Terra Lightfoot (no relation to Gordon Lightfoot) performed as part of the Sonic Unyon CMW showcase on Saturday night at Cherry Cola’s. Lightfoot is playing as part of a trio these days, and the band led by this musical powerhouse lit the place up, performing many new songs which will be featured on an album she’s currently working on. Somewhere during the first song, everyone’s attention shifted to the stage, where she held it until the last note.
Her rich and powerful voice are perfect for the indie folk music she writes. Influenced by blues pioneers like Robert Johnson and Leadbelly, Lightfoot’s music reveals these influences as well as rock, country and more. She blends these together into a truly personal style that allows her to finger-pick some songs (she’s proficient at this) and blast out full and powerful chords in others. Yes, she’s quite the guitarist!
She effortlessly transitions from ballads to energetic rock tunes to country-infused numbers, including one she dedicated to the Carter Family. The mellow, perhaps melancholy sound quality of her voice doesn’t seem like it would fit with the sheer power she wields, yet it’s a wonderfully surprising combination that makes her voice unique. She has excellent control.
In 2012, Lightfoot won three Hamilton Music Awards including Best Female Artist, Best Female Vocalist and Best Alt/Country Album of the Year. Lightfoot has toured Canada three times, overseas once already, and is now in the midst of recording an album with her other band, the Dinner Belles, while preparing her sophomore album under her own name. So, she’s making waves both at home and abroad.
Lightfoot’s voice and guitar are the focal point within the band. Here is one of her newer songs, ‘Moonlight’, performed with her talented trio for Exclaim! TV.
The bar was full to capacity two hours before they hit the stage. So full I couldn’t risk losing my spot near the front to get a drink at the bar for fear that I’d never make it back again. And so, drier than a nun during mass, I took in what turned out to be one of the best live shows I’ve seen in quite some time.
Flash Lightnin’ are a local Toronto band made up of Darren Glover (guitars/vocals) and Darcy Yates (bass), and I’m still trying to figure out how I didn’t find out about these guys earlier. Formed in 2007, they paved their way via a residency at the Dakota Tavern. Their first EP, 2008’s Destello, captured their energetic live show and earned them opening slots for Eagles of Death Metal, Metric and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
They recently returned from a tour opening for ZZ Top. They have released two full-length albums since, including Flash Lightnin’ and their very recent For The Sinners. ‘Flash Lightnin’’ the song has been featured in blockbusters Thor, Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows and The Last Stand.
Their set began with them cheersing the crowd with shots. From the very first note, I understood what everyone had so eagerly waited to see. Their music is gritty, raw and real. Gritty, but also incredibly technically proficient. Glover is one amazing guitarist, not only because of the speed and accuracy with which he performs very difficult solos, but because the solos in each song are noticeably different from all the others, tastefully crafted specific to each song. It was really something to see (and hear).
In addition to the guitar work, the songs are also fun and well written. They have interesting rhythmic fills and changes, aided by the masterful playing of Daniel Neill on drums at this show. I should mention that despite Neill not being a regular band member, the threesome was super tight, a testament to the skill level of each musician. Neill timed and executed each fill with perfect rhythm, and between the three of them, every shot was bang on. The energy that the band established with the first chord was maintained through their entire set and Glover, obviously at home on the mic, worked the crowd like a seasoned pro.
People in the audience kept buying them more shots, and more yet. By the end I was amazed that Glover was still able to perform his flawless guitar solos. It was such a great show that I didn’t care that the drunk guy in front of me kept spilling his beer all over me, or that practically every person in the room had nasty BO. I can’t say a single negative thing about this band or this show.
So if you’ve been living under a rock, as apparently I have, and have not caught wind of this band yet, it’s time to peek your head out and take notice. Here’s ‘Flash Lightnin’’ (the song) performed by the trio last month at a show they opened for ZZ Top.
Listen to those tasty drum fills and the guitar solos, especially the one towards the end of the song. Oh man. So good.
Oh Susanna is a veteran in the Canadian music scene by now, but this was my first time seeing her perform. I knew she was a prolific songwriter, excelling at story-telling tunes, but I had no idea how talented she really is until her CMW set. Or how deep her roots within the scene go. She’s also brilliant and adventurous. She had the idea a while back to reach out and ask her musician friends on Facebook to write songs for an album that will be comprised of said songs.
She played many of the songs at this show, and even had a six-song sampler for the upcoming record that she gave out, including tracks by Joel Plaskett, Royal Wood, Keri Latimer, Ron Sexsmith and A. Presley, Jim Bryson and Melissa McClelland. What an interesting and brave project. The album will be called Namedropper.
The album was initially planned to be out last fall, however Oh Susanna was diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemotherapy, hence delaying the progress with the album. In fact, the CMW show, part of the Sonic Unyon showcase, was her first in about a year. I’m happy to report that it went swimmingly and she looked great; so cute with short hair (there’s a definite resemblance to Natalie Portman).
Her country folk music has ample sweetness and a touch of sass. At this show, the songs she played by other writers took her away from the country feel a little bit and more into rock and pop styles, which she seemed at ease with. Her voice is as strong as ever; she has a clear and strong tone that sounds a lot like Emmylou Harris. Her song ‘I’ll Always Be’ was recorded live on the Mike Bullard show a while back, and highlights the pure tone in her voice, as well as the control she maintains throughout her wide vocal range. It also reveals that sass I mentioned earlier.
Dinner Belles are a country folk group based in the Hamilton area. Performing as a six-piece band for their CMW set (guitars, bass, drums, mandolin and keyboards), they ended up playing a more electric set than usual due to technical difficulties with the pick-up in one of the acoustic guitars. It worked well, since it was Saturday night and the crowd was pretty revved up already.
Everyone was loving the music. A dance floor started up in front of the stage, led by a couple really drunk dudes who were literally falling over each other while trying feverishly to dance (it was amusing… for a while). It was incredible that they managed to fit six musicians on the small stage, especially considering the drum kit took up about a third of the available space.
Each band member brings something different and important to the mix and each is a proficient musician in their own right. Combined, their power increases ten-fold, like when the Power Rangers combine and make Megazord, an unstoppable force. Being a pianist myself, I was especially enamoured with the work of Greg Brisco, who danced across the keys like nobody’s business and is one of the most talented and FAST keyboardists I’ve seen in a long time.
The main vocals and harmonies are often shared between Brad Germain and Terra Lightfoot, though the others often assist as well (especially Scott Bell). Lightfoot is able to explore her higher (falsetto) range in this group compared with the lower range she tends towards in her solo music. Their voices complement each other like peanut butter and chocolate.
The sense of community fostered by this group is absolutely contagious. People in the audience, once strangers, began dancing together. Boys were twirling girls, girls were twirling girls, boys were twirling boys, and everyone was singing along to the choruses. We begged for an encore, but the schedule was too tight to allow any additions. I’ll post one here for you instead. My favourite song of the night was this sing-along ditty, ‘Til The Dawn’, performed in the barn they rehearse in. The lovely Kennedy Sharon Bell, young daughter of bassist/singer/songwriter Scott Bell, makes a guest appearance.
The Tallest Tree are an indie group from Dundas, Ontario and it took me most of their set before I realized that the two young ladies are actually Dawn and Marra, who have performed around the GTA for the past few years including at the Hamilton Music Awards. Joined by a rhythm section in The Tallest Tree, the group is led by the talented Dawn and Marra, whose artsy and creative songwriting is heightened by their sweet voices often singing in harmony. They incorporate interesting instruments into their music, often switching between them when playing live, Barenaked Ladies-style.
For their CMW set at Cherry Cola’s –which was part of the Sonic Unyon showcase — they used an accordion, ukelele, guitars, bass, drums and tambourine. They also did a song using body percussion (see photo below) and another with fake trumpet where the bassist imitated the trumpet sound with his mouth. Quite an inventive group!
They certainly don’t use variety as a crutch; their music is well written, interesting and has a delightful playfulness about it. This might be a strange connection, but at times it reminds me of the movie Juno. It has a certain childhood innocence mixed with quirkiness that just makes me smile.
This video of Dawn and Marra with some friends for ‘Not on Top’ was shot as part of the Southern Souls collection of videos.
Julian Taylor wrote and toured for years with Staggered Crossing, and yet found that despite working hard and constantly touring, there was just not enough profit in that side of the business. [I will resist the urge to go on a tirade about how almost no one wants to pay for original music anymore, and so musicians trying to pave their way using their own voice often end up living on welfare or worse… playing in cover bands so you can afford rent (jokes, well not really…)].
After the band broke up in 2007, Taylor spent time playing top-40 hits. He began writing and performing under his own name while continuing to play cover songs, eventually forming the Julian Taylor Band. Persistence and hard work definitely do pay off, though his immense talent certainly helps! Julian Taylor Band has released seven albums to date. Taylor has also had ten top-40 hits and has shared the stage with some big names including Blue Rodeo, Jeff Healey, Nickelback, Collective Soul and many others. He was also invited to perform at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and in Vancouver. Not too shabby!
The band played at the Shangri La Hotel on Wednesday night for the second of their CMW performances, following a show at the Hideout on Tuesday. They began with a set of strictly original tunes, introducing covers as the night progressed, playing four sets to not only CMW attendees but also the hotel guests. His music is sexy. There’s no better way to put it. You can dance to it, you can sing to it, and you can do lots of other things to it too, wink wink!
His voice reminds me of Stevie Wonder, both in the tone and delivery, though his style ranges from soul to R&B, from funk to rock, and touches other genres like pop in between. The band also emits great energy and it’s absolutely impossible to not groove along when they’re playing. Check out what I mean here with ‘This is Zero to Eleven,’ the second single of their 2013 EP.
The band recently released a full length album called Tech Noir which is available on iTunes as well.
Spencer Burton is a country-infused folk musician when performing under the moniker Grey Kingdom. He and his backing band played a set of mellow beauties at the Dakota Tavern for CMW on Thursday night.
Burton, born in Hamilton, Ontario, was raised in Kelowna, B.C., and then became a resident in the Welland, ON music scene through his teenage years. Years of playing and touring in the acclaimed band Attack in Black led Burton to reflect. Reflection turned to writing, writing turned into the formation of Grey Kingdom, and that led to the birth of an album titled Eulogy of her and her and her (Dine Alone Records).
The album was an outlet for storytelling songs that resulted from experiences gleaned through years of constant touring, constant movement with Attack in Black. A release of sorts.
Obviously Burton had more to say. Three additional albums have since been released (The Grey Kingdom, The Weeping Suns and Light, I’ll Call Your Name Out “Darkness”) and he continues to write and to perform in clubs and festivals with artists like Sarah Harmer and Jason Collett.
Burton’s CMW set was a lovely collection of original songs that had a natural grace about them. Each song flowed easily into the next.
The only unfortunate part about the show was perhaps the timing; Burton was on just before popular local band Flash Lightnin’ and the crowd was revved up for heavy rock. The venue was at capacity and the chatter made it difficult to hear this quieter, slower band at times. The laid-back and somewhat somber character of the songs were perhaps ill-timed for this night, but regardless, Burton performed the songs with emotion and a certain gentleness that I found touching.
It’s worth a mention that Aaron Goldstein played the steel guitar for Burton. Goldstein is a member of Tom Wilson’s project LeE HARVeY OsMOND, has recorded and played with the Cowboy Junkies and played live with City and Colour. Here is Burton performing Sun Like Moon Light for Streaming Café.
Greetings from Toronto! Canadian Music Week, moved to May this year (no doubt due to weather…), is upon us! Here are a few recommendations for bands that are part of the festivities this week.
The festival begins Tuesday night, and though it’s not as busy as the rest of the week, it does feature Low Hanging Lights, an electric folk/rock band with definite punk influence. They capitalize on raw, “live show” sounding music, so you know they’re going to sound just as good — if not better — live. They play at Baltic Avenue at 11 p.m.
On Wednesday, Julian Taylor Band is playing a free show in The Lobby Lounge at the Shangri La Hotel at 8 p.m. Julian Taylor is an accomplished artist and frankly, I’m surprised he isn’t more well known. He has released seven albums, has ten top-40 hits and has played over 2000 live shows in the last decade. He and his band put on electrifying live shows that kick it on all levels. He can sing, man can he sing, and is backed by a group of stellar musicians. He also writes hooky songs with great riffs, and did I mention he’s a total babe?
Meredith Shaw is playing at midnight on Wednesday at C’est What. Her song “Hardest Goodbye” was chosen as CBC’s song of the week in March and she’s had a couple tunes from her latest release (also Hardest Goodbye) featured on CBC Radio 2 over the last several months. She’s creating some serious buzz, so come check out what she’s all about.
There are several interesting acts featured on Thursday. Megafauna, a group from Austin, Texas, are playing at 9 p.m. at the Bovine Sex Club. They’re here promoting their recent release, Maximalist, an album that aims to unabashedly bring their supercharged music to the greatest heights. They’re hella hooky songs also boast rhythmic shifts, syncopation and fuse musical styles into something unique that could fall somewhere under the category of rock. They’re innovative and in a sea of hundreds of bands and acts this week, we need that.
Flash Lightnin’ is also playing Thursday, at The Dakota Tavern at 11 p.m. Their brand of gritty rock is just awesome. Recently back from touring with ZZ Top, they just released their album For the Sinners, so grab a beer and check them out. Seriously. They know how to rock.
Le Trouble are playing twice this week, once on Thursday at 11 p.m. at The Hideout, and again on Friday at Handlebar at midnight. Their music is a blast of punk energy with power-pop melodies and danceability. The pianist in me grins delightfully that they have keyboards. They’ll also be playing in Montreal at Osheaga (August 1-3).
Also on Friday, Robyn Dell’Unto and Donovan Woods are both playing at The Vault at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., respectively. Dell’Unto has released two records of sweet and touching pop songs, and is backed by some truly amazing musicians. Juno nominee Donovan Woods is a character. His songs are not only catchy, but also clever and often hilarious. He has this awkwardness on stage that is irresistibly charming. If you enjoy acoustic music and singer-songwriters, you won’t want to miss this night.
Papillon, out of Montreal, plays three times this week; at midnight on Thursday at Cherry Cola’s, at 2 a.m. Friday at the Dakota Tavern and at 10 p.m. on Saturday at the Bovine Sex Club. They’re a fun, energetic rock band and I’m glad they’re bringing some Montreal flare this week.
Also on Saturday, Oh Susanna and the Dinner Belles are playing at 11 p.m. and midnight as part of the Sonic Unyon showcase at Cherry Cola’s. Oh Susanna is a narrative songwriter whose expressive voice carries you into a dreamworld created within her songs. She has been touring regularly since releasing her sixth album Soon the Birds in 2011, and most recently headed to the Yukon with Justin Rutledge and Kim Beggs. She has a lovely voice and is an enchanting performer. The Dinner Belles are an endearing group of acoustic musicians with a southern sound and beautiful harmonies. With roots, country and folk influences, it’s no surprise that the band typically rehearse, write and even perform in a barn filled with antiques and other unusual items. I dare you not to tap your toes along with their music.
Yes, indeed! There is much to keep busy with this week. Look out for show reviews coming soon.
Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of Pledge Music, kindly sat down with us to explain how he plans to revolutionize the way that artists and fans interact by allowing fans access to the creative process of music making. Pledge Music is not equivalent to a crowd-funding company. They bring something unique and valuable to artists and fans alike. Read about how they deliver their unique and tailored service:
Can you start by telling us about what you’re doing at Pledge Music, a brief rundown of how you help artists and what the benefit is to both sides.
I was an artist myself and I made five albums over about nine or ten years. I was obsessed by the fact that fans wanted to be a part of what I was doing as an artist and what my band was doing. It was very much a participatory thing. When I was going into a town, they’d be like, “don’t stay at a hotel, come stay with us, we’ll make you dinner.”
What we found was that if you offered fans a kind of online version of that experience, I always thought in my head, if fans could be a part of that wherever they are in the world, that would be kinda cool. I was lying in bed one night, and saw in my head, artists, fans, charities. So the concept was, rather than say, “buy my album, it’s coming out August seventh,” we say, “pledge here to be a part of the making of my album.”
And from day one you get access to a special part of the site that has on it rough mixes, live tracks, demos, video blogs. It tells a story of the album as it’s being made. And private video blogs. It’s not just posting on You Tube. It’s private for the pledgers. At the end of it, if you make more that what you needed, a part of the profits can go to a charity of your choice.
So the artist wins because they get the fans involvement early. The fans win because they get to see this process unfolding. The charity wins because someone shows up with a cheque. And within that, the producer, the engineer, the manager, everyone else gets something because it’s not reliant on selling it all after the fact.
We often get compared to crowd-funding companies, which are like, “please give us something, we will go make something and then we will deliver it to you at a different time.” To me that’s just another form of consumer commerce, if you will. But if you say to the fan, “we’re going to go into the studio today and as we do that, at the end of every day or every couple days, we’re going to share something with you.”
We’ve got an iPhone app that literally says, “hey, I’m in the studio. Come check it out, I’m going to beat my drummer over the head with a stick because he can’t keep time. We’ve had a great day, have a listen.” Then it auto-feeds the artist’s account on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m a fan, that same update can feed my Facebook and Twitter, so what you end up seeing is a thirty second clip and you can pledge to see the rest of it.
Really I think what it was, was I think there’s a place in music for just selling to consumers. But what the industry has never addressed is how to sell to fans. Fans are the ones that want to be a part of something larger than just the moment that they go into a shop and buy.
There’s still a place for retail. There’s still a place for labels. What we try to do is build a tool that means an artist and fan can have a direct connection and that the label can also use this tool to foster that same thing, because it’s coming from the artist in real time.
You can’t go back and have the experience. You’ve got to have it while it’s drawing out. It’s like a gig that unfolds in real time. If you don’t offer that, then the fans simply can’t be a part of it. All they can do is go to a shop and buy a CD or go to iTunes and download it.
We did a study with Nielsen (SoundScan) in the U.S. and what they found was that there’s between 0.5 to 2.6 billion dollars available to labels and artists if they open this method up. All fans want to do is connect. They want to be a part of it. You want to say, “I was there. I got the signed vinyl that says ‘I was there.’” That’s really how I view us.
It’s part crowd-funding because there is an element of reaching a hundred percent goal and doing that, but we never display how much money is being raised because I think it distracts from the point of it, which is not how much is being raised, but the music. So I don’t care if they’re raising $5000 or $500 000. I care about how good the bass is sounding, personally.
So that’s basically how it started and I built a tool as a musician that I would want to use. I launched the company on my own EP and it works really well.
Compared to crowd-funding programs, we tried to start it as a larger way of releasing music than just a show up and buy it, or fund it and then I’ll make it. It’s about the participation all the way through. So we just elongated the way in which you can do this. Rather than say, “we’ve got six weeks to sell, fund and make an album,” you’ve got six months.
I think this is a brilliant idea because what you end up doing is you get music fans for life.
That’s a great one. You’re right.
In today’s world with social media especially, everything’s happening so fast. People want things right away and if you’re not constantly in their face, there are other things that will come along.
And also think of it this way. If you post on social media, “hey, we’re in the studio, day one.” That’s a broadcast to everybody. What can I do about it? Nothing. I can stare it, I can comment on it, I can like it, but what have I done?
What if you could pledge on it at that moment? Then, all of a sudden, you know that the album will show up. You bought in. Then all you have to say is, “whatever we’re doing on a social level for everybody, we’ll create another layer in between,” and all you need is an iPhone to do it. We don’t have an Android app, sorry.
Really what I think it’s about is that the artists are creative people. They’ve never been given a tool that is this creative to release music. People who work at the record labels are creative people. They’ve never had this tool to use. So we provide not only the tool, but the team who will help get it done as well. That’s a big key to it.
How do you choose who you work with? Do you take anyone on?
We have A&R reps who go out and find artists to work with who are at the right cycle, who are making an album or have made an album. We have a sign-up process and artists can sign up on a platform and one of our team will work with them to help get their campaign ready to go.
We don’t say no, we say, “not now.” Unless it’s something racist or sexist, or offensive. We look at whether artists can do what they want to do in the time they want to do it, and if not, let’s not let them fail. Let’s work with them to get to where it makes sense.
Millions of crowd-funding campaigns launch all the time and die because no one takes the time to just say, “that won’t work. That’s just not possible.” I didn’t want to do that.
How does it benefit Pledge Music as a company?
We commission whatever comes into the platform and the artist owns the rights all the way out. We take fifteen percent and that includes the credit card processing fee. So it’s slightly more expensive that other straight crowd-funding companies, but what you get for that is us and we’re the guys that help make it happen.
It’s been a good year. We saw 176% increase in pledges! Our CFO said that to me. I think that’s good.
Wow! I’ve never run a business, but I’d hazard a guess that that’s extremely good. Geographically who do you take on?
Global. Anywhere where credit cards or PayPal can be used, we operate there.
So all languages? All genres?
All genres. We have a Spanish version of the site, a German version of the site and English. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how we’re going to grow and give Canada what they need to work, but then we have to do a French Canadian version of the site. If you know anyone! I’m a big ice hockey fan too.
What are hoping to achieve from this point forward?
I think there’s not going to be one album in the next twenty years that wouldn’t have a better experience for everybody involved if it had Pledge as part of it. So my goal is that all albums begin their life in this way. With me being a part of it. With me being able to be a part of it as a fan.
It’s not working the way it is. It’s not effective anymore. You can’t just say “go buy stuff in shops, go buy stuff on the internet.” That’s not working. So we have to reinvent the way in which music and art gets to be built.
People who have done crowd-funding campaigns have said they feel bad going back to the well. My thing is abolish any concept of the well.
Do you stop making albums because the last one was the best you’re ever going to get? No. You just make a better campaign, a better way of doing things. Our job is to help with that.
Josh, Mikey and Kohji (above) of the band, the only members who fit on stage at Free Times Cafe
The Maladies of Adam Stokes, an up-and-coming indie band from Toronto, played an intimate show at the Free Times Café as part of CMF on Saturday night. Though their set was later in the evening, the venue was packed full of eager fans. The venue was too small for the number of people who came out to catch their set, but also three of the six band members had to set up off-stage to perform. Despite the lack of space, MOAS captivated their audience from the first note to the last, playing songs mainly from their album City of Trees, the title track of which has a beautiful video and is posted on their website.
The band, made up of Mikey Hill (vocals and guitar), Emily Anderson (piano and violin), Kohji Nagata (guitars, trumpet, glockenspiel), Josh Awerbuck (lead guitar), Brett Harris (bass) and Ted Turner (drums) play folk/rock songs largely inspired by Mikey’s experiences as a pediatric resident. Themes of love and loss pervade the music which is wonderfully shaped by the creativity and skill of the other band members. The band has steadily been gaining momentum and are now regularly playing sold-out shows. They released their first full length album, City of Trees, in late 2012 and followed the release with an east coast tour. The Maladies of Adam Stokes are a delight to watch and you will surely hear more of them in the near future.
The band members of The Maladies of Adam Stokes graciously sat down with ForgetTheBox for a pre-CMF show interview where they candidly spoke about their success to date, band dynamics and future plans.
Where did your band name come from, and what does it mean?
Mikey: It’s from an old medical text I remember hearing in medical school titled “The Maladies of Adams-Stokes – Affairs of the Heart.” Adams and Stokes are the last names of two 18th century physicians. Thought it was nice, albeit very long. We dropped the ‘s’ at the end of Adams for ease.
Tell us something about Montréal.
Emily: We’ve got the best response from people in Québec. I love the culture there in terms of the way they treat music. There’s so much respect. We had a couple gigs where they did pass the hat, and it’s just so quiet when you play which is incredible. Our culture here, people are drinking and partying in the background.
Kohji: Our experience was where people were actually watching us when we were playing.
Brett: When we played there was still no hockey though, (laugh) so there were no Habs games on!
Ted: It’s close enough that we can drive down for a weekend and play a few gigs.
How do you guys travel as a band?
Ted: Two cars. That’s what keeps us together as a band! If we all shared the same car, it would have been like, “you do this wrong, you do that wrong.” Ha!
Brett: We have two distinct groups in the band. Some of us are “laid back adults” and some of us appreciate toilet humour, so there was is one car that was absolutely rambunctious and one where the music is quiet.
Emily: Introverts (Emily, Mikey, Ted) and extroverts (Brett, Josh, Kohji).
Mikey: During the eleven hour drive to Québec I think we said all of ten words to each other, the three of us.
How does that dynamic shape your sound, introverts and extroverts?
Kohji: I think the introverts start the creation of the music. I think being introverted really helps you reflect and write meaningful lyrics, and then the more rambunctious of us add flavour to the songs, kind of put the energy into it. So we take these simple songs and make them what they are.
Ted: There’s aspects of that in all of us, the introvert and the extrovert. There’s times where we’ll practice and we’ll all be very focused on learning, and then there’ll be practices like today where we’ll all try to smile like idiots for no reason and then everyone laughs.
Mikey: The last few shows we thought we were too serious on stage so we decided that we were going to practice smiling.
Emily: Practice today was really creepy.
Brett: It was like hand puppets.
Josh: Some of the songs are kinda dark and to see someone smiling at me was creepy and uncomfortable.
Mikey, do you do most of the writing in terms of lyrics and song structures and then the band fills in the rest of the parts?
Mikey: Yeah, but it’s not always the case, but the majority of the time I sit down and write the bones and the words. But I bring it to them with the idea that they’re going to say if something doesn’t work, or try something here or there.
Kohji: Or even if one of us has an idea for a song, or a bit of a song, we’ll still bring it to Mikey and say, “this is what we have, now write some words to it.” It always makes me uncomfortable to hear, and this isn’t a knock against any band, that a person singing the words didn’t actually write them. To me that’s a bit awkward, because I feel if you’re singing, it needs to come from you. So I would never presume to give Mikey words to sing.
Emily: I asked Mikey just last week what he thinks about when he sings, because he has this concentration face, and he said he thinks about what the song is about and you can see it.
Mikey: Sometimes I think about what I ate. And then I’m like, shit I need to think about what I’m doing.
Brett: I find if I think about playing, I play worse. I think about what I’m doing tomorrow, or when I’m going to trim my beard next.
Do you guys call him Beardo?
Mikey: We do now!
Emily: We wrote a song about a girl who got lost in Brett’s beard.
What do you guys have coming up in the future?
Emily: A vacation. We’re taking Easter weekend off, having a bit of a break.
Mikey: We’ve been working really hard on getting ready for this week, and getting the video done and stuff like that, so we kind of need to sit down and talk about what our next step is. One big thing is getting to North by Northeast as the next step of focus. And looking into some grants to get a tour on the way, probably next September-ish.
Kohji: We’re going to try to focus on Québec and Montréal, that general area, and Ontario as well. We found that those performed the best for us when we were on our last tour. It’s also close to home so it makes the most sense to build an audience around home and grow from there.
Recently I had the pleasure of catching Mo Kenney’s showcase at the Great Hall in Toronto. I had a moment to chat with the lovely young songstress after the show about what she’s been doing and what she has coming up.
1) You seem to have come a long way in a short time, having released your first album only a few months ago in September. How did you get here, and what was the road like leading up to the release (i.e. how long have you been playing, writing, performing)?
I have been writing for about 7 years and playing for people only about 4 or 5 years. I had a high school band when I was 17 and playing with them allowed me to get more comfortable singing and performing for people. I only began playing solo and touring 3 years ago.
2) What was it like working with JP and having him produce your album, and subsequently tour with him?
Working with Joel was great. I have been a fan of his music since I was a teenager, so having the chance to work with him was really incredible. I feel very fortunate that he’s taken me under his wing. I’ve learned a lot from him.
3) What have your experiences at CMW been like so far?
So far my experience at CMW have been great. It’s nice to be able to play these short little showcases for people. I’ve been meeting lots of new people as well, which is always nice.
4) Who are you excited to see this week at CMW?
I’m really excited to see Rachel Sermanni. I caught almost all of her sets at Folk Alliance a few weeks ago and she was amazing. I’m also excited to catch Willie Stratton, Molly Thomason, Dylan Guthro and Carleton Stone!
5) Are you planning any shows in the Montreal area in the future?
No plans to come back to Montreal currently, but I know I will be playing there again. I was there for the first time early in the new year. I had a great show at Casa Del Popolo.
6) What’s next for you? Future goals?
I’m touring out West with Ron Sexsmith for a 7 day tour right now. I will be heading to the UK for The Great Escape festival in May and then playing some dates in Scotland. I’m also doing a lot of festivals in the summer. I’m very happy to be busy! Hoping to do some more touring in Europe sometime in the future.
After two years covering Canadian Music Week, I’m tempted to say that Montrealers do it better. Either it’s the way they play music or the way they throw parties. Here are my thoughts on this year’s M for Montreal showcase at Canadian Music week.
The great thing about music festivals is that people are fighting to give you free stuff. As much as free booze is great, sometimes you have to make sure your belly is full if you want to survive a night of show hopping. That night, the kind folks from M for Montreal provided the Toronto coud with a little taste of Montreal. Free poutine for all the starving hipsters!
Misteur Valaire were opening the party and they did what they do best: they got the crowd pumped. These guys have brought their funky electro sound pretty much everywhere in Canada and Europe and it shows. From hugging it out with the crowd, to an impromptu group striptease, this five piece band is full of energy and they give all they have to the crowd. They’re spending the summer in studio and should deliver a new album this September.
Ponctuation was the band I was the most impressed with that night. I actually had discovered them the night before at Cherry Cola’s (a venue that suits them more then Sneaky Dee’s) but I was too exhausted to truly appreciate their performance so I promised myself to stay long enough to catch them on Friday. Guillaume and Maxime Chiasson are two brothers that play guitar and drums. Think Death from above 1979 gone psychedelic and garage. Their lyrics are in French but guitar distortion and raw power are the main focus. They just released their first album 27 Club on Bonsound so it’s only the beginning of their adventure. Watch for them in Montreal!
Ever been to a show where the audience actually claps along all the way through a song without awkwardly fading out part way through? The highly enthusiastic and loyal fans at the LeE HARVeY OsMOND show on Friday night clapped right to the last note and it was magical.
LHO rocked out to a full house at The Great Hall, playing with a killer band including Ray Farrugia (drums) Brent Titcomb (percussion, harmonica), John Diamond (bass), Aaron Goldstein (pedal steel, guitar) and Jesse O’Brien on keyboards and also including distinguished guests Oh Susanna, Colin Linden (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), Paul Reddick, Gary Craig, Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) and Andy Maize (Skydiggers).
The set was non-stop, high octane acid folk rock with a country flare. LHO brought out the guests and the opening band Harlan Pepper for an encore which featured a makeshift shaker made from a container of Magic Powder. Yes, I said Magic Powder.
It’s been a busy week for Lee. A heavyweight in the Canadian music industry himself, he, along with Colin Linden, inducted Colin James into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame on Thursday night.
Supporting his friends is a characteristic trait of this big-hearted rocker. And not just his friends. The band, promoting World Vision, offered anyone who made a donation after the show a free CD.
“Charity begins at home,” a motto to live by, are wise words offered up by Lee himself. The spirit of helping others is very much ingrained in the music culture of Hamilton, Ontario, where Lee lives. In a pre-show interview, he explained how he naturally wanted to include the people who had contributed to the recording of the group’s latest album, Folk Sinner, in the show because people were excited about it and he wanted them to be a part of the live experience as well.
You’ve got a lot of friends joining you for the show. How did you swing that?
I just picked up the phone and called and they were people that were really into being part of the record and being a part of the LeE HARVeY OsMOND experience. As a result, I’d like to get them not only out to Toronto, but to other places in Canada. I’d like to have Oh Susanna come out and do Big Chief with me and Andy Maize come out and do Devil’s Load. Colin Linden come and play guitar and sing.
It’s an important thing for people to come out and see. The energy of the people involved in the show. It makes it a way more fun experience when you see people interacting. We lost for a long time people interacting musically and artistically and we’re getting that back so I want my energy to be attached to other people’s really amazing energy.
Where did the name LeE HARVeY OsMOND come from?
We did a song for an album called the Kennedy Suite that Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies guitarist) was producing. It’s an album that features Ron Sexsmith and the Cowboy Junkies, Hawksley Workman and others. I was asked to do a song and when it was done he said, “okay so I can put this under the name Tom Wilson,” and I said, “no, let’s actually use the name Lee Harvey Osmond that I’ve always wanted to use.”
It was perfect because the album is all songs based on the day that JKF was killed. I thought that was a perfect name. And then Michael asked me after that to come back and do more recording and I had some time on my hands because Colin Linden (a member, with Tom, of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) was out playing guitar with Emmylou Harris. So we made this LeE HARVeY OsMOND record that I’ve always wanted to make.
Why do you capitalize some of the letters and not others.
I don’t know. I thought it looked good that way. I remember years ago whenever k.d. lang had a billing, you weren’t allowed to type her name on any kind of billing. You always had to use a little drawn k.d. lang logo and I always really liked that. I thought it was really smart marketing. So I thought that I would use that when we were doing LeE HARVeY OsMOND so that people like you would come along and ask the question, which I don’t really have an answer for.
With the album Folk Sinner, can you comment on who you think this would appeal to and what your goals were when making the album?
The Folk Sinner is more of a meditation than it is a record. It’s not something that would necessarily fit in with the current playlist at CBC. But somehow it does. I think the quality of what we’re doing is just good enough that people really get what we’re doing.
Once again it’s tones, the use of bottom end, something that we lose the further north you get. You go to Louisiana, the birth of jazz, they used tubas for the bass. Bottom end was always a big part of soul music, R&B and blues and the further north you go, the thinner the records get and we wanted to establish the idea that big bottom end was a really good vehicle for great songs.
We feel like we came up with really great songs that were based off of tones. Tones and bass lines that I wrote over.
With the songs on the albums, where do the stories and the inspiration come from?
Love mostly. It’s funny. I know that CBC had meetings about my record and they said that both my records are awfully dark. They’re actually just love journeys. Love isn’t necessarily puppy dogs and rainbows.
Oh, it’s not?
No. Love can slap you right back, you know? And there’s different ways of love. There’s ways of reaching out and showing love that aren’t about Valentine’s day. They’re about day to day experiences and people don’t want to face day to day experiences all the time.
I understand this is your first show to promote Folk Sinner.
This is really the first show for LeE HARVeY OsMOND to promote Folk Sinner.
What are you hoping for or expecting from this experience?
Just the sharing of energy. The wealth of talent and energy that we’re putting on stage. I’d like to share that and be a part of that.
Their “Break Your Body” video was recorded at Music City Roots live on February 13, 2013:
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you; I love a man with a beard. While his beard may be a little too intense for me to be romantically attracted to him, it’s impossible not to be intrigued by Halifax native Ben Caplan. I remember first making a note last year that he’d be someone I’d be interested in checking out, but as often happens during festivals you get distracted with other things/run out of time. While I was slightly disappointed I didn’t get to see him with his back-up band The Casual Smokers, I’m thrilled to have see him because even solo this charming man definitely knows how to put on a show.
With a east coast Tom Waits vibe, Caplan’s songs are fuelled with passion. It’s pretty magical when that happens because that night at the Rivoli it was hard to find someone in the audience not clapping, cheering or stopping their foot.
Caplan makes the audience part of the experience and its hard not to be caught up in it. Before you know it at a Caplan concert you’re singing back up vocals to songs like “Beautiful” (check out the video below). This inclusion clearly inspires a devoted fan base; even with all the shows going on during Canadian Music Week people came back two nights in a row to see him perform.
As it turns out I was unexpectedly one of those people as well. The very next day I caught a second performance from Caplan at the Audio Blood showcase and watching his second performance only confirmed to me what a gifted storyteller he is. Let’s hope there is a lot more of Ben Caplan to come.
Any seasoned festival goer knows as much as you love to pour over a schedule pre-festival, your best experiences during the festival itself are almost always those random unexpected things you only discover during the madness. After an amazing Friday that left me completely sleep deprived, I found myself on Saturday afternoon at a Pledge Music event sponsored by the lovely folks at Audio Blood. Hosted by Ben Caplan, the event was a chance for movers and shakers to network, enjoy free whiskey and sliders and of course listen to great music.
The secret guest at the end of this delightful, sweaty loft party was Acres of Lions, a band out of Victoria, BC. I saw a lot of bands during Canadian Music Week and after awhile it’s not hard to spot those that perform solely because they’re desperate for rock star glory and those who put their heart and soul into every performance because they just don’t know any other way to play. Acres of Lions is definitely one of the latter bands.
An upbeat pop-punk band, Acres of Lions has a diverse range of influences from Tom Petty to Jimmy Eat World. At indie parties like this very often you can find yourself leaning against a wall and focused more on the drinking then the music.
Acres of Lions easily inspires immediate attention from their audience. Without even realizing it, you’ve started shaking your hips and clapping your hands. Having recently signed with labels in the UK and Japan I think it won’t be too long before a whole lot more people are paying attention to them as well.