- Colin Medley
Partner's core women are inspired by lesbian female icons (or dykons, as they call them), and artists who don't restrict themselves. The two don't like to define the genre of their music, because the freedom to make whatever the hell they feel like is exactly why they started the band.
"I like to say it's queer," says Josée Caron of Partner. "Sometimes you can pigeonhole yourself into wanting to be mysterious or seem deeper than you actually are. We didn't make a rule that we had to always be obtuse...we kind of made the opposite rule: To try and be as clear as we could about what we were trying to say."
In listening to Partner's songs, it's obvious what she means. With rock like "people say that I talk like Ellen Page/and I guess that makes sense, since we come from the same place/but it's more than just a regional thing /cause if it's 50 percent Maritime, it's 50 percent lesbian," Partner writes with a clarity that's strikingly lighthearted, but honest and political at the same time.
Partner's origins can be traced back to a room designated specifically for getting really high while songwriting in Sackville, New Brunswick. Caron and Lucy Niles met in meal hall at Mount Allison University, and eventually became roommates whose band members had moved away. Partner arose from an urge to explore themes like friendship, intimacy and sexuality in a loud, uncompromising way.
"It was just the two of us. We started thinking about all of the weird stuff that we wanted to write songs about before, stuff that didn't really make sense in the context of people's bands," says Caron.
"I wouldn't even say it was intentional—it just happened," says Niles. "We were really inspired, and wrote every day."
Two years later, Partner has formed into a five-member rock band. With Caron and Niles as the lead singer/songwriters and guitarists, the group is rounded out by Daniel Legere on third guitar, Brendan Allison on drums and Kevin Brasier on bass. The band's Saturday afternoon show at Gridlock marks a return to the east coast after spending a month playing shows throughout western Canada, as part of its biggest tour yet.
"We're excited to be going back to familiar territory," says Caron.
The east coast, particularly Sackville, means a lot to Partner. Though many of its members have relocated, the town is what fostered the birth of the band. The music scene there, Niles and Caron explain, is accessible because of the small size of the place. It's also an environment that pushes musicians to create because of the town's cultural and artistic vibrancy. The band will always be there in spirit.
This winter, Partner put out its first EP, Healthy Release, currently only available on tape.
"Right now, it's a bit more of a special item. It will be available to the greater public—just not today. So if anyone in Halifax wants a tape, all you have to do is find us," Caron offers, as Niles cackles in the background.
Partner is in post-production for its first full-length album, to be released by You've Changed Records. It's scheduled to drop this time next summer. Meanwhile, Caron and Niles have an optimism for their young band that includes visions of the veggie trays they'll have backstage someday.
"We're small-town girls with big dreams," says Niles, laughing. "Pretty classic."
Appearing at Gridlock Saturday, 5pm, Main Stage