POP Montreal: Day One

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Mark Kozelek played to his disciples for a captivating 90 minutes at the Ukrainian Federation (not pictured).

My first night of POP Montreal ended up being pretty much taken over by Sun Kil Moon, but that wasn’t a bad thing. The Ukrainian Federation is packed when Mark Kozelek and his band take the stage, the venue is darkness except for a few spots of light around Sun Kil Moon. It’s what Mark has asked for. Before they start, we’re told that the use of cell phones is prohibited, and there are no photos allowed either.

But at least The War On Drugs isn’t here tonight, so Mark didn’t have much to worry about. I’m sure the band had as much time as they wanted to do their sound, they held command over this old Mile End community hall for the night — no chance for sound bleeding from another show, which caused Mark to end his set last weekend at Ottawa Folk Fest early, with some choice words for The War on Drugs.

“I’m in a good mood tonight,” says Kozelek — but adding that we better not piss him off.

I had caught a couple pretty solo songs by Toronto’s Charlotte Cornfield opening up the show as people started to fill the hall. Even during the opener, a solo acoustic act, the crowd was respectful, giving their full attention (or at least it felt like it) to Charlotte. But she certainly earned our attention, ending her set with a subtle, captivating “If You Don’t Pursue”, backing off the mic for the final few lines, letting hew words reverberate through the hall on their own.

Then it was to Divan Orange for Year of Glad (read an interview with the band here), the local folk-meets-drone band that just returned to Montreal after a tour out east. The more I see these guys the more I think of jazz, singer/guitarist Alexandre Bergeron bringing cellist Justin Wright and saxophonist Dave Switchenko on to improvise over his heavily-effected guitar work and soaring falsetto.

“We’re called Year of Glad. I’m just going to keep saying that,” says Bergeron. There are a few truly beautiful moments in the set, including the title track off their latest record, Old Growth. It’s a shame there are no drums there to hold down the rhythm though.

But POP shows tend to run like clockwork these days, so it’s back to the Ukrainian Federation where Mark seems a little disappointed he has no one to complain about in the crowd. They’re his disciples, maybe even extra careful after hearing about what happened in Ottawa.

They lap up his rants against Twitter, how he’s so good at guitar because he doesn’t have a smart phone. But the thing is, you can be an asshole if you make good music. The audience takes his playful bashing well, even when he tells us we’re all brainwashed by Pitchfork.

I admit I didn’t know much about Kozelek except that he was in Almost Famous, but you don’t need to know a thing to enjoy his set. He plays to our hearts, even if the stage banter in between feels like little more than ego-stroking.

Singing about his mother, his girlfriend’s dead dog (really, death was kind of the common theme here) the set is incredible. The band’s at their best as the two guitars intertwine (well, more like Mark’s paying accented by an electric guitar) and the drumming sets a subtle textured base for Mark’s voice.

He plays for 90 minutes, ending the set standing on top of a chair. He gets a standing ovation when he’s through.

As great as Sun Kil Moon was though, the long set means I get to l’Esco as Big Brave are loading up their gear. So it’s a trip to see what’s at Casa that ends my night, where The World Provider are playing to a modest crowd. They’re all wearing white shirts with what looks like tin foil on them, giving me something a little more upbeat to end my Wednesday. Toronto’s Malcolm Fraser works through some synth rock numbers before I call it a night.

Maybe it was all the moody singer/songwriter stuff, but The World Provider’s simple pop numbers don’t do much for me. Still thinking about the Sun Kil Moon set, I really just feel like I should call my mother.

 

New Caddywhompus LP ‘Feathering a Nest’ coming Nov. 11

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New Orleans noisey pop duo Caddywhompus are putting out their new record Feathering a Nest November 11 on Community Records. It’s been a long time coming, their last LP Remainder coming out in 2010. You can hear “Stuck” on Stereogum, the song was on 2012’s Maze Demos along with “Feathering a Nest”, “Company” and “A Self Portrait (of You)”. So it’s a pretty good bet at least two of those songs will be on this record. Singer Chris Rehm’s voice is getting less buried in effects (but maybe dial the reverb back a bit too), and his guitar sounding bigger than ever when things get loud. This being a Caddywhompus tune, it goes from ultra-soft to all distortion (and back) in less than four minutes. It’s not much different structure-wize to its Maze Demos counterpart, but you can hear the time that went into this recording.

If you want to get acquainted with the band, you can download most of their discography for free at Caddywhompusband.com. Here’s “This Is Where We Blaze The Nuggz”, one of their old songs off an EP from 2009.

Push&Shove is building a safe space at loud shows

Demi Begin and Bianca David are are putting their first shows with Push&Shove at TRH-Bar this weekend.

Demi Bégin and Bianca David are are putting on their first shows with Push&Shove at TRH-Bar.

Two Montreal promoters are starting their new company Push&Shove in a big way this weekend, taking over TRH-Bar during POP Montreal. Co-founders Demi Bégin and Bianca David aim to create a space where everyone feels welcome to enjoy the heavy stuff.

“When we decided to start the company, we were trying to figure out a way we could stand out. It didn’t seem like there was a need for another promoter in Montreal,” laughs Demi.

“I had been going to a lot of punk shows in town, and it always seems like it was just a bunch of guys, and then a couple girls. Sometimes I would feel a little out of place. So we wanted to bringing this sort of gender balance and gender equality in our shows.”

The two are in the business of booking loud shows, and, as the name suggests aren’t intimidated by how physical some crowds can get. They just want to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and that some attention is given to gender diversity onstage and in the crowd.

Demi started working for POP Montreal in 2012, learning how bands get booked while working as POP creative director Dan Seligman’s assistant. She quickly missed the music biz after starting a new day job this winter.

“I had this idea of producing my own show for a while, but I was always kind of scared to do that,” says Demi, who met Bianca in Concordia’s journalism department. “We had a meeting one day and we said ‘let’s just do this.’”

“I would come up with lineups in my head, so when Demi said we should actually do this, I thought yes, let’s go for it,” adds Bianca.

 

This weekend will see punk, rock, and hardcore at the Push&Shove shows, including locals Hiroshima ShadowsShitsuCorridor, and Harsh Reality. They’re also bringing in Maine punk trio Jim Dandy.

“POP is a really great way to get visibility [...] it didn’t seem that big a deal doing three shows. It was like, that’s great, more bands! It’ll be one big party,” says Demi.

Their aim is to connect Montreal bands from different scenes, while trying to break through the kind of male domination that’s typically seen in punk and metal.

“I really think that the punk culture is supposed to be progressive, but if it’s a room full of guys moshing and you’re the only girl, it can get a little intimidating. I just want everyone to feel included in the space, no matter what the show is,” Demi says.

“I’m sure there are a lot of girls that listen to the same music that I do,” says Bianca. “We just want everyone to feel like they belong there.”

Push&Shove is putting on shows on September 17, 19 and 20 at TRH-Bar as part of POP Montreal. Full lineup here.

Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots) are having more fun than your band

 

Talking about a band’s name is usually a pretty lame way to start an interview, but with Toronto-based sloppy drunk pop punk 6-piece Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots) the question had merit. How would you pronounce that name exactly?

“The way that we intended it is they would go ‘pkew! pkew! pkew!’ and then just say ‘gunshots’ as boringly as possible. But people call us whatever they want. It depends on their level of enthusiasm,” says singer/guitarist Mike Warne.

Most bands don’t put sound effects into their band name, but Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots) are probably having more fun than most bands.

“We started the band as a joke. Me and the guitar player Jordan drew a picture of me and him on stage with Brodie [singer Brodie Matthias Bocelli] being the manager on the side of the stage. It was supposed to be a joke where we played synths and stuff, but we decided to play real instruments,” he says.

“We weren’t very good at synths.”

Some of the guys had been in bands together before, but they had all worked together and knew each other for years. The band is full of guitars and they all sing. Every word is meant to be screamed back at the band live.

 

“A couple of us had been in bands before and they weren’t fun. There was the work that is being in a band. This has the work, but it’s still like hanging out,” Mike says.

“We just hang out and drink, and now we hang out and drink and practice.”

Their sound will be immediately welcomed to anyone who lived off of the Fat Wreck Chord punk of the ’90s and early 2000s. Overtop of all that the lyrics usually revolve around how their best days are behind them, but we’re going to get piss drunk with our friends so life’s okay.

“I never played synth, it was fun to play around with, but we were never going to get good at them. Guitar is my instrument. I got a guitar when I was in grade seven or eight, and the only thing I listened to was Punk-O-Rama 1, 2, 3, 5, all those ones. We just started [writing] songs like when we were starting music.”

It only makes sense to go back to the music of your youth when you’re trying to face the future, bottle in hand.

“It’s one of those things where it’s easier to take seriously when we’re making a lot of jokes. If you’re in an indie band you’re writing about emotional, serious things,” says Mike. “The focus is more on having fun than making the most artful recording.”

Pkew Pkew Pkew (Gunshots) play le Divan Orange Sept. 18 at 6:00 p.m.

More KBT Interviews

The craftsman behind CROSSS

The mystic indie metal of CROSSS is coming to Montreal before taking its new form in Toronto at the end of the year.

Originally from Halifax, singer/guitarist Andy March credits his interest in things spiritual in part to his time at a Shambhala Buddhist high school. It may also be where his chant-like vocals come from, moving over slow, heavy guitar riffs and relentless drumming.

March has just finished mixing the follow-up to last year’s heavy haunt Obsidian Spectre. The new record was tracked on familiar territory, during night sessions in Halifax’s Echo Chamber studio throughout 2014.

Like on Obsidian Spectre, he’s doing all the production work, from the engineering to the mixing to the mastering.

“It just takes forever. It kind of drives a person crazy trying to engineer and mix and master a record, and I think it probably dilutes its meaning, having to pass through the same brain so many times,” says March, who started CROSSS in 2008 in Montreal.

It’s common practice to have someone else master your record, but mastering is expensive. So March spent months training his ears to notice the minutiae that mastering engineers make their living from. The resulting LP was something you could crank without being overwhelmed, giving the songs more space, in the ‘70s style of recording.

“That one I felt went a little too far, it’s a little too gentle and comfortable. This record hits you a little harder, it’s not as easy listening,” says March. “It’s kind of in the middle, it’s not going to sound like a Ty Segall record, but it’s not going to sound like a Black Sabbath record either.”

 

He’s going for something heavier, with lyrics that are a little more relatable — while retaining the dark, druidic quality that makes a CROSSS record feel part grunge and part sacrament.

The record will be a kind of second half to Obsidian Spectre, and is expected to come out in the late winter or early spring.

The latest release from CROSSS is “Eye Seance”, one of two songs recorded in the latest Echo Chamber sessions written by Nathan Doucet, who plays drums in CROSSS and also plays under the name Heaven for Real.

Doucet and bassist Ryan Allen have been the main band for the past two years, but after touring this fall with a temporary lineup March will have a new band based in Toronto — with Mikołaj Gajewski on bass, and Kris Bowering on drums.

“Eye Seance” came out last month on Ottawa-based Bruised Tongue Records, typically a cassette-only operation. But thanks to a deal with March when he was making a hasty exit from Hamilton, Bruised Tongue has put out a handful of lathe cut records using Andy’s record lathe.

The track is on a split with “Young and EZ” by Toronto-based Soupcans. Bruised Tongue co-founder Pierre Richardson cut 100 records with Andy’s lathe, available through Bruised Tongue.

 

Lathe cut records are cut using a lathe (surprise), an old machine that makes impressions on rotating objects. Before tape recording, electric lathes were used to cut records onto plastic.

“I didn’t know where I was going to put my machine,” says March. “I have a few requirements, because it’s kind of big, and it makes a bit of a smell and uses a lot of power.”

He was able to make an arrangement with Richardson to store his record lathe in a back room of Gabba Hey!, a rehearsal and living space in central Ottawa. In exchange for storage and being able to come down a few days each month to work with the lathe, Andy showed Pierre how to cut records.

“The technology is still ancient, but there’s an online community of people and we were all experimenting over the last three years, and it just got to a place where it sounds really good, it’s consistent and doesn’t wear out,” says March.

Lathe cut records are made one at a time, so they’re only really ideal for rare and short-run releases. They’re known for inconsistent sound and short lifespan, but March says his records can be played on repeat for days on end without any change in quality.

Sandwiching art between two thin pieces of plastic, he creates his own short-run picture discs.

“There’s just like a lot of variables and there ended up being some pretty intense modifications to the machine [involved],” says March. Along with other experimenters around the world, March found using hard, smooth plastic and adjusting the lathe would lead to more reliable cuts.

“A couple of the developments I discovered by just staring at the machine for hours and hours,” he laughs.

“I’m a bit of a closet inventor, I’ve worked on a couple things that I’ve tried to bring to market, and it was really exciting to see it take off. I kind of have a way to make money off it which is pretty amazing.”

He’s working out an arrangement to bring the lathe to Toronto, where it would be moved to June Records, March offering his lathe services through the store.

“I’m pretty excited about it, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a job,” says March. “I’m excited to see if I can popularize it a little bit.”

CROSSS play Sept. 18 at Club Lambi (Telephone Explosion Showcase) and Sept. 19  at Brasserie Beaubien (Craft Singles Showcase).

More KBT Interviews