Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorites-'09:: Canadian EPs (5-1)

More and more Canadian EPs. We are stoked that so many of the bands we love offered up their time for this project, whether it was recording a track in a room full of friends or delivering an absolutely crushing cover of one of the best Canadian songs of the year... well, you get the idea that this list is full of goodness.

Band:: Wilderness of Manitoba
Album:: Hymns of Love & Spirits

Q1) Musically, what was the most important moment for you in '09?
Sc: We've played some amazing shows, but for me it was having a live version of 'Evening' chosen as track of the day on cbc radio3 that made us all realize that we were really onto something special, and it helped drive us to finish the record, and gave us the confidence to play some really amazing shows with some amazing bands.
M: Opening for the RAA CD release at the Horseshoe back in July was pretty great. That's something that seemed to open a lot of ears to our music and it pretty much coincided with our EP release so it was really the first time people could get our music and take it home with them.

Q2) Given the circumstances and inspiration that led to the recording of this EP, how hard was it for you to put something so personal into the public eye for critique?
W - I think that when songs are written from personal experiences, they are in some ways easier to perform because you're never far away from the subject matter. This can result in a more honest performance
Sc: We really believed in what we were doing, and that confidence took us a long way. We're flattered to be mentioned along-side the rest of this list, but we also never expected the EP to go as far as it has. I think the personal nature of the record made it easier in some ways to put out there, I mean, we're just being honest with ourselves, and if you like it, or you don't, it doesn't change the place where it came from.

Q3) How hard is it to separate the success and emotion of this project from your other musical projects?
Sc: Every band has a different energy, and its really nice to be able to focus on different projects from time to time. I've found that sometimes if you love something too much and put all of your energy into it all of the time you end up killing it with smothered kisses. It's nice to walk away from something and towards something else from time to time. Music is all about learning and the process for me.
M: For me, not that hard, but I haven't really written that much for the band yet so I'm not sure how much doing that will affect more personal writing. It doesn't feel like I'm shifting focus from my other project entirely, it's just that I love what we're doing and believe in it so much that I naturally focus on this.
St: It was pretty easy at the start. I've been used to playing in bands and sitting in with people and this was just another one of those opportunities. It sort of took me by surprise when we started getting attention - it means that there's more responsibility on the business side of things, but creatively it doesn't really change things. I still write stuff for myself, some of it just ends up in this project and some of it elsewhere.

Q4) If you had to pick one band to take your spot on our Best-of List, who would get the nod?
Sc: I would say Timber Timbre, although I'm sure that would actually make his position on this list worse than it already is. That album got a lot of play in my dark bedroom.
M: Ahhh... that's so hard. There are so many deserving bands but my heart tells me to go with Olenka and the Autumn Lovers. I love their energy, their arrangements and, well, I just love them.

Q5) People often view Toronto as a hipster melting point for musicians. What's the biggest misconception about the TO scene in your opinion, and what's your favorite thing about playing music in TO?
M: There is something about being in a city with a huge music scene that can be daunting but I find that it has been really supportive, more so than we expected with our sound. The best thing about playing here? Feeling that support at our shows from our friends and fellow musicians.
St: Like anywhere else, people tend to latch onto what's "hot" or getting attention in the weeklies. The main difference though is that so many of the people going to see shows are musicians themselves - and they're really supportive people whether they're your friends in other local bands, or in bands that have toured the world.

Q5) Looking forward to 2010, what can fans of the band expect from The Wilderness of Manitoba?
Sc: A new record - it will be our first full length. No name for it yet, but the songs are written and are being recorded right now in much the same fashion as the EP was. Touring! A trip to the UK to play the End of the Road Festival and more touring! 2010 will be a fun year.
M: What Scott said and maybe some other special releases!

Now, if you have read herohill all year, you know I love Timber Timbre and politic-ed hard for Taylor to make the short-list, so the simple fact that W o M took the time to record a herohill-only cover of Demon Host is one of the best surprises we could have asked for this year. Apparently, this is the only place they are going to make it available - well, except for any other blog that just d/l-eds it and posts it themselves. Throw in the fact it's terrific, and well, now we all win.

MP3:: Wilderness of Manitoba - Demon Host (Timber Timbre)

Band:: Basket of Figs
Album:: Oh Eye, Oh Night

Talk about an embarrassment of riches here. Not many lists would have a Tom Waits cover thrown to them as an after thought, but this little gem - Shiver Me Timbers - was recorded around the same time as the EP and has yet to see the light of day. Enjoy!

MP3:: Basket of Figs - Shiver Me Timbers (Tom Waits)

Band:: The Gertrudes
Album:: Hard Water

1) What was your best musical moment of '09?
An illicit midnight recording session in a condemned church (technically that was '08, but within a few days of the end of the year). Two live tracks from that session are on our 'Hard Water' EP, and one more has found its way to your esteemed website. A video by Lenny Epstein is out there too, of the song 'Hard Water' as we recorded it. Yeah, feeling like naughty high-school students sneaking into a church to record a 10 piece band to record live off the floor, nailing the version of New Sound that ended up on Hard Water, and getting out without getting in trouble! I'd say ripping into Cliff Jumping at Sappy Fest with fueled by the adrenaline resulting from the fact that 10 minutes earlier we were almost resolved to having to miss our set as half the band got lost and then swooped in at the last possible second! If i could count the entirety of our east coast tour as a single moment, that would be it. Playing all night long at the OCFF in a tiny room with the entire band crammed in a corner, rocking our socks off and sweating like fiends, oh yeah, and Bob Wiseman joining our ranks for some sweet accordion madness at 3:30am. Streaking the Wolfe Island Music Fest to jump into Lake Ontario before our second set. I think that was our loudest applause ever. Not to mention a couple of us joining RPC (along with members of Feuermusik) for RPC's SappyFest set... that was really fun.
2) In an era where it is hard enough to tour as a compact unit, how hard is it to plan even a one off show when every member of the band is so important to the end result?
I think we all feel The
Gertrudes is a bit of a special thing so we're taking care to make time for it. There are enough of us that we can cover for each other, so even if someone can't make a show or a tour, we can manage quite well although it always changes the dynamic in interesting ways. Ideally we'll bring families along and make a party of it. There were 22 of us on our east coast tour this summer, including the kids. It takes a lot of advance planning on everyone's part... especially Greg's. Also the extended Gertrudes family has been extremely supportive. The memory of sprinting from our van with trailing patch chords and cables, doors left wide open, just in time to get on stage for our SappyFest performance, suggests we still have some work to do with Gertrude time management. But what other 11 piece band travels with their complete families? We topped The Burning Hell on that one, they thought they had us beat for sheer numbers on the road to SappyFest... but we recruited a few extra singers/percussionists/bass player/baby to bump our numbers up. But seriously, it's a lot of work. And a lot of love of this Gertrudey thing that gets us from place to place... and the permission of our amazing families to do what we love.
3) I'm really intrigued by the writing process of the band. Do the songs start as old timey numbers or simple picked riffs that gradually get transformed when every band member adds their part or is the end goal more clear throughout the entire process?
Either/both, depending on the song. We work hard on arrangements. A lot of our rehearsal time is just talking through the possibilities. Songs start pretty well-formed by one individual but get worked over a lot. "Advancement of the Human Age" is one example, where the second half of the song was a bit of a surprise to us all. Sometimes the songwriter has a clear vision, other times they just bring a sketch and we colour it in together. We record all our practices and listen back to them... That has been an invaluable tool in getting all the sounds to find their place in the blend. Sometimes Jason adds musical theatre components... which we'd like to expand upon. We have awesome conversations about our musical visions... something which is almost impossible to articulate. And then someone will try and play that thing on their instrument, which doesn't sound anything like what the person was trying to describe, but then is somehow more awesome in it's inaccuracy. And then someone else will try to describe what they were hearing in their head and we continue from there adding layer upon layer of beautiful misunderstanding.
4) If you had to pick one band to take your spot on our best-of list, who would get the nod?
I am enamoured of Eric Chenaux, Ryan Driver, Doug Tielli and others on the Rat-drifting label out of Toronto. Tom Savage Trio: The County Line (and yes, also Bruce Peninsula!). I would pick Hollerado cause they know how to party, but a lot of great music happened this year! We all have a big love for Bruce Peinsula - playing their year end show in TO at The Music Gallery was a huge treat for us! Wait, did you say one band? One each right? No? Nuts.
5) What's next for the
Gertrudes? Can we expect a new EP or new LP in 2010? - Note, I hope the answer is yes.
A full-length release is on the way! But before that, we will have a 7" vinyl release in collaboration with PS I Love You, Bruce Peninsula, and Muskox. We'd like to make a video out on frozen Lake Ontario, featuring the sky. Looking forward to many more collaborations and teaming ups...
Gertrudes brand jam.
6) When most people think of Kingston, they think Queen's and prisons, not music. So for all of the people that don't get to see the city, what's the best thing about playing music in Kingston, and if someone only had 24 hours to spend in K-town, how should they spend their day?
Kingston for the past few years has been experiencing a bit of a musical explosion, thanks to organizers like Apple Crisp, Skeleton Park Music Festival and Modern Fuel Artist-Run Center. Come in the summer, have a swim with us in Lake Ontario off of the Water Treatment Center dock, then check out what music may be on at the Mansion, the Grad Club, the Artel, or... I really love all the different music venues that all have their own charm - everything from tiny bars to living rooms to old old cavernous churches... we've had the great fortune of getting to play in all of the above. Take some university students on a trip to the prison...or vice versa... Breakfast at The Sleepless Goat, free ferry ride to Wolfe Island, walkaround or go to Big Sandy Bay, snack at the Wolfe Island Bakery, swim/skate back, lunch at The Right Spot (breakfast part 2), sneak into a church and play the piano for an hour or so, dinner at Annie's house, find some live music or make your own, stay up all night roof hopping...? Wait, that's starting to sound like high school all over again.

Catfish John is probably most well known by Dead Heads, courtesy of Jerry covering the song, but I was always partial to the Alison Krauss version. Now, I have a new favorite - this high quality live version from The Gertrudes! (email me if you are a super audio nerd and need the FLAC version).

MP3:: The Gertrudes - Catfish John

Band:: The Mountains & The Trees
Album:: Hop, Skip & A Jump

Q1) What was the best musical moment for you in '09?
Wow, you’re not pulling any punches with this questionnaire are you? I mean, this has to be the hardest question to answer first. So many things… the release of “Hop, Skip, & A Jump,” playing NXNE and TIFF, a live CBC concert and #3 on the CBC Radio 3 Top 30, etc, etc… Well, alright, if I had to pick, I would have to say opening-up for Billy Bragg in St. John’s and Halifax. It wasn’t even necessarily playing the show, but hanging out with Billy afterwards – now THAT was amazing.
Q2) Considering even most Canadians never make it to Newfoundland, how would you plan a day for people visiting St. John's for the first time?
Well, if it was a day like today, I would bring them to the airport and put them on a plane to the Bahamas (or to see Bahamas, whichever they’d find warmer), haha. Seriously though, walking up and down Water St and Duckworth St would be a significant part of it. There are so many great shops for coffee, music, clothing, etc. If you’re in a touristy mood, Signal Hill is a nice place to visit. If you’ve got some wheels, you can head-out to Cape Spear, the most Eastern part of North America. There’s always live music going on somewhere in the city. Really though, my favorite place to bring people is Middle Cove beach. It’s just a little ways outside of town (so a car is required), but it’s just such a beautiful place, for me anyways. I grew-up only 5 minutes away from a beach and I often go out to Middle Cove beach just to relax, think, write, and take photos. I’ve been there at every conceivable hour of the day and night and it would be my number one recommendation of somewhere to visit when in st. John’s. One funny note about this question – I’m not from St. John’s myself, so maybe my viewpoint is a bit off. Just sayin’.
Q3) What is the best thing about the NL scene right now?
There are SOOOO many musicians/bands in St. John’s – that’s what makes it great. There are a ton of places to play and almost every night of the week, music is happening somewhere. On the larger scale of Newfoundland, there are some great festivals happening around the province. We played a festival in Gros Morne last year called Trails, Tales, & Tunes and it remains one of my favorite shows thanks to the audience. There’s also Writers at Woody Point, which has featured artists like Amelia Curran, Duane Andrews, and Kathleen Edwards. That also takes place on the West coast.
Q4) Small intimate shows or full band. I know you play both, so what have you learned about your songs and what set up do you prefer?
They both have bonuses. I like band shows because I like playing with other musicians. My “band” is called the Valleys & Seas Orchestra and features members playing guitar, organ, drums, bass, cello, violin, euphonium, flugelhorn, tuba, flute, accordion, etc. I draw upon the resources of the local music school a lot, haha! We were even invited to participate in a private concert due to the “orchestral sound” of the full group. On the other side of the coin, solo shows are great because they really make me focus. I’m really shy on stage and when it’s just me up there (like at the Rebecca Cohn), I’d better be on my game or else. They also allow some freedom with arranging on the fly. I might decide to talk about the song in the middle of it and just repeat a verse underneath. When it’s just me, I can do that without rehearsing.
Q5) What's next for you musically?
Well, I just got a grant from the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council to start recording a new album, so that’s my #1 concern right now. In fact, as I’m answering these questions, I have my ukelele next to me and I take breaks to run over some parts, haha. Right now, I know we’re going to Canadian Music Week in Toronto in March. I’m driving and there’ll be a couple stops on the way up and back. I’ve actually been getting e-mail requests from all across Canada – it’s really interesting to see how many people listen to the CBC, who has been a wonderful supporter of The Mountains & The Trees.
Q6) If you had to pick one band to replace you on our Best-of list, what band gets your vote?
Haha, can I say Bird & Bear? Ok, ok, that would be cheap, so if I had to pick somebody else for the best of EP list of ’09, I’d have to say Dan Mangan – Roboteering. Do I really need to explain why I’d be happy for Mr. Mangan to replace me on any list? Likely not. Also, would Timbre Timber count as an EP? That would also be good. I check the date and it’s a little outside, but I really enjoyed Library Voices – Hunting Ghosts. I bought it for the artwork (which I sometimes do) and it just struck me as a really enjoyable EP to pop in, especially for road-trips.
Q7) How did you get hooked up with the opening slot for Billy Bragg, and how much pressure did you feel opening for a legend?
I got a phone call from Louis Thomas of Sonic Entertainment Group. That sorta makes it sound simple, but in reality it was my name being mentioned to him over and over again this past year by a variety of sources, some local and other further away. He checked out my MySapce, liked what he heard and put forth my name to Billys team as the Atlantic Canadian opener. Next thing you know, I’m in Halifax on stage at the Rebecca Cohn, heh. Really, it was unexpected, but welcomed with open arms – I can’t begin to name all the people involved who helped get me there. CBC, Pigeon Row, Paquin Agency, even Herohill, all helped, either directly or indirectly, in getting the EP out there and that’s what got me the gig - that and Louis being open to giving a young, new artist a chance. As for how I felt, I wouldn’t be able to describe in any amount of words the feeling of walking out on that stage, playing my songs, and looking to my right and seeing Billy watching from the sidelines. I did a blog series on my MySpace all about the shows actually, but even those couldn’t quite do it justice.
Q8) What's your favorite place to play in Canada?
I really have to say that I love theatres, churches, halls – any sort of intimate, seated venue. I think that stems from seeing Hayden play LSPU Hall in St. John’s several years ago and being mesmerized by his presence and the interaction with the crowd. That being said, Norris Point Town Hall, Holy Heart Theatre, and the Rebecca Cohn all rank in the top 5. I have to say though, I effing LOVE Gus’ Pub! I’m not even trying to pander here – I adore that place! I had my 25th birthday there in 2008 and it was the most incredible party ever. Kudos to you, Halifax, for having such a fun venue!

So after that essay, how about some god damn music! Here's a sneak peak at some upcoming material, a version of More & More & More recorded in a room full of people just to make herohill feel like part of the gang.

MP3:: The Mountain & The Trees - More & More & More


Band:: Zeus
Album:: Sounds Like

Bottom line... this EP knocked me on my ass and their live show proved that Zeus is an unstoppable force. When their new LP drops next year, accolades will follow.

Starting Monday we have our LP countdown, including some extra special gems. So come on back now, ya'hear.

Labels: , , , The Gertrudes, The Mountain and The Trees, ,

Posted at 8:29 AM by ack :: 3 comments

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At 10:19 AM, Anonymous flamgirlant did sayeth:

Timber Timbre's release hit the #1 spot in my year-end list. The Wilderness of Manitoba did an AMAZING cover of "Demon Host". Thank you so much for posting it!!!


At 4:43 PM, Blogger historyjen did sayeth:

Thanks guys!
Love Zeus, too.


At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Smansmith did sayeth:

Nice list HH!

I have decided not to do an official Album best of, instead am going to do an EP best of. This is the year of the EP, damn it!! ;-)


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