Once in a while a concept album comes along that moves us, emanating stories and experiences that we can somehow connect with. In the case of Winnipeg’s Heavy Bell, Matt Peters (member of Royal Canoe) and Tom Keenan (actor and singer-songwriter) dig deep into the past with their audacious debut, By Grand Central Station.
Both Peters and Keenan bring different artistic perspectives to the table, having each composed music in the more traditional sense, but also for stage productions of A Winter’s Tale and Richard II. The avant-chamber-pop album contains songs that were inspired by Canadian writer and poet Elizabeth Smart’s 1945 novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a work that has been touted as “one of the half-dozen masterpieces of poetic prose in the world.” In doing so, the duo creates a bridge by which we can take a stroll back in time and experience the story told by Smart in a new way. By Grand Central Station is beautifully crafted, and its orchestral overtones flood the album. In some respects, Heavy Bell took a similar storytelling approach as Neutral Milk Hotel did on 1998’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea.
Smart’s novel is considered to be a pseudo-fictional autobiography in which she recounts her turbulent love affair with writer George Barker. In their music, Peters and Keenan draw from the book’s highs and lows, the ecstasies and calamities associated with complicated love stories.
“The novel is a poem written in prose form,” Peters explains. “Rather than describing action, she describes her internal response to action; it is a journey through the emotional extremes of a love affair: anticipation, exhilaration, guilt, joy, jealousy, grief, pity, righteousness… But though she is tossed around on the sea of her emotions, her dazzling intellect remains intact: in fact she is constantly examining her emotions even as she experiences them.”
“She weighs her experience against the whole of poetic history: the book is full of reflections on the Bible, Shakespeare, Greek mythology, and more recent writers. It is a very rich read: every time I come back to it, each chapter strikes me in new ways,” said Peters.
“There is no specific structure to the songs, or the album for that matter. The passages that are included create an impressionistic composite that layers and weaves with the music, guiding the direction of By Grand Central Station as a whole. The emotion embedded in Smart’s story is what guided her book, and is the connective tissue that guides the direction of the album. In fact, Elizabeth Smart’s own voice appears in the songs “The Pain Was Unbearable” and “I Am Not The Ease,” which was retrieved from a 1982 archival recording from CBC’s Morningside,” added Peters.
“We are certainly not trying to summarize the plot, or adapt the novel to music,” Peters clarifies. “The album is a collection of responses to moments in the book. There are several themes that struck us and made it into the record. Fate is a big one: she is constantly aware that her deed is going to (and does) wreak havoc on herself and everyone around her, spilling “poisonous tides of blood,” but she is helpless to stop it.”
“It is greater than she, greater than pity, greater than remorse: her ultimate moral duty is to this Fact of love; ‘Jupiter has been with Leda… and now nothing can avert the Trojan Wars.’ This theme resounds through all the emotional extremes of the book and the album. Love is “claiming its birth at last” and changing her entire world forever.”
I often go into shows with little to no knowledge of the bands that are playing that night. However, upon hearing Deathsticks was playing Pressed, I knew that that was a show not to be missed. Although the show started a bit late, it didn’t have an effect on the length of each set.
Dark Plains, a local band, ripped through the murmurs of the crowd as they began their set. A steady and prominent bass line with a heavy tone dominated the room and the guitar creating dissonant riffs. One of the first things that caught my attention other than the obviously booming sound slicing through the silence was the ability the guitar had for carrying the songs while the drums rattled in your chest. It was almost as if one would take the song apart while the other put it back together and it created a unique dynamic that was easy to get wrapped up in.
Some songs would start out with a drum solo instead of with the bass, and it really set the tone and mood for the rest of the song. The atmosphere was dark but the energy was high in these moments. The uniqueness of the drums struck me, they were loud but in a few places they’d go off beat only to jump back on beat and flow and meld together with what the rest of the band played.
During the guitar solos, the bassline would be the backbone, seeming as if everything would wrap around it and this is a factor that didn’t allow the solo’s to punch you in the face with high intensity. It rather pulled people into it and allowed them to immerse themselves in the soundscape that they were presented with. Sometimes you’d hear notes that were off key but that just pulled you into the intricately orchestrated songs more because it made everything that came after sound that much better.
The vocals are almost a contrast to the music being played. They take a more mellow approach and create an overlay to the aggressive drumming, bass, and guitars; but when unified in harmonies they can pack a punch and emphasise themselves above all else. The combination of vocals mirroring the aggression in the written music got me to move my feet and nod along but it also seemed to get people to lurch their bodies in choppy, staggering, and abrupt motions.
WLMRTburst through with a fiery passion, the aggressive sound making itself present and known despite the songs being relatively short. I noticed people thrashing to it, throwing their bodies into those of others without a care and that goes to describe what the music itself is. It’s an overpowering bassline, reverberated guitar riffs, odd electronic sounds via soundboard, and the drumming that packs punches in quick succession.
Vocals cut right through the medley of sound and it’s something you try to decipher through the reverb – and maybe you manage to, or you don’t, but it’s enough to grasp your attention and drag you in by the collar of your shirt. Shrill when the songs progress and unfold but they’re no strangers to a more melodic approach. Delivered with a twitchy but fun-loving carefree attitude, the vocals really help loosen you up and get you into the weighted sound of the bass, the fuzz of the guitar, and the manic drumming.
WLMRT is a band that smashes everything together in ways that you wouldn’t imagine. It’s like that one weird combination of food that you never thought would work but does. I find that this is because there’s so much going on and because everyone seemingly marches to the beat of their own drum but that’s very far from the case. It’s something that’s so close to old school punk—pure distorted noise that throws you dead centre into the scene that they’re creating, and that’s something that keeps drawing me in.
Don’t even bother trying to deconstruct any Deathstickssong because it’s not something you’ll ever be able to do. The Ottawa band is confusing, aggressive, and beautiful, and brings genuine meaning to the name Deathsticks. By the end of the night, I’m sure only one pair of drumsticks didn’t end up broken in half.
The band sounds like a fully formed band, and I suppose they are, but if you’ve never heard or seen them, you’ll be shocked to know that they’re a duo. Every component of their music is well timed that it shocks the listener, you can’t try to listen to them, just listen, observe, and let yourself be swept away by the aggression and anger.
There’s not a single aspect that seems traditionally composed. Every musical “rule” has been rejected—from the very first song they played, where Matt rubbed the guitar strings with his hand, a technique that is seldom used to the very end of the set. Deathsticks strayed from any rules that would have been imposed and transformed intros into messy white noise.
The drumming is chaotic and the guitar steady but completely unstable. Laura knows exactly what to do and how to keep it in control, almost as if the instrument is just an extension of an arm or a leg. It seems to come as second nature and watching it is mesmerising. The consistent use of the ride and crash cymbals adds a contrast to the deep boom off the bass drum and the rattling of the snare.
Spoken words or off-beat screaming, the duo have seemingly mastered the music. The feedback, crashing drums, roaring power chords and screaming solos, all contributed to something that I had once stated would happen if they were to play in a dingy bar—that’s right, a mosh pit. Not only does the music grow wild but the crowd with it.
The set may leave you wondering “what the fuck was that?” the first time you hear them, but truly the only way to answer that question is with the simple words “controlled chaos”.
So maybe next time that you find yourself in a rut and itching to do something with your night, find a show any one of these bands are playing and let the music drown you. You won’t regret it for a second – not even when you wake up the next morning with your ears ringing just as much as the previous night.
Deathsticks and WLMRT have recently released a split LP with Nushu and Nightbummerz which you can listen to here. Check out the show photos below.
Galapagos play a style of gritty indie rock that evoke elements of 90s alternative, turn of the millennium emo and garage rock mixing vulnerable lyrics, jagged guitars and layered melodies.
Since the release of their debut EP Potential Space in June 2017, the band has finalized their lineup with the additions of Gerardo Mantecon (bass) and Jamie Orser (drums) joining up with founding members Matthew Wood and Adam Ferris, both on guitar. Orser brings technical training and a prog rock background to the band, while Mantecon has been very involved in heavy metal and punk for years. But the most important thing they brought is stability, as the band played their first show as this iteration in August 2017 and quickly got to writing new music and recording.
“It really allowed us to focus on the music including allowing Matthew to play with more textures and sounds with his guitar playing,” said Ferris about finalizing the lineup. “We also wanted to follow up the debut fairly quickly due to the fact it wasn’t a true reflection of where we are at presently as a full unit. We feel that each individual member really contributed to and influenced the sound of this new EP.”
The five-song EP shows a band that has grown and evolved in such a short time, both in members but also in song writing and prose. The songs mostly focus on the process of moving forward rather than looking back, though there are clearly sad moments and darkness on Even This Glow. “[The EP] touches on all aspects of healing including finding hope in a new light,” said Ferris.
While each song name is only one word—which I really like—they are far from simplistic and do truly convey pain and hope all at once through the honest and heartfelt lyrics, and the beautiful layering of sound achieved by the quartet. I was hooked from the very start as the guitar and Ferris’ voice seemingly dance hand in hand, strum in strum, in the lead track “Wall,” really unifying the music and the vocals.
The track that really stands out is “Jersey” with it’s catchy riffs and vocals that take me back to my yesteryears of classic pop-punk and emo breakup songs, except that as the track progresses it really shifts to a much more mature forward looking song. It also sounds like one of those songs that will be even better live, with people rushing the front to sing along beating their chests.
Fredericton, NB, may not be the biggest music hub in Canada, but it’s home to the noisy, mind-melting art rock group Motherhood. They’re gearing up for a string of fall shows, and the Ottawa date features a stacked lineup on November 8th at Pressed along with Winnipeg’s Tunic and locals Warp Lines (members of The Yips, Big Dick, Tropical Dripps, Million Dollar Marxists, Van Johnson).
While the distances between stops are long, Motherhood is no stranger to the road.
“The last 14 months have seen us across the country twice, and to Ontario and Quebec like 6 times (plus a heapload of NB shows),” explains multi-instrumentalist Penelope Stevens. “We recorded a full-length album, did a couple cool collaborations, and purchased a new tour vehicle. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited to take a couple months to relax (relax = finish our album, write a new album, and play locally…). We don’t like to risk touring in the winter months, but as soon as the snow melts we’ll be back at it.”
This is not Motherhood’s first time in Ottawa, as they’ve had the chance to play at Ottawa Explosion Weekend this past year and a handfull other venues in the past. They have warmed up to the city somewhat—minus a couple bumps along the way.
“Ottawa, interestingly enough, is the only city where we’ve ever had our van vandalized—twice actually!” Stevens admits. “But that hasn’t stopped us from really loving the Ottawa scene. One of our first shows was at Mugshots (RIP), and even though we didn’t really know anyone in town, a nice crew of people came out and supported us.”
“We’ve always found there to be a lot of sick bands to play with (Mushy Gushy, The Yips, Pippa, and more) and the venues are cool. House of Targ was always #1 on my bucket list of venues to play in Canada, and last year my dreams came true! It was as cool as I wanted it to be. The folks in Ottawa Explosion, Debaser, and booking Pressed are good folks, and we really admire the work people put into their scene. Ottawa seems a lot like Fredericton, close knit and supportive, and decidedly “other.”
2017 has shaped up to be a big year for Motherhood, with the band getting into festivals such as Sled Island, CMW, Ottawa Explosion, and Lawnya Vawnya. Even more, they’ve been exporting their irresistibly fuzzy, dissonant sound to small stages across the country. The band members are enjoying their road-heavy schedule.
“A lot of New Brunswickers move on to larger cities, so we get to catch up with some of our closest friends on the road. We bring gifts from folks at home and get to bring news about how everyone’s doing. We’re glorified carrier pigeons. Plus, we usually bring a road pal with us, and they keep things fresh. This time we have our bud Noah, who’s never been on tour before. His excitement will keep the posi vibes alive on the long drives!”
Their tracks “Guano” and “Yarn-Barred” were featured on the Greville Tapes Music Club, vol. 1, and their cover of Construction & Destruction’s song “The Oracle” appeared on volume 2 of the Pentagon Black compilation. With two LPs, an EP, and a split under their belts, Motherhood is on the verge of entering the studio once again to record another full-length for release in winter 2017-18.
“We write collaboratively in our studio, so the music comes from pretty much anywhere,” says Stevens. “Sometimes Brydon will bring in some lyrics or one of us will have a riff, but a lot of it is just hammered out through long jams, then we chop it up and forget 95% of it. The stuff that sticks is the stuff worth keeping. We’re composers, yes, but I think our talents actually lie in our editing. We don’t have any particular goals when writing, we just set a timeline—we’ll write for 3-6 months, then record when the time runs out. I guess it’s pretty weird, but it works for us!”
Be sure to catch Motherhood along with Winnipeg’s Tunic and Ottawa’s Warp Lines at Pressed on Wednesday, November 8th. $10 at the door, 8 pm. All ages, licensed 19+ show.
DOXX ripped the stage apart on Wednesday night at Pressed when they opened with “Human Waste CEO” and that set the tone perfectly for the rest of the night. Fast paced, loud, aggressive, and high energy the bass lines Jeff plays are enough to shake the floor. It’s quick, timed, and it dominates. It demands your attention and doesn’t let it go. No two baselines are remotely the same.
Britt’s guitar playing is distorted, messy, and angry much like Sofia’s screaming. It adds a depth and sometimes choppiness to the songs but in a way that doesn’t make a song seem cut off. It completes it instead.
The guitar combined with Kieran’s drumming is what gets the crowd head banging, and moshing to the music. The drums come out as hostile and dynamic with much use of the snare and there isn’t a song that doesn’t use the loud crashing of the cymbals. This creates a balance in each of the songs.
Sofia, lead singer of DOXX, in the zone at Pressed in Ottawa.
Sofia’s vocals are impressive not only because she screams the songs, but because they’re rough around the edges however still maintain a smooth finish to them. She puts all the emotions she can muster into the words and what comes out of her is an incredibly big sound despite her being “short and stompy”. The lyrics hint at socio-political views that tend to be skewed and then rage against them in fashion that isn’t all that contained. The bitterness and resentment is clear but it’s presented in a fun and enjoyable manner that gets everyone eager to hear the next masterpiece that’s to be belted out.
DOXX is a must see Ottawa band that’s sure to kick some energy into you and get you thrown into a pit of punks. They don’t fail to amaze and they certainly bring a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the shows they play. Ultimately, if you’re looking to enjoy some raw emotion, and a band that can pack a punch within their music, DOXX is the band you want.
John of Radiation Risks going full zombie or passing the mic to a fan to sing with him…you be the judge.
Radiation Risks knew how to play not only their instruments, but the crowd as well. They drew everyone in from the second they stepped on stage, and despite being more behind the scenes when off stage, they own a heavy stage presence. It’s hard not to pay attention to them. They tore open the crowd by getting right into their songs, no elaborate intros, nothing. Raw exuberance flowed through lead singer John and into the crowd. Every scream, every staggered movement fueled the crowd and got them more excited.
The guitar contrasted itself between heavy and light, high and low notes, solo work and chords and this was certainly a key aspect in putting the rhythm in people’s feet. It’s intricate but sometimes sloppy, melding with the deep warm thrum of the prominent baseline. There wasn’t a note that was missed which was incredibly impressive considering Nicky would constantly be moving and jumping around.
The baseline shakes you and you feel it in your heart. It jumps out of the music and stands out, begging to be noticed. There isn’t a single way you could miss the bass. It’s violent in a subtle way and it’s messy, blending in to the noise. The best way to describe it is pounding, and it rattles your heart right in your rib cage really making you feel what’s being played.
The drumming is rushed, slurred but clear. It makes perfect sense and of course there’s the thrashing sound of the cymbals, cool and cold. A variety of rudiments and beats play through one song interchangeably which adds a dimension that isn’t often found and better yet, it helps meld each song into the next. How that could possibly work is up to you to determine when you hear their sweet tunes.
Lead singer of Fried Egg delivering the goods at Pressed in Ottawa.
The last band to take the stage, with much spitting, was Fried Egg. Their sound is heavy and distorted all around and everything flows together to create a harsh edge to the sound produced. The vocals are choppy, fragmented and loud and they fall nothing but short of deep and raspy. The screaming is impressive and it tugs at my curiosity as to how the singer hasn’t torn up his vocal cords. Of course, this isn’t at all what I would have expected from a band called Fried Egg, but I guess everyone gets a surprise every now and then.
Irritated and cold power chords cut through the air and make their way to the ears of those listening. It’s enough to feel it in your feet and to get people trashing around, especially when in combination with the bass and drums. They’re in harmony with the fierce baseline but also tend to veer into their own world filled with pick scratches and wild effects that you’d only find at a show such as this one.
The bass picks up quickly and can only be described as progressive and fiery. It’s heard above everything when it’s being played and it creates a warmth within the song so that it can provide a counter to the cold that the guitar brings.
Setting the high energy and fast pace are the drums. With beats being played and quick and well plotted fills adding space and urgency to the music, the drumming couldn’t get better. The drummer goes hard and I’m surprised that the drumsticks hadn’t broken that night while he was playing. The drumming commands the beat that your body moves to, it’s the soul of the songs.
Whether you’re spectating from the sides or right dead in the middle, you’re going to get at least somewhat thrown into the mosh pit despite your best efforts to steer clear.
All the bands set the standards of punk gigs high and they certainly didn’t disappoint. They all radiated sheer talent that they’ve managed to contain and let out in a constructive and creative way that everybody can enjoy. They wooed the crowd and made every performance intimate and personal and they made a point to get a little too close for comfort. If ever you see the scribble of “Fried Egg”, “DOXX”, or “Radiation Risks” on a poster around town, or on a Facebook event, cancel all plans and make your way down. You’ll probably have a better time with them anyway.
Casual Hex presented a show at Pressed that brought forth good tunes and good times last week. With a line up like Steve’s Job, So Sensitive, Tough Age, and Jay Arner, there was always dancing, singing, some banter, and the very few strange mishaps here and there throughout the night.
Opening with a calmer vibe, but not closing off the same way, was Steve’s Job. Despite the few shows they’ve played, this one being Steve’s 4th job, they really harnessed an energy from what they’re doing and hold a very specific stage presence that’s hard to ignore. Subtle and loud, indie but with kick of a new flavour, the band makes the show fun and positive. Guitars light and airy with a good strong baseline and vocal harmonies that range from monotone to expressive. The band is a sight to see and one to listen to. Banter is always included!
Not only that but the band recently began using a chorus pedal and they have it down. It creates an emphasis on verses and lyrics, forming the effect of the band surrounding you completely. You get lost in the soundscape that these incredibly talented individuals create, and it draws you in differently every single time. They’re silly, fun, and they’re the perfect mix of something melancholy and their own upbeat summer sound. I’ve mentioned it before but if you’re going on a road trip, roll down your windows, turn up their tunes, and just listen to the music these people make. It swept the crowd away with its elegance, sweet talked it with its grace and air, and of course got them swaying to the sweet melodies produced. There is absolutely nothing this band can’t get the crowd to do. They’re loud, light, airy, and overall provide great tunes and sweet times for all friends and spectators alike.
The Pixies effect is used by many bands but keeps coming back as a unique and outstanding trait in music. So Sensitive captured this vibe, fusing indie and rock together in a progression of loud, to quiet, to louder. Despite it being their first show, the group is composed of former members of BB Cream and members of Deathsticks. The band brought an air confidence with them, mouthing words to their own songs when only one person would sing and they would dance around while performing. It is grit, but polished grit, and quite frankly the solos played over simple chord progressions seemed so much more complicated than they actually were. Bands that manage to turn simplicity into a beautiful and complex soundscape never fail to blow me away because they’re taking so little and creating so much.
So Sensitivehas a stage presence that seems to push others to let loose and get lost in all the intricate tonality of each and every composition the group has come up with. Each is unique but tied together in a similar sense, often with the shift in mood or pace. They have a solid sound with the power and volume that screams rock. Soft vocals add to that smooth sound that recalls The Pixies’s Kim Deal, and really set a mood for the show.
My best advice is that you look out for the next show they play and head on down to hear some very sweet and joyous tunes that will be sure to get you moving and smiling.
Tough Age, a Toronto based indie rock band, took the stage not too long after and from the very first note had the crowd hooked. The crowd moved in waves, pumped their fists in the air, danced, and sang along to this high energy band. The vocals were in no way clean or polished. That set the tone completely and added a sense of looseness and comfort to the atmosphere.
The bassline is quick and prominent, and the guitar follows up right behind, the two instruments creating harmonies that get you hooked and dancing. The raw passion that is used to play the bass and guitar are absolutely insane. Tough Age play with such fire that within the first few minutes of the set one of the strings of Jes’s guitar snapped and he ended up playing through a song with five strings.
The drums are quick and prominent. I didn’t see a moment where Jesse wasn’t smiling. Despite the rhythmic pattern being continuous through certain songs, it didn’t stop him from playing with his whole heart or from breaking a drumstick. There’s much use of the cymbals and this creates a new layer to the songs that wouldn’t normally be found. The fills are perfectly placed and there’s just enough to keep each song interesting but not overly complex. There’s depth and thought placed into it but it’s loud and proud.
Tough Age fall nothing short of a must-see band. If you haven’t seen them, you’ve probably heard of them… and if you haven’t even heard of them, well, now you have.
They’re a high energy band with lots of passion for what they do.
Jay Arner, a psychedelic new wave sounding band from Vancouver was the one to headlined the show. The harmonies the member created where smooth and layered with precision. Close to what the Arctic Monkeys have done and continue to do but with more of a Joy Division meets The Smiths vibe. They grab at your attention the moment they step on stage. From the instruments to the way they dress, there isn’t anything that doesn’t get you itching to hear their tunes.
The vocals are soft and beyond their generally flat sound, there’s an evident play of tones. Jay creates an almost soft spoken effect while singing and harmonizing with the rest of the band. This adds unspoken feeling and power to the songs despite keeping a mellow resonance.
Synths are used for effects that pull you in and make you feel like you’re floating through space, the drums keep you in the loop and provide you with a beat to move to. Fast, slow, with intricate fills or without, the drumming falls nothing short of fast paced and muddled together. This is done in such a way where it sounds clean despite the fact that the cymbals were being hit with a fair amount of power.
Spacey, lost, colourful—this is what the sound makes me think of. You’re floating in zero gravity, dancing as if nobody is watching, just completely in time and tune with the music. It takes you in and captures your attention because it’s not something that is often found in music in this day and age. The band kicks it old school in terms of sound and brings a nostalgia forward that you weren’t even aware of.
All the individuals are incredibly talented, and each band brings its own unique styling to the shows they play. It’s never a repetition of the same sounds or progressions and the banter is always different. It ranges from untraceable, unlikable websites to self-depreciating jokes and general thanks for supporting the bands. So make sure to get yourself down to Pressed for some wicked shows by some wicked cool and talented individuals.
Gladys Lazer is the solo project of Tel Aviv-born musician and drummer Gal Lazer, former drummer with NYC-based guitar virtuoso Yonatan Gat. His debut EP, (released in July on Boiled Records), distills a time when he had no home and traveled the world on music. Recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in the countryside of Southwest Georgia, the debut EP, Candy World/Bye Past, features eight instrumental pathways: sonic vignettes that combust breakbeat, post-jazz, krautrock, and trip-hop.
Debaser presents Gladys Lazer on Thursday, September 14 at Pressed with Philadelphia’s Pulgas, and local band Soft Life. Lazer will be joined by a full band, including two woodwind players. The show is all ages, and the entrance of Pressed is physically accessible. Entry is $8.
Interview with Gladys Lazer
The music on Candy World/Bye Past is described as ‘nomadic’ – can you describe where, when, and how the songs were developed and recorded?
The album was recorded in a time when I was mostly on the road, playing 200 shows a year with my former band, so it was only between tours when I was able to get recordings done for myself. The music on the album was recorded in these different places – a lake house in rural SW Georgia, a recording studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in small rooms in Brooklyn and New Orleans. Each session was different than the other, and deserved finding a different working method. The music was never pre-written, all of it was born and developed in the recording process.
What do you listen to while you’re travelling?
This obviously changes a lot, but traveling or not my heart usually pounds hard to Aphex Twin. I used to tour for a long time in this van that had only a CD player. These were my 3 favorite CD’s from the van’s CD selection. 1. Gavin Bryars – Sinking of the Titanic, 2. Joao Donato – Quem E Quem, and 3. an Alice Coltrane/Kraftwerk mixed CD.
Some will know you for your virtuoso drumming with Yonatan Gat. How does the process of writing music on your own compare to working with other musicians?
What I enjoy about making music on my own is that every element gets to meet my standards or else it doesn’t fly. I enjoy making music on my own more right now, because I enjoy the total independence.
It’s different making music with other people based on what’s your roll and influence in the music making, the people you’re working with and their components. I think that it’s important to have a clear vision walking into a recording project or any project, in case you work with other people that vision better be mutual and clear. Generally, I found that having fun while working is a good sign, especially when the fun is shared.
What is one tip you would offer to artists on the road?
One tip would be to be present and in the moment the more you can, that’s a good way to ride the wave of massive changing information coming at you and not get overwhelmed by it.
Chicago’s The Blisters are rolling through Ottawa on their way to the River & Sky Music/Camping Festival which is taking place about 4 1/2 hours north-west of Ottawa passed North Bay.
The Blisters play River & Sky Saturday at 4 pm, a couple hours after Ottawa’s very own New Swears, and the same day as PUP, Heat and The Lonely Parade. Before that we are lucky enough to have The Blisters in Ottawa at Pressed this Friday, July 21 along with Toronto’s Giant Hand (info here).
In anticipation of the show we had a chat with The Blisters’ drummer Spencer Tweedy (yes, he is the son of Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy) about the band, touring, and the new album.
What are the main inspirations for The Blisters as a band, musically or otherwise?
We started in 2002 when we were all seven years old. The main inspiration for the band was just that we all wanted to be in a band… We played and we thought it would be cool. I (Spencer) actually started with another friend of ours, who’s not in the band anymore, but Hayden and Henry joined shortly afterward. Tory joined during high school, and we’ve had that same line-up ever since. It feels pretty cool to have been a band together for so long.
For people who haven’t seen you live before, what is a Blisters show like?
We play some loud songs and we play some quieter songs. We don’t typically have moshing or anything like that, but it’s fun when it happens. Typically we see a lot of gentle head bobbing.
You guys are playing River and Sky Festival this weekend. Was this something you guys applied for or did they come looking for you?
Our friend Brett approached us with the offer. I told him that we’d love to play, but that we’d probably need to set some other shows up in Canada to make it feasible. He very kindly helped us do that, too.
How does it feel to be touring in Canada right now? Any highlights so far?
We’re only just arriving in Canada, but I’ve been here before and I love it. We’re all from Chicago and we love that city but Toronto feels like the closest thing to it outside of it. I think we all have the feeling that Canada is a kinder, cleaner America.
You are touring a new album, are there any cool stories or anecdotes from the recording or about the songs you can share?
We made Cured at our friends Liam and Sima Cunningham’s studio, with Dorian Gehring. We made it in about a week and it’s a pretty straightforward record. Henry wrote some of his most badass, roots rock material for it. We always experiment when we’re recording but this one ended up pretty straightforward.
Many people could guess what lead you to music, but what lead you to the drums in particular?
I don’t know what led me to drums. The first time I played was when I was two years old and someone plopped me on a kit in the basement of my mom’s bar, Lounge Ax. After that my parents bought me some sets over the years, and I kept on learning. I’ve played guitar for roughly as long, too, but at some point drums became my main thing. I like the James Brown story/myth about him telling his band that they’re all drummers—guitarists, bassists, etc., all drummers. I’m not a “drums supremacist” but I think that’s a helpful way for everyone to look at music.
NYC’s Fruit & Flowers made a quick tour stop in Ottawa on July 5th, playing an energetic show along with Sally Ride and Deathsticks at Pressed. Sally Ride—now known as Steve’s Job—opened the night with some meowing and gentle laughter as they transitioned into first song. The members of the band had nerves flowing through them but with their humour, banter, and strange aura of what’s possibly feigned confidence, they truly made it seem like they were naturals. Despite it being their second show, they perform as if they’ve been on stage countless times together. The band is one that kicks off everything summer is, and with their light and airy sound they sound like a redefined indie rock.
Sacha’s vocals are distorted and in the background, but very prominent at the same time. The almost monotone singing lulls you into a dreamy state but the guitars, drums, and keyboard bring you back to reality, keeping you on that edge. With intricate riffs, a strong bassline, and keyboard playing that sounds almost like synths, the band really ties it all together, almost like a gift that was chosen especially for you.
Not only do they play very well, but the band is one that’s impressive because of the versatility of instruments they switch to. With Hillary, who mainly plays the drums, switching to keyboard, up front and centre, and the guitarist and keyboard player switching to drums. The lot also know how to turn awkward banter funny, and get the crowd to participate in it as well, creating a more intimate feel to the entire set.
Fruit & Flowers, a band from Brooklyn, NY, began by introducing themselves with the classic riff from all those movies where people get on their surfboards and start shredding the wave, it started as surf rock. Don’t let this fool you though. The band itself is a very hipster looking band with an angry but equality elegant and beautiful sound. This band redefines anything you thought could be punk. They bring an entirely new set of sounds to the genre while playing with the classic sound that we love. The bass player and lead vocalist, Caroline, was up front and centre and her playing shook us to the core. She has a light and fairy-like aura but she shreds like there is no tomorrow.
Between the two guitars, her bass, and the drums, there is always a rhythm set while Ana plays intricate riffs over it, really setting a tone. Gentle vocals mixing with a fast doesn’t work, but the fast-paced bassline and prominent guitars make the crowd want to move, whether it is dancing, swaying, shifting foot to foot, or jumping up and down. They turn punk into a genre you can dance to. The solo’s fall nothing short of mesmerizing—impressive stage presence, with feedback, very quick playing, and smooth transitions back into the main verses. They bring in true punk energy mixed in with the quick pace that a band like The Misfits set.
The thing about Fruit & Flowers is that they also turn their sound into a psychedelic garage rock for some songs and it works because of the riffs played and the gentle and harmonic vocals. The band doesn’t restrict themselves to solely one genre which is really mind-blowing. Usually when every song on a record has a different take to it, it doesn’t work, but these guys have mastered it and have bent it to their will. The band is an absolute must see band if you ever find yourself itching to see a show packed with energy and artistic vision.
The last band to play was a band called Deathsticks. They are a duo but they sound far more numerous than that thanks to pedals and the drumming. The drum lines are ones that bring a new kick into it and truly encompass punk of the past, such as The Faith. They gave no mercy to the kit and the drumstick fell apart. The constant use of the ride and crash cymbal really set in the angry tone the band possessed, however the fact that she showed so much control while letting loose proved that Laura has truly mastered drumming. The guitar playing was absolutely wild in comparison to anything else I’d seen so far. It was all over the place, messy, but it sounded good. I’ve heard people say that punk noise sounds like shit, well let me tell you, this is very good shit in that case.
Matt’s slides and incredibly quick riffs turn into a muddle but listening to it closely, you can make out what he’s doing. The two have a Sonic Youth like dynamic around the vocals much like Thurston and Kim did but instead of singing they scream. Sometimes at the same time, other times not. They’ll have more spoken parts to songs like in Mountain Men and sometimes they’ll full out scream like in 30 Second Song. Had the setting been a dingy bar as opposed to Pressed Café, there would have been a mosh pit. The two play with feedback, letting it grow wild, and sometimes taking care of it when they planned to.
This is a band I’d go to see again—no doubt about it. If you want to throw yourself into a pit, experience the mind-and-eardrum blowing experience that is Deathsticks, please do so. I’ll probably see you there.
Ottawa mega-chillers Shadowhand have released a new track called “Passing Through” which we are excited to premiere through Showbox. Shadowhand is the project of musician Jameson Mackay, and features the talents of Matt Corbiere, Brandon Walsh, and Sean Tansey. This band of buds is a local supergroup of sorts, containing members of How Far To Mexico, Lost To The River, Winchester Warm, not to mention Brandon Allen’s own project. “Passing Through” is a mellow, reverb-heavy track that has a classic feel. The clean guitar tones and exquisite harmonies make this song an instant favourite, and should translate well live.
The group is planning on releasing an album in June, as they’re in the process of mixing songs they’ve gotten together. They hope to play plenty of shows in town and tour lots, so keep an eye out for them.
Be sure to check out Shadowhand on a stacked bill tonight at Pressed, as they play along with Future States and Jeff Beam. Have a listen to the exclusive track below.