I first heard of Contrived as an undergraduate student in Kingston, Ontario. Some friends who grew up in Cole Harbour were gushing one morning about a band of fellow Haligonians who had stayed at their broken-down student house on Albert Street and shared their beer. The day after the show at the now-defunct 477 Club, the boys had snuck the band members into the student cafeteria. One of them recalled drummer Loel Campbell eating a salad composed entirely of bacon bits and dressing. "It made him sick," he said later.
Seven years later, Contrived's lineup has changed, and as members became increasingly busy with projects like Wintersleep, Holy Fuck and the Holy Shroud, the group's touring schedule and album output became more sporadic. But Contrived remains the first of the Dependent label bands that stood out in my nascent musical understanding. I'm still not sure whether it's because of that funny anecdote my friends shared over the breakfast table one Saturday morning, or because the show that they played was so focused and impassioned that they kept talking about it for months. The band's dogged continuing existence is a testament to the quality of their output, cohesion and love---music for the sake of music.
"I think we just look forward to playing again, period," says singer/guitarist Mike MacNeil. "Because we don't get to play much, it's a little celebration of our own. Live performances can kinda go either way sometimes, so where we only get to do it every so often, I'm sure we will put a lot of concentrated effort into the show."
As of now, Campbell, bassist Mike Bigelow, vocalist/guitarist Jon Samuel and keyboardist Tim D'Eon are all part of Wintersleep, while MacNeil is studying at NSCC and working on other musical projects. All of this more or less dictates Contrived's touring/recording schedule, which is to say, they don't do either very often.
"Sometimes writing comes fairly naturally and easily, as with the blank, blank, blank material," MacNeil says. "Usually, if time constraints allow, we'd always like to be making a record. We have some material from blank blank blank that never got used, but no plans to make something with it. It's quite impractical for us to get together to write music lately. But who knows?"
Although some reviewers commented that 2008's blank, blank, blank is dreamier and less heavy than Contrived's previous releases, there's still a familiarity in the sound that suggests a natural collusion between the band's pieces. Despite the gaps between practices, it seems that something between these five musicians still works.
"If we try to force something, the results have almost always been something we're not happy with," MacNeil says. "We try to make sure we are fairly comfortable and well rehearsed for the sporadic shows we've had over the last couple years. It's usually a handful of practices right before the concert. But it's kind of like riding a bike."
w/Heavy meadows, The Total Camble Experience
Friday, March 12, 10pm, $10 adv/$13 door
The Paragon Theatre
2037 Gottingen Street