Montreal’s The Holds are a band inspired by the greats and their local contemporaries. Frontman Ryan Setton cites classic R&B artists like Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, classic rock acts such as The Animals and Led Zeppelin and  local acts like John Jacob Magistry and The Damn Truth among the band’s influences.

“When we approach what we do,” Setton said in a telephone interview, “we’re influenced by the past but we’re not thinking about it. We’re definitely in the moment of what’s going on now (on the Montreal scene). The result is The Holds.”

Setton feels that the scene that influences them is also one that gives back.

“Montreal’s always been a very supportive scene, a lot of people are supporting the bands,” he said, adding that “it can be tough, though, at the same time because there are a lot of bands. So it can be intimidating sometimes as an artist to find out just where you fit in.”

The Holds is Setton on vocals and guitar, Justin Wiley on drums and percussion, Eric Hein playing lead guitar and André Galamba on bass. That was the same lineup I caught at their EP launch two years ago, shortly after the band’s formation.

“We are lucky enough to have the same lineup for years,” Setton observed, “building chemistry and having a good band chemistry and interaction between the musicians is super important. With the first EP it was more like ‘Hey, let’s do this!’ We didn’t really know where it was going to go. But doing this second record it was clear we’re all on the same page…There’s no confusion as to what direction we’re headed in as a band.”

While The Holds are a band that sticks together, they also tried living together for four days in the country. This was in order to record their first full-length album Juke, featuring songs they had already written over the course of a year and a half.

“We had recorded many times in the city,” Setton remembered, “and at the end day everyone would go home and we’d have to come back in the morning and get back into the flow. That’s why I thought if I get everyone together, we’re in one place, we’re stuck there…and it was totally worth it because it all worked out for the best.”

You can hear for yourself this Saturday when The Holds play live and release Juke. In the meantime, enjoy this video from their first EP:

* The Holds Juke Album Launch with special guests Celina Wolfe and Lea Keeley is Satuday, August 25 at 9pm (doors 8pm) at le Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur Est. $10 (includes a dropcard with a download code for the album)

With Chanda M’s debut album being released tomorrow, Indie Montreal and Forget The Box are proud to give you an exclusive early listen. We’d also like to offer you a chance to win free tickets to the album launch tomorrow, November 12th at La Vitrola (contest info below the music).

Chanda M’s ambient electronic aesthetic has been called one powerfully composed audio experience. Her bewitching vocal style has often been compared to Kate Bush St. Vincent and Bat for Lashes.

While Icons of Dreams EP is her debut, the sharp electronic and will make you feel like you’re traversing through auditory ether. It shows a beauty and composure that you’d normally hear from a seasoned performer, a certain maturity that you don’t normally expect from a debut.



She’ll be launching the EP tomorrow night at La Vitrola. You can win a pair of tickets simply by subscribing to the Forget the Box email list (you also get the latest updates from your favorite Montreal News, Politics and Culture website). We’ll be sending details on how to win the tickets via email early tomorrow.

* Chanda M “Icons of Dreams” EP Launch Party, Saturday, November 12, 8pm, La Vitrola, 4602 St-Laurent

If you do miss her tomorrow night, be sure to catch her in Ottawa on at Live in Elgin on November 19th.

Last Thursday night, I went to Le Belmont to check out three up-and-coming American acts who were respectively each making their Montreal Debut.

For most of us who live in Montreal, a trip to the 514 doesn’t really seem like a big deal. However, as a Canadian who has spent extensive time living south of the border, Montreal holds a compelling cultural position in the collective mind’s eye of the American populace (I refer specifically to Americans who give somewhat-of-a-shit about Canada).

Indeed, for our friends to the south, Montreal is practically Europe. While some of the stereotypes hold up– the dominant language is French, the culture is eclectic, there are (some) cobblestone streets– the vision of Montreal that captures the attention of both American tourists and artists alike exists almost entirely in the minds of those who visit.

Mac Demarco, who has his indie rock roots in Montreal, even commented on this relative cultural phenomenon on his 2012 track European Vegas, in which he croons, “Nothing’s quite the same as European Vegas.” Just two years later, Demarco traded in his Mile End apartment for real estate in New York City– evidently for Canadian artists like Mac, Montreal had lost its lustre.

Though artists leave Canada every year for fiscally greener pastures in the States, Montreal continues to draw talent in from all corners of the continent. As an undisputed musical hub, our city is a crucial tour stop for rising artists trying to push their sound to a wider audience.
Thursday night at Le Belmont, then, was yet another example of a collection of American artists making their musical pilgrimage north.

Sofi TukkerThe first opener, Sofi Tukker, is a New York-based electronic duo, whose relatively brief musical career (they’ve officially been playing together for less than a year) gained some serious traction after their song Drinkee was featured in a recent Apple Watch advertisement. On Thursday night, the duo indeed played Drinkee as well as a setlist full of equally danceable electronic tracks. Next up, were Los-Angeles locals Cardiknox— an upbeat electro-pop quintet that sounded like a musical cross between Chvrches and Charlie XCX.

The headliners of the evening, another New York-based electronic pop act, were The Knocks. The duo, which consists of Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “J-Patt” Patterson, are probably best known for electro-pop delights like Classic and Comfortable. These tracks, polished and radio-ready as they were when I streamed them online, didn’t quite do sonic justice to the duo’s capabilities of putting on an extremely high-energy, and surprisingly soulful, live performance.

And it’s in this live environment where The Knocks seem to feel the most comfortable and also the most excited about their craft. After the first couple of opening songs to (quite literally) get the crowd moving, lead vocalist Patterson quipped, “If you’re in the back, come to the front. If you’re in the front, you better go insane.” Not only did Patterson’s sentiment increase audience participation, it also highlighted the band’s personal valuation of the importance of putting on a good live show.

Without a doubt, The Knocks will be well-received the next time they return to Montreal. Although they probably won’t be uprooting from their home base in New York anytime soon, the sense of artistic community in Montreal is palpable even for those who are visiting and performing for the first time.

The Knocks 3

Some local acts might simply claim that Montreal’s allure for so many artists is a direct result of the cheap rent and the low cost of living. But I’d like to think that Montreal’s cultural draw is the result of more nuanced aspects than, as one Cardinox fan put it, “a great food scene.”

Indeed, Montreal’s musical and artistic networks run vast and deep– oftentimes across national boundaries. While it’s difficult to map out why Montreal is consistently viewed as a cultural hotbed for so many up-and-coming artists, it is safe to say that we’ll continue to be greeted by many talented, young artists seeking a certain “je ne sais quoi” for the foreseeable future.

* Photos by Ford Donovan