by Grady Mitchell | Vancouver trio Girlfriends And Boyfriends have released a new, long-awaited single called A Flower. It’s a dark and plaintive track that embodies modern New Wave, complete with splashy drums, reverbed guitar, and grim, sonorous vocals.
Although they’ve developed that signature New Wave style, the band began very differently. When guitarist Pete Panovic founded it, everything was straight Brit Pop. “All the songs ended up sounding like Oasis,” he says. Bassist Grant Minor joined in 2007 in response to a Craigslist ad, and most recently Adam Fink joined after the original drummer left the band. With the lineup now solidified, they’ve dived headlong into New Wave and post punk.
They’re not the first band to revitalize a past genre, although they’re among the best to do so. Bands like The Smiths and The Cure played on the radio when they were kids, and now, decades later, they’re emulating the New Wave heroes that shaped their early tastes in music. It’s not the first time New Wave in particular has boomeranged back around, the band says, citing the slew of covers done by nu metal bands in the late 90s.
So why won’t New Wave just quit? Simple, the band says: it’s just great music. They also consider the New Wave era the golden age of producing. It hit the perfect balance point when technology allowed for a cleaner sound without completely erasing the human element, before songs were programmed to a beat and polished to death. “There was still a realness to production in that kind of music,” Grant says. To recreate that realness they linked with Vancouver producer Felix Fung, who specializes in just that.
Felix, the band’s “fourth member,” was critical to the darkness and longing of A Flower. “It’s a personal song,” Grant says, “it’s about a failed relationship. Nine out of the ten songs on our record are about failed relationships.” So what’s the tenth about? The band starts to laugh. “Social media!”
The new record is finished, though we most likely won’t hear it until early 2015. In the meantime, however, they say we can expect another single soon. To support Girlfriends And Boyfriends and explore their sound, visit their Bandcamp.
The GOODS from Wolf In The Fog
Tofino, BC | Husband-and-wife folk-pop band Us The Duo will be performing at Tofino’s newest restaurant Wolf in the Fog on Saturday, August 30th. Fresh off their North American tour to promote their second album No Matter Where You Are, Us The Duo will play an intimate show in the upstairs dining room.
Tickets are $50 per person and include a multi-course dinner prepared by Chef Nick Nutting and the Wolf in the Fog team. Doors open at 5:00pm and seating is first come first serve. The show begins at 8:00pm.
Tickets go on sale this Thursday, August 14th and can be purchased at Wolf in the Fog, located at 150 Fourth Street, Tofino, BC or by calling 250-725-WOLF (9653). Read more
by Grady Mitchell | Robbie Slade is one-half of Vancouver electronic duo Humans, alongside beat maker and Montreal transplant Peter Ricq. “Pete’s prolific,” says Robbie. “He cranks out beats like crazy.” Robbie takes those beats and adds melodies and vocals, and together they achieve their booming, turbulently danceable signature sound.
Robbie honed his musical talents in a somewhat literal trial by fire. He was a feller fighting forest fires in northern BC, moving into areas to cut down dead trees so his crew could work safely. Alone all day in a smouldering forest, he wrote songs in his head as he cut. He held the melodies in his mind until he could write them down, sometimes days later.
Pete’s always been an electronic musician, but Robbie’s early interests were in folk and reggae. You can hear the influence of those genres on the throaty rasp of his voice, especially on tracks like De Ciel, from the band’s second album, 2012′s Traps. Robbie points out, though, that the lines between genres grow blurrier every day. “If you’re going to stop at folk, you probably don’t like music that much, because I’m pretty sure James Blake could get ya.”
Since Traps came out in 2012 they’ve collected more new gear and finished recording a new, as-of-yet untitled album. Will it be dancy? “Moreso than ever,” Robbie assures. Unfortunately, it won’t be out until February. Until then, you can hear more Humans at their site, or you can catch them on August 16th at the Two Acre Shaker in Pemberton.
by Maya-Roisin Slater | Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to pick the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. It’s harder than you think! Today we hear from chef Andrea Carlson, co-owner of the celebrated Burdock & Co. eatery on Main Street and resident CSA box curator at Harvest Community Foods in Chinatown.
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs | LISTEN | “Tom Waits has been an early favourite for his quirky variety of music. Rain Dogs is a fave as it’s a prime example of his vocal style and lyrical imagery. Reminds me of my youth…”
Oliver Schroer – Camino | LISTEN | “A Canadian musician who I first came to hear on a CBC interview with Sheila Rogers. He and his music were really captivating and we had the good fortune to see him that same summer at the Folk Music Fest at Jericho. I heard him interviewed again a year or two later – I believe about his album Camino – which was recorded in churches along the Camino de Santiago trail. A very hauntingly beautiful album.”
Bocephus King – Joco Music | LISTEN | ”A great album for a road trip – packed with excellent musical talent from our area. Can’t recall how I discovered BK … but have had great opportunities to see him play at Tofino’s Legion and the Railway Club.”
by Maya-Roisin Slater | Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to pick the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. Today we hear from local visual artist, musician, and producer Eli Muro. To see beautiful works by this jack of many trades, visit his website here.
Bill Withers – Still Bill | LISTEN | “Bill Withers is one of the most honest musicians I have ever heard. His topics are so real and he’s not afraid to make music about harsh realities. Yet at the same time he can make a song like “lean on me”. I feel like he’s giving me life advice when I listen to this album. “Still Bill” is the full spectrum of good honest soul music and real talk, a lot of the songs on this album have had the ability to make me cry.”
Nas – Illmatic | LISTEN | “Hip Hop was the first genre of music that I fell in love with, and “Illmatic” was on repeat for most of my adolescence. Nas came out in the “golden age” when hip hop was new and exciting. He was just making the kind of music that felt natural to him. Now when he tries to make a pop song for the radio or something it sounds forced, but this was his first album where he’s just being himself, which is why I think it’s such a classic.”
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma | LISTEN | “This album blew my mind. It’s everything I love: hip hop, jazz, electronic and experimental all in one package. Flying Lotus seems to have no boundaries, he just goes everywhere with his art. The string arrangements by Miguel Atwood Fergussen are next level and I think the balancing of subtle atmospherics and intense complexities are just perfect.”
The GOODS from Music Direction
Vancouver, BC | Music Direction’s playlist for July highlights Kelowna-based Prohibition Brewing Company. The folks from Prohibition recently opened a beautiful Tasting Room on Hamilton Street in Yaletown. Bringing you back to a time when ordering a beer was worth the risk. They commissioned Vancouver artist Rory Doyle to hand-render all their beer labels and logos. Their music program will make you want to get comfy, stay a while and share a beer with the likes of Jack White, Afie Jurvanen and The Rolling Stones. Full tracklist after the jump… Read more
by Grady Mitchell | Vancouver quartet Frankie, comprised of singer/guitarist Francesca Carbonneau, keyboardist Nashlyn Lloyd, bassist Samantha Lankester, and drummer Zoe Fuhr, have pioneered their own new genre based on their distinctive style of dark, folky music. They’re calling it “twinkle rock”.
That’s not to say everything in the Frankie universe sparkles. The delicate beauty of Francesca’s voice and the intricately woven instruments masks the dark core of their music. “It’s kind of like when a dream interferes with a nightmare, and all of that happens in one song,” says Zoe. The collision between those two extremes – the immense possibility of dreams with the nocturnal tortures of nightmares – is where twinkle rock happens.
In various ways, almost every Frankie song embodies this. Powder, despite its light and airy instrumentation, lays out an emotional spiral and some none-too-healthy methods of coping. The frantic pace of Someone Once mimics the story of mental decay it spins, just as the steady, forbidding rhythm of Painted Birds amplifies a tale of romance gone dark.
Formed in December 2013, the band has faced most of the challenges arrayed against a new act, compounded by the stereotypes facing an all-girl group. “You have something to prove,” the band agrees. Most common is the genuine, post-performance surprise that audience members show at their live shows. But those kinds of reactions just motivate them to work harder. “We can’t just be cute up there,” says Nashlyn. “We have to be good.”
The momentum they’ve built over only six months is a testament to that, and shows no signs of slowing. On Saturday, July 26th the band will play a show at Sitka on West 4th. They have two festivals scheduled later in the summer: Edge of the World on Haida Gwaii on August 9th, and another at Ponderosa Festival at the end of that month. After that, they plan to hole up for the Fall and get an album done. For more from Frankie, check out their website.
by Nic Bragg | From Kitsilano’s Zulu Records, we once again present our monthly Scout feature, the Zulu Report. Within, you’ll find The Track – the song on heavy rotation in the shop this week; The Playlist – our selection of videos; The Gig – the “must-see show”; and The Glance – which details the best gigs on the immediate horizon. From our ears to yours, enjoy… Read more
Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to pick the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. Today we hear from Theo Lloyd Kohls, owner of The Dunlevy Snackbar, which is open Tuesday through Saturday evenings on the DTES for all your snacking/sipping needs.
Pulp – Common People | LISTEN | “In middle school, JC [lead singer Jarvis Cocker] was my JC.”
Serge Gainsbourg – Initials BB | LISTEN | “I was 18, she was 24, EYES WIDE OPEN.”
Gil Scott Heron – Winter In America | LISTEN | “A Father, a Sage, an Artist. Bless your soul.”
by Grady Mitchell | On August 2nd at The Electric Owl, Vancouver quartet Shimmering Stars will offer a sneak peek of their second album, Bedrooms of the Nation, coming out August 13. Compared to their first record, Violent Hearts, Bedrooms is a vast, howling sound. Guitars are stacked atop each other – sometimes fifty tracks on a single song, says guitarist and singer Rory McClure – to build a swirling hurricane noise. This change of direction throws back to the band’s early days. Before it was an album, Bedrooms of the Nation was the group’s original name, back when they played louder, brasher punk.
The Stars are fascinated by the music of the fifties and sixties, particularly the gap between what the artists sang and how they lived their lives. Acts like The Beach Boys spun some wonderful harmonies, but their lives were anything but. “The parameters around pop music at that time were very limiting,” Rory says. “You couldn’t say what you actually felt or were experiencing if it didn’t conform to pretty traditional themes. So I was always curious: what would they write if they were actually free to write about what they wanted?”
Probably something a lot like a Shimmering Stars song. The sock hop influence shows up in the blended harmonies and bouncy melodies that appear in even the most shadowy tracks, a sort of through-line piercing the noise. Even when a song like Shadow Visions launches into a thunderous third act, it’s guided by a jaunty guitar line and a ghostly bah-bah-bah backup vocal. Much like the night sky, there are speckles of light among the dark (if you’ll forgive a guy a True Detective reference). Mixing pop techniques with experimental elements is nothing new, they say. They point out guys like Frank Black and Kurt Cobain who built experimental sounds around a core pop sensibility. “I think no matter how dark or noisy the music gets,” drummer Andrew Dergousoff says, “Rory’s got a secret, guilty pop affiliation.”
“You can indulge the fringe styles,” Rory adds, “but it’s got to have a melody.”
Lyrically, things are as dark as they were on Hearts, but the songs take an angle more philosophical than personal: “Things that expand beyond my own, sad-bastard experiences,” Rory says. The mood lightens as the album progresses, culminating in the cathartic closer I Found Love.
The addition of bassist Elisha Rembold allowed Brent Sasaki to switch to guitar (his playing style, according to his bandmates, “has been described as ‘nervous piano.’”) Not only did that free them to write chunkier songs, but markedly improved their live performances, too, the band agrees.
That’s something you can decide for yourself on August 2nd. Until then, you can hear a few tracks off Bedrooms of the Nation here.
by Grady Mitchell | On Thursday, June 19th, The Shilohs will be celebrating the release of their latest, self-titled album with a show at Fortune Soundclub. The jaunty, jangly twelve-track record – a time-capsule throwback to 60s and 70s pop – combines the work of three talented songwriters – guitarist Johnny Payne, bassist Dan Colussi (who founded Scout’s Soundtracking column), and guitarist Mike Komaszcuk – alongside drummer Ben Frey.
It’s rare to find a band with songs that sound so wildly different and yet all, somehow, perfectly their own. The guys lean on no tropes, and you’ll never experience deja vu with a moment you swore you heard just a couple songs back. That diversity comes from the triple-threat of lyricists and their variety of styles. Johnny’s songs are typically more personal stories, he says, while Mike’s are more philosophical, and Dan’s fall somewhere in between.
The lyrics are written solo, but a Shilohs song doesn’t become a Shilohs song until it’s brought to the studio and everyone puts their mark on it. Even then, each track has a final, even more rigorous test: touring. Back home some songs may get canned altogether while others get overhauled, but only after surviving the gauntlet of live shows will they make the album. For this record the band wrote almost 20 songs before narrowing the count to twelve.
Thursday’s release party will also feature a performance by COOL and a set by Big Tiny. In July, the boys embark on a tour across the US with The Fresh & Onlys. For more information, visit their site.
by Grady Mitchell | Grant Lawrence gets things done. He’s a musician, author, longtime CBC Radio 3 host, and human archive of Canadian music. That’s a mouthful, so when people ask what he does he typically says, “I’m a broadcaster.” Since his interests and talents are indeed broad, the title fits well…with a little interpretation. But whatever it is he’s doing at a given moment, it probably involves music. Take, for example, his upcoming gig as host at the CBC Music Festival this Saturday at Deer Lake Park with headliners Tegan & Sara and Spoon.
Grant’s musical obsession started in high school. “The easiest route to art when we were teenagers was to form a band,” he says. His was called The Smugglers, and over the next 15 years they released eight albums and toured worldwide. Meanwhile, teenaged Grant worked as a concert promoter, booking acts like Fugazi and Nirvana (who crashed at his parents’ place). Next, he worked A&R at Mint Records before joining the crew at the CBC, where he remains today.
Just about the only things Grant’s done that don’t directly incorporate music are his two books, Adventures in Solitude, about the misunderstood culture of Desolation Sound, and The Lonely End of the Rink, a memoir about Grant’s lifelong, sometimes good but often rocky relationship with hockey. There’s an explanation for that, Grant says. “If you work at Burger King full-time, Monday to Friday, chances are Saturday night the last thing you want to do is eat a Whopper.” The books, which both hit national bestseller lists and won the BC Book Prize for Book of the Year, were a chance for Grant to tackle a topic outside music.
Despite forays into other mediums, it’s in the studio at CBC that Grant feels most comfortable, and he doesn’t plan to abandon it anytime soon. Although critics have predicted the death of radio since the invention of television, Grant remains unfazed. While terrestrial radio (the ones with knobs and buttons) will likely phase out, the medium will simply move into more digital channels, as it already has with satellite radio and podcasts (of which CBC was one of the earliest adopters). Radio works because of the curatorial aspect; it’s word of mouth, amplified. “We sift through the hundreds and thousands of songs,” Grant says, “so you can hear the dozens of really great ones.” He’s always got his eye on Vancouver talent, and these days he’s excited about bands like The Courtneys, The Ruffled Feathers, Needles//Pins, and Blanket Barricade.
To learn more about Grant, visit his site, and check him out this Saturday at the CBC Music Festival in Deer Lake Park.
by Nic Bragg | From Kitsilano’s Zulu Records, we once again present our monthly Scout feature, the Zulu Report. Within, you’ll find The Track – the song on heavy rotation in the shop this week; The Playlist – which is self-explanatory; The Gig – or the ‘must see’ show of the week; and The Glance – which details the best live acts that are on the immediate horizon. From our ears to yours, enjoy…
MAC DEMARCO Passing Out Pieces
Where does Montreal/Vancouver’s Mac Demarco go from here? His music career is climbing to new heights as gigs in support of his latest groover Salad Days have been bumped up into bigger and bigger venues and are constantly selling out. Curious journalists are lined up to pen in-depth documentaries exploring his wildman history, his love of smokes, and his devil-may-care approach to keeping things light. Video crews give him a microphone and set him free lapping up his wise-cracking ways. Mac is the man of the moment for sure and for that he is awesome. Salad Days is easily one of the finest records of the year and it’s nice to see an Emily Carr guy doing so well. So again, where will he go next? Check this video – Mac’s acting skills are really ripening on the vine…
HAMILTON LEITHAUSER I Retired
The Walkmen are on an indefinite hiatus. Lead singer Hamilton has already produced a solo album that sees him fleshing out his brooding post-punk aesthetic with songs that weave together folksy styles with doo-wop silhouettes. His signature vocal tone remains intact as he muses on life after the big band fireworks!
WHITE LUNG Face Down
Bombing around LA and Santa Monica in a light blue Volvo 240, our heroes White Lung prove that the VHS camera is nowhere near being played out. This year is a huge one for White Lung – they are releasing Deep Fantasy on a major indie (Domino Records) and touring for months straight, all while constantly updating their fascinating Instagram feed.
MORRISSEY World Peace Is None Of Your Business
Morrissey has always had a message, an opinion, and a style of his own. Art is anything you can get away with, and the Moz has always gotten away with it. Here’s a cool spoken word promo for his new album. The message is pretty clear. Bonus points: Nancy Sinatra holding a briefcase of flowers.
Everyone’s favourite Japanese noise rockers Boris are prepping a new release of heavy heavy tunes. They are rumoured to be coming to Vancouver too, which will be good. I can see all the fog machines at L&M getting rented that weekend. If you’re into power trios that make use of blazing leads then this is your flavour…Vanilla!
MIREL WAGNER Oak Tree
Dream dream dream sweet dreams! Londoner Mirel Wagner is known for her haunting and hushed folk ballads. Here’s the first cut from her forthcoming Sub Pop release – and as one would think it’s a stripped down acoustic ode that carries a ton of tension. The classic black and white, single light source photography is perfect here!
FUCKED UP Sun Glass
Fucked Up have a heavy new album. This video feels like a tribute to Suicidal Tendencies. Damon is in prime form. The slow motion smoke shots are particularly intense. Heavy and grouchy, Fucked Up are back and at Fortune August 15th .
THE SHILOHS | Album Release Party Thursday June 19th at Fortune Sound Club
Things are happening fast for Vancouver’s charming classic pop quartet The Shilohs. In a short time they’ve been out on the road touring with American indie-rock stalwarts Real Estate, performed a couple showcases in Austin for SXSW, hooked up for more US shows with fellow jingle-janglers The Fresh And Onlys, and most importantly – released their sophomore LP for local Light Organ Records. Man, they’ve even been name-checked in Rolling Stone and Spin! They have momentum, and are currently ‘on top of their game’ with a swaggery carefree attitude that finds them chewing through their catalogue of intellectual rock songs with fervour and a rare sort of instinctual nerve. This is their record release show…a lot of bigwigs will be there, their families will be there, and their friends drinking their beer will be there. The pressure will be on. Time to nail it!
A deeper look at Vancouver’s gigscape for JUNE is after the jump… Read more
by Grady Mitchell | Greg Bevis believes that pop music can and should challenge listeners. Decades ago, artists like Elton John and Fleetwood Mac were able to make hugely successful pop music that also had substance. These days, besides a few exceptions, that’s clearly not the case.
When Greg says pop music can be challenging, he doesn’t mean in an esoteric or bizarre sense. He simply believes a pop song can have more going on that a catchy hook (which abound on Holy Oker tracks). That idea took shape during his time at Toronto’s Humber College, where he studied jazz. Humber, which offers students access to a studio, is also where he began writing and recording Holy Oker songs.
Greg thinks certain records demand repeated listenings. “My favourite records I didn’t love until the third time I heard them,” he says, citing Jeff Buckley’s Grace as example. When you spend time with a song, Greg says, it’ll reward you with quirks and secrets. He pulls up Otis Redding’s Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay for me and points out a one-time piano lick that starts at 2:08 and ends three seconds later. Tiny moments like that can make an entire record for him.
The depth in Holy Oker songs comes from the dichotomy between the upbeat instrumentation and the forlorn lyrics. Greg describes them as “dark but hopeful.” He pictures a song as a house that a listener moves through; some rooms are close and dark, others are open and bright. “If it’s too sad, nobody’s going to listen to it,” he says. “But if you disguise it with a pop melody, it’s sneaky. I like that.” It asks more of the listener, but the rewards are greater, too.
In between scoring films and recording a second album for his other band, Bear Mountain, Greg will release a Holy Oker single in September on Boompa Records. To learn more about Holy Oker, visit his website.