Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 Compilation
Back in May, we celebrated our five-year anniversary with a couple of shows at The Record Centre. That was a whole lot of fun, but we’re not quite done yet. Because why stop there?
Over the past five years we’ve had the opportunity to meet countless musicians in Ottawa, go to hundreds of shows, and really dig deep into the music landscape here. These artists continue to impress us, inspire us, and keep us doing what we do. It’s been our mission and raison d’être to support these musicians through coverage of new album releases, interviews, live reviews, and much more.
We’ve put together a compilation called Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 which contains music that has impacted us since Showbox started in 2012. This span of five years, in our mind, was a crucial period in the Ottawa music scene. More DIY musicians than ever before came out of the woodwork and made albums, and many were released independently without labels. Some music was underground, some wasn’t.
Different types of music pervaded throughout this period, demonstrating Ottawa’s potential hub in the Canadian landscape. Our hope is that this compilation will act as a snapshot of a strong and robust local music scene in Ottawa between 2012-2017, and allow folks to have a view into the music that came out during this period. It goes between garage, punk, hip hop, folk, and
While we could have double or tripled the size of this compilation with all the incredible artists out there, we kept it modest and capped it at 51. So while this list is encompassing, it’s certainly not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch. Please enjoy a free stream and download of the Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 compilation below.
A huge thank you to all the artists who contribute their music to this compilation, and to Pascale Arpin for designing such a good album cover. Enjoy!
The compilation is PWYC, and any proceeds will be donated to Girls+ Rock Ottawa in memory of Jean Sebastien Belleau. A special fund in his name has been established for the maintenance, repair and preservation of their growing instrument library, made in the spirit of honouring JS’ much deserved legacy as a passionate supporter of the Ottawa music scene.
Girls+ Rock Ottawa continues to empower through mentorship
Featured photo by Jessica Deeks
Tiffanie Tri is almost a typical Ottawa bureaucrat—she studied Political Science at Carleton, lives downtown, and spends her days working 9-5. But on the weekend, she plays keyboard in shows as large as Bluesfest. She’s part of Scary Bear Soundtrack, a local band that’s grown exponentially in recent years. She’s also the Chair of Girls + Rock Ottawa, a non-profit organization that teaches music to self-identifying girls, and now women, in Ottawa.
The organization began in 2007 and introduced its main event, a weekend rock camp, a few years ago. Over three days, girls 13-17 learn a rock instrument of their choice and are grouped into bands. The finale is a showcase of what they have learned in a concert for family and friends. “The transformation by Sunday is amazing,” says Tri.
Since then, the project has expanded to jam sessions, workshops, and starting this month, a rock camp for women. This recent growth included a slight change in the organization’s persona, going from Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls to Girls+ Rock Ottawa. “With all this stuff going on, we didn’t feel like it was representative anymore,” says Tri.
“It’s also to signify and celebrate gender diversity. One of our biggest focuses is a safe space,” she says, explaining that all their programs are welcome to self-identifying girls and non-binary youth.
The organization has also increased their public presence, with organizers appearing at panels, events, and similar programs to promote their work. In the future, Girls+ hopes to partner with more local groups on their growing program. They’re also working on more programming outside of camp, with a goal to teach all areas of music production—a field that’s not always accessible to girls. “We’ve kicked off someone’s interest in music, how do we sustain it?” says Tri. “How do we keep engaging these youth?”
Girls+ does so with inviting programs that teach music in an encouraging way. Like myself, Tri learned classical piano as a child, and wanted a more flexible, accommodating way to learn music. Jam sessions and workshops teach music skills in a way that works with girls’ interests and needs.
The workshops also aim to teach real world skills—applicable lessons that teach youth all sides of music production from concert photography to planning gigs. Together, the projects work to break down barriers that keeps young adults from practicing music—whether it be venues, resources, or an accepting space.
This summer’s Rock Camp for Women+ is a pilot project, expanding on their flagship camp. “The same reason we do it for the girls—women want that safe space and community.” The aim is to teach women+ the rudimentary skills of music, without the intimidating nature of music lessons, which can be especially difficult later in life.
For the future, Girls+ are asking “How can we sustain someone’s music interest and potential career?” New workshops, jam sessions, and special events aim to bring campers back to learn new skills from songwriting to recording to self-promotion. “That whole journey—I’d love to support every step,” says Tri.
The growing organization also hopes to do more panels to discuss issues as women in the music industry. They’ve partnered with local businesses, groups, and artists, and plan to expand further. Throughout, creating a welcoming music scene for girls, women, and non-binary youth remains the organization’s main goal. “Mentorship and representation is a key part,” says Tri. As a woman of Asian heritage, she herself struggled with lack of representation and racial stereotypes in music. “When girls grow up and don’t see themselves in media or on album covers,” they miss out on opportunities to pursue music. Tri says that many girls have come to camp believing they just weren’t supposed to play rock instruments. Once they enter the male-dominated music genre, “they break down those stereotypes and myths without even realizing it, while they’re having fun.”
This year’s rock camp for Girls+ is in November, but the organization already has a number of events planned until then. The Women+ rock camp is this coming weekend, and will signify the start of a new chapter for the program. “I think it’s going to be so much fun,” says Tri. “We have no idea what it’s going to be like.”
All of Girls+ is run by volunteers, so proceeds of the Women+ camp will go towards future programs. “We’re trying to give that opportunity to people of a different age group,” says Tri. “Empower more people, reach more people as well as sustain our work.”
Organizing so much programming, marketing, and partnerships is evidently a lot of work for Tri and the Board of Governors, but it’s worth it. Doing Girls+ has allowed her to explore music and charity work in a new way, and balance her interests with her career and political background. “Knowing all that stuff helps me a better writer for music… that’s how you get a different perspective.”
Tri’s band comments on issues such as race, gender, and ethnicity, and their lyrics have been called controversial because of it. “It’s called political, and characterized as that,” she says. “We’re just writing the same song that everyone else has… it’s real experience. Political, to me, just means they don’t know what else to call it… it’s a synonym for different.”
She credits her open mindedness to her education and work background, saying “I don’t think I’d notice all those things if I didn’t have an understanding.”
Tri continues to make music about real life issues, unapologetically, and hopes to inspire girls and women+ to do the same. Especially in a small local scene, creating a welcoming learning environment for minorities in music is the first step to breaking down larger barriers in the industry. Girls+ programs teach girls, women, and those of non-traditional genders not only how to play music, but why their voices should be heard.
Rock Camp for Women+ runs from June 23-25, and for Girls+ November 3-5. Upcoming events and information can be found on their website here. Volunteers for future programs are always welcome.
Live Film + Music submissions open for Mirror Mountain FF
Scary Bear Soundtrack performs at Mirror Mountain Film Festival 2016. Photo by Petr Maur Photography.
Mirror Mountain Film Festival is accepting proposals from musicians and media artists for the live music and visual portion of the event. As the presentation partner in this year’s festival, Ottawa Showbox is helping to pair the city’s best and brightest musicians with the independent film festival which takes place December 1st–3rd at Arts Court Theatre.
The live portion will combine two key aspects – a live music performance and a film/media art performance that will run concurrently. Bands and filmmakers/media artists are encouraged to submit their proposals before the May 15, 2017 deadline. The festival will pair successful applicants together for the performance, but bands that have a firm idea of a filmmaker or media artist that they’d like to work with are also able to submit their application together as a combo. Only one band and one filmmaker/media artist will be selected to participate in this year’s festival.
To submit a proposal, follow the link to the official call here.
Check out CHUO‘s promo spot and some past performances by Scattered Clouds and Scary Bear Soundtrack below.
MEGAPHONO: Bonnie Doon and Lonely Parade
Photo: Els Durnford
Night two of MEGAPHONO took me to Black Squirrel Books to see Bonnie Doon and Lonely Parade.
There is something very interesting about watching bands play surrounded by shelves stocked full with books. The intersection of serious songs and historical works with lighter and sillier tracks and the graphic novels is quite fascinating to me.
Lonely Parade playing at Black Squirrel books – Photo: Els Durnford
Unfortunately I arrived too late to catch Scary Bear Soundtrack, but heard they did a wonderful job as usual. Fortunately I did make it in time for Lonely Parade, the great three-piece from Peterborough. A lot of the songs they played were new songs and didn’t have names yet, they introduced two songs as “That was just New 3 and this next one is New 5.” It has been a lot of fun watching the band grow up in front of my eyes over the years and these new songs certainly show them tightening up musically. They have come a long way from when I discovered them and their song “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show,” four years ago.
Lonely Parade also found time to squeeze in some of their “older” songs much to the joy of many there, including the tracks “Johnny Utah” and “Night Cruise.” They also dedicated a song to Bonnie Doon and mentioned how excited they were as “We are totally going to pizza shark later.”
Lesley Demon rocking out at Black Squirrel Books – Photo: Els Durnford
Bonnie Doon took the stage with a couple of members in cheerleader regalia and pompoms cheering for the Ottawa U Gee Gees. Bonnie Doon also played a lot of new songs and let us know that a new album is coming out this spring on Record Centre Records. Some of these new songs saw the band being joined by saxophone player Mara. It was a very unexpected and cool addition to their noisy garage sound. A lot of their stage banter revolved around their love for Buchipop culminating with the band playing a song they called “Buchipop Hole,” cementing their love for refreshing local kambucha beverage brand. They capped off their great set with words of advise “This one goes out to Lonely Parade… do not get the pepperoni…” and then they played fan favourite “Pizza Shark”
Year three is in the bag for MEGAPHONO and once again it brought me to very cool venues to discover bands that I had never heard before and see bands that I love. Well done to the entire MEGAPHONO team!
Streaming & the New Music Economy
As the music industry continues to shift under their feet, Canadian artists are being forced to adapt to a future that seems at once full of promise and forbidding. Stories of quick YouTube success are balanced by the struggles experienced by the everyday band on the road. The recipe for stardom that once seemed straightforward has been lost in a world where albums are streamed, not purchased. The rules in this new music economy seem to change with each passing month, and many artists are beginning to try new things to get noticed.
Ottawa has seen its share of such experiments. A Tribe Called Red achieved some notoriety by releasing their debut album for free, copying Radiohead’s In Rainbows play. Many local bands have begun releasing tracks on Spotify and Apple Music in addition to selling records. Since the introduction of MySpace in 2003, there has been an expectation that some music be accessible online, a sort of teaser for fans, and an encouragement to come to shows.
But how much is too much? How much is too little? Live shows have become the main medium through which artists make money, but does that mean that newer artists should allow access to their recordings through streaming services that, by all accounts, pay fairly little or nothing?
Local artist Kalle Mattson thinks so. He feels that the exposure of such platforms, in addition to the income, makes it worth it.
“Not to say there aren’t problems with streaming services. There are,” he says. “But on the whole I think they are positive for the industry and over time the kinks will get worked out.”
He points out that these services can help get you noticed. In Mattson’s case, it was his being featured on the front page, in playlists and banner placements, that gleaned him something in the range of 5 million plays on Spotify, a number mostly attributable to his popular cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
Kalle Mattson (photo by Eric Scharf/Ottawa Showbox)
His point is that, while it may be a raw deal at the outset, there isn’t much of a downside to listing music on such services. To Mattson it comes down to a “why not?” And since there is very little cost associated with having a presence on such services, it makes sense to be there.
However, it can be hard for artists to see how plays on services like this translates into success in the traditional sense. Much of the time, artists rely on the feedback of fans to determine whether the music they have online actually translates into ticket sales.
Gloria Guns of local synth-pop band Scary Bear Soundtrack has had a different experience. Their notoriety has been in some part attributable to their presence on free streaming sites like CBC Radio Music, which allows them to reach a larger audience than they otherwise would. Still, she has thus far refrained from putting her music on larger sites like Spotify or Apple Music, largely because doing so is not necessarily easy and the benefits are difficult to quantify.
“If it’s too complicated to sign up for a service, then that service is going to lose a certain population of artists,” says Guns. She also notes that much of the bad PR that larger services like Spotify have received may make newer artists reticent to put their life’s work on a streaming service.
This may be part of the larger problem with these services: that signing up with them may feel like signing a deal with the devil. Many local artists see this kind of deal as unnecessary, especially when it involves a perceived devaluing of music.
Travelling through town for Arboretum, Dan Boeckner reflected on the way in which the music industry has shifted from a model that sold music, to one that sells brands and people. Wolf Parade, he says, rose to stardom at an opportune time. They were there for the beginnings of Radio 3 and iTunes, a time when even the smallest presence online would be noticeable.
Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade / Operators
“We could reap all the benefits of the internet, but people were still buying albums,” he points out, almost nostalgically. These days, Boeckner’s music, either with Operators, Wolf Parade or Handsome Furs, is available on all major streaming services, in some cases for free with minimal audio ads for support. But Boeckner, a major music fan himself, doesn’t seem bothered by the easy access to his entire life’s work.
“I have subscriptions to both Spotify and Apple music,” he says. “I mean, some music is only available on one or the other.”
That’s the allure of streaming services: access. They are a club that offers a wide bevy of music to their members. And that is enough to demonstrate the value of the services, at least to music fans, but as Mattson points out, there is a sense in which this devalues music as a whole.
“There’s no free version of Netflix,” he points out. Why should not musicians be given the same respect for their art as film or television artists?
So, while there is no question that these services have a future, the question of what role these services will play remains a difficult one. Is the goal exposure or income? Which service is the best? Is any of this fair?
The answer to each of these questions varies by artist, and will likely continue to shift as streaming services become entrenched. The only recourse artists have is to continue to observe and adapt.
This article is cross-published between Ottawa Showbox and Ottawa Beat, the city’s new music newspaper. Find it in issue 4 of the paper at various locations around town in September.