Thursday, December 17, 2009

Favorites-'09:: Canadian EPs (10-6)

Band:: Outdoor Miners
Album:: self-titled

Q1) What was the band's best musical moment of '09?
Alec had to have surgery that had a much longer recovery time than originally expected, so we had to cancel all sorts of shit that we were looking forward to. When we were finally able to get back at it, we wrote a bunch of new songs that are probably our best yet (At least we think so). The door at our 7" release party sold out....that felt really good as well...
Q2) As a young band, I'm excited you opted to release a 7" instead of rushing out a sloppy EP or LP. Was that your decision or the labels?
It was our decision initially, but the label fully supported it. We knew we wanted the natural grainy sound of vinyl, and we were pretty sure that everyone else wanted it as well. Releasing a 7" just feels good.
Q3) Speaking of the label, Pop Echo seems to be a terrific springboard for young AB bands. How did you get hooked up with them, and will another release be in the cards soon?
The Pop Echo guys have helped us immensely. They saw us play and really liked it, a couple of weeks later they asked if we were interested in working with them. We love those guys and will continue to work with them for as long as possible. We're going into the studio with Nik Kozub over the Christmas holidays to record our next 7", which is tentatively planned for an early summer release.
Q4) If you had to pick one band to take your spot on the '09 best-of list, who gets the nod?
Its a tie between Grown-ups from Calgary, and Peace from Vancouver. Both of those bands are awesome and super fun to play with.
Q5) Edmonton has really been killing it lately. What's the best part of playing music in Edmonton, and if one of our readers had only 24 hours to spend in the city, what would you suggest they do?
Things are pretty good in Edmonton right now (other than this crazy weather): Aaron Levin (weird canada) has been putting on a ton of awesome shows with really cool bands, there's a perfect new venue, and Hong Kong bakery is still dirt cheap. 24 hours in Edmonton? Go to Chinatown and eat a bunch of vietnamese subs, and then head straight over to WEM and ride the mind bender 200 times. Duh.
Q6) This isn't even really a question you can probably answer, but what are the chances you could write a song about Jari Kurri and his awesome old skool Jofa helmet?
Between high and extremely high.

Band:: Milks & Rectangles
Album:: Civic Virtues

The one problem with picking a young band is that they don't have covers and b-sides just lying around. But they do a DVD inspired outtakes reel for you to enjoy. As funny as hearing them stumble over lyrics is, Milks & Rectangles added a much needed, UK stadium rock vibe to the Canadian indie mix - in fact, "if you told me this EP was from a group of seasoned vets playing over seas, I wouldn't blink an eye." Well done lads.

MP3:: Milks & Rectangles - Outtakes

Band:: The Prospector's Union
Album:: Syracuse

Q1) What was your best musical moment of '09?
Hearing the York Redoubt record for the first time. Chad Peck put it best when he said, it's 'make you wanna sell your guitar' good.
Q2) You kind of cobbled together a Halifax globetrotters to act as your backing band - I think at one point I saw Ledwell playing on a ladder and spinning a basketball on his finger - so how hard is it to get the band together to practice and learn new songs, or is the spontaneity something that helps The Prospector's Union keep moving?
Yeah, for every show we play it usually comes out of one or two practices. I think that helps keep the excitement level up...that and Dan always teaching us new finger spin tricks. It's a pretty painful process hauling everyone into one room at one time, but it always eventually comes together...eventually.
Q3) It seems the whole world is moving to roots and alt. country. Everyone wants a cowboy shirt and some lap steel in their songs, but the purity and appreciation of your music really shows that this is more than you tapping into the hot sound. So, for fans new to roots, who is your biggest influence, and who's someone that is writing songs today that will stand the test of time?
Well thank you. I'm generally not a fan of 'alt-country.' I have issues with any music that is created as a genre exercise. "See! Just like Hank Williams! Get it??" That said, their is something at the core of country and country influenced music that has always felt right to me. Writing-wise, I found that's a big part of the balance with the genre. I listen to a lot of old folk, the Harry Smith Project and such (I actually just got a record by Nimrod Workman called I Want To Go Where Things Are Beautiful that is amazing), and I think the themes and mood of that have influenced me a lot. I try and keep it to that though. No one wants to hear some pasty East Coaster with a Macbook singing dust bowl laments. For modern writers, I'm a big J. Tillman fan. I think Old Man Luedecke is brilliant as well. For just a straight up cool mood, A.A. Bondy is really doing it for me right now.
Q4) What's next for PU? Maybe a full length in 2010?
That's the talk. We'd really like to work with Dale Murray on something.
Q5) If you had to pick one band to take your place on our Best-of list, who would you pick?
Hmm, I haven't seen the entire list. Any Dog Day record that isn't up there should take our place. Seth has a solo record coming out that is pretty amazing as well, it might not make it in time for deadline though.
Q6) Tomorrow you get a call from the people at The Mighty Boosh. They want you to write a song about any character you want. Who do you pick, and what's the song called?
The Hitcher - Talkin' Cockney Urine Blues

MP3:: The Prospector's Union ft. Melanie Stone- Astro Zombies (Misfits cover)

Band:: Almonds, Cohen
Album:: Amazing Grass

1) What was your best musical moment of '09?
The first night after arriving in Toronto in July I played a solo show opening for The Wooden Sky on their rooftop at Queen and Ossington to a really awesome bunch of strangers. When the Wooden Sky played it started to pour and we held umbrellas and shirts and pieces of paper over their heads and amps while they continued playing, and it was so much fun that I didn’t even think about us possibly getting hit by lightning. Then the whole show moved down into the tiny living room and turned it into a sweat cave.
2) You have moved from a more solo based routine to a full band lineup. how hard was it to transform the songs, and what do you like better about the current state of Almonds, Cohen?
Transforming them is the most fun. I like to take the idea of playing the recorded songs live with other people as an opportunity to re-imagine them. Maybe finally add an interlude that I had intended to for the recorded version but forgot. Or have Emma sing the verses instead of me, or a violin play the guitar melody. I think the recording of a song should remain as it stands – I’m against re-recording songs, unless the newer version is fundamentally different – but the live version should be ever-changing, depending on who’s playing in the band each time. I’m just really happy to be playing with such good people. And Emma! I don’t ever want to do a show without Emma now. I can’t really imagine Almonds without Emma. That may be why I’m hesitant to play shows in Toronto. No Emma.
3) Location often influences the sounds and subject matter we write about. You've moved halfway across the country this year and have spent time on both coasts. how has life in a big metropolis affected your song writing?
Immediately after getting here I wrote a song called “T.T.C.” about getting here. That’s the Toronto Transit Commission. I don’t know if I’ll ever play it to anyone, but I hum it to myself sometimes. Aside from that, the songs I’m writing now could have, and would have, been written anywhere. Being relatively shy to this new city and not playing any concerts has allowed me the time to write a whole lot more, and more carefully, more thoughtfully. So I guess that’s a discernible way the city has influenced my songwriting. But I’m not planning a concept album on Toronto. I believe that would be a very sucky idea for an album.
4) If you had to pick one band to take your spot on our best-of list, who would get the nod?
My Friend Wallis. That’s Crystal from Vincat, her solo project. It’s bliss.
5) Settling into a new scene is often a challenge. What was the hardest thing for you about moving, and what was the biggest misconception you had about being a musician in Toronto?
Moving away from Victoria was the hardest part about moving to Toronto. But I’m not pinned down anywhere, which is good. I think I’ll go back to Victoria in the summer. Or maybe to Halifax. I can go anywhere! Misconception-wise, I’ll just say that I thought no one would listen in Toronto.
6) Have you adjusted to not being on the ocean???????
No! I’m dying as a result! Once out of desperation I went swimming in Lake Ontario and it was heartbreaking.
7) What's next for Almonds, Cohen? Can we expect new songs in 2010?
New songs forever. Toronto shows. Maybe an east coast tour. Huge album mid- or late-2010. Working title: Jenga Ritual!

So if reading about the "band's" transition from singular vision to full fledged band didn't intrigue you, I would hope this fleshed out version of Diggin' For Clams would.

MP3:: Almonds, Cohen - Diggin' for Clams (live, full band)

Band:: Dark Mean
Album:: Frankencottage

Q1) What was your best musical moment of '09?

2009 was an exciting year for us, but I have to say my favorite moment came when we finished China and got to listen to the Frankencottage EP from start to finish for the first time. Before that night we spent probably 2 days mixing China only to reach a dead end. None of us were feeling the direction of the tune so Mike (our producer) erased the board and we started again from scratch. After a little break we brought up the piano and vocals on their own and found a new perspective on the song... and within an hour the song was done and we realized we had our first EP.

Q2) You made a decision to give your record away for the low low price of free. Looking back, do you think that was the right call and what was the biggest reward of giving everyone a chance to hear your music?

I think it was the right call for us. When you’re a new band you have to find ways to become known before you can make money. We went from total obscurity to having over 70 reviews and blog posts written about us in a matter of months... some in languages we can't read. That was the biggest reward for sure. We asked people for their email address in exchange for the free download. But we actually haven't sent out a single email to anyone on our list. No one likes those annoying mass emails, but we're thinking once the next EP is ready (very soon), we'll send out a quick email letting people know where they can get it.

Q3) When I first heard your EP, I was super impressed by the unique collage of elements you used to forge your sound. How did the songs originate and how much did they evolve to get to that final product?

I think most of our ideas have come out of jam sessions in Billy's garage. Over time we accumulated quite a range of instruments in there so I guess when you notice a banjo sitting in the corner, you eventually pick it up. Then we were asked to write and perform the soundtrack to a local play and this gave us a reason to turn our ideas into actual songs. Once we began recording at Vibewrangler Studio, the songs really evolved. Our producers Mike and Glen gave us the freedom and guidance to create something a lot bigger than what we had in the beginning. They deserve a lot of credit for the sounds that you hear when you listen to the EP, not to mention the guest musicians that appear on the EP. Hamilton has such a supportive community of talented musicians and we were lucky to have access to just about any instrument we wanted to have on the record.

Q4) What's next for Dark Mean?

We’re planning to release the next EP, Music Box, in January and soon after get started on the final songs that will make up our full length. We hope to have the full album ready by late spring so we can spend the summer touring and promoting it. We're all really stoked about the upcoming year.

Q5) If you had to pick one band to take your place on our Best-of list, who would take your spot?

I would choose The Rest, they're another awesome Hamilton band. Keep an eye out for Wildlife too. They’re just finishing their first record at Vibewrangler and I’ve loved everything I’ve heard so far.
Q6) Hamilton has a shockingly dedicated scene. What's the best thing about playing music in the Hammer, and if people only had one day to spend in your city, what would you tell them to do with their 24 hours?
The best thing about playing music in the Hammer is the fact that there are so many enthusiastic musicians and artists to collaborate with, play with, and learn from. The ultimate day in Steeltown would start with a bagel and coffee at Locke Street Bakery (not starbucks), followed by stroll through town to visit some of the cool shops and art galleries, I’d say grab lunch on a patio in Hess Village, take a well deserved nap (hopefully with someone else), then maybe go for a hike by Webster’s Falls, then head over to Vibewrangler Studio to hang with us, have a few drinks, and join us while we play catch with an aerobie in Gage Park.

As a special treat, Dark Mean has decided to premier the first offering from their 2010 EP here on herohill. Strings, acoustic, energy, group vocals - that's the type of Music Box I can get behind.

MP3:: Dark Mean - Music Box

Labels: Almonds Cohen, , Dark Mean, , , Outdoor Miners,

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