Unlike the majority of indie bands in Ottawa making high-energy rock music, Saint Clare is a group comprised of seven members of various ages, musical backgrounds, and talents. At first look, one might be taken aback by this unorthodox fusion of musicians—who knows where they found each other and how they came together? But if there’s one thing that Saint Clare has surely achieved in its short existence (est. 2013) it’s honing each and every member’s skill set and developing a truly unique sound to call their own.
The band’s 2013 Half Holy EP was their first attempt at making music together. Very rarely does a band release a debut album, in this case a four-track EP, and make it so clear what it is they’re going for. The layered and intricate instrumentation, high-energy orchestral nuances, and Matthew Saint Clare’s unhinged vocals that can only be compared to those of Frank Black of The Pixies. All of this melds into the distinctive sounds that Saint Clare create together. However motley a crew they may seem, their heterogeneity makes for a potent combination when such strong band chemistry exists.
“My first cassette tape was Born in the USA, my aunt gave it to me,” explains Matthew Saint Clare. “One day when I was like four I was jumping on my bed and playing air guitar on a tennis racket and I woke my sister up and my dad was pissed so he took the tape and crushed it in front of my sad childish eyes. These songs are the result of that.”
Saint Clare’s new album, the five-track Moving On EP, is the logical next step for the band. Recorded and mixed by Jerrett Bartlett at Music for Cats Studio in Ottawa, they take all the aspects that made Half Holy as strong as it was and refined them. Songs such as “East Ending” and “Stranger Than Fiction” utilize the full arsenal of the band and are melodic yet powerful, and as in-your-face as one might expect. There’s a tempered edginess that comes across in these tracks that make the songs less gritty as their Half Holy counterparts, yet the fuzz-pop underpinnings remain intact. It’s the robust kind of rock that you want to hear on the radio, unsanitized and unwavering to the zeitgeist of the day yet accessible to a wide audience of music appreciators.
The mini rock-orchestra still remains intact on this album, and Morgan Grant’s saxophone and Nick DiSaverio’s trombone explode with the same fervour as Dan Devries’ drums or the pervasive guitar parts. However, the Moving On EP is more restrained than their previous work. It contains a few more atmospheric, slowed down songs that demonstrate another side to the band. The title track begins with a twangy, folk-inspired sound and crescendos as the rest of the band jumps in. Another interesting departure was the song “Hang Gliding,” which was sung by guitarist Richard Jeffrey with backing vocals provided by keys player Casey Comeau. Jeffrey, although a different age and voice than Matthew Saint Clare, channels the same energy and style as he does, making his lead vocals on the track a refreshing and appealing change of pace.