Soccer Sports

The stage is set for the 2024 Euro Championship

Multiple teams will make their bid at winning this summer’s main football event.

The European Championship playoff round took place on March 26 to decide which final teams in the tournament would be. Now that the groups are set, it is time to deliberate who will be crowned European Champions in 2024.

This year’s tournament will include a mix of soccer powerhouses along with teams that may go under the radar. Six groups of four teams each will battle in the first round—the group stage—to decide who advances to the knockout rounds. The top two teams from each group, along with the best third place teams in the tournament, will punch their ticket to the next round.

In Group A, the host country, Germany, is likely a favourite to advance through to the knockout round. Young talent in attacking midfielder Kai Havertz, as well as established goalkeeper Manuel Nauer give the hosts a big advantage against opposing countries. Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland will battle tough to be the runner-up and clinch their spot in the next round.

Another notable group in the tournament is Group D. France, who came in second place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is likely to win the group. The runner-up spot is likely to be a tough battle between Netherlands, Austria and Poland. 

England is also a favourite in Group C with Slovenia, Denmark and Serbia. The same thing goes for Belgium in Group E with Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. Group F is likely to be topped by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal squad, as they will compete against Turkey, Czechia and Georgia.

Finally, the stacked Group B—ranked third in Europe is Spain. The Spanish powerhouse comes into the tournament with one of the most balanced squads in the world made up of striker Álvaro Morata, midfielder Dani Olmo and goalkeeper Unai Simón. Though they are favourites to win the tournament, advancing to the knockout stage will not be a breeze for Spain. First, they will have to get through Croatia. Led by the veteran striker Luka Modrić, Croatia came in third place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

They did, however, finish the Euro Qualifying stage by losing to Wales, whose team failed to qualify for the tournament. Despite the talent of both Spain and Croatia, the competition does not stop there. Italy, winner of the 2020 European Championship, comes into the tournament as the 18th nation in Europe. Yet, Italy has the experience as one of the top nations in the world. Striker Federico Chiesa and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma have the potential to carry Italy to the knockout stage even against the toughest opponents. Albania, the final nation in the group, will be up against large competition and will have to go on a magical run to make it out of the group stage.

The European Championship is a world-renowned tournament for a reason. Once again in 2024, it will be a best-on-best frenzy to see which nation will be crowned champions of the football capital of the world.


The Woodnote Solidarity Cooperative — a year and a half into the project

After management woes and pandemic slowdowns, The Woodnote is beginning to take shape

After opening in 2020, The Woodnote Solidarity Cooperative has faced many challenges. The pandemic, a rotating door of board members, and a lack of training and guiding policy have made things difficult. However, as the pandemic slows down, along with a new student board elected on Oct. 17 and president elected on Nov. 5, things are beginning to change.

Sylvia Pascua-Matte joined The Woodnote’s co-op board in October 2020 and is the only remaining resident board member from that time, despite board members being elected for two year terms. She is now president of The Woodnote’s Solidarity cooperative’s board.

“I think that the [current] board has a lot of potential. I think that the board [members] are very confident people, and I love their work ethic and I love the project. But the project in itself is riddled with errors,” said Pascua-Matte.

The housing project is the first of its kind, intending to give students access to affordable, not-for-profit housing. Instead of just the usual landlord-tenant model, The Woodnote is a solidarity co-op, meaning it also has a board made of primarily volunteer tenants who help to manage community living within the building. The board consists of six seats for tenants and three for support members — one from UTILE, the other from the CSU and one representative from the Montreal community.

The three main groups who helped bring The Woodnote to life are UTILE, the not-for-profit housing company that designed, developed and owns the building; the CSU, who were the initial investors in the project, fronting almost two million dollars for its development; and the co-op’s board.

Before The Woodnote opened in summer 2020 a provisional committee of students was created to guide the developmental phase of the project, before passing things onto the board.

The co-op struggled in their first year due to an overwhelming lack of training, and balancing administrative tasks they felt unprepared for, like finding insurance for the building’s common room and creating the co-ops governing policy, while trying to foster a community.

“Nobody in the past provisional committee had even thought about [training]. There wasn’t proper onboarding, because everybody who was on the provisional board [left] and didn’t look back,” said Pascua-Matte.

One reason for the lack of support was that neither the CSU nor UTILE deemed it their responsibility to be involved in the student governance of The Woodnote. However, both groups hold support seats on their board.

“We don’t have any legal obligations to The Woodnote. There’s nothing on paper that ties us to The Woodnote other than this support member seat,” said CSU general coordinator Eduardo Malorni.

“The plan was never for the CSU to be the landlord of this building. The plan was never for the CSU to manage this building. The plan was never for the CSU to be involved in the day to day operations of the board. The plan for the CSU was always to be the initial investor, to allow this building to come to existence, and for the students within the building to really play the main role in managing their own building.”

A sentiment which UTILE executive director and co-founder, Laurent Levesque also shared.

“We handle our management partnership in all of the building operations. So all of the maintenance, rent collection, all of the baseline work to make sure people are safe and the building is well maintained is handled by our team of professionals,” explained Levesque.

“And then there’s the community living layer on top of that, which is handled by the co-op, which is led by students. And in that layer, we only play a support role.”

But it wasn’t just community living that the board was left to deal with.

Stephen Beker has been involved with the project since July 2019. He was a member of the provisional committee put in place prior to The Woodnote’s opening and is the former president of the board. He claims that the provisional committee put in place didn’t do enough to set the board up for success.

“We had meetings every week, and we tried to solve problems we weren’t equipped to solve. And we were tasked with making policy.” Beker said. “The problem is that the committee had no expertise.” Today, much of The Woodnote’s policy regarding finances, labour agreements, anti-opression, sexual assault and misconduct remain unfinished.

“The problem was that when people moved into The Woodnote, the building blocks were not built. As we speak today, the building blocks are still not built,” said Beker. “I would spend hours and hours on the phone, doing the most simple things like trying to get us a bank account.”

These issues have made it difficult for The Woodnote to cultivate its co-op identity, and students have noticed. Dylan Gitalis has been a resident at The Woodnote since it opened in 2020. He says his experience has been “very positive.” But, there are things he thinks it could do better.

“There’s definitely a good strong community here.” Gitalis said. “But it doesn’t really feel like a co-op, it feels like UTILE kind of owns it. It doesn’t feel like we have ownership over the building […] But, we’re still all people here so there is so much in our control in terms of the social dynamics and the culture.”

A Woodnote resident, Dylan Gitalis shares his experiences living in the co-op. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

Even though the board is supposed to represent students living in the building, when residents have issues related to the building or their apartment unit they have to take them to the property manager employed by UTILE. This limits the board’s ability to represent students on these issues. Julia Belmore is a former woodnote resident who found it difficult to get help when she had problems with her apartment.

“Every time we brought up an issue, it kind of felt like it became our fault —  like my fridge broke, and I wasn’t there and then all of a sudden, they were saying that we’re gonna have to pay for repairs. My apartment had no fridge for like a month in total.” Belmore said.

“But, if anything happened, it was on you to deal with.”

When applying to live at The Woodnote, students are asked what they can bring to the co-op . But, the pandemic and a lack of consistent access to their common room made planning these events difficult.

“Everybody has something they can bring, but nobody’s really doing it now unless you’re on the board and go through all these hoops,” said Gitalis.

“We can all run events that we’re talented at in the common room: someone can run yoga, we can all paint together. We can all do a jam session, and we can paint the stairwells, you know, and make our mark on it. […] That stuff to me means that this is our space, our cooperative. Right now it’s not.” Gitalis continued.

“We want to be a community together.”

Instability on the board also made running these events difficult. There was a very high-rate of turnover with board members consistently stepping down. Pascua-Matte was the only resident board member to return when the five new resident members were elected on Oct. 17. Former president Stephen Beker, who stepped down in October, had concerns that without stability and the removal of a great deal of institutional knowledge under a brand new board the co-op could fold. Something that neither UTILE nor the CSU have been worried about.

“The board is pretty much immune to folding.” Malorni stated. “Let’s say everyone left, every member of the board all decided not to show up. Someone could have gone to The Woodnote and been like ‘Hey, officially the paperwork [still says] that we’re a solidarity co-op. Can we organize a meeting and appoint a new board?’ An entire failure of the board will just result in one year of [a bad] experience, and then someone would restart the board and they would start fresh again,” Malorni stated. Levesque also shares this perspective.

“That’s the beauty of the model. If [the co-op folds] or decides to go dormant or dissolve by its own decision, it doesn’t have any impact on the building continuing its operations. The achievement of the goal of affordable housing is not directly tied to high-level student involvement.”

However, the co-op model is a big part of what makes the building unique, and it’s not something Pascua-Matte wants to see fail.

“To have them say if the board were to fail [it would be fine], that shouldn’t be in the realm of possibility. You’ve poured a [lot] of money into a project. That doesn’t mean you give it the option to fail. If you’re giving it the option to fail, then obviously it’s gonna fail.”

But UTILE said they are holding up their end of the bargain, and in many ways, The Woodnote has achieved many of its goals.

“Woodnote is a resounding success. I mean, they have newly constructed units at a very good price in a very good location and that’s the bottom line.” said Levesque.

“One of the things that The Woodnote does that deserves to be mentioned is the fundamental aspect of not trying to profit off of students,” said Levesque.

“Rents in the project increased by 1.5 per cent to follow inflation; but, rents on the plateau increased by 5 per cent, that non-profit approach to housing is important to make work in the short term. But, [it] has really important impacts in the long term, in ensuring affordable housing for future generations.”

The Woodnote Co-op in the Plateau Mont-Royal. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

To help get the co-op back on track after a rough first year, Malorni said the CSU is giving The Woodnote more attention by bringing in more experienced support members to give input on training and managing the board.

“​​I’m calling up people with board experience, who actually work in these sort of organizations to find someone willing to take up extra volunteer tasks of helping these people,” said Malorni. “I’ve been ensuring that pieces are joining the board which will ensure its success.”

“I’m playing a much more communicative role, which isn’t necessarily the role of the CSU to try and stabilize this board. We’re making sure that they do have the tools to succeed.”

While the CSU is trying to put more effort into supporting The Woodnote, Pascua-Matte still doesn’t feel she is seeing it enough and still feels the co-op’s concerns are being neglected and ignored.

“We would like to be properly supported and represented and what [they’re] doing right now is not representative of that.”

But as the pandemic eases, The board has finally been able to begin doing the community building it set out to do all along, the board is encouraging students to get involved and they’re responding by starting clubs and running events.

“We’re starting to work with different organizations that reflect what we want at The Woodnote. We are hoping to get some compost soon, […] we’re getting workshops done, like mandatory ones regarding anti-oppression and sexual violence.”

Now, with a new board of enthusiastic members some more training and hard work the student-run community can begin to take shape.

“People are seeing that the board is functioning, and we’re here and we’re supposed to represent you and they’re participating more and that’s what we want: participation,” said Pascua-Matte.

Pascua-Matte thinks The Woodnotes goals as a co-op are worth fighting for, and now with a more stable board they can begin to create a positive change and live up to the original promise of a student managed cooperative.

“Although there’s a lot of turmoil. I think that we can still follow the mandate that was originally given to us,” said Pascua-Matte. “I think the people on this board are willing to work for it.”


Feature graphic by James Fay and Catherine Reynolds


Experience and patience are keys for Stingers’ success this season

After an 18-month hiatus, the Stingers are looking to stay on top of the RSEQ standings.

As the Concordia women’s hockey team takes to the ice for the first time next week at the Theresa Humes Cup since the 18-month hiatus, Stingers head coach Julie Chu said that the anticipation to start the regular season has been overwhelming for the team. 

“Everyone was really excited to get back together again in a full season mode,” Chu said.

Fifth-year players are eligible to play in a sixth season due to the cancellation of last year’s. While some players have moved on to other things, notable players like Audrey Belzile and Brigitte Laganière will not only provide production and firepower to the roster, but also experience for the younger players coming into the rotation.

“We have a great group of veterans, [and] they’re going to be adding a level of maturity and veteran presence, especially when understanding our systems,” Chu said. The experienced veterans being paired with the youthful excitement of newly-acquired players will not only provide depth to the roster, but also an eagerness to grow and become better throughout the whole lineup.

With some experience on the lineup, important acquisitions have been made. Former NCAA defencemen Alexandra Calderone and Ariane Julien have returned home, not only providing a high level of talent, but also beefing up the Stingers’ defence “When you have players that have played at a really high level and have veteran experience, though not a veteran on our team, it helps a lot to have a great defensive core,” Chu said.

Though newly acquired players have proven themselves from a talent perspective, for Chu and her coaching staff, character is the defining asset that will dictate a player’s position on the team. 

“If they’re not a fit to our culture then it doesn’t add value to what we want to accomplish as a team,” Chu said.

Head coach Julie Chu (in purple) and the Stingers coaching staff. (Kyran Thicke / Concordia Stingers)

After taking the helm from former legendary head coach Les Lawton, Chu has had ups and downs with the team. Winning their first RSEQ playoff game in 11 years in 2016-17 and falling short against McGill provided positive experience on how to handle themselves in the second round against a dominant team. It played a big role not only for the team’s growth, but also the anticipation of knowing what to expect from their opponents deep into the playoffs. Beating McGill in the second round of the playoffs, that same year, the team won the RSEQ Championship and won bronze in the U SPORTS National Championship. Both those end of season accomplishments ultimately morphed the program overnight into a legitimate contender.

“We went on to nationals and unfortunately lost in our semi-final game in shootout to the team that went on to win,” Chu said. “What I was proud of is that our players rebounded and did an awesome job winning the bronze medal.”

In the 2019-20 season, though ranking first in the nation for 14 consecutive weeks, the loss in the playoffs as well as losing the chance to play nationals was a hard pill to swallow. Not ending the season on a high note would be demoralizing for most teams, however Chu said the Stingers are using their most recent season as motivation for what’s to come. 

“COVID took away their opportunity to continue playing so now they want to make the most of it,” Chu said.  

The fact that the Stingers haven’t played an organized game in nearly two years will be the ultimate challenge. 

“We have to be patient to get back into our rhythm, we have to be patient to allow us to develop and to grow.” 

For Chu and her coaching staff, the ultimate goal is to win, but what is more important is to lay down a good foundation so that by the end of the season, they’ll be back to the level they were at, before the pandemic.

Chu emphasized that this year is unlike any other. The inability to play for a full season will prompt growing pains, especially at the beginning of the year. 

“Whether we’re a sixth-year, or a first-year player, we’re all going to come back and not be in the same place necessarily that we would if we just finished a regular season,” Chu said.

Chu is also preaching resilience to her team. Not knowing what’s in store regarding how the pandemic will play out down the road is also another complication to consider this season.

“There will be some things in our control and some things that are not so we focus on things that are in our control to make sure that we can do everything that we can,” Chu said. 

With all teams coming off an inactive year, and with Bishop’s University Gaiters now introduced into the division, Chu added that it will be harder to estimate where the team will end up.

“Usually right now I’d give you the season outlook, but I think we’re a bit in the unknown because we haven’t played,” Chu said. “For me, that is what’s most challenging.” 

The Stingers will host the Theresa Humes cup next week from Oct. 1-3 at the Ed Meagher Arena. Their first game will be against McGill at 12 p.m. 


Photograph by Gabriel Guindi


Colour Commentary: The puck drops on another NHL season

The National Hockey League’s regular season will start on Oct. 12

The 2021-22 NHL season is upon us, marking the start of another promising run at the Stanley Cup for some franchises and their fanbases, and continued suffering and anguish for others.

Here are the teams you should keep an eye out for in the exciting weeks of hockey to come, for better or worse.


Of course, I have to start things off with the local band. I just wish I had an inkling of a clue of what to expect from them.

The Montreal Canadiens are coming off their most successful postseason in over two decades, ultimately losing in the finals back in early July to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Stanley Cup champions of the last two seasons. Their regular season, however, was the epitome of inconsistency and turmoil. 

That’s easy to forget, given how well the team performed come playoff beard-oil time, but the Habs were scrapping for a playoff spot — an absurd notion considering the Canadiens started the season off incredibly hot. 

Cinderella runs like last season are few and far between, but there’s still reason to believe their chemistry last postseason wasn’t a fluke. That being said, the Habs will be relying heavily on their young guns Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki to take the reins and produce on a consistent basis. 


I don’t need to remind Maple Leafs fans about last season, right? 

Since the emergence of Mitch Marner, the acquisition of John Tavares in free agency in 2018, and the drafting of Auston Matthews in 2016, the pressure has been on for Toronto. They have an undeniably skilled core that most NHL franchises would kill for, and the results have been fairly positive in the regular season. 

But the postseason has been riddled with annual disappointments, and now is the time to translate their regular season success into postseason accolades. For the sake of my father — a long-time Leafs fan who has never seen them win it all — I’m admittedly rooting for them to return to glory. Yikes. 


On paper, the newest expansion team’s roster looks to be average at best. After all, the Seattle Kraken should be near the bottom of the league in their inaugural season. 

But remember when the Las Vegas Golden Knights made a historic run to the finals in their inaugural season under similar circumstances? Nobody had them pegged as contenders. 

Seattle has some sneaky good depth at defense and should have an invigorated fanbase that could swing the momentum of games in their favour. Las Vegas’ feat in the 2017-18 season may never happen quite the same way again, but there’s a world where Seattle finds success right away while preserving their cap space for the future. 


Christian French brings his first headlining tour to Le Ministère

22-year-old Indiana singer-songwriter Christian French brings his alt-pop sound to Montreal 

Often times, an artist’s biggest dream is to travel around to different cities as the main act on a tour. For Indiana-born singer-songwriter Christian French, that dream is about to become a reality.

For the first time ever, the 22-year-old is going to be headlining his very own tour. After performing in various opening-slot shows on Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler’s latest tours, French’s “Bright Side of the Moon” tour is nearing its debut  on Sept. 4, in Michigan.

Set to hit Montreal’s Le Ministère on Sept.11, French couldn’t help but reminisce on some of the earlier parts of the journey that many often overlook when discussing artists and their success. For him, his latest tour is the product of all of the work that came before this, whether it be sleepless nights or awkward shows in front of not-so-stellar crowds.

Speaking with The Concordian, French credits his family with being the origin of much of his musical interest. His family always had music playing – a common thread amongst talented musicians and performers. His sister was a member of a successful band throughout his high school years, another thing he said boosted his understanding of the music industry and how things work in the competitive and sometimes inconsistent profession of a musician. Artists like John Mayer and Eric Clapton also had a heavy influence on him, as he admired their songwriting abilities and deep connection to their music.

He began dabbling in singing even before entering high school, posting acoustic covers of some of his favourite songs to SoundCloud, and teaching himself how to play the piano, his passion truly blossomed at Indiana University, where he studied pre-med, played on the school’s hockey team, and was a member of a fraternity.

“It was really difficult to manage at first, but like with anything, you get into a sort of routine that kind of normalizes everything,” said French. “I tried to keep a healthy balance and not burn out on any of the three, and I think that really helped me. Of course, there were a lot of nights where I didn’t sleep much, but I just knew what was important and what I had to get done every day to continue to elevate.”

Having that many responsibilities in university is demanding, to say the least. French continued to hone his musical skills, with the crucial support of a close group of friends. With their unwavering support from the start, he was able to push through the barrier of uncertainty and shyness that holds many talented musicians back from reaching that next level– one that gets them their very own cross-country tour.

“I’ve had a close group of friends that have been supporting me since I started making covers,” he said. “They didn’t know what to make of it at first, but after they saw me continue to pursue it, they knew how much I cared about it and were behind me. I was in a fraternity, and everyone in the fraternity supported my music, showing their friends across the country, and it allowed for a country-wide awareness a lot faster than it would have been if I wasn’t in college with supportive friends.”

French continued to balance a heavily-filled platter of responsibilities throughout university. Meanwhile, he was continuously uploading music to SoundCloud and was performing at small local venues. Then, he finally got his first big break. 22-year-old American singer and multi-instrumentalist Chelsea Cutler invited him on tour; this was proof that his hard work and perseverance had paid off.

As university students, many of us know what it feels like to have a lot of things to worry about on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s related to school, loved ones, hobbies, or passions. When asked if he had any advice to students going through similarly-demanding situations, French said one thing:

“Do not be scared to take a leap and follow a passion. It’s important to have a plan and to know what you’re going to do, but nothing is going to happen unless you take action. There is no better time to start than now.”

You can catch Christian French’s performance at Le Ministère on his BSOTM tour, on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 10 p.m.

Tickets available online here:


2019-20 Concordia Stingers football preview

Last season didn’t turn out the way the Concordia Stingers football team hoped it would.

Head coach Brad Collinson was hired last June to replace Mickey Donovan who left the school to join the Montreal Alouettes. With the season starting only two months later, Collinson barely had time to recruit players or effectively implement his system. The 2018-19 season saw the team finish 2-6, losing their last five games and at one point only managing five points over a three game stretch.

Despite this, last season showed some bright spots. Quarterback Adam Vance made some nice progressions under centre despite an overall difficult season. Maurice Simba delivered on his potential and developed into a top prospect, garnered interest on both sides of the border and was eventually picked 29th overall in the CFL draft by the Toronto Argonauts. Michael Sanelli was one of the division’s premier pass rushers, and was selected 39th overall by the Montreal Alouettes.

Going into his second season as head coach, Collinson is finally ready to make his mark on the program. He’s recruited 40 players for this season, with a focus on re-establishing Concordia as an option for top CEGEP players. Collinson also brought in a whole new cast of coaches, including hiring Alex Suprenant as offensive coordinator and former CFL teammate Ed Philion as defensive coordinator, both of whom are coaches with NFL and CFL experience.

Some of the other changes Collinson has made going into this season include introducing strength and conditioning for players during the off-season.

“It’s going to be different. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel, but we are going to do things a little different,” said Collinson. “We met with some high performance people at Concordia to see what we can do differently in the way we practice, and we think we’ve come to a formula that could be beneficial and make us healthier come game day, and also be ready to perform at a high level.”

There are holes to fill, especially on both sides of the line, but Collinson will have a number of core players returning this year.

“It was fun to be able to pick my people and bring them in, and we’re fortunate to have this opportunity to start over,” Collinson told The Concordian. “It wasn’t easy, but it’s what needed to be done.”

This year, with new coaches, a full year to prepare and a number of talented veterans and young talent, Collinson is hoping to field a team that can challenge the usual order of power in the RSEQ division.

Players to watch

Vince Alessandrini

The Stingers’ receiving corp is going to look a little different this season. Jarryd Taylor, the team’s most targeted receiver last season, has left the Stingers to join the Langley Rams of the Canadian Junior Football League. This means that Vance will have to look elsewhere as his top receiver from last season leaves the program. Lucky for Vance, he’ll have plenty of high end options as receiver, including fourth year Vince Alessandrini. Last season, Alessandrini missed seven games with an injury. The absence of the 6’2 receiver allowed defenses to focus on covering the rest of the receiving corps that includes guys like James Tyrell, Taylor and Yanic Lessard. Now, fully healthy and ready to play, Alessandrini is ready to step back up and show why he was considered one of the division’s top receivers before his injury.

Alessandrini collected 36 catches for 474 yards and a touchdown in his last full season with the Stingers back in 2017. The way he’s able to change directions after a catch is a tool in his arsenal that can often turn shortcut back routes into long gains (in most of the clips you watch, Alessandrini actually does this on almost all of the short catches he makes).

Watch this catch here from a 2017 game. Alessandrini quickly cuts towards the middle back and causes two defenders to miss him completely. Without even having a chance to look upfield, Alessandrini gains control of the ball and shakes the linebacker covering him, as well as forces a missed tackle from the second defender by planting himself and taking off in the opposite direction. He then turns what could have just been a short six-yard gain into a first down right outside the red zone.


Adding to the impact he can have, Alessandrini also put in time as a blocker, often coming in from the slot to help the line with the pass protection. Alongside Nadon, Tyrrell, Salvail and the rest of the receiving corps, Alessandrini is likely to be given the chance to step up as the top target on this team.

“He’s a top receiver in this division,” said Collinson. “We have to make sure that we use him to his full potential.”


Adam Vance, QB 

Vance didn’t have the best season among RSEQ QB’s, but he showed that he’s got the talent to make game-changing plays in clutch situations (see his game-winning corner touchdown pass to James Tyrell against Sherbrooke.)

For the positives, Vance was pretty accurate on a team that had difficulties scoring all of last year. Over eight games, he averaged 204 yards a game, completed 56 per cent of his passes (114/202) and rushed for 116 yards. Those all rank above-average in terms of RSEQ quarterbacks.

While Vance is probably better known for his arm and his ability to push the ball downfield, he was also given the chance to show off his vision last season.

In this play, Vance makes a solid adjustment after his first read is covered. He is looking to hit his running back in the flat but that pass got covered by the defending corner who is playing shallow. So instead, Vance shifts his read towards receiver Sam Nadon who is running a pick corner. Nadon breaks away from his defender and finds space going towards the corner of the endzone. Vance strings a perfectly placed pass to the corner past the double coverage, into the hands of Nadon for a touchdown that won the Stingers last year’s Shaughnessy Cup.

Vance finished second in the RSEQ in passing yards with 1635, trailing only Laval’s Hugo Richard. On the flip side, Vance only connected with his receivers for five touchdowns, second to last among RSEQ starters, while throwing a RSEQ-worst 10 interceptions. Are those stats indications of Vance’s vision, or were they systematic of an offense that couldn’t seem to finish off drives last year? Either way, he’ll be looking to improve his decision making and accuracy as he becomes one of the more experienced players on the team.

It’s a safe bet that the team’s new offensive coordinator will continue to focus on the pass, which means that Vance will have more opportunities than ever to showcase his arm – especially with a deep threat like Taylor as a target.

“He’s a fifth year guy, this could be it. It could be his last year playing football. He wants to prove to everyone that last year was just a hiccup in his career.” said Collinson. “He can throw the football, with a new offense. Starting fresh is only going to be helpful for him.”


Samuel Brodrique, LB

Brodrique has started every game since debuting with the Stingers in 2016, and he’s averaged 28 tackles a year over that span. In his fourth year, the Stingers will look to Brodrique to continue his consistent play down the middle, now as a veteran player looking to prove himself in his draft year. Recently selected to the U Sports East-West Bowl, the annual week-long event that’s a who’s-who of CFL draft eligible players, Brodrique has the chance to impress CFL scouts with another strong year.

“He’s an extremely bright football player,” said Collinson. “He’s maybe not the most athletic guy, but he makes up for it with his football IQ.”

Brodrique is a solid linebacker, with a nose for getting the right spots. Take this play from last season against McGill. The beginning of the play is a mess of players diving into the line on a full blitz. Brodrique jumps up and over the line to try to make the initial tackle on the quarterback (gets pretty close too). He then quickly gets up, snatches the fumble, and explodes down the field for a 70-yard touchdown.


Brodrique has the ability to maintain that steady presence down the middle, but is always on the edge waiting for the offence to make a mistake so that he can take advantage.


Jersey Henry, LB

Henry is coming off a solid individual season where he collected 41.5 tackles, finishing third in the RSEQ in that category. He joined fellow linebacker Brodrique at U Sports’ East-West Bowl earlier this summer as one of the country’s top prospects.

“He’s a quiet leader on the team,” said Collinson. “He lets his play do the talking, it’s almost kind of old-school. He’s a guy you build a program around, and he bought into what we’re doing here. He turned a lot of heads at the East-West Bowl.”

In his draft year, Henry seems poised to continue to pile on tackles and cause trouble for offenses. His best moments last year came when he used his decision-making and speed to split the line and rush the backfield, resulting in all kinds of chaos for opposing offenses. Look at this play where he breaks through the line without even being touched and reaches the running back immediately after the handoff.


Henry’s got a great eye, is an explosive tackler and rarely loses his man while looking through the line, often ending plays before they start. Add that to his ability to effectively shutdown receivers in man coverage when needed, and Henry is one of the most important players on the Stingers’ defense.

“When you’re in your fifth year, you’ve seen it all. The game slows down out there, and I’m hoping [Henry and Brodrique] can be the generals out there for us,” said Collinson.

5 Questions:

What’s next for Adam Vance?

Despite the results, Vance put up numbers that show the American QB could be about to take a big step forward in terms of production this year. Vance loves the deep pass, and he’s got the arm to sail the ball past defensive backs and safeties.

His completion rate was good at 56 per cent, and he racked up enough passing yards to finish second in the division in the category. That being said, Vance has a tendency to wait too long for his receivers to get open, and will too often try to force passes into tight coverage.

The receiving corps struggled to stay healthy last season, with key players like Vince Alessandrini (1 GP) and Yannick Lessard (5 GP) missing significant time. If Vance has healthy receivers and some more time in the pocket, it’s not far fetched to see him filling the QB void in the RSEQ left by Hugo Richard who’s now with the Alouettes.

Who will step up in the trenches?

After developing talented linemen over the past couple of seasons, the Stingers now find themselves missing key players on both sides of the line.

Offensive lineman Maurice Simba is gone, drafted by the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Defensive linemen Michael Sanelli joins him in the CFL after being chosen by the Alouettes. Fellow defensive linemen Lukas Redguard was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the BC Lions before being released by the team in early June.

Those three were some of the most influential players on both sides of the line for the Stingers last season. With them moving on to the next level, Concordia will have to find new leaders in the trenches. New defensive coordinator Ed Philion played in the CFL and NFL as a defensive tackle, is a Grey Cup winner and was the defensive line coach with the Argonauts, Eskimos and Roughriders for the past six years. Count on lots of players getting reps on both sides of the ball as the team tries to find the right chemistry with a mix of veterans and young players. From a coaching standpoint, Philion has got the experience to help plug those holes.

For Collinson, the only way to see who will replace Simba, Sanelli and Redguard will be to see who steps up during training camp and in the early parts of the season. “It’s hard to fill those holes. We’re going to have to compete, make more substitutions, we’re gonna have to be fresh. I’m excited to see what these young guys can do.”

Who are the rookies to look for?

Around 40 recruits have been brought in by Collinson for this season. The class of highly touted CEGEP recruits is led by allstar running back Kevin Foster Verdier from Vanier College, who led Division 1 with 971 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 159 carries. Collinson described him as “electric, extremely fast, a good competitor.”

When Verdier’s commitment to Concordia was announced in November 2018, he said that he wanted to “shock the world” with the Stingers. For a coach who’s worked to establish his culture with the team through style of play, coaching changes, and heavy recruiting, those words from Verdier probably sound like music to Collinson’s ears.

Some of the other recruits for this year include quarterback Olivier Roy from Division 3 Cégep La Pocatière who threw for 1763 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 57 per cent passing. Collinson also recruited defensive backs Edwin Tawiah from Collège Valleyfield (“Smaller guy, but has a hard-nose for the football,” said Collinson.) and Louis-Philippe Leclerc from Cégep du Vieux Montréal. He also recruited the receiver duo of Jeremy Murphy and Tristan Mancini from Division 3 Champlain College Saint-Lambert, where they both racked up 527 and 524 receiving yards respectively. Murphy won the 2018 RSEQ Division 3 Offensive Player of the Year.

“We’re going to be young at certain positions,” said Collinson. “It’s exciting.”

How does the team reduce turnovers?

Concordia just couldn’t seem to hold on to the ball last season. They led the league in terms of turnover margin, with a -15. Vance fumbled four times, but he was also sacked 24 times, more times than any other QB in the division, so you can probably chalk those fumbles up to a lack of time in the pocket. That being said, no other team in the division held a negative turnover margin. If the Stingers want to reduce their turnovers, they’re going to have to give Vance as much time as possible. Unlucky bounces, dropped passes, and tipped balls were a part of the problem, but limited the number of times Vance has to rush a throw is sure to make an impact. Unless things really go wrong, don’t expect Concordia to turn the ball over nearly as often as they did last season.

Can they beat Laval?

The question on every RSEQ team’s mind, although predicting the answer isn’t easy. Laval goes into this season without previous star players quarterback Hugo Richard (Alouettes) and lineman Mathieu Betts (Chicago Bears, NFL). Regardless of who’s under centre or rushing the quarterback, there’s a reason head coach Glen Constantine’s squad just won another Vanier Cup, and that’s their unrelenting play and power to collect an obscene amount of high-end talent.

“There’s some big pieces that have left. That being said, there’s other pieces still around, some other pieces still coming up,” said Collinson. “Yeah, on paper we look at it as an opportunity to compete each and every week and I hope that we do, but we’re going to take it day-by-day. Whoever we’re playing that week, we’re going to compete at the highest level and see what happens. At the end of the year, our goal is to be in the playoffs.”

For Concordia to stand a chance, a lot of things need to go right. Vance needs to continue his development as a quarterback, the receiving corps headlined by Taylor, Tyrrell and Lessard will need to be stellar and the defense will have to make important stops after the departure of a couple key players. Wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of luck and a couple of favourable bounces either.

Final Thoughts

The 2019 season will be one of the most important in recent Stingers memory. Do they manage to bounce back and challenge for a spot at the top of the standings? To do so, there’s no doubt the team will have to improve, especially in the red zone, where they only converted on 52.9 per cent of their chances and allowed opponents to score on 86 per cent of their red zone opportunities.

If Collinson’s team can continue to develop, there are pieces in place that could at least start to shift the balance of power in the RSEQ. He’s done just about everything needed to complete a rebuild; Good recruiting and a new set of coaches with impressive pedigrees to accompany a strong class of veterans. If it comes together, the Stingers could emerge as a force in the RSEQ. If it doesn’t, another season caught behind the usual division powerhouses could be in store.

Stingers football schedule:

August 23 vs Université de Montreal – Home

August 30 @ McGill

September 7 vs Laval – Home

September 21 vs Sherbrooke – Home

September 27 @ Université de Montreal

October 6 @ Laval

October 19 @ Sherbrooke

October 26 vs McGill – Home

Feature photo by Mackenzie Lad



Another year, another round of predictions

He got them all right last year—how will Elijah fare in 2015?

Graphic Jenny Kwan

Well, folks, another year has gone by, and despite the Doomsday Clock being at its closest to midnight since 1984, we are still here. A lot has changed since February 2014, but some things remain the same. Isn’t that a reassurance, to know exactly what you’ll be doing at a given time, every year? I know what I’ll be doing on February 22nd 2015 – like millions of others around the globe, I will be tuning in to the 87th Academy Awards ceremony.


Last year, I wrote: “The truth is that the Academy is undergoing a period of serious transition. In only a few years, we’ve seen a woman win a Best Director award, more ethnical groups represented than ever before, and people seemingly destined for a life of anonimity pulled out of their ordinary lives by well-deserved nominations.”


I stand by that, but I may have spoken too fast. This year has been, some say, too male-centric. Too white. #OscarSoWhite became a popular trend on Twitter, in apparent payback for the omission of “Selma” in the Best Director and Best Actor categories. Yes, no woman was nominated for Best Director. Yes, all Acting nominees were white. Does that mean that racism or sexism is in play?


I wouldn’t be so sure. What if a snub is just that – what if Academy members genuinely prefer one movie, or one performance, to another? Should they nominate a person solely to appease a certain community? Vote for someone solely on the basis of their ethnicity or gender? Wouldn’t that be just as bad as not nominating them in the first place? In both cases, that person would be given an unequal treatment.


The problem with art is that it is inherently subjective. Academy members found “Selma” worthy of a Best Picture and a Best Original Song nomination. They chose to reward other films in other categories. They are entitled to an opinion, and we shouldn’t try to force their hand. If anything is to be learned from this controversy, it is that perhaps not enough African-American and female filmmakers are given an opportunity to make the films they really want to make. People rallied behind “Selma” precisely because it was perhaps the only film to have been given that opportunity in the last year.


But enough polemics. Let’s get down to Oscar predictions! Read no further if you wish to avoid spoilers! Last year, they all came true.


Best Picture


There are eight films competing for the award this year, all of them worthy of consideration. When you think of the kind of films that win Oscars, you typically think of heavy historical dramas – commonly known as Oscar bait. But sometimes, you’re in for a surprise. The two front-runners are unlikely candidates, notable for their bold artistic choices: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Alejandro G. Iñarittu’s Birdman.


Boyhood is a tender look at the life of a young boy and his family. Admirably, it was filmed over 12 years – a first for a fiction film, and possibly a last. When it was first rumoured to be a major Oscar contestant, the idea seemed absurd – Oscar voters love big, important stories, but Boyhood is a collection of mostly passive and seemingly unimportant moments in a child’s life, as he grows up and his worldview is shaped. Yet, Boyhood was the best-reviewed film of 2014 and is the likeliest to become the next Best Picture winner.


Birdman is a very different beast. A carefully scripted and choreographed explosion of emotions, both repressed and expressed on screen. A jazzy, dreamy caricature of show business. A strange and deeply confounding film, it is made to look like a single, continuous shot, as we follow an aging movie star’s descent into hell and back. It is, in my humble opinion, the most deserving of the two, but it may prove too much for the Academy voters. I feel they might prefer the calm, contemplative Boyhood to such a relentless, furious roller-coaster.


Best Director


The showdown between Boyhood and Birdman continues in this category. It could be the third consecutive year when the Best Director award doesn’t go to the Best Picture winner. It has become a trend to reward the most visually ambitious nominee for its visionary directing and this year, it is Iñarritu’s Birdman that fits the description. Filmed in very long, audaciously constructed shots that require uninterrupted acting and movement, it envelops you, and watching it, you feel like you’ve landed on the stage of a play. An exceptionally well-directed play, I might add.


Best Actor in a Leading Role


Much like his character in Birdman, ex-superhero Michael Keaton has made a glorious comeback after a decade of near-oblivion. His character is seen battling family and career issues, as well as a perfidious alter ego who attempts to lead him astray, back on the path of commercial moviedom. There are several references to Keaton’s own life throughout the film, but he claims this is the character he could least identify with, out of any he has played. It is a challenging role, and Keaton gave it his all. He deserves to win.


Best Actress in a Leading Role


There is little doubt as to what name will come out of that particular envelope : Julianne Moore, sometimes called “the Meryl Streep of not winning Oscars”. Nominated 4 times before, hers is a classic case of overdue. Her performance in Still Alice as an Alzheimer’s-afflicted linguist is as stellar as you’d expect. She hits all the right notes, showing the changes her character goes through with subtlety and flair.


In a perfect world, however, it is Rosamund Pike who would get the gold for her sensational breakthrough performance in Gone Girl. Rivaling every great psycho in the history of film, her character is terrifying because she is deeply unknowable. What is she really thinking? How far can she go? The movie opens and closes with the same shot of her, and by the end we understand more about her, but overall she remains a mystery. It is hard to say more without spoiling anything; if you haven’t seen Gone Girl yet, you absolutely should.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role


There can be no doubt – J.K. Simmons will win. He has always been good, for example as Spider-Man’s scene-stealing editor in Sam Raimi’s franchise, but in Whiplash, he is simply too good to ignore. This is an award often given for villainous performances, and Simmons’ character is a masterclass in cruelty and emotional abuse. As a teacher in a prestigious music conservatory, he is a shapeshifter, sometimes deceivingly flattering, at other times a violent despot – all in the name of art. Simmons is chilling and unforgettable as he commands the screen with an iron hand. If this isn’t an Oscar-worthy performance, I don’t know what is.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The first name that comes to mind is Patricia Arquette. Unlikely that she would be considered an Oscar frontrunner in 2015, but she can thank Boyhood for that. She was still a popular star in 2002 when filming started, but soon after that she began to take years off in between films and eventually focused on television. Now, fast-forward to 2015, and she is once again on everyone’s lips. In many ways, watching Boyhood is like opening a time capsule – her performance is one of the many good things we found inside.

Best Original Screenplay

The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the year’s best-written films. Hard to say whether it is original—what is these days?—and it was admittedly inspired by Stefan Zweig’s works, but it is insanely clever and deeply rewarding. It has the usual traits of a Wes Anderson screenplay: bright characters, witty dialogue, and an engrossing and hilariously complicated story. But it also covers new and surprisingly dark territory: shoot-outs, gruesome murders and mutilations, and dead cats. All of that portrayed with Anderson’s trademark childlike innocence. It is also immensely tender in recounting a love story and a friendship, as well as Anderson’s love for an era, a writing style, and a time lost. The key to the film is in this line, “To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it—but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvellous grace!”

Another possible winner is Birdman, which is also well-written. So much happens every second that it is an action movie in terms of intensity. It makes you fall in love with movies again. It makes you marvel, laugh, spit out your popcorn in surprise, or hold very still when someone’s life is in the balance. All of this may sound like a given but how often does that happen to you anymore? How often do you feel that there are no boundaries to what could happen on the screen? When was the last time you truly felt a film’s heartbeat? The Grand Budapest Hotel deserves to win, but if Birdman does, I’m sure there will be no hard feelings.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Now let’s come back to the most Oscar-ish movie on the list—The Imitation Game. I call it that for two reasons. First, it follows a formula made popular by past Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind: real-life eccentric mathematician deals with personal problems and espionage, real or imagined. Second, it is an “important issue” movie, showing a true story of persecution. It is fairly well-written, but perhaps too traditional in its storytelling. It brings up interesting questions, but doesn’t know how to deal with them because the screenwriter is limited by Hollywood conventions. Yet the movie will probably win, because it is undeniably a story that needed to be told.

The one that should win, but perhaps won’t, is Whiplash. It is competing in the Adapted Screenplay category because it is based on a short film made by the director in order to get financing, but apart from that, it is wholly original. An intricate psychological drama, or a musical thriller, it explores the pursuit of greatness. As a student, what sacrifices are you willing to make? As a teacher, should you be allowed to do just about anything it takes to unlock a student’s potential? We never get to know the characters very well and there’s no need to, because the moral dilemmas posed by the movie are universal, as is the battle of wills at its core. Whiplash is written with gusto, and its final sequence is all-time great material.

Let’s not forget to congratulate our fellow Canadians and Montrealers nominated for Oscars this year! In animation, Dean DeBlois from Aylmer, Quebec, nominated for directing How to Train Your Dragon 2; Graham Annable from Ontario, nominated for co-directing The Boxtrolls; Torill Kove, who was born in Norway but has lived in Montreal since 1982, a Concordia graduate, nominated for her short animated film Me and My Moulton; in visual effects, Cameron Waldbauer and Nicolas Aithadi from the Vancouver area, nominated for X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively; in production design, Dennis Gassner from Vancouver, nominated for Into the Woods and presently hard at work on the new James Bond film; in sound mixing, Craig Mann from Ontario, nominated for his electrifying work on Whiplash.

Another year in movies is now officially past us. As always, there were casualties—Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and many others. It seems impossible to imagine the movies without them but, somehow, things will go on. Let them never be over.

Take a look back at the best of 2014 in film by tuning in to the 87th Oscars ceremony, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris!


My Goodness carries on the Emerald City’s great rock tradition

My Goodness can sure make a lot of noise for a two-man band. This Seattle-based blues/garage rock duo consists of Joel Schneider on guitar and vocals and Andy Lum on drums.

Both Schneider and Lum grew up in the same neighbourhood. They played in rival bands until they reconnected in 2011 at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, where Lum joined the band after their previous drummer left. Playing predominantly in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the band has just embarked on their first major North American tour, even recently performing at the legendary Bowery Ballroom in New York City.

Schneider simply soaks it all in and relishes the experience of being on tour. He emphasizes that “when it comes down to it, it’s about having fun with the people you’re with. We bring it every night.”

As openers for fellow Seattle-based band,  Augustines, Schneider admits that “the majority of people who’ve seen us [on this tour] don’t know who we are, they’ve never heard our music until we hit that first note.”

“When we play at home, they know us. There’s a difference there,” he adds.

When asked about why he loves being onstage, Schneider replied “because it’s exhilarating. When the crowd is responding with energy, feeling it and getting involved, it’s the most rewarding thing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

Schneider knows a thing or two about the long arduous road to success and acknowledges how far My Goodness and other Seattle natives have come. He looks back fondly and recalls watching Macklemore perform in relative obscurity for years before becoming the chart-topping success that he is today.

With a proud rock tradition including legendary groups such as the fathers of grunge, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, it comes as no surprise that Seattle’s vibrant musical scene continues to breed successful bands. Schneider also credits the city’s influential public radio station KEXP with some of the band’s initial success.

“They played our record for weeks, just to have that outlet is pretty rare.”

Both Schneider and Lum also consider themselves blessed to have the opportunity to work with esteemed Seattle-based producer, Rick Parashar, who produced Pearl Jam’s groundbreaking debut album, Ten.

Schneider hasn’t forgotten when My Goodness were playing in front of crowds of under 50 people.

“I think it’s really important for bands to know how to play in front of small crowds.”

My Goodness will perform alongside Augustines at Le Belmont on March 9. Admission is $15. Their new album, Shiver and Shake, comes out June 24.


Audiophiles and coffee lovers rejoice: Hip Hop Cafe officially opens its doors

It started out as the ambition of an eager 18-year-old with a business plan. Armed with an entrepreneurial spirit, Olivier Brault, now 27, along with long-time friend and administrative manager Damien Le Bris, is finally seeing his dream come to fruition with the opening of the Hip Hop Cafe on March 1. The cafe will combine the cozy atmosphere of a coffee shop, with the thrill of digging for vintage records and albums.

Press photo

“In the beginning, it was more about record stores,” said Brault, president and founder of the cafe. “I was tired of going to HMV and not finding what I wanted because it was considered too ‘underground,’ then going to an underground spot and not finding something that was more mainstream.”

Wanting to bridge the divide between Anglo and Franco music scenes, Brault considered several other Montreal locations before finally settling on Parc Ave. and Villeneuve St. in the Mile End area of the city.

“I was hoping to be in the middle,” he explained.

After working for different sides of Montreal’s cultural scene for almost a decade (he previously managed local graffiti artist MONK.E and also used to write for Camuz), he acquired a multitude of contacts to actually fill the “merch” section of the cafe, allowing him to bring in vinyls, CDs, books and T-shirts from other parts of Canada, the United States and France.

The selection of roughly 200 CDs and more than 100 vinyls, both vintage and new, will range from old school rap, to jazz and funk, genres that Brault says are precursors to hip hop itself.

“If you specialize in a genre, you need to have as much variety as possible,” said Brault.

Despite having a greater knowledge in hip hop culture than in other genres like jazz, Brault does not want to limit himself to playing solely one type of music, explaining the importance of catering to a wide variety of musical tastes.

Instead of traditionally dividing the vinyl and CD section by sub-genre or place of origin, Brault decided to place them all together then categorize them alphabetically so that customers will have to dig through the merchandise and get a complete feel of what they have to offer.

“To me, it’s important to mix everything,” he explained.

Along with serving up coffee and a rare selection of records, Hip Hop Cafe will also be a place where local and outside artists, DJs and musicians can come and display or perform their material. But since the cafe will be situated in a somewhat residential area, the cafe is not allowed to host any actual ‘shows’ that require extra amplification due to the high noise levels that would go along with them.

Brault has enlisted the help of Montreal franco rap group Dead Obies along with other artists to kick off the opening day with a bang.

“I think it’ll work well in Montreal because we have so many different hip hop heads from different background,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

Hip Hop Cafe officially opens its doors at 10 a.m March 1 and is located at 4801 Parc Ave.


Wake Owl wakes up in paradise

The Private World of Paradise is the next step for Colyn Cameron, the primary member and singer/songwriter of Wake Owl. This is Wake Owl’s first album, although they released an EP, Wild Country, in January 2013. The EP mostly contained slow, folksy songs, where Cameron played his acoustic guitar.

Press photo

The Private World of Paradise is completely different. Cameron, working with producer Richard Swift, (member of The Shins and producer of Tennis, Foxygen) and multi-instrumentalist Aiden Briscall, explored a very different, more dynamic sound, creating an upbeat, retro, nostalgic feel to the album.

The 11 songs on the album each bring different, unique vibes, while still fitting together perfectly. “Candy” brings an upbeat, retro pop sound, with a hint of hip hop influences, while “Vacation” has a western, soothing feel. “Oh Baby” has a sultry vibe, while “Madness of Others” is chilling and melancholic. Singles “Candy” and “Letters” have already been released but the full album drops on March 4.

“[Working with Swift] was fantastic, he’s really fun to work with. He heard where the songs needed to go,” Cameron said. “We kind of knew we wanted to take the same record.”

The Private World of Paradise still maintains the themes of love, loss, relationships, and the mystery of life that were found in Wild Country, but takes them a step further.

“[The Private World of Paradise] is more honest and more direct, [the themes are a] little less buried…its more imaginative and more personal,” explained Cameron.

Cameron found that writing The Private World of Paradise held different challenges than writing Wild Country had.

“The EP was written almost in one summer, one or two months all of the songs. I was not writing them to put out a record, I was just writing,” he said. “There were different hurdles to get over to make that next step in terms of expectations.”

Cameron knew that he would be performing The Private World of Paradise on tour, and therefore he had to work to write songs that would stay as fresh as possible being played night after night, adding even more pressure.

“We’ve been performing bits and pieces of the album for almost seven months, trying it out live,” he added.

The name of the album came to Cameron as he was illustrating the album.

“I think it was something that came to me after lots of art I was drawing around it, it had this weird mysteriousness that had the same ring to it that a lot of the music had,” he divulged.

Cameron first began making music 10 years ago as a teenager in southern California, where he was born and raised. At first, Cameron wrote and performed hip hop and rap, before discovering the acoustic guitar. This led to a complete change in his music.

“I was trying all sorts of things, writing songs on the guitar was coming the most naturally, so I dedicated myself to that.”

Cameron said that he would like to possibly collaborate with hip hop artists in the future, and maybe writing for them, but that he does not think he will rap again.

After graduating from high school, he studied organic agriculture at Emerson College in England. He worked on different farms throughout the U.K., Germany, Chile and Canada. After returning home to Vancouver, Cameron played with a few bands and experimented with music. He then decided to record the songs he had written after his travels. This led to the creation of his first EP, Wild Country.

The EP was successful, and has led to Wake Owl being nominated for this year’s Juno Awards in the breakthrough artist of the year category. Cameron said that he was surprised when he heard the news. He explained that he had not been thinking of awards at all when writing Wild Country, and that it was an honour to be nominated.

Wake Owl kicked off their Canadian tour when they performed on Feb. 15 at the Winterruption Festival in Vancouver, and will be heading out to 13 other performances across Canada. Wake Owl will then perform across the U.S. in April and May.

Wake Owl will perform in Montreal at Le Divan Orange on March 1.


Maica Mia dive into new territory with their upcoming album

Since the band’s inception nearly two years ago, Maica Mia has undergone some major group reconfigurations. What was initially a duo consisting of Concordia graduate student Maica Armata and Jonny Paradise, has now developed into a three-piece and at times a four or even five-piece collective of dedicated friends and musicians.

Press photo

“Now it’s definitely a full band,” said Armata, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. “We’ve got a bigger template to work with.”

Having enlisted Godspeed You! Black Emperor bassist Mauro Pezzente, the band will be releasing Des Era, the follow-up to their debut album, Sparcity Blues.

“When you throw in another perspective, it’s also kind of nice,” Armata said.

The album features almost an hour of experimental rock sounds and instrumentation over five tracks.

“We’re exploring new territory,” explained Armata.

According to the songstress, the album is “a lot more heavy, a lot more intense, a lot more rock.”

The record’s first single, “Eugene,” showcases equally each individual member’s playing in a spectral manner: the track builds up slowly with intensity and transforms itself into a cataclysmic sequence of percussion, guitar and bass.

Like “Eugene,” “Wish” is eight minutes of transcendental instrumentals with just the right amount of guitar feedback reverberating from the amplifiers.

“There’s a lot more layers involved,” noted Armata of the album. “It’s definitely a lot more experimental rock.”

Des Era is laced with ethereal instrumental qualities, paired with Armata’s soulfully textured vocals. On the title track, Armata’s self-described “non-conventional” guitar playing is featured prominently alongside Paradise’s steady drumming.

Since The Concordian last spoke with Maica Mia, before the Pop Montreal festival in September, they have gone on to play several other festivals including M for Montreal. Despite each member balancing bandwork with non-musical endeavours, the trio have been anxiously awaiting the release of their new album.

“We’re working on getting our ducks lined up for the album launch,” laughed Armata.

The album, which officially drops on Jan. 28, will be available through electronic download and on vinyl as well.

“I just think that there’s something very romantic about [vinyl],” she said. “If in a thousand years, somebody could find a record, and find an artefact of this time, I think that is so precious.”

Maica Mia will be performing at La Sala Rossa for their album launch on Jan. 24 with guests Ought, Essaie Pas, and DJ Babi Audi.



Age is nothing but a number for The Skins

Walking to the rehearsal studio, Bayli McKeithan is surrounded by drivers angrily honking their horns, and by ambulance sirens shrieking  frantically as they try to make their way through traffic: the backdrop to a typical Brooklyn morning.

Brooklyn natives The Skins opened for Jake Bugg at Metropolis on Jan. 12. Press photo

Composed of New York natives Bayli, Kaya,Reef McKeithan, (vocals, bass and drums respectively,), and guitarists Daisy Spencer and Russell Chell; the Skins have been touring with The Strokes’ guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. and British singer/songwriter Jake Bugg since early January.

The McKeithan siblings met Daisy and Russell several years ago at the School of Rock in New York.

“That’s totally a real thing,” laughed Bayli, referencing the 2003 Jack Black film where students learn to perform and play music. “It was just a perfect coming together.”

The band members, ranging in age from 15 to 21, wanted to create their own pieces and write their own lyrics, and decided to break away from the school to indulge in their own creative pursuits.

“You’re basically just covering songs, learning songs, but you’re not writing your own stuff,” added Bayli.

Based out of Brooklyn, Bayli expresses her appreciation for “the cultural diversity of New York City that makes [the band], and helps [the band] stand out.”

Currently working on new material for a future EP and album, the band does not shy away from mixing different genres other than rock together to create a fresh, eclectic sound.

Citing Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and other legends as main sources of inspiration, Bayli explains how each individual member of The Skins currently has different musical preferences, ranging anywhere and everywhere from Beyonce and Jay Z, to The Strokes and The Arctic Monkeys.

“We try to enmesh a lot of the styles of music that we listen to together,” she said.

Since their first self-released and self-titled EP in 2012, The Skins have been working with Wreckroom Records owner, actor, musician and entrepreneur, Adrian Grenier.

“When he launched [Wreckroom Records], he asked us to come and do a song and a video and it worked out in favour of both parties,” Bayli explained.

“We’re surrounded by creative people, it’s insane.”

Self-described as part of a “super lively” band, the young, energetic frontwoman notes that working with her siblings has made the writing and production processes a lot more enjoyable.

“Since we’re so close, we can just be honest with each other without getting defensive,” she said. “It made it easy for all of us to be just like one big family unit.”

Despite the relatively young age of its members, The Skins “don’t think that age really factors in” when it comes to writing or performing.

“Everything that we’ve put out so far is all our own,” says Bayli of their EP. “Sometimes the younger you are, the more creative, or the more enthusiastic, the more imagination, I don’t know. We’re just really about energy, and expressing yourself and vibrancy and amazingness.”

With a slew of upcoming North American tour dates, including a stop last Sunday in Montreal, Bayli admitted that she’s feeling a little nervous.

“This is the most amount of dates we’ve ever done,” she said. “We’re just super grateful that we’ve been able to accomplish all this stuff.”

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