Whatever it is, make it loud for Deafheaven

 

San Francisco black metal-meets-post rock group Deafheaven became a buzz band of metal after the release of Sunbather last year, a dense record with an atmosphere of detachment throughout. While thematic records and bringing out the piano for segue tracks isn’t all that innovative for metal bands, with careful songwriting they seem to effortlessly go from shredding with the best of ‘em to swelling climaxes as euphoric as Explosions in the Sky.

It’s an approach that has gotten the attention from more than the typical headbanging crowd.

Their latest single “From the Kettle Onto the Coil” is about as straight-up metal as these guys get, singer George Clarke saying it came from a sense of excitement that the current lineup would be recording together for the first time.

“We went through rough times with members, but these guys have been so good. They’re excellent players, we have an idea of what our goals are, and we all get along really well, which is the most important thing. We’re all really good friends,” says George.

“That song came together really quick. It was mostly used to just have fun recording together.”

On Sunbather Clarke’s voice has a distant quality to it, but on this single it’s front-and-centre. He says it’s because he’s more comfortable than ever with his voice.

“I’ve always pushed myself to see how strong my voice is. When you take a year between recordings and all you’ve been doing is using that muscle for months on end it comes naturally. It’s a matter of control,” he says.

“I kind of have it easy, but Dan [Tracy] our drummer he has to always keep himself in shape. A 30-day tour can start to stress your body out, and we’ve been pushing 50-60 dates.”

They’ve spent most of the year touring, as the band becomes more than just George and guitarist Kerry McCoy. Bassist Stephen Clark and guitarist Shiv Mehra have now been in the band for over a year, George saying everyone’s taking part in shaping the band’s heaviness.

“You never really know until there is a big piece there to look at,” says George of new material. “But we’re all on the same page. It’ll be cool. It’ll definitely be different, and I want it to be different. I think it will sound like Deafheaven but it will sound bigger.”

 

Without staying within genre lines, George says there are two elements needed for an idea to make it into a Deafheaven song.

“It has to sound good. I think everyone in my band has a good taste in music, or I at least trust their taste in music” he says. “Secondly, it has to transition well. When you are attempting to flow between different genres the main thing you should be concerned with in songwriting is transitions, because otherwise a 15-minute song will feel like a 15-minute song.”

“We’re pretty open-minded to new ideas and new experiments,” he says.

The band looks to black metal when it comes to threading together their lengthy material.

“Bands like Weakling, Agalloch, Burzum, or Coldworld, there’s a million of these black metal bands that do long songs well. They do it because they transition well and the material’s there. And I really like the hypnotic element. I think you can get lost in a song. My first attraction the the atmospheric side is that trance, [where] all of a sudden a 13-minute song’s done.”

It’s the combination of that influence and Kerry’s love of Godspeed post rock which leads to the foundation of their sound. It’s also lead to tours with acts as varied as Between the Buried and Me and Chelsea Wolfe.

“A loud show, that’s what I look for, whether they’re on the indie side or the metal side,” says George. “I like that power.”

Deafheaven play Bar le “Ritz” PDB September 20 with No Joy and Indian Handcrafts.

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POP Montreal: Ronnie Spector, CROSSS, TOPS, Kurvi Tasch

Ronnie Spector at the Rialto Theatre. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

Ronnie Spector at the Rialto Theatre. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

At the Rialto opening up for the legendary Ronnie Spector is Bloodshot Bill, making music to dance to for a room full of tables. I’ve never seen Bill on such a big stage, and it feels a little weird. Even he admits how absurd it is to play for a bunch if people sitting down, making his pauses extra long and telling the crowd to “shhhh” before chuckling and moving on. Somehow in a fancy theatre his act feels more like a schtick.

But all is not stuffy here at this POP / Jazz Fest collaboration, and by the bar his ferocious psychobilly is met with cheers — the rest slowly warming up to him. But whoever’s doing lighting fails miserably at following Bill’s impromptu stops and snorts.

When Ronnie Spector takes the stage for her “Beyond the Beehive” show, she has the crowd’s full attention. This was a night about affirming her importance in the history of pop music, with Ronnie narrating her story in front of projected photos and video clips as she works through the singles.

It was an emotional trip through her relationship with deranged killer/hitmaker Phil Spector, taking us through the pain of being in an abusive relationship.

“All I knew about Phil is that he was one smooth operator,” Ronnie says as she details her first encounters with a man who would go on to trap her in her own home and try to ruin her career. The instantly recognizable “Be my Baby” was played in an encore to allow for some loophole in Phil and Ronnie’s divorce settlement.

At 71, Ronnie’s voice still holds up and she has attitude to spare. It was an honour to hear her story, from growing up in Harlem to getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But then it’s time to return to this decade at a packed Brasserie Beaubien, where there’s a lazy attempt at a mosh pit while CROSSS are playing (read an interview with CROSSS here). They’re channeling Sabbath heaviness as singer Andy March is joined by his current band for one of the last times, Nathan Doucet bashing the hell out of the kit. They’re followed by Calgary punk four-piece Hag Face, who successfully beat all those ’60s girl group songs out of my head.

 

At Casa Brazilian Money take a moment from their upbeat pop set to plug Monster Energy, who are sponsoring POP this year. I’m going to assume it was a joke making fun of the whole thing (they can’t actually require bands to talk about an energy drink can they??), but I was mostly impressed the singer was able to take a swig of their new “blue” flavour with a smile on his face. Anyways, this non-sponsored blog post is telling you to never drink that shit, even if it’s free.

The crowd’s loving The Rural Alberta Advantage as they work through new stuff at Cabaret Mile End, but the band is having even more fun. Singer Nils Edenloff says it’s the biggest crowd they’ve played to in Montreal (if you don’t count opening for The Hip last summer), and it feels like everyone is singing along to their old stuff.

TOPS at Sala Rossa. Photo  by Cindy Lopez.

TOPS at Sala Rossa. Photo by Cindy Lopez.

While it’s a radio-friendly sing-along at with the RAA it’s hipster prom at Sala for TOPS, the band playing cuts off their dreamy new record Picture You Staring. Their sound is part Fleetwood Mac part Twin Peaks (a comparison someone must have used before) and they own the hometown crowd, headlining the sold-out Arbutus Records showcase.

I cut out early though to catch the end of Kurvi Tasch‘s set back at Casa, expanding their track “Fractured Lens” with a furious jam in nine and ending the set with the title track off their new record On Firm Ground. Their sound has evolved into something creeping and reactive, drums and bass playing off Alex Nicol’s twisted chords as they pull from the darker parts of new wave.

 

POP Montreal: Sun Kil Moon, Year of Glad, Charlotte Cornfield, The World Provider

 

Roberta Bondar get darker with ‘Caustic’

Photo by Andrew Carver

Photo by Andrew Carver

The dense, murky rock of Ottawa’s Roberta Bondar has gone even darker on their new record Caustic, reaching for the avant garde while retaining a grunge feel that would make them fit between the Cranberries and Smashing Pumkins on some ‘90s radio show.

Caustic was recorded mostly live off the floor in one day in December in St. Alban’s, one of the oldest churches in Ottawa. You can hear church organ throughout the record, adding another layer of dissonance to the harshest moments of Caustic.

It’s a different approach from their last two EPs, which were tracked separately in different living spaces and after-hours in a cafe they all worked at.

“Live off the floor creates more of a performance piece,” says singer / guitarist Lidija Rozitis.  “The room itself plays a very important role in creating a tone for the album. The acoustics in that church were amazing and we all felt really comfortable even though we only had one day.”

As they worked through the Caustic material at St. Alban’s they could feel their late-night post-punk bouncing off the church’s walls around them. Lidija says you can especially hear the impact the space had on the slow-burning title track.

“A room can influence sound of the final product. Every show you perform is slightly different depending on the acoustics of the room, and who’s in the room, the reception of the audience,” she says.

 

While the band has some shared tastes in music, there are sounds flying in from all over, from the heavy to the meditative. Lidija says one of the things she loves about writing with Roberta Bondar is that each member sees the song from a different viewpoint.

“We all like to do things that are weird,” she says. “We’re not trying to emulate a certain sound, but trying to think about how to make new sounds.”

The band won’t be playing many shows for the rest of the year after POP Montreal and the Ottawa Implosion Weekend in October, and they’ll likely be thinking about tweaking their name too. Last week the band received a letter from representatives of Dr. Roberta Bondar, the Canadian scientist / astronaut the band is referencing, asking them to clarify they are not affiliated with the doctor.

When we speak it’s two days after the CBC, National Post and Ottawa Citizen have reported on the request from Dr. Bondar, which they found out about from a post on Lidija’s Facebook profile.

“At no point has anyone talked about the music at all. Especially with The National Post it was like we were just dumb kids trying to get more hits on our YouTube video,” says Lidija, adding there was never any conflict between the two parties.

For a band that sells their music on cassettes, she says it’s pretty obvious they’re not trying to profit off the doctor’s name. It’s just a tongue-in-cheek reference by an independent group.

“As a band I wouldn’t want to measure my success by being on the front page of a shitty conservative national newspaper because they realized a band has the same name as a relatively well-known Canadian icon,” says Lidija.

Roberta Bondar play O Patro Vys September 19 at 10 p.m.

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STREAM: Moss Lime – “Sac-à-Douche”

 

Here’s the deceptively dancey “Sac-à-Douche” by local trio Moss Lime, off their July First EP. The EP was recorded last week in the Bottle Garden studio by Peter Woodford from Freelove Fenner, and keeps up a dour tone throughout its minimalist groove, from the trance-like “Ice Cream Sandwiches” to their 2014 take on the club hit “Calabria 2007″. Download it PWYC on their Bandcamp page, and they’ll be releasing a short run of cassettes October 29. They’re playing Barfly September 19 with Wizaard, OYASABA, Jared Brown and People Pretend.

Q&A with Hiroshima Shadows

hiroshima-shadows

Kieran Blake of local punk trio Hiroshima Shadows answered some questions about the band and their new record ahead of playing TRH-Bar September 19. Here’s their self-titled tape, available for PWYC download and released last year via Born Recs.

 

How long has the band been together? Are you (Kieran) the main songwriter, or do the other members write too?

The band was formed over 4 years ago but I’m the only original member. It was originally me, Hannah Lewis who left to focus on her band Red Mass, Emily Bitze who moved to Toronto and formed Milk Lines with her husband Jeff Clarke of Demon’s Claws, and a string of exploding drummers not unlike Spinal Tap. The current line up with Nick and Phil has been going strong for a while now, and it feels like the best fit; I’m the main songwriter and I definitely come in with an idea in mind for bass and drums but they come up with cool stuff I never would have thought of.

How do you decide what you write is “Hiroshima Shadows” or will find a home somewhere else? Do you always write on guitar?

Hiroshima songs are always written on guitar, or sometimes I just use a distorted bass if its a ‘riff’ driven song. There’s almost no crossover between writing band songs and when I’m writing songs for my solo project because they’re such different mindsets that I have to get into. There was one song that I felt was a bit too weird for my solo stuff so I roughed it up a bit and brought it to the band and that became “Drug Skill” on our record that’s coming out later this year.

When is the Hiroshima Shadows record coming out?

The new album is completely finished, but we’re seeing if any labels want to put it out.. if they don’t it’ll be out in some form by the end of the year. It’s different in that it was recorded properly in a studio and mastered by a professional — we took a bunch of the old songs from the tape we released and recorded them with our newest songs — so the biggest difference is that the songs sound juicy now instead of half baked.

What do you like most about playing loud, aggressive music?

Well it’s very cathartic to perform it, and its really fun to have people jumping around at your shows, but it’s also refreshing and necessary for me as a songwriter to let loose and write about stuff that concerns me but I wouldn’t normally write about. Like socio-political shit that would make me feel like a preachy douche if I was playing an acoustic guitar, or I can get away with sleazy songs about sex and drugs. My solo project is pretty inward so the band is outward. It’s fun because it covers the other side of the spectrum of being alive. Solo I’m Dr. Jekyll and in the band I’m Mr. Hyde.

When looking up the band on Facebook I saw you made a personal account for the band. Did you find you weren’t getting to the people you wanted to reach without paying Facebook? Would you rather the band not need to have Facebook (though it seems like a must-do for bands these days)?

Yeah, exactly. On Facebook pages they have this feature that tells you like “This post reached 14 people” and they also say “Do you want to boost this post?” And we have hundreds of fans on there that aren’t seeing stuff we post so I feel like its a scam. So we made a personal profile and added all the fans. I’d like to one day just have a Twitter but I feel like people don’t use Twitter as much — you should add @hiroshimadows and make my dream come true.

How did you connect with Push&Shove?

We were hooked up with them for our Pop Montreal show, but I haven’t heard much about them, they’re a new thing right? So far so good; they’re putting on some good shit this year.

Hiroshima Shadows are playing TRH-Bar September 19 at 9:30 p.m.

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POP Montreal: Sun Kil Moon, Year of Glad, Charlotte Cornfield, The World Provider

The World Provider. Photo Cindy Lopez

The World Provider at Casa del Popolo. Photo Cindy Lopez.

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 Mark didn’t have to worry about keeping the crowd’s full attention, or fear any of the outdoor festival distractions that spoiled his show last weekend in Ottawa. I’m sure the band had as much time as they wanted to do their sound, they held command over this old Outremont community hall for the night — no chance for sound bleeding from another show, for which Mark had some choice words aimed at 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.

POP headquarters on opening day. Photo Susan Moss.

POP headquarters on opening day. Photo Susan Moss.

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.

Back to the Ukrainian Federation 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.

 

POP Montreal: Ronnie Spector, CROSSS, TOPS, Kurvi Tasch

 

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

feathering1

 

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. Here’s the LP version of “Stuck”, a demo of the song was earlier released 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.