I have it on good authority that Genghis Khan would have been a huge Slayer fan. Galloping double-bass drums and furious riff-based thrash seems like a natural fit for the Golden Horde charging through the steppes of Central Asia. Just add booming Mongolian throat singing and horsehead fiddles that sound like a blade being drawn, and you have the perfect recipe for an incredible live performance.

The crowd at Foufounes Electriques got a taste of that Friday evening, when the Nomadic Folk Metal Horde known as Tengger Cavalry charged into town at the end of their North American tour with Incite.

Tengger Cavalry with FTB before the show
Tengger Cavalry with FTB before the show

These guys aren’t just fronting about the whole horse thing, either. In addition to using folk instruments like the Igil, Shanz, Morin Khuur and Throat Singing, Tengger can ride too.

“Yeah, I’m okay on horseback,” muses Nature Ganganbaigal (Guitar, Vocals) at the beginning of our pre-show chat. “One time, I went to the Mongolian grassland and I had to stay on a horse’s back for one hour because he ran off from his owner. I got the bridle on, and I can gallop no problem…I’m more comfortable playing guitar, but I can make a horse go, too.”

Alex Abayev

While experimental genre-defying music is always exciting, it’s unfortunate that a lot of this blending of traditional music with contemporary styles can be seen as a gimmick, or attempting to cash in on the novelty of “look at us, we combine The Monolythic ‘Old’ with The Monolythic ‘New!’”

The obvious workaround is authenticity and commitment to what the artist is creating as a performance that creates something new, unique, and hybridized instead of just two distinct styles – see Canada’s A Tribe Called Red, and Chile’s Matanza for examples of groups who do this well. Tengger Cavalry does this spectacularly in the studio, but live it’s even more impressive.

Nature Ganganbaigal

Tengger Cavalry presents a fascinating live show because these musicians focus their stage presence into capturing the sonic rush of stampeding cavalry as opposed to attempting to shoehorn sacred Mongolian traditions into popular contemporary music.

“When you travel a lot, and play from place to place, you’re already living a Nomadic lifestyle,” says Alex Abayev (Bass). “And since we’re all together, it’s like a Unity we can all feel,” chimes in Josh Schifris (Drums). Alex continues that with their music, “we can make people feel connected to the Steppes, even if they’ve never been there.”

To paraphrase from the acclaimed Coeur d’Alene author Sherman Alexie, writers from Indigenous cultures are often better off treading lightly on hallowed ground. Writing about sacred traditions and exhibiting them for public consumption outside that cultural group is an invitation for people searching to give themselves cultural capital via conspicuous consumption of “the other” (“look at how cool and open-minded I am, I saw a ~~Mongolian Metal band~~ last night”).

“When I was in high school, I listened to a lot of metal, which meant I listened to a lot of Scandinavian bands bringing traditional music into their sound,” explains Nature when I asked about the genesis of the band. “I thought, ‘well, why can’t I do this with my own culture? Why not create something brand-fucking-new?’”

Josh Schifris

The band tells me that “talks are happening” about a future tour in Turkey and Central Asia. “We get a lot of messages from Istanbul, with fans telling us that we are their nomadic brothers.” This current tour has been a blast for the band, and despite weeks on the road, they show no signs of fatigue; if anything, they’re coping with post-tour depression now that the constant gigging has finished.

Canada has treated them well, with some of their favorite shows taking place in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Josh has asked me to include a note to Neil Peart shouting out Rush (and the Great White North in general) as major inspirations to this band.

“The most important thing is about what’s in your music,” says Nature. “We see ourselves as combining cultures, not combining genres. We’re all from different backgrounds, but we’re all in this band.”

Nature Ganganbaigal

The band would like to express their sincere appreciation to the tour’s sponsors, Kay’s clothing (UK) Killer B Guitars, Rock N Roller, Reunion Blues, Sinister Guitar Picks, and Strukture.


Photos by Cem Ertekin


This week we have a very special edition of Shows This Week as I preview the Second Annual NDG Porchfest. After a very successful first year this “community music festival held on the front porches of NDG” will be back this weekend with over 70 performances to choose from over two days.

If you’re unfamiliar with the event you should check out FTB’s preview last year that pretty much sums it all up. Rather than speak about the event as a whole I’ve decided to preview five of the acts that are symbolic of the variety and all inclusive nature of this festival.

Martin Goyette

One of the more established acts in this year’s fest is St-Henri born blues singer Martin Goyette. The former competitor on Season Four of La Voix will be sharing his “whisky-throated” voice and soulful harmonica playing to anyone traveling down Wilson Ave. this Sunday.

The Blues on a porch just feels right and when you’ve got one of Quebec’s best in Goyette providing the entertainment in this unique setting you should take advantage!

Martin Goyette plays the porch at 4098 Wilson, Sunday May 8th, 12:00 pm, Free Show.

Bud Rice

It’s good to see that Porchfest doesn’t discriminate against back porches. According to the schedule, Bluesy-Folk singer Bud Rice will be playing in “the lane between Marcil and Oxford,” I’m assuming on his back porch. Or maybe he’s just going to hang out in the middle of the lane and sing some songs.

Perhaps Bud doesn’t have a front porch. Maybe the acoustics are better in the lane. Does it really matter? It’s a show in a lane, what are you waiting for! To get you in the mood for an outdoor show here’s a duet: Bud and a train. Hopefully Bud will be a little warmer on Sunday.

Bud Rice plays the lane between Marcil and Oxford (closest to 2140 Marcil Ave ), Sunday May 8th, 2:00 pm, Free Show.

In The Name of Havoc

While most of the performers are of the blues-folk variety there are some notable exceptions, best exemplified by In The Name of Havoc. This hardcore punk band just released a five song EP and hopefully they will be brightening everyone’s Saturday on Sherbrooke Street with some of the new tracks.

They’re promising an “acoustic set,” most likely to keep the neighbours happy, making this the most all-ages / family friendly punk show of the year.

In The Name of Havoc plays the porch at 5826 Sherbrooke Street West, Saturday May 7th, 1:00 pm, Free Show.

The Record Breakers

The all-ages aspect of this festival applies as much to the bands as the audience. The Record Breakers are a group of teens from the West Island who write their own tunes and throw in some classic covers to boot.

This rock band might be young but their list of musical influences reads like a history of rock and roll: The Beatles, The Who, Rush, Nirvana, Muse, to name a few. This isn’t one of these “they’re good for their age” things either, these kids can play.

The Record Breakers play the porch at 4073 Hingston ave, Saturday May 7th, 1:00 pm, Free Show.

Blue Monkey Project

For those looking for more of a dance groove I would suggest checking out Blue Monkey Project.  With a mix of “funk, soul and rock n’ roll” you can finally dance in the middle of the sidewalk and not look out of place!

Well you still might look out of place but who cares, it’s funk on a porch. Like with everything else in this festival, the conventional rules don’t apply.

Blue Monkey Project plays the porch at 4620 Hingston Ave, Sunday May 8th, 2:00 pm, Free Show.

* Featured image of The Guillaume Jabbour Band playing Porchfest NDG 2015 by Jesse Anger

Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Folk, country and blues singer-songwriter Oh Susanna put on a hell of a show this week at Toronto’s The Great Hall. It was extra special because she invited some friends along to play, and she has some very spectacular friends indeed!

Andy Maize, Ben Kunder, Sarah Harmer, Jane Siberry, Justin Rutledge and Colleen Brown were among those privileged enough to be called up. Coming up one at a time, these gems performed their songs with Suzie and her band.

Suzie performed many of her own songs as well. What a voice! Such strength and clarity of tone. The show concluded with a melodious group encore, where Suzie re-wrote the lyrics to Go Tell it on the Mountain and we had a good, old-fashioned sing-along.


The event was in keeping with her album Namedropper, a collection of songs written for her by many of her musical friends, including Ron Sexsmith, Jim Cuddy, Amelia Curran, Melissa McClelland, Luke Doucet and several others. What a brilliant idea for a record.

As such, the record boasts variety in subject material and tone, but Suzie made each song her own and is the cohesiveness that keeps this wonderful collection of songs together. My two favourites are Oregon (Jim Bryson) and Mozart For The Cat (Melissa McClelland).

Oregon is magical. It boasts a delicate, childlike innocence. There’s a reverent quality to it, both in the lyrics and in the simplicity of the song, plus the way Suzie sings it. Jim Bryson does such a wonderful job with the lyrics that it paints a vivid picture of lazy afternoons and the simple pleasures in life.

Mozart For The Cat is quite a contrast to Oregon;it’s sassy! It’s fun and punchy and Suzie’s delivery is bang on.

Namedropper was actually in the works in 2012 and almost finished by spring 2013 when Suzie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took time off for treatment, and released the album in October 2014.

Suzie proved last night that she’s back, sounding and looking stronger and more confident than ever. Hats off to her and her band, and her obviously supportive and caring friends.

Here’s a video for Goodnight, performed last year at The Great Hall:

• 1998 – Genie Award for Best Original Song “River Blue”

• 2003 – Juno Nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Solo Artist For Oh Susanna

• 2007 – Juno Nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Solo Artist for Short Stories
• 2007 – Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Songwriter in English

• 2007 – Canadian Folk Music Award Nomination for Best Album Short Stories
• 2009 – CBC Great Canadian Song Quest winner
• 2011 – Juno Nomination for Best Producer for Soon The Birds
• 2015 – Canadian Folk Music Nomination for Solo Artist of the Year
Photos by Stephanie Beatson

NDG, yesterday you outdid yourself. You welcomed summer to Montreal in the best way possible: with a truly grassroots and community-based music festival experience.

It just made so much sense. Of course an idea like PorchFest would work in my old hood. NDG is known for its abundance of musicians, laid back weekend attitude, and strong community feeling. Plus it has some rather nice porches.

There’s no need for an over-hyped, over-commercialized festival here. NDG residents can go downtown if that’s what they’re looking for. In the Deeg, it’s all about hassle-free good times, partying with neighbours and, of course, great music.

On my first early afternoon Porchfest odyssey, I had the perfect musical travelling companion, my mom. A long time NDG resident, she felt right at home walking around the streets she knew all too well, now emboldened with a musical party vibe that was always there, just not in such an obvious way.

This wasn’t an event tailored to a specific age group or musical genre. There were children, seniors and every age in between. There was folk, rock, electronic-styled music with real instruments and even a punk band doing an acoustic show. We didn’t catch the punk band and almost caught the electronic act, but we took a wrong turn.

Multi-Generational Appalachian Country in the Early Afternoon

Our first step was a glorious mis-step, as we headed down the wrong street and caught an excellent show. Now, to be clear, our error had nothing to do with the listing of events provided by PorchFest organizers. They offered as clear a guide as possible of when and where each of the 60+ acts who had signed up were performing.

No, in our excitement, we mistook Wilson for Melrose and caught a performance by Stephanie Flowers and the Sticky Finger String Band completely by accident. This multi-generational country band was fronted by a 12-year-old with incredible musical talent for someone her age or any age. They will be playing the Montreal Folk Fest later this summer.

While their style may have sounded bluegrass, they made it clear to the increasingly growing audience that it was, in fact, country music from the Appalachian region of the US and, in fact, a precursor to bluegrass. What was made clearer was that this band knew how to play and really capture a crowd with their music.

The stage Stephanie Flowers and her band played on was actually the front porch of an apartment building. It was used by multiple acts throughout the day. Before we arrived, FTB’s Jesse Anger caught The Guillaume Jabbour Band playing in the same location. He liked what he heard and took a pic of the band and the spot:

PorchFest NDG (1)
The Guillaume Jabbour Band

Backyard Rock Rocks

While, for the most part, this was a front porch-centric event, we were fortunate to catch a show on a back porch and, more to the point, sit in a back yard to take it in. It was a performance by Les Skidoos Jaunes, a local rock band playing cover songs in both English and French, occasionally changing instruments. Full disclosure, the drummer is my brother. I guess you could say it was a real family affair, as is PorchFest overall.

The band was joined on stage by Blake Adams and other members of the Adams family who were hosting this event. They were also offering up hot dogs and freshly squeezed lemonade and only asking for donations to the NDG Food Depot in return.

As Les Skidoos expertly played through their varied repertoire of more recent and older rock tunes, more people arrived via the alley and took their spots in the backyard. Near the end of the show, the crowd taking in the event was bigger than ones I have seen at some bar shows booked months in advance on good nights.

PorchFest NDG (2)
Les Skidoos Jaunes (also in featured image)

People were really getting into the music and the scene, singing along and even dancing a bit. Not bad for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Once the Skidoos had finished playing and the official PorchFest show was done for this particular porch, my mom had had her musical fill and left. I decided to stick around. Mike Dawson was doing a set on the balcony and there was a real jam vibe happening.

This meant I didn’t get to catch some of the acts playing in western NDG. Come to think of it, there were quite a few acts I would have liked to catch but didn’t get the chance to: FTB Fundraiser veterans Po Lazarus and some former members of the United Steel Workers of Montreal performing together to name but a few.

No, it’s not possible to catch all of PorchFest. So much is going on in such a short period of time. Regardless of what specific acts you get to listen to, though, one thing you will experience is the overall feeling of a community coming alive culturally on a beautiful summer afternoon, and the first one of the year at that.

As for those acts you missed, well, there’s always next year. And that’s not some hollow promise, but rather something to get excited about.

* Photos by Jesse Anger

A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing members of Toronto indie rock band Low Hanging Lights following the release of their EP Insulated Picnic Bag. Last week, their singer-songwriter/guitarist Al Grantham released a solo album and sat down with me to discuss his songwriting process, what he was aiming for with this project and what it’s like being an indie artist in a big city.

Stephanie Beatson: With your solo work, what kind of sound are you trying to achieve? You told me before that you are strongly influenced by Bob Dylan and a lot of his contemporaries in the seventies, partially because of the lyrical content. How does that translate into what you’re trying to do as a solo artist?

Al Grantham: The original idea for the record was for it to be kind of a throwback, a confessional singer-songwriter album that would be pretty stripped down with basic instrumentation. What ended up happening is once I got into the studio, I can’t help myself, but I want to try to make really weird sounds and arrangements. We did a couple of weird things on one track and then I said, “Whatever. Let’s just make the whole album like this.” I like hearing weird and new things. To me that’s way more exciting than the alternative. I think the songwriting is very old school songwriter stuff, but we dress it up with arrangements that are hopefully a little more progressive and different.

SB: Tell me about the instrumentation on the album.

AG: Originally we wanted to do the whole album live off the floor, acoustic and vocals. It was supposed to be a Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan -type album, or a Neil Young album. Kind of a throwback with minimal instrumentation and just make it folky, rootsy. We went about recording guitar and vocals, but it’s really stupid to record that way without a click track and then record drums to them. Thankfully Kaleb Hikele, the producer, is a freak and can do that sort of thing. Luckily, after listening through we decided we could record drums to about two thirds of the tracks after the fact. A few of them we had to re-record with a click track. I like the looseness of the live-off-the-floor tracks, but I think I’m a better vocalist when I’m recording them after the fact. I’m glad we have a blend though. It makes the album more varied.

SB: In what ways does your solo project differ from the band stuff?

AG: Ian Boos (bassist in Low Hanging Lights) used to play in a punk band. That’s his background. I like a heavier sound as well, so we made a decision to streamline LHL about a year and a half ago and play more upbeat, heavier stuff but still with some strange things in the arrangements. The solo stuff I don’t think about playing live. I kinda like that because I feel like I don’t have to be hampered in the studio. Not to say that the tracks on the album couldn’t be played live, they all could with the right people, but I don’t have to worry about it which gives me the freedom to do whatever I want with the arrangements. That’s exciting because it’s like the sky is the limit. You can go down the rabbit hole without having to worry about finding a way back out. In terms of the band and the music, there are similarities. We’ve been playing two or three of the tracks on the album as a band, but made them more streamlined and aggressive.

Al Grantham2

SB: What was the inspiration behind this album?

AG: When I started writing the songs, I was going through a really bad break-up that was messy. It fell apart and it was pretty bleak. I was in a bad spot. It was kind of like when you’re eighteen or nineteen and you’re kind of messed up, and you write compulsively. It is a very therapeutic thing. I’m not sure when that stopped for me, and I still enjoy writing, but I didn’t do it out of necessity. After what happened a year and a half ago, that feeling came back and I found myself writing all the time because I had to. Then I had all these songs. I wasn’t even really planning on making an album, but the idea came around and I got excited about it. I’ll have to get another broken heart before the next album! When you’re writing from a dark place it comes so easily. When you’re not feeling that dark or sad anymore, it’s hard to know what to write about. Lately I’ve been writing about people and characters I see around town. It’s so easy to see stories everywhere you look.

SB:  What’s it like to be an aging independent musician?

AG: It’s difficult. At times you feel like a crazy person. I’ve sacrificed everything in my life so far (career, money, girlfriend, family) for something that’s not always very rewarding. When it is though, it really is. That keeps me going. That and the fact that I’m not sure how functional and effective I’d be in a normal environment anyways. I remember the last few years I spent in Paris (Ontario) when I was trying to figure out what path to choose in life. I was so bored growing up there at times that I could literally feel myself dying. The thought of settling down into something comfortable at the age of twenty-two was scarier than every horror film I’d ever seen combined. Also, I really believe this is the worst time in history to be a musician, unless in the middle ages musicians were executed for bad performances or something.

It’s a strange feeling to keep investing so much time and money into something that doesn’t even seem to be on an upward trajectory. I’m a total independent. I don’t work with a label. I’m used to playing empty rooms, and have been for ten years. I’m almost thirty. This is just a crazy, crazy thing to keep doing. You do it though, because you know somewhere, someplace, there are people who will really, really understand what you’re doing and you will make their lives better in some capacity.

SB: What’s your favourite song that you’ve written so far?

AG: For a long time it was “Solitary City Man Death,” a Low Hanging Lights song. Musically and melodically I thought it was the most interested song I’d written. Recently I really like “Ms. Who I Thought That You Were,” because it’s so simple and really direct. I listened to After the Gold Rush by Neil Young right before bed one night, and when I woke up in the morning I grabbed the guitar right away and tried to write something in that style. It evolved into that song.

SB: What would you say your favourite subject matter you’ve written about has been?

AG: I always try to write about personal experiences. I wrote a song about Optimist Park in Paris, Ontario which is on the first album I put out. I think just writing about relationship dynamics. I think a lot of people think they know more than they do, including myself. I think it’s a human condition that we all believe that we should have answers to a lot of things. When something goes awry, then we get angry because we have other expectations and we think something’s a certain way. In reality there are a million different valid perceptions about anything. We’re not above basic human processes like attraction, repulsion, that kind of thing. I try to get across in songs that I really don’t know anything, haha. It’s okay to not know. People always need a definitive answer for everything, you know? We don’t do well with the unknown. But that’s okay. It’s life.

I wrote a video game song called “Never Found a Princess” about video game addiction. I wrote a song called “Emo Porn Ballad” about the porn star Sasha Grey. I think it’s a really weird, interesting industry. It’s one of the most profitable industries in the world but it’s still so taboo to talk about it. Most people watch porn in some capacity, but a lot of people still feel uncomfortable admitting it. Sasha Grey is an interesting case because in interviews, she’s very intelligent, very articulate and she’s done some serious acting as well. That led to a song. I’m always interested by people and subjects that are on the fringe. I’ve always identified with outsiders.

Al Grantham’s original (it’s got theremin!), interesting and poignant self-titled album is out now and available on Bandcamp.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson. 

Taking inspiration from jam bands like The Grateful Dead, Po Lazarus recently recorded their debut self-titled EP live in one (almost) continuous take. This ambitious and experimental style is something the Montreal quartet clearly thrives on. At its core, Po Lazarus is a folk-rock band, but as their five-track EP demonstrates they’re also a band continuously striving to find new ways of making music.

As with all experimentation, the final results are mixed. As lead singer Joshua Carey croons about lost loves, one night stands, self-doubt and redemption, the music shifts between sweet folk, harder rock and straight up country.

As much as the band doesn’t want to admit it, they’re masters at putting on a great performance. When you see a live Po Lazarus show, it’s difficult not to get swept up in the vibe and feel like these gentlemen are making sweet love to your eardrums. Upon repeated listens at home, the band’s strengths and weaknesses start to become more apparent.

In the psychedelic-fuled lead track Backyard Voodoo Carey’s voice sounds like the love child of Jim Morrison and Thom Yorke. When first hearing the lyrics, it’s hard to take Backyard Voodoo seriously (Chicken bones are strewn/From the ceiling of your room/and brickdust is guarding the cupboard where you keep your/broom). But just like dark magic, upon repeated listens the song grows on you.

In more folk-ish Po Lazarus songs like The Seams, the guitar wailing away seems out of place. But in Backyard Voodoo the guitar is perfection. And when you combine that with Mo Novak’s solid drum beat, I could listen to Carey ramble on about nonsense forever.

I’m Coming For You is one of the most polished songs on the EP. The song’s impact slowly creeps up on you and has just the right doses of pop, rock and folk. The best guitar solo on the EP can be found here and features some impassioned vocals from Carey.

Conversely A Couple Weeks Time is the blandest of the offerings on the EP. While you have to appreciate the desire to try different things, country is clearly not a style that inspires the band as much as folk or rock.

If You Are Alone is the most obvious crowd pleaser of the EP. Ukulele, falsetto and simple lyrics is always a great mix. Especially when performed live, Po Lazarus knows how to make this combination work for them. With the incredibly infectious chorus (If you are alone/Well i’ll be the one to take you home x2) it’s hard not to find yourself singing along to this song whether you’re in a packed bar after a few pints, or stone-cold sober sitting alone in your living room.

All and all this EP signals Po Lazarus is a strong band that’s here to stay. It’ll be exciting to see where Po Lazarus’s goal of experimentation takes their musical style and lyrical inspiration next.

To celebrate the launch of their EP, Po Lazarus is having a party tonight, Friday, August 8th at Turbo Haus. Tickets are $10 in advance, $14 at the door. To download a copy of the EP for yourself, make sure you check out Po Lazarus’s bandcamp page



Indie-folk pop band Wild Child came in from Austin, Texas to play at Hillside Festival on Saturday and I don’t think they at all expected the reception they received. Prior to their set, people under the tent at the Island stage were sitting or lying down, chatting and relaxing. As soon as the band struck their first note, everyone, and I mean everyone, jumped up and began dancing, clapping and cheering. The band, obviously taken aback, basked in delight and played an energetic set that concluded with a sing-along tune that had the place in a musical frenzy.

Wild Child (2)

Lead singer Kelsey Wilson has a beautiful, pure tone and sings with strength; a perfect fit to front this group of six. In between vocal phrases and during musical interludes, she plays her fiddle and compliments the lovely cello parts played by Sadie Wolfe. Wilson and the group’s other vocalist, Alexander Beggins (ukulele), take on the bulk of the songwriting, but the band is completed with the other colours that include Evan Magers (keyboards), Drew Brunetti (drums) and Chris D’Annunzio (bass). They’re a little like Hey Rosetta! with their instrumentation, but the vibe of the music is more like the Dinner Belles.

Wild Child began as an acoustic duo with Wilson and Beggins, who met on the road while touring in support of another band and began writing songs together. They brought in other instrumentalists when recording their debut album Pillow Talk (2011), which then naturally evolved into a full band. Since their inception a few years back, Wild Child have been enjoying some nice successes with their recordings and their live shows. Both albums, Pillow Talk and The Runaround (2013), were well received. The band was named by the Austin Chronicle as the Best Indie Band and Best Folk Band in Austin at the 2013 SXSW festival.At this year’s SXSW the band was again named Best Indie Band. This summer they played at Bonnaroo and attracted an unprecedented crowd of over 5,000 to their show.

wild child

Check out their video for “Crazy Bird,” from The Runaround.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.
N.B. Hillside was shut down Sunday evening due to a severe thunderstorm. No coverage will be provided.

amelia curran

Amelia Curran is without a doubt one of the best lyrical writers in Canada. She consistently floors me with evocative phrases over simple and charming musical accompaniment. Somehow, she manages to rhyme AND use alliteration while singing intricate phrases full of descriptive words, all while telling a story. Yes, she’s a dazzler.

At Hillside Festival last weekend, she played a lovely set of folk tunes with her band, which includes Joel Schwartz on guitar and mandolin, Kurt Nielsen on Bass and Can Giroux on drums and vocals. Another Canadian music icon and wife of Giroux, Oh Susanna, came up to sing harmonies on a few songs too; a wonderful treat for the ears! With the full band, Curran was able to add some of the colour that is present in her latest releases but she still played a couple of solo songs, keeping more in line with the vibe of her earlier music.


Maybe it’s her unabashed, honest lyrics, or the way she presents herself and her music, but she consistently wows audiences and Hillside was no exception. On a lazy Saturday evening, people were sprawled out on the lawn while they took in her set. The applause grew louder after each song, reaching the pinnacle as she gracefully delivered her final number, expressed her appreciation and left us all wondering how someone can have so much raw talent and still be so humble about it. I know that every time I listen to her music, I feel that if I could write one song that’s even half as good as even her most mediocre tune, I would consider myself a success.


I’m not alone in thinking that. Curran has won many awards since the release of her debut full length album in 2008, titled War Brides (originally released in 2006, re-released on Six Shooter Records). Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and currently living in Halifax, she has won East Coast Music Awards. In 2010, she took home a Juno Award in the category of Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo for her album Hunter Hunter. She also won first prize (Folk category) of the prestigious 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. Her most recent release, Spectators, was nominated for the 2013 Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo. The album pushed beyond the folk boundaries that defined her previous releases while still focusing on the strength of her lyricism.  “Years” is the first single from Spectators and contemplates whether it’s all worth it at the end of the day.

Amelia Curran (1)

One of my personal favourites of hers that highlights her prolific lyrics is “The Mistress”; here she plays it on “Q” with Jian Ghomeshi.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics. She puts so much meaning into each clever line that it’s hard to process it before she hits you with the next one.

“try and stop me I’m on fire
it doesn’t look that way
you know, I used to be a liar
but living’s set me straight
I don’t come with no disclaimer, I’m like everybody else
we keep our demons on the burner and our morals on the shelf”

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.
N.B. Hillside was shut down Sunday evening due to a severe thunderstorm. No coverage will be posted.

Pretty Archie

Pretty Archie are a folk/country/bluegrass band from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia who came to Toronto to play NXNE. They write honest and fun music with a goal of connecting with their fans. They achieve this with their dynamic live shows and relatable subject matter. Formed by childhood friends Brian Cathcart, Matthew McNeil, Colin A. P. Gillis and Redmond MacDougall, the foursome have fun together onstage and off. I caught up with them before their set at the Cameron House a couple of weeks back to chat with them about their music, where they’ve been, where they’re going and why people love Pretty Archie.

Stephanie Beatson: You guys have been friends since you were children. How do you find having a long history and such close bonds with each other affects the band dynamics?

Brian Cathcart: I think it’s great. It’s perfect because we’re not afraid to tell each other anything since we were friends before we were band mates. That goes a long way with being able to be honest with each other fully and not be afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings. Sometimes when you play with someone you don’t really know that well you don’t fully vocalize your feelings. With being super close friends, it’s okay to say, “hey man, that’s not working out. Try this.” You can talk easier.

Collin A. P. Gillis: It helps too if you’re spending long hours in a van together if you can joke around with one another. With being long-time friends too, you can do stuff like, “hey, remember that time in grade nine when you did this? I’m calling that card now!”

Can you tell me about your songwriting process? Does one person take charge or do you typically co-write?

Gillis: It varies a lot. With a lot of songs Brian will come with the lyrics and then we make the song as a band. Other times we sit down, if we have something we want to write about, we write it together.

Cathcart: It’s easy to write something if you know what you’re talking about. It’s easier to explain yourself. I feel like we take our songwriting ideas from stuff we’ve gone through or that we know well enough to be able to be a source on that subject, as opposed to making up a song about a situation. We have a couple of songs that do that, but it’s better for us to have the realness and the actual experience behind it so it’s believable.

Gillis: Too real sometimes!

When you’re writing, do you have a certain goal in mind or do you tend to write more of a happenstance?

Gillis: Again, it varies a lot. If someone’s going through something in their life that’s cathartic… a lot of our songs are cathartic, so it’s easier to write then. But a lot of them come because we decide to write about something. Like a big brainstorming clinic. I think that’s good because if songs came the exact same way, I think it would be boring.

Cathcart: Our type of music is not the type where you play somewhere and everyone automatically likes you. You play a bar and maybe ten people are actually listening. It’s really cool when people come up after and say, “we really connected with that,” and so it’s a slow building process.

Playing away from home, how do you find reception has been? Does it vary in the different places that you play?

Cathcart: We played in Alberta up through Calgary, and they loved it. They’d never heard it before and were really appreciative. I feel like there are more players or maybe more music the further east you go, and the sound is more similar, so we get a lot of, “you sound like these guys,” or, “you sound like my cousin’s band.” Maybe there’s just more players out east, but out west people were like, “woah.” On the whole, I feel like our music style is well received.

Gillis: It’s pretty bare-bones, roots music. I think anyone from a heavy metal rocker to a rapper still appreciates to some degree folk-based or roots music because they realize there’s no BS.

Cathcart: We had a tattooed biker from Hamilton who came up said he really dug our music.

Pretty Archie

Can you tell me what some of your musical influences are?

Gillis: It varies a lot. In terms of what the band sounds like, somewhere in between The Avett Brothers meets Old Crow meets Wilco. Kind of country folk with a little bit of extra on top of it. We write the song in a folkie sense where the lyrics are the focus, then because of our individual backgrounds and influences when we come together and put the stamp on the tune, it ends up coming out as country and bluegrass stuff. It’s a combination of our influences. It’s not something we purposefully do, it just comes out.

One of my favourite things about your music are the vocal harmonies. It adds a depth that I think people connect to.

Cathcart: That was one of my inputs coming into the band. We have to have good harmonies. They draw me in.

Gillis: You need harmonies, almost like another instrument. Plus, Brian’s the lead singer, but as a listener it goes from him singing about whatever the song’s about to the band singing about whatever the song’s about. Making it a real band thing. It’s fun. Everybody’s involved and a part of it.

How much do you guys rely on social media? How has it helped your career?

Gillis: It helps us tremendously, being able to reach five thousand people in a second.

Cathcart: It’s one of the main reasons why we can make a band at our age, where people our parents’ age wouldn’t have been able to get out there in the same way. It’s everywhere. Over-pollution sometimes, but it’s a good way to get out there.

How do you feel you’ve been able to differentiate yourselves when you’re in a sea of thousands of bands?

Cathcart: To be honest, I’m not sure we even think of that. I don’t think of that personally. When you walk through the city of Toronto, you see posters for hundreds of bands on the walls. I think being from the east coast, we don’t think about that. It would be very discouraging. You just have to make a plan and trust that what you’re doing is good. We’re very committed to our music. It’s our life, it’s our religion. Lots of bands die and go away, and we may too, but you’ve got to believe in it when you’re in it.

Gillis: You make the music without that in your thoughts. If people like the music, they’ll buy it.

Cathcart: We’re going in a show-to-show, grassroots kind of way. You should be making music to make music.

Do you have a certain goal in mind when you’re playing live shows?

Cathcart: Absolutely. We love when audiences are up dancing, screaming, singing, partying. Even if someone’s just sitting there mouthing the words, it’s an adrenaline boost for me personally. You feed off each other. Crowd is hugely important to our type of music.

Gillis: We come from this dive bar/folk/playing at pubs background where we were playing three sets to keep the drunks happy. That’s our background as performers so when we get up now, our goal in mind is to make everybody have as much fun as they possibly can. And make them connect with the music as much as we possibly can. We lay it all on the line every night, emotionally. We sweat it out and have a good time and usually people do the same.

Every night you have to play and kill it. Give it your all because you never know who’s going to be there. I don’t mean in terms of a big shot, but someone might be there who will love your music forever, and will keep in touch and sometimes become a friend.

Do you find that you’re exhausted at the end of shows?

Cathcart: Oh absolutely. By the end of the show, my shirt’s soaked and I’m tired.

Gillis: That’s the way we do it. We’re an all-out group of labourers.

Pretty Archie have released one full length album to date, Steel City, and are recording a new album in September with an estimated release date of October 2014.

Photos by Chris Zacchia.

Chose Bottine

Joel Larocque takes the Chiac colloquialism Chose Bottine as his moniker for his new album Les Moyens du Bord. When I asked him what the hell Chose Bottine meant Larocque replied:

“It’s a phrase that my father used to use when referring to someone whose name he’d forgotten. He’d say, ‘Do you remember when chose bottine fell and cracked his head open on the ice?!'”

At which point I was like, oh, it’s the Chiac equivalent to what’s his face— it was also at this point that I thought, Chose Bottine is a super fresh name for a band.

The album features songs in both French and English, which reflects Larocque’s Acadian roots. Larocque moves between the two tongues as only those who hail from New Brunswick can. The lyrics are nuanced and yet accessible; all these tunes are grounded in the experiential, in life’s twists and turns. The character(s) depicted are often sympathetic and recognizable: the underdog, the disillusioned, the heartbroken. But it’s not all maudlin gloom, Larocque himself sings that: together we can change the world, which in a different context may seem cliché, but not here as thread of redemption woven into a tapestry of hard luck.

Musically this album finds its roots in American folk and Blues. I often catch a hint of Cajun spice in Larocque’s strumming patterns and in his ability to make a song swing by playing with time signatures.

Larocque has enlisted some pretty sharp players for this project: Steve Aitchison on drums, Sean Madden mans the standup bass, Maxime Racicot playing smoking lead and Jesse Ens is as smooth as a suede shoe on the banjo and pedal steel.

Larocque said the title of this EP really reflects its creation, that Les Moyens du Bord is a collection of songs about marginalization and how the collective effort of a community can make something out of nothing. Larocque said:

“A lot of people pitched in to make this happen, mixing was pro bono, recording and cover art was pro bono… this was very much a coming together of the disenfranchised. There’s a whole community behind what’s his face.”

Chose Bottine

Chose Bottine perform Saturday, June 14 at Grumpy’s Bar, free.

Photos by Jesse Anger.

suoni per il popolo

Suoni per il Popolo, Montreal’s premier experimental music festival, has been dedicated to showcasing the weird, the fringe, the avant-garde and the just plain out-there for over ten years. Part of their mandate is to dissolve musical borders and genres and to promote a culture of collaboration. The result is a truly diverse collection of performances with some surprising combinations. This year’s festival runs from June 4 to June 22 and includes workshops and art exhibits as well as nightly musical performances.

Today we’re presenting only a small sample of musical acts participating in the festival but you can see the full calendar here.


Crosss + Sheer Agony + Shitsu @ La Vitrola

Crosss — Halifax-born, Toronto-based — blend elements of metal, sludge, doom, psychedelia and grunge. Going over to the dark side can be overwhelming if you’re not already into that but Crosss extend a sweet invitation and gently pull you in. They’re joined by the unabashedly poppy Sheer Agony and new Montreal punk band Shitsu.

Show starts at 9 p.m., $6 at the door.


USA Out Of Vietnam + Public Animal + Marie Davidson @ La Sala Rossa

It feels like they’ve been around forever but USA Out Of Vietnam will be launching their debut album Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes Thursday. Blending elements of drone, dream pop and psych, the band favours lush harmonies and infectious melodies and takes the time to build them up properly. Toronto garage rock band Public Animal and electronic pop songstress Marie Davidson open up the show.

Show starts at 8:30 p.m., $8 in advance through Suoni per il Popolo or $10 at the door. 


Steve Bates & Seijiro Murayama + Sam Shalabi & Stefan Christoff @ Casa del Popolo

Montrealer Steve Bates is an audio/visual artist whose work often explores our relationship with time. He also runs The Dim Coast, a space dedicated to experiments with sound. Seijiro Murayama is a Japan-based percussionist who focuses on improvisation and electroacoustic, conceptual compositions. They first played together at the legendary Rhiz club, Vienna’s go-to venue for experimental electronic music. The duo are joined by Sam Shalabi — composer, guitarist and oud player (Land of Kush and Shalabi Effect) — and Stefan Christoff — pianist, journalist and activist. Their work is a mix of Western free jazz improvisation and makam, a system of melody types used in Turkish classical music.

Show starts at 8:30 p.m., $12 at the door or online via Suoni per il Popolo


Parquet Courts + Tyvek + Protomartyr + Heat @ Il Motore

Brooklyn-based weirdo-punk band Parquet Courts have been steadily rising in popularity since they broke onto the scene in 2010. Sunbathing Animal, their third album, drops today.

Show starts at 9 p.m., $15 at the door or online via Suoni per il Popolo.


Die Like A Dog Trio (Brötzmann, Parker, Drake) @ La Sala Rossa

It’s been 12 years since the last Die Like A Dog performance, back when the group was a quartet. This time around, German free jazz legend Peter Brötzmann is joined by double-bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake.

Show starts at 8 p.m., $28 at the door or online via Suoni per il Popolo.


Ought + Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche + Harsh Reality @ Casa del Popolo

Ought released their debut full-length album, More Than Any Other Day, via Constellation Records this past April and have since received widespread critical acclaim. They are joined by no-wave, afro-beat, trance-pop outfit Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche and experimental noise band Harsh Reality. Read Pamela Fillion’s interview with Ought.

Show starts at 8:30 p.m., $10 at the door or online via Suoni per il Popolo.


Omar Souleyman + d’Eon + Nouveau Zodiaque @ La Sala Rossa

Omar Souleyman‘s story is the stuff of legends and I won’t do it justice in three lines of description that I’ve confined myself to here. Basically, he’s a Syrian artist whose sound blends traditional Middle Eastern folk music, Shaabi (a form of working-class Egyptian street music) and electronic elements. He built up his fame performing at weddings throughout the Middle East, recording over 500 cassettes in the process. He was picked up by North American label Sublime Frequencies and released his first studio album, Wenu Wenu, produced by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden.

Show starts at 8:30 p.m., $25 at the door or online via Suoni per il Popolo.


Jerusalem In My Heart + Morphosis + Charles Cohen @ Usine C

Jerusalem In My Heart live is a totally immersive audio/visual experience. The group makes modern experimental Arabic music, blending traditional sounds and melodies with contemporary electronic elements.

Show starts at 8 p.m., $15 at the door or online via Suoni per il Popolo.

Po Lazarus

While looking for acts to play Forget the Box’s five year anniversary party, our music editor got me in touch with the band Po Lazarus. Friday, April 11, I headed down to Grumpy’s to meet the up-and-coming Montreal folk band and get a sense of what they’re all about.

While drinking pints on the back terrace, I learned Po Lazarus are a charming group of young men who like to cry, have nicknamed their jam room and whose musical theory education consists mainly of YouTubeing.

Stephanie Laughlin: So let’s get the boring first-date questions out of the way first… How did you guys get together?

Joshua Carey: Paul and I started the band four years ago when we were at Champlain College together. It was a very slow evolution into what we are now; we’ve only been playing as a foursome since December. Folk is definitely the soul of this band but adding Marco [Novak] on drums and Luc [Delisle] on lead guitar means now we can play around with our sound a bit more. Elements of country and rock n’ roll have started to find their way into Po Lazarus, and that’s been pretty exciting.

SL: What’s the song writing process like for you guys?

Paul Mascarenhas: Josh and I write all the songs, but input from everyone is always encouraged. We like to write about crucial elements of the human experience… you know, like love and getting drunk. [Laughs] Seriously though, our songs are about the feelings and issues that come along with being a man in a contemporary world. What can I say? We write about what we know. No one in the band studied music, unless you count watching a lot of YouTube.

Luc Delisle: I love playing around with the songs that Josh and Paul have written. I like to joke that our jam space (a.k.a. Spit Bucket) is where “the magic happens”. But where we really thrive is playing live. Like Josh said, we haven’t been playing together long, but damn it if there hasn’t been a single gig we’ve done so far that hasn’t gotten me a little teary-eyed.

SL: What’s coming for you guys in the future? Anything exciting info you want to share with FTB readers?

JC: Well the big scoop I guess you could say is we recorded an EP this past March — Lazarus Rex — and that’ll be coming out soon. We’ll make sure to play songs from it at the FTB show!

Po Lazarus perform this Thursday, April 24 at Honey Martin (5916 Sherbrooke o.) at 10 p.m.

Last Tuesday, I braved the Jekyll and Hyde weather and made my way to the cozy Verre Bouteille to meet up with Erik Evans and Daphné Brissette of bluecrass folk eight-piece Canailles. In light of the launch of their sophomore album Ronds-Points, Canailles’ upcoming local shows and ensuing tour, I sat down with Evans and Brissette — who took the time despite the flurry of preparations — for a couple of beers and boisterous conversation about generating their new record and an intimate look at some of the titles on Ronds-Points.

Last September, when I last interviewed Evans, the band was off to begin working on a “baby brother” for their roaring debut Manger du Bois (released in 2012), which they toured for three years. Determined to produce new material, Canailles took off to a cabin for days on several occasions during the late summer and fall. With four songs already started, they began writing and composing what would later be a motley of raw ‘swamp’ folk tunes.

Similarly to the the process for Manger du Bois, the four main singers — Brissette, Alice Tougas St-Jak, Dan Tremblay and Evans — are responsible for a big chunk of the writing. This time, JP Tremblay, the drummer, and Annie Carpentier, who plays the washboard joined in. Evans and Brissette explained that they worked collectively to work the songs, deadline in mind, to build on each others strengths.

The recording process took about two weeks in studio at the Treatment Room, where they recorded Manger du Bois. They worked under the direction of Erik Villeneuve (Avec Pas D’Casque, Bernard Adamus). Thinking of the number of voices and instruments, I asked if they recorded track by track:

“No. That’s ‘illegal’ in our case,” Brissette said passionately. “We play folk. Our thing is a question of mojo and being in the moment: to try and make people feel like they are in the room or in the middle of a concert when they hear the recording. I often say, folk is ‘gras et sale’ [it’s thick and dirty]. That’s what works for me, makes me vibrate. In reference to the recordings of Alan Lomax, he toured the states, took recordings of prisons, old farms, lost bayous. That’s where you have the nature of the sound. Those are our big inspirations. So we are looking for that at the same time as production quality.”

Touring is not the place for writing new songs, and even when back in Montreal the writing hasn’t seemed to flow. Both agree that going out to the cabin, a sort of isolation, has worked best for them.

“During tour, you’re exhausted, you’re in production mode. When shows are done, you want to do other things. On mornings, you want to sleep and it’s hard to see when there would be time. The free time we have is for resting,” Brissette said.

“And we don’t do much of it,” Evans laughed.

Recalling my earlier conversation with Evans, I asked about the party atmosphere on tour. They answer with amusing complicity.

“Well, there are teams on tour,”explained Brissette. “We have teams in our group.”

“We are ‘Team de Marde’ [team of shit or troublemakers] with Annie, the washboard player,” Evans expanded.

“There’s the ‘double checks’ who are really dedicated to doing things well, and the ‘misunderstood poets’,” described Brissette.

“The ‘misunderstood poets’ refuse to be in that team, because they don’t understand that they are misunderstood poets, reinforcing their position,” Evans added.


Both Brissette and Evans agree that there is indeed a lot of partying on tour. One of their favourite gigs during their last touring wave was a show at Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Spotted by a festival programmer during a showcase, Canailles was invited to play the Sakifo Festival, with festival opening act Manu Chao. They found the festival extremely well organized and beautifully located, right by the ocean.

“The next day, the papers spoke of us as ‘créole cousins’. Réunion is a former french colony and with a diverse population. I think they understood us and we understood them when speaking better than French speakers from France,” Evans said.

I asked whether tour experiences like this one translated into the material on Ronds-Points.

“I have the impression that there is a sort of jet lag with what we go through and when it comes out in song form,” Evans replied. “At least for me, I feel like Ronds-Points talks about things before our last tour and that the next one will speak about what we lived on tour. In the creation process, I was not trying to get rid of issues but to get stuff off my chest.”

“At the same time,” interruped Brisette, “I think the only song related to our last tour is ‘Texas’. It was something we just couldn’t not put out. Erik couldn’t not, he had something definite to let out.”

“When you listen to ‘Texas’, it recounts an entire evening on my way to the airport to go to ‘Texas’, to SXSW,” Evans explained. “During that night, I was with another band member, I lost my passport, things got weird. It didn’t end too too well.”

Canailles recently launched a video for the first single off their album. The director who shot it had also shot their two prior videos and both Brissette and Evans spoke highly of him. As for the song itself, ‘Titanic’, according to Brissette is a rallying call.

“In the past, there were tons of shitty times, but we are stronger than that,” she said. “‘Titanic’ is a lot like the hockey theme, a team tune.”

Evans wholeheartedly agrees.

To feed my curiosity, I ask about the track ‘Coeur de Gawa’ and what exactly a “gawa” is. They laugh.

“A kind of typical people at shows,” Evans started to say.

“A little too into it,” Brissette continued. “The term comes from the 80’s up in the Saguenay. It’s an attitude that people who are way too into it have. People with mullets who listened to metal back then.”

“Yeah, they’ll get drunk and spill their beers all over the speakers. We love them, but … So, when Dan wrote the song, he was talking about his ideal woman, who would be a gawa,” Evans finished.

The album isn’t a “comfortable” one, Brissette explained. With Ronds-Points they weren’t looking to produce a direct sequel to Manger du Bois. Rather, to craft  something that fans would recognize while at the same time surprising them.

‘Mon Chien est Mort’ is one of their favourite tracks from Ronds-Points. Both of them underline its transformation from its initial state as a sad song penned by Dan Tremblay — whom they affectionately call ‘le barbu’ [the bearded one] — alone and down in the dumps by the river to a ragtime survivor hymn cherished collectively.

Brissette’s favourite songs on the album are ‘Fromage’ and ‘Breaker’. Evans also has a soft spot for ‘Breaker’.

“It gives me such a feeling, a strong emotion,” he said. “With the two singing in unison, it gives me a weird feeling like a film credit roll right after an abrupt and troubling ending to a film.”

After our talk, Evans was off to see the Les Hay Babies show before joining Brissette for birthday celebration karaoke. I asked them about their karaoke guilty pleasures. Brissette names ‘Runaway’ (original by Del Shannon) and ‘Une autre chambre d’hôtel’ by Gild Roy. As for Evans, he takes a moment to think, and names ‘Seul au combat’ by Quebec kitsch artist Les B.B. and ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael. Much respect for that.

The 444s are one of the tightest four-pieces on the scene— I went to check them out under the red lights at Brutopia last weekend. Their style is somewhere between kicked-up folk and folked-up rock. Lead singer Tim Smith’s songwriting reminds me a lot of Oliver Wood’s work with The Wood Brothers. The place was packed with so many friendly familiar faces, and the band was laid back and warm which was a welcomed departure from the I’m-too-cool-to-act-like-I-care vibe I too often come across. These guys are cool enough to give a shit and you can feel it.

The band’s line-up is Tim Smith on vocals and guitar, Nic Power on lead, Richard Clarke on bass and Mark Charbonneau on drums. These guys can really sing together. Clarke and Smith are cousins and isn’t there something about familial ties and singing harmony? In his own right, Tim Smith has to be one of the best vocalists around. His big, open-your-heart vocals are at once loose and controlled.

The first of their three sets had the crowd near frenzy— I caught Power at the break and he told me deadpan,

That “it’s all downhill from here.”

I have to say something about Power’s lead playing: it’s blazing, and I mean blazing. He’s all over the neck and he does it in such a nonchalant fashion that it’s earned him the moniker “Nic (I don’t even have to try) Power”.

Charbonneau and Clarke are no slouches either. These guys really anchor the band with super tight yet supple rhythms. Their killer rhythmic foundation work allows Smith and Power to improvise and explore within a song’s framework. This quartet had people smiling and dancing, had people with their hearts open. The 444s are among the best roots-based groups in the city.

The 444s perform Wednesday, April 23 at Bar de Courcelle, in Saint-Henri. Check out their current album, self-titled, released in 2013.

Photo by Jesse Anger.

It was the biggest downpour of the summer in late August, when I sat at Cagibi, drained in sweat and rain, waiting to interview one of my favourite local bands. When Erik Evans of Canailles arrived, I had already helped myself to a few rosé ciders. Luckily, Evans turned out to be extremely down to earth, joining me in drinks and a conversation style interview as the rain poured on hot Montreal pavement umbrellas sprouting like dancing mushrooms across the city.

Canailles began with the casual meeting of five people jamming in Parc La Fontaine. The original members were Daphné Brissette (vox), Dan Tremblay (banjo, guitare-pelle, vox), Alice Touga St-Jak (accordéon, vox), Annie Carpentier (planche à laver, vox), and Erik Evans (mandolin, vox).

Although now strong players on the local music scene, in terms of musical ambitions, Evans explain that “there was no plan or anything when we began. We were just jamming and having a really great time. Someone who’d heard us playing at the park invited us to play at their bar. Eventually we played more shows and it snowballed from there.”

Joining the original five on this journey are Benjamin Proulx-Mathers (guitar, banjo), JP Tremblay (percussion), and Tony Le Tigre (double bass, vox).

Evans recounted that recently, Canailles recalled their beginnings and how they’d once hoped to get the chance play up north in Tadousac. Only a couple years later, the band has traveled to Tadousac and beyond, going across Canada, the U.S., France, Belgium, Germany, and even all the way to the Indian Ocean. At the time of this interview, Evans had been back in Montreal for only three days and estimated that the band had spent a total of one week in their home town during the summer. Indeed, Canailles has been touring extensively since the release of their first album entitled Manger du Bois playing over 150 shows since last February. a0667007248_2

In 2012, Canailles released Manger du Bois with Grosse-Boîte. Since then it has reached the top of my musical charts – the only Québecois band represented. Manger du Bois is decidedly folk with references to hill billy country, blues, and punk trash attitudes all mixed up in a musical gumbo that packs a punch.

The lyrics address the stuff of everyday life with a tongue-in-cheek in-your-face manner that is decidedly refreshing. Favourite tracks are ‘‘Bien-Être,’ ‘ Dans mon litte,’ and ‘Muraille de Chine.’ The lyrics are written by four of the original members including Evans, Brissette, and St-Jak, Tremblay. Notably, the Canailles crew recorded their debut with local musician, magician, producer, and playwright Josh Dolgin (a.k.a. Socalled).

In terms of musical influences, Evans couldn’t speak for the rest of Canailles. But he noted that there are common influences in old North American folk music and music from Louisiana. As for Evans himself, he is currently listening to Tom Waits, The Beatles, Radiohead. In terms of contemporary music, Evan’s nodded towards Avec pas d’casque, a Québecois band with folk and grunge influences.

“At this time in Quebec, Avec pas d’casque is the richest in terms of poetry and ambience,” he said.

Evans and I discussed Québecois music and both agreed that for a long time it was largely mediocre, although now nostalgia has painted some of these acts in an ironic nostalgic light (i.e. Les B.B.). Recent changes to the music scene at large has seen a new generation of musicians breaking the mould and, in the case of Canailles, the very limits of language barriers. More than often, Québecois artists are limited to French-speaking audiences limiting the reach and affect of their musical contributions.


Evans attributed Canailles ability to move beyond language borders to having had the luck in their beginnings of playing with bands that opened doors for them, including names like Lake of Stew, Bad Uncle, and more. Furthermore, once Grosse-Boîte took interest in the band, they began booking showcases like SXSW and others that helped bring their sound to diverse scenes.

“In the style we are in, it would be easy to fall into patterns and try to squeeze expressions into our songs,” Evans said in answer to my question about writing songs in the colloquial language of Quebec.

“I find adding joual expressions like ‘swing la bacaisse’ for the hell of it uninteresting. The texts we write reflect how we actually talk,” he said.

One of the expressions that puzzled me, as a native of rural Quebec, is ‘manger du bois.’ I had to ask and Evans obliged.

“The expression ‘Manger du bois’ [eating wood] comes from one of our tracks in which the main lyrics are ‘j’irai pas manger du bois’ [I won’t go eating wood],” he said. “This came from annoying experiences like going to a bar and being served pretzels, something I find borderline insulting and mostly super boring. Finally, no other choice, you end up eating one and then finally eating the whole thing. These please nobody. People will tell you that pretzels are good in salsa or dipped in mustard but really, it’s the salsa and mustard that taste good. Pretzels are like wood, they are the epitome of boredom. So, the idea behind it is to fight this boredom with what you got.”

This week, Canailles released a limited 7” entitled Le  Cirque, with tracks ‘Le cirque’ and ‘Manger du bois’ from their recording sessions with Socalled. This release comes as a gift to fans as Canailles announced their returning to the studio, or “lapinière” [burrow] to, as Evans put it, “work on making a baby brother for Manger du Bois.


Jadea Kelly recently released her second full-length album Clover.  The album is a wonderful collection of tunes that range from very personal sentiments such as “Mary Don’t Go,” a song about her grandmother, to songs inspired by an intense storm, or her desire to move up north of Toronto.

The vocals are the most prominent feature on the album which is so satisfying because her lyrics are lovely and evocative and her voice is smooth as silk.  Kelly has a delicate grace about her which is very much reflected in the melodies she sings and her gentle yet precise tone.  Certain songs, however, reveal a more powerful side of the chanteuse, most evident in the choruses of tracks like “Powell River” and “I’ll Be.”  “I’ll Be” is a noteworthy tune because of how the production of the song captures the contrast between feelings of weakness and power.  The vocals start out soft as Kelly sings of vulnerability and hope, but grow stronger in the chorus as she reveals inner strength.


What highlights Kelly’s strong songwriting in addition to her polished vocals and interesting lyrics is her wonderful band of excellent musicians who add tasteful accompaniment to each song.  The electric guitar parts in particular are strikingly atmospheric and suit the music and production perfectly.

Lead guitarist Tom Juhas is clearly an accomplished player. More importantly, he has a knack for adding oftentimes subtle fills and parts that don’t overpower Kelly’s vocal melodies or other goings on and yet contribute an incredible amount to the vibe of the songs.  The guitar parts are not generally placed in the foreground, which adds to their mystique and reveals the strength of the producer/engineer who kept a flow and feel going for the entirety of the album.  It’s just lovely from start to end.

My favourite moments on the album are the vocal melody in the chorus of the title track, “Wild West Rain,” the way “Saintly Stare” is musically staged, and the lyrics and melody in the chorus of “Lone Wolf”:

“All traces of your shadows,
will find their way back home.
I found you through the gallows
When the night falls, when the moon crawls
I’ll find you still.
All traces of your shadows
will find the day on your way back home.”

This is an album to be proud of and a strong next step in a blossoming career.

Check out the studio session for “Lone Wolf”: