For the love of music: an interview with Gisèle Quartet

Think of a blend of jazz and rock. Add some political speeches about influential figures like Martin Luther King…and there you have it, folks. Welcome to the Gisèle Quartet.

Montreal four-piece collective Gisele Quartet release their debut album Roger on Dec. 3. Press photo.

With beautiful melodies, political themes and crunchy chords, the band’s first album, Roger, is the perfect kind of music to listen to if you are in the mood for good, no-nonsense jazz.

“We are four musicians, and the fun part of this project is that we are all friends,” said, one of the musicians, Louis Beaudoin. “I play electric guitar, Dave Croteau is on drums, Alex Dodier performs on the saxophone and Miriam Pilette plays guitar.”

The four musicians, three of whom live together, thrive on their friendship and maintain it is crucial to let their music reflect just that.

“When you play an instrument, I believe the instrument is an extension of yourself,” posited Beaudoin. “As such, you need to really connect with others in a band. Luckily for us, we get along very well. We are very honest with one another too. If we think something needs to be improved, we say it candidly.”

Influenced by musicians such as Chris Potter, Kneebody, Medeski Martin & Wood and King Crimson, Beaudoin acknowledged that the quartet’s music is heavily nuanced by other musical giants.

“We like to listen to a wide variety of music. We listen to [Dmitri] Shostakovich just as much as we listen to rap. We don’t like to have explicit references to other musicians, but if you listen closely to our album, you will hear sounds that will remind you of other composers,” said the guitarist.

Another influence, though perhaps not musical, manifests itself in the band name. The name of the quartet has personal connotations for one of its members.

“We decided to name our quartet after my grandmother, Gisèle, who is still living and is very excited that we named ourselves after her. She has a special place in my life,” explained Beaudoin.

Making their first album was a challenge, but a rewarding one for the band who prefers being on stage rather than in the studio. According to Beaudoin, expressing themselves in front of an audience allows for a deeper connection with the music, one not necessarily achieved while in a controlled environment.

“When you perform, you can improvise, you can let go a bit, you can really sink into the music. When you record, you are more tight, more restrained. It’s hard recording yourself for the first time and trying not to make any mistakes,” he added.

The titles of their songs are particularly comedic. Mostly in French, the titles take on a lighter tone.

“Since our work is all instrumental, we decided to have some fun with the titles of the songs,” said Beaudoin, who usually is responsible for the made-from-scratch genesis of a song. “We have funny titles such as Littérature sous-marine (Underwater literature) and J’aurais pu être un dauphin mais j’aurais jamais lu Camus (I Could Have Been a Dolphin but I Would Never Have Read Camus).”

Despite the group’s achievements thus far, the idea of making money off of music is not their priority since they all have other jobs and alternate sources of income.

“Although we are all trained professionally at universities, we have other projects on the go. Being a musician is hardly easy, let me say that. But we are not really interested in making money. What we are interested in is transferring our energy to the audience. That is what counts. The 10-second high you get on stage when everything clicks…that is what counts. It’s almost like a drug. We need that 10-second feeling.”

Though he is sure of what his music represents, when asked about the future, Beaudoin shrugged, almost unconcerned.

“We are more of a creative artistic group, meaning that we live primarily for the music, not for what tomorrow brings. Miriam is the best at organizing ourselves. That said, we are planning on going on a tour, going to places like Quebec City and Saguenay.”

The Gisèle Quartet performs at Le Labo on 552 Jarry St. on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.



The Flatliners find their pulse on their latest record

Loud, aggressive and energetic—these are the three pillars of punk rock and Toronto’s The Flatliners have mastered these. Placing a particular importance on their live shows, this hard-hitting four-piece has toured extensively over the past decade. With the recent release of the band’s fourth studio album, Dead Language, these vets prove that there certainly is no rest for the wicked.

While many bands routinely see changes in their line-up, The Flatliners have remained undivided since their formation, a feature that has allowed them to become a tightly knit musical unit. Chris Cresswell, vocalist and guitarist for the group, recently spoke to The Concordian and discussed the band’s journey from the suburbs to center stage.

The Flatliners’ story is that of a group of tight knit, lifelong friends coming together to play the music that they love. These four musicians, so close that they share multiple tattoos including a beer can and Autobahn sign, rose through the ranks and ultimately came to share the stage with the very bands that inspired them in the first place. The band officially formed in 2002, but as Cresswell pointed out, the seeds of the group were sown years earlier. Cresswell’s mother introduced him to Scott Brigham, the band’s future lead guitarist, at a young age.

“This is Scott, he’s your new friend,” Cresswell recollected.

The duo met Jon Darbey, the group’s bassist, while in second grade and later percussionist Paul Ramirez. Cresswell grew up listening to a variety of music including Weezer, The Foo Fighters and Oasis, but he attributes his punk education to his older brother.

“He got me into grunge. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and punk like NOFX and No Use For a Name. One of the first bands I got into was Rancid,” the frontman recalled, “I got my mom to drive me into town to get [Rancid’s 1995 platinum album]… And Out Come The Wolves. I got it on cassette, I still have it somewhere.”

Darbey, previously a guitarist, was forced to play bass because as Cresswell stated “we already had two of them.”  With the release of the band’s second album, The Great Awake in 2007, The Flatliners joined their heroes Rancid, No Use For a Name and NOFX as label mates, at Fat Wreck Chords.

“ We’re proud to have been able to tour with some of the bands that we have,” he said.

Their most recent album’s name is a nod to both the fact that the band “released [their] first album in 2003 on CD and the format was already pretty dead,” as well as a connection to the lyrical themes of the album.

“A lot of songs on the album are about screwing up and starting over,” Cresswell stated.“Its like Latin, it’s a dead language but a lot of other languages use it as a base. They used the parts of it that worked and they made the parts that didn’t work, better.”

This long awaited album, the follow-up to the group’s highest charting album to date, 2010’s Cavalcade, was recorded in two large sessions.

“We recorded all the instruments for the album at the same time live in studio, with no click track, and did the vocals last,” said Cresswell. “We felt that we tour and play together enough to do that, we’re more of a live band than a studio band anyways.”

The band also recently contributed to The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute. This compilation album was released Oct.29 in dedication to the former frontman of No Use For a Name, Tony Sly, who passed away unexpectedly in August of 2012.

The album has songs by a variety of punk stars such as NOFX, Bad Religion and Rise Against, among others, covering the songs of Tony Sly with profits going to the Tony Sly Memorial fund.

“We’ve been at Fat Wreck Chords for a long time so when Fat Mike (owner of Fat Wreck Chords and NOFX frontman) asked us to play we wanted to do it” said Cresswell.  “We narrowed it down to “Fireball” because it was the one song we all agreed to.”

Cresswell added that while it was a terrible event, he was glad to have been a part of the album and was happy that the funds were going to a good cause.

The Flatliners will be playing at Cabaret Underworld on Dec.21.


Bringing classical music to the forefront

The instrumental concert series Orgue Avenir is officially underway. Every Sunday of November, at 3 p.m., a different musician will perform at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. The entry fee is a voluntary contribution with all proceeds funding the first step of the restoration of the church’s organ.

The artists, some of the best performers in the city, and arguably the province, will present musical pieces from diverse backgrounds and with different themes.

The first week will showcase Austrian and German music from the 18th century to the 1960s, as interpreted by Jonathan Oldengarm. Oldengram is a five-time decorated artist with national and international titles. He has performed in Asia, Europe and North America and is currently the musical director at the Presbyterian Church of St. Andrews since 2008.

In the second week, Patrick Wedd will be presenting a concert on the theme of Toccata, a popular piece of Italian music. Wedd’s passion for music began at the age of 12 when he joined the local church choir. He then earned diplomas in organ performance at both the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto and has played throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and England. The international performer is also the founder of the Musica Orbium choral ensemble. Since 1996, Wedd has served as the music director at the Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal.

The third week will showcase a chronology of German music, from the early Baroque period to the Romantic era, presented by Julie Pinsonneault. Pinsonneault graduated from the Gatineau Conservatory of Music and is currently finishing her Bachelor’s degree in music performance at McGill University.

Despite being only 21 years old, she has acquired experience by participating in the organ marathon Les 24 heures du Banc, The Canadian Music Contest, The Orgue et Couleurs music festival, Lynnwood Farnam Organ Competition, and has taken part in the Mikael Tariverdiev International Organ Competition in Russia. Pinsonneault has even founded her own concert series, Piacevole, in 2010 and is currently working as an organ scholar at the Church of St-John the Evangelist.

During the fourth and final week, organist Yves Préfontaine will perform anniversary selections as tributes to Jean Titelouze, Johann Ludwig Krebs and Robert Alexander Schumann, some of the great classical composers. The tribute will be in honour of the composers’ 450th, 300th, and 350th anniversaries respectively. Préfontaine studied organ and harpsichord at the Montreal Music Conservatory, where he was awarded first prize for both instruments. He continued his musical studies in Amsterdam.

This talented musician also founded the music department at the Marie-Victorin CEGEP, of which he was the director for ten years. To this day, he is the titular organist at the Grand Séminaire and the Marie-Reine-des-Coeurs Sanctuary. He is also the co-leader of Orgues et Cimes, a summer academy in Switzerland.

The amount of variety in the series is astonishing because of the different backgrounds of the artists.

After the one-hour show, music director Federico Andreoni invites everyone to meet the artists with snacks and drinks.

The goal of these concerts is to dissociate the instrument from liturgical ceremonies and to have people appreciate the organ as an instrument. It is also an opportunity to experience the unique acoustic sound and architecture of the church.

There are many other events upcoming at the church of St. John the Evangelist. The second edition of the Bach series will be taking place in January. There will also be a professional choir festival in May.


Q&A with singer-songwriter JF Robitaille

C: What prompted you to take up music?

JF: I met up with some like-minded people in high school and we decided that being The Beatles would be a fun job. I only got serious about songwriting after hearing Leonard Cohen.

Local singer-songwriter recently released his latest album Rival Hearts. Photo by Press.


C: You have been compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Morrissey and Nick Drake. How would you describe your sound?

JF: Simple and direct.


C: How does this album compare to your previous releases?

JF: The other two albums are collections of songs I had lying around, Rival Hearts has a central theme and the songs were all written within a short period of time. I was thinking of it as a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist yet.


C: Do you find it hard to balance your music career with your personal life? What do you do when you are not busy performing, touring and recording?

JF: I don’t have a personal life separate from my music life…I find it hard to balance anything. I read books, make videos, watch movies and I’m constantly writing and trying to grow a beard.


C: What are you listening to nowadays?

JF: My friend Betta (who performs with me), has recently got me into a lot of Italian pop music from the ‘60s, I also love Scout Niblett’s new-ish record….at this second I’m listening to Magnetic Fields.


C: Is there a particular memory that stands out from your musical career thus far?

JF: It’s always cool when I see a new record of mine on store shelves, I make a point of going to buy one the day it comes out. The first time I saw The Blood In My Body at Tower Records (RIP) in NYC was a pretty big deal for me.


C: What would you like listeners to think/feel when they hear your music?  Is there a message you are trying to convey through your music?

JF: I can just hope that they can relate to it in some way. No message, just communion I suppose.


C: If you were not a musician, what would you have chosen as a career path?

JF: Short-order cook or silent film star.


BRAIDS look inward for inspiration

BRAIDS released their latest album Flourish// Perish back in August. Photo Credit: Landon Speers

In a windowless one-car garage turned studio in Outremont, Montreal-based BRAIDS crafted their most introspective and reflective material to date.

“A lot of our inspirations were changing,”said vocalist and drummer Austin Tufts of their latest record, Flourish//Perish. “We wanted to convey some different emotions.”

“We decided we wanted to have a writing and recording style that was more conducive to those palette of emotions,” he said of the dark and intimate recording space. “It’s like 100% different; it’s a completely different beast.”

While their previous material displayed a youthful energy that translated with ease into live performances, fueled mainly by alternative pop instrumentals, their sophomore release boasts an impressive array of sounds and styles.

On tour for their debut album Native Speaker, the locally based trio composed also of keyboardist, guitarist and lead vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston and bassist, guitarist, percussionist and vocalist Taylor Smith, discovered their appreciation for electronic beats.

“There’s a totally new sonic palette that we were discovering with a lot of electronic music,” said Tufts. “These sonics so much more appropriately reflect what we’re actually feeling and the things we wanna express.”

The period between their last record and Flourish//Perish was an emotionally charged one since the band underwent a drastic reconfiguration. Formerly a four piece collective, BRAIDS became faced with the reality of continuing as a trio.

“I almost feel like it’s a transition record,” said Tufts. “we wanted to sort of focus on a more subtle and subdued set of emotions, more melancholy, a little bit more reflective, introspective, because those are the things we were feeling and we had sort of grown up a little bit, we were not quite angsty anymore I don’t think. Flourish// Perish is a really nice collection of songs that reflects a period in our lives.”

Through their extensive touring, BRAIDS encountered some of the biggest influences in the electronic and House music scene, namely producer Aphex Twin and musician Clark. “It was a totally new and fresh experience for us,” said Tufts of the encounters.

Their ever-evolving sound can be attributed to the band’s refusal to be chained down to a specific style.

“I think genres are kind of overrated to be honest,” admitted Tufts.“I don’t think we ever nailed down a sound that we were sort of aiming for.”

“There’s no one song that gets the entire album across,” he adds.“I don’t really think there’s any point in trying to pin something down.”

Regardless of being Calgary natives, BRAIDS are proud to call Montreal their home now. What attracts them most to the local music scene is that Montreal doesn’t necessarily expect you to sound a certain way, and is extremely open to different styles.

“I think the community that we’re a part of is a very enabling community,” said Tufts.” It’s a community that says ‘yes’ to a lot of different sounds.”

The band connects with the audience not only on a musical level during a hometown show, but on a personal level as well. “There’s always a sense of pride that comes from playing in your hometown,” he said. “It’s always refreshing to go home.”

Before officially unleashing their sound on Montreal almost half a decade ago, the band was initially called The Neighborhood Council.

“That was pretty terrible,” laughs Tufts.

A self-proclaimed “interwoven and interlaced” group, the trio opted for their current moniker instead, which they feel more accurately represents who they are.

“We’re a very tightly knit group of friends, and we’re also very tightly knit musically,” said Tufts. “It’s a good reflection of what we do musically.One of the strongest things you could do to three individuals is to braid them. So if you take three individual pieces of hair, you could break them very easily but if you braid them together, they become very strong.”



Cardilli explores many musical avenues

The Ben Cardilli Band will be playing at the Centre Fusion Culturel on St-Hubert street Nov. 1 for a combined celebration of the band’s EP launch, Cardilli’s birthday and Halloween. I sat down with Cardilli in his home studio at his parents’ house to discuss the new album and his long history with music. Cardilli met me outside of his parents’ house and explained that he had had a horrible day teaching music to grade 7 students at Cote Saint-Luc’s Bialik High School.

Concordia student Ben Cardilli celebrates his new album, his birthday and Halloween. Photo by Felicite Anais Roy

Cardilli, a Concordia student studying in communications, was offered the job by a friend’s mother.

“I like my job,” he assured me, “but sometimes there’s one or two kids that just really make it hard to stay motivated.”

As we walked up the stairs and into what was once his bedroom, I was bombarded by around 10 guitars placed in the middle of the cozy bedroom.

Cardilli laughed explaining, “this is nothing, you should see my place!”

He began showing me some of the guitars, explaining that these were mostly old and out of tune.

As I sat down on the couch closest to the door, Cardilli took a seat at his computer, between the stand up mic and and mixing board. Lucky Me, Cardilli’s newest EP, is a continuation of Seen It All released in 2012. Although it is still not finished, Cardilli explains that the music will stay true to what his fans are used to; a six song acoustic EP with a 90s feel that lyrically “is real but also up for interpretation.” He explains that he never wants to be too direct in his lyrics; if he spoke directly to his own life then it would be harder for people to connect with him on a personal level.

Cardilli has been in almost 15 bands since early high school and has ventured down many routes musically. From heavy metal to pop and now electronic dance music, Cardilli makes a point of exploring all musical avenues to understand music in all of its forms and have an appreciation for not just what he likes, but music in general.

Cardilli and his bandmates Chris See Hoye (lead guitar and vocals), Michael Kamps (bass) and Pascal Beauregard (drums), honed their talents in the 90s style music “before music was too mastered and controlled,” the type of music Cardilli loves most.

Cardilli acknowledges that being in bands like Red October and The Honest Family allowed for him to grow as a musician and have taught him a lot about writing music and collaborating as a group, as well as the importance of connections and promotion in the music world. However, his main focus is on his own projects and collaborating with his band members.

“With the [Ben Cardilli] band we are always working together. Before Pascal joined the band, our old drummer had the same love for the nineties but was more reggae influenced. Now, with Pascal, the sound is completely different. We’ve taken a more folk-country route. It’s all about working together and coming up with something we all love.”

Whether it be in his solo project or his band, Cardilli’s music is honest and his talent shines through. Coming from a musical family, where all of his three brothers are involved with the industry to some degree, Cardilli’s ability to play any instrument is astounding. His lyrics are sincere and his voice is something that you would have to hear to truly understand the pure talent of Ben Cardilli.

The Ben Cardilli Band will be playing at the CFC on St-Hubert street Nov. 1.


Crystal Antlers believe in the beauty of ambiguity

Somewhere in North Carolina, Crystal Antlers are driving down a long stretch of road in their vegetable oil-powered diesel van, jamming to Link Wray’s self-titled album.

The California-based trio released their latest album Nothing Is Real earlier in October and have been steadily touring since then to promote it. Instead of their usual studio set up in San Francisco, Calif., Crystal Antlers recorded at vocalist and bassist Jonny Bell’s Southern California in-home studio.

“We got to spend a little bit more time [on the album]; we weren’t like, under any pressure,” said drummer Kevin Stuart, “we were hanging out, working on the record, having a good time.”

Although the general vibe of the production process was a relaxed one, Stuart admitted that him and Bell, along with guitarist Andrew King, did encounter some creative differences.

“It can be pretty hard, you know, to come to a consensus on things when you’re working in a group,” he said.

Crystal Antlers released their latest album Nothing is Real on Oct.15 Photo by Pixie Mol

Despite any garage punk, neo-psychedelia classifications or comparisons to artists like Cornets on Fire, Crystal Antlers pride themselves on not actually knowing how they would describe their own sound.

“We’re always drawing inspiration from different places,” said Stuart. “All we’re trying to do is just make some new interesting music rather than just trying to do what’s already been done a million times before.”

Since the band’s inception in the mid 2000s, they have wanted to allow their listeners the opportunity to make up their own minds about the music. “I’d rather just say ‘give a listen’ and come to your own conclusions,” said Stuart about the latest record. “What we’re trying to do is not really like, rehash what has been done before.”

In the true spirit of this outlook, the band released the video for their latest single off the album, “Licorice Pizza.” With a pizza -layered in what appears to be Fruit Loops and American bills spinning on a turntable as the opening sequence, the video, directed by their longtime friend Michael Reich, displays some pretty ambiguous images.

“We were trying to do literal imagery from the lyrics,” said Stuart. “I don’t think we’re trying to make the listener think or feel anything in particular as a whole.”

The idea for the video and song came from the American record store aptly named Licorice Pizza. The store’s namesake is actually a clever designation for a vinyl record.

“A lot of people didn’t know what it meant,” said Stuart of the nickname.

No strangers to slick word choice, the trio chose their band’s name based on aesthetics and acoustics.

“For me, I liked that it was two words of similar length […] it doesn’t really make people think of something specific in general, I thought it was like a non-sequitur,” said Stuart. “I like the way it looks and sounds.”

While Nothing Is Real was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, Stuart admits that it does get difficult to balance tour life with their personal lives.

“We normally wake up at like, noon, go get some breakfast and then sit in the van all day driving until we get to the venue and then check in, do our sound check, play the show, and then you know, whatever might happen after that,” said Stuart.

“Sometimes we go out and do something fun afterwards, or sometimes we just hang out at the club all night. Either way, we don’t get home until around 3 o’clock in the morning […] then you know we kind of fall asleep, take a shower and do it all over again.”

Despite the long drives and limited days off, the boys in the band would not trade it for anything else.

“There’s a very delicate balance to be able to do all this stuff,” said Stuart. “We’re doing what we love.”

This leg of their tour will have them rolling through Montreal where they are happy to report they have played several memorable shows.

“We stay out late and drink a lot,” said Stuart. “Montreal’s the best…especially around Halloween time.”


Comedians and booze make for the best of parties

Playing the quintessential narcissistic jerk, pushing the buttons of his director, insulting his guests and always trying to play the badass, Adam Devine stars in Comedy Central’s newest TV show, Adam Devine’s House Party.

Every episode mixes scripted storylines with real stand-up, and features an exciting lineup of up-and-coming talent. Press photo

The eight-episode season is expected to wow viewers when Devine (known for his role as Adam DeMamp on Workaholics) gets free rein of a Los Angeles estate and throws massive parties.

Of course, things immediately go awry as Devine’s favourite comedians stop by for a drink (or two) and conduct stand-up performances on stage. It’s your quintessential silly-meets-comedy kind of entertainment show.

In the premiere, aptly titled “Ex-Girlfriend,” any expectation of Devine being that cool/sensitive/awesome party-host is shattered. Devine smashes a beer bottle over his head and welcomes guests with an overbearingly excited attitude. During the rest of the episode, Devine’s head is draped in a bloody bandage as he unsuccessfully hits on his ex-girlfriend who arrives accompanied by one of Devine’s friends.

The premiere sets the tone for the entire series: this show is about wasting money. Big time.

The absurdity of the show is highlighted when Devine tells the camera, “I don’t know how I convinced Comedy Central to give me another show, a Hollywood mansion and a paycheck for hanging out with friends. I hope they have a good lawyer and the fire department on speed dial.”

That said, the comedy is what makes the show work. In a nutshell, this is how the show functions: Between brief episodes where Devine humiliates himself at his frat party, three stand-up comedians take to the mic. All in all, 24 of Devine’s funniest comic friends will be featured on the show.

In the first episode, comedians Ahmed Bharoocha, Andrew Santino and Barry Rothbart take the stand, while Liza Treyger, Josh Rabinowitz and Sean Donnelly draw out laughs in the second episode. Joke themes range from dolphin rape to Chicago accents. Watch out.

Things get interesting as Devine discards (for the moment) his ostentatious attitude and gets a group of ten-year-olds to clean up his house. When he orders them into a file, Devine hands out “badges” made of “trash” (pictures of garbage and the like). It’s hard not to laugh at the expression on the girls’ faces. When the girls request beer, Devine grimaces, exclaiming, “You’re ten years old … and you have never tried beer?” The episode concludes with the girls getting very drunk on beer and smashing bottles over each others’ heads.

The whole thing can at first appear grating and annoying (just how fun is it really to watch people getting drunk, at least when sober?) but chances are the show will thrive thanks to the stand-up comedians and Devine’s sassy attitude. If anything, the show will give you a sound break from studying.

Adam Devine’s House Party premiered on Oct. 24 on Comedy Central, and runs every Thursday night at 12.30 am.


Beloved live action space opera — take two

North America got one of its first tastes of Japanese Animation with Star Blazers, known in Japan as Space Battleship Yamato, in 1979. The adaptation from the graphic novel was dubbed in English and was among one of first pieces of Japanese animation to hit the western world. Space Battleship Yamato tells the story of humanity’s last hope against an invading alien force called the Gamilas. With the live-action version of this story hitting theaters next month, fans of the series and those wanting a taste of hard sci-fi are in for an adventure.

An adaptation of the original series that set the precedent for Japanese sci-fi anime genre, the film is a journey into space to save the human race. Press.

When ex-military pilot Susumu Kodai leaves his underground shelter to salvage metals on the surface of the radiation-laden planet, he is wounded by a crashing ship and awakens outside of his radiation suit. However, he’s unaffected by the hostile environment and he finds an alien pod by his side.

The pod found with him is picked up by the crew of Captain Juzo Okita’s ship, the last surviving battleship during the biggest altercation with the Gamilas.

The pod contains schematics to a super-weapon and a location far off in space, to a planet called Iskandar. With a government recruitment drive in full swing after this revelation, all civilians capable of serving aboard the newly built ship are brought onboard and prepped for the dangerous journey across space to Iskandar on the newly built battleship, believing that the co-ordinates will lead them to a device that will erase all radiation on earth.

Space Battleship Yamato is written like a classic space opera: action, drama and suspense are on the menu. While the live-action rendition remains somewhat faithful to the original material, some of the characters in the movie felt underdeveloped in comparison to the animated series. Given the time constraints of the film medium, this isn’t entirely surprising.

The film provides a very balanced amount of action and dialogue and sets a very comfortable pace for most of the movie.

On the other hand, the female cast was woefully underutilized, spending most of the movie crying, worried or being all around vulnerable. For a movie released in 2004 (in Japan), this kind of trope doesn’t exactly belong in modern tellings. While it’s true that this remains faithful to the original material, it ends up harming the quality of the movie in the long run, taking it down from something that could have been great, and making it only pretty good.

When it comes to the presentation and sound though, the movie is beyond stellar. The special effects were phenomenal and the space dogfights were action-packed and full of intensity. The score added the right tone to every scene and provided just the right amount of emotions to the high-end acting. Although the movie was not dubbed in English, the tone and expression of the cast speaks leagues for the intensity and drama that the movie conveys.

The movie’s 132 minutes may seem long, but the only sequence that felt tacked on was the final scene before the credits. Running for almost fifteen minutes, it felt like a lot of the dialogue could have been cut and the ending would have been no less dramatic.

Nonetheless, Space Battleship Yamato doesn’t disappoint. While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, this retelling of an old fan favorite hits all the right chords and despite its flaws, the movie is never uninteresting. It may not move mountains, or be contender for movie of the year, but it’s a competent, enjoyable space opera that’s worth your time.

Space Battleship Yamato will be out in Cineplex theatres on Nov.11.



German teenagers are sure causing a scandal

Eight-time Tony Award-winning play, Spring Awakening blends drama, dance, and live orchestral rock-music. Photos by Keith Race

“I don’t care if you’ve missed shows I’ve been in, or if you miss any show of mine in the future; this show is the one to see,” Matthew Barker tells The Concordian.

Currently part of the cast of the rock musical Spring Awakening, the Concordia student pretty much echoes what most reviews have been saying about the production since its first performance in 1906: it is a must see.

The play was written by German playwright Frank Wedekind, and was prohibited from the stage up until the beginning of the 20th century. Spring Awakening is the story of Wendla and Melchior, teenagers that undergo a sexual awakening in late 19th century Germany; a time of systemic violence and constrictive societies. The musical explores the burgeoning of puberty and the lives of adolescents dealing with issues such as suicide, violence, abortion and sexuality.

Over 100 years later, these issues still provoke contention and controversy.

According to Quesnel, the music was conceived to heighten emotions in the story, and they give power to the kids more so than the adults. Photos by Keith Race.

“Everything we talk about in the play [are] things we should think about and not things we should be hiding.”However, she believes that these issues are worth expressing.

“There is lots of violence in society too. Art is supposed to be provoking and something that people can relate to,” added sound designer Marc-Antoine Legault.

Speaking of sound, a fully costumed live orchestra directed by David Terriault presents everything from soft to rock-heavy songs, and lyrics that convey wholly what the characters are feeling.

“There is lots of swearing and funny things in the songs, because that is how those adolescents express themselves,” said Barker, who plays Georg.

According to Quesnel, the music was conceived to heighten emotions in the story, and they give power to the kids more so than the adults.

The stage design and set are minimal, so the spectator’s attention is focused on the acting. The same is true for the costumes. They remain simple in accordance with the original play written in 1890. However, set and costume designer Anna Delphino used lighter colours on the clothes worn by the teenage characters, in order to differentiate them from the adult characters. Additionally, makeup and hairstyling is understated, highlighting the nuances in the actor’s expressions, giving prominence to their emotional performances.

Doubtless, it takes a lot of talent and passion from the young actors to perform in a musical which has already won eight Tony Awards. When Barker heard about the auditions for Spring Awakening, he listened to the soundtrack continuously.

“I checked the original broadcast on Youtube, I knew I absolutely wanted to do it, so I picked my best song and I auditioned, and here I am,” he said.

Another current Concordia student, Michael Mercer, said that he learned about plans for recreating the production three months before auditions were announced.

“I saw the show in NYC when I was 16 years old and I knew that someday I wanted to do it,” said Mercer, who plays the role of Ernst.

The outstanding emotional performances given by the cast of Spring Awakening is due to the fact that the characters are relatable.

“I can definitely resonate a lot [with] my character Ernst, who is the young and affable gay one. I was certainly young and affable in high school, so I feel a lot of empathy for my character,” said Mercer.

Barker, whose character Georg is a boy infatuated with his elderly piano teacher’s breasts, feels the same way.

“I can relate to him in the fact that I once was a teenager with a sex drive [that] I didn’t know what to do with. So for me he is a lot of fun to play,” he admitted.

Spring Awakening directors Christopher Moore and Gabrielle Soskin (a Concordia graduate herself) have a lot to be proud of. They managed to perfectly blend comic and dramatic aspects. Some of the scenes make you laugh so loudly that you have to cover your mouth; others bring tears to your eyes.

Although working with two directors might seem challenging, everybody is enjoying this experience. According to Mercer, Soskin and Moore really complement each other.

“Chris [Moore] is taking the main reins and Gab [Soskin] is giving her insights where she sees fit,” he said.

Barker added that, for him, it has been great working with Moore because he treats them like real professionals, not just students.

“He gives us a good amount of responsibility while offering the freedom to do what we want, of course adding his input on whether it fits in the scene or not,” affirmed Mercer.

The product of this full crew is a rich fusion of drama, comedy, music, and dance that is a thrill for the senses.

Spring Awakening is produced in Montreal by Persephone Productions, and runs until Oct. 27 at Calixa-Lavallée Theatre.

Photos by Keith Race



Embracing now, track by track

The Zolas – Press photo.

Nostalgia comes in different forms. There exists the nostalgia filled with warmth that takes us back to a particular blissful moment in our lives, but there also exists the kind of nostalgia that leaves us feeling lonely and longing for the past. The latter form can often disable us from moving forward. Instead of dwelling on a moment or waiting for new ones to arrive, The Zolas have decided to seize the now and release their music as it comes to them without the restrictions and obligations of a full-length album.

“We started really enjoying the idea of writing songs, recording them and releasing them immediately,” said Zachary Gray, vocalist and guitarist for The Zolas. “We as people in our culture, or in all cultures, I don’t know, we only seem to really appreciate a really great moment when it’s sort of in the rear view mirror when we’re looking back at it,” said Gray, “you only feel it really all the way when it’s not with you anymore.”

After releasing two studio albums since 2010, Gray and bandmate Tom Dobrzanski have decided to put the release of a full-length album on hold—at least for the time being—despite having booked studio time for some point in December.

“For people who like, really want to hear cohesive albums from us, they might be waiting a little bit. But for people who just want to hear what is exciting to us right now, what we want to say at this very moment, it could not be a better time,” said Gray.

While their previous albums Tic Toc Tic and Ancient Mars had a more dreamy, psychedelic, alternative feel, their latest single “Invisible” offers listeners a catchier pop tune. “It’s weird; we’re getting at the same time more pop-y and more experimental. With this band, I just wanna write catchy songs,” said Gray, “I guess “Invisible” is a good example of that because that is just, like, straight up pop,” he said.

Gray maintained that The Zolas are not overly concerned with having their sound be classified under any specific genre. “I’m okay being a pop-rock band. That’s the niche, that’s the kind of music we play well together,” he said. “We set a precedent where we can be pretty crazy if we want to be, but we also could write just like a three minute pop song.”

“I don’t think people are going to notice too big of a transition, except we’re a lot more interested in rhythm and about writing that comes out of drum and percussion and I think that’s sort of the way music feels right now. If you listen to any act, it’s all very rhythm based, more so than ever before.”

Initially a two piece band, the Vancouver natives have recently been veering off into new creative territory with fellow musicians James Younger and Cody Hiles, who is deemed by Gray to be “the best drummer in Vancouver.” While Gray and Dobrzanski met at the early age of 13 at choir, Younger and Hiles were introduced to the duo later in their musical careers through other bands.

“This is the first time the four of us have ever really been writing as a team. It’s always been either me, or me and Tom […] we’re having a really good time,” said Gray. “It’s a real blessing to be working with people who have better taste than you,” he laughs.


Despite all the flowing creativity that came along with their first album Tic Toc Tic, Gray and Dobrzanski were at a stand-still when it came to picking the name of the album, or the name of the band for that matter.

“We came up with it because Tom and I never agree on anything,” said Gray, “and when we recorded the album before the band even existed, like our first album, we didn’t have an album title or a band name.”

In order to solve this situation, they engaged in what Gray calls a “no-compromise compromise.” Essentially, Gray would pick the band’s name, while Dobrzanski would pick the name of their first album. Gray decided to pay homage to French writer Émile Zola with their group name.

“The band name is good! It’s short, it’s got a ‘z’ in it which is an interesting letter to start with […] it’s phonetic.”

When they’re not recording or touring, each member is busy on other projects. Dobrzanski owns Monarch Records, a successful studio back in Vancouver, where a number of other bands have spent some time recording (Said The Whale, We Are The City). Gray spends his free days “thinking about music all the time and I travel, and I play as much sports as possible.”

While in school, Gray indulged his athletic side and played for the ultimate frisbee team.

“It’s a really fun sport,” he said, “it’s a total cult, if you’re not part of it you won’t hear about it.”

Given the chance, he would travel to Central Asia. “It’s a part of the world that’s the crossroads of three major civilizations,” he said, “it’s gonna get rough over there and I’d like to see it.”

If he ever decides to retire his guitar, Gray says he would go back to school and get a degree in education to become a high school guidance counselor. “I still might one day,” he said.

“Music is fun but it’s a really selfish thing to do,” he said. “I don’t know, you just travel around the world burning fossil fuels[…] it’s just very narcissistic.”

“I believe in the roller coaster of life where you take the crushing lows and the exhilarating highs and it averages out to about the same as a normal life…I like the extremes.”

No stranger to Montreal—his mother is an Outremont native and his brother went to Concordia—Gray has already compiled a list of things he would like to do while in town.

“I don’t want to say something super cliché like eat a smoked meat sandwich… but it’s actually something I want to do.”

The Zolas play le Cabaret du Mile End on Oct. 18.

Photo caption: Zachary Gray, Tom Dobrzanski, James Younger and Cody Hiles just released their latest single “Invisible”


Jadea Kelly finds optimism in the darkness

After spending most of last year writing in her Toronto apartment, Jadea Kelly is back on tour to promote her third album, Clover, after a hiatus caused by exhaustion, according to her website.

Jadea Kelly performed in Montreal on Oct. 9 at Upstairs to promote her latest album Clover. Photo Jen Squires

The album is a new direction for the Ontario-based singer-songwriter. Clover, named after her grandfather’s farm in Ontario, has a darker, more sombre and orchestral feel that lends itself perfectly to Kelly’s haunting vocals while her previous albums were rooted more deeply in country and folk.

This new sound emerged from a collaboration between Kelly and her producer Stew Crookes. Crookes, with the help of other musicians including Jason Sniderman and Tom Juhas, allowed for Kelly’s album to take on much more musically complex and interesting harmonies than on her previous albums, Second Spring and Eastbound Platform.

“We have jokingly coined a new genre name for this record, ‘fire folk’ or ‘spooky country.’ The instrumentation is a lot more adventurous that our last recordings — a lot darker and orchestrated,” said Kelly.

Clover is a much more emotionally charged album than Kelly’s previous releases. While the tone is darker than what her fans are used to, Kelly claims that the driving message behind it remains optimistic.

“With this present album, I am trying to convey a message of hope and strength to my audience. I wrote this album from a tender and emotional place and hope to extend my newfound passion and strength to those around me.”

Kelly has high hopes for Clover when it comes to her fans. She hopes that they will connect their experiences with hers while enjoying the music.

“I would like them to feel relaxed and entertained. Even though these lyrics come from my own emotional experiences, I want them to develop their own personal sentiments and feel connected to one another in the process,” she said.

In order to get the rich sound found on Kelly’s new album, Crookes took the recording back to basics. Instead of recording on a computer or any digital form that is typical of music production nowadays, Clover was recorded on analogue two-inch tapes, according to her website.

“This album had a bigger budget than the others, and therefore allowed for more time to develop the songs and marinate ideas. We recorded to tape, live off the floor as well over a short two week period. Instead of going back and forth on ideas for three months, we solidified them during pre, pro and recording,” said Kelly.

Kelly is most known for her work with the Canadian progressive metal band, Protest the Hero. She was featured on three songs from their 2005 concept album Kezia, playing the part of the eponymous main character and toured with the band to promote the album. She was also featured on their 2011 album, Scurrilous.

Her solo work has also garnered her much attention over the years and has won her a Toronto Independent Music Award in 2008 and a Canadian Folk Music Award in 2010.

When she’s not busy working or touring, the singer-songwriter takes time for the things she loves.

“I shop for stage dresses,” she laughs, “drink good coffee, writing songs, and sleep.”

Her latest album Clover was released in May and  is now available in stores and online.


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