Monday, December 14, 2009

Favorites-'09:: Local Releases (10-6)

Yes, you read that right. It's not a Best-of list because if herohill has proved anything in our six or seven years of existence, it's that we don't often sync up with the masses and despite our great efforts, not many people really gravitate towards Canadian content, especially the acts we seem to love. So when you look at the list and start to disagree, to quote Rob Base, "you don't like it, so what, I don't care."

Obviously, we want to turn you on to a few new bands, but we can't hit the mark with everyone. That being said, Halifax had a fantastic year in music. The city had a Polaris short-list nominee, a few glaring omissions that were mentioned by people across the country and a steady slew of releases that continued to prove that Halifax is more than the remains of Seattle East and Pop Explosion sounds-like acts.

For our Favorite-of coverage, we did a lot of heavy lifting trying to get exclusive content from the bands - interviews, drink recipes, exclusive tracks, covers, demos - and we are proud of the results. I hope you enjoy this list as much as we do and hopefully after a quick scan of the people we've mentioned below, you won't dismiss any band from Hali as just another East Coast rock band.

Band:: Share
Album:: Slumping in Your Murals

Q1) What was your best musical moment of '09?
We had a year full of moments that I don't know if I can ever top. Traveling Europe for the first time and playing for amazing crowds was a pleasant surprise, Singing while crowd surfing at the ECMA's was something I never thought would happen at a Share show, Having our friends perform during our album release in Halifax was an event I will always remember, Performing on the Via Rail trains had some indelible moments, and recently we composed a new song for a contemporary Dance piece and performed it live at a Gala in New Brunswick.
Q2) You made a solid transition from a man with a uke to a more band orientated set up for this record. Was this progression natural or a conscious decision and was it hard to relinquish control (even though you had played music with these guys for years)?
It WAS a natural progression but also intentional. Playing music with other people is what is most appealing about music in many ways but I had started writing songs with arrangements in mind and the band just made the music really blossom. It was hard to have less control over the end result but I was happy with the result, so it didn't matter.
Q3) You seem to really embrace the internet and see how it can benefit hard working bands - constantly put up cool videos/recordings trying to satisfy your fans and build a new audience. How important is creative marketing and internet savvy for independent bands in your opinion?
The internet is the best tool to get your music out there without having to compromise what you want to be doing. You can just do things yourself and put it up. I really got into editing video which is why we put up so many video things this past year, I really loved putting those videos together.
Q4) You guys toured your record nationally - via Via which is awesome - so I wonder, do you think a band can make a living without touring the country and simply playing shows close to home and did you find the amount of internet content you served up help build your fan base in places across the country?
Well, we certainly aren't making a living off of music but things are getting better for us because we have toured the way we have. Canada is just so big and so few people are going to shows in most places that playing close to home is wise to develop an audience before venturing across the country or to other countries. I don't know if internet content did anything for us, some people would mention it at shows but mostly just having your music up for people to listen to for free helps the most.
Q5) What's next for Share? Is 2010 going to see a new record?
Ummmm, Going to the ECMA's, a Solo/Duet west coast tour in March, An east coast tour in April or May, and hopefully a new EP by the end of the year.
Q6) If you had to pick one band to take your place on our Best-of list, who would take your spot?
Hmmmm, that is too tough to call. This past year had a lot of new local bands that caught my ear but I don't know if I could call out a clear leader. York Redoubt, Cousins, and Paper beats Scissors are recordings I have been enjoying a lot from Halifax but Richard Laviolette from Ontario is someone in Canada who I think gets overlooked way too often. I feel the same about Shotgun Jimmie, both of his releases this year were brilliant. It was a good year for music.

MP3:: Share - Empathy for the Devil (unreleased new version)

Band:: Caledonia
Album:: We Are America

Q1) What was your best musical moment of '09?
That's a tough call, we've played a lot of fun shows this past year, but i think i can narrow it down;
* St. FX University - Crystal Cliffs. It's this huge 100 year old barn on an old estate that's by the ocean, just outside of town. It has been completely renovated by the University. We played our show, and then convinced the security guards to let us sleep in the barn. But instead of sleeping we stayed up all night jamming, drinking whiskey and listening to Daniel Lanois & Fleet Foxes. The acoustics in that barn are incredible. I can't wait to play there again.
* Or, I'd say playing in Chicago - because we met Buddy Guy, and we were treated nicer than we have ever been before. It was really weird not loading our own gear, or even having to drive to the gig. It made me a bit uncomfortable. Also, super hard to get into the states (especially with Kris' pending drug charges :), so any time we can play there is special.
Q2) You guys really worked your record. It seemed you were always on the road. How important was it for you guys to get your songs heard and how feasible is it for a Hali band to get out and do the same thing?
Wow, it's nice to hear that folks are noticing our incessant touring. We do kind of live in a bubble (a stinky, van-shaped bubble). It was very important for us to tour this record as much as humanly possible, and I think we did our best. We do most of the booking/promo ourselves, so it can be very draining to be in charge of all the logistics and details that go into putting on good shows, on top of driving all over the country and then playing the shows. For example, this was our 3rd National tour, but it took over 6 months of planning & booking & negotiating with venues & promoters. Then we had to book all of our fall dates while we were on the road.

As you know, we have a dirt-bag ethic. The only time we paid for a hotel all year was at NS Music Week. Otherwise it was sleeping in the van, a tent, or on someone's floor. It's not because we love that lifestyle, we just have no choice - we can't afford hotels. It is feasible for other Hali bands to do the same, you just have to be prepared for roughing it a bit, have an emergency credit card for the inevitable vehicle break downs, and you have to like hanging out with each other - 'cause that's what you do a lot of on tour.
Q3) The record - despite the fact most of the band contributed songs - was remarkably cohesive. How do you guys transform sketches and chords into the final result, and how much say does each band member have for their part?
We usually produce group-written songs by work-shopping them to death. Also, having a producer like Dylan Hudecki keeps us from going off on tangents. Our rule is - if it's your instrument, you get final say. Other band members can make suggestions, but ultimately, if you don't like it, you don't play it. Probably not the most efficient way to write music, but we're all very opinionated. Also, even if it's a complete song that one member brings to the group (i.e. We Are America or Scott's House); you have to let the rest of the band put their own touches on it. I think this allows us to have a diverse record with a cohesive sound.
Q4) If you had to pick one band to take you spot in our list, who gets the nod?
My first answer was Acres & Acres, because i think they put out a beautiful and original album. but then Kris told me they made the list too, so I would have to say Paper Beat Scissors.
Q5) Your cd release show here in Hali was a fantastic example of a band having fun on stage and giving back to their fans. For a band like Caledonia, where each member has such a different life, is the camaraderie of the writing process/time in the studio or the adrenaline of the stage the most fun for you?
The writing process is rewarding, but can be tough sometimes, and you don't get feedback for months. The stage show for us is a celebration of the song-writing. Playing in front of people is more intense; there' a connection with the audience, instant feedback. It's really important for us to make each one of our shows special in some way - more of an event, not just another music show. that's why we do things like have 17 musicians on stage (including a string section) at the Paragon; or the acoustic house show at the Company house. Our next big event is will be a split show with Gypsophilia in the March.
Q6) What's the best thing about playing music in Halifax, and if one of your fans stumbled into the city for one day, what would you recommend they do for the day/night?
The best thing about playing music in halifax is definitely the musical community, and lack of ego. There are so many artists in town who i admire and respect, who are so generous with their time; lending their voices and instruments to 'We Are America'. But they know we will do the same for them. If one of our fans came to town for one day/night, I'd tell them to spend the day playing in the ocean, then go to an early show at the Company House, then rock out at Gus' Pub and finish off the night at Charlie's.
Q7) If you could hand pick an artist to cover one of your songs, who would you pick and what song would they sing?
I would pick Tom Waits to sing 'The Plague'

And.... as a special treat here's the world premier of the Scott's House video the band filmed. If you like snow, bikes and wipe outs, you are all set here.

MP3:: Caledonia - We Are America

Band:: Acres & Acres
Album:: All Nations

Q1) What was the best musical moment for you in '09?
Kris - Hearing Ian Bent's string arrangement for the song "Truth & Sky" at our CD Release show at the Music Room.
Dave - Yup, the whole album release night was pretty amazing for me too. My parents surprised me and flew up from Ontario to be there. That meant a lot.
Q2) You guys took advantage of Via to really explore the country and book a tour most artists would never get to experience. Is it something you'd ever do again, and what was the most bizarre thing that happened as a result?
Dave - I'd do it in again in a heartbeat. As for bizarre... I ordered duck for supper one day on the train. That was a pretty bizarre occurrence for an independent band on tour.
Kris - Yes, yes, yes. I would do it many times if I could. I think it's the best way to see our country...I hope that someday we have an efficient train system, so everybody can afford to do it.
The most bizarre thing that happened....hmmm.....Jon Mckiel and I were hackey sacking during one of the brief stops. We're not that good, but at that moment we doing all of these wicked moves when all of the sudden I hit it too hard and it landed on top of the train...forget about it.
Q3) All Nations was obviously your vision, but the amount of support you received from the Halifax scene in making the record turned your vision into something spectacular. What was it like to record with so many people you love and respect and moving forward, will any other records be as grandiose in number of guest artists?
Dave - Both the recording sessions and the album release show felt like gratefulapalooza. Everyone seemed genuinely appreciative for an opportunity to do their thing in the company of everybody else doing their thing. It was a hell of a lot of planning & work though!
Kris - Dave and I have been heavily involved in the music scene for a few years now and we've made a lot of friends. I can't tell you how many times I've been in awe at some of the talent that lives down the street from my house. These people are so talented and I think they could break through on an international scale at any moment. The sad thing is that it never seems to happen because I guess it's not commercial enough or whatever the reason is...maybe someday.....Anyway, sometimes you forget that these people are so good at what they do and you just think of them as friends. You ask your friend to play on the record and it all happens so naturally that you don't think too much of it. Looking back after some time to sit on it, I'm so happy that everything happened exactly the way it did.. I am certain we will work with these people again. However, I think the next album we will try for something different. I'd like to have a more percussion on the next album. Maybe we'll go to Cuba and hire some local talent to play on the record....
Dave - I'd love to try on different flavours, if not Cuba, maybe Jamaica.
Q4) If you had to pick one act to take your place in our best-of, who gets the nod?
Kris - Paper Beat Scissors
Dave - Caledonia, not just because Kris plays with them.
Q5) Parts of All Nations was recorded in what I consider to be the perfect spot for your style of music. You guys channel the past but add enough modern touches to keep the record from sounding dated. I guess my question is how did you get access to the building, and how much did the church impact the outcome of the record?
Kris - In the beginning, we thought we'd go checkout some churches that are well-known for being live-music venues. We checked each of them out, but we always seemed to find a reason for not going with them....The one we ended up going with was right in front of our faces. I can see the "All Nations" church from my front door step. We dropped in one day and met the lady who is in charge of booking events. Apparently she's only there for an hour or two each week, so we were very lucky to catch her that day. We told her our plans and she gave us an amazing deal!
The church completely shaped the sound of the songs we recorded. There was a lot of reverb and the acoustics really amplified the instruments quite naturally. We had to keep percussion to a minimal as this was a live recording with no overdubs. Our amps were barely on, the acoustic guitar, strings and vocals were not amplified at all.
Dave - Totally. It was so reverberant, it felt like we were playing it. I think Spaces Between Studio had a huge influence on the sound as well because that's where the project started. If those first live sessions hadn't sounded good then we might not have tried the church recordings. The live recording process is something we've been working on with Don Mackay from Spaces Between since we started the band & we're going to keep working on it with future recordings.
Q6) What up next for Acres & Acres? Will 2010 see any new recorded material?
Kris - Dave's having a baby right now!! Literally. So we're going to have a nice break and then get back to it when he's feeling ready. I can see us recording a new record this spring. Hopefully...
Dave - Yeah, I'll be a Dad any day now. It's sort of all I can think of right now. I'm guessing we'll be in the studio before winter's end though. In the meantime, there are a videos from the tour on the website and we'll be adding more as we sift through footage. Happy New Year!

MP3:: Acres & Acres - Truth and Sky ft. Don Brownrigg, Pamela Underwater & Rose Cousins (live @ The Halifax CD release show)

Band:: The Got To Get Got
Album:: Sahalee

Q1) What was the best musical moment for you in '09?
It was a really satisfying year for us, so it's difficult to pick one moment, but I think it would have to be our "practice" show in Sackville, New Brunswick just before we left for tour. Our bass ace/drummer Robbie was finishing up an artist residence at Struts Gallery in Sackville and we desperately needed to practice before we hit the road, so we decided to drive to Sackville and practice in the old abandoned theatre on Bridge Street where Robbie had his installations. We told a few people that we'd have an impromptu show after our practice, but by the time we got organized to jam, people already started showing up, so we just played. It was perfect. And the after party was totally ridiculous. We bonded.
Q2) After existing as a traveling collective that picked up members in whatever location you were at, how different is the writing process for you now that you are a bit more settled here and have a more set lineup?
I think it has settled down and it's much more of a band feel when we practice. I feel like TGTGG is a true band, with everyone contributing to all aspects of the song writing. I'm still bringing in the first nugget of an idea or a song, but we are all on the same page with the direction the band is heading. Recently, we've decided to just be a rock band live and not use the strings like we used to, which was a really tough decision to make because in the early days the songs really lent themselves to the strings. That said, it was always my thought to continue recording and playing quietly with the strings as TGVGG (our alter ego) but I guess we'll see if that materializes. I've always really enjoyed doing that, but The Got To Get Got is a five-piece from now on.
Q3) I'm not sure if most readers get the significance of the title of your record or the first song, but how perfect was the timing of the release considering the US Open this year and how weird was it to see a review of your record in Golf Digest?
The record is called "Sahalee" after a golf course just outside of Seattle that has played host to the U.S. Open. I've always liked the way "Sahalee" sounded and looked as a word, plus it has a nice positive meaning in Chinook native language which is "high heavenly ground". As a golfer, the review in Golf Digest was incredible and completely unexpected. Even James Keast at Exclaim! was jealous, because he's a golfer himself. There are a lot more indie rock golfers than you might expect. But yeah, I think because the 2009 U.S. Open was held at Bethpage Black and we have a song called "Bethpage Black", the Golf Digest writer might have googled it and somehow came up with The Got To Get Got. I would've loved to see it in the print version of the magazine, but our next record will hopefully make it in. Dear Golf Digest, call me. I'd love to write one of those "How-To" break 90-80-70 columns.
Q4) You are in the process of writing/recording the new record - at least according to twitter - so I wonder if you can give the readers any insight as to how the record is shaping up?
The song count is high enough to make a new album tomorrow, but I think we'll demo the songs first. We never did that with "Sahalee" which was fine, but I'd like to do it this time around. Now we just have to decide if we'll call the record "Hazeltine" or "Highlands Links". We're hoping to record a couple of songs for a digital 7" before the new year. It sounds lame to say this, but we're really having a lot of fun playing the new songs.
Q5) If you had to pick one band to take your spot on the best-of list, who gets the nod?
York Redoubt. R.I.P. Hands down. But they're on there right? Puppy Milk are gonna be the best thing in 2010.
Q6) At the herohill showcase this year for HPX, honestly, I thought you guys stole the show. With such a big band full of people that play in other bands, how hard is it to get to practice and fine tune the live energy and sound?
Impossible. Between my day job, artistic endeavors and everyone else in other bands we have to sacrifice a lot of amazing opportunities for The Got To Get Got, but whenever we get together it always works. I'm lucky to be surrounded by great musicians and great friends, so it's never hard to get back in the TGTGG mindset, but we all wish we had more time to make music together. It will happen in 2010.

Band:: Jenn Grant
Album:: Echoes

Q1) What was the best musical moment for you in '09?
I think the cd release we had for Echoes at the Cohen. I didn't sleep and had been flying around on a plane all night and was exhausted and stressed and crying in the bath an hour before the show.. But then! The home town people and homemade cookies from Kinley's mom from the audience, and all my band and family being there, made it a spectacular evening. thank you home.
Q2) Almost every review - ours included - alluded to you maturing, both as a woman and an artist. I know when we last chatted you mentioned that this was probably unintentional, but after another year of touring and another fantastic record under your belt, do you feel '09 was a year of growth for you and the band?
I really do. I've learned a lot about myself and about this career since making Echoes and what things are really valuable in this life and I feel really lucky to be able to make a living from writing and performing.
Q3) I actually thought a Billy Ocean dance would be tough to top, but your Ghostbuster routine cleared the bar with ease. You really seem to want to give your audience a special treat with every show and seem to love performing. So, is it more fun to work with friends to record and create your songs, or to get on stage and play them?
I like every show to feel unique, but especially since we don't get to play Halifax frequently these days, I get so excited for those shows that I try to do something extra special. I was sort of thinking about Andy Kaufman when he knew he was dying and played Carnegie Hall - and tried to do everything he could to make the audience feel joy.
Q4) If you had to pick one band to take your spot on our Best-of list, who gets the nod?
There are a lot to chose from, but I love Civic Virtues by Milks and Rectangles record.
Q5) What can we expect from Jenn Grant in 2010?
n January I'm busing across the country for an Olympic Tour with the band, followed by a show with Symphony Nova Scotia, and I am currently writing for my next record.
Q6) So, because we like you so much we are going to lend you the keys to our Deloreon and get Doc Brown to let you go back in time with one specific goal. Tell us what 5 dance movies you would re-shoot with you being part of the cast!
West side story, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction (the scene with the twist, after the milkshakes), Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Head on back tomorrow for the Top 5... Spoiler, we have some bands that love to drink and a cover that will knock your socks off.

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Posted at 8:37 AM by ack :: 3 comments

add to facebook add to Digg this Googlize this post add to Yahoo

At 11:32 PM, Blogger h4rvey did sayeth:

omg this list of bands rock! i only knew of acres & acres before now. other than them an winter sleep i didnt realize how many great indie/folk bands are here in NS!!

What else am i missing out on!? also what else can i do to get more involved? You get so caught up in the indie bands in other parts of the world you sometimes over look your own surroundings:S


At 7:55 AM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

Step 1: Keep reading the hill.
Step 2: Uhhh, yeah, just keep reading us


At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

Thanks so much for posting, especially 'Truth & Sky' - I was at the release show and I wanted to hear this song again!

I agree with Share & Acres and Acres about the Paper Beat Scissors recommendation - Flicker is a great Ep.

Thanks again,



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