On Saturday night, Arboretum Festival presented their 6th edition of I Can’t Believe It’s Not… featuring the musical stylings of New Wave legends Talking Heads. The group consisted of over a dozen musicians – many of whom are Ottawa staples – including members of The Acorn, The Wooden Stars, Bonnie Doon, Heavy Medicine Band, Yellow Jacket Avenger, FEVERS, and many more. After some shows at The Manx, House Of Targ and Babylon, the last 3 editions of ICBIN have been housed inside St. Alban’s Church, so it seems to have found a permanent home. The show was sold out, with some people frantically requesting tickets online, and others disappointingly turned away at the door. It was a widely anticipated night, and the crowd – a mix of baby boomers, 30-somethings, and a new generation of fans – would not be disappointed.
First up was Fiver, the solo act of Toronto artist Simone Schmidt. Her music conjured up images from Graham Parson’s mystic country twang to the Grateful Dead’s storytelling folk sensibility, all filtered through her bare reverb-laden electric guitar and idiosyncratic voice. While I was familiar with her name, her music was unfamiliar, which is why I was surprised when I vividly recognized her voice. It did not take me long to realize that she was the singer for psychedelic country band The Highest Order. For the release of their most recent album, Still Holding, they reached out to one radio show per major Canadian city to debut it live on the air, and they were kind enough to choose my show (What’s The Frequency on CKCU) for their Ottawa release.
There was a clear anticipatory stirring in the room as people filed into the gorgeous church nave, but this excitement was met with vitriol from the subtle singer-songwriter. Near the end of her set, she remarked “I have one more tune for you, and I want you to talk right through it.” After the boisterous audience readily complied, she sourly remarked “I was being sarcastic.” Her music was certainly good, but it was not the reason people were attending the show, and the frequent display of bad spiritedness toward the audience between most of the songs was off-putting. This was perhaps an unfortunate pairing on the lineup, but in any case, the atmosphere was revived by the house music, a mix of funk and synth-pop.
The second act, Montreal band The Luyas, began their performance by stating “We’re not from Toronto, whatever that means. Enjoy this rock show, I insist!” This implicit response to Fiver’s calls for silence was met with applause, and the band proceeded to deliver a marvellous set of diverse and entertaining songs. The band clearly comes from a background of indie rock, synth-pop, and shoegaze, but the cool night-time vibes were distinctively their own. Each track was unique, as the members occasionally switched to a lap steel, French horn, synthesizers, and a bizarre guitar reminiscent of a chapman stick. The sprawling sonic palette, rapid-fire changing of time signatures and locked grooves kept the crowd moving, and their graceful precision was an impressive display of musicianship. I didn’t think it was possible, but the band even got the crowd dancing to a French Horn solo in 5/4, and it felt so right. All in all, a fantastic set to prepare the crowd for the night’s main attraction.
At last, the group made their way to the stage. Rather than beginning with a single performer playing alongside a drum machine (as Talking Heads had done in Stop Making Sense), the band immediately brought the house down with a brilliant rendition of ‘Burning Down The House’. This decision was indicative of the philosophy of the night, as nobody was ever centred out as the main performer. Instead, the massive band focused on the group dynamics and songs themselves, backing up the slew of guest performers over the course of the night. Over a half-dozen singers took on the role of David Byrne – a large suit to fill, but the performers delivered with the proper level of talent and eccentricity.
Rather than performing an album in its entirety, the song selection was culled from across the Talking Heads discography, covering from ’77 to Speaking In Tongues, as their famous concert film Stop Making Sense had done. The band pulled off a stunning reproduction of Talking Heads’ distinctive Afrobeat/art punk fusion, without sacrificing the rambunctious energy that made the original versions what they were. Beyond the flawless performances, the instrumental tones of the studio versions of the songs were also painstakingly reproduced- no synthesizer tone out of place, no percussion lacking.
One would expect the high church ceilings to have compromised the sound quality, but there was no distracting echo and the mix, as always, was brilliant. The lighting from below was reminiscent of much of Stop Making Sense, but with an added sense of otherworldliness given by the strings of coloured fluorescent lights illuminating the stage. Some highlights included the immaculate performance of Found A Job featuring Bonnie Doon’s Lesley Marshall as a broad-shouldered David Byrne, the transcendent finale of Once In A Lifetime, and the shadows of countless dancing figures cast upon the church walls during the performance of Born Under Punches. “Nailed it,” indeed.
A video posted by kittysmoothskin (@kittysmoothskin) on
For all the brilliance of the night, I was slightly disappointed by the focus on songs from Speaking In Tongues, with 5 of the 13 tracks culled from that album. It would have been nice to hear some earlier classics or songs Talking Heads made after their beloved concert film, but everyone was bound to have some unfulfilled requests. I was also disappointed by the lack of encore songs- the ICBIN performances all seem to lack them, which ought to be ameliorated. The performers seem to be caught off-guard each time, and ask the audience what they’d like to hear played again. The band was met with a cacophony of requests, so the band arbitrarily chose to play the two opening tracks and Psycho Killer again – great songs, but it would have been far more apt to re-emerge on stage with some tracks prepared. Take Me To The River, perhaps?
Nevertheless, the night was a ton of fun, and any disappointment I had came from my wanting to hear even more from this star-studded cast of brilliant musicians. All in all, I can’t wait to hear what I Can’t Believe It’s Not… has coming up next!
The Wooden Sky have consistently shown why they’re a staple in Canadian music, having come a long way since their debut in 2007. They’ve tirelessly demonstrated their dynamic songwriting abilities and formidable live performance here in Ottawa on a number of occasions, the first of which for me was at the First Baptist Church in 2012 as they toured their powerful, resonant album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun. I’ll never forget that intimate and ethereal experience.
Tonight The Wooden Sky are doing something a bit different. They’re bringing an annual Holiday Revue to Ottawa in support of local refugee organizations, and the performance will take place in none other than the beautiful St. Alban’s Church. For seven years, the band has been putting on a DIY Holiday Revue in Toronto in support of the Romero House, an organization that provides transitional housing and settlement services for refugee claimants through a model of accompaniment. They’ve expanded this series to Ottawa for the second year in a row, supporting a similar organization in the capital called Carty House. Carty House is a communal residence that provides transitional housing for female refugees as they move through the refugee system and integrate into our society.
I caught up with songwriter and lead vocalist Gavin Gardiner last week to talk about the Revue, have a read below.
The Wooden Sky play St. Alban’s Church tonight (Monday, December 12th) and tickets can be purchased for $25. They can be purchased at Vertigo Records, both Compact Music Inc. stores and online. Check out the Facebook Event here.
The Holiday Revue has become a bit of a tradition for the band. How did the idea start?
G.G.:We had been touring a bunch years back, and it was our first time breaking outside of Ontario and into other provinces, the States, and Europe. Somewhere along the way we thought “Hey, we should have some bands come to Toronto and do something special.” It’s such a great musical community that exists at the genesis of any band getting started, and we were finding that to be true in Toronto. We thought we could do it in a special place, and we had some music that we really wanted to get out there.
Some people we knew were a part of the Friends of Bellwoods compilation in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank. We thought it would be a good idea to partner up with them, and do a show that wasn’t just about us. We didn’t even realize it was going to be an annual thing at the get-go. It’s pretty cool, and it really makes you understand the value of promoters and venues, and what it really takes to put on a show.
Support for refugees is more crucial now than ever, given the crisis in Syria. What do you think the average Canadian can do to help out?
G.G.: My girlfriend and I have been getting more involved, and it can be small-scale things. People need help getting around sometimes, and I’d give some Syrian kids in the community a ride to school. Simple things like that. It’s interesting, when you meet people that have been involved in this conflict, they aren’t helpless by any means. They aren’t coming here looking for handouts, they are resilient people that are full of hope and life and love. The do need some help to get back up on their feet.
Sometimes they need things like clothes, and some help with the bureaucratic process. I was talking with someone recently about a Roma refugee who had been living in sanctuary for two years with his wife and daughter, and whose claim had been denied by the government when Harper was still in power. His claim had been denied because his lawyer hadn’t translated the documents correctly, and they couldn’t go home because of the fear of persecution. They gave up after two years and ended up in Germany for a while until the Trudeau administration came into power and someone went there to get them and process their refugee claim. It’s a lot of work.
Just meeting refugees in the community, getting involved, that is an important thing. Sometimes they need things like bedding, or maybe supervision during trick or treating. When you get involved, people will open up to you about what they need.
For example, I lent a sound system to a group that needed one a while back. That was easy for me, but they might not have known how to get the system another way. Small things like that make a difference, and it can be a lot of fun to create that bond. It changes your relationship with the community, and brings you closer to it.
How are the Holiday Revue shows any different from your regular live performances? Any tricks up your sleeve?
G.G.: Yeah, we mix it up for sure. We play a lot of stuff that we normally wouldn’t get to play at one of our shows. There are tons of older songs that we kind of forget about that we can play, plus it’s a chance to break down that barrier between us and the audience. Over the last couple years we’ve really tried to do this with our live shows, and I think it leaves people in a better place afterwards.
What is your favourite Christmas song?
G.G.: Oh, that’s a good question. The Boney M Christmas album is a big one for me. It’s funny because growing up I didn’t realize it, but it’s just so good. Every year I think about making my own Christmas Carols album that I could stand to listen to and that I could share with family, but I have yet to do that and this year is no exception. I’ve embarked on another quest though, to record Aerosmith Lullabies for my young niece. They aren’t really Christmas songs, but still easy listening with guitar and vocals. They’re great songs! Well, some of them are.
2016 sucked. Is there anything that The Wooden Sky is doing in 2017 for fans to look forward to?
G.G.: We have a new record coming out in 2017, so I hope that will help. I mean, I don’t know if it will solve all the world’s problems, but we’re going to put it out and hope that people enjoy it. It will be called Swimming in Strange Waters and is about the endurance of the human spirit, which can be exhausting but it is always there. That’s life.
It’s a paraphrase from a Frank Herbert novel called “Dune” – “Survival is the ability to swim in strange water”. And I think that sums up where I’m at right now. Life’s not supposed to be easy, and sometimes it sucks. But if it were easy then we wouldn’t take any joy from it.
T’was a Saturday like any other… just kidding. It was a lovely combination of miserable and cold, the first whispers of what will surely be a typically freezing Ottawa winter. But nestled in the heart of the small riverside community of Wakefield is a place of solitude and warmth known as the Black Sheep Inn. When asked if I was interested in venturing out, I believe my response was “Heck yeah,” or perhaps something with a little more profanity, regardless it was a welcomed offer of warmth and music. I will rarely turn down a night at the Black Sheep Inn.
Blacksheep, unlike most other venues in the Ottawa area, requires guests to put in a little more (lot more) effort to actually make out to a show. It never fails to surprise me every time I pull in to the very full parking lot. This show was no different. I knew going out that it was a sold out show, and sold out for Black Sheep means that people arrive hours before doors to grab a seat, and a bite to eat, before a night of music. Wakefield quite literally provides the audience with the full dinner and a show experience. Typically the space will be adjusted for the type of show, I’ve attended anything from sit down lunch shows with audience members under the age of one, to being taught how to dance traditional blues; anything goes. You can also expect that whether there is room at the front or not, you are practically on the stage with the band, and if you weren’t, did you even go to Black Sheep?
The first band up was Lowlands, hailing from Guelph ON, they brought with them a dreamy yet harsh folk set. Combining poetic story telling with full sound drumming, banjo and steel guitar. They were loud, homey, and went well with the warm theme of the evening. They brought songs from their album Huron, as well as songs off their new album Erie, which we can keep our eyes and ears open for its release later this fall.*
The Wooden Sky took over shortly after. The audience energized as they took the stage and it quickly became clear why. They started their set off with a bang and kept up the energy right through to the end. Combining electronic aspects with folk, they absolutely took over the venue. I’m confident in saying that people would have danced had there been room, but like I mentioned, it was very sold out. Along with the electric side of the folk spectrum, they also brought harmonics and violin. They played a diverse set covering songs new and old, debuting some and bringing back some classics. The band took a moment part way through their set to make the night extra special for one couple in the audience and then slowed it down for a few songs, leaving just two band members on stage.** They picked it back up for the final few songs and ended the show on a high note.
Both of these bands are currently touring Eastern Ontario and visited a few places in Quebec. The Wooden Sky hinted at the very real possibility of there being an upcoming holiday show at St. Albans Church, which is something everyone can keep an eye out for, and in a brief conversation outside with Lowlands, they also seemed keen on returning to the Ottawa area in the near future.
*Lowlands has plans of releasing an album titled dedicated to each of the Great Lakes which is super groovy.
**Unbeknownst to everyone, a couple had gotten engaged either just before or during the show (details were unclear) and the band took that moment to dedicate a very cute song to them, and there were tears and dancing.
One of Canada’s prized possessions The Wooden Sky have just released a new record called Let’s Be Ready, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2012 album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun. Let’s Be Ready (which can be streamed on Exclaim! here) is full of energy and excitement, while maintaining the soul and spirit that makes us all fall in love with The Wooden Sky. As the Juno-nominated band embarked on their cross-Canada tour supporting the new album (with the help of Ottawa musician Jon Hynes filling in on bass), one of their first stops was at Ottawa Folkfest on September 14. I caught up with lead vocalist/guitarist Gavin Gardiner, a musician of many talents whom I admire very much, just after their Folkfest set and had a great chat that you can read below.
Earlier this year, you finished working with Ottawa’s Kalle Mattson on his new record Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold. Did your experiences working with other artists in-studio affect or influence the way you approached writing your new album Let’s Be Ready?
Oh yeah. Every one of those experiences has been a learning experience. Everyone has a bag of tricks and tools, and whenever someone else has a good idea I put it in my bag of tricks. Having my own studio has really allowed me to just have more time. In the past it’s always been more of a process to get setup in a remote space and pack up the whole fucking rig. Having your own space to record means you can just come in and work. It’s been fun, plus I get to acquire new gear and stockpile actual tools (like amps, instruments, mics, all that).
I also get to learn from others, like Kalle, and how he approaches things. Perspective is a key thing – hearing things from other people is eye-opening. In those cases, when I’m so involved in the recording process, I hear every little change in the music, whereas when I’m not as involved it’s a lot harder to get to that level.
Is doing the studio side of things and working with other artists something you’ve always wanted to do?
Yeah, and every time I do it I’m like “why the fuck do I do this?” No, but I really love it, I mean I’ve been recording bands in my parents’ basement since I was 14. I had a four-track recorder that I got when I was a kid and I used that. I’ve been slowly getting back into four-tracks because my studio has four of them, two that work and two that don’t. The less I can use a computer the better, I like really getting to the source. The chain’s only as strong as the weakest link. If the drums sound good, then don’t fuck it up with a computer.
I spent some time in Spain last November making a record with Howard Bilerman, who produced our last two records (along with Arcade Fire, Thee Silver Mt. Zion & Basia Bulat). We were working together to produce a record with this Spanish artist which was really fun. I mean, what a treat to get to go somewhere so remote and work with musicians of that calibre. That idea swap was crazy, it was so cross-cultural. I started playing drums (which I don’t normally ever play), and they were like “no, no… it’s a little too Reggaeton” and I had never even heard of that before! It was so cool to be there and see that, and I learned so much from Howard as well.
Your last LP Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun had a very distinct sound to it. How important is the overall aesthetic of an album to you?
Yeah, I’m obsessed with how they sound. It really comes with the territory. Sometimes it’s a hinderance! With our new record Let’s Get Ready we really wanted it to sound a certain way going into it. How do we make a record feel alive? I think that affects the way you make a record. Sure, the gear is important, but the feeling of the environment and the space are what really shapes it. It really comes back to perspective, I think.
When we were making our last record, in my mind it sounded very different than it ended up turning out. And I am very happy with how it sounds, but that’s not how I remember envisioning it. You go down that road and you just get so involved. That’s part of the reason it took a year to record Kalle’s new record, things can get in the way and things get put on hold. It’s not that great of a process for the artists, but to come back to it after say four months of touring with fresh ears is so nice. One process isn’t better than the other, some of my favourite records are mixed in a day – I guess what I mean is that the experience really does shape it in the end.
We tried to narrow the focus of Let’s Be Ready right out of the gate. We put more effort and time into the songs – every other record I’ve made with the band I come in with 18 songs and we end up recording 15 of them. For this one we went in with 10 songs and ended up only recording eight of them. We worked and reworked it all from the ground up, and really wanted it to have that live feel to it. The songs come to me in a way, and then I have to learn how to sing them. It was a process of recording demos, playing live, going back and re-listening, and then doing that three times. We had never done that before. At a live show you can actually feel the energy in the room, and feel the crowd in front of you. You can’t recreate that in the studio. We tried to capture some of the energy that comes out when we play live the best we could on Let’s Be Ready – the difference between the live and studio versions aren’t as stark as in previous albums.
Where is somewhere that you think everyone should go once in their lives?
Do you want a negative experience? Do you want to go to Lansing, Michigan? That was the craziest night. We were opening for a US band and we were crashing at the promoter’s house. There were a bunch of people there, but he was out of town or something. I was sleeping on the floor and this couple comes in… they end up getting into a full-on domestic dispute. It sounded like a joke! Like, “don’t smash my bass guitar,” it was honestly like Austin Powers or something. That was fucked up. Wyatt our old bass player was trying to find the bathroom and accidentally broke their door down – anyway, yeah…
I didn’t really answer your question, sorry. It’s a good question, sometimes you get lost in the number of places you’ve played. Berlin was amazing. I was sitting writing songs at an abandoned Nazi airport, called the Templehof. I was there this summer at my flat, and all the runways are completely intact. People were windsurfing and boarding on these runways and it was amazing! It was a park right beside some concrete runways, and people just hanging out. Pretty neat.
The craziest thing about Europe is that you cover so much historical ground, to go from London to Paris is like going from Ottawa to Toronto. By the same token, there are some pretty amazing places in Canada as well. Wakefield, for example. We’re staying out there, and you really have to appreciate places like that. There’s so many unique experiences to be had. Even Thunder Bay – people rag on Thunder Bay but man, that drive is incredible. Everyone deserves to have that experience, to go through their own country. I think there’s a bit of an inferiority complex in Canada, where sometimes we try to be what we think we should be, instead of being who we are. I feel like that’s a theme of the record for us too, and that’s why we’re on the cover this time whereas before we never were. I want to be myself and express myself, as myself. I’m not trying to be cool, I know I’m not cool. I never have been, why pretend? It’s been such a relieving feeling.
Do you associate yourself with country music? Or is this a label that just gets pinned on you by the media?
I don’t know, it’s funny that people say that. I mean, I like country music. I was a DJ on a country music station when I was a kid, like 18. If people want to lump me in with Willie Nelson or Townes Van Zandt, then by all means please do. I would love that. I don’t know why it’s a dirty word… what makes one thing better than the other? It’s all just labels, and I used to get frustrated when anyone would label us as anything (especially alt country). But now I no longer see it as an insult, you can call me whatever you want. I’m not going to be preoccupied by that stuff. But I love Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, I mean, I’m just a music fan.
Be sure to catch The Wooden Sky on their 2014 tour:
09/02 Toronto, ON – Sonic Boom
09/12 Peterborough, ON – Red Dog Tavern
09/13-14 Ottawa, ON – Ottawa Folk Festival
09/16 Burnstown, ON – Neat Cafe
09/17 Montreal, QC – Pop Montreal @ Sala Rossa
09/18 Sudbury, ON – Townehouse
09/20 Thunder Bay, ON – Crocks
09/22 Swift Current, SK – Lyric Theatre
09/23 Regina, SK – Artesian On 13th
09/24 Edmonton, AB – Starlite
09/25 Banff, AB – The Club (banff Centre)
09/26 Nelson, BC – Spirit Bar (hume Hotel)
09/27 Vancouver, BC – Biltmore
09/29 Victoria, BC – 9one9
10/01 Calgary, AB – The Republik
10/2 Saskatoon, SK – Amigo’s
10/4 Winnipeg, MB – Wecc
10/9 Kingston, ON – The Isabel At Queen’s University
10/11 Dundas, ON – Dundas Valley Montessori School
10/16 Guelph, ON – Vinyl
10/17 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
10/18 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
10/21 Moncton, NB – Tide & Boar
10/22 Fredericton, NB – The Capital
10/23 Halifax, NS – Halifax Pop Explosion
10/24 Charlottetown, PE – Trailside Inn
10/25 Quebec City, QC – Le Cercle
‘Tis the season to look back on the year and recall some of the best music. Before we enter 2o13 (provided the world doesn’t end in a few weeks, which is so very likely) and wait in anticipation for new releases to come, we should reflect on the hard work, time and craftsmanship that went into so many of this past year’s albums. I often find lists arbitrary, because they are completely subjective and don’t always represent the best all-round music. In any case, these are my picks for 2012 — the albums that had the biggest impact on me throughout the year. There are so many other albums that came out this year that are worthy of mention, and I’m sure many different blogs throughout Canada will give them some well-deserved attention. I don’t expect everyone to agree, but enjoy anyways!
Evening Hymns playing in Paris (Photo: Julien Mignot)
Here is the full, unabridged version of the interview with Jonas I did for Where Ottawa. Enjoy!
To say that Evening Hymns is a two-piece folk-rock band doesn’t quite capture the sheer magnitude of their music. Spectral Dusk, their sophomore album released in August, is more art piece than album. Lead singer and songwriter Jonas Bonnetta penned the record after the passing of his father in 2009. The life-altering loss resulted in a deep reflection of life’s brevity, and ultimately a collection of songs that combine raw honesty and emotion with Bonnetta’s immaculate musicianship. WHERE Ottawa’s Matias Muñoz speaks with him before their show at Mavericks on November 15 about recording Spectral Dusk in Perth, Ontario (about an hour southeast of Ottawa) with bandmate Sylvie Smith and friends, the difficulty of bringing these personal works to life every night on the road, and his relationship with Ottawa.
You recorded Spectral Dusk in a cabin near Perth, Ontario. What drew you to the Ottawa area for this process?
Well Silvie’s parents just bought a place near Perth, it’s about 20 minutes north-west of the town. They bought the house and nine days after they got possession of it we approached them about working there, and as artists and musicians themselves, they were super thrilled that were going to christen it. We were looking for a place to record and I was getting close to renting a cabin a few hours north of Toronto and then this kind of fell into our lap, so when they bought it we asked if we could make a record there and they were totally on board. So that was our first introduction to that area.
So you wanted a quieter space? The city didn’t interest you?
Yeah, for the most part I really have no interest in recording in studios, so we wanted to do it in a place that sounds good and that helps us be in touch with our surroundings. And being deep in the woods really put us at ease as musicians, with no landline and no distractions from the outside. As a really personal record, it really helped us to focus on what we were doing and getting the sound that we wanted. For the type of music we’re making I like to think we don’t need studio production, and I think it has made our record sound great. With the basic recording equipment we had, a good mic and recording space is really all you need. Micro managing everything isn’t what I was looking for, just a few good pieces of equipment and some nice rooms.
Spectral Dusk is deeply personal for you, as it reflects on your father’s passing in different ways. While the album has been greeted with such warm reception, have you found it difficult to share with the world?
I find it pretty difficult live. I mean, the record as a whole was hard to make and that’s why it took such a long time to be released. It got too dark and we had to back off for a while, then we regained some energy and approached it again. Once we finished it, we were like “great, we’re done…” forgetting that we then had to go travel the world playing all those songs. So it’s been really exhausting, every show is like conjuring up those feelings about dad and revisiting that. It’s been a bit of a challenge, but then after a show you have someone come up to you and tell you about how they just lost their mom or dad, saying they cried tonight listening to your set because the songs said everything I wish I could have said. That makes it all worthwhile, and it makes it that much heavier because it kind of destroys you a bit hearing those things. But it’s real, and that’s what we like about it. What I’m saying on the record is true from the heart, so playing those songs comes naturally too.
You have spent a lot of time living life off the beaten path over the last few years. Does living unconventionally help you learn and grow as a musician? Or do you just get sick of living in the same place for too long?
Yeah, lived in a tent all summer. Silvie and I actually lived up near Perth all winter and will be spending all of this winter there as well. Just having the wood burning smell, cross-country skiing, and quiet reading spaces. It’s pretty much my dream life, you know? And living in a tent this past summer just east of Peterborough working on an art project was great. Part of our job as musicians is not staying in one place, it’s kind of a double-edged sword but it’s all part of it. And I like moving, I don’t get a whole lot of inspiration from just sitting around. I do get the inspiration by being out in the woods, so it’s a no-brainer for us when we get an opportunity to get out into the wilderness. I’m at the point in my life where I’m spending five or six months a year on the road and going to all these amazing cities all over the world. So the last thing I want to do in my free time is be in the city, I’m always on a quest to find interesting new places.
The Wooden Sky played in Ottawa a few weeks ago, and you’ve developed a pretty strong bond with them while touring and recording. How did some of the collaborations on Spectral Dusk come to be?
Well I asked those guys because I love the way they sound. They all met my dad, were with me at the funeral and were crucial through that whole thing. We had a strong connection so it was a no-brainer to collaborate with them. I helped out with a few of their songs and they helped out with Evening Hymns. It was such an organic process, throwing ideas off one another and getting it just right. We just did 6 weeks in Europe and they backed us up on that tour, so we were basically one big 7-piece band a lot of the time.
Since you last visited Ottawa for the album release in August (Raw Sugar Café), Evening Hymns toured Europe. In what ways is touring in Europe different than Canada?
We haven’t even done that much touring in Canada to be honest. We’ve done a few legs, but we’ve been in Europe four times in the last two years. I think you’re more akin to having a listening audience when you’re over there, you know? When people come to see you play, they come to listen to you and appreciate what you are saying. In North America, it’s sometimes harder to get that intense quiet that is ideal for our kind of music. So it makes for some really great shows over there, when the band and the audience work off each other. We’ve been really lucky there, and touring there is always joy. We’re in a new, beautiful city every night. And you have that here in Canada too, each place has it’s own character. Going over the Rockies, visiting small towns. We’re trying to put more time into Canada so that we can build our audience here too. It more difficult here sometimes, sometimes it’s great and others it’s tougher.
Do you have a favourite spot in Europe?
Yeah, Switzerland was really cool. The end our last tour we went to the Alps and stayed at a cottage in the alpine meadow. You could only get there by gondola, and we made it right before a snowstorm blew in and they had to shut it down. That place has a spot in my heart for sure. Paris has always been really amazing to us, and Berlin is one of my favourite cities in the world. Plus, our management and booking agent is based out of Berlin so we’ve had a lot of opportunities to get to know that place.
When people come to see you play in Ottawa on November 15th, what is one thing you hope they take away from the show?
I just hope they can connect, but then sometimes I think, “man, I hope no one feels as bad as I do”. It’s kind of weird, but a lot of times the show feels really good when the audience is really good. So it goes hand-in-hand, and it’s really special in an intimate way. Things are quiet this tour but we’re loving it.
What’s your favourite thing to do when you visit Ottawa? Are there any activities, places or meals you look forward to?
Now that we’re near there, spending more time nearby we really enjoy skiing in that area and doing outdoor activities. I also really enjoy going to The Manx for breakfast, I love that place. We played Raw Sugar Café last time we were in town, and the atmosphere in that place is really neat. There’s also the Neat Coffeshopin Burnstown, which I think has some of the best coffee in my opinion. I don’t know, I used to not care for Ottawa that much because I never felt that it had a soul. But as I spend more time there I am really starting to fall in love with the city. We will definitely be coming up there a lot since we’re going to be living so close by. Plus, Canada’s next Prime Minister Rolf Klausener (frontman of Ottawa band The Acorn) lives there, so it has that going for it too.