On a sunny day in June during Ottawa Explosion Weekend, I caught up with Vancouver self-proclaimed powertrash band Needles//Pins. Their new album Good Night, Tomorrow was released in July of this year, and signaled a shift in the band’s sound and production. It’s more polished, and more grandiose than anything they’ve done in the past. But the grittiness quality of songwriting is still there, and fans old and new will fall right into this record.
They’re set to play House of TARG on Friday, August 25th along with Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, and NECK. Check out this candid interview with the trio, where they talk about the new album, Ottawa roots, and throw themselves under the bus.
Interview with Needles//Pins
You guys have played Ottawa Explosion Weekend before and stopped in Ottawa many times on tour. What’s your relationship to the city?
Adam Ess: Tony and I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, so we grew up about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa. So we started coming to the city in our teens to see shows, and I was in bands since I was fifteen years old playing places like Club SAW. I’ve known OXW organizers Emmanuel (Sayer) and Luke (Martin) for fifteen years or so as a result. I know Emmanuel from when he used to live in Windsor, we played with his old band called Searching for Chin. Then he moved to Ottawa and joined Buried Inside and others.
I guess the first time we played here as a band was the first ever Ottawa Explosion, it was our first cross-Canada tour. We’ve played every year since except last year, that was the only one so far that we haven’t played.
Do you get to spend much time in Ottawa when you’re here?
Tony X: It’s pretty much in and out. Usually it’s between Toronto and Montreal so we don’t have much time to take the extra night in Ottawa, we can’t lose that prime night of playing in other cities. I kind of wish we could just be here all weekend to be honest.
Needles//Pins played with The Smugglers at OXW for the Mint Records Showcase. How did that come about?
Adam: I think one of the impetuses for doing the Smuggs thing is because of Grant Lawrence’s book. It’s all part of the presentation of the book, and with the Mint Records connection we played the Vancouver show and it kind of took off from there.
Tony: Mint probably leaned on them a bit for us to play the show, I don’t think The Smugglers were begging us to play with them haha.
Your new record Good Night, Tomorrow is a bit of a different direction for the band. What is it that you are most excited for the bands to hear?
Adam: The general sound of the record, I think. It’s just such a huge sound, and that’s what we wanted out of it.
Tony: Just like you said, people are noticing it’s different and in a positive way and that’s really great.
Adam: And for us there’s no worry about that, I mean if you liked the band before then you’re going to like the band now. It’s hands-down way better, there’s no doubt about that. They’re the best songs we’ve ever written, the production is so much better, just everything. We took almost a year and a half to write and record the album, we took our time on it and wrote it in chunks, and recording as we went.
Tony: At some point we were recording and thinking, “oh good, it’s only been a year,” and then our producer Jesse told us we started in June… we were like, “oh, fuck…”
If I remember correctly, the last time you guys played Ottawa Explosion before this year there was something that literally exploded on stage.
Macey Bee: Oh shit, I forgot about that.
Tony: Yeah an amp! That was two years ago!
Macey: I think I was also on fire.
Tony: I just remember Adam was out of tune and he blamed me for it, but it actually was him. I just want to clear that up. He blamed me, but it was him. IT WAS NOT TONY, for the record. I don’t know about the amp though.
Adam: Ok then, since we’re going on the record, I am the one that coined the nickname “12 Grain” for Macey.
Tony: Oh I guess we’re recording everything now, airing the grievances. What is this, Festivus?
Have you had any other disasters happen while on tour?
Macey: I think touring with these two is a fucking disaster in general (laughs). I mean I’ve been doing it for a while now and I guess I’ll just have to keep doing it until I die.
Adam: Or until one of us dies, at least. There haven’t been any major disasters though, really. Knock on wood!
Tony: We’ve played shitty so many times, though. The worst show we ever played was in LA, and I’ll go on the record by saying it was all my fault.
Matias: You’re really throwing yourself under the bus here.
Macey: I was going to say that I played really well that night. You fucking blew it man.
Adam: That was a doozy.
Tony: I just didn’t play the right notes. There might have been some technical issues, I don’t know.
Macey: Yeah, technically your fingers didn’t hit the right notes on the bass.
Logistically, as I headed into my Thursday I knew this was a marathon and not a sprint. Thursday and Friday, back-to-back shows topped with everything else life was throwing my way turned in to what I can only describe as a whirlwind couple of days. This is whirlwind, part one.
My musical journey with We Are the City began a couple of years ago when another artist I was listening to went on tour with them as their openers. Since then, I have done my best to keep up with their music and when I saw they were passing through Ottawa, I made sure I would be there. Based out of Vancouver, We Are the City brings high energy with an electronic rock fusion set. Having just released their new album Above Club in November, this show was a must-see.
A similar story for HIGHS, I don’t remember exactly what or who put me on to their music in the first place, but I enjoyed their album and decided that, after missing them once, the next time they were in town I’d find a way to make it out to see them. It came as a happy surprise when they were added to the line-up for a show that I had already placed so much anticipation around.
I had not heard Rebelle before, but arrived promptly as they were starting their set. They were more on the pop/rock side of the rock-electronic fusion theme the evening had going and fit very well with the visiting lineup. During the set, House of TARG filled with an eager crowd awaiting the next two sets and happy to take them in. Siblings David and Rylee Taggart and their band have really been making a name for themselves, and previously known as The Strain. After seeing their set, have officially entered my artists to watch category as they make their way further into the scene.
HIGHS at House of TARG (Photo by Elizabeth Durford)
When HIGHS took the stage, it was clear that the majority of the crowd was well aware of their music. Those who were clear fans pressed to the front of the crowd, but the nice thing about TARG is the ability to have a good view of the show from pretty much any vantage point in the place. Personally, I’m a side stage kind of gal. HIGHS bring a unique light sound with their mixing vocals and tempos. They matched their music’s energy with movement and mixing up instruments, the addition of a second drum in the front added an extra element to the set.
We Are the City set themselves up for a similar high dynamic stage. Big lights, similar to those you’d find in an office or school ceiling, crowded the small stage. They flooded bright changing colors onto the musicians and into the crowd. This group made it clear the talents within each individual as they changed up who took lead on different songs. Despite the crazy fusion between pop/rock/electronics their music is very easy to keep up with and sing along if you so desire.
Each group brought all their energy to the stage, and judging by the crowd, their energy paid off. As night one drew to a close, I left feeling satisfied with finally seeing two groups I had kept my eye on for a long while, and equally as happy to add another group to that list.
Amped to say the least, anticipation for whirlwind, part two, began to grow.
We Are The City at House of TARG. (Photo by Elizabeth Durnford)
*NOTE* – This contest is now closed. Congrats to winner Aaron C. for winning two tickets to this show Feb. 25.
Vancouver-based progressive/experimental band We Are The City are on tour and are making a pit stop here in Ottawa on Feb. 25 at House of Targ. Their two-month road trip included multiple dates across Europe, finishing things off in March here in Canada.
They released their third, and most recent album Above Club in November 2015, which is breaking new ground and a clear progression in the band’s overall sound and aesthetic. Produced in the back of a bike shop in Van City, WATC take disparate musical elements that range from pulsating, raw percussion, reverb-laden guitar spatterings, and synth layerings that make for an incredibly impressive mixture of pop, experimental, and art rock sensibilities. Above Club is a fun, yet complex composition with rich textures and elements that go deep. Fans of Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend will feel right at home, but WATC’s music has mass appeal. And what better band to pair with than HIGHS? HIGHS has exploded into the Canadian indie music consciousness since forming in 2012, bringing with them their brand of afrobeat rhythm mixed with irresistibly catchy guitar hooks.
So basically, don’t miss these band when they roll through town. We’re giving away two tickets, here’s how to enter to win:
Q: We Are The City placed first in heated competition in 2009 meant to assist emerging artists from British Columbia and Alberta through education, development, and promotion, which helped garner them international recognition. What was the name of this competition?
Contest closes on Saturday, February 19 at noon. Winner will be announced at the top of this post and on twitter (we will contact via the method you entered).
We Are the City HIGHS Rebelle
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Doors: 9:00 pm / Show: 9:30 pm
House of TARG
$10.00 @ Vertigo Records or online here.
New local female folk duo Dogwood recently released their debut album Crows.
Chloe Perrault and Ellorie McKnight (formally of Marabou) decided to record a few songs this past spring, while out on the west coast. The nine-song album is full of absolutely beautiful melodies and harmonies. The girls’ voices compliment each other so well and the harmonies make me melt. The music is also quite captivating, as the duo blend guitar and violin masterfully to create smooth dream-like folk music. On top of all that, I believe that the strongest elements of Dogwood’s sound are their lyrics, which paint such wonderful pictures of hope, sadness, love and dreams. The song that has me clicking repeat is the tremendous song “Woolen,” which takes me on a trip of the rollercoaster of love through the mountain tops and valley lows of the beautiful west coast.
Ellorie explains that “Our album is called Crows, in dedication to the murder of crows that roosts in Burnaby and commutes to downtown Vancouver and back every day. We spent many afternoons drinking earl grey tea on the porch, playing slow music, and wondering about those black birds that swept the sky. They made us dream, and indeed, we believe this is the feel of our new little album: a dream of sorts.”
They used to be based in Ottawa but studies and opportunities have separated them to almost each end of the country. Chloe is now in St-Albert, Quebec, for the summer interning on an organic farm, and tending to her very own flock of chickens. Ellorie is spending a few months doing field work in the wilderness of Alaska, studying white spruce trees amongst the caribou and wildflowers of the Brooks range.
The album is streaming below and on bandcamp where you can download it for a mere $5.