dan Boeckner – he has the Midas touch and all of his projects rule. I’m one of those old Wolf Parade fans that fell in love with Handsome Furs, and then Divine Fits, and then Operators. I’m sure there are a few curmudgeony Wolf Parade die-hards that don’t like the direction he’s gone in, but I for one am excited to see him playing with new toys and collaborating with great musicians such as Devojka and Sam Brown. I had the chance to chat with Boeckner last year, an interesting piece which you can read here.
Analogue synths abound, Operators’ modern take on post-punk has really taken shape over the last few years. This was the best set I have seen them play yet, and the road has surely tightened up their live performance. Boeckner’s comfort in this role is evident, and the smile on his face suggests that he’s loving every second of it. The songs off of Operators’ debut LP Blue Wave translate extremely well live – it’s part 80’s new wave, part dream pop, part dark post-punk – but whatever you call it, it works.
A couple highlights of the set were their performances of “Cold Light” and “True,” each of which electrified the room and got the crowd into a frenzy. Some of their songs had the audience a little unsure of themselves with respect to their dance moves, but the bodies kept flailing nonetheless. Sam Brown’s dialed-in drum beats were mesmerizing – even I got lost in his incessant, fixated rhythms. Devojka’s electronic wizardry provided the high-voltage energy of the set, complimenting both Boeckner and Brown perfectly.
My favourite part of the night was when Operators were cheered back onto the stage for an encore, during which they played a Handsome Furs track “Damage” from 2011’s Polaris-nominated Sound Kapital. I left with a smile, as night one of JUNOfest set a pretty damn good tone for the rest of the festival.
Ottawa’s droney post-punk outfit Expanda Fuzz has released a new video for their single “Sonic Halo.” The track appears on bandcamp along with a cover of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September” in the wake of founding member Maurice White’s death last year.
The track is a minimalist psychedelic trip, with rolling percussion, a fuzzy lead guitar part, and mesmerizing vocals by Niki. The video’s aesthetic is dark and ominous, taking place in a remote field at dusk and featuring characters with strange masks and costumes. The video is not as dark and creepy as their video for “Flavour: Zombie” released last year, and it also contains beautiful colours of the sunset. However, the smoke-breathing Grim Reaper-type character also leaves the viewer with chills down the spine, and it’s not the kind of figure you’d want to run into on a dark, empty farm.
Although the song is just over two minutes long, it’s great to see a video being made that perfectly suits the sound of Expanda Fuzz. This song could have easily been incorporated into season one of True Detective, or even Apocalypse Now. The video accurately reflects that kind of imaginary trip into the darkness.
Expanda Fuzz is playing JUNOfest March 31st with Dilly Dally, No Fuss, and The Dirty Nil at House of TARG. Ticket and wristband information can be found here.
This past Wednesday, Detroit post-punkers Protomartyr visited Babylon, along with Hull’s Scattered Clouds and Ottawa’s own Baberaham Lincoln. I was really excited to finally see the headliners since 2014’s Under Color of Official Right, which was chalk full of catchy-but-thoughtful songs that really centred on front man Joe Casey’s compelling vocals.
Unfortunately, I only managed to arrive at the venue just as Scattered Clouds was finishing their set and Protomartyr began to set up. A modest crowd was already lingering around, having braved the drizzle and humpday blues to come out for the evening.
I was immediately intrigued by a suited gentleman wearing a baseball cap who hanging around by the stage and didn’t seem tot match the vibe of the room. As the band came out onto the stage he assume his position by the microphone as I quickly realized that the man dressed like a car-salesman was actually Joe Casey (the Detroit ball cap should have been a dead give away).With little banter the band got right into their set with as more people started to show up.
The wholesome thirteen-song set feature some of their most popular tracks from their two most recent records, the aforementioned Under Color of Official Right and mostly from last year’s more polished The Agent Intellect, with a few new tracks peppered in. Every song was delivered with nihilistic exuberance as the suited frontman passionately belted out the lyrics to Protomartyr’s noisy anthems with a beer in hand and free styled lyrics like “Don’t fall in love with your own asshole” on their rendition of “Maidenhead.” All of Casey’s stage presence was derived from his lyrical delivery by bellowing or almost talking through the words as he stood relatively still on stage.
Despite the relatively low turn out (which was substantial given the circumstances), the rest of the band seemed to be really enjoying themselves as they play through some of their songs with breakneck speed that threatened to tear them apart. Many songs from their last album, including “Why Does it Shake?”, “I Forgive You”, and “Pontiac 87” were prominently featured as well, with the latter’s refrain of “There’s no use being sad about it/ What’s the point of crying about it” emphatically repeated accompanied by a frenetic instrumental crescendo.
The rest of the set played out in the same way, punctuated by energetic increases in speed volume and noise along with a halftime breakdown here and there. As a whole, the four piece was very compelling, using a pointed guitar licks and economical but effective drum grooves to accompany Casey’s weighty lyrics. As the band finished their set I felt the need to go revisit the lyrical content of these songs after seeing odd and engaging way that Casey delivered them – you can tell that there a bigger ideas and themes behind the sometimes simplistic lyrics.