Sometimes it’s hard to pigeonhole a band’s sound. That’s usually a sign that the band really has something new and interesting to offer. Montreal’s The Holds is one of those bands.

The five-piece hailing from NDG (my old ‘hood) launched their self-titled debut EP Friday at O Patro Vys on Mont-Royal. A download of the EP was included with the price of admission.

Opener Joshua Carey of Po Lazarus kicked things off with a very intimate set. Alone with his guitar and mandolin until the last tune, he welcomed the crowd with some of the Po Lazarus repertoire and even a new original tune, setting the stage perfectly for the explosion that was to follow.

Blues and More

From the moment The Holds took the stage, they were in show mode. The light instrumentation that served as a backdrop as frontman Ryan Setton introduced the show and got the audience to count down from ten gelled into the first song when the countdown was done. From there on it was all energy.

When you listen to The Holds, the first thing that comes to mind is the blues. This musical genre permeates every tune they play, but it’s never alone. Their songs are also rock songs, and quite a few of them are borderline or outright psychedelic, too.

vintage projector

I’m not just saying that because of the live projections done with vintage projectors courtesy of Daniel Oniszeczko that gave the show its visual feel. There’s something trippy in the music, too.

Very Montreal

The band is made up of Setton, Andre Galamba on bass, Eric Hein on guitar, Justin Wiley on drums and Alex Lebel on keyboard. While the presence of keys in a blues rock band, or a psychedelic blues rock band may have you thinking Blues Traveller or The Doors, there is something else at play when it comes to The Holds and it starts with the crowd.

O Patro Vys was packed. Taking a look around the room, I got the feeling that I was at an Indie Rock show, something Montreal is known for. Admittedly, the fact that Dan Moscovitch of First You Get The Sugar produced their EP may have had something to do with that, but there was more to it.

the holds o patro vys 2

From the little card with free download instructions to get the EP to general atmosphere the band created in the room, the event was very tech-aware and very indie. And all this to go along with generally longer blues-infused tunes. A very Montreal experience.

It’s one you should hope to experience for yourself if you missed out last Friday and one the people who were there most likely want to experience again. We have that chance on Saturday, March 12th at Turbo Haus in St-Henri. Until then, you can enjoy The Holds at home or wherever you are by downloading their EP from iTunes via their site You’ll be glad you did.

* Photos by Steve Walsh

By the time I got off the 80 Parc bus, it was well after midnight. Small crowds of concert-goers were huddled around in clusters, smoking and chatting just outside of the doors of the Rialto Theatre where M for Montreal was kicking off. I shuffled around, anxiously waiting for a friend to arrive before heading in to check out the first of many acts that would follow over several nights of music that could most aptly be defined as insightful.

The scene’s epicenter, the ground zero of the Mile End if you will, is arguably the corner of Parc and Bernard– the location of the Rialto, and the precise place at which I began my four-day musical odyssey through Montreal’s indie network.

Almost right off the bat, I began to notice subtle, cultural markers embedded within Montreal’s diverse performance spaces. I found it interesting that the indie, or underground, acts that I was about to go see were quite literally performing underground.

The artists performing at the Rialto that evening weren’t playing on the main stage, but instead, at the Piccolo Rialto, a much tinier (let’s say intimate) stage one and a half stories below the street. I guess the implication was that these acts weren’t quite ready for the “big leagues” just yet.

As I sipped on a couple of tepid beers, listening to the likes of Calvin Love, She-Devils and Doldrums well into the early-morning hours. I found myself more people-watching than anything else. I was captivated by the amount of people drawn into this small, dark space, late at night, to listen to relatively-unknown bands.

Sure, the music was pretty good, but the word that kept cropping up over and over in my mind was communion. No, not the Sunday School kind of communion, but instead, the almost-transcendental bond that exists between spectator and performer at a small, indie show in Montreal.

The obvious question of why (why these spaces? why these artists? why these audiences?) was addressed when, by chance, I noticed indie-rocker and Montreal resident Alex Calder huddled at a corner table talking to a couple of friends. Calder, who once played with Mac Demarco in the lo-fi rock group Makeout Videotape, is now well established as a solo artist and recently released the well-received indie LP Mold Boy.

As a pretty big fan, I sort of nervously approached his table, feeling like the world’s biggest hack. Pretty quickly, I realized that not only was Calder a really nice dude, but he might help me unpack the seeming mysteries of the Montreal indie scene.

Quite casually, he mentioned that he lived “just down the street” from the theatre. What seemed at first like a self-evident, mundane piece of information actually turned into something of a “Eureka!” moment as I mulled over my night on the busride home, chowing down on a St. Viateur bagel.

Calder’s close proximity to the Rialto, and many other culturally-relevant performance spaces like it, wasn’t just coincidence. And it’s not completely convenience, either. Rather, it’s a cultural trace of an intimate, artistic community at work. The indication of a close connection between performer and performance space in Montreal.

A picture, although still fuzzy, began to form in my mind. Perhaps what draws aspiring artists to Montreal is not just the “cheap rent” (as one music executive mentioned to me in passing), but the intimate connection organically established between artist and audience.

And I don’t mean to say that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, either. In fact, the vibe at the Rialto that night was strangely disengaged, distant. But I began to get the sense that the performer and the spectator relied on each other in an incommunicable way; these indie artists needs the consistent support of a local fan base, and in turn, the fan base relies upon a network of artists to have a musical scene with which they can affiliate.

Poets would call this relationship communion, biologists would call this relationship symbiotic. Personally, I would just call it necessary in the formation of good art.

Jazz Cartier

The next few days passed in rapid succession. Thursday morning, I waltzed into Hotel 10 under the pretense of free coffee and continental breakfast for members of the press. In addition to the free joe, what I also inadvertently infiltrated was an industry meet-and-greet, a kind of speed networking for festival pass holders who wanted to learn more about the ins and outs of the music business.

That morning served as an interesting foil for the rest of my weekend. It was as if I caught a fleeting glimpse at the cogs and gears that make Montreal Montreal’s music scene, for lack of a more artful term, “work.”

That night, I watched up-and-coming Toronto-based hip hop artist Jazz Cartier take the stage at Cafe Cleopatra in front of a small, but very hyped-up, audience. And on Friday, I headed up to Little Italy to check out the Blue Skies Turn Black showcase of Nancy Pants and Look Vibrant! before bombing back downtown to see Busty and the Bass perform (for the first time) at an absolutely packed Club Soda. If there’s one word to describe my own personal M for Montreal adventure, it would most certainly be hectic.

And let’s make one thing clear: M for Montreal is not Osheaga, nor is it trying to be. It is a festival packed to the brim with talented indie artists that are trying to make a long term career out of their music.

But it is also much, much more than that. It’s a celebration of a scene at work. But not just any scene. Montreal’s music scene has historically held, and continues to hold, worldwide status as a juggernaut.

The first, massive name that comes to mind is probably Arcade Fire, a band that has roots in the Plateau, and whose members continue to live and record in Montreal. Think for a second longer, though, and many more contemporary names will emerge: Patrick Watson, Mac DeMarco and Grimes.

Grimes plays M for Montreal (photo Bruno Destombes)
Grimes plays M for Montreal (photo Bruno Destombes)

Claire Boucher, better known onstage as Grimes, got her start in the small performance spaces and venues scattered around the Plateau and the Mile End. In fact, in her early days, when she was better known as Claire rather than Grimes, Boucher would hang out at the now-defunct Lab Synthese in the Mile End, a DIY-style, art-collective space that eventually spawned major Montreal-based indie label Arbutus Records. It is fitting, then, that Grimes would serve as the headliner for a festival that represents the scene that she used to call home.

And indeed, Grimes’ sold-out Saturday performance at Metropolis felt like a homecoming game of sorts. The floor was packed, the fans were boisterous and rowdy, the energy was off the charts.

Boucher was her typical sweet and eccentric self, taking just enough time in between some of her massive hits such as Oblivion, Genesis and REALiTi to pause to thank the audience and specifically the Montreal community that effectively catapulted her to critical and commercial success. The expectations for the show were undoubtedly high, but Grimes delivered in a fashion that not only felt like artistic triumph, but also a kind of emotional catharsis.

Indeed, the return of Grimes to Montreal validated the existence of the Montreal indie scene. In her early days, Grimes, like so many artists featured in M for Montreal, embraced Montreal’s intimate indie circuit as a place of artistic incubation. On Saturday night, her performance served as vital evidence of a scene that is not only alive, but thriving.

Here’s to many more years at M for Montreal and many more years celebrating the musical talent that this city has to offer.

* Featured image of Grimes playing M for Montreal by Bruno Destombes

A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing members of Toronto indie rock band Low Hanging Lights following the release of their EP Insulated Picnic Bag. Last week, their singer-songwriter/guitarist Al Grantham released a solo album and sat down with me to discuss his songwriting process, what he was aiming for with this project and what it’s like being an indie artist in a big city.

Stephanie Beatson: With your solo work, what kind of sound are you trying to achieve? You told me before that you are strongly influenced by Bob Dylan and a lot of his contemporaries in the seventies, partially because of the lyrical content. How does that translate into what you’re trying to do as a solo artist?

Al Grantham: The original idea for the record was for it to be kind of a throwback, a confessional singer-songwriter album that would be pretty stripped down with basic instrumentation. What ended up happening is once I got into the studio, I can’t help myself, but I want to try to make really weird sounds and arrangements. We did a couple of weird things on one track and then I said, “Whatever. Let’s just make the whole album like this.” I like hearing weird and new things. To me that’s way more exciting than the alternative. I think the songwriting is very old school songwriter stuff, but we dress it up with arrangements that are hopefully a little more progressive and different.

SB: Tell me about the instrumentation on the album.

AG: Originally we wanted to do the whole album live off the floor, acoustic and vocals. It was supposed to be a Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan -type album, or a Neil Young album. Kind of a throwback with minimal instrumentation and just make it folky, rootsy. We went about recording guitar and vocals, but it’s really stupid to record that way without a click track and then record drums to them. Thankfully Kaleb Hikele, the producer, is a freak and can do that sort of thing. Luckily, after listening through we decided we could record drums to about two thirds of the tracks after the fact. A few of them we had to re-record with a click track. I like the looseness of the live-off-the-floor tracks, but I think I’m a better vocalist when I’m recording them after the fact. I’m glad we have a blend though. It makes the album more varied.

SB: In what ways does your solo project differ from the band stuff?

AG: Ian Boos (bassist in Low Hanging Lights) used to play in a punk band. That’s his background. I like a heavier sound as well, so we made a decision to streamline LHL about a year and a half ago and play more upbeat, heavier stuff but still with some strange things in the arrangements. The solo stuff I don’t think about playing live. I kinda like that because I feel like I don’t have to be hampered in the studio. Not to say that the tracks on the album couldn’t be played live, they all could with the right people, but I don’t have to worry about it which gives me the freedom to do whatever I want with the arrangements. That’s exciting because it’s like the sky is the limit. You can go down the rabbit hole without having to worry about finding a way back out. In terms of the band and the music, there are similarities. We’ve been playing two or three of the tracks on the album as a band, but made them more streamlined and aggressive.

Al Grantham2

SB: What was the inspiration behind this album?

AG: When I started writing the songs, I was going through a really bad break-up that was messy. It fell apart and it was pretty bleak. I was in a bad spot. It was kind of like when you’re eighteen or nineteen and you’re kind of messed up, and you write compulsively. It is a very therapeutic thing. I’m not sure when that stopped for me, and I still enjoy writing, but I didn’t do it out of necessity. After what happened a year and a half ago, that feeling came back and I found myself writing all the time because I had to. Then I had all these songs. I wasn’t even really planning on making an album, but the idea came around and I got excited about it. I’ll have to get another broken heart before the next album! When you’re writing from a dark place it comes so easily. When you’re not feeling that dark or sad anymore, it’s hard to know what to write about. Lately I’ve been writing about people and characters I see around town. It’s so easy to see stories everywhere you look.

SB:  What’s it like to be an aging independent musician?

AG: It’s difficult. At times you feel like a crazy person. I’ve sacrificed everything in my life so far (career, money, girlfriend, family) for something that’s not always very rewarding. When it is though, it really is. That keeps me going. That and the fact that I’m not sure how functional and effective I’d be in a normal environment anyways. I remember the last few years I spent in Paris (Ontario) when I was trying to figure out what path to choose in life. I was so bored growing up there at times that I could literally feel myself dying. The thought of settling down into something comfortable at the age of twenty-two was scarier than every horror film I’d ever seen combined. Also, I really believe this is the worst time in history to be a musician, unless in the middle ages musicians were executed for bad performances or something.

It’s a strange feeling to keep investing so much time and money into something that doesn’t even seem to be on an upward trajectory. I’m a total independent. I don’t work with a label. I’m used to playing empty rooms, and have been for ten years. I’m almost thirty. This is just a crazy, crazy thing to keep doing. You do it though, because you know somewhere, someplace, there are people who will really, really understand what you’re doing and you will make their lives better in some capacity.

SB: What’s your favourite song that you’ve written so far?

AG: For a long time it was “Solitary City Man Death,” a Low Hanging Lights song. Musically and melodically I thought it was the most interested song I’d written. Recently I really like “Ms. Who I Thought That You Were,” because it’s so simple and really direct. I listened to After the Gold Rush by Neil Young right before bed one night, and when I woke up in the morning I grabbed the guitar right away and tried to write something in that style. It evolved into that song.

SB: What would you say your favourite subject matter you’ve written about has been?

AG: I always try to write about personal experiences. I wrote a song about Optimist Park in Paris, Ontario which is on the first album I put out. I think just writing about relationship dynamics. I think a lot of people think they know more than they do, including myself. I think it’s a human condition that we all believe that we should have answers to a lot of things. When something goes awry, then we get angry because we have other expectations and we think something’s a certain way. In reality there are a million different valid perceptions about anything. We’re not above basic human processes like attraction, repulsion, that kind of thing. I try to get across in songs that I really don’t know anything, haha. It’s okay to not know. People always need a definitive answer for everything, you know? We don’t do well with the unknown. But that’s okay. It’s life.

I wrote a video game song called “Never Found a Princess” about video game addiction. I wrote a song called “Emo Porn Ballad” about the porn star Sasha Grey. I think it’s a really weird, interesting industry. It’s one of the most profitable industries in the world but it’s still so taboo to talk about it. Most people watch porn in some capacity, but a lot of people still feel uncomfortable admitting it. Sasha Grey is an interesting case because in interviews, she’s very intelligent, very articulate and she’s done some serious acting as well. That led to a song. I’m always interested by people and subjects that are on the fringe. I’ve always identified with outsiders.

Al Grantham’s original (it’s got theremin!), interesting and poignant self-titled album is out now and available on Bandcamp.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson. 

Indie-folk pop band Wild Child came in from Austin, Texas to play at Hillside Festival on Saturday and I don’t think they at all expected the reception they received. Prior to their set, people under the tent at the Island stage were sitting or lying down, chatting and relaxing. As soon as the band struck their first note, everyone, and I mean everyone, jumped up and began dancing, clapping and cheering. The band, obviously taken aback, basked in delight and played an energetic set that concluded with a sing-along tune that had the place in a musical frenzy.

Wild Child (2)

Lead singer Kelsey Wilson has a beautiful, pure tone and sings with strength; a perfect fit to front this group of six. In between vocal phrases and during musical interludes, she plays her fiddle and compliments the lovely cello parts played by Sadie Wolfe. Wilson and the group’s other vocalist, Alexander Beggins (ukulele), take on the bulk of the songwriting, but the band is completed with the other colours that include Evan Magers (keyboards), Drew Brunetti (drums) and Chris D’Annunzio (bass). They’re a little like Hey Rosetta! with their instrumentation, but the vibe of the music is more like the Dinner Belles.

Wild Child began as an acoustic duo with Wilson and Beggins, who met on the road while touring in support of another band and began writing songs together. They brought in other instrumentalists when recording their debut album Pillow Talk (2011), which then naturally evolved into a full band. Since their inception a few years back, Wild Child have been enjoying some nice successes with their recordings and their live shows. Both albums, Pillow Talk and The Runaround (2013), were well received. The band was named by the Austin Chronicle as the Best Indie Band and Best Folk Band in Austin at the 2013 SXSW festival.At this year’s SXSW the band was again named Best Indie Band. This summer they played at Bonnaroo and attracted an unprecedented crowd of over 5,000 to their show.

wild child

Check out their video for “Crazy Bird,” from The Runaround.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.
N.B. Hillside was shut down Sunday evening due to a severe thunderstorm. No coverage will be provided.

When I moved to Montreal three years ago, one of the most exciting things to me was the music scene. Growing up in a rural area, live shows just didn’t really happen much for me. By now, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of my favourite artists, and I have a growing list for the future. Until very recently, Neutral Milk Hotel was not on that list.

It’s not because I don’t want to see them, of course I do! But I was in elementary school the last time they performed, so forgive me for not being hopeful. Even though singer/guitarist Jeff Mangum has been performing more regularly in the past few years, I was shocked when the band announced their tour.

I have no shame in admitting that I’m so giddy and excited for this that I might as well still be in elementary school. I bought my ticket almost as soon as they went on sale and, after months, January 18 is almost here! Maybe I’m being lame (I’m definitely being lame), but I can’t help it. If it’s acceptable to scream and cry for One Direction (which I would totally also do), it should be acceptable to go equally as crazy for a reunited experimental indie band.

Okay, crying might be a bit overboard, I doubt it’ll come to that. But I mean, one advantage of no cameras being allowed in the venue for this particular show is nobody will be able to prove it if I do!

Neutral Milk Hotel perform Saturday, January 18 at L’Olympia.

Last weekend, I had the chance to sit down and pick the articulate and artistic brain of Sebastian Shinwell, mastermind behind the Toronto indie band Crhymes. Here’s what he had to say.

FTB: Tell me about the conception of Crhymes.  You write all the music.  Did you begin by yourself and then bring other musicians in to play the music for live shows?

Sebastian Shinwell: It was originally for the master’s thesis at York, for the composition thesis which I’m no longer in. I sat down with my supervisor and told him what kind of music I write on my own and what kind of music I write academically, and he’s like, “why not make them the same.”  My head exploded and I said, “Oh, you can do that?” So I wrote all the music for the thesis and I didn’t have the players in mind. A month or two before the performance, I got musicians together and kind of got it done with eight people. We were offered a show the following month, but most of those band members were there only for that show, so I had to scramble and get a set together for the following month. I just whittled it down to the five piece. After that show, we got offered another show, and after that one we got offered another one.  So then it was like, “OK, this is Crhymes, let’s go forward with this.” The thesis was last August, and we’ve played a show each month since then. The band’s been around for eleven months.

Do you continue to write all the songs now that you’re playing with a band?  How much do they contribute to the final version of the songs we hear?

I still write all the music. I write the skeleton of the song and then put the parts in [music development software] Reason just to hear what I’m doing. Then I get scores and hand it off to people in the band. Sometimes when we get together we realize something didn’t work in real life, or did, and then we finalize the parts. But I’m writing the guitar lines, about eighty percent of it. Then the other twenty percent is based on if it works live. Can the saxophone breathe? I’m a guitar player, I didn’t know breathing was a thing. Ha! I didn’t take that into consideration.

Tell me about your writing/composition process.

It starts as a skeleton, me playing and chords and singing. That becomes the base of a song. I think for most singer-songwriters, that’s the foundation. After that, I put stuff into Reason and write lead lines to it, put a drum track to it, and pile it as I go. The writing process seems like I write really intensely for three or four months, and then I don’t write for three or four or five months. All I do is listen to music in that time.  It’s kind of like swinging back and forth between writing and listening to music. When I’m writing, I’m not really listening to music, and when I’m not writing I’m only listening. So I’m letting myself be influenced and then going and writing. I never put my guitar away in its case, because if I don’t look at it, then I won’t be compelled to play it. It’s always lying on a couch or on the kitchen counter. Then I can pick it up and play one of the songs I was working on, or noodle, and it kind of builds on itself.

Seb guitar

Are you trying to achieve anything specific with each song you write?

The music that I get into the most is the music that borders the idea of accessibility and experimentation. A good example would be Radiohead, although Crhymes doesn’t sound much like Radiohead. This idea of playing with expectation and experimentation. So when I write a song with just guitar and vocals, the lead lines and some of the harmonies and stuff, I want to be a little bit more out there. I don’t want to say that I’m trying new things. Anyone can say that I’m not doing that. But maybe less generic. I’m trying to write something that people can get into on a more intuitive level. Like, “there’s music happening and I just want to dance and I just want to get into it in a visceral way.” But if people want to sit back and get into it that way, by listening, there’s that option as well. So sort of playing with these two ideas. I’m not sure if I’m succeeding with that, but based on feedback I’ve gotten, people do say they like the balance of these two things.

I was actually thinking that during your show.  I was very intensely listening and I felt there was an intellectual level to the music that I appreciated as a musician, but at the same time I thought it would be really wicked music to put on if you were high.

Ha! I think drugs are a big part of rock music. How could you deny that? I think that there’s that intellectual level that I’m trying to speak to, but at the same time I hope it’s music that you can get drunk and dance to, or get high and trip out to. I’m trying to hover around that line.

I think you’re successful in that for sure.  Tell me, what are your influences?

A lot of things I guess. Musically speaking, I’ve always been a huge fan of Arcade Fire. I’m not sure how directly these things influence me.  The Dirty Projectors always influenced me a lot. I really appreciate the main singer, or the writer or band leader. He always hovers around that line as well. His vocal lines are fucking wild but he still has this pop sensibility. He’s almost getting poppier and poppier, but his music is still wild and experimental which is really nice to see. tUnE yArDs is a band I’m really into. The leader of that band is an incredible musician.

What do you find your biggest challenges are with getting your music to audiences?

One of the hardest challenges IS getting your music out there. The internet is your friend, so I guess that’s the way you have to get your music out there. But how do you do it in a way that people aren’t like, “that guy’s just trying to sell his music”?  How do you do it in a way that’s honest and genuine? I feel like people are aware of whether the person selling the music is honest or not, and whether the music is honest or not, and I don’t know how to navigate that and still be honest. It’s a tough thing to do. The last thing you want to do is be that band where they’re just sleazy and trying to sell their music, ‘cause then people aren’t interested.

How much do you rely on social media, or find that it affects what you do to promote and market your music?

It’s a big part for sure. I don’t know what bands did before social media. Then again, record deals and producers played a bigger role before social media existed. They would do the PR. Independent music seems like a result of the globalization, or the social media boom. It’s everyone for themselves. Which makes it harder, but easier at the same time. But you’re fighting a lot more people. There’s a lot of competition in music.  You have to play those shows where you’re playing to one person, or where people aren’t even paying attention.

Any plans to play some shows in Montreal in the future?

Actually something I wanted to do in September is do a southern Ontario tour, from London to Montreal, and hit up universities along the way. Maybe during frosh week. That’s when the new album will be coming out, so it would be nice to release it and tour then.

What are you hoping to achieve over the next little while with your music?

There’s a new album coming out that I’m working on. I have to record vocals and mix it, but it will be out in the fall. I want to connect to more people. Get more people into it, get more people listening to Crhymes. It’s tough, with marketing, there’s definitely an intention to get more people into it. But I’m a very conflicted person when it comes to this. Am I playing for myself or am I playing for people? It’s both. If I’m not happy doing it, then fuck it. If I’m only playing for other people then I’m not happy doing it. It’s a tough thing to negotiate. I just want people to have fun. I want people to go to shows, dance or sit in the back and get into it.

What’s your target demographic?

It’s been kind of a curse of mine because I seem to write music that appeals to my own demographic, and my demographic doesn’t spend money on music. I’m not really thinking about it too much. Maybe I should. I’m writing music that I want to write with a thought of if the music will be enjoyed in a live environment.

There are few bands that can combine bubbly pop-rock sound, glitter, edgy style, dark or political themes and a healthy dose of feminism so impeccably. Montreal’s Mad June thrives on this total clash of contrasting elements. The results are especially apparent in their live performances, where their infectious songs drive the audience to let go of all inhibitions and join in on their fun.

Fun is the name of the game for the six women who make up Mad June. Though they’ve always been politically minded, lead singer Vanessa McLean said they don’t take themselves as seriously as when they first started out almost eight years ago.

“Now our goal whenever we play a show is to just have as much fun as possible with the crowd,” McLean said.

mad june cafe chaos 1

Mad June works really hard at striving to achieve this goal. They played a show at Café Chaos last week with local bands NIL and Tracer Flare and it was a ridiculously good time. Their energy levels were very high as they performed their catchy, sing-along tunes.

Bassist Pascale St-Onge, guitarists Jessica Pion and Tania Dasrochers and keyboardist Sheenah Ko all danced and jumped around while also providing backup vocals.

Even though she was hanging out in back, drummer Lydia Champagne made her presence heard and felt. Her style of drumming is so fast and explosive, I was in total awe of her enormous talent.

McLean was all over the place, running and jumping around the stage, onto the speakers and even into the crowd to dance with fans and friends. She got the crowd to join in on many of the choruses, which are easy to sing along to even if you’re not familiar with their songs.

The grand surprise finale came when several audience members threw glitter confetti into the air and it landed on our sweaty faces and arms. Everyone loved it.

Party atmosphere aside, some of Mad June’s songs aren’t all glitter and bubblegum. For example, their single November has some pretty dark lyrics. But the tempo is upbeat and there’s a ‘La la la’ sing-along chorus.

mad june cafe chaos 2

“I like the drastic mix of that,” McLean said. “I’m going to steal something from Metric here but they said that you can listen to just the lyrics if you want to and go ‘that’s really deep and kind of depressing.’ And if you don’t want to, you can just listen to the music and have fun.”

The thing that strikes most about Mad June when watching them perform is that they are all very comfortable on stage in front of a crowd. You can see it in the way they move and in the way they interact with each other and the crowd.

McLean said having that connection with the audience has always been important to them as an indie band.

“Indie bands need to be really good with their promo. You can’t be lazy,” she said. “Nobody else is going to do it. We’re really active on social media. We try to talk to people as much as possible and be there so when we do have a show, we’re connected with these people.”

Mad June currently has a demo that they put out around 2009. They’re currently working on an album that they expect to release in the spring of 2014. They plan to release a single every few months until then to keep everyone on their toes. Their next one will be released in August.

Photos by Chris Zacchia, for the full set, see our Facebook page