Ottawa-area rockers Elementals are at it again, and they’re pulling no punches. The group have just released their follow-up to their acclaimed 2015 debut I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real, and it’s a real banger. Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies is a seven-track onslaught of fuzzy guitar riffs, booming bass lines, and percussive thunder, and it’ll leave you wanting more.
So here’s the story. These guys were getting ready to record the album in Chesterville, and two weeks before their bassist parted ways with the band. I’ve known these guys for a few years now, and they’ve always been really tight, so one can imagine how difficult it was for them to wade through the mess and confusion right before hitting the studio. Guitarist and vocalist Cody Smith and drummer Jamie Speck persevered, and rallied the troops to keep on schedule and get the tracks recorded.
“Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies was supposed to be a happy experience — a five day getaway to the country to record what we felt were the best songs we’ve written to date,” they explain in a Facebook post in December of last year. “But true to its title, the universe had other plans for us. But one thing remained the same — we believed in these songs. We needed to record them, if not for anybody else, for ourselves. We went in the studio as a two-piece and what followed was almost therapeutic.”
“It made us tighter not only as a band, but as friends too. Moving forward we picked up two new members so that we could play the songs live as they were meant to be.”
The two new members weren’t present during the recording sessions, but Sheehan Jordan (Tenenbaums/Duck Toys) and Duncan Reitböck (Django Fett) officially joined the band afterwards and were, without a doubt, the perfect fit for the job. It’s a beautiful thing to see great musicians come together on a project, and their decision to add these guys to the lineup pretty much guaranteed that audiences would feel the full force of Elementals live.
Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies clocks in at 32 minutes long, but it doesn’t feel like 32 minutes. But I’ve listened to it three times today, so maybe that’s why. The album explodes off the starting line with “Medicine,” which for my money is the best song they’ve ever written…yet. It’s a long one at over five minutes, but about half way through they break it down and the bass and guitar go off on a tangential onslaught. It feels like Fugazi meets Pavement, or something.
While a lot of the album is heavier, grungy rock and roll which we all know and love, there are a lot of moments that slow it down. There are a lot of emotions here, and Cody delivers his lyrics strained through raspy vocals in a way that makes you feel what he’s feeling. Not many singers can convey that emotion, especially in a recording. Both “Angel Static” and “Beautiful Day” start with a clean guitar, and build to a crescendo and taking the listener for a full ride. There’s no rushing these songs, either. They are fully conceptualized and thought out, and in doing so the band is able to tell the stories much more effectively.
“24” is the lighter-hearted track on the record, a sort of reconciliation for a lot of the anger on other tracks. It’s what “Here Comes Your Man” is on Doolittle by The Pixies. Because, why not?
I hope that we can be cool / yes I hope that we can be cool / so farewell, so long / be good
“The Feeding Hour” cranks the throttle one last time, and then the record ends on a more peaceful note with the appropriately-titled “Adieu.” The whole thing is a great example of a band staying true to themselves and their roots, but not staying stuck in a mould and writing the same songs as before. It takes time to write albums like this one, and the range of emotions and experiences come across clearly.
We’ll be keeping an ear out for any new shows they announce in the spring, but in the meantime we’ve included the full album stream below for you to check out. Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies can be purchased on Bandcamp digitally, and the vinyl is available at record store around town. You can also stream it on Spotify and Apple music. Enjoy!
Sills & Smith chose the first day of the first month of 2018 to release their much-anticipated sixth studio album called Maps — Burned or Lost. The duo, which is composed of Ottawa singer-songwriters Jeremy Sills and Frank Smith, have spent the last few years getting together material for the new album, which spans an impressive 70 minutes over fourteen tracks.
This album’s strengths are many, but the two key pieces that stand out are its grandiosity and its breadth in sound and styles. Deciding on a fourteen-track record is rather unusual by today’s standards, particularly in the streaming economy that craves instant gratification. The first thing I thought when I saw that it was going to be such a long listen was “uh oh,” only because I’ve heard records before that have a lot of filler, which doesn’t tend to add much to the concept as a whole. Some bands try to cram as much as they can in to one album, because it is, after all, cheaper and less work to record a bunch of songs you’ve written in one go.
But that’s not the case here. Sills & Smith are veterans, and they knew what they were doing from the start of this process. Once the listener warms up with an excellent trio of opening tracks—”On the Edge,” “Kings,” and “A Freight Train”— one gets the sense that this album is meant to be listened to slowly. Why rush? They really slow things down on “Maps”,”Waves,” and “No Measuring,” and once again this song grouping transports the listener into a certain somber mood, encouraging us to really listen closely and use our imaginations to discern the detailed imagery embedded in their lyrics. The album carries on at this pace, with the exception of the groovy and upbeat song “Miss Us,” as Sills & Smith take us on a journey down their river, leisurely floating along until we near the end.
Upon listening to the whole record, it becomes apparent that Sills & Smith really explore their musical influences. Their self-described experimentation with “pastoral folk, trippy indie rock, and progressive rock” only touches on the surface of the substance on Maps—Burned or Lost. The album’s foundations are built on Canadiana folk music, with Sills’ guitar work that is sometimes rugged, twangy and blues-driven, while at other times reverb-laden and melodic. The two work off each other wonderfully, working in tandem to provide a full and rich sound the whole way through. We can also thank the one and only Phillip Victor Bova (who also plays bass, keyboards, strings, and Hammond organ on the album) for helping achieve the desired result, as the textured soundscapes allow the listener to drift away in the stories being told.
Sills & Smith offer us a great start to 2018 here in Ottawa, with an album that is sure to please listeners of all sorts of musical tastes. So sit back, relax, and push play below.
Maps — Burned or Lost is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and CD Baby. The digipak CD edition (designed by Grace Smith) will be sold online and in select box stores by mid-January.
Ottawa’s New Swears are better known for their catchy garage rock and crazy partying on and off the stage than for helping out their community, but this holiday season the boys are giving back and it isn’t even court-ordered!
New Swears have just released two previously unheard songs called “Illuminati Knights” and “Happy Birthday” on their bandcamp website with all proceeds going to local organizations For Pivot’s Sake and Girls + Skate 613. Both of these worthy causes seek to provide access to skateboarding opportunities for the youth of Ottawa through product donations, mentorship, program enrollments, and more. Have a listen to the track below and help support these two great initatives that do a lot in the nation’s capital.
And if that wasn’t enough, staff from the local skateboard shop Birling will be hosting a raffle at the New Swears New Years Eve bash taking place at the 27 Club on December 31. Birling co-owner Adam Wawrzynczak says the raffle will have “juicy prizes” and of course all proceeds will be going to For Pivot’s Sake and Girls + Skate 613. “This charitable aspect of a New Years Eve party is sure to warm your heart and may even soften the blow of a violent hangover to take you into 2018,” added Adam.
Two cool tracks for two great causes and even more giving as you ring in the new year. Well done New Swears.
Chris Pagehas been an active musician and participant in the Ottawa music scene for two decades, and been in bands such as The Stand GT and Camp Radio, and currently Expanda Fuzz. Chris has also successfully released music as a solo artist and toured Canada many times.
My earliest recollection of I Love The Modern Way is somewhere out on Ontario Highway 17, touring in an old, blue Volvo wagon.
I had just gotten to know Andrew Vincent by way of his record A Short Trip With The Pirates and the two of us made a pact to do shows together in Southern Ontario. “AV” had the car, and the two of us had our guitars, sleeping bags, and a bunch of material to play for anyone who would listen. I was aimlessly stumbling into a solo career and I had just released Decide To Stay And Swim (which incidentally had a song title that paid homage to my new pal: AV In The Sunshine, Man). The gifted Ottawa troubadour was finalizing his new album as the two of us were climbing into that cozy, well-worn Volvo to hit the open road.
I loved ‘A Short Trip’; it was a lo-fi banger of a record, filled with Modern Lovers style rave ups and sing-alongs like ‘Gary Hache’ and the anthemic ‘Ladies, Ladies, Ladies (Houseboat)’. I had been in bars watching crowds sing the line ‘Have you ever seen such a good looking band?’ at the top of their supportive lungs, and I was enthralled. I wasn’t sure a better chorus had been written in the nation’s capital, or in all of Canada, for that matter. I was about to find out.
On that tour, AV had played tracks from I Love The Modern Way, and sheepishly explained to me the album title had come from a pseudo-landmark in Ottawa (I won’t give that away here so as to keep some of the Ottawa folklore intact!) But lyrically, the songs were a Gatling gun of poetic turns of phase that found ways to include Ottawa-area themes like Bronson and Somerset streets, 1310 (AM) on the radio, Highway 5 and moving down from North Bay. I was psyched to hear these new tracks, but it was seeing them performed live that really cemented them as potential Ottawa classics for me.
With his indie stock rising, AV had swung a swank CBC Toronto session on that trip, to tape live versions of the new material for some hip broadcast. Though our shows had been solo sets to that point, Scott Terry and Bryan Curry joined AV for that live CBC gig. I was the envious roadie, carrying Pirates’ gear through prestigious parking lots and vast CBC Toronto atrium. In hindsight, it was a striking metaphor for how many like to compare the two cities: 4 hungover, ramshackle, Ottawa musicians, lugging cheap gear through the monolithic and sparkling Toronto CBC building, whose authoritative walls towered over us, with an air of indifference.
My memories of that energetic session are pretty clear. Andrew Vincent and the Pirates absolutely careened through these songs with an almost-in-tune, reckless abandon that somehow felt so tight and just so perfectly right. ‘Martha’, ‘Bahamas’, ‘Cover It Up’, ‘Jonathan’ were songs that all had these shout-it-out-loud-until-your-voice-goes-hoarse driving choruses, fresh from a new LP that had yet to be sprung on the world.
My question as to whether the ‘Ladies’ chorus could ever be matched was certainly answered, as I Love The Modern Way stands as an all-time great Ottawa musical achievement.
Rewind is a new series where musicians, fans, and community members reflect on Ottawa albums from the past and write about their memories and experiences from that time. Every album has a story!
We’re thrilled to premiere a new video by Ottawa experimental psych-rock group Casa Lagarto for their track “Lights Out.”
“Lights Out” was previously released in January 2017 as a demo, however the polished version heard in the video will appear on their upcoming debut album which they have called Shed It, and will be exclusively released digitally on January 19th. Although the 3-track demo EP is all the band has released publicly since their inception in 2015, they’ve played live regularly in town and often taken an experimental approach to their performances. Casa Lagarto describe themselves as “some kind of experimental desert rock n roll. They are influenced by the sun, the sand, and the lizard,” and their music feels like the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel.
The band members are familiar musicians in the music scene here in Ottawa, featuring the talented lineup of Travis Kinnear (Fire Antlers), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse, and Jonny Yuma (The Yips). The video itself tells a story comprised of three separate car advertisements from the mid-1900’s and was produced by band member Jason Barkhouse. Barkhouse runs Black Lab Studio in town and has recently been more active in production/post-production of creative content and music videos for band like Del Bel (see that video here).
Casa Lagarto will be playing with Montreal’s Bloodshot Bill and Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas at House of Targ this Thursday, December 7th, so be sure to get out there and catch the band live. Doors at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. Check out the video for “Lights Out” below.
We’re excited to present the first look at Nightshades‘ new video for “Double Vision,” which appears on the recent self-titled album released on November 15th.
The album is somewhat of a departure from their previous EPs, slowing things down and simplifying the song structures while maintaining the sludgy and gritty elements that many of us know and love. While the tempo has slowed a bit, lead vocalist and guitarist Mallory Giles chose to hone her songwriting skills and focus on lyrics and melody over speed and complexity of instrumentation.
“After the ‘Wendy EP’ we wanted to take some time to write a full record. Things came together pretty slow,” she explains. “I had a huge writers block last winter and it was scary. I thought ‘well that’s it. I guess that’s over’.”
“I was grabbing at straws, trying to find inspiration and I ended up borrowing a bass off a friend. I started fiddling around with it and it became this cool new way of looking at music. I wrote a few of the songs off this new album on that bass and transferred it to guitar. Just playing with power chords and slowing things down, developing less complicated structures. Just taking it easy, and focusing on melody and story.”
“I think that’s kind of where we were all at. Just growing up, and chilling things out. And once Dean joined the band, his style of bass playing was pretty relaxed, and we were into it. We still have some heavy songs that Geoff wrote, and I don’t think we’ll ever not be a heavier band, but things are less rushed now. I think I was kind of hiding behind speed before because I wasn’t very good at my instrument. Playing really super fast felt easier and less scary. Now that I’ve developed as a guitarist, and we’ve grown tighter as a band, we can take a step back and just like..go slower. It’s funny, cause we’re still pretty fast, just not as insane as we used to be.
Nightshades channel the fuzzy sounds of 90’s alternative bands such as The Breeders and Sonic Youth, bringing with them punchy and distorted tracks that draw listeners in. Any fans of Kim Deal-era Pixies will surely fall effortlessly into Nightshades as their new self-titled album maintains a fun and upbeat aesthetic throughout, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, the songs seem more carefully crafted and it’s obvious that the band took time to put this one together.
Another thing that doesn’t take itself to seriously is the video for “Double Vision.” Directed by filmmaker Rob Bennett, the concept sees Giles going on some terrible first dates which take psychedelic turns.
“On those dates I would see like figments of my imagination like masked unicorns and masked characters and they would try trip me out while I was out with these guys,” Giles says. “IOn the day of the shoot, we were sticking to the plan, but we ended up having fun and trying different shots of us dancing and stuff, and me lip synching… It turned into this whole other thing that we all found really fun, funny, and great. It feels like a real rock n’ roll music video now. Not too serious. Not too much sense made. The original concept was actually pretty dark. I think it’d be cool to write a play or a short out of it one day.”
“Working with Rob was easy. He had killer gear, was a total pro, and had some really great on-the-fly ideas too. Rob is a musical mastermind in his own right and knows a ton about rock n’ roll. So making a rock video with him was effortless.”
Nightshades are set to released their new album on cassette this Saturday at The Rainbow, along with Montreal art punks Smokes, Ottawa heavy-hitters Bonnie Doon, and up-and-comers Slow Dawn. Tickets are $7 and doors at 9 pm, 19+ only. Check out the new video for “Double Vision” below, and stream to the new album online here.
Toronto’s Casper Skulls are currently wrapping up with touring their first full length album Mercy Works, released on Buzz Records November 3rd. The band is one of the newest editions to the label’s boundary-pushing roster, and their latest effort follows the dense and complex lo-fi sound played through early 90’s tape decks. Mercy Works is an ambitious attempt to explore the unknown, examine self-growth, religion, grief, and real lived experiences, and was co-produced/engineered by Josh Korody (Fucked Up, Dilly Dally). The post-punk, garage, and art-rock influences are sprinkled throughout, as the album bleeds with thick guitar riffs and intricate instrumental arrangements.
We sat down with singer and guitarist Neil Bednis before their show this Friday to discuss the band’s sound, their new album, best sounding venues and touring as a couple. Check out the interview below.
Interview with Neil Bednis
In just a couple of years as a band you have already garnered comparisons to some of my all-time favourite bands such as Television and Pavement. How did that feel after only a 7-inch and an EP? And do these comparisons come into play when you are writing new music, such as your latest release Mercy Works?
NB: It’s flattering that people would associate our music with those bands. We were really influenced by that kind of music growing up and those bands are part of the reason we wanted to start playing music in the first place. Obviously with our early releases our influences are on our sleeves but I think that was necessary for us to discover our own sound. I think Mercy Works still has elements of those early sounds but we definitely moved into a more melodic direction. “You Can Call Me Allocator” was the first song written for the record and it set the tone of the writing of the record. I think that song in particular is a perfect example of what we are as a band. The verses are talky and the chorus is more melodic and lush. On the record I think we explore the extremes of both those sounds.
Speaking of Mercy Works, how was it to work with Josh Korody and Alex Newport, who have worked on releases by Fucked Up, Dilly Dally, At The Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie, just to name a few?
NB: We had previously worked with Josh on our Lips and Skull EP, so we already felt comfortable recording with him. After seeing our live show, Josh thought it’d be best to do a lot of the record live off the floor which had never done previously. I think recording that way created a really positive start to the record. We wanted to explore a couple different musical ideas on the record (i.e. strings, acoustic guitars, 12-string, baritone) and Josh kind of let us take the reigns on that stuff. It’s always a really fun time whenever we get to see Josh and I’m really glad he was part of the record.
We heard of Alex from his work he did on the first Weaves record and the Pissed Jeans stuff. Ian from Buzz Records had Alex’s information from working with him on the Weaves record and he was able to put us in touch. Alex lives in Los Angeles so we had to make most of the mixing notes over e-mail but we really love what Alex did to the songs.
Your sound seems like it would lend itself great both in a small club and in the big acoustics of a church. What are some of the favourite venues you have ever played and explored in live?
NB: Just off the top of my head, Lee’s Palace and the Garrison in Toronto are two of my favorite sounding venues. The vibe is always really nice at those venues and I haven’t really played a show where we’ve have had any trouble getting the sound we want. The Townehouse in Sudbury has a lot of sentimental value to us. Mel and I discovered a lot of great music going to shows there and we played our first show ever at the Townehouse as well. I also really enjoy playing this place in Washington D.C. called Comet Ping Pong. Our friend Lisa does a lot of the booking there and she creates a really homey vibe to the shows she puts on. It has more of a DIY vibe to it and you can eat pizza and play ping pong as well as watch awesome music!
For those who have never seen you play, what should they expect live compared to the recording on the album?
NB: I think the live show brings a more lively energy to the songs. I don’t mean to say the record isn’t lively but I think the show has a rawness to it that is different from the record. For songs like “Chicane, OH” and “You Can Call Me Allocator,” we’ll play the songs a little faster just to give the songs a bit more of a bounce. We tried to make the record have more lush moments with the strings and acoustic guitars which aren’t present in the live performance. Overall, I think if you like the record you’ll like the live show.
How has touring the new album been going so far?
NB: The tour has been going well! We’re happy to be playing these songs for people and seeing how they translate live. We’re really excited for the few dates we have with Land of Talk. They’re one of our favorite bands and we’ve been obsessed with their new record. We’ve been playing these songs in small clubs and have been kind of tailoring our set lists toward that. For these shows we’re hoping to play some of the more slow burners off the record that’ll translate better in bigger halls.
I have always been curious what it would be like being in a band as a couple?
NB: It’s really nice not to have to leave each other when we tour. I think sometimes we struggle separating band stuff from our personal lives. For example sometimes at dinner we just end up talking about band stuff so we need to check ourselves every now and then and just talk about other things that have nothing to do with music. Most importantly, we need to be a couple first and band mates second. It’s a really special thing to get to make art and share failures and successes with someone you’re with.
On Thursday night, crowds escaped the damp, rainy Ottawa streets and piled into a dimly lit Bronson Centre to witness an evening of ambient, atmospheric music. Headliner Timber Timbre visited Ottawa for the fourth time in 6 years along with support from Ottawa’s own Boyhood Scattered Clouds.
Scattered Clouds took to the stage first, rising out of an ascending red fog. Performing as a 2-piece band with Jamie Kronick on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on guitar, keyboard, and vocals, this band was the most surprising act of the night. In terms of style, Scattered Clouds describe themselves as “dark, experimental, and post apocalyptic.” These characteristics could not be more fitting. Beginning their set with a heavy presence of baritone guitar and an emphasis on drums driving the synths, the band achieved a sound that could easily be equated to a modern day embodiment of a Joy Division b-side album, with an “Ian Curtis- esque” vocal tone. The second half of the set however, transitioned into an emphasis on synth and a precision in instrumentation. Creating an atmospheric 80’s dance vibe, the band achieved a type of lo-kfi sound that left the audience in a state of euphoria. Waking from this set with the harsh Bronson Centre lighting was like waking out of a heavy, romantic dream.
When the lights dimmed again, our good pals Boyhood took to the stage. Clad in flared pants and turtlenecks, Boyhood did not fail to deliver their staple moody, noisy sound. As always Caylie Runciman delivered raw and airy vocals that harmonized beautifully with her band, and provided an emotional and unpolished set completed with songs that morphed and melted into one another. Giving us a taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album Bad Mantras, which will be the bands first album since 2012, the set featured the bands catchy “Drivin’” and “He Don’t.” Beginning with keyboard, Caylie swapped over to guitar midway through the set where she went to town in an emotional and raw guitar solo. It’s easy to get lost in a Boyhood set, and this was no exception.
Last but not least, Timber Timbre finished the night in almost total darkness, with only subtle lighting sweeping the stage. A glass of liquor sat idled on an amp to the right, Taylor Kirk began playing what seemed like it would be the entirety of his most recent work, Sincerely Future Pollution. However four songs in, the set took a detour towards an intermingling of a huge sample of his work, ranging from his self titled back in 2009 to his most recent. Detouring the set with Hot Dreams, the band’s instrumentation, and deep, sultry vocals, the song was delivered with a raw, sensual and emotional demeanour.
This specific Timber Timbre performance was unlike many others. His previous shows in Ottawa, which included a performance in Ottawa’s first Baptist Church in 2011, a set at Folk Fest in 2012, where he performed alone with a kick drum, and even his set at Jazz Fest in 2015, stuck pretty tightly to the delivery of the songs on the album. However, this set tended to use the style in the albums as backdrops for experimentation and improvisation with melody and pace during the performance, providing unequivocal authenticity. Most notable in this performance was the “Curtains?!” jam session that lengthened the song by about two extra minutes with intense instrumentation. The night ended with a 3-part encore beginning with “Grand Canyon,” that delivered an expressive and theatrical but emotive and raw finale.
This show captured a unique energy that seems to have been strengthened by the uniqueness of all the bands but also the ways in which they played off of one another. They each brought an atmospheric sound and seamless instrumentation, as well as a hard punch in the heartstrings with their raw vocals, lyrical movements, and honest and authentic delivery. The perfect ambiance to fit the creepy environment that is the Bronson Centre on a rainy evening, this show was not one to miss.