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Music

Rock band Rust Eden’s journey to success

Alexandre and David’s love of music has turned Rust Eden into a five-piece rock band

At the heart of the Montreal rock band Rust Eden are two long-time friends who have a deep and profound love for music. They are vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Alexandre Larin and bassist David Bastien. These musicians met each other in Saint-Eustache a decade ago, where both of them grew up. Their shared passion and drive made it natural for them to combine their music and start jamming together right away. They started off with the band name Gregon Ciel, which involved a progressive music style. “We made a lot of music before. Did some recording, just the two of us at my parent’s house,” said Larin.

However, by only making music alone in Larin’s basement, they began building a bubble around themselves. It got to the point that they were shy to go out and share their music with the world. Although they have built up their confidence over the years, the shyness still exists for both musicians. “It’s still a big deal,” said Larin. “It’s better than it was, but there’s mood swings in the process. There’s a lot of, ‘Oh is it okay? Do I suck?'”

They believe that this lack of confidence comes from putting a lot of pressure on themselves, but they say it can be a positive thing as well. “I think it’s a good thing because we are [creating] so much music. We are doing two or three songs a week,” said Larin. The band said focusing more on the creative process and less on gaining popularity through their music helps them build their confidence as well. It was around this time four years ago that they decided to create the band Rust Eden. They then grew their musical duo into a five-piece band, with Marc-Antoine Sévégny on drums, Étienne Broué on guitar and Benoît Parent on keyboards.

Larin and Bastien performing at the M bar on St-André in 2015. Photo by Camille St-Jacques.

They wanted to add more musicians to their band in order to bring a new dimension to the sound of their live performances. “I think that playing with other musicians is pretty cool because you’re playing with different mindsets,” said Larin. “I think it’s really positive to hear other musician’s ideas.” The band released their latest album, Apartment Green, in May, and will be releasing an EP in the upcoming year. Apartment Green was recorded in Parent’s studio, Studio B. “It was a no-brainer to record there because it’s a good studio with expensive stuff,” said Larin.

Studio B’s label, Chivy Chivy, has also given them a lot of funding for their music. “They paid for radio tracking in the States and Canada, and they helped us with money and with promotions,” said Larin. According to Bastien and Larin, as reserved people, it is hard to make contacts, so they are thankful to have Chivy Chivy as a record label. “We took a huge step with them just to promote our band. We have no contacts in Montreal, so they just know how to do it,” said Bastien. “We tried, but we’re not good at it.”

Although they are both very happy with how the album turned out, they’re ready to move on with their new music. “We’re the kind of guys who just… We’re doing music and once it’s released, we say to ourselves: ‘Okay, what’s the next thing?… What’s the next step? How can we make something different?’” said Larin.Bastien and Larin have always been focused on creating unique music they’re proud of—something that will never change throughout their musical careers. “We just wanted to make music from scratch,” said Larin. “We don’t want to sound like anything else. The final goal is to [compose] original music.”

Rust Eden jamming at Studio B in 2015. Photo by Camille St-Jacques.

The band is now experimenting with sound and adding more glam rock influences to their upcoming EP. “It will have the groovy kind of stuff, because we’ve always been more down-tempo, kind of stoner type of music, but we’re trying to do more up-tempo and upper music,” said Larin. Both Larin and Bastien’s mindsets and points of view will be equally featured in the upcoming EP. “In terms of lyrics, for the next album it’s pretty 50/50,” said Larin.

They are simply happy to be playing together and compose my original music that they are proud of. “That’s the best high we can get. It’s just so much fun,” said Larin. The most important thing for these two friends is to be true to themselves and to their music. “We just try to keep the roots of two guys who are doing music and tripping and… trying to explore things and just satisfy ourselves in that kind of trip. It’s really a trip for us,” said Larin.

Rust Eden will be performing at Casa Del Popolo on Nov. 17th. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $7 at the door.

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Music

Meet the Montreal ska queen

Lorraine Muller, former band member of The Kingpins, is a legend in the world of ska music

Lorraine Muller is a legend in the world of ska music. She is recognized for being one of the first women in ska music in Montreal to have garnered success. Though Muller is in the spotlight now, she started off in the shadows. She began her musical career in 1994 with the Montreal ska band, The Kingpins. She was the alto saxophone player—but she would soon become much more.

The band was running through songs at a rehearsal one day when the lead singer wasn’t there. “I was like, ‘Okay, whatever, I’ll sing it. Just for the rehearsal,’ recalls Muller. The band was so impressed by Muller’s vocals that she continued to sing on their albums, and then at their shows. “Every time I would do a show and I would step up to the microphone, people would go crazy,” said Muller.

While she was on stage one night, the band’s guitar player introduced her as “the Queen of Ska,” a nickname that has stayed with her ever since. “It just stuck,” said Muller. “Nobody had ever had that nickname before me in North America.” When the lead singer of The Kingpins left the group in 1999, many of the original band members followed suit. The band shifted from 10 musicians down to five, with only three of its original members remaining.

Lorraine Muller. Photo by Andrew Dent

Muller immediately began looking for a new lead singer for The Kingpins’ third album, but the band already had someone in mind. “The drummer said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you looking for somebody? You can sing,’” Muller said. At first Muller was hesitant, as she preferred to go unnoticed. “I never wanted to be in front or anything like that. I always preferred to be in the back,” she said. “Some people enjoy that stuff. They’re like, ‘Look at me!’ I’m the total opposite.”

She also battles with stage fright—Muller said it stems from her insecurities about her musical capabilities. “Just thinking that you’re not good enough or you don’t have anything to offer or that there are people that are better than you, all that stuff,” she said.

But her passion for music is what pulls her through when she gets caught up in her insecurities. “My strength is my passion, because that is what surmounts everything else,” she said.

With that passion and drive, she put everything aside and became the lead singer of The Kingpins. “Trust is a big thing,” she said. “When I got pushed at the front of the band, it was trust. I trusted my guys. They said ‘You can do it, come on, let’s do it.’ And so we started writing after that.” The Kingpins eventually lost all of its original members, except for Muller. In 2003, the band’s name changed to Lo and the Magnetics, with Muller as the lead singer.

When they took a break in 2006, she decided to come up with a new and exciting concept. She gathered a group of musicians she had worked with before and created a band, the Fabulous LoLo.

She then approached the Montreal Jazz Festival to see if her new band could perform at the festival— it turned out that they loved the idea. Muller brought in many legendary musicians, including guitarist Lynn Taitt, who discovered many bands, such as the Wailers, and is also credited for being the creator of rocksteady music—a genre that is the successor of ska and reggae.

Muller also brought on a former Studio One musician from Jamaica, a member of The Planet Smashers and several former members of The Kingpins. “I just assembled the best musicians in Montreal for that style and we just had such a wonderful time,” she said. Muller would love the chance to play with her former bandmates again and relive those wonderful memories. “The community, the shared experience, for example, of touring and being onstage and playing a good show, or you know, just having fun at rehearsals… you become a family,” she said.

Lorraine Muller with Les Handclaps. Photo by Marco Campanozzi

Muller’s life has been completely changed by music, and she said can’t see herself without it. “I find it a very zen thing that I’m just where I was meant to be,” she said. “And you know, whatever, I don’t live the white picket fence dream… Maybe I don’t have anything to show, nothing material, but I sure have a hell of a lot of experiences and I wouldn’t really change it, to be honest, you know?” Muller said she is very grateful for the chance to follow her dreams. “I want to give my gratitude to everybody who comes out to the shows and who buys the albums and who supports the music and who makes it a special thing that we share together,” she said.

Muller can now be seen playing with Les Handclaps, a French-English pop band in Montreal. They just released their third album, Sessions: Brooklyn, in June, which is a collection of the best songs from three years of studio sessions.

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Music

Wednesday nights at The Wiggle Room

Voix de Ville Variety Show gathers local musical talents onstage

The Wiggle Room was jam-packed on Wednesday evening for its weekly Voix de Ville Variety Show. Montreal artist Heather Ragnars, who has already performed 12 times at the venue, took on the stage once again. “I like the people who work here, I like the performances, I like the audience… it’s one of my favourite venues in Montreal,” she said.

The Voix de Ville Variety Show is a competition that features various types of acts, from burlesque dancers to comedians to musicians. The performer who gets the most votes from the audience is given the opportunity to perform again the following week and win a $100 cash prize.

Despite her numerous performances, Ragnars has yet to win first place. “I haven’t won yet,” she said but added that, “Sometime this winter, I was second place seven times in a row.”Ragnars said she always loses the competition to one particular burlesque dancer. “She’s really amazing though and I worked with her since,” Ragnars said. While she said winning would be a nice achievement, it’s not that important to her. “I don’t show up here like, ‘I’m going to win this!’ It’s not like that,” she said. “I’m always happy to come back.”

Ragnars loves performing at the Wiggle Room because of its theatrical and extravagant atmosphere—a great fit for her as an artist. “I think it’s a good venue for me because I play piano so, performance-wise, I fit well into a jazzy environment,” she said, “But this is also vulgar material-friendly too. It’s a very open-minded kind of atmosphere, so I love performing here.” Ragnars’ usually performs at the venue as a piano soloist, as she loves the intimate performance setting. She performed three solos on the piano singing about themes of love, heartbreak and betrayal. Regnars explained that her on-stage persona channels a single, lonely and desperate person.

She is also working on an EP that should be released in a few months. “My influences [on the album] are mostly Amy Winehouse,” she said. “I like vintage sounds, Motown, rockabilly and I like electro, so it’s kind of just… indie pop.” However, she said that it’s not upbeat material.Her songs are based on difficult conversations that she usually does not have with the person that she is writing about

Ragnars said she plans on coming back to the Wiggle Room in the future, and encourages people to come by and check her out. The cover is $10, or $8 for students with a valid student ID.

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Music

Fired up for The Firing Squad

The variety show, Art Machine, combines theatre and live music

Do you want to listen to live music and comedy at the same time? Well, look no further than Théatre Sainte-Catherine Café-Bar. The theatre’s brand new addition is Art Machine, a variety show that is accompanied by The Firing Squad, a newly-formed Montreal band. Art Machine began in late August of this year and takes place every Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Firing Squad’s members are Gideon Yellin on guitar; Lloyd White on bass guitar; and Alex Lepanto on drums. All three members are excited to play jazz-funk music every week. “I just think it’s fun to play, so the more chances we get to play, it feels like I’m sailing,” said Lepanto. The band’s goal is to blend the Montreal jazz scene with the Montreal francophone comedy scene. “There’s some really, really talented comedians that show up here all the time,” said Lepanto. “It’s cool to kind of work and hang out with [these] people.”

The band members first got together at Théatre Sainte-Catherine Café-Bar during a production of MacBeth in late-January, where they each played the music to accompany the play. They enjoyed playing music together so much that they couldn’t wait to keep the fun going after the show. “On the last day of the show, Lloyd was like, ‘Yo, do you want to come over and jam some jazz?’” said Lepanto. It didn’t take long for them to hit it off, soon becoming The Firing Squad.

Since then, the band has been involved in the creation of a musical, in collaboration with the theatre’s artistic director, Alain Mercieca. The musical, called ATM: The Musical, was presented at the Just for Laughs festival this past June and won the Fringe Award for Best English Comedy. “So you can say we’re like the funniest band in jazz,” said Yellin. Mercieca said a big reason he invited the band to play at Art Machine is that he really enjoyed working with them this past summer. “The Firing Squad, those guys are great musicians, we’re pumped, we want to do more collaborate stuff with them, make Art Machine a full musical every once in awhile. The potential is huge” said Mercieca.

Band members of The Firing Squad: Gideon Yellin, Alex Lepanto, Lloyd White. Photo by: Isaac Latham

Art Machine is a collective that he knows has the potential to grow. “We’re happy with the acts and we’re happy with the band, so it’s just time to push it to everyone [and get] bigger crowds,” he said. The band is definitely excited to get the ball rolling, and really enjoys what they’re doing. “I feel like all three of us just kind of click on a love of jamming,” said White. “We all just love jamming with people, and that’s one of the reasons we love this sort of thing we’re doing, where we get to jam with different people every time.”

On top of playing at Art Machine, the band is also working on producing an EP, which they say should be out by the end of the year. “There’ll be something that people can actually check out when they want to know what we’re all about,” said Lepanto. “Until then, they just have to come [to the theatre].”

As the show gains popularity, the organizers of Art Machine are hoping to increase the number of fresh new faces to take to the stage. “We’re always looking for new talents to discover,” said Adama Diop, the show’s producer.

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Music

Give Me Something Beautiful

Getting to know the singer-songwriter and guitarist, Matthew Hills

Music isn’t only a life-long career for Matthew Hills: it has changed his entire life. The singer, guitar player, song-writer and sound engineer of the Montreal-based band, Give Me Something Beautiful, has always been heavily involved in music.

In fact, he has been in several different bands over the past 20 years. “I started doing music because music saved my life through some rough times,” he said. These difficult times for Hills began at a young age. “I was a big loner in high school. I find it difficult to relate to people—I just get nervous around people. So my best friend was music. I just felt like I could talk to it or it talked to me.”

While Hills turned to music as a refuge, he has always suffered from severe performance anxiety, which makes playing shows a huge obstacle for him. He said it has gotten progressively worse over the past couple of years—to the point that he sometimes dreads being on a stage. The performance anxiety, he said, may stem from a lot of different factors. “I’ve been doing this a long time, that’s probably mostly it,” he said. “I think, when I was younger, I was more confident because I was certain that success was around the corner. But now I’m more aware that success is really an illusion and that it’s something that you create for yourself.”

It was Concordia vocal professor, Irene Feher, who made a very big impact on Hills’ life and musical career. While Hills was studying electroacoustics a few years ago, Feher was there for him—not only to improve his vocal skills, but to mentor him as well.“[Feher] very much focuses on trying to get to that place where you’re not in your own way,” Hills said. “She’s spent [so] much of her time with me trying to dissolve that sort of egotism that sort of drives that [performance anxiety].” Hills said that Feher is a really fantastic human being, and really opened his eyes on how to improve himself, not only musically but as an individual. While that anxiety on stage hasn’t completely dissolved, Hills’ passion for music propels him forward. He strives to reach people in a way that will change their lives as much as music has changed his.

“I think that great music expresses something that hasn’t been expressed before,” he said. “The really interesting part is when you get really articulate sentiments from emotional, honest artists, and it really describes something about your life that maybe you didn’t really think about before.”

Hills continuously strives to reach people on a deep and emotional level, yet he feels like he keeps failing to do so. He claims that, for the past 10 years, he has struggled with writing relatable lyrics. “I just think that I’m a cryptic, and that the meaning is obscured a lot of the time. The lyrics are sort of coded, I guess,” he said. “There are songs that I wrote specifically about certain things in my life that happened that I don’t think, as an outside listener, you could actually reconstruct.”

Photo by Adrian Villagomez.

Hills began Give Me Something Beautiful six years ago with Raphaël Pellerin, the drummer and back-up singer of the band. Étienne Dextrase-Monast came in two years later as the bass guitar player and back-up singer, replacing the previous bass guitar player. Hills believes that both of his bandmates make the sound of their band more than he does. “I would say that, really, what makes the sound of our band is our rhythm section. I think it’s the drums, and particularly the drums, because Raph is a really unique, imaginative and sensitive player,” he said.

The band’s music is not easily definable, as they take their influences from almost everywhere—from folk music and electronic music, to hip hop and rock. “I guess it’s mostly rock and roll. I would say there’s a lot of straight-up influences [in our music] that maybe get obscured by the fact that we tend to go in a lot of different directions.” He said there are some jazz undercurrents in the music, world influences can be heard in the percussions, and a folk and rock vibe is present. “I don’t think we can say this is a folk band, or this is a rock band, but I think we have moments of all of those things from song to song.”

While their sound is rather complex, the band maintains that, no matter what, they are being genuine and honest through their music. “[Our goal is] to continuously find new ways of expressing ourselves, and to try and be more honest about it every time. I think sincerity is the only reason anybody should be making music. If it’s not sincere, then you shouldn’t be recording it,” Hills said. “I don’t have a choice—I don’t think I could sing it if I didn’t mean it.”

The songs on their latest album, Ghost on a Throne, released in January 2016, reflect this completely. The themes stem from genuine experiences the band has gone through. “The songs are about relationships, the self, in the Buddhist sense… addiction, our need for religion, safety, and the constant destruction of all our constructs in favour of the ego.”

Hills and his former band-mate Rob Helsten, from the Montreal band Forgotten Fix, have just finished building a recording studio in Montreal North. They are using it both as a commercial space for artists to record their music at a low rate, as well as a rehearsal space to record their own music. “Right now, we’re recording various versions of some new songs, essentially. We’ve got four that are in various pieces. […] I’m happy with the process.”

The studio has allowed the band to explore their sound without worrying about the cost of renting out a studio, which have set them back a lot in the past. “[We envision] a funner time of making a record, and more flexibility, and particularly artistic flexibility. Just being able to take anything, as weird as it is or as stupid as it is, and record it because it doesn’t cost any money to do it, and see what happens when it’s finished.”

The band is currently working on their next EP, but the release date has yet to be determined. Give Me Something Beautiful’s upcoming Montreal show is on Nov. 26 at Le Cagibi. They will also be performing in Quebec City at Pantoum on Dec. 2. “We’re ready to play new stuff. We should very well have half a set of new music at Cagibi,” said Hills.

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Music

60s rock songs that changed it all

An introduction to rock and roll’s most remarkable hits

The late 60s to early 70s marked the best and most formative years of rock and roll. Some rock groups created their own unique sound that would influence new styles of rock music, including progressive rock, psychedelic rock, punk rock and heavy rock. Here are some of the songs that, not only changed the very face of rock, but inspired a whole new generation of music.

The Kinks: “You Really Got Me” (1964)

This song showed The Kinks’ ability to create a unique sound that was way ahead of their time. The guitar solo was a precursor for heavy metal. The use of power chords heavily influenced future rock players in the realms of heavy metal and punk rock. The popular American rock band Van Halen even covered this song in 1978. Brothers Ray Davies and Dave Davies were the very heart and soul of The Kinks, and the combination of their talents made the band a huge success for many decades following this release. The younger brother, Dave, was an extraordinary guitar player, and Ray, on the other hand, was one of the greatest songwriters in rock and roll, with hundreds of songs under his belt, such as “Come Dancing,” “Lola” and ‘Waterloo Sunset.” “You Really Got Me” was the British rock band’s breakthrough hit, establishing them as one of the top British Invasion acts in the United States. It was also a number one hit on the UK’s singles chart when it was released in 1964. After decades of success, the band was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

The Rolling Stones: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)

This song not only launched the Stones’ career, but it hit a raw musical nerve. The song’s lyrics clearly express the annoyance of constant advertisements and incessant consumerism. The song also talks about their frustration with the female sex and a woman’s inability to be satisfied sexually, which was controversial at the time. While they definitely had bold, in-your-face lyrics, The Stones’ music told powerful stories. The very first note of the song is the devil’s interval, otherwise known as the augmented fourth, which quickly gives a distinct sense of tension and anger. The distorted guitar sounds, done through a Gibson fuzzbox, only furthers this feeling of dissatisfaction and aggravation with the world. The title, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” rebels in its rejection of proper grammar. Needless to say, the song opened up a whole new world of rock music, paving the way for musicians to be more colourful and expressive in both their lyrics and their instrumentals. Rolling Stone Magazine placed this song second on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. This song, however, only marked the beginning of what was to come for the band, as they went on to be one of the greatest rock and roll groups of all time.

Procol Harum: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (1967)

This deep and powerful song was not only a precursor to many styles of rock music, but it had an enormous impact on many rock musicians. The sound of the organ takes you on a journey through time, in a majestic and other-worldly way. The song incorporates classical music and rock, making it a precursor to symphonic rock and, by extension, progressive rock. People who have analyzed the song over many years notice the band took many of their influences from the classical pianist Johann Sebastian Bach, according to Billboard magazine. This track also has psychedelic rock elements—music that mimics the mind-altering experiences of being on psychedelic drugs. The descending bassline sounds both classical and ceremonial, while also giving the impression of timelessness. There are other psychedelic aspects that are layered throughout the song, such as the distorted, almost backwards-sounding guitar. The song has garnered an enormous amount of success, in fact, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, the song has sold 10 million copies worldwide. This song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Beatles: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967)

The Beatles must be included in the list of most influential rock songs of all time. Around 1967, the band decided to take a break from touring and playing their music live. Paul McCartney came up with the idea of creating an entire album that sounds as though they are  playing in front of a live audience, and it opened up a whole new door for the band. By moving away from the constraints of their well-known and established band, this also gave The Beatles all the creative freedom in the world to explore their musical identity and their sound. This kind of creative spunk is what is most inspiring about both the song and the album. The album won four Grammys in 1968 and Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this award.

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Music Quickspins

Melissa Etheridge – MEmphis Rock and Soul

Melissa Etheridge – MEmphis Rock and Soul (Stax Records, 2016)

Melissa Etheridge’s new album, MEmphis Rock and Soul, is a beautiful creation. This soul album showcases how Memphis in the 60s influenced Ethridge, and made her the artist she is today. Not only has she incorporated other soul musicians from Memphis into the album, but the album was recorded in Memphis as well. One song in particular, “Hold On I’m Coming,” really transports you to the 60s with its acoustic guitar and soulful, raspy vocals. Etheridge’s passion for soul music is predominant in this song, and it seeps through to the rest of the album. This album is nothing short of a phenomenal work of art.

Trial Track: “Memphis Train”

9/10

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Music Quickspins

Sum 41 – 13 Voices

Sum 41 – 13 Voices (Hopeless Records, 2016)

This Canadian band has definitely stepped it up with their new album, 13 Voices. “A Murder of Crows” introduces the album, with slow violin classical riffs that suddenly burst into Sum 41’s punk style with strong guitar verses and grungy vocals. The song has a beautiful transition with a strong impact. “Fake My Own Death” is the classic punk grunge song of the early 2000s that Sum41 is known for.  Every track afterwards is just as impressive—catchy, yet complex in lyrics and instrumentals. It is important to note that this is lead guitarist Dave Baksh’s first album in nine years, and that Frank Zummo has replaced Steve Jocz on drums. These changes may account for the slight differences and improvements of this album over Screaming Bloody Murder (2011). 13 Voices is definitely something you can jam and dance to.

Trial Track: “Breaking The Chain”

9/10

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Music Quickspins

OneRepublic – Oh My My

OneRepublic – Oh My My (Interscope Records, 2016)

Pop-rock group OneRepublic’s  Oh My My has soared to a mind blowing new level. Their lyrics are deep and profound, their vocals are passionate and expressive, and their instrumentals are extremely creative and versatile. The track, “Let’s Hurt Tonight” captures intense emotion with it’s powerful vocals, lyrics and drums. The album also touches on themes of love and happiness, with impressive lyrics and catchy beats in the track “Wherever I Go.” Oh My My features collaborations with Peter Gabriel, classic rock legend from the 80s, on their song “A.I.” They combined forces to create a pop song meant to hit the radio charts. Another collab was with Cassius on electro pop hit “Oh My My”. Their songs on this album greatly resembles Maroon 5’s. I recommend this album for those looking for an upbeat and positive musical experience. OneRepublic will definitely blow you out of the water with this one.

8/10

Trial Track: “Lift Me Up”

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Music

Montreal’s eighth annual Ska Festival

Local and International Ska bands reunite under one roof to perform at Katacombes and Petit Campus

Montreal’s Ska Festival celebrated its 8th birthday on Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, with bands from around the world. Valerie Desnoyer, the founder of the event and president of the Montreal Ska Society, said more people have bought pre-sale tickets this year than ever before.

Desnoyer began the event in Montreal eight years ago after volunteering at Victoria’s Ska Festival in British Columbia. She immediately fell in love with the style of music, which blends elements of Caribbean and reggae rhythms along with upbeat American jazz and blues. Coming back to Montreal, she was shocked to discover that ska music wasn’t being promoted on a local level. She felt that she needed to do something about it. “The Planet Smashers and all of these new [ska] bands were coming out and I was like, “We need a platform. We need something to show outside Montreal what we have,” she said.

Desnoyer decided to put together Ska festival soon afterwards, and then partnered with Stomp Records, a record label based in Montreal. The label has helped to keep the festival running every year, since according to Desnoyer, all of the funding comes from ticket sales and private sponsors. Singer and guitarist Matt Collyer from the ska punk band The Planet Smashers and bassist Jordan Swift from the ska band The Kingpins created Stomp Records in 1995 .Lorraine Muller, the Spokesperson for the festival, was the alto saxophone player and singer for The Kingpins. She said that the bands started the record label because they both wanted to put their music out, but no local label was interested in ska. “Things developed from there due to the success those bands had in the mid-nineties,” she said.

The Planet Smashers were the headliners of the Ska Music Festival in Montreal this weekend and performed to a packed crowd at Petit Campus on Saturday. According to Desnoyer, the Planet Smashers are considered to be at the top of the Montreal Ska scene. “They made ska what it is here. So many bands got influenced by their type of music,” she said, “Everyone’s kind of trying to copy them, or at least try to make their songs as catchy as they did.”

Collyer said that it would take years of hard work for them to get to where they are now. “We’ve been through it all, and it’s been interesting to say the least,” he said, “But we’re still here and we get to play shows and we’re lucky for that.” The band, who has been together for over 21 years, has developed a unique style of ska music that people can’t help to be drawn to. “We stick to four on the floor which is basically a straight up dance beat. It’s in almost a lot of pop metal,” said Collyer, “It’s a really good formula in terms of like making people have a good time.” Collyer said that they’re successful because they are passionate about what they do. “It’s honestly about how much fun we have,” he said, “I mean, it’s inevitable. The band has a good time. We’re on stage, we’re having a good time. The music is fun.”

Drummer Nathan Fitzsimmons playing for Los Kung Fu Monkeys. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

With so many young artists touring now, Collyer notes that it is so much harder to make it in the music-business today than ever before. That’s something that The Planet Smashers don’t have to worry about, since they’ve already established themselves musically. “Now we’re just having a good time. We don’t have to worry about trying to make it, trying to break it, trying to figure out how to break it, trying to figure out how not to break it but still be cool, and all of these things, which is something that all of the young bands have to deal with, which is tough,” he said. This year, Collyer brought international ska punk bands to the festival, including The Resignators, from Melbourne, Australia, and Los Kung-Fu Monkeys, from Tijuana, Mexico. “They are great bands,” Desnoyer said. “I was never able to get them to come play [before], so it’s exciting.”

Both of the bands expressed how grateful they are for the opportunity to come and tour Canada. Nathan Fitzsimmons, who is a regular member of the bands Nevertime High and Caught Off Guard in Calgary, Alberta, was especially excited to jam with Los Kung-Fu Monkeys. He and his friend Adam Ostick fill in for the band whenever they come up North, since not all of the members are able to get Visas to come into Canada. Fitzsimmons said that he first met the band in 2014 when they were doing a short tour in Canada. The band’s producer, Steve Loree, contacted him when their drummer, Hecky, was unable to cross the border into Canada. “They gave me a shot and asked me if I could do it, and I said yes,” said Fitzsimmons. “I got three days’ notice and 20 songs, and I went on tour with them.” Fitzsimmons said that the band has had big impact on who he is as a musician.“These guys take [their work] very seriously, and they made me a better player,” Fitzsimmons said. “Bernie [Leos] the frontman, is just captivating … He has that charisma, that leadership. People just follow him.”He also hopes that everyone will be enjoying their music as much as he does. “You can’t help but dance to it—it’s just summertime party music,” he said. “I always get the image in my head of like, hanging out in a boat on the beach in the summer.”

Francis Harrison from The Resignators performing at Katacombes. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Australian singer Francis Harrison of The Resignators is grateful to play the band’s music, especially in Montreal. Although he has been here a total of eight times, he said that each time has been great for them. “Montreal is just a party city. Everyone wants to have a beer. Everyone wants to dance. Everyone wants a poutine. And everyone just wants to have fun,” he said. “Yeah, we really like Montreal.”

After playing at the Ska Festival in Montreal, the Resignators and Los Kung-Fu Monkeys will be playing in Shawinigan, and then in St-Hyacinthe. “People should just expect the unexpected. Chaos. Whatever happens happens” said Harrison about the tour. Muller is hoping that the festival will continue to go on for a long time. “I will always be there to do whatever I can to ensure smooth sailing for Val who puts in months of coordinating all aspects of the festival,” she said.

The festival is something that she is very passionate about. “It’s such a fulfilling weekend that leaves us all exhausted but feeling very positive,” she said, “The atmosphere at all the shows is so good, and the audience loves every second of it.” Desnoyer is already looking forward to the 10-year anniversary of the Ska Festival, she plans to hold the  anniversary on a boat in the old port.

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Music

Concordia’s Diamond Tree

Concordia student from local band releases second EP album 

Concordia is home to numerous talented musicians, and David Tone, the front man of Diamond Tree, is a force to be reckoned with. Currently majoring in journalism, he is the writer, singer and guitarist of the alternative rock group.The band’s second EP, The Will to Evolve was released on Sept. 3. Alongside Tone, band members include Guillaume Lavigne on drums, Marc-Antoine Guay-Rochon on keyboard and Samuel Robinson on bass guitar.

Every musician has a story to tell, a journey that has brought them and their music to where they are right now. For Tone, it began halfway across the world.

In 2009, Tone signed up for an exchange volunteer program with Canada World Youth, an international volunteer organization. He travelled to Mozambique, Africa where he stayed with a host family for three months. He volunteered in the flood prevention department to minimize the flooding situation in Mozambique. It was on that trip that Tone started to sing and write songs. “The trip gave me so much to sing about and write about, I also had more time to sit down and compose lyrics,” said Tone. When he returned back home, Tone recorded the songs that he had composed in Africa and created his first solo record called The Demos.

Tone met Lavigne at Ottawa’s Bluesfest in 2012. “I just remember seeing him in a tie-dye shirt and I was like, ‘this guy’s cool.’” They hit it off right away. In fact, Lavigne and Tone began jamming together on a regular basis, with Lavigne playing drums to Tone’s songs.They soon became known as Electric Elephant, and even played a few shows in Ottawa during the summer of 2013.

Yet Tone couldn’t shake the feeling that there were greater musical opportunities outside of Ottawa. When a friend from the Mozambique trip invited him to come live in Montreal, he couldn’t refuse. “The music scene is so much better in Montreal [and] there are more opportunities here,” he said. Lavigne moved to the city a couple months later, and the two of them continued to create music together. “If there’s anything that I want to be known, it’s that I’m really fortunate to be working with this guy. He’s my partner in crime and he brings good ideas to the band” said Tone about Lavigne.

The duo had to change their band name since Electric Elephant was already an established band in Iceland. They became known as Diamond Tree. “We wanted something that sounded natural,” said Tone about the name change. “Trees are soothing and calming, kind of like the ocean. We also wanted a name that represents nature and technology because they are both the most vital things that we have.”

Concordia student, Dave Tone is the singer, songwriter and guitarist of Diamond Tree. Photo by Martine Ouellet.

Diamond Tree released their first EP on May 8, 2015, which was produced by Tone and Lavigne. Lavigne played the drums and the percussions while Tone sang and played bass guitar. The album was a success, it received quite a few downloads and donations. However, Tone was not satisfied with the overall production of the audio.

Over the course of eight months, Tone took singing lessons. He had also started busking in the metro for two to three hours, three to four times a week, as of October 2013. Eventually, Rochon, their keyboard player came into the picture. They met Rochon through a mutual friend and started to jam together. “Marc-Antoine has a jazz background which adds a lot of interesting elements to our sound. He plays a lot of cool chords, he’s a very jazzy guy,” said Tone.

When their second EP, The Will to Evolve was released on Sept. 3, Tone heard a huge improvement in terms of sound and vocals. The album was mixed by Philippe Da Silva, their mixing engineer, which Tone said payed off for them. “The results show, because [the second EP] sounds so much better,” he said. He is also proud to say that a part of Montreal is included in their song “Sailor Swim.” They recorded church bells from the Anglican Church of St-James the Apostle, which can be heard at the very end of the track.

The trio were then desperately seeking a bassist, “I had put up signs all over Montreal, spoke to every person I saw walking around with a bass case and would ask them if they had a band,” said Tone. Fortunately, the band met Robinson after the release of their second EP. They met up to play music at Crowbar where they have jam nights and played music together. “Samuel is the coolest guy on earth; he’s a very talented bassist. I am so lucky to be working with these guys, they all want this band to succeed” said Tone.

Diamond Tree’s music is about the human condition: “love, success, failure, pain and pleasure” is what Tone mostly writes about in his songs. “We’re all about rock and roll and high energy. When we get on stage, we just rock out as much as we can. Playing music is a way to open up and have fun,” said Tone.

The band is already getting ready to release a couple of projects in the near future. “I’ll be launching the longest project I’ve ever worked on—for three years—  in December. It has to do with busking and an empty Texas Mickey’s [bottle] of rum.” Tone’s ultimate goal as a musician is to tell a story through his music. Every lyric that he writes is profoundly meaningful. To Tone, the most important thing is that people really listen.

Stay tuned for their next show coming up Saturday night on Oct. 8 at L’Escogriffe bar.

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Music Quickspins

Usher- Hard II Love

Usher- Hard II Love (RCA Records, 2016)

Hard II Love is Usher’s 8th album, and if I could explain how I feel about it in one word, it was impressed. This new release demonstrates how Usher has evolved the sound of his voice so that his vulnerability and his depth are deeply felt. His song, “Hard II Love,” is the artist saying that, although he may be hard to love, he is worth the try. This is Usher showing he is willing to put his heart and soul out there on this album, for all to see. Although there is no denying the song “No Limit” featuring Young Thug, is also catchy, it isn’t what makes the album rise to a whole new level— it is the rest of the songs on the album that portray his sensitivity and his artistry. So if you’re ready to hear the inner thoughts and emotions of a great artist, give this album a listen.

Trial Track: “Stronger”

8/10

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