Just off of Queen St. West in Toronto sits a musical goldmine. It’s simply known as Bellwoods. The house, located on Bellwoods Ave., has been the meeting point for The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Katie Stelmanis, Sebastien Granger and Gentleman Reg. But the real gem of Bellwoods is Ohbijou.
Ohbijou began with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Casey Mecjia and soon grew to include her sister Jennifer. The sisters relocated from Brantford to Toronto to attend university. After the move, the group expanded to include Heather Kirby, James Bunton, Anissa Hart, Ryan Carley, and Andrew Kinoshita. The band regularly practices at Bellwoods, or to Casey, her home.
In 2006 Ohbijou released their debut, Swift Feet for Troubling Times, a sweeping combination of classical string instruments, horns, and piano, with guitar, bass, and drums. The match, paired with Mecjia’s soft and delicate vocals, is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Ohbijou followed up Swift Feet for Troubling Times with this year’s release Beacons. Casey Mecjia talked about their latest album, how Ohbijou has changed, and her first Nirvana cover.
Q: Beacons was released in June of this year, looking back how do you feel about the album?
A: I think we’re all really really proud of Beacons. We worked really hard on it. We’re just relieved that the whole process is finished. We’re really excited about it.
Q: How would you compare Beacons to Swift Feet for Troubling Times?
A: I think that with Beacons there was a focus to fill up arrangements and to make the songs more lush and vibrant. We were trying to experiment with sounds and different instruments. The first record [Swift Feet for Troubling Times] was considerably more sparse.
Q: Ohbijou was given the chance to spend some time at the Banff Centre’s Indie Band Residency. How did that experience influence the album?
A:The Banff Centre is an amazing facility. I think that the opportunity to go there and to have access to a studio space to just focus on practising has such an impact. I think what we got out of it a really good sense of working together. In the city so many things can distract you. When we were in the mountains playing it was like “we can have fun playing music and we can write music that is our own.’ I think that it helped us mature and become really excited about writing music.
Q: There’s a three-year gap between the release of Swift Feet for Troubling Times and Beacons, how has that lapse changed Ohbijou?
A: When we finished Swift Feet we did quite a bit of touring and went all over Canada a couple of times. Then we settled into our lives back in the city and continued to play music. Just chipping away at Beacons whenever we could while working day jobs. The pace slowed down a bit and I think that as a band we formed a tighter bond. In terms of musicianship we’ve improved in our playing and our writing and arranging.
Q: When you began playing and writing music did you ever think it would get to this point?
A: Not at all. I think in grade 10 music is an introspective thing, self-loathing, thing for a teenager. I think that it’s evolved for me and with me in age. I didn’t really start playing music in front of an audience until I finished university. I was always very shy with it. Moving to Toronto provided so an opportunity to become involved in music. Not just being in a band but organizing shows. I think that moving into the city made it more of a possibility.
Q: What was the first cover song you learned?
A: Oh god. It was actually “Come as you are” by Nirvana. (laughs) It was maybe grade nine. I think everyone learns either a Smashing Pumpkins song or a Nirvana song.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from your first European tour?
A: I think being in Berlin and looking around with your best friends is really weird. Also the opportunity to being able to travel and play music is really memorable, especially with my sister. It’s an amazing thing to get to see her experience Europe for the first time.
Ohbijou will be playing at Club Lambi Nov. 5.