Beach Fossils’ return is long overdue

After a four year hiatus, the band’s return is now set in stone

It has been four long years since the music world heard new material from Beach Fossils. The band is back and here to stay with their new record, Somersault. Which sounds similar to their earlier works, yet, the final package is somehow different somehow.

During their hiatus, the group has learned more about what they want to sound like as a collective and what they want to offer as artists. It’s evident the band took their time—lead singer Dustin Payseur started a record label with his wife. Now, he’s ready to come back into the spotlight with his bandmates.

Singer Dustin Payseur and bassist John Pena jam on stage at the Theatre Fairmount. Photo by Sarah Jesmer

Somersault, is a breezy, lo-fi, jangle rock record that feels like a good weekend with friends. Tracks like “This Year,” driven by a repetitive, soft guitar, are paired with the lush strings of a subtle orchestra.

The album is more energized, polished and exciting than Beach Fossils’ previous albums. The vocals cut through the guitar with piercing clarity, showcasing Payseur’s lyrics. This mix adds a dimension, while violins carry the songs softly in the back. The far-out, beachy, garage tones of their 2010 debut album are sprinkled in small doses throughout the new album. This can be clearly heard on tracks like “Saint Ivy,” but this stylistic approach is intentional. It’s no longer just jamming for Beach Fossils.

The album features collaborations with Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, in a back-and-forth duet with Payseur in “Tangerine.” The two pair up again in a spoken-word interlude, accompanied by Cities Aviv on sultry saxophones, in “Rise Up.” The tones of this track are reminiscent of James Blake’s vocals. “There’s not enough collaboration in rock music,” said Payseur about working with fellow artists, something he hopes to do again in the future.

Snail Mail and raener opened up for Beach Fossils. Raener sounded like a fresh mix of Bon Iver and Glass Animals, and the female duo of Snail Mail rocked the stage with a simple guitar and bass medley paired over soaring vocals from lead singer Lindsey Jordan. Photo by Sarah Jesmer

And there will be a future, according to Payseur. Every Beach Fossils album feels like the last, he said, despite the fact this new album is so unique. It marks the beginning of a new direction for the band, which will entail more features, more teamwork and promoting what they stand for as a band.

Payseur’s lyrics come from his own experiences, drawing on relationships with friends and significant others. Beach Fossils’ albums don’t stick to just one story. The record is an ode to someone close to the the singer, whoever that may be.

Somersault’s lyrics are coupled with sweet nostalgia and a whisper of political references. In “Down The Line,” Payseur references A.C.A.B. (the anti-police acronym meaning “All Cops are Bastards”) and a personal rejection of Wall Street. These political slants are new but necessary, according to Payseur. This is shown in the lyrics, “Wanna believe in America, but it’s somewhere I can’t find,” featured in “Saint Ivy.”

“It’s shitty to be in a place of privilege, like a white man, and be completely silent about things [going on in the United States],” he said, explaining why it’s important for the band to use their platform for advocacy. “Actions speak louder than words. Getting out and participating in protests and putting money towards certain organizations, that stuff goes a long way,” Payseur said.

The Brooklyn-based band performed in Montreal last week, the third stop in their North American tour, accompanied by Snail Mail and raener.


Montreal entrepreneur eyes borough city hall

Zach Macklovitch is beginning a campaign to lead the Plateau-Mont-Royal

In 2011, an inspired West Islander, fresh out of Concordia University, partnered up with his friend Nathan Gannage, to start what would become one of the largest creative agencies in Montreal, focused primarily on event promotion.

The team took a calculated risk and invested in early St-Laurent Boulevard, when the street had a high commercial vacancy rate and very little beneficial guarantees, and opened up three venues. The clubs were a hit, immediately bringing up the street’s economic value, like a winning lottery ticket. The venues are now among the most well-known places to party in Montreal, created to be places for diversity, unity and entertainment.

This is Saintwoods, the company behind SuWu, Apt 200 and École Privée. These businesses are thriving, and now the owner, Zach Macklovitch, is shifting his focus to a new playing field: politics.

Macklovitch is running for mayor of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, alongside Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal in the upcoming municipal election. Sixty-five seats on the Montreal city council will be up for grabs, along with 38 borough councillors positions. If elected, Macklovitch would take the seat of Luc Ferrandez of Projet Montreal, who has been mayor of the borough since January 2010.

As he sat in his sunny office on St-Laurent Boulevard among walls of exposed brick and racks of branded T-shirts, he detailed how his political science background at Concordia helped him decide to run for mayor when the opportunity presented itself this summer. “Denis Coderre approached me as he was looking for, what he would say, a ‘real second option’ against Luc Ferrandez,” Macklovitch said.

It took Macklovitch a few weeks to accept Coderre’s offer. He said he wasn’t expecting the proposition and had to get advice of many family, friends and partners before seriously pursuing the position.

Plateau-Mont-Royal borough mayor candidate Zach Macklovitch pictured in his office, situated above Apt. 200. Macklovitch is running as part of Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal. Photo by Sarah Jesmer

“It was something I always wanted to do, I just didn’t think I was going to do it at 27 years old,” he said about getting involved in politics. Macklovitch’s entrepreneurial investments in St-Laurent caught the attention of the city and news media not just because of their economic success, but also because of his age. He’ll be 28 on Oct. 4, embraces his youth and stands out among older co-workers. For example, in his candidate profile picture for the Équipe Denis Coderre campaign, he’s wearing a loose white T-shirt––a significant contrast to the other candidates wearing three-piece suits.

As mayor, Macklovitch still wants to be a business owner and prioritize the strengthening of businesses on St-Laurent. He said he believes there’s value in facilitating a relationship between the municipal government and Montreal business owners.

His unofficial platform prioritizes the revival of “commercial arteries” that have “taken a hit,” he explained, such as St-Denis and Prince Arthur. He is also looking to reevaluate the policies regulating the business ventures in Montreal.

“There’s an unbelievably awful amount of red tape,” Macklovitch said, explaining how hard he feels it is to get city approval for new business-related projects in the Plateau.

According to him, the current municipal regulations for businesses are impeding progress, citing examples such as the difficulty of creating parking spaces or adding a patio to a small restaurant. “We use our rules and regulations just to be lazy and to say no to things. And that’s not what they’re there for,” he said. “We want to be working with our private citizens to make this city better.”

“We should even be attracting other businesses,” he said. “I would love to see an Amazon campus in the Plateau,” he added, using the online retail giant as an example of the economic future he sees for the area. American cities, such as Los Angeles and Atlanta, have become homes for Amazon, but so far the company hasn’t set up shop in Canada.

The values and goals Macklovitch developed during his experience as an entrepreneur at Saintwoods cross over with his vision as a political leader.

“We fought so hard against Projet Montreal to do everything we’ve done on this street. We had to fight tooth and nail for every step forward that we’ve made,” Macklovitch said, referring to dense procedural regulations Saintwoods encountered during its early stages.

When asked whether he would continue to be involved with Saintwoods should he win the election, Macklovitch was confident that balancing both responsibilities wouldn’t be an issue. “I will continue to be fully involved in Saintwoods. I’ll do both. Absolutely,” he said, adding that he’s a workaholic.

“I’m planning on just adding 15 to 20 hours to my work week every week,” he said. “If you want to do great things, that’s what you’ve got to do, and I’m willing to make that sacrifice if that means I can help to make this neighbourhood what I think it should be.”

According to Élection Montréal spokesperson Pierre G. Laporte, there is no law against borough mayors maintaining their own business. “Not at all,” Laporte said, adding that, unless a mayor breaches a contract with the city or breaks the code of ethics, he or she can’t be asked to resign.

With unblinking eyes he detailed the company’s expansion plans, like opening an Apt 200-esque venue in the United States, the release of a Saintwoods vodka and continued support of artists, such as Ryan Playground, as they release new projects.

Macklovitch said he hopes to bring more full-time employees onto the Saintwoods team with time. “Once everybody has reached a place where they’re comfortable in the company, then I can step back and focus more on the municipal responsibilities,” he said.

As far as issues outside the business world, Macklovitch said he wants to focus on community development and school support. He’d like to see city-organized sports leagues and park enhancements, inspired by the years he spent at summer camp as a kid, he explained.

Macklovitch’s non-economic goals are to make the Plateau feel more like a close-knit neighbourhood. However, he doesn’t intend to make it into its own isolated town, as he emphasized his goal is to work in partnership with other boroughs.

“All that I’m trying to focus on right now is the next six weeks—making sure that we have a strong, well put-together, informative plan-based campaign that’s going to talk about real issues and solving them,” he said, adding that this official platform is expected to be made public this week. “I can tell you that it’s going to be pro-family and pro-business.”

Photos by Sarah Jesmer


Review: Kendrick Lamar takes a victory lap

The show highlighted Lamar’s appreciation for dance, martial arts and, most of all, his fans

The DAMN. tour hit Montreal Thursday night, and it did not disappoint. Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar showcased his new album while incorporating an appreciation for martial arts culture and a gratitude for his fans.

The show opened with a light-hearted performance by DRAM, who danced along with the crowd in front of bright neon lights. Through and through, DRAM performed with a massive smile on his face to hits like “I Like To Cha-Cha” and the infamous “Broccoli.” He shimmied off stage to greet the crowd, which gave way to the confident YG.

I never realized how many songs I knew by YG, and it felt like I was in a club somewhere on St-Laurent Blvd. in 2015 — especially when he set up a fake strip club booth, complete with two stand-alone stripper poles and dancers to grind with.

YG’s set was mostly about having fun and getting “f**ked up.” His performance of “FDT,” which stands for “F**k Donald Trump,” was the only exception. YG brought out a Trump impersonator to open the outspoken song.

“This crowd is very big,” the impersonator said over continuous boos from the audience. “It’s almost as big as the KKK meeting I just came from.” YG chased the impersonator off the stage, and the crowd belted out the simple lyrics to the infamous song.

Aside from the YG song, I thought the show was going to be more political than it ended up being, which the audience clearly appreciated.

The DAMN. album has a much stronger political tone than Lamar’s older projects, but he never made America’s current political climate a focal point of the show. It really felt more like a victory tour for Lamar, with a set list packed full of timeless hits, art and a focus on having a memorable time with his audience.

Lamar draws heavily on his alter ego, Kung Fu Kenny, in DAMN. and in concert. I talked to some people before the show at his pop-up shop in Montreal. One of the things fans kept mentioning was Lamar’s tendency to assume different characters in his music.

“To me, there’s a relevance [between Kendrick’s lyrical themes and Canadian life]. I grew up in Montreal North, so there’s a lot of gang violence going on. Not as much as in Compton, but I’ve seen all that going on. So to see him rap about it without glorifying all that gangster stuff is really refreshing to me.”

— Anonymous Montreal native

A DAMN. album lyric is pictured on a fan’s hat as he stands in line at the pop-up shop in Montreal. Photo by Sarah Jesmer

Lamar’s set opened with a short video where he’s learning from a wise master, gathering wisdom about who he, Kung-Fu Kenny, is and what he’s capable of. It was reminiscent of the type of stop-and-go storyline that Lamar crafted using the poem in To Pimp A Butterfly, weaving the videos in and out of the show in between songs like a train of thought.

As the video ended, Lamar emerged from beneath the stage in the middle of what looked like the spring-back foam floor typically seen in a dojo. Lamar was crouched in smoke, and the audience felt more than a minute go by. This happened a lot during the show — Lamar would stand still and alone, looking out over the sea of people, nodding as he listened to the crowd roar regardless of whether he was making noise or not.

In between back-to-back hits like “ELEMENT.,” “King Kunta,” “Collard Greens” and “M.A.A.D. City,” there were pauses that made it seem like everyone was pinching themselves, trying to grasp the reality that they were in the same room as Kendrick Lamar. The crowd showed an overwhelming sense of appreciation throughout the whole affair.

“I think there’s a better word to describe what we got going on,” Lamar said before starting “Loyalty.” Lamar is one of the biggest, if not the biggest name in hip hop right now, and he’s aware of it. It was fitting to see him standing on a dojo floor in his yellow button down and matching pants. He was facing the front with a zen-like aura, calculating his next moves. Like a samurai or a martial arts master, he was focused.

By the time Lamar started “HUMBLE.”, one of his hits off DAMN., the audience was electrified after heartfelt performances of “LOVE.” and “LUST.” He rapped maybe two lines of the first verse, then cut the music and slowly faded his voice out. The audience carried the rest of the song, reciting it back to the artist on stage in acapella. When it ended, everyone got quiet and the air seemed heavier with the love shown. For a minute and a half, Lamar stood and looked out at the crowd, nodding in approval. The audience cheered and bowed their arms when they weren’t clapping. The show was full of awe-inspiring moments like these.

“I say he’s probably the most significant artist in hip hop right now. He’s got a lot to say.”

— Alex Bisaillion from Ottawa

Lamar’s performance revealed his deep appreciation for dance and martial arts. For example, at the beginning of the show, he left the stage momentarily to showcase a dance battle between a woman and a ninja.

The show’s visual elements consisted of big-screen video projections of Lamar in a coming-to-wisdom enlightenment story with clips of VHS-quality shots of King Kong and the Apollo 11 moon landing, which played behind the track “untitled 07.” The videos gave Lamar a chance to rest his voice. He is known for utilizing voice manipulations on his records, and the difference was noticeable between his natural voice and the studio. This was most apparent during older classics like “Money Trees.”

I appreciated how he didn’t shy away from putting the focus on his voice while rapping along to songs like “XXX.” towards the end of the set. Before Lamar closed with the encore track, “God,” he singled out a guy in the front and passed him a shirt that he’d grabbed from backstage. For Lamar, it’s all about the fans, his loyal following. And Montreal’s fans were no exception.

“I will be back,” Lamar yelled as he walked away for the night. A job well done, indeed.

Student Life

“Read any good books this summer?”

Zombie apocalypses, dysfunctional families, some horror and a really old guy

World War Z- Max Brooks

World War Z, written by Max Brooks, documents the events of “The Crisis,” a virus outbreak that kills victims and then reanimates them as destructive and murderous zombies.  What makes this book so unique is the style in which it is written.  Brooks divides the book into sections, starting with the warning signs of the outbreak and ending with the rebuilding the world as it becomes livable again. Brooks shows how the world and different countries handle themselves in crisis, how people fight back, how they survive and move forward.  The entire book is told through  interviews conducted by a nameless narrator, as survivors of “The Crisis” from all over the world recollect their personal experiences. The stories told are by different people, from all around the world and all walks of life. No two stories are the same. It is a fascinating read that will leave you uncomfortable, emotional and wondering what you would do if zombies took over the planet.

By Rebecca Luger


The Nest- Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel, “The Nest,” tells the story of a wealthy and dysfunctional New York family. The story follows the four Plumb siblings as they anxiously wait to receive their inheritance, referred to as “the nest”.  The Plumb family consists of Leo Plumb, the former millionaire playboy whose upcoming divorce and list of legal woes has him down to his last dollar; Jack Plumb, who is married to a successful New York lawyer, but can’t seem to become successful through any of his own financial investments; Melody Plumb, who devotes her life to her twin daughters and ensures that they are received as the wealthy socialites she wishes them to be; and Beatrice Plumb, the once-successful author-turned-shut-in. Together, these siblings turn lying into an art. You root for them, yet are repulsed and embarrassed by many of their decisions.

By Krystal Carty


Lisey’s Story- Stephen King

This book is the perfect blend of horror, unexpected romance, family tension and other worldly fantasies that only Stephen King could conjure up. The story follows a widow and her struggle to finally put her late husband’s memory to rest. Her journey takes her through intense physical and mental strain. The book doesn’t focus just on the horror side of the story, or on the more personal family side of it—both elements balanced well. Drawing from stories of the past to decorate and enhance the intensity of the present, King solidifies Lisey’s Story as one of his most captivating books I’ve yet read. King should also be praised for flawlessly sewing a fantasy world into the story in a way that, surprisingly, seems effortless. I’d highly recommend this book as one of King’s crowned jewels.

By Sarah Jesmer


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared- Jonas Jonasson

This book was a bit more of a drag than the title spells out, but a pleasant read all the same. The main storyline of the 100-year-old man, Allan, is interesting enough. It’s a well-written, detailed and fast-paced adventure that features running from gang members and accidentally becoming a wanted fugitive. The story captivates readers by switching back and forth between the present and the past to tell the story of Allan’s life, and how he ends up witnessing historically significant events seemingly by accident. This book is good reading material to break out on the subway when you need a bit of a distraction.

By Sarah Jesmer



The heartrending chords of Andrew Bird

Are You Serious takes flight in a welcome new direction

Andrew Bird is trying something he has never done before on his new record Are You Serious. With hopes of breaking out of his seemingly whimsical and unrelatable sound, the album is a visceral exploration of human nature.

Following 2015’s ambient experiment Echolocations: Canyon, Are You Serious represents a more straightforward and approachable return to form for Bird. Photo by Reuben Cox.

I phoned Bird on a sleepy, rainy Sunday afternoon to talk about his new record, and what it means for him as a musician.

Are You Serious tells a story about human relationships and experiences. Starting with its emotional opening track “Capsized” detailing a break up, the album then moves through songs of love and the broad complexity of human relationships. The idea behind these major themes of existence was conceived more as a sequence of scenes in a play than a narrative of personal stories, Bird explained. “I do scenes like bits in the play, where the verses all point to the same topic,” he said.

The record aims to be more accessible and visceral to a wide range of audiences and venues than Bird’s 2015 album Echolocations: Canyon. Released in tandem with a short film, the album was more about location and sound than the lyrical mastery of his newest record. Are You Serious reaches past the scene of indie rock ghetto to a place where Bird can be infiltrating the mainstream.

“It was a reaction to the old stuff,” said Bird. “I wanted it to be top of the line this time.” A perfectionist, the multi-instrumentalist described how producing the album posed an unfamiliar challenge, trying to decide how far he wants to push himself.

Bird has achieved an untamable genre with his classic style of vibrant instrumentation, but the album shows something new with a more alternative rock and roll vibe. “Roma Fade,” a creepy, eerie love song punctuated by bouncing guitar, proved to be the most personally challenging and important track for Bird on the new record. “The record is more about the songwriting craft and restraint. In Are You Serious I’m [resisting] the urge to play the violin, and saving that for other projects,” he said. Bird’s earlier work is known for his mastery of the violin and other instruments. “In that sense, it satisfies,” he said.

Bird hopes to close the gap between performance and studio with Are You Serious, and to join in the discussion he hopes his songs are facilitating when dealing with heavy topics. “’Here’s an interesting idea: discuss amongst yourselves,’” said Bird about the carefully chosen lyrics and themes on the record.

“Valleys Of The Young,” a thoughtful discussion between two lovers about bringing a son into the world, is reflective of Bird and wife Katherine Tsina’s experiences raising their son. “I had something I really wanted to say,” he said. With songs such as “Left Handed Kisses,” a powerful and emotional duet with Fiona Apple, Bird describes them as internal dialogue songs, in which he attempts to ascribe lyrics to heavy emotion.

Though he’s been in the music scene for years, Bird described this album as distinctly set apart from the “scrappy” means of production that he has so far experienced. The 42-year-old teamed up with artists like Fiona Apple and Blake Mills and took inspiration from the city instead of the quiet opposite barn-atmosphere he’s used to back in his home state of Illinois.

A portion of the Are You Serious tour ticket sales is being donated to Everytown For Gun Safety, an organization dedicated to the education and promotion of gun safety. Bird comes from Lake Forest, Illinois located in Northern Chicago. “Chicago is a frightening place in that realm,” said Bird. “[Every town] is a smart organization and they have a chance to really make a difference.” He said the issue lies in the symbolism behind guns in America, and the effect a lack of common sense can have when using a “destructive machine.” Chicago violence and gun control has been a subject of intense discussion in North America recently.

In addition to contributing to political discourse through charities such as Everytown, Bird also aims to be involved with others in more than just a musical way. “I enjoy being part of the dialogue between me and the audience,” said Bird. “When you’re a musician, you’re not simply a musician. I like talking to other artists.”

In 2010, Bird was featured in a TED talk that doubled as an intimate commentary and music performance. Since then he’s been working on short films including an upcoming collaboration with Everytown to put on a Chicago-themed music video to Bird’s popular “Pulaski at Night,” as well as his ongoing Echolocation series. He has explored the world of sound and film while figuring out what the room wants to hear in the Coyote Gulch canyons of Utah, and hopes to continue that series. “There are four more coming up,” Bird said.
Are You Serious is available now on Loma Vista Recordings.


The sunny, optimistic side of Surfer Blood

Faced with a number of unexpected and harrowing changes, the Florida band perseveres

Alternative rock meets the Florida coast with Surfer Blood, who is gearing up to show the world what they can do by going back to their roots all the while blazing a new trail of sound on their new album, 1000 Palms.

Surfer Blood currently consists of (from left to right) Mike McCleary, Tyler Schwarz, John Paul Pitts and Lindsey Mills.

Surfer Blood released their third record in May 2015, which has defined itself as a redemptive and optimistic album from a band of constant reinvention.

Since they formed in 2009, the band’s sound has shifted from a surf rock vibe to a more pop rock tune on their second album, Pythons.

Take the highly popular song “Swim” that splashed onto the scene and turned heads when it made it onto Pitchfork’s Top 100 Songs of 2009 list. “Swim” was included in 2010 on the band’s debut album, Astro Coast, an album composed of pounding chords, reverb and the feeling of tropical coastal weather.

Although the same basics of far-off vocals and power chords were brought over to Pythons, the album was treated to a lukewarm reception, being described as “disappointing” by Consequence of Sound and “insistent jangle” by Rolling Stone.

Following a split with their former major label Warner Brothers, 1000 Palms proves that back to basics with a few new tricks can make a difference. The band took a more independent and hands-on approach to producing, ditching big time labels and working with Joyful Noise Recordings.

“We had complete freedom and I feel like we actually wanted to try and do something with it,” said lead singer John Paul Pitts, or JP. “And I always think about writing [album opener] ‘Grand Inquisitor’; we were like ‘we should probably make this the first song on the record,’ which is something we probably wouldn’t have done before when we were on a bigger label with more people listening in and giving advice and stuff like that. I think we tried to push ourselves to try writing songs differently,” he said.

The 11 track album 1000 Palms proves to be more than just a series of repetitive basic chord progressions. From the hi-hat and dancing electric guitar-infused love ballad of “I Can’t Explain” to the fast, bongo beats in “Point Of No Return” and harmonizing bridges of “Into the Catacombs”, Surfer Blood shows variation throughout their songs while weaving in their classic electric guitar banter.

In its closing song, “NW Passage,” the combination of acoustic guitar and the sound of birds chirping transports the listener to a soothing summer drive through a wooded area in the wake of a sunset.

These last few years have proven to be particularly eventful for the band as time brought changes to the lives of individual members and the group as a whole, one unfortunate example being the sickness of original member and guitarist Thomas Fekete.

In the spring of 2015, the band announced that it would be starting a GoFundMe page for Fekete after he was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Through benefit concerts, online donations, donation collections from shows and more, Surfer Blood has raised thousands of dollars for their fellow bandmate.

The band are currently raising funds for co-founder and guitarist Thomas Fekete’s (second from left) sarcoma treatments.

In November 2015, the band also started the Thomas Fekete Medical Fund Benefit Auction, selling unreleased records and demos from groups such as The Doors, Cults and Yo La Tengo. The auction also includes a vinyl of “Tidal Wave” by Surfer Blood, a song recorded in 2015 that did not appear on 1000 Palms.

While Fekete takes a sideline from Surfer Blood, Mike McCleary is taking his place as guitarist for the current tour. The tour also features Lindsey Mills on bass seeing as original bassist Kevin Williams has since moved to pursue another career in Texas.

With the addition of McCleary and Mills, all four members of Surfer Blood come from the same high school.

“We’re lucky to have so many friends who are good musicians and truly fans of the music. They kind of get what we’re going for,” said Pitts.

“Tom had a very unique style of playing guitar but you know he can’t be in the band for obvious reasons right now. It is slightly different right now with a new guitarist, but I think that could be a good thing too. It keeps things interesting for me and hopefully people who come to our show who have seen us before will take something maybe slightly different away from it.”

Pitts explained that he goes for more for mood than replication when it comes to live performances and tour life. “I’ve never been too particular about trying to replicate the sound on the recording exactly live because … what I get from listening to a record at my house versus going to a show is so different that I think the music should reflect that a little bit too. We honestly do just jam out on stage quite a bit,” he said.

After a colourful past of opening for the Pixies, performing at festivals like Coachella 2014, and performing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in 2012, the future of the band looks positive though also unpredictable. “Who knows what we’ll do next,” said Pitts when asked about where he sees the band going in the next few years.

As “NW Passage” ends the album on a reflective and optimistic note, Surfer Blood’s future takes on the same hopeful hue: “And I’ll be there to see the day/You and I will grow, not decay.”


Catch Surfer Blood opening for Nate Ruess at the Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre on Nov. 17. Tickets are $30.

Student Life

Meet someone new every day at the Grey Nuns Residence

Concordia’s downtown residence is a great place for students to have a unique university experience

Only at Concordia will you use the words “dorm room” and “crypt” in the same sentence. At Concordia’s Grey Nuns Residence, dorm life is special in many ways.

The residence currently houses roughly 600 Concordia students. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

Grey Nuns, a former nunnery, is the ideal place for students living on campus who want the ultimate university experience.

The Grey Nuns of Montreal were a Roman Catholic charitable organization founded on the evening of Dec. 31, 1737 by Marguerite D’Youville. The building on Guy Street became the motherhouse of the congregation in 1871, built to house around 1,000 nuns, three schools, and community services like an orphanage, charity efforts, hospitals and offices, according to an article on Concordia’s official website.

Concordia bought the motherhouse in 2004 as the number of actual nuns began to dwindle. The West Wing of the building was refurbished and has been housing university students since 2007. When the last of the Grey Nuns moved out and relocated in 2013, the East Wing was refurbished as well and the building became home to hundreds of undergraduate students, according to an article Concordia’s official website.

The residence currently houses around 600 students with 67 countries being represented, based on a report from Lauren Farley, West Side manager of Grey Nuns.

The Grey Nuns Residence offers great spaces for both studying and socializing. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

The nunnery also holds a haunting history. While Concordia has renovated most of the building into dorm rooms, in the basement there is a crypt under the cement where about 280 nuns have been buried.

Adding to the spookiness, according to a 1918 article in La Patrie, on Feb. 14, 1918, a fire broke out on the top floor of the West Wing of the nunnery, where orphans and infants were staying. Over 60 children were killed.

Due to the incidents that occurred years ago, residents seem to have a lot to say when it comes to answering the age-old question of “Is Grey Nuns haunted?” The different “haunted” experiences vary greatly through word of mouth. Whether it’s what seem to be scary dreams of nuns to spotting ghostly figures in the halls, the Grey Nuns history is very alive in people’s minds.

“I haven’t had any experiences but I’ve definitely felt like I haven’t been alone in a room,” said resident Holly Rowett. Fellow resident Keeara Byrnes feels the same. “I’m constantly feeling as though I am sharing my space with other people. There have been multiple times that I have seen both nuns and children walking around corners and standing in the lifts,” she said. There have been stories about floating orbs seen at Grey Nuns. Students have also tried taking photos of the Grey Nuns crypt only to have the pictures turn out mysteriously blurry.

“It’s an interesting theory,” said resident Angélique Thériault, when asked if she thinks the building is haunted. Thériault’s family is tied to the building in more ways than one. “I had a great aunt who was a Grey Nun that lived at the Grey Nuns Residence before it was sold to Concordia,” she said. “We would visit her sometimes, so I was able to see it before it was changed and renovated.” Thériault said that the room in which she signed her lease in was the same room where her great aunt’s memorial service took place. “It’s very weird seeing it not as religious as it was,” she said.

Nowadays, the modernized building offers a lot to students looking for the perfect mix between studying and socializing. Locations such as group study rooms and the well-known Reading Room in the chapel are popular study spaces for students looking for quiet escape, which can be hard to find when there are so many people living in one building. These spaces are also open to any Concordia student with a student ID. The residence also offers an art room, where students can paint on the walls, and multiple games rooms, equipped with a T.V., a pool table and even a piano.

Some consider the cafeteria to be the centre of life in residence. “I’ve learnt that the [cafeteria] is the hub of Grey Nuns. It’s where you learn the most about people, and the easiest place to experience the people of Grey Nuns being themselves,” said Byrnes. “Most people, I find, don’t go to the cafeteria because they’re hungry for food, they go because they’re hungry for conversation.”

One of the main benefits of living in residence with fellow students is the community aspect. “It’s a big community of people so it’s really cool that you get to see so many people. Every day you [could] meet a new person, if you wanted to,” said Rowett.

Residence assistants (R.A.s) also have the advantage of living in residence—not only having experiences of their own, but learning about other people. “We’re all trying to meet somebody new. That’s all we’re trying to do, trying to learn something about what other people have to offer, especially because it’s university and we’re all being focused and studying one thing,” said R.A. Miguel Laliberte. “It’s interesting to hear what other people are learning.”

R.A.s have the responsibility of overseeing their floors, creating relationships with students, and answering questions. R.A.s help students adapt to university life. They also organize events for students to meet others and experience Montreal.

A drawback of living at Grey Nuns is that hundreds of other students are around as well, which makes for a less private living experience.

“It’s very noisy. There isn’t much noise cancellation in the walls, even though East Wing is renovated,” said Thériault. “It’d be nice to get some quiet sometimes.” With easy access to the downtown bars, students will often come in very late at night. “When you’re passed out sleeping and the [students who were out partying] are coming back inside, sometimes I get random knocks at 3 a.m. and that wakes me up,” said Laliberte.

Despite the downsides of sharing a roof, Grey Nuns Residence is a hive of activity, rich in opportunities for residents to get connected with school, with history, with the city, and with each other.

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