As soon as I walked down the steep black stairs and into the basement that is Ottawa’s very own House of TARG, I wasn’t only greeted by the lights and noises of the pinball machines but by the familiar faces of the members of The Great Sabatini. Before the event began, I was introduced to Jack (Jack Moves) and mainly stuck around either him or Rob (The Great Sabatini) and once the clock struck 8:40, so the show began.
Jack Moves opened, bringing a tremendous amount of talent to the table, and setting the standards high. With only a loop station at his disposal, I questioned what the performance would be like. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and Jack looping over his own voice was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Every song was built up from scratch and on the spot despite having already written and recorded them for his album. What was the most impressive was the capabilities that he possessed when creating specific sounds for the song he would perform, from the beat to the melody line, everything came from his voice. There were falsettos he later turned into harmonies and even layered certain lyrics over others. He was quick on his feet and certainly did not miss queues. Live looping is a make-or-break thing, and Jack has certainly made it.
His quick rhymes and whit payed off when it came to his lyrics and the sound effects created. With lots of small technical specs, it was important to stay on top of what was being done, and the sheer efficiency that I saw was beyond comprehension. The performance fell nothing short of jaw dropping and his creativity, when it came to producing specific sounds, certainly came in handy. If you listened to any of his music without knowing how it was being produced, it would have you fooled into believing it was created with synths.
After I had gotten all my photos and Jack had ventured to his merch table, I stopped to speak with him. Through the whole night, he was a very pleasant and modest person. You could throw a conversation at him about curling (which was discussed prior to the show) and he would engage in it. Unfortunately, conversation became a difficult task once The Great Sabatini ripped out some powerful chords and drumbeats for a quick sound check. With the very strange string of sounds and words uttered into the microphone, Steve made it known that something absolutely wild was about to go down.
I’m not typically the kind of person who throws myself into death metal shows and has the time of my life. I’m the kind of person who’s selective about their metal bands, and I certainly make sure they’re fantastic live and check their supporting acts but as soon as I saw The Great Sabatini were playing TARG, I shot a message to Matias about coverage. Maybe it was because they were inspired by some of the greatest metal bands that have existed and carried a very intense yet well-crafted sound, or maybe it was how friendly they were all in all the last time I showed up to one of their shows. To be frank, I’m still not sure which it is.
This time, I left my earplugs at home (although there is a small part of me that regrets that because I’m sure to lose my hearing by the age of twenty-five, I also don’t regret it all that much). I heard the solos much clearer this time around, and although the drumming was deafening (thank you Steve), it added many dimensions and really created that powerful and angry sound you find in death metal. The bassline stood out and there wasn’t a member of that band who didn’t become one with the instrument they were playing, and even though each one of the men screamed the lyrics into the microphones, they didn’t fail to keep up with their expertly crafted songs. Their setlist, handwritten but clearly well selected fell nothing short of impressive and made sure you got lost in the music no matter which band you meant to go see that night. Everything managed to meld together so well that you’d think it was done by someone who’s been known as a professional for the past twenty years. Both instances where I’ve seen them, they’ve blown me away (and this time my hearing).
The last performer of the night was a band called Swarm of Spheres. Truth be told, until a few nights ago, I hadn’t even heard of them but as a band that was described as something between sludge and stoner rock, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. All the information I had about them was either about the genre they played or that Mark McGee was an incredible drummer – the best some had ever seen. These two facts certainly were made apparent when the time came for them to perform. The trio took the stage with such ferocity they might as well have blown the low ceiling off of TARG. Mark went at the drums like Dave Grohl did back in his Nirvana days but despite how loud he was, his technique was mastered. The bassline, thanks to Andrew Rashotte, was incredibly strong and prominent throughout each song which is probably one of the factors that really drew me into the sound this band was producing. That bassline, and everybody in the room, buzzed with energy despite the show drawing closer to midnight than anticipated. Jay Chapman shred on the guitar and his string bends were skilfully placed. He clearly had a knack for intense bends and he got right back into the songs he played after executing them without fault.
After much hard work, sweat, and good laughs in between, the night drew to a close. When I had the time to actually step back and look around I noticed that a good portion of the crowd was composed people from other local bands who came out to support their friends, some were fans, and some were just at TARG to enjoy the live music but sneak in a few games of air hockey during the sets. I found a few people, and spoke to them including Steve, earning a pat on the back from him and being told that he had yet to use the photos of them I took back in February. After this, I slowly made my way out but not before stopping to say goodbye to Rob. Despite the influences of the band and how metal they might look, I guarantee they’re the sweetest people. Rob made sure I stayed safe and in touch, ending the night with a pleasant note of “friends don’t say goodbye, they say see you later.”
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, is made up of about 2,200 permanent residents, while Dartmouth has about 67,500. The City of Ottawa has more permanent residents than the entire province. It’s easy to be recognized, its easy to know of a lot of people, and if you are a public figure like Joel Plaskett, it’s no shock that pretty much everyone can find a connection to you.
Joel Plaskett is known around town not only for his music, but his work in the community. Advocating for the arts in Nova Scotia through organizations like the Khyber, growth of Dartmouth’s downtown core, and producing up and coming local artists. Encouraging growth in the arts is something that is found within many members of the Plaskett family. While living in Lunenburg, Bill Plaskett was one of the founding members of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. This festival has continued to be one of the towns flourishing events, highlighting local artists on its many stages, including Joel. The most recent project undertaken by the Plaskett duo has been the appropriately named Solidarity album released in February.
When I was told that I had a chance to speak with Joel, I knew that I wanted to highlight the importance of community, family, and to showcase the importance of that word solidarity. I chose to reach out to my community to find which questions they would want to ask. I was not disappointed. I learned more in that part of this interview process than I expected to in the whole thing. Many were interested in family, wanting to know what it was like to produce an album with his Dad, and how much of an influence his dad was on his career. Some were interested in his work in Dartmouth, some of his past experiences, and others interested in where he saw things going in the future.
When creating Solidarity, partnering with his dad changed the album’s sound from his usual influences, and it brought him a sense of grounding. The process led to the exploration of parts of the self, bringing back the sounds of traditional folk. Discussions of the album began about a year before they decided to go ahead with it, booking the tour before solidifying the albums production. The deadline was tight. They started the recording process in October of last year with a deadline in the first part of November, which gave them about 30 days to record and produce it in it’s entirety. Having shared a stage in the past with his father, Joel wanted to take that further and give his dad more of the stage. Bill takes lead on five songs on the album, which are rooted deeply in tradition. A sound that was also inherited by Joel, bringing him “full circle” in his dad’s influence on his music. This was an influence that started by digging through old record collections, finding interest in certain musicians that have impacted the sound Joel carried into his career. The guitar style he was interested in was very much his dad’s, an influence that he noticed come through more on this album than on other albums. This album mixes Bill’s ‘social’ musical style with Joel’s more professional approach to music production, bringing the “living room to the stage.”
Growing up, Joel was influenced by music from a variety of sources. His love of rock music began from a lesser-known source, which was his time spent at Camp Wapemeo. Located in Yarmouth, Joel attended this camp with Ian McGettigan and Rob Benvie, who would later join him to form Thrush Hermit. It was at this camp where Chef Bobby got up in front of the whole camp and air guitared Stairway to Heaven at campfire. For Joel, that moment wasn’t about the air guitaring, but about having his first taste of Led Zeppelin. He talked about his “a-ha” moment, sitting at the fire thinking, “WHAT IS THAT SONG?!” He was 12 or 13 years old, and he admits that those camp moments changed his life.
Camp, like most kids, left a lasting impact for Joel. Memories for him also included a song well known which was sung by all the kids at Camp Wapemeo. That song was Leaving on a Jet Plane. Years later, well into his career, Joel was asked to play at a camp located in Ontario. He ended up finding out that his song, True Patriot Love, became the “Leaving on a Jet Plane” song for that camp, and thinking, “Yes. I made it!”
Understanding the ins and outs of music industry is important when working the way Joel does. Running an all-in-one record store/barber shop/coffee shop/recording studio in Dartmouth keeps him in the loop about what the local industry looks like, while also giving him the ability to produce records for musicians on-site. The New Scotland Yard Emporium has provided the space for many locals like Mo Kenney to build their foundation in the music industry. Other renowned artists have gone through NSYE, such as Cancer Bats and, of course, Frank Turner who recently played a pop-up acoustic show while on tour last month.**
Growing this hub in Dartmouth has made the profession accessible for him, and other musicians in the area. Sharing worries about the financial sustainability of the industry, he says there is little money in recording and that artists can only find security through money earned while on tour. Streaming has impacted the ability to earn money off records, but has had an impact on developing a fan base for shows while away. Joel has been fortunate enough to develop an audience that has grown and gotten older with him throughout the years, many of whom are dedicated to coming to shows. Anyone who has been in that audience knows Joel takes pride in his shows, keeping it professional and casual. You’d find yourself excited to be there, and comfortable enough to go have a conversation with him after the show. Connecting with the audience and encouraging that his shows, and music in general, “is something everyone can be a part of.”
This mindset has kept him able to continue to work within the community. Avoiding the fan fair often associated with being a well-known performer, and wanting to maintain his ability to walk down the streets of Dartmouth. Relax and enjoy the simplicities in life, like disconnecting from the world of technology and telephones and going for walks around Lake Banook (one of Dartmouth’s many lakes, it is the City of Lakes after all). Keeping this small-town mentality allows for the ability to slow down, which, in true Nova Scotian fashion, also includes the boycotting of Sunday shopping – the belief that everyone needs a day of rest and relaxation.
Being on tour provides a different kind of relaxation for Joel. It provides the relaxing “feeling of being useful.” Knowing that in the moments while away, he is doing exactly what he needs to be doing. When getting on stage he is comfortable. He knows the tuning, he knows what to prepare, and knows that that first song should sound and feel like. Joel and Bill Plaskett will be playing the National Arts Centre on March 18th. He tells us to expect a shared stage. Opening for them is a “fuzzy-folk” duo, Mayhemingways, who have also been recruited to do some backing up for the Plaskett’s set. In addition to these openers, the tour will have Shannon Quinn joining for the first few shows, including the NAC. She is a talented fiddler who will be playing with them for the set, making it into a five-piece group in the end. This show will be different from what people are used to, and will showcase the fusion of Bill’s traditional folk with Joel’s upbeat rock. He also promised to bring in a few of his old songs as well.
Joel’s Song I wish I Wrote but Didn’t
Nina Simone – The Twelfth of Never (original lyrics by Johnny Mathis)_________________________________________________________
**Frank Turner and Joel Plaskett have a long-standing friendship after Turner went on tour with Emergency five years ago. Joel highlighted Turner’s stage energy, general positivity, and overall genuine kindness. Plaskett also highlighted how every so often Turner will be listening to Joel’s music and it will pop up on his twitter, and people from anywhere and everywhere will comment about checking it out. For that he gave a chuckle and thanks.
Caylie Runciman a.k.a Boyhood has released a new video for “Drivin’,” the first single off her upcoming album Bad Mantras.
Bad Mantras will be the first full length by Boyhood since 2012’s acclaimed album When I’m Hungry. While the details of the new album are not yet known, “Drivin'” is a good snippet for those of us frothing at the mouth for more.
The majority of the video is set – you guessed it – in a car. Runciman cruises through icy streets of Hull on a cold Canadian winter’s night. The dreary, black and white shots are telling of the solitude that many of us feel during the long winters in the Great White North. Alone in her car, she sings and she cruises. The destination is unknown.
“Drivin'” was filmed by Ottawa videographer Travis Boisvenue, who has worked with Boyhood in the past, and has also shot music videos for The Yips, Bondar, The Acorn, Pregnancy Scares, Alaskan, and Steve Adamyk Band.
“The video is something Travis and I threw together pretty quickly, as is usually the case when we work together. I drove in to grab him and we headed to Hull in the cold,” explains Runciman.
The track has a classic feel to it, and her effortless vocals flutter melodically throughout the whole song. The distinctive heavy bass that we have come to love in Boyhood songs is the backbone, a gritty pillar for us to groove with. As it carries on, the track grows in intensity with more guitars and keys offering a heavy foot to put that pedal to the floor. Clocking in at just over 3 minutes, the song fades out just as a car would fade into the distance as it drives away.
“The song is fun and pretty positive in comparison to the rest of the album, which focuses mostly on the dark place I was in this past year,” says Runciman. “Drivin’ was written about a month ago and is more a testament to where I’m at now. The second single will be out soon! Just getting to work on the video. I can’t wait to release the album.”
With much anticipation, we wait for more material from Bad Mantras to be released over the coming months. Watch the video for “Drivin'” below.
The best way to get through a cold winter week in Ottawa is with a rock and roll show on a Wednesday night, especially when Heat and ONFIILM are playing.
I discovered Heat a few years ago when they played during MEGAPHONO at the absolutely incredible venue, the Diefenbunker in 2015. That night I knew this band would be something special, and since then they have become one of the best bands to come out of Montreal since Arcade Fire, in my opinion. Yeah, they are that good. The band’s latest album Overnight is an absolute gem that continues to showcase the bands talent. They have a modern twist on new wave/post-punk sound, think of this day and ages Lou Reed or Psychedelic Furs.
Draped in a cloud of smoke the band treated us to late night jams on hump day at the Dominion Tavern. They opened with “The Unknown” and “Lush” off their new album. The drummer does a great job of combining his electronic drum set and standard kit, pretty impressive to watch and hear both played at once. Mid set they doubled down on songs off their first album Rooms playing the title track and “Susisfine,” giving the crowd a taste of the sound that made me fall in love with them. They then played “City Limits”and dedicated it to a friend of a friend whose dog recently passed away and lead singer Susil Sharma said “all dogs go to heaven, right?” Like I needed another reason to love this band.
Take my word for and see this band soon and any chance you get because they will not be playing little intimate venues much longer. This band really should explode.
ONFIILM rocking the Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Before Heat was Ottawa’s very own ONFIILM. The bands which started as an art project, plays some psychedelic rock filled with distortion, guitar solos, and vocals that take you back a few decades. Their live show features glitch art videos produced by the band made from 80’s VHS tapes, as well as two dancers. It makes for a busy stage but it doesn’t effect the bands ability to deliver the rock to the crowd. During the set they dedicated their track “Good Ones” to the guitarist’s uncle who recently passed away and loved the Dominion, they had their last beer together there about 6 months ago. It was a powerful moment. My favourite song from their performance was “Listen.” There is just something about the opening vocals which build and build and build, that just captivated me. It was great to see the band live after interviewing lead singer and guitarist Jordan Criag earlier this week, you can read that piece here.
Their live performance is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for some cosmic sounding rock and roll.
We caught up with Jordan Craig, the lead singer and guitarist ONFIILM ahead of their show this week. We had a great chat about the band, their sound, their live show and much more. Check it out:
I know you don’t like using a genre to describe ONFILM’s sound, I also hate genres but sort of get stuck with them as a writer. Can you please describe your band’s sound without defaulting to genres?
J: The band’s sound to me is a mix of all the madness, sadness, vulnerability and other exotic feelings that I feel when I’ m at home. All of our music is written and recorded right here. My best friends, and the most talented people I know are in the band, and we share a common love for sound and light. We are all in love with beautiful delicate tones, juxtaposed against pulverizing beats and mad, mad guitars. Colin Wolfson’s lead guitar is genius level, really bringing the sparkling intergalactic feel. Ryan Farrell holds down the bass without over complicating, and is always mesmerizing. I like to give the rhythm and chords (The fewer the better!) a chance to breathe, and enchant the listener just before we close the hatch and blast off. We take them to space, then bring them back home again.
How would you best describe how that sound translates live?
J: Every piece of the live show is designed to take the audience into our world. Maybe more specifically my world. It ’s pretty much a recreation of my life and what’s going on in my head. An expression of personal freedom. I want to show everyone through our video, music and dancing that whatever or whoever they are can be pushed to the limit. Our dancers interpret the music, while our glitch videos play over us and our instruments. The superimposed glitches break us apart, scramble us. It’s crazy.
Love the sound of the video/visual addition. Where did the idea come from?
J: It was a pretty natural thing for me to add visuals to our stage show. I’ve been a pro photographer for 15 years, and I’m from a family of visual artists. I first became enamoured with glitch video when I saw a movie called “Until the end of the world” by Wim Wenders. In this movie they record peoples dreams, and the result was beautiful. Wim Wenders is also an accomplished photographer, and I’ve always been interested in his methods. The other inspiration was the cover art for Renegade Soundwave’s album “Sound Clash.” A sexy figure with a whip, probably shot on a tv screen. That image is never far from my mind.
Who are the dancers? Are they at every show? What do you think they add?
J: The dancers are currently Tess Giberson and Zoë Menne. We are super lucky to have them at pretty much every show, although sometimes we have other dancers when we are on the road, or if one of them can’t make it. For instance, Tess was arrested for working at a marijuana dispensary and pointlessly thrown in jail on the night of our gig a few months ago. They are a wonderful and kind person, and it was shocking and horrible that they were treated this way. Zoë is an unbelievably talented visual artist in their own right, and I’m actually a big fan. Back when the band first started, I didn’t even have a drummer or bass player, so I felt that I needed more movement onstage. They worked out so well that I’ve kept that aspect of the show going even now that ONFIILM is a full band.
In your band’s bio you are listed as “a doctor of divinity,” care to explain?
J: Yes, I have an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Universal Life Church in Medesto, California. I am an Atheist, and I believe that everyone’s beliefs are just as valid as anyone else’s, as long as they don’t impose on others. I use this bit of paper to illustrate the absurdity of the whole idea of organized religion. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson had a Doctorate from the same place, so I’m in good company. ONFIILM and our fans are the Congregation, and our live show is the service. We are also federal tax exempt in the United States.
Very interesting. I also see you list two drummers, do you ever have two live?
J: Yes, ONFIILM is fortunate to have two ridiculously talented drummers, but not both on stage at the same time. Wes Leigh is our main drummer, but when he is not available Matt Sobb kindly fills in for him. They both have very different playing styles and bring more to the table than I could have imagined. Matt also plays in the Juno award winning band MonkeyJunk. I’m very proud to be working with both of these drummers, as they are both very accomplished dedicated musicians.
If so, how does that play out and what do the sound techs think? If not, why not?
J: It has certainly crossed my mind. I’m a big fan of the Allman Brothers, so two drummers is something that is not out of the question for me in the future. RIP Butch Trucks. Actually, the live sound engineer from the Allman Brothers Band came to the studio for a visit a few months ago. Got some really good live sound tips!
What do you know about the venue you are playing, The Dominion Tavern?
J: When you first walk into the Dominion Tavern, look up towards the ceiling, you’ll notice the bashed up mangled side of an old stock car. I was actually at the speedway that day long ago, and watched the damn thing race. A guy named Stu, who used to work there was driving. It was like a rolling version of the Dominion Tavern. A bit louder, and bit rougher than the other cars. Didn’t win the race, but had the best crowd.
Anything else you would like to add?
J: We are super excited that ONFIILM’s music is being used in an upcoming documentary series by VICE called “FUNNY: HOW?” . It’s a series about different comedy scenes around the world. Not much more I can say about it yet, as I don’t want to give anything else away. VICE has been great to work with, and they really understand ONFIILM’s feel, and leave us to our own devices to come up with music. We will make the songs for this series available for fans to download after it has aired.
We also working on our full length LP coming out later this year. I’d like to thank everyone involved in ONFIILM, and it’s a thrill to experiment every day.
Catch ONFIILM this Wednesday night at the Dominion Tavern as they open for the most excellent Heat from Montreal, info here.
The 2017 Megaphono Festival has begun, and has already rung in a number of successful music panels, events, and shows, bringing in a collection of talent from across Canada, the US, and beyond. On Thursday, February 2 at Barrymore’s, Partner joins I.D.A.L.G. and New Swears for what is expected to be nothing less than the punk rock party dreams are made of.
Hailing from New Brunswick, Partner’s Josée Caron and Lucy Niles are a musical match made in heaven. Their songs, which mix the uplifting sound of indie pop with the rough energy of post-punk, perfectly encapsulate the feelings of young adulthood.
Previously bandmates in Killer Haze, Caron and Niles decided to create new music based on the fleeting events and ideas of everyday life. Their Bandcamp lists intimacy, friendship, sexuality, and drugs as some of the elements behind their song writing – in what they call “part-musical act, part-teenage diary, and 100% queer”.
A large part of the artists’ musical inspiration comes from their sexuality: both open lesbians, being gay is a central part of the band’s identity.“It’s not that we thought it was a radical thing to talk about,” says Niles. “We’re not the first gay people to make music. We just decided that we were tired of not talking about it, to not be known as a gay band. It’s way harder to not talk about your sexuality than it is to talk about it,” she says.
The pair’s honest and accepting attitude towards sexuality allows it to be an important but relaxed element of their sound – it’s there, they’re not hiding it, but they’re not pushing it either. “It permeates your life in funny and mundane ways,” says Caron. This lighthearted style resonates in the band’s humorous and authentic songs and music videos. One of their most popular singles is entitled “We’re Gay but Not for Each Other.” Other singles include “The Ellen Page” and “Hot Knives,” both punchy songs that use playful lyrics to depict controversial subjects with a modern and nonchalant attitude.
As a young band, Partner has established a steadily rising career. They’ve already had a successful start to 2017, touring throughout Canada and the United States. It’s the band’s first time at Megaphono, returning to Ottawa after playing at the Arboretum Festival last year.
“It’s been great to play all across Canada,” says Caron. “We’re really lucky to be welcomed by various fests.” Niles agrees, saying “it’s been really cool to see people who are into the same stuff all over the place, but don’t know each other necessarily… there’s a common kind of bond.”
For the future, expect an announcement from the pair in the next month with “an exciting development” on their upcoming record. “We’re always kind of working on songs,” says Niles. “We have a lot of ideas we’ve been working on over the course of years.”
Partner’s easygoing attitude, loveable sound, and honest lyrical talent ensures a solid future for the band – their music is high-energy and high quality, appearing impressively professional while maintaining youth and authenticity. While you eagerly wait for their studio record, you can catch Partner at Barrymore’s tonight, February 2, at 10:30 pm. Ticketing and Megaphono wristband information can be found here.