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.

Low Hanging Lights

One of the best parts about meeting and interviewing bands is that I get to meet and interact with really great people. Almost without exception, all of the musicians I have met over the years have been hard working, humble and appreciative people and I really respect that. The gentlemen who make up Toronto band Low Hanging Lights are no exception. While setting up the interview, they kindly offered me a place to stay for the night in case I didn’t want to make the drive back home late at night. When I met them in person, they were just as welcoming. Before we get into the interview, let me introduce the band.

Low Hanging Lights formed in early 2011 following a solo album that singer/songwriter Alex Grantham released. After many line-up changes, the band has found the right mix with Grantham on guitar/vocals, Ian Boos on bass/vocals and drummer Aaron Bennett on drums/vocals.

Funny story about how Grantham and Boos originally hooked up. Both grew up in Paris, a small Ontario town about an hour and a half from Toronto. After Grantham released his solo album, there was a feature piece in a local Paris newspaper which Boos’s mother read, and suggested to Boos that he contact Grantham so they could play music together. Boos had also recently moved to Toronto, so he contacted Grantham and they started jamming, originally with Boos on drums. It became apparent that Boos was more inclined to play bass, so they decided to bring on a new drummer. Enter Bennett. The band first released an EP titled Small Talk.

The show I attended on June 28 was a launch for their latest release, titled Insulated Picnic Bag.

Within the music, their small-town roots and love of folk music can be heard alongside influences and experiences picked up since moving to the big city. As for their musical influences, they’re huge Nirvana fans, enjoying the distortion and noise aspects that have crept more and more into their latest repertoire. These little outbursts of noise are injected, like moments of chaos that eventually sleep when their momentum fades out. There’s punk in there too, with the way they move onstage and also that they don’t seem to strive for “perfection” (think over-production) when performing or recording, preferring something of a raw, emotive sound. Lyrics are of the utmost importance and are a driving force for Grantham, who does most of the songwriting. The lyrics are thoughtful and a main focus.

It’s this interesting blend that give Low Hanging Lights their unique sound. Since settling into their charismatic three-piece group, the music has become less folky and more direct, highlighting punk and rock elements. They also strive for a visual component, and brought a friend they affectionately call “Michael Jackson Jr.” who danced along to their set and had some killer moves.

“Undress and fall into arms, you were completed the day you were born. Undress and fall into arms, remove your face” are some poignant lyrics in ‘A Sharp Minor Suicide’, the song on their website that is most similar to their more recent output, with a noise outro to finish an indie-rock song which emphasizes lyrics. The song was composed after Grantham read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. He is voicing his distaste for arrogance and reaffirming his belief that everyone has flaws, and on a fundamental level, we’re all the same. “Everyone should be full of doubt, apprehension, skepticism and curiosity.”

Following their energetic and intense set at The Press Club, the band and I sat and discussed their music, lyrics and much more.

Stephanie Beatson: How has being in Toronto affected your songwriting?

Alex Grantham: Most of my songs were written when I lived back home. I’ve often thought that there’s a freedom from responsibility when you’re living in the house you grew up in. You don’t have to be the grown-up which gives you freedom to create. Now that I’m a busy dude trying to scrape by in Toronto, it’s sometimes hard to sit down and write songs, but I do it. The songs are different because they’re informed by where I live now.

Aaron Bennett: I grew up in a small town too and I think the difference is the level of artistic license that you can take in a big city is way more. There’s more people trying different things. You can meet so many more musicians, artists, filmmakers and share a common bond. It’s inspiring.

Ian Boos: I can literally walk down the street and see some of my favourite bands. Last night I saw Beck. It’s so inspiring having that access. In a bigger-picture sense, some of Alex’s earlier songs might have been a little simpler but since moving to the city, you can hear there’s more chaos in the music now. I think bands are taken in by their scenery.

Grantham: One of my favourite things about being in this band is that I feel we have so much room to grow. I feel like we haven’t tapped into the full potential of what we could be. We’re getting more aggressive and realizing what works for us and our musical personalities.  You never want to feel like you’re at a dead-end with a band.

Bennett: The city allows that growth as well. There are more venues here.

Ian Boos

Where do you draw your songwriting influences from?

Grantham: I’m usually more liable to write a new song when I’m in a place of emotional vulnerability. I went through a really bad break-up about a year ago and I got an entire album out of it. Whenever I’m in a place of emotional turmoil is when I write more, which is probably true for a lot of people. It’s so hard to write a happy song! [Laughs].

Bennett: We were talking about this the other day. For me, I think a song has to be really genuine and people relate to it when it’s genuine. When you write a happy song, it’s hard to make it not campy. A song that evokes darker feelings is easier to relate to. You can almost make that connection instantly. For myself, if I were to write a song, it would have to have those real elements.

Boos: When Alex is writing a song from the bottom of his heart, that’s the way we play it.

Bennett: What drew me to this band were the lyrics. They’re really thought out. That’s what made me want to work with them. I connected with the music and I think other people do too.

Alex Grantham

You guys have an obvious punk influence, and to me the biggest thing about punk is the attitude and often the lyrics and music take a backseat to the attitude. In your music, lyrics are the driving force. How do you manage to get the two seemingly opposing traits to work in tandem?

Grantham: As a songwriter, I’ve been very much influenced by Bob Dylan and many others from the ’70s. Their lyrics were very confessional and emotional. To me, the best thing about punk — and you talked about attitude — is it’s non-conformist, it’s  skepticism, it’s anti-authority. It’s questioning what’s laid before you and I think you can do that in an intellectual way like Dylan did. When you do it that way, it’s not some bush-league thing, it’s a higher intellectual pursuit. I read a lot of philosophy when I was in my early twenties and it had a profound impact on me. I read a book called The Outsider by Colin Wilson, Straw Dogs by John Gray and those books touched me because they’re intellectual and they’re punk inspired. If I could equate that to music, that was punkish because it was anti-conformist but it was done in an elegant and intelligent way and I respect that. Sometimes punk music can be a bit crass and stupid, and I hate it when punk music is demeaned like that because I think the higher goal of punk is more noble.

Do you have any closing words you’d like to share?

Boos: We want to be theatrical, we want to play well and we want to give it all we have. That’s what we do and it’s true to our hearts. We believe in it. We believe in the lyrics, we believe in the songs and I think that if we get a chance, we’re going to take it.

Grantham: If you can afford a grande latte at Starbucks, you can afford to see a really good musical act in Toronto. Next time you go out, consider that for every one established act, there are twenty up-and-coming who are doing amazing shows. Find the smaller clubs; Press Club, Not My Dog, Rancho Relaxo, Silver Dollar… any of these small bars. If you want to see original music in Toronto, all you have to do is take the initiative and pay a $5 cover, the cost of a cup of coffee.

Bennett: Whatever you do — whether it be art, film, music — always do it with integrity. Never compromise. Do what you feel is best and someone will like it. If you’re doing what you love, that will last far beyond a flash-in-the-pan band or movie that comes along. Longevity is important. Often today, artistry in music is lost. When you see independent bands trying to do something new or different, give it a chance and support them.

The guys dressed up in suits for their show to mimic their dress in this video for ‘Solitary City Man Death’.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson

Twin Smith

What do you get when you cross ’60s style psychedelia mixed with spaghetti westerns? Twin Smith, a refreshingly unique band out of Toronto who sling guitars instead of guns, but pack a punch just the same. Their current roster of four friends includes Dave Browne (guitar/vocals), Stephen Court (acoustic guitar/vocals), Noel Bryant (bass/vocals) and Cosimo Costa (drums/vocals).

The quartet played a set during NXNE last weekend at Baltic Avenue bar, a gig awarded to them after a promoter watched them play a previous show a couple months back. The highlights of their sound are their charming three and sometimes four part vocal harmonies, and their fun and sometimes a little quirky spaghetti western tunes that sound like they could be on the Kill Bill soundtrack. There’s also a song about trolls, and who doesn’t love a song about trolls? They’re also all very talented and accomplished musicians.

Dave Browne and Stephen Court

I was fortunate enough to chat with these fine fellows after their set and get the low down on how they formed the band, how their style has evolved into something that’s really quite different in these parts (or, probably, anywhere) and what their plans are going forward. They joked about how they were born, and then formed a band, which isn’t far off from what actually happened.

Browne and Court started playing together a whopping twenty years ago, when the call to make music in their early teens brought them together. After different incarnations of bands in the early days (nay, years), Costa joined in 2003 as their drummer, eventually moving to steel guitar and is currently filling in on drums again until the band finds a permanent fixture following the departure of their former drummer. Bryant joined the group two years ago and has become part of the family, commenting how much he enjoys playing with the group because of the level of talent and the material that each person brings. Even if they stick with the current line up, the chemistry in the group is evident and an important part of the mix, especially with all the harmonies that work in tandem.

Noel Bryant

Stephanie Beatson: When you’re writing, do you generally co-write as a group or does one person come with an idea that is then shaped by the rest of the band?

Noel Bryant: Ideas are brought to the table and everybody works with them.

Dave Browne: It’s pretty democratic, the way we write songs. Everyone’s ideas are taken into consideration.

Cosimo Costa: I like that when any one of us comes up with an idea, we’re so excited to have the other guys make it better. A song always gets better when all of us touch it.

Bryant: There’s no ego. Steve’s kind of the maestro. He makes things work in musical terms.

Browne: We’re kind of barfing out ideas, and Steve tells us what they actually mean musically. He’s like a musical modem, and more.

Bryant: He translates our ideas.

So when you guys are barfing out ideas, do you have certain sounds or ideas that you’re going towards?

Bryant: We follow a path though we don’t necessarily have concrete ideas, but rather bits and pieces and then we see where it goes and if we can make it work.

Browne: We’re so unshamefully eclectic.

Court: That’s the way to be. When we’ve tried to be any one thing, we got bored very quickly and wound up doing something else very quickly, so we might as well be a mixed bag.

Browne: We all have so many influences. We’ll never all be listening to the same thing at the same time, so it all swirls together.

Would you say your style has evolved a lot over time?

Browne: Oh yes!

Bryant: We’re playing different styles than we were two years ago, and I’m sure we’ll be doing different things two weeks from now [laughs]. It’s nice to have that freedom to play whatever. Everyone comes from different stylistic backgrounds, so it’s nice to be able to use all those different things to do whatever works.

What are your plans going forward from here?

Browne: We have to do something concrete. The thing that’s hindered us, since we started, is we’ve gone through different line-ups, with drummers and what not. And a very fast evolution of songwriting. So we haven’t been able to say, “OK, these are our songs and these are our players, and we’re going to make this album.” It’s been constantly changing. It’s been hard to nail down. There’s no reason now we can’t buckle down and do something.

Bryant: It’s hard because you feel like you’re in a certain place before you lay down something concrete, and we’ve been changing and moving a lot of the time. It’s been a bit of a troubled thing, but I think we’re in a place now where we can really do something. We’re very restless with songs.

Browne: Our biggest problem has never been coming up with material, it’s been whittling down the mountain of ideas.

I’ve seen them play a few times, and it’s true; their set is constantly evolving and they regularly introduce new material. Recently, Twin Smith have been adding some synth to some of their songs, enhancing the psychedelia already present in the guitar effects. Though they have no official recordings to date, here is a video of their NXNE set:

Photos and video by Stephanie Beatson.

What’s better than a rooftop patio complete with live music on a bright Saturday afternoon? Absolutely nothing.

Audio Blood hosted a stellar NXNE event to showcase some of their artists, including Old Man Canyon, Slow Down Molasses, Army Girls, Royal Tusk, Fast Romantics and secret guests Teenage Kicks. The beautiful day and open bar were bonuses that helped everyone’s already sunny demeanors along that little bit extra. Outdoor shows are not always the most easily controlled, in terms of achieving good sound, but every band that played sounded awesome. The mixes were just right. We managed to catch most of the event, and here’s a rundown of the artists we were fortunate enough to watch play.

Army Girls is a two-piece band from Toronto featuring Carmen Elle (vocals/guitar) and Andy Smith (drums). Elle brought some dry humour to their outstanding set of garage band-style originals, but the highlight of their set were her sweet, sweet vocals. Petite but powerful, she blasted out some real beauties. Her pure sounding voice contrasted with the sounds she achieved from her electric guitar, but it worked in a complimentary way that I found really pleasing. Smith carried the beat and just helped the set groove along. It was perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon.

On a side note, Elle is also a member of the band Diana who just made the long list for the Polaris Prize.

After Army Girls, Royal Tusk hit the stage. This Alberta band are in the midst of a Canadian tour to support their first six song EP, Mountain, on Hidden Pony Records. With five members, they brought things up a notch in terms of volume. Led by singer/guitarist Daniel Carriere and bassist Sandy MacKinnon, Royal Tusk play rock music with hints of Americana and soul. Their sound is rounded out by keys, drums and percussion. Their songs feature cool riffs, strong vocals, and a nice, full sound.

Secret guests Teenage Kicks played an energetic set that reaffirmed why they’ve been gaining such momentum since brothers Peter and Jeff van Helvoort formed the band a short while ago. They’re the whole package. Great tunes, talented and tight band, catchy riffs and good-looking to boot. When listening to their album Spoils of Youth, you’ll hear honest, cliché-free music; their most true expression of what rock music means to them.

teenage kicks audio blood rooftop party nxne

The album didn’t come easy. They recorded it in West Hollywood and found the original recording to be unusable. They lost band members, suffered bad timing and worse luck and yet persisted. Peter’s work as a producer made it possible for them to re-record the album with Jeff. They say hard work and persistence pay off and Spoils of Youth version 2 is certainly an example of this. Teenage Kicks are currently playing shows throughout southern Ontario.

Fast Romantics closed out the party with their blend of pop-rock that had everyone dancing, grooving and singing along. Formed in 2008 by singer/songwriter Matthew Angus, bassist Jeffrey Lewis and drummer Alan Reain, they were later joined by Aussie ex-pats Shane O’Keeffe (guitar) and Lauren Heron (keys). Their most recent release, Afterlife Blues (2013), came in part from a realization by Angus that he’d been through a lot of breakups and never written about them. The songs started flowing and working for a second time with producer Howard Redekopp allowed for the band to record this second album in a faster and more comfortable way.

Angus wanted to write straightforward lyrics and back them up with music that’s loud, yet playful and sometimes even euphoric. The band built a reputation by playing high energy shows, attracting a following that allowed them to tour and play many large festivals including Virgin Fest, SXSW, NXNE and CMJ. They also won Spin Magazine’s “Free the Noise” competition and were flown to New York City. Their music has been featured in many TV shows and films, including Shameless, Breaking In, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. “Funeral Song” has also been getting a lot of attention.

Audio Blood really nailed it with this event. They chose artists who complimented each other beautifully and hosted a hell of a patio party with the help of their partner Pistonhead Brewery. Well played, Audio Blood, well played.

Photos by Chris Zacchia, see the full album on our Facebook page

An explosion happened in downtown Toronto on Saturday night. Not a bomb, not a natural disaster of any kind, but local band METZ’s show at Lee’s Palace at midnight for NXNE. As soon as lead vocalist Alex Edkins opened his mouth, the place went wild.

METZ is a noise pop/hardcore punk band signed to Sup Pop records and since their inception in 2008, they have been steadily growing their fan base both locally in the Toronto area and abroad. Their self-titled 2012 debut release was shortlisted for the 2013 Polaris Prize.

On Saturday, I got to see what all the fuss is about firsthand. The show was revved up in every possible way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a mosh pit as crazy as the one at this show. The entire ground level was in a flurry. People were running up on stage and diving into the crowd, often without checking to make sure there were hands to catch them first (a few were dropped, and yes, it looked rather painful).


An amp almost tipped over into the crowd when someone dove off it. Edkins brought an air of danger to the stage. A couple of times he knocked the microphone off the stand while playing wildly. Fans would rush up and replace it for him and then stage dive. He stood on the bass drum towards the end of the set (I can hear a collective of drummers gasping) for a good minute or two, and I swear a couple of times I thought he was so into the music that he was going to smash his guitar to pieces.

The intensity with which he sang and played was definitely infectious. Bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies complete the band and play with as much vigor as Edkins. Menzies is reminiscent of a tattooed Animal from the Muppets with his long hair and seemingly on-the-brink-of-losing-control style. Far from it though. The band is tight and obviously well rehearsed. And they have a lot of loyal and enthusiastic fans. The place was jumpin’.

It’s comforting to know that a three-piece rock band can make great music without feeling the need to bring in additional members. There’s something special about their raw talent that I really appreciate. Plus, it’s always a blast to go to a mega energetic show and jump around.

The band is touring western Canada, the US and the UK for the rest of the summer but here’s a video to warm you up until you can catch a live show.

Photos by Chris Zacchiam see the whole album on our Facebook Page

Kalle Mattson

Kalle Mattson fronts a tight rock band from Ottawa, though he himself hails from Sault Ste Marie. They played Wednesday night at the Cameron House for NXNE. They sound a little like Wintersleep at times, and yet at other times like the Mexican-style songs off the Kill Bill soundtrack.  Kalle Mattson, at their heaviest, could be compared to England’s Frank Turner, albeit with less vocal intensity. Mattson’s finger picking guitar style is at times reminiscent of Keaton Henson, though it sounds like he’s influenced by east coast playing styles.

The music is enhanced by the band which includes electric guitars, bass, drums and beautiful trumpet fills. Mattson writes interestingly morbid songs, referencing death, that seem less macabre because of the tempo chosen and the upbeat nature of the songs. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Check out “Thick as Thieves”

Toronto-based folk rock band with a punky ska edge, Crhymes, played a high-energy set at the Cameron House for NXNE.  Spirits were high onstage and off even though their set started at 1 a.m. on Wednesday night.  It was sweaty and intense and magical; the small back room was packed to the brim and the band was rockin’!  Crhymes is the brainchild of Sebastian Shinwell who acts as the band’s singer/guitarist for live shows, but who plays the majority of the instruments on his EP Our Surprises.  Live shows are complimented by extra guitars, bass and drums and a tenor saxophone which adds kickass fills and helps support the bass lines throughout.  They aim to have a new album out by the end of September, but in the interim you can check out Our Surprises on Bandcamp.  If you like art rock, you’ll really enjoy this trippy, energetic band.

Odonis Odonis @ M for Montreal Boat Cruise
Adonis Adonis on NXNE M for Montreal boat cruiseBoys who look like they need a babysitter should not be playing music this good. Seriously. Odonis Odonis played in the early afternoon on the M for Montreal boat cruise during NXNE. (Which, by the way, has been one of their best boat cruises yet; the people on it were awesome this year.) If you closed your eyes during the Odonis Odonis set you’d think they had been playing for over ten years in dark venues in the underground bars of Williamsburg. But they haven’t. Who knows if they’ve even ever been there. Again, this is all said with love.

Anyway, let’s jump back to the part when your eyes are closed. When you open your eyes, your mouth drops. These Montreal boys are so young (I am saying this with love boys, I think you’re great) with such good vibes…you can’t stop but stare. I was in awe of their sound. And my gut says their sound is part of a scene that’s currently missing and evolving. It’s not moustache indie dance, it’s not sit-down-at-your-table folk, it’s not bleed down your face hardcore punk. It’s a dark, sweeping, surf rock. And the turnout, plus mosh pit, for their set on the boat cruise filled the room with a sober energy (not saying we were sober) that echoed off the walls and spilled down your bones.random art project thanks

Check out these kids next time they hit up your town and try the eye trick. I promise it won’t disappoint.

P.S. I made this while trying to write this review while listening to Odonis Odonis. They are the inspiration.


Joey Bada$$ @ Wrongbar

First thing’s first, let’s clear the air here: I am not a huge fan of hip hop. I never really have been, and I wasn’t thinking I’d change my mind anytime soon. Then I saw Joey Bada$$ at Wrongbar on Saturday night. You know one of those nights when everything has just gone to shit, and you just need to get to a good place…yeah, Joey Bada$$ and the crowd did that for me.

NXNE 13-512We walked into a packed-to-the-walls Wrongbar to this crew on stage. I had no idea what I was walking into. (Side note: these are the times when you truly love NXNE or other festivals – the surprises). Being the little chipmunk I am, I make my way to the top left side where you could see everything. This guy was nuts. The crowd was losing it. At some point I looked around and everyone had their hands in the air. It was so hot and sweaty you finished the show 10 pounds lighter. His beats made your skin melt.

During his final set, when he was saying his goodbyes, the crowd started heading outside for air…when all of a sudden someone screamed, “Joey Bada$$!!” and everyone swarmed like a bunch of drunk bees around him. You got lost. I got trampled. We made it out alive.

Not sure what his touring deal is, but baby, you’ve got to feel the way that felt.

Cool, well, that’s all I got this year. Big thanks to NXNE and all the bands. You always rock my world.

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Top photo courtesy M for Montreal. 

Whiskey Epiphany’s debut NXNE gig at Rancho Relaxo on Thursday night was a great success.

This folk rock group sounds like Mumford and Sons mixed with a rural southern influence. With guitar, bass and drums as the foundation, they add violin and strong vocal harmonies to round out the sound.

They played with enthusiasm and got the crowd moving along.  The subject matter in the lyrics is pretty vast, from socially conscious tunes, to sad love songs, to tales about loss and lies. Let’s not forget the token song Something About Whiskey, that talks of the dangers of overindulging in whiskey and the troubles that trusting the drink can bring to you.

But, if a whiskey-induced epiphany is what it took to get this group together then it can’t be all bad!  The band is fun and entertaining.  They play regular shows in the GTA and surrounding area so you have a chance to see them perform this summer, be it in a festival or a bar.

Check out their song Together:


Moon King @ Wrongbar
Nothing makes me feel more like a tool than realizing I completely misinterpreted the gender of a singer (this said with love). I love surprises. For one thing, I thought Moon King’s lead singer was a female from listening to the audio online. (I didn’t Google Image them beforehand). This surprise made me like them even more. Plus, they’ve got a Mother Mother vibe about them. Which rocks my world.


Good thing: Their live music sounds pretty damn close to their Soundcloud audio. Their show was fucking lively as they jumped around, dancing and everyone mirroring their physical energy. Crowd was midsize diner-like with a unique twist of people who looked like regulars and semi-hip. Semi-hip are the best kind because they aren’t too cool for school that they still dance.

Definitely a show and band worth checking out next time they’re in your hood.

Foxtrott @ Silver Dollar
By the time I got to the Silver Dollar I had already been to The Drake, Monarch Tavern and Wrongbar. (This says something about the state I was in as I piece together this show). The good news is it was one of the best I saw that night. Usually if you’re over the edge you either hate it or love it, right? I was beaming.

Foxtrott is Marie-Hélène L. Delorme’s solo project. The actual sound quality—which can be hit or miss at Silver Dollar—sounded almost identical to her audio on Bandcamp. It’s for sure the type of music you want to move to when you’re half in the bag and looking to feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s outdoor festival camping at 2 a.m. in a tent with glowing balloons, and one friend plus randoms – all moving like they’ve been hypnotized with a light buzz. Or if you’re from Montreal and you remember the second life of Silverdoor, she’d be there in the corner playing for us until 9 a.m.

Take a listen for yourself. Does it make you feel like 2 a.m. in a dark bar or loft? Yup.

*Photos by Celia Moase. See our NXNE 2013 album on Facebook for more photos. 


The lovely Béatrice Martin played a solo show at the Great Hall on Thursday night as part of NXNE.  In this stripped-down version of what you hear on Blonde, her latest album, the young songstress played piano and sang her beautifully woven melodies for a large and appreciative crowd. Performed in a manner reminiscent of her debut album that featured minimal musical additions, she focused instead on the voice and piano.  Pretty impressive turnout for a French-Canadian girl who sings mostly in French!


Her songs range from love songs to storytelling numbers to a lullaby that her father used to sing to her as a small child.  The chanteuse has helped to bring francophone music to the younger generation.  She has been nominated for, and won, several awards already in her career including Junos, Félix Awards, Victoires de la Musique and Canadian Independent Music Awards.  It’s no surprise why.  Her talent radiates both in her recorded work and on stage.

Watch “Adieu” as a piano-only version here:

*Photos by Celia Moase. See our NXNE 2013 album on Facebook for more photos. 

One of the strongest bands featured at the Cameron House on Wednesday night for NXNE without a doubt was the Julian Taylor Band, who played an extremely tight set for a packed back room.  People were groovin’ and shakin’ for their entire set.

Strongly resembling Stevie Wonder, the funk/soul band with a reggae flare has excellent rhythm and groove, is very energetic and Julian’s vocals are amazingly strong. This is a great band to see live. They are really entertaining, but the sheer greatness of the musicianship and the natural grace they bring to the stage is truly staggering.

Already in his musical career Taylor has released seven albums and has toured across the world, sharing the stage with renowned acts including Jeff Healy, Collective Soul, Blue Rodeo, Nickelback and others. He was even invited to play at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and Vancouver.

The newly formed band released their first single “Never Gonna Give You Up” last summer, and have been playing regularly so you have ample opportunity to catch them and be blown away.

Watch the official music video here:


Friday, June 14: Imaginary Cities @ Mod Club


Imaginary Cities, from Winnipeg, have been together for about four years now. The band’s members are Marti Sarbit, Rusty Matyas, David Landreth, Ryan Voth and Zack Antel. Sarbit’s voice will have you smiling ear to ear. Girl’s got some wicked dance moves while belting out her tunes. The passion she shows on stage for her music is outstanding and the connection between the group members can be felt from inside the crowd. After their set at Mod Club, I asked Sarbit why I felt like I was in the 1950s for a bit. Who are her influences?

“Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke,” she replied with her infectious smile, “but I love The Shins too! And Feist!” Her story on how the band formed explains why their sound reminded me of Motown – she met bandmate Matyas while he was mixing sound for her Motown cover band! The rest is history, as they say.  Thankfully, they come to Toronto often and their next show here is planned for Edgefest at the end of July. Imaginary Cities is a fabulous band that is on the rise with an adorable and admirable stage presence.

Saturday, June 15: Smif-n-Wessun @ The Drake Hotel Underground


Smif-n-Wessun is a hip hop duo from Brooklyn comprised of Tekomin Williams and General Steele. Tek and Steele are some seriously talented rappers. It was unbelievable to see dudes of this caliber on stage spitting lyrics without hesitation – all while acknowledging crowd members, giving props and pumping fists. Paying homage to the deceased, we were treated to samples of Biggie’s ‘Juicy,’ 2-Pac’s ‘Keep Ya Head Up,’ Big L’s ‘Skins’ and ODB’s ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya.’ All were received with high enthusiasm from the crowd – especially a girl to my right who hit every word on spot and continued when the sample was done. It was dope.

As a huge reggae fan, I completely lost my shit when Steele started into the reggae beats and Jamaican Patois. I was on a chair grabbing some shots right next to the giant speakers and, for a second, felt like I was breaking it down at an underground basement beat reggae session. I know the whole crowd could feel the good vibes from this duo: Steele and Tek kept reminding everyone that life is short and to tell your loved ones you love them any chance you get. This show was off the hook and every person in the Drake Underground was immersed in it. Smif-n-Wessun have five albums to their name and a sixth set to release in October of this year. Keep your eye out for it but in the meantime gather some friends, throw on an album, crank those speakers, and break it down, yo!

*Photos by Celia Moase. Check out our NXNE 2013 album on Facebook for more photos. 


Quiet Company @ The Rivoli


Quiet Company come from Austin Texas and is comprised of Taylor Muse, Cody Ackors, Jeff Weathers, Thomas Blank and Matthew Parmenter. These dudes rock out hard in a pretty magnificent way – the kind that makes you want to dance and jump and shove other people at the same time. Not mosh, but get a little dirty and sweaty for sure. Lead singer Muse spoke to the crowd of how he loves the quantity of beautiful women in Canada. He even married one. He went on to add that his kid was conceived in Dundas Square but wouldn’t specify if that was in a hotel room or… sidewalk? Alas, we’re left to decide. Muse has a humorous way of keeping the crowd snickering between songs. Then he flips this soft side completely when he takes his guitar solo and totally blows your mind and ears. These guys know how to put on a rock show. If you’re looking for some animated and attractive rock tunes, find your way to a Quiet Company show. Bassist Matt even got a cupcake delivered to him on stage via local musician Branko of Dinosaur Bones in a Speedo. Needless to say, fun was had by all.

D I A N A @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern


D I A N A is made up of Toronto locals Carmen Elle, Kieran Adams, Joseph Shabason and Paul Mathew. They will release their latest album August 20, 2013. They already have a few songs up on their Soundcloud. After checking out their live set at the Horseshoe Tavern, I’m eager to hear more of what this group produces. Lead singer Carmen has a glorious voice, not to mention an astounding stage presence. If you love a lady that can rock out on electric guitar while whipping her short bob all around, you’re in for a treat. I was bedazzled by their performance and it was my first time listening to the band.

Dan Deacon@ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern


If you read my preview for NXNE, you’ll note that I was excited to check out Dan Deacon as I’ve often been told to see a show. I quickly learned why. Dan Deacon played his entire set in the crowd from start to finish. His eager fans were prepared to do anything he asked of them. There was a dance-off in which contenders shamelessly broke it down for 20 seconds or so before picking a new candidate. This got the crowd into his beats and sounds right off the bat. At one point he even started a “tunnel” with hopes of getting the entire crowd to run through the bar, into the street and back again. A bunch of people started but then we all seemed to forget and continued to enjoy the show. This only added to the hilarious and positive energy of the night. Deacon gets you feeling like you’re part of the show, getting you quickly acquainted with your neighbours. You feel as if the whole show wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t there. People were losing their minds for this guy. If you’re looking to get sweaty, get smushed against strangers and dance your ass off, look up Dan Deacon.

*Photos by Celia Moase. Check out our NXNE 2013 album on Facebook for more photos. 


Star & Micey @ The Painted Lady

StarMiceyStar & Micey are a band I discovered day of show from Memphis, Tennessee. I’m so happy I chose to bike on over to catch this act. The group, especially lead vocalist Joshua Cosby, performed with high energy and excitement to the crowd that formed at the intimate Painted Lady. They wasted no time in getting everyone into their set. Their third song was the ever-catchy ‘I Can’t Wait’ – one of my personal favourites. Before we knew it, they were hopping off the stage. Drummer Jeremy Stanfill opened on vocals, setting off a traveling performance of  ‘Change’. The band took this performance throughout the crowd, on top of the bar, serenaded a lady or two, and was back on the stage! I must say, for a last minute decision to check these guys out, I was thoroughly entertained.

Frank Ryan @ The Supermarket


Frank Ryan moved to Toronto from Dublin two years to the week of this performance. Judging from his set, he isn’t doing too bad for himself. I caught his set at the Supermarket in Toronto’s notorious Kensington Market Wednesday night. Sweating up a storm and joking that he wasn’t used to the heat, Ryan pumped out some delicious and soulful tunes that had smiles on faces and hips swaying back and forth. One that stuck out to me was titled ‘Joelle’. With lyrics like “Joelle I’ll see you in hell”, it was quite beautiful. I can see myself returning to see what else Frank Ryan gets up to in our fair city.


Willie Stratton & The Boarding Party @ Handlebar


Willie Stratton is from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He played the Halifax Pop Explosion showcase at the Handlebar Wednesday night. This was a special performance for the band as it was the first time they were playing with a full drum set. Drummer Bianca Palmer performed with them for the first time. Willie’s younger sister Grace moved to electric bass and rocked it. I was really looking forward to their usual acoustic set, which usually features a war drum, however the show had a much higher energy and rock edge to it. It was great to see Halifax faces in the Handlebar. If I didn’t have my camera wrapped around my neck, I definitely would have been stomping my feet and jumping around with the likes of them. This band really makes you want to move your feet!

Santiago X The Natural @ The Crawford


Santiago X The Natural was a compelling duo to absorb as my final show on the first day of NXNE. The duo played the basement of the Crawford. I was surprised there weren’t more people there to check these dudes out as they came all the way from Chicago. I’ll attribute the small crowd to it being so early in the festival and a Wednesday night. Let pity fall on those who missed out! Santiago, an an architect by day, donned an epic shark t-shirt and sang like he was getting down with each word that left his lips. The Natural, an attorney by day, spat his lyrics with minimal effort like he was born to be doing it. The pair make a really cool combo for that balance of rapping and singing, and it all flows on this line somewhere in the middle that completely makes sense. I was jamming, bobbing, and drooling, let me tell you.


*Photos by Celia Moase. Check out our NXNE 2013 album on Facebook for more photos. 

Here we go again. NXNE starts this Monday, June 10 in Toronto. After sifting through numerous bands listed on the NXNE site (there are over 1000 musicians performing) and my own personal collection here are my top five suggestions. Mostly Toronto based, we’ve also got a little side of Mexico, a dash of Montreal and some west coast love.

The BB Guns
Saturday, June 15 @ 9pm, Lee’s Palace
Toronto based riot girl-esk The BB Guns are one of my favourite bands in the city right now. (And I’m not alone in this statement.) Fast, fun with a side of indie dance rock. The BB Guns are a must see for NXNE. Grab a Mill Street Organic and rock out.
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Los Oxidados
Wednesday, June 12 @ 1am, The Hideout
Saturday, June 15 @ 11pm, Cherry Cola
Los Oxidados are Mexican surf rockers whose music feels like it should have been included on the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. They even wear Zorro-like masks. No lyrics just straight up instrumental. Take a whiskey on the rocks or a gin martini with lots of olives, and then twist and turn baby. Twist and turn.
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Moon King 
Friday, June 14 @ 11pm, Wrongbar
Toronto based Moon King reminds me of a mix between The Cure and a chocolate sundae with lots of sprinkles. Their dark base is consistent but their music is layered with sweet dreamy feelings and bursts of sweet dance, and colour. Goes good with a vodka soda and three limes.
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Young Lungs
Saturday, June 15 @ 12am, May
Montreal based Young Lungs are no wave indie post punk with some surf and power pop influence. They’re a Converse wearing, no shower, dark basement with red lighting type of band. There may be blood. Straight dirty cheap beer drinking for this show. Pabst is probably your best choice.

Wednesday, June 12 @ 1am, Rivoli
Saturday, June 15 @ 1am, Sidedoor
Toronto based SATURNS make futuristic, space-like sounds from broken synthesizers and dysfunctional laptops. (That’s how they made their EP). It’s the kind of music that makes your shoulders and body sway from front and back while making a duck face. Unpredictable lyrics and consistent beats. Gin is the perfect partner in crime for this band.
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Other bands to see: Ca.iro, Nightmare Air, Miesha & The Sparks, Sex with Strangers, Our Friend & The Spiders and South of France.

Check out the full schedule and download the NXNE App to help easily guide you from show to show. Awesome. Well, see you around town. Follow me on Twitter for inside show deets and Instagram (@doublecass) for random, ridiculous photos