Said The Whale Play “Emerald Lake AB”

Listen to this track by Vancouverite indie quintet Said The Whale. It’s “Emerald Lake AB”, a shining gem as taken from their 2009 record Islands Disappear, their second.

Said The Whale Islands Disappear

The band formed in Vancouver and very soon became recognized as being an important addition to the scene after their initial release Talking Abalonia in 2007. From there, they scored awards locally and eventually on a national scale, too. Being on that level in Canada, they had two agenda points to cover.

The first point was the business of selling to America. Every band in this country who is looking for a wider audience has to consider that goal; it’s an economy of scale thing. Their involvement in the 2011 documentary Winning America was a snapshot of their efforts on that front at SXSW. They subsequently made headway with their recent 2013 album Hawaii, and with the single “I Love You” charting in the States.

But, what about that second agenda point? Well, that’s the one this song seems to capture best. Read more

Interview With Gay Nineties Who Play “Letterman”

Listen to this track by four-cornered West Coast indie-rock pop artisans Gay Nineties. It’s “Letterman”, their single that served as a taster for their first “album-EP” Liberal Guilt, released online January 27, and in shops on February 3.

The band was born in 2010 when guitarist Parker Bossley, formerly of Hot Hot Heat, formed a musical bond with bassist Daniel Knowlington and drummer Malcolm Holt. They’ve since added a fourth member in keyboardist Bruce Ledingham IV, thereby expanding their sonic palette from the indie power-trio they were into a supple unit with an easy hand with texture and nuance. With that shift of course, they’re still able to joyfully pummel audiences with their enthusiastic brand of angular pop-rock in an alternative vein, and clearly made for radio.

The Gay Nineties Liberal Guilt

I got a chance to chat with Parker Bossley who answers for Gay Nineties via email about this song, about the new record, and about the role which that aforementioned pillar of success, rock radio, has in their lives.

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Interview With Craig Northey of Odds: Someone Who’s Cool

Listen to this track by Vancouverite power-pop poobahs Odds. It’s their arguably best-known hit song among other well-known radio favourites, “Someone Who’s Cool” as it appears on their 1996 album Nest.

That record marked the end of an era for the band, the last of their releases that included guitarist-singer and songwriter Steven Drake. After this, the band went on hiatus for a period, with solo careers, collaborations, and other projects with each other, and with members of other bands .

But always being hard-working and fiercely local in their emphasis, they came together again at the end of the 2000s, sans Drake, but with a seemingly undiminished capacity for  writing and performing hook-laden songs that sound joyous yet are laced with bitter acrimony and black humour.

Odds_0512 (credit-Cole_Northey)
Odds today (image: Cole Northey)

Singer and guitarist Craig Northey takes lead vocals on the lion’s share of the band’s material these days, although this one was always a highlight for his voice, and a great example of his ability to make self-deprecating humour and subtly tragic overtones into something to which everyone can sing along with gusto. It helps that he is part of a band that is still as passionate about live playing as they ever were, giving audiences that very opportunity.

Their love of playing for crowds stretches back to the time when they played hard nearly every night on the local scene to hone their craft and fund their ambitions to continue to record their own original material, which they’d written even before they served as house band under a different name at Vancouver’s The Roxy. And it’s good that they did, considering that many of their songs, including this one, has become such a vital part of the Canadian pop music continuum.

I had the tremendous pleasure to speak to Craig Northey through the magic of email about this song, about their roots as a west coast band, and about karaoke, too. Here’s what he said.

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Catlow Plays “House Arrest”

Listen to this track by former Dirtmitts vocalist Natasha Thirsk’s solo project Catlow. It’s “House Arrest”, a track from her most recent record Pinkly Things, the long-awaited follow-up to her debut Kiss The World, and recorded right here in Vancouver.

The song is a jangly, spangly, pinkly, pop song that hearkens back to the days of classic pop radio, with Thirsk’s ebullient vocals not a million miles away from Debbie Harry, and with several sumptuous references to that same anthemic sound that mixes rock instruments with synths.

When her former outfit The Dirtmitts disolved after their second record, mostly due to various members’ family commitments and subsequent moves, Thirsk needed to start again. The result of that initial impulse was 2006’s Kiss The World under the name Catlow; a new name for a new beginning, and with a new set of musical landscapes drawing from influences as disparate as New Order to BRMC.

It was a time to blaze a new trail for herself, now well established. Among other things that happened around the time of her debut, her solo work gained some new ears when her song “I Am Loved” was featured in an episode of Being Human, a show based (even if its not set) in Vancouver, much like Thirsk herself.

Like her past work on the debut, “House Arrest” and the new record off of which it comes is a highly accessible, yet sonically varied, making for some compelling 21st century power pop . The song was recorded in Vancouver’s The Factory, co-produced with Marcel Rambo and Hayz Fischer. In addition to collaborations on the production side, Thirsk sought out collaborators on the songs as well, working with Dave Hodge, Jamie Di Salvio of Bran Van 3000, and Mike Miguel Sanchez, to name a few.

“House Arrest” is the first single to the record, which you can buy on iTunes along with the rest of the album.

To connect with Natasha and her fans, be sure and “like” the official Catlow Facebook page.

Enjoy!

[UPDATE: July 11, 2012]

Catlow is playing live here in Vancouver. Here are the dates, good people:

July 12: Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl
July 14: Savary Island, BC @ Riggers Pub
July 28: North Vancouver, BC @ Cates Park (MusArt Festival, 5pm)

Buckman Coe Performs ‘Give Up The Fright’

Listen to this track by Vancouver-based folk-soul proponent Buckman Coe, AKA singer-songwriter Rick Buckman.  It’s “Give Up The Fright” as taken from his debut LP Latest Waking released in March.

The record centralizes Buckman’s interests in classic singer-songwriter traditions across the pop music spectrum, evoking the spirits of Jeff Buckley, and Nina Simone. To my ears, his music also presents a nod to the legacy of John Barleycorn Must Die-era Traffic, and Blind Faith in “Can’t Find My Way Home” mode, too. Based on this, if you’re a regular to this blog of mine, you might be able to tell why this song caught my attention.

After being approached by his promotions company, I spoke with Rick about songwriting,  his involvement in the local music scene, and in his first experience in the dreaded music business …

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The Delete Bin: First of all, thanks for talking to me, Rick.

Rick Buckman: Thanks for the opportunity man!

DB: Let’s talk about your sound. The mixing of genres is a challenging thing to do while maintaining one’s own voice as an artist, it seems to me.  How do you strike a balance between pulling from those artists that inspire you, and the effort to find yourself as an artist?

RB: Freeing oneself from the constraints of any definition, will enhance you as an artist. I have always just played what felt right and created the emotion or mood I wanted. My songs have often emerged from a feeling and groove, and usually bear some resemblance to several genres at a time. Sometimes I draw from genres I don’t even listen to at all, like country! I have no inclination to listen to country but the feeling of old country songs can have an incredible amount of soul.

The artists that have most inspired me have themselves crossed genres and created something new and familiar at the same time. For instance, Nina Simone’s jazz-classical crossover in Love Me or Leave Me was probably the first such cross-over, and arguably the grooviest. The idea of melding genres offers unlimited variations and my lack of formal schooling has often resulted in me creating my own interpretations. I have always defied categorization anyway, and really people have no idea where I am even from – I could be from anywhere.

I draw from my influences in a musical sense but also in terms of their spirit and what they stood for. I love the suffering strength of Nina Simone, the spiritual conviction of Bob Marley, the jester in John Lennon, and the angelic quality of Jeff Buckley. I am not particularly like any of them, but I believe this world needs to feel their presence in some way. As long as I’m capable of channelling these icons or archetypes in way that clarifies my vision, I’m open. As long as the music I create can carry the stories I want to tell, and I can fully step into the theatre of performing my songs, then I must trust that I am on the right path and in balance.

DB: You’re a graduate of ecopsychology and clinical counseling.  Yet “Give Up the Fright”  doesn’t seem to be polemical or academic.  Is this something you consciously avoided when you sat down to write it, and other songs?

RB: As soon as things get too philosophical and academic, people go right to their heads. I don’t just want to engage people in their heads, I want to connect with them on a more emotional level. In the way you could see a foreign film and feel what the actors are going through though you have no clue what’s going on. Once I can tap into universal shared experiences, then the lyrics will have roots from which they can draw life.

In my songwriting I tend to create stories based on the common twists and turns I see in our lives. I blend a bit of autobiography with fiction in order to convey a feeling or idea, and I use plenty of lyrical imagery and metaphor. “Give Up the Fright” is about the unconditional acceptance of both light and dark aspects of one’s lover, but singing about this ideal of Love has a much greater impact on people when they can relate to the emotional tone the lyrics create. I compose like this because it feels good and makes the song richer.

DB:  The record was made in your apartment, with a batch of songs that you had worked on while in school in Colorado.  And you’ve recorded in stairwells for natural reverb on occasion, too. How important is the informality of these situations to how the songs come out?

RB: It’s wonderful being able to record and mix at home! I can enter into the world of sound at any time day or night. I can experiment and try different approaches – like going into the stairwell with a couple mics at 3am –  and not be locked into something done at the studio. It makes for a very personal journey that really suits this album. In a way these songs are like an invitation into my apartment for dinner and music, which does happen quite a bit actually. I’m a big fan of hanging out and jamming, and the most intimate performances of my songs have often been in such informal gatherings. I like how these songs were produced in a way that captures that feeling of being home.

DB: Soul music and folk music are often thought of as being entirely separate, and yet I hear traces of both in your music. Where do you think this false dichotomy of the two traditions comes from?

RB: Perhaps it’s a cultural and historical thing. Folk could be considered as having it’s roots in Europe and Soul has African American roots. But to me they can be very similar because they are often the music that speaks to people’s actual experiences and people are essentially the same. But we forget this and we also tend to forget how intertwined our histories are. Music is just a part of that and it evolves, too. Folk, bluegrass, country, jazz, blues, soul, and rock & roll all influenced each other throughout the 20th Century.

People feel more secure, however, when we have categories to help make sense of the world so we create false dichotomies all the time, it’s what we tend to do. Playing with the streams of different traditions and finding the common ground between them moves our cultures closer together. We should maintain the traditional roots, definitely, but this years fruits are always on the branches we’ve grown.

DB: In terms of the local music scene, and the recession that makes for a  more competitive landscape, is there still a sense of community among local musicians vying for an audience?

RB: There is a good community of artists in Vancouver, and I don’t feel we’re competing for audiences because of the recession. We’re competing because so many folks are putting on good shows and Vancouver isn’t that big of a city. There’s a small degree of separation between people involved in the cultural scene here, but our artists and our community, in general, could still benefit by working more closely together, sharing resources and supporting each others efforts.

I always want to see more cross-pollination, and I try to do my part collaborating on shows, and bringing together different artists from different groups of people. Vancouver is developing a good ethic around this, and I think it’s getting better and better, and can make us resilient to recession.

DB: You’re a practitioner of yoga as well as being a musician.  How does this contrast your involvement in the notoriously un-Zen nature of the music business?

RB: Yoga is about union and balance, and is a discipline that involves the mind, the body, art and sound, and is about creating harmony. It is especially important for musicians who have to ground themselves after the highs of performing and and have to keep their wits about them to make it in the business. I admire artists who are making it out there and have sustained long careers by practicing very yoga-like ideals – namely that of steadfast focus and dedication, maintaining their health, keeping their ego in check, and probably being slightly detached from the ridiculous aspects of the industry.

Since the music industry can be so un-Zen, it’s all the more reason for musicians to be more Zen. And, now more than ever, we can shape the business culture as the old paradigms of the music industry crumble. I am very inspired by artists such as Michael Franti, for instance, who fully embraces his role as yogi musician and encourages a more conscious and compassionate world. For me, it’s all about artists choosing positivity and using their art to elevate awareness and happiness, and thereby direct the trajectory of our history.

DB: Thanks again for talking to me, Rick!

RB: Thanks Rob for the great questions!

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Buckman Coe is performing upcoming dates in the Vancouver area:

5/27 – Café Montmarte – Vancouver, British Columbia, CA
6/18 – Rhizome – Vancouver, British Columbia, CA
7/30 – Komasket Festival, Vernon, British Columbia, CA
8/20 – Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, Vancouver, British Columbia, CA

In the meantime, to hear more music, check out Buckman Coe on MySpace.  Ans be sure to visit Buckmancoe.com, too.

[disclosure: I’ve been put on the guest list for the show on the 27th – really looking forward to it!]