Dan Mangan revived and reinvented

The folk band’s sound has changed dramatically, but keeps the same catchiness throughout

“The days are no longer my own, to piss away the waking hours,” sings Dan Mangan in his hit song, “Robots.” The talented and wonderfully bearded folk singer, Dan Mangan, writes songs that’ll send a shiver down your spine—or conjure butterflies in your belly.  Fans will remember the singer’s husky voice in that beautiful song. It was a ballad that could transport you to summer sunsets, road trips, and first loves. This folk-rock song, “Robots,” although enchantingly nostalgic, differs completely from what Dan Mangan and his band are up to now.

On Jan. 13, the 31-year-old Vancouver native released his new album, Club Meds, with Blacksmith after a few years off from touring.

The new album has quite a different feel than the artist’s three previous LPs; Postcards and Daydreaming, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, and the Juno-award-winning album, Oh Fortune.  In his past albums, Mangan’s folk sound was dominant, and could easily make a person sway and smile.  Club Meds has a darker, more psychedelic sound to it. Mangan explains that the change happened quite naturally. He took a few years off after Oh Fortune, and he feels as though his time off made him curious about trying new things. “I think it’s just about getting older, and having a natural desire to try different things. After having some time off, I felt there was a new essence to what we were doing,” Mangan said.

Another change is the new name found for his beloved backing band. “It was something we talked about years ago; we were just looking for the right name to come along, and when they found Blacksmith, it just fit,” he said. Mangan speaks very highly of his musicians, and isn’t afraid to share the fact that he has been in a serious relationship for many years. “I’ve been married to these guys for a long time. Going on tour, you are with the same people 24/7.  We get on each other’s nerves, but we have a lot of fun. Blacksmith are seasoned, and schooled musicians,” he said.

Club Meds is a confident and assertive album because it offers-up an original sound; it mixes moody psychedelic music while keeping their indie-rock roots. The first track,“Vessel,” is a perfect example of the band’s new sound. The rhythm is hard to follow—the drum and guitar beats seem to stretch out—and the intro to the song is very Radiohead-esque.  Mangan’s voice on “Vessels” perfectly portrays how his voice has evolved with every album released—his voice, now, finds itself at a register that’s lower and huskier.

“I think this is what this album is about; appreciating the darkness and the complexity and distracting yourself from it. There is a great postponing that we do where we push back having to deal with our problems,” he said.

One of Mangan’s biggest inspirations is the legendary author, George Orwell. “He is a remarkable man. He has this capability to see things in humanity, and has incredible creative instincts that are very admirable.”

One of the most admirable things about the singer is that he tells it like it is: “I am very happy in this point in my life. I believe happiness is a choice and I feel that anyone can rationalize reasons for self-pity. Some people are born into incredible privileges and some are born directly into poverty. Every day you kind of have to decide to be happy. You have to appreciate the little things. Life is hard and beautiful and sometimes fucked-up, but that’s just what it is.”

Mangan practices that same straightforward take on life in his career. He believes that in order to get to the top, you have to work hard.

“I started playing guitar when I was 10; I was in a band in high school and around those years. Of course, life happens, people move away. So I played in open mics, and took whatever gigs I could get. I started trying to scratch some money together to make some recordings and play wherever they would have me,” he said.  There is no magic trick or shortcut to success—Mangan went with the flow and his popularity grew as he kept working.

Mangan seems to pick the coolest things to get involved with. During his time off, he was presented with a new project to test his talent. He was asked to write the score for Peter Chelsom’s quirky independent film, Hector and the Search for Happiness.

“It was kind of magical. We decided to take a break from touring. Literally days after I told my manager about taking some time off, I got an email from one of the producers asking me if I was interested in doing some score work. It was totally serendipitous. I closed a window and another one was opening already,” he said.

There isn’t much Mangan doesn’t do; he’s a father, a husband, a writer from time to time, a two-time Juno award winner, a score composer—oh, and an incredible musician.

 If you want to witness how cool these guys are first-hand, Mangan and Blacksmith are coming to Montreal Feb. 21 at the Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre.


Meet your new summer BESTiE

Vancouver quartet discuss their upcoming album and being mistaken for a Kpop band

“I was looking for the kPop BESTie lol.”

“This is not a talented and hot kpop girl group. You guys should change your name the name is taken by a popular famous kpop group already.”

These are just some of the things listed under the YouTube comment section of BESTiE’s music videos.

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Unlike their Korean female counterparts, BESTiE is a Vancouver-based male quartet made up of musicians Andrew Janczewski on guitar, Daniel Ruiz on drums, Rob Cameron on bass, and Tristan Orchard on vocals.

“We certainly wouldn’t have named our band [BESTiE] if we knew there was another band with the same name in Korea,” said Orchard, the band’s frontman. “But you can never have too many besties,” he added cleverly.

Back in Vancouver, Orchard ran Goody, a jam space where different acts can perform and meet fellow musicians; it was here that the four decided to form BESTiE. Since coming together back in 2012, the self-described “post-wave, posi-core, tropi-vibes” band placed amongst the top five at last year’s Peak Performance Project which allowed them to play the Commodore Theatre, a renowned Vancouver venue. They have also been tirelessly working on their upcoming debut album No Bad Days.

“We’ve been working on it for quite a while, and it’s great to finally have some new music out,” said Orchard.

So far, they’ve released two singles with accompanying music videos: “Pineapple,” and “Asleep On The Bus.”

Often compared to the likes of indie-pop stars Vampire Weekend, BESTiE’s sound is an eclectic “mixture of music influences.” Janczewski grew up listening to African music, while Ruiz’s Colombian roots seep into the sunny, fast-paced nature of their playing. Orchard, who grew up listening to The Police, had not listened to the British band in roughly a decade but admits that their singles do have a “Police and reggae influence” to them.

“[Janczewski] dictates the sound a lot,” he said, “but it mostly just comes about organically.”

“There’s a lot of pop music influences in our sound too, and maybe surf-rock. Ideally I’d like to say we sound like BESTIE, but being compared to Vampire Weekend is not a bad thing.”

Orchard would also describe themselves as something called “emoji-pop.”

“I like to make-up different genres just to keep it interesting,” he laughs. “I don’t know, I think ‘emoji-pop’ is fun, and happy…but maybe when you’re using emojis, you’re having fun, and when you’re listening to BESTiE you’re having fun, and when you’re talking to your actual bestie you’re using emojis?” he added, unsure of how exactly to describe this invented iPhone emoticon-inspired genre.

When asked what his personal favourite emoji was, Orchard paused to check his phone. “I think the emoji with the shades is a pretty good one.”

The frontman’s love of all things in shades is apparent in the band’s artistic direction. Their album cover, for example, features a pup in a pair of multi-coloured frames.

“I was really inspired by Tumblr and dogs with shades,” said Orchard. “[The cover] combines all our favourite things: dogs with sunglasses looking cool in beach attire, eating ice cream.”

The video for their first single “Pineapple,” was directed by Orchard and features some of the band’s favourite things, including, you guessed it: pineapples and other tropical fruit. After performing at this year’s edition of the South By SouthWest festival, Orchard was amazed by the fact that the crowd knew the words to the song.

“It’s not my favourite song to play,” he said, “but it has some catchy elements that people can hopefully associate with… like pineapples,” he joked.

Though it does not necessarily show through in their sound, the cold Vancouver winter can take a toll on the band members. “Our music is completely inspired by the thought of escaping the Vancouver winter and endless rain,” he said. “I think we’re just dreaming of summer and hotter places.”

Despite not always having the financial bounty to record or produce their music, BESTiE are beyond proud of their debut album No Bad Days out April 22.

“Just with the idea of ‘no bad days,’ you’re acknowledging that there will be bad days, but it’s the desire to only have good days. Our music is our source of happiness,” he said, “but we’re human, like anyone else and we have bad days: can’t have good days without bad days.”

Set to release some new music videos shortly, BESTiE are eager to release a sophomore record.

“Right now, its already time to think of the next album. We can’t wait for that and

how the sound will progress. I think our follow-up will be a goth album,” he laughed.

BESTiE will be in Montreal on May 8 at L’Escogriffe Bar.


Viceroy, baseball caps,’jizz-jazz’ and self-reflection

Mac DeMarco reflects on the making of his latest album Salad Days  

“Give it back, you little motherf*@#ers,” is what Mac DeMarco would say to all the kids who steal his baseball caps.

But the theft doesn’t stop there: “Shoes too, someone stole my shoe in Montreal. It was at the Club Soda show in the middle of winter, I had to go home with one shoe on.”

Between purchasing new baseball hats, DeMarco has had a loaded tour schedule for the past two years. During a brief month-long hiatus between being on the road, the musician settled down in his small room in Brooklyn, saturated the walls with Viceroy smoke, and cooked up some tunes for his new album, Salad Days.

“Salad Days means a youthful period in someone’s life, and I think this album is talking a lot about that,” says DeMarco of his latest album out April 1 under Captured Tracks. Photo by Tonje Thielsen.

He describes the month as “a little bubble of my trying to reflect on everything from the past few years.”

Even though DeMarco has an insatiable palate for partying, his new songs are not about jubilated nights. On the lyrical front, the songs reveal a more self-reflective and personal side of the fun-loving musician, echoing the songwriter’s headspace at the time.

“I was just exhausted, I think,” said DeMarco. “Things got pretty crazy pretty fast, and it just got crazier and crazier. In the way we tour, too, there’s definitely a lot of alcohol, not very much sleeping, not very healthy living. When I got back, I was just frustrated and exhausted.”

Salad Days’ foundation still gets spectacularly weird like the artist’s previous recordings — maybe even a little stranger. The video teaser for the album meant business, as it featured a naked guy dancing around with a guitar, to a song driven by 1980’s keyboard riffs, and lyrics repeating “Gimme pussy! A little bit of pussy!” The new album comes out on April Fool’s day under Captured Tracks.

Reflecting the teaser, DeMarco does get funky with keyboards on some songs.

“I really don’t know how to play keyboard at all,” he said. “It’s interesting for me because if you don’t really know what you’re doing, I think you can come up with some weird stuff. It’s more fun for me,” he adds. “I just tried weird things. I don’t really know if they make musical sense or not, but that’s the way it goes.”

Many have tried to describe his sound by coming up with names like “blue wave” or “slacker rock,” but these go relatively unnoticed by the musician.

“I just say jizz-jazz,” said DeMarco, a term he came up with a few years ago. “I’d never written guitar solos on songs, and when I started writing guitar solos, I thought it was hilarious. I came-up with the word jizz-jazz because it’s not jazz, it’s not. I’m not a jazz guy. It’s a bit jizzy; it’s like a Steely Dan record that someone splooched on or something.”

He cites inspiration from Harry Nilsson and The Beatles, “[Who are] all close homies.” The title of the album was coined by Shakespeare who uses the term “salad days” in his play Antony and Cleopatra to allude to the ephemeral nature of youth.

“‘Salad days’ means a youthful period in someone’s life, and I think this album is talking a lot about that. Not necessarily that I’m out of that period, but that I need to count my blessings and enjoy it while I’m still around.”

The album’s dreamy, warped riffs and high-reverb guitar suit the character of the goofy, often jokingly cross-eyed songwriter. The music is indicative of a guy who’s not afraid to rip some dirty jokes at the mic or encourage the crowd to let loose and have a good time, the latter of which often results in a bruise-inducing mosh-pit at shows, or fans hopping around naked on stage.

Heading back on another tour, DeMarco continues to economically sustain the Viceroy Corporation and has also developed some techniques for attempting to preserve his baseball caps, unfortunately to no avail.

“When I go crowd surfing, I leave it very far back on the stage, but they get stolen anyway.”

On a final note, DeMarco would “like to thank Jesus Christ.”

Mac DeMarco plays Société des Arts Technologiques April 6.


Tea Time for the Homeless host music night

Inspired by a stomach-churning sight during a volunteer trip to Nepal, 20-year-old Montreal native Josh Broadman began a heartfelt mission to raise awareness for the underprivileged.

After building a lasting relationship with a local restaurant in Nepal, Tea Time, Broadman decided to take his efforts to the next level by creating a not-for-profit charitable foundation called Tea Time for the Homeless.

“One night when I passed four young boys sleeping on the street, looking completely beaten and as if they hadn’t eaten a proper meal in days, I bought them food and water, and walked away yearning to do more. Not just for them, but for others too,” writes Broadman on the foundation’s website.

On April 5, Broadman and his organization will seek to raise money and awareness for underprivileged people in Nepal by hosting their first music night, a lively and enjoyable evening with live performances.

“We’re always looking to make events. Being an avid music fan and musician, I thought the idea to finally hold a show of my own, a coffee house show, would be a great event where people can bring their friends to enjoy their peers, and to support a great cause,” said Broadman about the event.

The event will be held at Karina Club on Crescent St. in Montreal’s downtown core, beginning at 7:30 p.m.. The night will showcase 14 young up-and-coming performers from all over the city.

“Because of the performers, I anticipate that the crowd will be young, energetic and supportive, the type of crowd I wanted to attract for the evening. I wanted to get the younger college generation, my peers, to be more involved and support an important cause,” said Broadman.

Attendees can expect to hear a variety of genres, sounds and original scores from local musicians, singers, and rappers like Sara Diamond, Nick Frai, Yo-Yoshi!, Renata Masucci, General Mills, Jess TG, and Rebecca Shemie.

The event itself will be MC’ed by rap performer and Concordia University student, Nick Frai, who is eager and passionate, and looks forward to his debut in front a hometown audience.

“I hope to bring a lot of energy. It’s a comfortable setting for me, I work as an MC and I love to be in front of a crowd, so I hope I could bring that energy that I have on stage and bring it into my performance, hopefully I could do a great job,” said Frai.

Frai will be performing a three-song set featuring two original tracks from his soon-to-be-released mix tape entitled NICKSTAPE.

“If I’m not with friends or at school, I’ll constantly be rapping and coming up with lyrics in my head. I’ve been rapping since I was about 10 years old, and recently I’ve been doing it a lot,” said Frai.

Diamond, who has performed in several charity events similar to Tea Time for the Homeless, is excited to cater to a more mellow crowd.

“It’s an acoustic vibe, and it’s a homey vibe for me. That kind of setting makes me comfortable to perform in, you could experiment with different tones,” said Diamond who will also be performing a three-song set.

The performers are eager to display their talent for an important cause and hope to create an atmosphere where people can sit back and enjoy a fun show.

Tickets for the event are $15, with most of the proceeds going towards the Namaste Children’s Foundation, an organization partnering with Tea Time for the Homeless.

The funds collected will be going towards projects such as scholarship programs, women development programs, and orphanages.

“The rest of the money will go towards our next project, where we hope to build a school; we currently have a correspondent in Nepal who is doing ongoing research for us,” Broadman added.

For more information on how to donate or how to purchase tickets for the event, visit, or



Post Tropical will get rid of your winter blues

James Vincent McMorrow embarks on a North American tour with his latest album

James Vincent McMorrow is excited.

The Irish singer/songwriter, who originally caught the world’s attention with his cover of Steve Windwood’s “Higher Love,” has just embarked on his most extensive North American tour to date, something he has been looking forward to for a long time.

“The idea of playing shows in North America is incredibly romantic. There’s this idea of being in a bus or being in a van and just hauling ass between places,” McMorrow said. “It doesn’t matter whether [you’re performing in front of] 20 people or 200 or 2,000, just the idea of it is compelling…there’s something great and vast [about North America] that you can’t get anywhere else in the world.”

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On the tour, which began on March 16 in Hollywood, CA, McMorrow is performing songs from both his first record, Early in the Morning, and his second record, Post Tropical, which was released in January.

Post Tropical is completely different from his first, leaving behind the acoustic guitar and piano, and instead replacing them with a

layering of many new, electronic instruments, like keyboards and percussions. His signature haunting falsetto, of course, remains. This change in style has made performing live more dynamic.

“It’s live touring and playing shows the way I always wanted to play shows. This is really me doing exactly what I always wanted to do,” he said.

McMorrow built Early in the Morning from scratch. He wrote, produced, and recorded the album in a house in Ireland, with no help whatsoever. The second record was recorded and produced in a studio in Texas. Having a team who worked with him to create Post Tropical made the experience fantastic for McMorrow.

“I like working for myself in certain instances, but I think the more people that can add something, the better,” McMorrow said. “Everyone who worked on the record did things I feel like I couldn’t do, and they opened up my musical world to different sounds and different textures that I might not have considered.”

McMorrow knew from the beginning that Post Tropical would be very different from his first record.

“It sounds really silly but I’ve had [Post Tropical] in my head for a really long time, and none of the sounds on it were, you know, just me and a guitar,” McMorrow said. “They were these vaguely surreal sounding and quite hard to find sounds, so it was important that I try all these instruments and really discover what everything amounted to.”

Although both albums are very different, they come together perfectly when performed live, something McMorrow was pleasantly surprised by.

“What was really unexpected and really compelling to me was how songs from the first record folded so beautifully into those newer textures and those newer sounds,” McMorrow said. “It was really supple, and that was brilliant.“

Throughout the years, McMorrow’s writing process has remained relatively the same.

“I start up with an idea I’m really excited about it. Then I live with it for a little while, before I really make it into something that is an actual song,” McMorrow explained. “Then I spend another two to three months yelling at a page, and I feel like it’s never going to work, and suddenly something clicks, and I can hear it.”

In order to write, McMorrow has to work alone, surrounded by instruments, for months at a time.

“No matter how many times I do it, I still get to that point where I think it isn’t going to work. Even though I know historically that it will work,” McMorrow said. “I’ve persisted and given myself the headaches and kind of moved through it and gotten to the end. Every single time feels like the first time, which is really strange I think.”

By working alone, McMorrow can experiment knowing that no one will be able to tell him that they do not like the music he is creating.

“If no one is around to tell you that something is crazy, then it’s not crazy!” McMorrow said. “For a moment to be able to just sit in a room and not have anybody question that idea…for you to be able to pursue it, and then realize for yourself whether or not it works, personally, I thrive on that.”

Sometimes, McMorrow finds it helpful to write songs on his drum kit. It was the first instrument that he learned to play (he now plays eight or nine, he’s lost track), and certain nostalgia comes from playing on it.

“There’s a certain sense of ‘this is where it all began’ whenever I sit behind a drum kit, which I really love,” McMorrow said. “I tend to sit behind the drums and record myself for two to three hours and then listen back to it, then I hear little patterns. A lot of songs have come out of those sessions.”

McMorrow is not interested in defining his music, or in conveying a particular message.

“I want to make music that resonates with me. I can hear the intent and the purpose in it, but I’m not interested in defining it, if that makes any sense,” McMorrow said. “I just know that it’s there, and that it matters to me. If I’m not messing around and I’m not faking it, then when people hear it, they’ll know that I’m not messing around and that I’m not faking it. That’s really the goal, to try and make the most beautiful and the most profound thing that I could imagine.”

This is not the first time that McMorrow will be performing in Montreal. He remembers a particularly stressful show at the Osheaga Arts & Music festival two years ago, on a day where, typical of Montreal, it was pouring rain.

McMorrow remembers being worried that he and his band would not be able to play, since it was raining so hard that the stage had become soaking wet, making it dangerous to perform.

“It stopped raining maybe an hour before we played…we played and the sun stayed out. And then we walked off stage, packed up our gear, and then five minutes later the rain came back…it was one of those moments when someone was smiling down on us,” McMorrow said.

He’s excited to be returning to Montreal. This time, thankfully, he will be playing an indoor venue.

James Vincent McMorrow will be performing at Club Soda on April 3.


BDT finds hope and success in dark times

“Oh how the world is lost / To find a dream that’s small and achieve it is nearly impossible / But why do we live? / Not to achieve our

BDT plays Cabaret Underworld located at 1403 Ste-Élisabeth St. with Rockie Fresh Thursday, Apr. 18 at 9 p.m. Press photo

goals / Not to accomplish our task / We’ve searched for miles and miles to reach the Stars.”

Straight from the intro of BDT’s album Stars, a combination of powerful lyricism backed by unique beats substantiates that Montreal’s very own up-and-coming rap group is nothing less than real.

Also known as Big Dreams Team, the group consists of four close friends ranging in age from 19 to 21: Myles Guénin, a.k.a. Myles, Matthew John, a.k.a. Timeliss, Terrell Mcleod Richardson, a.k.a. TasK The RaDD, and Alex Burrows, a.k.a. Rowz. At the foundation of this rap group is one the most important qualities according to Guénin: their friendship.

“I’d say it’s our team that sets us apart from other young rappers,” he said.

Each of the four possesses undeniable talent and their own personal taste, giving their music a fresh sound unlike any other. Their appreciation for a variety of music genres, including hip hop, indie rock, R&B, jazz and techno translates into their own sound which Guénin describes as “something dreamy, dark, and as real as it gets for rappers our age.”

Putting an image to the sound is their debut video, “Home,” directed by Vinoth Varatharajan, delivering visuals that effortlessly mirror their natural flow and ambient beats.

“That’s the cool thing about being so many people,” said Richardson. “We all come together and create something we all love: that BDT sound.”

From start to finish, BDT is entirely self-sufficient when it comes to the production of their music. Guénin even taught himself to play piano, stimulating the lyrical progression of his crew. Every track is a glimpse into their source of consistent motivation and the story they strive to share.

BDT’s formation in itself is a story to be told. In 2009, the group’s founder, Guénin, was diagnosed with the systemic autoimmune disease lupus, leaving him in the Montreal Children’s Hospital for six months. Throughout his long and difficult journey to remission, Guénin, an avid hip hop fan, heard Drake’s third official mixtape, So Far Gone, and was profoundly influenced to start making his own music.

Helping him transform his dreams into reality, the Make a Wish Foundation granted Guénin’s wish of having his own home studio. From there, the BDT vision came to life.

This experience fueled their motivation, as does each and every moment they live. When asked about their inspiration behind the music, Guénin said, “Everything. Life. Our day-to-day lives. The  good music out there motivates us to go harder so we can show the world what Big Dreams has to offer. Music is everything.”

Four years after coming together, BDT has developed a sense of confidence in their musical abilities, and have finally identified what they stand for.

“We all bring something different to the table,” said Guénin. “So I do me on the track and everyone just does them.”

The result: a strong individual sense of each rapper in an impressive collaborative effort.

What can fans expect from BDT in the future? The group plans to release their second mixtape titled Real before June rolls around.

“We’ve been working really hard on our new material so we’re hoping to make some noise with these next few releases,” said BDT’s DJ Anthony Salvo.

The band’s driving passion and enthusiasm is a clear indicator of their forthcoming success.

“It’s our dream, our wish, our goal and over these four years, it has slowly become the main focus in our lives. We feed off of that,” said Richardson. “We inspire each other to do better so the energy will never stop flowing.”


BDT plays Cabaret Underworld located at 1403 Ste-Élisabeth St. with Rockie Fresh Thursday, Apr. 18 at 9 p.m.





Born Ruffians’ sound spans across the spectrum

Locked away in an isolated farmhouse in Stratford, Ont., Born Ruffians were able to create some of their most memorable music yet.

Born Ruffians play La Sala Rossa Thursday, Apr. 11 at 8 p.m. Photo by Pascal Amoyel

With hauntingly beautiful melodies and deeply relatable lyrics, their latest album Birthmarks provides the perfect balance between emotion and danceability.

The fact that they were so far away from civilization worked to their advantage. “This worked out so much better, we could be as loud as we wanted to be whenever we wanted to be,” said bassist Mitch Derosier.

Their first album was conceived in a similar fashion. With all band members living under the same roof, inspiration was easy to come by. As Derosier put it, “We wrote our record there and it was so easy and kind of immediate to be able to do that while living together. At any time [frontman Luke Lalonde] could come find us to go jam and work on something.”

They decided to follow the same route and forgo the “every Tuesday at 4 p.m. come to this place and hopefully you’ll feel creative” formula for their latest album, and it can be felt in every guitar strum.

Lalonde is described as the driving force behind the band, according to Derosier. He writes the lyrics, whereas the music tends to come about organically with contributions from each of the band members. Their first single off Birthmarks, “Needle,” captures the disillusionment that often accompanies not knowing where you want to be in your mid-twenties.

However, this doesn’t seem to reflect the way things are going for Born Ruffians so far. With three albums under their belt, an ongoing tour in Canada and the U.S. and an extensive fan base around the globe, it would seem that the band is on the way to having the world at their feet.

“We started this band when we were 16 so it’s kind of all we’ve ever really known,” said Derosier. He and singer Lalonde, who is also his cousin, have had music in their bones from the get-go. The band’s first name, Mornington Drive, was actually the name of a band that Lalonde’s father was in — it took moving to Toronto and making it on their own for the band to become Born Ruffians.

As Derosier puts it, “It just kind of fit for some weird reason.” The move to Toronto seemed to have marked a milestone in the band’s development. For one, it introduced them to drummer Steve Hamelin, who provides the band with their signature beat.

With inspirations ranging from Led Zeppelin to Puff Daddy, band members Lalonde, Hamelin, Andy Lloyd and Derosier have created their own unique sound. This is palpable in their songs, which bounce back and forth from catchy to heartfelt. “Needle” is a song that is guaranteed to get you out of your chair and stay stuck in your head for days, while “With Her Shadow” offers soft vocals, mournful guitars and pounding drums.

The band has previously worked with Tokyo Police Club, an experience that they greatly enjoyed. It gave them a taste for collaborating with other artists and a love to jam with their current tour mates, The Elwins.

With a gig lined up at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City and plans to perform in various festivals this summer, the band may be a household name pretty soon.


Born Ruffians play La Sala Rossa Thursday, Apr. 11 at 8 p.m. 




Flume is forever on the fast track

Certain music makes you fall a little more in love with it with every listen and Flume falls into that category without a doubt. With

Flume plays Le Belmont on Saturday, April 6 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $21.74. Press photo

undeniably catchy synths and beats that could turn any frown upside down, it’s perfect whether you’re on the bus or out on the town. Harley Streten, the name behind the music, is an Australian producer and DJ whose sound is making waves internationally.

Streten may only be 21 years old, but he’s no beginner when it comes to making music. He got his start at the young age of 13 when he discovered the world of music production from a program he found in a cereal box.

While he fell in love with music production quickly, his rise to fame was even faster. He signed with Future Classic in 2011 after entering three of his songs into a competition the record label was hosting.

“You were supposed to send in your best originals, so I sent them the Sleepless EP,” said Streten. “I had already put it on blogs and stuff and it had gained a bit of traction. I got a record contract out of the competition and went from there.”

Some people spend years trying to make their name known, but Streten has been welcomed into the electronic music world with speed that would be shocking if it weren’t so well-deserved.

“A lot of people ask me if it’s been too quick, but I haven’t really known it any other way,” he said. “For me, it doesn’t really seem that crazy fast, but you know, I’m loving it. It’s been great fun. I get to see lots of the world and meet a lot of people. It’s been really cool.”

Speed seems to be a theme in Streten’s life; he can create a song in as little as a day.

“The fun-ness and the creative energy wears off quite quickly for me, so I need to make things happen fast,” he said. “If I do a remix and I’m super into it, I can do it within a day or two. Sometimes it takes longer, but I never let anything go over two weeks.”

If you’ve heard even one Flume song, you know that two weeks is an impressive amount of time for the creation of such audible bliss. But for Streten, that speed is an essential element.

“It’s just kind of how my brain works,” he said. “I can’t leave it for too long. When I have, it’s been a nightmare for me and I can’t really make much progress since I’ve heard the song so many times.”

Streten, who’s influenced by the likes of Flying Lotus, M83, and Shlomo, describes his music as “experimental electronica with a strong hip-hop influence and lots of catchy melodies.” But his style hasn’t always been so defined.

“When I started, I didn’t really have a sound and I didn’t really want to make a serious project until I did,” he said. “I’ve written pop tracks, minimal tech-house tracks, electro bangers, orchestral scores […] so I know how most genres work. I can manipulate and take the best of each genre and make them into whatever I please. It’s freedom. It’s good. It makes a producer more flexible if you can understand how other genres work.”

Australians are known for their love of traveling and Streten is no exception. His favourite part of success: seeing the world. However, being on tour makes it hard to find time to make music, regardless of how quickly you’re capable of doing so.

“I wrote all this music last year,” said Streten. “And now that it’s been successful, I’ve written less music in the last six months than I have in my entire life. It’s quite ironic.”


Flume plays Le Belmont on Saturday, April 6 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $21.74.



Concordia-based Atsuko Chiba blends education and artistry

While riding the Montreal Metro system to and from Concordia where they are both enrolled in the electroacoustic program, Kevin McDonald and Karim Lakdhar would often discuss their love of creating music with their respective bands. It wasn’t until January 2012 that they finally got a chance to play together when they formed an impromptu band in order to play a show at a party organized by some friends from their program.

“We got together for our first show last minute – we heard about a party at Concordia and said, ‘Hey, this is our chance to play together.’

Atsuko Chiba plays Casa del Popolo on Friday, April 26 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Within that week we prepped for a 15 to 20 minute set and performed it at the show,” said Lakdhar. “So I guess you can say that it was the basis for our band: it was super random but it just clicked so we stayed together.”

Since that first show, the band has strived to create music that they can proudly call their own. They enjoy the process just as much as the finished product as they each add various styles and elements to the band.

”We played that show and wrote some crazy music for it,” said McDonald. “Until then, with our individual bands, we always wrote music with a traditional formula: drums, bass, vocals. But this band has allowed us to evolve past that to something so much more.”

That first show included McDonald, Eric Shaufhauser, Lakdhar and Dave Palumbo. Months later, they would add Anthony Piazza as the permanent drummer.

In July of 2012, Atsuko Chiba released their first EP entitled Animalia: Several States of Being. Recorded live at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall and mixed and recorded by Gemini award nominee Matthew Cerantola, the EP was a great success and a strong start for the group.

“You can say that Concordia has played a big role in our development,” said Schafhauser. “We played our first show because of Concordia, and were able to record at Oscar Peterson. The school was available to help us when we needed a space to record and had a hard time finding one.”

The guys also recognize how their education at Concordia has influenced and matured their creative process. “You can say that a lot of our music has come out of what we learned in Electroacoustic studies at Concordia, from teachers to fellow students,” said McDonald. “We’ve learned a lot and we’ve been constantly developing our creative process and style.”

Although Atsuko Chiba does not currently have a vocalist, they are not actively looking for one as this allows them to each pitch in on the vocals of any given song.

“Even though we don’t have a singer and we’re instrumental we take turns adding in vocals because our music is very visual for us and sometimes vocals can help project the entire message,” said Palumbo.

The guys describe their style as “Western Space Groove”, a genre that includes a variety of styles and sounds to produce an experimental psychedelic post-rock.

“Our styles individually are all very different – in fact, the band was almost started with the purpose of going against what we knew completely, so we definitely step outside our comfort zone,” said Lakdhar.

Atsuko Chiba is hard at work as they are currently recording their next album, which is expected in early summer. Meanwhile, the band is still refining and evolving in style and sound.

“People who have an open mind will like our music most – not to say that we’re the most far-out band ever, but we sound different and so it means something when somebody comes up to us and tells us they like our music,” said McDonald. “We really didn’t take the easy route because our sound is completely different from most music out there.”


Atsuko Chiba plays Casa del Popolo on Friday, April 26 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.



KillaWail is terrific and Trans-Pacific

KillaWail launch their EP Get me Wise at Petit Campus on Feb. 15. Tickets cost $10. Photo by Fannie Bittner Dumas, 2012

It’s not everyday you hear an epic story like KillaWail’s. Who knew that a random encounter at a Montreal gas station in 2010 would be the spark that lit this international funk-infused bonfire that’s raging wild and getting bigger.

Melbourne-based rock guitarist Benji Miu was touring Canada with The Resignators when he bumped into J.P. Veillet (bassman Dizzy Veillet’s brother) at a gas station asking for directions. They became instant friends and lived together for a few weeks.

Through his brother, Dizzy only met Miu twice before flying over to Melbourne to meet him a few months later. The friendship bloomed and so did the music. As Miu shared the blueprints of his craft with Dizzy, Jono James—Miu’s trombone-playing friend—joined them soon afterwards. When Dizzy returned to Montreal, he introduced Sébastien Fournier, who plays the trumpet and Sarah Dion on the drums, to Miu and James through Skype.

“On Christmas day, before I left for Australia the first time, [Fournier] called me out of the blue to jam with [Dion] who played drums. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, it was just so random, but we jammed and it was really amazing,” said Dizzy, who later asked them to join the project.

“I was down straight away,” said Dion. “Going to Australia with a guy I barely know to meet another guy I barely know, why not! After being in school for three and a half years, this was my big break.”

Through countless emails and a few Skype sessions, they built a band from the ground up. Miu and James met every week, as did Dizzy, Dion and Fournier on opposite sides of the globe. Think of a long distance relationship with five other people and five other instruments.

A year later, the five of them met in Melbourne for four months and lived in a house, rocking out from dawn till dusk. With a few shows under their belt, the lot flew back to Montreal and Josh Michaud, a trombone player, became the third horn member to complete KillaWail’s signature sound.

“It was really difficult at first,” said Miu. “This is a really hard way to start a band, it takes someone to keep the fire alive. You have to keep contact […] it was a hurdle, but we overcame it.”

Would they recommend it to anyone? Absolutely. “The best thing is, once you’ve decided you’re a band and then you see your band members get off the plane for the first time, it’s awesome.”

So what does this trans-pacific band sound like? Take a witch’s cauldron, throw in Blood Sugar Sex Magik, a few Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys tunes, vigorously stir the mix and there you have something that starts to resemble KillaWail.

While Miu is self-taught, Fournier, Dizzy and Michaud all studied Jazz at CEGEP de Saint-Laurent back in 2011, which adds original complexity. With a solid and driven rhythm section complemented by a dynamic horn trio, KillaWail are obsessed with fast-engaging rock beats that dominate the landscape of their Latin-inspired, garage-soul funkadelics.

So forget Ska—just because they have a horn section doesn’t mean they’re like that. In fact, it sounds completely different. But while they don’t identify with that genre, they do share a similar trait.

KillaWail has a pretty serious side–effect: it makes you want to get up and bust a move. All band members agree, a venue could be packed to the brim, but if people aren’t dancing to their aggressive syncopated groove, the job is not done. For these energetic wailers, it’s all about having a good time.

For the last six months, they have been touring all over the country and have gained quite a following, so now it’s time for an EP.

“We’re all really stoked about it,” said Miu. “We were only planning to do two or three songs but ended up with five in two days. We were on fire!”

When they’re not jamming to prepare for their upcoming EP launch next week, Fournier and Michaud work as DJs and busboys at a strip club, Dion works at a cheese shop in Saint Lambert and Dizzy at an Italian restaurant in Outremont.

“We do what we can!” said Michaud, chuckling. In a few months, they hope to be in Mexico City and touring around central and South America.

As Mui put perfectly: “Travelling the globe and playing music; what more can you ask for?”

Trial Track: Murderflies

KillaWail launch their EP Get me Wise at Petit Campus at 8 p.m. on Friday Feb. 15. Tickets cost $10.


Humble Haligonian Ben Caplan masters and reinvents folk

Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers play Quai des Brumes on Friday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. (Photo Courtney Lee Yip)

He’s got a beard you could lose a guitar pick in, and he delivers a performance you can lose yourself in.

The music of Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers is different from what a lot of musicians are doing. With his folk roots grounded in the music of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, Caplan re-envisions the folk genre by drawing from Eastern European melodies and scales, the avant-garde and experimental jazz of John Zorn, as well as the classic blues and soul genres.

Their 2011 debut album entitled In the Time of the Great Remembering has some powerful songs, like “Conduit” which features a deep double bass rhythm, a whimsical horn section and Caplan’s powerful voice behind distorted fuzz.

The title of the album refers to the history of the human relationship with nature and the rest of the world. “We’ve forgotten a lot of things; we can speak of a time of great forgetting,” said Caplan, going on to explain how colonial Europe and the industrial era have swayed our way of thinking. “I am hopeful we can transition into a time of great remembering.”

The songwriter describes the band’s very recent selling-out of three shows in Halifax as “a wonderful blessing.” Once the tour of North America finishes, they will be heading to Australia and Europe where the band has a significantly large fan-base.

“My general philosophy is that nobody owes me shit,” said Caplan, addressing the common question of how a musician, quickly growing in success, plans to stay grounded.

Backstage before a performance, Caplan takes a few minutes to himself to warm-up his roaring voice and sip a little scotch. “Once I step onto the stage, there’s another level that I’m conscious of,” he said. He stresses the importance of engaging with the crowd and being fully present during each performance.

When it comes to the folk singer’s style of music and performance, Tom Waits and Freddy Mercury are two legends that he’s been compared to. “It’s scary and humbling to be compared to such masters,” said Caplan. Though Waits and Mercury’s styles of music differ dramatically, Caplan draws the link that both men are extremely dedicated performers. “I’m a hard-working guy […] and I plan to keep working on my craft every day.”

Caplan trudges around the world doing phone and radio interviews, has a bite to eat and performs for a new crowd each night. “It’s an exciting time to be working in this crazy entertainment industry,” he said. “I think a lot of change is under foot [in the music industry] and transition periods are the most fertile periods.”

These “fertile periods” are what allows the songwriter to dig into each performance and draw inspiration from different styles of music from around the world. Caplan is backed by the Casual Smokers, who are a group of musicians he can really trust, and this frees him do try things he couldn’t do performing alone.

The band will be going into the studio very soon to begin working on their new record. They’ve been touring nonstop and playing their new songs that will be released on the new record.

Caplan also hopes to release some collaborations with other artists within the year. The singer/guitarist describes himself as a live-based musician and finds a challenge in trying to translate this into a studio setting: “To me, the live is the most exciting part […] the studio stuff is a different beast that I’m still learning a lot about.”

Some of the inspiration for his new record comes from the open mic sessions held in Caplan’s Halifax living room which he opens to the public. He explains, “Constantly hearing songwriters from all over the place working out their material helps me gain perspective on my own.”


Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers play Quai des Brumes on Friday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m.



St. Lucia: a world of music, all in one place

St. Lucia. Press photo

Jean-Philip Grobler, also known as St. Lucia, creates music with vocals and synths that make you feel like you’re everywhere in the world at once, nostalgic for something you never had.

Grobler has had plenty of time to develop his unique sound. Born in South Africa, he performed with the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School before moving to Liverpool to study music. He currently lives in New York city, a place he never thought he’d end up.

“In my head, New York was always the antithesis of what I aspired towards,” said Grobler. “Basically, I got offered a job to be a commercial music writer here not long after I finished university in the U.K., and it seemed like that would be stupid to turn down.”

New York might be full of aspiring musicians, but one thing’s for sure — none of them have achieved the dream-like, ethereal quality that St. Lucia’s songs possess.

“My music is my subconscious attempting to marry my more experimental inclinations to my ‘poppier’ inclinations, and I just go along for the ride,” said Grobler, referring to the distinctive pop aspect of his music.

Long before the days of St. Lucia, Grobler and the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School toured Australia, Europe and Japan. Seeing so much of the world at such a young age undoubtedly impacted his sound.

“I think it’s given [the music] somewhat of a worldly quality,” he said. “To me it doesn’t sound specifically American, British, South African or anything really. It’s its own strange beast. The funny thing, though, is that I often hear more African influence in bands from the U.S., like Vampire Weekend or Yeasayer, than I do from bands in South Africa. Maybe that’s because when you live there, the idea of being in Africa isn’t as novel.”

His music was further influenced by the three years he spent at university in Liverpool; he had friends from around the world whose tastes were all vastly different.

“I credit them for teaching me to appreciate a good song for a good song,” he said.

Indie and electronic music are both reaching a peak in their levels of popularity. St. Lucia is a blend of both, yet something completely different as well. His music is impossible to lump into just one genre, and he likes it that way.

“I love a lot of bands from the indie movement, but as with any genre that gets a lot of hype, there’s going to be artists that start doing it just to be cool,” he said. “I felt it had gotten to that point, and my knee-jerk reaction was to go the other way. The electro-pop scene is also having its time in the sun, and I’m sure the same thing is going to happen.”

Regardless of genre, St. Lucia’s sounds simultaneously invoke feelings of familiarity, longing, sorrow and joy. As hard as this feeling may be to imagine, it’s exactly what the artist strives towards.

“I’m most satisfied with a song when it has an inherent sense of conflict in it — a sense of being happy and sad, both sides of the emotional spectrum,” said Grobler. “I find songs that are only frustrated, angry or happy to be boring because almost nothing in life is that way. The most memorable moments in my life are generally the ones with the most inherent conflict.”

Since his move to New York, St. Lucia has worked with HeavyRoc Music, Columbia Records and Neon Gold Records. His EP, September, came out in September and was Neon Gold’s first full-length release. The label has previously released singles by artists including Passion Pit, Ellie Goulding and The Naked & Famous. While Grobler acknowledges this as an honour, the highlight of his career is something more personal.

“I think it was having my parents see me perform for the first time in 10 years last December,” he said. “They flew in from South Africa, landed and came straight to the venue just in time for us to go on.”

St. Lucia is currently touring with Ellie Goulding and tells fans to expect a set comprised of his biggest hits.


St. Lucia plays Metropolis with Ellie Goulding on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.


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