Concert Reviews, Interviews, Music

Stranded On an Island with 18 Bands

1 Comment 15 August 2014

by Brita Brookes
Pelee

If I’m ever asked that timeless question of- “If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with?” I can now say Harlan Pepper as one of my potential answers. I just spent a weekend on an island with over 18 bands, amazing food, artists, local Pelee Island vineyard wines, Walkerville craft brews, refreshing lake waters to swim in, tons of scenery and plenty of sunshine. Continue Reading

Acoustic, Canadian, Country, Folk, Interviews, Jazz, Roots

INTERVIEW: WEST MY FRIEND

No Comments 13 August 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

IMG_5479_1 Copying

I caught up with West My Friend, or most of them anyway, at the tail end of a practice. They were rehearsing for an appearance that night at the Solstice Café, a concert that I was lucky enough to catch. Bass player Adam Bailey was sick that day, but I chatted with Eden Oliver (vocals, acoustic guitar), Alex Rempel (mandolin, vocals) and Jeff Poynter (accordion, vocals):

What is West My Friend all about?
EO: We like having a band that plays acoustically, which focuses on the timbre of the instruments and how they combine in complex ways. It’s not a traditional group of instruments. It’s not what you’d expect. A lot of people look at our line-up and think ‘blue-grass’ but it’s not.
JP: Someone said we were a pop band disguised as a folk band. But it’s really not pop.
EO: No, it’s quirkier than pop. Quirky. That term is haunting us.

How did you get together?
EO: Jeff and Alex have known each other since grade one in Langley. Then they came over here to go to UVic. I was just leaving UVic at the time. All of us were in music school. We met through a mutual friend. They’d been in a band with her and I’d been in a band with her.
JP: Both bands came to an end at the same time. So we were all sort of looking for a new band, without knowing it. It came to us in a dream.
EO: There was originally another female singer-songwriter, but she eventually left to join a funk band. So we picked up a bass player and then solidified our sound. We each picked one instrument and focused on it, because sound guys hated it when we came on stage with our gazillion instruments.
JP: Yeah, also it was difficult for us to get to shows because none of us owns a car. So we would have to buck all these instruments.
EO: Alex has a degree in bass, Jeff has a degree in saxophone, and I have a degree in flute. So we’re multi-instrumentalists by virtue of the fact that none of us play our main instrument.
AR: We have to be or else we’d be screwed.
EO: Yes, [laughs] or else we’d be a bass, saxophone and flute pop band.
AR: I don’t know that I’d even wanna go see that! We wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I’m not into that personally.

Did your music evolve naturally?
JP: Yes. We’ve never sat down and said, “This is the sonic direction we want to go in.” It just happened.
EO: At first we definitely experimented quite a bit, but for the last three years or so we’ve been operating from the same basis. Not that we’ve made a decision that it has to be this.
AR: I feel like we’ve got to the point where we think, “This is nice. I really like the stuff we’re making now.”
JP: It’s hard to define the genre though.
EO: Yeah, there’s jazz and classical. Funk. A blue-grass influence. I listen to a lot of indie.
AR: We’re like a big crock-pot that’s been going for a few years. The potatoes were all hard and weird at first, but then you come back about a week later and, hey, how about that?
JP: Recording has helped us with our sound, because when you sit down to record you have to go, “OK, how do we want this to sound?”.
EO: Yes, and it’s helped with the arrangement of the parts. How the four voices of our instruments interact. It’s gotten more complex.
AR: Adrian and Joby [producers Adrian Dolan and Joby Baker] have certainly helped with where our music’s going. We are now more conscious of how we are putting songs together. There is certainly still a jammy aspect when we first start a song but when we are live we are not a jam band. That’s because when we are writing a song we are thinking about how these lines fit together.
JP: We play festivals and quite often a whole group of musicians get together and just play. Some bands, their music is good to jam to, but ours…
EO: [Laughs] No one wants to play our songs.
JP: They’re both good kinds of music. Our music just too unpredictable, I guess.
AR: We can be a bit esoteric at times.

Was there any change from the first album to the second album?
EO: We’ve added brass. Trumpet, trombone. Also, on one song there is a mini orchestra.
JP: The songwriting is more mature. In the past couple of years we’ve tightened up more. This is album is more cohesive.
AR: We’ve just been writing more material. When you write more you get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work. The whole process was more intentional this time. From what I recall of that blurred several months.
JP: We always allow lots of time for these things, but once you get there it’s not enough time.
AR: Never enough time. Welcome to life. The human condition. Glaring mortality at every corner.

In the song “When the Ink Dries” there is a cautionary message. Is this something new to your music?
EO: We are all socially conscious and that inevitably comes out.
JP: And there is more of that on this album than the last. It is one of the themes on this album. But it’s not all cautionary, it’s not all environmental.
EO: Some of it is celebratory, like “The Cat Lady Song”. Part of developing as a songwriter for me has been learning how to write about things that I care about without being preachy or being corny.
AR: In terms of the songs having a social conscience I think I am doing that more. I don’t necessarily think that I have to make a statement, but everyone has a position or a point of view but not everyone gets the chance to put them out there or have them heard, so I think there is some sense of obligation that I have this opportunity then I should use it, at least some of the time, to say what I think ought to be said. But not too “up front”.
EO: Or forget about the music. That’s the way I look at it, I’m still making music. I’m not here to stand on a soapbox. We like music.
JP: We do it because we love music, not to get a message across.

What do people like about your music?
JP: The unconventionality of it. Some people say they weren’t a fan the album the first time they heard it, but after two or three listens they got into it way more.
AR: What did the BBC in Scotland say, “If it’s not too convoluted for its own good, it might just catch on”?
EO: Yes, that’s what they said about “The Cat Lady Song”.
JP: That’s the thing, it may take repeated listens before people like it.
EO: I know that people who like our music really like it. And children too, children really like it.
JP: Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

The future, where are you guys going from here?
EO: More. Better.
AR: More shows, better shows. That seems to be the mantra with the band.
JP: More “listening” audiences, not so much bar audiences. We may still do one or two bar dates on tour, because they’re fun and we need to fill those dates, but our preference is definitely, you know, sit down and hear. We are also spending more time touring this year. Hopefully get to the UK.
AR: We are getting to the point where we’re thinking, “Oh, man, this could be a viable full-time thing.” Which would be awesome. For me it is just the best time of the year when we get to go on tour.
JP: We are just now starting to pay ourselves back after almost five years. In the past we were paying off an album or paying off expenses. So for the future, yeah, making it more of a career.
EO: We’re doing more stuff with schools too. It’s nice to bring our music into schools and do workshops. Our music is from the “real” world. It’s not kids’ music, but kids like it. It’s mostly songwriting workshops. In one school we actually taught them one of our songs.
JP: There was one guitar class and a choir, so there was like 30 guitars and 30 singers doing our songs.
EO: It was awesome! [Laughs] It was so metal.
AR: For me, the music that I am writing now is what this band wants to play. So, yeah, let’s keep doing it.

Any final words?
AR: Do you know anyone who’s selling a van that’s already converted to biodiesel?
EO: So far we’ve always borrowed or rented a van. We all bike. In fact, we are going on a biking tour end of August. We taking our instruments and gear with us. It’s all farms and breweries. Up to Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands. Obviously, in future we will do tours with vehicles and so we’re trying to find more sustainable ways to do that. We did a public transit tour once!

Canadian, Electronic, Electropop, Interviews, Music, Pop

Interview: Meet Animalia aka Jill Krasnicki

No Comments 19 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
3.-Animalia-photo-by-Jenny-Bundock

Animalia, or Jill Krasnicki as her mother calls her, is originally from Hobart, Tasmania. After playing bass for Australian bands for several years she finally ended up in Toronto where she decided to go solo. ‘Mouth Full of Teeth‘ is her wonderful debut. I got the chance to catch up with Jill to discuss her new album and to ask about her transition from an acoustic artist to an electronic one: Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Interviews, Music

Interview: Adrian Chalifour and Jesse Boland of Towers and Trees

1 Comment 06 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

towersandtrees

It was noon on July 2nd. The indie folk collective, Towers and Trees, had just played the night before (Canada Day) on the lawn of the BC Legislature. Band members Adrian Chalifour and Jesse Boland were on their lunch break from their day jobs, but they were still kind enough to speak with me between bites, despite being a little tired from the previous evening’s concert: Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Interviews, Music, Pop

Interview: Cardinals “Fly Farther Than Love” at SCENE Music Festival

No Comments 03 July 2014

by Brita Brookes
cardinals

Day 1 of the SCENE music festival made itself known to be the hottest ‘‘Day 1’’ ever, in both weather conditions and in the musical line up. Part of the “Day 1” SCENE line up included Niagara’s very own Cardinals. This Ontario trio began their musical journey like many, in their family homes. Lead singer and guitarist Levi Clattenburg had a musical father and a supportive family. “We always had some kind of music going on in the house growing up,” stated Levi as we all sat down to talk prior to their performance at SCENE on the main stage Saturday. Bass Player/Vocals, Myles Rogers dad was also a musician and is an active mentor to the band today. Drummer and Vocals, Nathanial Rustenberg’s parents were not musicians but were supportive of his musical interests as he grew up in the Niagara area and started playing in local bands. This is the band’s third time playing SCENE and their first time playing the SCENE main stage. “We are so excited to be playing the main stage this year, it’s important to us as we have been here playing at this Festival before and it’s our home town area.” Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Interviews, Listen, Music

Interview: Mike Edel on “The Closer”

No Comments 02 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
mikeedel

It’s Canada Day in Victoria, so I should really be down listening to Towers and Trees in front of the Legislature Buildings or checking out Ska Fest. But no, here I am scrambling to find Mike Edel. He just dropped his latest single, “The Closer”, and I am so impressed with it that I must speak to him – like now. He’s from Victoria, so should be easy to find, right? What’s that? He’s in San Francisco? Oh. I don’t know whether the lines were all busy on my end because of Canada Day or it was just some weird set-up he has down there, but it took us about 40 minutes of dial tones, recorded messages and strange alien-sounding interference before we finally connected. But we did, and here’s what he had to say: Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Interviews, Music

Band on the (Cosmic) Run: An Interview With Spaceport Union

No Comments 11 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

spaceportunion

Photo by KTB photography

Victoria’s Spaceport Union describe themselves as a progressive art rock band, but if you think that means they play retro 70′s dinosaur music then you are very mistaken. Their music is, in fact, fresh and contemporary, and they take the term “progressive” in its literal sense. Continue Reading

Canadian, Interviews, Music, R&B/Hiphop, World Music

Let’s Go To Field Trip With: Zaki Ibrahim

No Comments 06 June 2014

by Nilabjo Banerjee
Zaki_Ibrahim

South African-Canadian singer/songwriter Zaki Ibrahim plays Day 2 of Field Trip this weekend. If you are the kind who likes their R&B fused with jazz and soul and everything else, give her Polaris nominated debut Every Opposite a listen before the show.

For now, check out my chat with Zaki as we talked about being the new kid in high school, performing while pregnant and photobombing Rob Ford. Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Interviews, Music, Pop

Let’s Go to Field Trip With: Maylee Todd!

No Comments 06 June 2014

by Nilabjo Banerjee
9544852979_d16e31d710_o
Maylee Todd is a blogger’s nightmare. Genre classification doesn’t work with her music. Listen to her last release Escapalogy and you will know what I mean. Todd is all over the spectrum covering genres like soul, indie-pop, jazz and the list goes on. The delightful Toronto’s own will be playing June 7, Day 1 of Field Trip! Check out our interview, as we talked about keeping it real, showing Bjork around Toronto and taking a selfie with NDG. Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Interviews, Music

Interview: Emm Gryner

No Comments 15 April 2014

by Nilabjo Banerjee
emmgryner

Emm Gryner has earned cred from people in high places

-          Bono wishes he wrote one of her songs “Almighty Love”

-          David Bowie has deemed her as one of 2 Canadian acts that you must know

-          Nelly Furtado has called her album Science Fair her ‘desert island’ disc

Does she still feel that she has to prove herself?

“I have always felt like an outsider”, Gryner admits, “when it comes to the music industry”. That is hard to believe, coming from someone who recently played piano on Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity” cover during his ISS mission. She also has a duet, on her new album, Torrential, with the Canadian astronaut. You impressed yet?

Give the album a listen, and you will be a fan of the strong pop melodies (“Excess Baggage”), resonating lyrics (“So Easy”) and subtle country vibes served with words of social commentary (“Pioneer”). The fiercely independent Gryner may have saved the best for her 14th one. And doubt it will be her last. Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Industrial, Interviews, Music, Punk

Interview: Odonis Odonis

No Comments 14 April 2014

by Tiana Feng
Odonis Odonis @ Wavelength 14 Day 2- Adelaide Hall 2/14/2014
Odonis Odonis’ Hard Boiled Soft Boiled finally comes out tomorrow! I talked to Denholm from the band about the 5 year old album and asked him what his favourite egg dish was. Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Interviews, Music

Interview: Thus Owls

No Comments 14 April 2014

by Tiana Feng
thusowls

Thus Owls released their third album Turning Rocks last week. I got to chat with Simon and Erika Angell about how it came together, inspirations and places they like to eat. Continue Reading

Canadian, Experimental, Interviews, Music, Pop

Interview: Weaves

No Comments 01 April 2014

by Tiana Feng
Weaves @ Wavelength 14 Day 2- Adelaide Hall 2/14/2014

Happy EP release day to Weaves! I talked to Morgan Waters yesterday afternoon and he compared their music to blue cheese. Continue Reading

Alternative, Canadian, Interviews, Music, Pop

Interview: Fast Romantics

No Comments 29 March 2014

by Nilabjo Banerjee

fastromantics

Fan of Pretty Little Liars or Vampire Diaries? Then, odds are you have already been introduced to Fast Romantics. Their songs “Cool Kids”, “How Do You” and “MoneyMouth” have been background score to some dramatic scenes in the teen dramas. Band’s reaction to the exposure? “To be honest, I’m just as surprised as you are”, frontman Matt Angus admits, “that we are appealing to that crowd”. Continue Reading

Alternative, Folk, Interviews, Music

Interview: The Strumbellas

No Comments 08 February 2014

by Nilabjo Banerjee

√  2nd Juno nomination.

√  Song featured in Hockey Night in Canada promo

√  Getting a Twitter shoutout from one of the biggest Canadian bands: Blue Rodeo

Would you say The Strumbellas are ridin’ high? Or maybe (more aptly), the six-piece folk ‘popgrass’ act are just “Sailing”. That is the latest single used on a HNIC promo, one of the biggest institution in Canadian television.

With another Juno nomination for the sophomore album, We Still Move on Dance Floors and SOLD OUT shows, are they sensing the momentum? Continue Reading

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