Review: Cold Capital – ‘The Cold Capital EP’ + Q&A with singer Erik Hertzberg

cold capital EP, ottawa bands, indie, Cold capital band

While we don’t run a whole lot of album reviews on Showbox, once in a while we like to mix things up. Cold Capital is a band that has been around for almost three years, having released the short, rough-around-the-edges Raw EP in the winter of 2012 and, more recently, a five-track album called The Cold Capital EP in August 2013. They were a featured band for Canadian Music Fest 2013 and have fine-tuned their sound as a no-fluff, no-BS blues rock ensemble.

On this EP, the band clearly draws on their classic rock influences and executes a short, but well-defined version of a must-love rock and roll style. Lead vocalist Erik Hertzberg seems to borrow a page out of Chris Robinson’s (The Black Crowes) book, but ultimately brings his own lyrical brand and vocal stylings to this record. A talented lead singer should be able to fuse good lyrics and themes with vocal melodies that flow just right with the band’s music, and Hertzberg’s robust vocals do just that. On songs like ‘Wind Blown’ Hertzberg’s unrestrained voice is complimented really well by backup vocal harmonies, adding even more layers and making the tracks fun to listen to.

One can’t help but group this band in with other bluesy, classic rock-influenced bands such as The Sheepdogs, The Trews, and Yukon Blonde. It’s a combination of those overdriven, melodic guitar parts by Hertzberg and Matt Muir along with heavy-ass drumming by Jason Cote that produce a distinct and unmistakable sound that has failed to leave the consciousness of musicians and music fans alike for decades. Their music has a perfect whiskey-drinking, dirty bar kind of sound that is hard not to love. Maybe it’s not such a coincidence that their EP cover is a 5.5% beer bottle label, an album that is brewed in the same tradition of Ottawa’s delicious craft beer culture: full of flavour, and not an ounce of boredom to be found. It will be interesting to see how Cold Capital moves forward with their sound. It’s always a fine balance between retaining that edgy rock and roll quality and falling into a trap of making a near copy of the music on future releases, which makes it hard for some bands to expand their audience. They are looking to release a full-length album in 2014 (more details below), a challenge that I’m sure these talented guys are excited to take on. It is also worth mentioning that some members of the band are also involved in other local projects such as Miss Polygamy, The Wicked Mercy, Suns of Stone, and the Jesse Greene Band.

They recently played with some pretty big names including Head of the Herd,  The Glorious Sons, The Sunparlour Players, and local “rawbeat rock” guitar slingers StillNative. Keep your eyes and ears out for these fellas, as they’re sure to play some great shows around town and likely some festivals as well. A big thumbs-up for this EP from the Showbox team.

Matias’s favourite track: ‘Sign Me Up’

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Interview with lead singer Erik Hertzberg

1. Can you tell me how Cold Capital came to be, and how the band has gotten to this point?

Erik: I met Andrew (bass) and Matt (guitar) in 2011 when they were looking for a blues rock singer. After pooling our influences, we started to rehearse in a free form, improvisational jam-rock style wherein all members contributed to the arrangements. Often, extended jams were condensed and mixed with other pieces that I had stockpiled that had a more roots rock/classic rock approach to them. With the addition of my brother Nick Hertzberg (keyboard/guitar and vocals) to the band, our blues rock sound was melodically and harmonically expanded. Jason (drums) joined us earlier this year when we put out an ad looking for the heaviest hitting drummer in Ottawa.

 2. What approach did you guys take towards the EP?

Erik: The Cold Capital EP is a direct result of the mixing of influences and arrangements of all band members. We wanted to capture the energy of live performance on the EP by emphasizing the guitar driven aspects of our composition (Matt, Nick, and I all play guitar on the album) and by recording my vocals as unaltered as possible. The lyrical content is derived from the music itself–some progressions and melodies immediately inspired themes, while others took a bit more reflection. Alot of the lyrics touch upon the issues of economic inequality and conspicuous consumption (‘Sign Me Up,’ ‘The Truth’) , while others highlight our fascination with weather extremes (‘Wind Blown,’ ‘Albuquerque’). ‘Charlie’ is a song I wrote several years ago.

 3. What have been some of your favourite perks or experiences been as being part of this band?

Erik: The ability to perform our music in a scene as unique as Ottawa’s has been awesome. The consistent opportunities to interact regularly with other musical projects in the area has inspired and directed our development as a band, not to mention the iconic venues we’ve been privileged enough to play around this city (i.e. Blacksheep Inn). Earlier this year we played Canadian Music Fest in Toronto (our first show in the city) to an amazing crowd at the Cadillac Lounge. Opening for Vancouver blues-rockers Head of the Herd both times they were in Ottawa was a real thrill too. We’re big fans of theirs and they’re doing amazing things right now. We also got to play for The Glorious Sons on their last trip through Ottawa. Sharing the stage with these high profile blues rockers has been an unreal experience.

4. Can you talk about some of the adversity you’ve faced thus far?

Erik: Adversity… yeah, that’s always there haha. Splitting time between day jobs and the music has been a tough one for us… figuring out how to juggle everything in the chaos and still remain productive is a challenge we’ve all had to address I’m sure. Ultimately I feel that the balancing act inspires the art at some level… but it can be very disruptive to the creative energies. I guess I’m fortunate that I’ve found the equilibrium.

Outside of the creative process it’s also always a challenge to get new fans and listeners — it’s become so important to be offering music and getting your name out there in unique ways so that people remember you; we’ve been fortunate enough to play some gigs with some great local bands and big touring bands and I think once people hear us live for the first time they tend to search us out. Thanks to all you awesome people if you’re reading this!

 5. Any big plans for the future?

Erik: We’re about halfway done writing a new batch of songs and we plan to start recording a full-length album sometime next spring. The songs are a bit more melodic, and we’re taking an approach to writing that’s based on working out the natural flow of the songs. We’re also planning an Ontario tour, and we’ll certainly be making a stop somewhere in the Kawartha Lakes, near my hometown, as well as London and Toronto. Winter is a great time for rehearsing and writing, so we’ll be taking full advantage in the coming months. Expect to see us in the festival circuit next year too.

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