Keep your eyes and your ears on these 16 local bands and musicians. Some are new on the scene, others are veterans tackling new projects. They may already have a recording or a CD in the works, but all are poised to be the next big thing. Written by Mark Black, Sean Flinn, Stephanie Johns, Mike Landry and Shannon Webb-Campbell.
This 20-year-old vocalist has been singing from a 500-year-old songbook. Barrett-Ives's teacher and mentor at Dalhousie University, Dr. Jennifer Bain, researches and lectures on the Salzinnes Antiphonal—liturgical manuscripts of chants from a Belgian convent, originating in the mid-1500s, that are held at the university. "They would've been sung daily by the nuns," the fourth-year music student explains, shortly after getting out of class.
As part of Bain's presentations in Halifax (plans to take the lecture outside the province are in the works), Barret-Ives performs two selections from the manuscripts—songs of praise for Saint Hubert and Saint Roch—a thrill for this fan of early music. "I'm really attracted to how expressive it is," Barrett-Ives says. "I think people don't think it's immediate emotionally, but it is. It also has this rhythmic drive."
No doubt the music world will be singing the praises of Sarah Barrett-Ives soon enough. After a turn as Cleopatra in Handel's Julius Caesar in Egypt, presented by Halifax Summer Opera Workshop this past August, she's applying to graduate schools in Montreal and Toronto. Her voice is still taking shape, she says, but she thinks she might be a "lyric soprano," a voice inhabiting the space "between light and dark."
With her old soul and powerful voice, Barrett-Ives plans to devote her career to baroque, oratorio and early music forms. (SF)
Black Moor (Rob Nickerson on bass, Nick Jones on lead guitar, Eric Hanlon on guitar and vocals and Sylvain Coderre on drums) plays heavy fuckin' metal. In the same vein as bands such as Rammer, Cauldron and Goat Horn, this throwback style of metal is having a welcome local resurgence. "I think the scene is changing. There seem to be more bands now. Two or three years ago it seemed a little dead," says Coderre. "I'm not sure if that's just because I'm noticing it more, though."
Hailing from Cole Harbour, Nickerson, Jones, Hanlon and Coderre first started the band in 2005. Their recently released demo ...Or Else is a limited run and selling quickly, as the band frequently plays to packed all-ages crowds. They began by playing bar shows about a year ago and are steadily building an older fanbase, which shouldn't be difficult given their impressive chops. So far, they have only played around Nova Scotia, but once their full-length album, Acid Biker, is finished in the next few months, touring elsewhere will become a priority. Often cited among fans as the tightest band in Halifax, Black Moor is poised to swing the mighty axe of success. (SJ)
Construction and Destruction
It was late August 2002 when David Trennaman and Colleen Collins pulled up to an old farmhouse in Port Greville, Nova Scotia. It had a slight lean, but for 28 grand, it was perfect.
"Everything was all lush and beautiful and the sun was setting and we were both like, "Whoa...this is nice,'" says Trennaman.
The house spawned years of renovation work and their band, Construction and Destruction. Between Trenneman's seasonal work and Colleen's social work/art education they wrote and recorded their first album Homebodies in the house. "It's a rural place. There's lots of snow. So, there's a lot of incentive to stay inside and write," says Collins.
The result is a blend of Sonic Youth noise and Julie Doiron lo-core. Their sound won over the Sackville, New Brunswick, artistic community and they recently toured with Baby Eagle and Shotgun Jimmie. " hard. You write in this very safe and private space and then, coming outside of that, you do have to arm yourself quite differently," says Collins.
Construction and Destruction is still a work in progress, like the farmhouse. For their second album they'd like to do more location-based recordings. For now they'll continue to tour and are undecided whether that includes singing with Port Greville's living Christmas tree. (ML)
Local maverick Erin Costelo finds truthfulness a touch mischievous. The jazz-infused piano-pop songstress released her debut album The Trouble and the Truth mid-September. It's been nothing but glowing reviews ever since.
Canadian hipster mp3 blog Said the Gramophone compares her vocal characteristics to Genesis-era Peter Gabriel, plus her initials and last name mirror Elvis Costello (minus one "l"), but the melody-driven mood-maker is in a league of her own. Her baritone vocals move through shades of loneliness and deep-sea dive through oceanic sounds of isolation and inspiration, only to bubble to the surface of piano pop.
Her seven-track anthology features guest performances by local troubadour Al Tuck, Lukas Pearse, Bernard Kehler, Gillian Costelo, Alex Porter, Caleb Hamilton, Andrew Glencross and Ron Koop. The title track, "The Trouble and The Truth," bookends the album: parts one and two are the album's stamped and sealed envelope of winsomeness.
That Halifax's Criminal Intent (AKA C.I.) are modest, there's no doubt. Alastair MacDonald, C.I.'s guitar player, downplays their musicianship with a "we're not too accomplished at our instruments" comment. However, no one would fault them if they displayed just a bit of cockiness, considering that their seven-inch, on Toronto's Sewercide Records, is probably one of the best '80s hardcore-inspired recordings anyone has heard all year. C.I. is a seamless mix of some of the best hardcore bands of the early '80s with, at times, apathetic and depressing lyrics that could only be spawned living on the east coast: "Everything fresh that I find/Quickly becomes stale/I try to entertain myself/But every time I fail."
A recent record-release show had the band pack Dartmouth's CD Heaven with dozens of kids. Featuring Rob Butler on vocals, Ian Langille on bass, Missed Life's Ben on drums and MacDonald on guitar, C.I. are invited to play next year's No Way Fest in Richmond, Virginia, as well as Winnipeg's cancer research benefit, Rip It Up Fest. (MB)
The Goodbye Generation is a collaboration between Grand Prairie, Alberta, ex-pats Stacy Lloyd Brown and Paul MacLean. They combine traditional folk instruments with electronics in a danceable country boy meets The Postal Service meets Animal Collective sound.
"Folk music, if it's done right, can really grab people's attention lyrically," says Brown. "Once you get people interested, then, depending on how you approach it, you can throw anything you want at them."
The singer-songwriter's origins of the songs make them approachable, even with absurd elements such as Nintendos, Fisher-Price xylophones and Casio keyboards. MacLean says it's advantageous not being electronic. "It has a huge impact because we're not experienced with it. So, there's always this possibility of imminent failure or disaster but it keeps us on our toes."
They've yet to play Halifax. Brown has been busy with school and recording and producing Fall Horsie's new album. MacLean is busy setting up their record label, Musical Chair Music, which will be distributed under Youth Club Records. They're almost finished working on a complete Goodbye Generation set and are heading to Alberta to experiment with it. They'll perform here on December 5 at the North Street church and release an EP, as an appetizer for a full-length album. (ML)
The Medium Mood
You can use euphemisms such as gear heads all you want, but Adam Hartling, The Medium Mood's drummer, sums it up: "We're all geeks." And fuck it, if there's anything wrong with that. It's why they have a team of audio pros setting up extra speakers at the Marquee for their upcoming record-release show on November 23—an attempt to create a unique stereo surround-sound experience that Hartling typifies as "sounds delaying and swirling around the room."
Originally starting out under the name Safety Scissors, Hartling, Andrew Gordon, Tim MacLeod and Chad Peck found themselves in need of a name change once a German artist of the same name issued the band a cease-and-desist order. The new name, a line-up change and Gordon moving from guitar to bass occurred almost simultaneously.
The band toured most of eastern Canada this past year, playing with the likes of Thundra, VKNGS, Buried Inside, Holy Fuck and fellow Truro denizens Instruments. Never stagnant, The Medium Mood plan to follow up the release of New Alarm on Peck's label with spring and summer tours and with writing more music in the lull time. "Truro sort of forces you to create," says Hartling. "There's not much else to do besides work your job, then go make music." (MB)
The Memories Attack
More than 25 years ago, Ron Bates and Chris Thompson met during cub scouts in Moncton, New Brunswick, and became friends. Bates quickly lost interest in Baden Powell's group and moved on to musical endeavours. Thompson followed suit, playing in Eric's Trip and his solo project, Moonsocket (backed and recorded at times by Bates), in the intervening years. It was only in the last two years the Halifax-based pair decided to fully collaborate and start a band.
Of course, they went about it in a seemingly bizarre fashion, recording an album's worth of songs and releasing it on Oklahoma City's Little Mafia Records before ever playing a show. Regardless of the execution, the band, now featuring a rhythm section of North of America's Jim MacAlpine and Michael Catano, has become an increasingly popular live draw over the last few months, in addition to gaining steady rotation on CBC's Radio 3.
Not one to waste good ideas, Bates has used rejected names for the band for his noise side-project, Combat, and CKDU radio show, The Threat. For their next full-length, The Memories Attack plan to re-record a good number of the songs recorded for, but not included on, the last album. Thank god for the cub scouts! (MB)
Money over Bitches
Money Over Bitches' eccentric take on gansta rap follows a few simple mottos:
Motto #1: Be as drunk as possible when performing or recording.
MOB is Mike Dorton and Alex Currie from the hardcore band Journalists, Wolf. They formed one drunken night in 2006. None of them had ever rapped before, but Mike wanted to learn a beat-making program. Their first song—written and recorded on the spot, like all their songs—featured a beat sampled from Hulk Hogan's 1995 hip-hop album. Since then, they've recorded songs about Dungeons and Dragons, Street Fighter and more.
Motto #2: Be as ridiculous as possible.
"It's really funny to write a hip-hop song about something so mundane as playing video games or NASCAR," says Currie. Ask MOB what inspires them and you'll draw an awkward silence. MOB barely listens to hip-hop.
Motto #3: Do what isn't being done in hip-hop.
"I'd probably listen to more hip-hop if it sounded like us," admits Jared Russell, part of MOB's runnin' crew. Since posting their stuff on atlantichiphop.com, they've received positive feedback from Halifax's hip-hop community. One established rapper even visited their studio.
"The only thing he kept saying was "You guys are fuckin' crazy, straight up crazy,'" says Currie.
MOB's debut album Stanky Rich drops sometime before Christmas. (ML)
Myles Deck and the Fuzz
Gearing up to release their new album, Beware! The Fuzz this Saturday at the Attic, Myles Deck and The Fuzz (Myles Deck on vocals, Dale Boudreau on bass and guitar, Travis Davis on guitar, Al Hoskins on bass and Jordan Oakie on drums) together play quite the mixed bag of blues, country, surf, straight-ahead "blue-collar classic rock" and punk.
"Despite all the differences in our taste for music, we can at least agree on one band, The Dead Kennedys," says Deck. "There's also an interest in '60s surf, country and blues and all of that Americana stuff. Can't forget about The Stooges, either."
A familiar-sounding mix of classics and trashiness, a listen to their debut album (on From Here to There Records) highlights Deck's strong vocals. He can pull this off and really sell it at the same time. Switching effortlessly from speaking to screaming, and using a judicious hand with the distortion, the lyrics also stay in the retro theme.
"I was a big fan of sci-fi/horror movies and comics as a kid. I think these themes find their way into my songs. There's also a lot of everyday grief I write about," says Deck. "I'm pretty new to songwriting and I think it's going to take a while before I can really tap into those good vibrations." (SJ)
In various incarnations, Play Guitar has been a vehicle for the songs of guitarist and vocalist Christian Simmons (of Burdocks) for some time. While the current members have changed the sound considerably, the quality of the songs keeps getting better.
"There used to be a band I was in that had the same name, but when we"—Simmons on guitar and Kerri Landry on bass—"formed this band, it felt appropriate to use that name again even though the two projects had nothing to do with one another," says Simmons. "Then we did a tour that Linds (Lindsay Dobbin, drums) couldn't come on and so we had our pal Matt (Mongraw) come play drums for it. So that was probably confusing for some folks."
Play Guitar's short-term plans include playing a show in surround-sound at The Medium Mood's CD-release show (at the Marquee on Friday, November 23, along with Tomcat Combat and i see rowboats), while more long-term projects include a video and two new albums recorded with Charles Austin. The band recently released a seven-inch on Black Mountain Records, which contains some of the most heart-
stirring hooks, melodies and soaring guitars in Canadian music this year.
"A lot of the songs we play now we wrote specifically trying to sound like My Bloody Valentine, but everyone still comes up and says you guys sound like Polvo, or whatever. It gets in your blood, I think." Or, more accurately, the songs get in our blood. And in our heads. Then they refuse to leave. (SJ)
The Rhythm Method
There isn't any arithmetic associated with local female rap performers The Rhythm Method. Part pun, part truth, these overtly sarcastic intellectuals combine French feminist theory, satire, economics and contemporary studies to concoct some of the most ironic rhymes over beats.
Combine the brash cockiness of Peaches, the wardrobe design of shoopsters Salt-N-Pepa, Le Tigre and Northern State's groove, add in the academic possibility of grad school and you've got the methodology of Sasha "Snake Chains" Garrey, Kristen "X-Teva" Finley and Angie "Hange" Chapin.
"The Rhythm Method is a pun," says Garrey. "It's a reference to an archaic form of birth control and the rhymes of rap music."
The trio of hipsters have three tracks under their belt: "I'm Pregnant," "Introducing" and "Too Small." Whether they're musing about the size of their vaginas, unplanned pregnancy or having a crush on their dad, these girls break the patriarchal status quo.
""Too Small' was a product of a drunken night," says Finley. "We were walking home and talking about the first time having sex and being frustrated. Basically it's like a girls-against-boys type of thing."
Their poignant sarcasm and sensational wit only enhances their '80s-inspired fashion sense. A typical performance outfit includes denim, spandex, bodysuits, cowboy boots and lots of bling. (SWC)
Rule of Thumb
You shouldn't be surprised that a band featuring ex and current members of The Chitz, Get Wrecked, Gilbert Switzer and Blunderpuss are capable of making powerful music. Still, the opinion that an all-women band can't write "slick riffs" rears its head. In fact, before the interview, Meghan Merrigan, Rule of Thumb's guitarist, was asked if she could "actually shred" by a guy outside their jam space. It doesn't bother the band members much and they easily laugh it off, especially when they intimidate nay-sayers.
Formed earlier this year by Merrigan, Tasha Gobeil, vocalist Cara MacDonald and bassist Sonya Vincent, the band recently added another vocalist with Ratbag's Rosie Davis. A demo recorded by Windom Earle's Stephan MacLeod should soon be followed by new recordings—hopefully a seven-inch—later this year.
The irony of a band named after an outdated law condoning spousal abuse intimidating a man isn't lost on any of the members of R.O.T. In fact, the idea of anyone thinking that five women can't play aggressive music and play it well makes R.O.T., in the words of their drummer Tasha, "get angry and scream some more." (MB)
Take On Me
You have to admire a band that's able to keep their energy up as consistently and in such entertaining ways as Take On Me. Quite a bit of that entertainment comes from lead vocalist Andrew Neville, who stirs up the crowd while simultaneously cracking jokes mid-song. Comprised of Alex Fountain (bass), Amir Sabonovic (guitar), David Kipper (guitar) and Chris Wilson (drums), Take On Me has garnered a lot of local enthusiasm and attention in their short time as a band and have all but completely sold out of their demo EP.
Their mix of poppy punk and positive hardcore have made Take On Me a local staple and they're keeping up with demand. "We're doing a lot of writing lately," says Neville. "We'd really like to make a go of touring this summer, even if it's just for a week or two." Fortunately, Neville has a lot of lyrical fodder in reserve. "I was at a point in my life when this band started when there were a lot of things changing for me," he says. "I was in that transition period between high school and the rest of my life so there was a lot going on. I'm really resistant to change so this band was wicked therapeutic for me. We just wanted a solid band we could dedicate ourselves to, and play shows with, on a regular basis and we accomplished that." With a tour in the works for the summer and more new songs on the way, it seems that Take On Me will be able to accomplish much more. (SJ)
Sandy Saunders (vocals and electronics, also of Torso), Jordan Hines (bass) and Darcy Spidle (drums, also of The Hold, Attack Mode and Divorce Records and Distribution) make up Vennt, Halifax's finest doom band. Beginning as, what Spidle calls, a "sampler-based noise project," he and Hines decided to ramp up the volume with the addition of Saunders after they "craved form and the power of drums and bass."
This year's self-titled EP is dark, loud and will definitely leave you with an uneasy feeling in the pit of your gut. They are currently working on a full-length for the springtime and a longer tour in the new year, all the better to spread their fucked-up gospel. A far cry from the fluff of pop music, Vennt is influenced by other hardcore and black metal acts like Crossed Out, VON and Fear of God. The band makes for, by all accounts, a challenging listen. But, like any challenge, it's satisfying.
"We're inspired to make an original form of intense music that is not riddled with musical cliches and gimmicks," says Spidle. "We're looking to create a sound that is truly dark outside of the context of genres."
Saunders says he draws his inspiration from "self-hate, self-inflicted solitude and self-pity," and claims to want to provide "a soundtrack for adolescent suicides, wide-spread church burnings, genocide and human vivisections."
I'd say that they are doing a pretty good job of that. (SJ)
Earlier this year, musician, Capoeira artist and teacher Mario Silva was deported from Halifax to Brazil—a loss for this community. In particular, Zumba, the band he started with percussionist Chris Cookson, felt that loss.
But the band has since reconfigured and carried on in the same spirit, now known as Zumbini Circus, and is booked into the BusStop Theatre on Gottingen this New Year's Eve. "The new incarnation is a continuation of that musical project and it has been held together by myself, various bass players and Capoeira students," Cookson says.
Music man-about-town Lukas Pearse plays bass, while the line-up is filled out by Zack Miller (guitar, percussion), Erin Costelo (accordion), Sageeve Oore (piano), Andy March (piano), Marta Cienchonska (percussion), Kiersten Smith (percussion) and various other players.
Though "the Circus" is a side project for some, it's a vehicle for musical exploration of Brazilian and other related forms for Cookson. Samba, he explains, has so many avenues it can go down, it will never get tiring. "I once asked Mario's wife Paula to define the Brazilian character," says Cookson. "She thought for a moment and then, very clearly, said that Brazilians know how to be happy or at least express happiness very well." In that case, we should all be listening to it. (SF)