At age fourteen, Faber’s dad bought him a drum kit which Faber promised to practice on every day. “Coming from a family of seven kids, this was a huge deal,” he remembers, “seeing as how my dad could barely even afford to feed us.” Faber may not have kept his promise, but that’s because he put down the drum sticks to become frontman and founding member of Faber Drive, one of Canada’s hottest young bands. After beating out more than 500 other artists from across Canada to take first place in a radio competition, Faber Drive started opening for notable acts such as Nickelback, Simple Plan and Hedley. With the release of their pop-punk infused debut album Seven Second Surgery, Faber Drive hit #1 on Much Music, saw 3 top 10 radio singles and was nominated for the Juno award for Best New Artist in 2008.
However, the Faber Drive that appears on its sophomore album can'T keEp A SecrEt is a band that has progressed beyond the Juno nominees of 2008. Where Seven Second Surgery laid the ground work for the Vancouver-based band’s career, can'T keEp A SecrEt now builds and evolves, deftly bringing bright colors, edgy tones, and more emotion into the fold and crossing the borders between Faber Drive’s punk rock roots into electro-pop mixed with epic balladry.
“We wanted to take a risk with can’T keEp A SecrEt and move forward without forgetting our original sound or our dedicated fans,” explains bassist Krikit. “We wanted to write songs that would stand the test of time, and we wanted to have more control and coproduce with several different producers.” To that end, can'T keEp A SecrEt is a who’s who of the Vancouver music biz A-game, including Dave Genn (Matthew Good/Hedley/Marianas Trench), Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails), Brian Howes (Daughtry/Hinder/Hedley) and the insurgent likes of Josh Ramsay (Marianas Trench), Colin “Crocker” Friesen, and Jeff Johnson.
Faber comments, “We don’t have a lot of ego. There’s a lot more that you and I can accomplish together than I can do alone. If you look at all the greats, its all about working together; Lennon and McCartney, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Bono and the Edge.”
Still Faber Drive is guilty of undue modesty. can'T keEp A SecrEt is bonded by the coherent force of a band ambitious enough to challenge itself and possessing the confidence and poise to actually pull it off. The first single “G-Get Up and Dance” was written and produced by the band in Faber’s barn, with Rave brought in as a coproducer and mixer in the final stages, helping launch the song to a platinum-selling iTunes grand slam in only 2 months.
On the opposite pole, album closer “By Your Side” is both beautiful and melancholy, beneath a vocal performance from Faber that hits you like a punch in the gut. “It’s a little hard for me to listen to sometimes,” reveals the singer, who penned the song late one night while thinking about his father, who passed in 1995 of stomach and lung cancer. “It’s basically about how someone important in your life will always be a part of you, even once they’ve left this world.” Producer Dave Genn heard the demo and immediately fell in love, while also manning the boards for two somewhat more rambunctious numbers:
“Never Coming Down,” barreling into view on a thumping backbeat and keening U2 guitars, with a chorus of amped-up whoa-ohs. “When you’re young, you don’t really have a place to go,” Krikit comments on the lyrical content, “You get your license and you end up driving around all the time. That’s your freedom and that’s your place to go.”
And “Our Last Goodbye”, the perfect pop punk throwdown, which cites the influence of old favorites like touring partners MxPx, and Green Day -- who also happen to turn up in album opener “The Payoff”, referenced alongside Oprah, Queen, and Rick James. Faber is quick to admit that FD gets a little “goofy behind closed doors”, and “The Payoff” somehow walks the line between tongue-in-cheek and triumph, celebrating the band’s success with an irresistible sing along pop-rock anthem.
Faber was also in a nostalgic mood when he hacked out the song “Forever,” composing the number as he pulled the graveyard shift on a cross Canada tour with Simple Plan. When band decided to record two songs with Josh Ramsay, the resident Marianas Trench songwriter they chose “Forever,” and the second single from can’T keEp A SecrEt, “Give Him Up.” “Give Him Up” is doused in super-fat bass synths and galloping percussion and takes some lyrical direction from American Hi-Fi’s “Flavor of the Week.”
“Usually what happens is you’re writing a song and it reminds you of another song, so you draw on that for inspiration,” Faber admits. Likewise, the Jeff Johnson-helmed “I’ll Be There” derives its message from Bill Withers’ classic “Lean On Me.” “We wanted to write something that was both hopeful and powerful,” states Faber, whose facility for emotional vocal performance also carries the exalted and sweeping Brian Howes love song “Lucky Ones” and the Johnson power ballad collaboration, “You and I Tonight”.
Faber comments that “the first verse lyrics of ‘You and I Tonight’ are some of my favorites on the album; ‘Tonight a candle lights the room/Tonight its only me and you/Your skin like gravity is pulling every part of me’—those lyrics are extremely intimate and very visual, much like the opening lines of Tongue Tied.”
can'T keEp A SecrEt spans several genres of contemporary music, some familiar for Faber Drive, and others in uncharted territory, such as the band’s ridiculously enjoyable and slicked-up, cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed”, and a shimmering Jessie Farrell duet bonus track. All and all it’s an album full of incidental pleasures, like the spasmodic platter of electronic effects and honey-dripping harmonies that gild the entire record, or new guitarist Jordan Pritchett’s searing, hit-the-floor guitar solo on “Lucky Ones”.
Pritchett, the young and extraordinarily talented son of Canadian country star Aaron Pritchett, joins powerhouse drummer Andrew Stricko, formerly of Hello Operator (who opened for FD on their sold-out cross-Canada “Seven Second Surgery Tour”) as the newest members of Faber Drive. That any of the ten tracks on can'T keEp A SecrEt would make worthy successors to iTunes gold favourites like “Tongue Tied” and “When I’m With You” goes without saying – as Krikit maintains, everything is a progression.
“The first time you hear your song on the radio, that’s a rush,” he says. “And then the first time you see your face on TV, that’s a rush, then your first big sold-out tour, everything just builds and builds and who knows where its gonna take us, but for now we definitely know we couldn’t have come this far without the support of our fans, friends and family.”
And it’s definitely not a secret that there’s still a lot more in store for Faber Drive. So what is the big secret that they can’t keep? Pick up their sophomore album ‘can’T keEp A SecrEt’ to find out!
MySpace.com/faberdrive is the official home of Faber Drive for twitter updates, blogs, videos, and all their crazy antics.# vimeo.com/8558832 Uploaded 23.9K Plays 33 Likes 0 Comments
When the time came to follow-up on her breakthrough 2007 album Nothing Fancy, Canadian country bombshell Jessie Farrell’s pursuit of authenticity was so painstaking that she actually put her health at risk.
“When I'm giving something every bit of energy I have, I find myself getting short of breath,” she reveals, with a giggle (and a slight wheeze that’s a little hard to ignore). “I’ve done it since I was 12 years old. It’s anxiety. At the end of this record, I feel like I learned how to breathe better, and I learned how to sing better, and then on the last day of recording, I went and got ‘Breathe’ tattooed on my wrist.”
We can probably assume from her comments that Farrell is satisfied with the results. The flame-haired Vancouverite had wrapped-up her debut on the Canadian Country scene with three 2008 CCMAs when she lit out to Nashville on a writing expedition in mid-2008, winning for Female Artist of the Year, Rising Star, and Top New Female Talent of the Year, not to mention scoring a 2009 Juno nomination for New Artist of the Year.
The 2007 album Nothing Fancy had elevated Farrell into Canada’s country A-list, yielding a top 10 single with “Let’s Talk About Love”, a top 5 video for “I Guess”, and putting the rising artist on the road with Emerson Drive, Johnny Reid, Aaron Pritchett, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Gord Bamford, and Toby Keith, among others. With so much buzz at her heels, and facing her sophomore effort, Farrell readily admits she needed to come up with a slam-dunk
“That was in my head the whole time,” she says, describing the meticulous lengths she took to find a producer who, in Farrell’s words, “would be willing to basically lay down on the railroad tracks with me.”
“I’m not one of those people that can get by knowing it’s just another record for them,” she elaborates. “I want them to be my friend, and I want it to expand far beyond just being my producer.”
A raft of industry giants were, at this point, clamoring to hitch up with the hyperventilating songbird. After interviewing a good number of them, Farrell was still producer-less, but wiser.
“What I really learned in this process is that it’s all about human connection,” she asserts. “How are you going to make sure they hear you, and that they’re putting their heart and souls into it? You can say, ‘Here’s a certain amount of money, please make me a record.’ But I knew that that would not be a successful record, and that I would not thrive inside that environment.”
Enter Victoria Shaw – one of Music City’s insurgent major-players; a singing-songwriting-producing tyro with auspicious credits like Garth Brooks’ “The River” under her belt, and no small amount of heat from a recent co-production job on Lady Antebellum's smash debut. Shaw met Farrell at an industry party and abruptly turned the tables on her.
“She said to me, ‘Why don’t we date before we sleep together’,” Farrell recalls with a laugh. “She said, ‘I gotta see what you’re like writing, I gotta see what you’re like in the studio, to work with, to collaborate with - then I’ll see if I wanna do this record with you.’”
Shaw subsequently roped songwriter Gary Burr into the scene, adding another hit-making heavyweight to an already formidable duo, and the team swiftly drummed up three of the tracks that would end up on Good, Bad & Pretty Things. At the end of it all, Farrell was calmly informed that she’d aced her “week long interview”. And the real work began.
Significantly, among those initial three songs was Farrell’s first single from Good, Bad & Pretty Things, “You Make Me Feel” – a country-pop confection every bit as bright, crafty, and insidious as “Let’s Talk About Love”, built not only on a gigantic hook, but on the striking emotional logic of the line, “You make me feel like that each time you kiss me, my heart starts racing like a car just missed me…”
“I think it’s fun, summery, an earworm,” Farrell says, with touching modesty. “It’s not a complicated song, but I think it’s a good one to ease people in with. And it’s a love song.” Farrell hopes the effect is like “little soap bubbles, with hearts in them, that will pop in people’s laps.”
At the other end of the scale, her first week with Shaw and Burr also produced “Burn So Bright”, which began as a tribute to Farrell’s brother (who passed away in 2001), before morphing into a broader hymn to affirmation. ”I’m hoping it’ll be an anthemic songs for people moving on to the next stage of their life, or about to attempt something new,” she offers.
Shaw’s crisp and restrained production keeps “Burn So Bright” on the correct side of sentimental, while leaving plenty of room for Farrell’s keening vocal (not to mention a sizzling fiddle-pedal steel showdown). Indeed, across the whole of Good, Bad & Pretty Things, Farrell and Shaw raise the stakes on Nothing Fancy’s slick grooves and unimpeachable craft. The snap that runs like a current throughout the previous record is still there, but sharper, gutsier, and all-together truer to Farrell’s voice - the result, she says, of her various collaborators “getting to know me. I became more natural and trusting in the writing process, and you can really hear that in the songs.”
Take “Fried”, for instance - a galvanizing two-step with Ricky Skaggs-calibre picking providing ironic counterpoint to Farrell’s exhausted dispatch from the mid-tour interzone. Or the note-perfect country chanteuse balladry of “Kansas”. Or “Nobody Says No”, a bratty autobiographical number with fiery organ draped across a pounding backbeat.
“I wanted to make sure there were a lot of up songs,” Farrell says of “Cha Ching”, which is the kind of quasi-novelty insta-hit that Nashville’s backroom tunesmiths regularly tie themselves in knots to produce. “I do not want people standing there bored, even for a millisecond. I want them kissing, holding hands, dancing, smiling, laughing, singing along, and I want them feeling. I do not want to give them three songs and a bunch of filler – my job is to make sure it’s worth buying the whole record. “
As Farrell and Shaw went along, the making of Good, Bad & Pretty Things eventually became something of a cause-célèbre, with other luminaries like Sarah Buxton, Richard Marx, Mark Hudson, and Trey Bruce climbing on board for a co-write here or some backing vocals there. With so much excitement generated behind the scenes, it’s not surprising that the results should feel so much like the epi-phenomena of a star on the cusp of supernova. What’s most remarkable is that Farrell kept such a tight bead on the vision she took with her when she first headed south.
“The key word is ‘authentic’,” she says. “As a writer and a performer you just want to get that much closer to expressing yourself in a natural and authentic way. That’s what I really wanted to do.”
Mission accomplished. If Farrell is genuinely concerned that her rise to stardom has been too precipitous, or that the awards, plaudits, and success has all been “premature” (her word), well, Good, Bad & Pretty Things should give her some peace of mind.
In other words – time to breathe easy, Jessie Farrell.# vimeo.com/8543806 Uploaded 38.9K Plays 17 Likes 0 Comments
It takes some real cojones to include the word 'Masterpiece' in your album title, but Josh Ramsay isn't too worried. "I suppose I could be digging myself into a hole calling the record Masterpiece Theatre," he chuckles, "but it's tongue-in-cheek. And I'm not the kind of person that people would assume as being an egomaniac. I hope not, anyway."
Given his feverish imagination and comprehensive musical gifts, Ramsay could probably get away with a little egomania. And with the release of Masterpiece Theatre, the frontman of Vancouver's Marianas Trench makes a iron-clad case for a prodigious set of talents - both his own and those of his bandmates, guitarist Matt Webb, bassist Mike Ayley, and drummer Ian Casselman.
Marianas Trench had already elevated itself above the rest of the pack with a 2006 debut, Fix Me, that showcased a knack for colouring outside the lines of factory-issue millenial punk, shrewdly-built pop, and super-adrenalized modern rock. The single and in particular the video "Shake Tramp" was enough to demonstrate these qualities, coupled with Ramsay's uninhibited urge to be the complete song-and-dance man.
But with both the industry and the fans beating down the door for a quick second album, the Trench decided to put on the brakes. "All of a sudden you have six months to do your next record," Ramsay sighs. "So I really had to just put my foot down and say, 'No, I need the time to do this.' I was not interested in putting something out for the sake of putting something out."
Two years later, Marianas Trench has re-emerged with Masterpiece Theatre. And not surprisingly, it's a work of soaring ambition and decisive technical prowess – that easily might not have happened. "It's one thing when you're Chad Kroeger and you just finished writing 'How You Remind Me'," Ramsay states. "I didn't have some mega-platinum song to back up my argument with, so I was lucky that the band and the label trusted me enough to do it."
By "it", Ramsay means he was allowed to indulge a high-concept fantasy for the band's sophomore album, which is built, for starters, around a song called "Masterpiece Theatre". Adopting Brian Wilson's notion of the 'pocket symphony' and then running with it, the three distinct versions of “Masterpiece Theatre” dotted across the record feature an almost perfect balance between the vocal theatrics of Queen and the more hymnal qualities of the Beach Boys.
By the time “Masterpiece Theatre” is reprised for a final, climactic time, every other song on the album is quoted and incorporated into an intricately constructed dramatic revue that swings from pristine pop, to propulsive riff rock, to quasi-doo wop, to robotic new wave, and finally into a wholly satisfying thematic payoff.
"You know in the climax of a musical, there's always that medley at the end, and I thought that would be cool on a rock record," explains Ramsay, "but it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I wrote it in the studio as we recorded it, and it took about three weeks."
After a beat, he adds, "But really it took me two years because it draws from all the songs on the whole album."
Bassist Mike Ayley readily admits, "I don't think any of the three ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ songs could have gone on Fix Me had they been written at the time. ‘Masterpiece’ 2 and 3 in particular are amazing songs that really explore the potential of Josh's writing. You really have to hear them to get it. It's like trying to explain ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to somebody who has only heard Kanye West and Katy Perry."
Ramsay agrees. "I really wanted to have a 'Good Vibrations'/'Bohemian Rhapsody’ style song on the first record,” he says, “but I don't think I was a mature enough writer to have written it yet, and I still feel like I was in over-my-head when we did this one, and I just barely made it."
Ramsay is unnecessarily modest; the whole of Masterpiece Theatre demonstrates a startling compositional maturity compared to the Marianas Trench of two years ago.
"Beside You" is a panoramic exercise in big emotions, with a dash of the Dream Academy's "Life In a Northern Town”. "Acadia" begins with a clipped, bright acoustic guitar, and blossoms into something like the Who reconsidered by U2, reimagined for the net generation. In the crunchy "All to Myself", the power ballad "Lover Dearest", and the strident "Good to You" (in which he duets with Kate Voegele), Ramsay pulls out the kind of honeyed vocals more attuned to modern RnB than white, adolescent rock.
"I always had that aspect in my voice but the first record just didn't have songs that were conducive to me singing that way," he states. "I think it's from growing up listening to a lot of Michael Jackson. With these songs, it made sense to stretch out a little more."
On "Cross My Heart" and "Celebrity Status", the band conjures up a kind of perfect pop crossover. Producer Dave 'Rave' Ogilvie was responsible for the latter track, which cops a move he used on Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" with three drummers (Casselman, Ramsay and Shane Wilson) playing at once - much to Ramsay's delight. "He's just worked with so many great artists which makes his well of tricks and ideas so vast," he says.
True to Ramsay's quest for "more diversity on this album" - not to mention the indulgence of his record label - Rave was just one of four prominent guest producers eventually roped into Masterpiece Theatre. Their collective resume includes Nine Inch Nails, Sum 41, Iggy Pop, Avril Lavigne, and Hedley among others.
"I feel really fortunate to have worked with all those guys," Ramsay says, "coz they all bring really unique things. Dave Genn and I have a really good working relationship with each other, and he has such a unique style with arrangement and stuff. Greig Nori was a really pleasant surprise. As far as I can tell, he wanted to work with us because he liked our video. The whole time he was just trying to get me to dance around like an idiot. And Raine Maida, man? Raine's a trip!"
Bassist Ayley also credits Maida for encouraging the band to “find a personality-identity that wasn't as evident when we started the production process," while also praising Ramsay for his production efforts. Ramsay took charge of four songs on the finished record. “Josh is really about capturing the emotion and power which isn't surprising considering all the feeling in the writing,” he says.
Oddly enough, Ramsay also wanted Disney's in-house genius Alan (Little Mermaid) Mencken to twiddle the knobs for the climactic version of "Masterpiece Theatre", but admits, "it's a pretty tall order to get an Academy Award winner to come and work on your record."
Still, the album is certainly not diminished by the few things Ramsay didn't get. And once the world gets a load of this Masterpiece, Mencken, Pharrell Williams, Phil Spector... you name it. They'll probably be lining up.# vimeo.com/8542787 Uploaded 23.1K Plays 84 Likes 4 Comments
Unless you're Axl Rose, four years is a long time in music. And that's precisely how long it's been since Ian Thornley dropped his debut solo album on a public that has - in the intervening time - grown increasingly hungry for more. That's four years of false starts, shake-ups, breakdowns, and enough behind-the-scenes shenanigans to fill a best-seller. Among the fans, the frustration is palpable, and message boards teem with speculation, worry, and impatience.
And Thornley himself - urgently dragging on a cigarette as he talks - is audibly chomping at the bit to finally bring the last half decade of foot-dragging to an end with his newest and, in his words, "ballsiest" album yet. To put it another way, He.Really.Wants.To.Get.The.Damn.Thing.Out.There...
"I'm impatient, too," he says, with a heavy sigh. "It's been too long, and this record - we could have made this record two and a half years ago."
"But," he reasons, "I guess at the end of the day I probably wouldn't have been working with Nick Raskulinecz if there hadn't been the wait. I got a great new friend out of it and I got a kickass record, made by a world class producer and engineer."
Thornley and the auspicious Mr. Raskulinecz, the three-time Grammy winning producer of the Foo Fighters' One By One among other things, apparently found soul-mates or at the very least blood-brothers in each other's company, locked up together as they were for a month and a half at Toronto's Phase 1 and Lerxst Sound studios in early 2008.
Thornley puts it down to a "like-minded musical nerdiness," but his description of their working relationship has a higher supernatural bent to it.
"Everything became shorthand after a while," he says. "And it really got to the point where words were barely spoken. Just a sort of a nod, and a thing, and - 'Uh, that's not working, what about this?' And then we'd sort of come up for air and chat about what we were doing, and then dive back in..."
Thornely and Raskulinecz dug themselves deep into a single-minded pocket of classic sounds, surrounding themselves with vintage gear-stuffed road-cases and relying on an "impossible to play" '60s-era Martin 12-string as the primary instrument in establishing a chiming, full-blooded and luxurious album-wide substrate to Tiny Pictures.
Then they brought in Nickelback's Daniel Adair for 11 tracks of sophisticated boom-boom. "Nick wanted a hard-hitting, fast-learning kind of guy who practices nine hours a day, and Daniel is certainly that," Thornley reports. "He knocked it out of the park in about a week and a half."
During a quick sojourn in Nashville, they also nabbed the Black Crowes' Steve Gorman for a fragrant southern-infused power ballad called "Change". "He's just an incredibly vibey drummer," says Thornley. "It didn't sound like a song that belonged in an elevator any more. I started reaching for different notes from my voice, and I started throwing in these little George Harrison slide licks. None of which was on the demo."
Like the sidelong reference to the former Beatle, the more Thornley reveals about the process, the more he reveals about the subterranean seams of rock history mined by the two unleashed fanboys as Tiny Pictures coalesced over those six weeks.
Thornley points to Tom Petty's Wildflowers as an initial influence, and he seems to quiver with excitement when he talks about Raskulinecz's schooling at Sound City in LA - "I know how to get this drum sound," Raskulinecz told his elated partner - but there's so much more going on behind the grooves and between the tracks of Tiny Pictures.
On the surface, it's digitally-buffed modern rock, fit for slotting into future-classic playlists. But Tiny Pictures is covered in what Thornley calls "fairy-dust," or the "subliminal hooks, bells, and whistles that help sustain a listener over a long period of time." He cites Springsteen's Born to Run as the perfect example.
And in trying to eliminate the "sterility" that Thornley feels undermined 2004's Come Again, the reborn rocker has gone for broke. It's there in the breakout Van Halenesque solo that comes screaming from the insistent toms and bass of "Man Overboard", or the peaty, Zeppelin III dobro embellishments of "This Is Where My Heart Is".
"That's just one of those songs where I woke up at eight in the morning and it was already done, recorded and written by nine," Thornley chuckles. "I think it's a great escape from some of the other stuff, and I get to play pedal steel on there, which is not an easy instrument to play. I had to go online the day before we cut it. Nick was sick, so I was like, 'Okay I'm gonna figure out how to play this fucking thing today!'"
"All Fall Down" apparently emerged from the same roots-infatuated coordinates of the Thornley brain, and he gleefully cops to the song's conspicuous influences. "When I hang on that D chord, it's a direct rip from Zeppelin's 'Tangerine'," he smirks. "And I don't really fucking care. And vocally I rip of Howlin Wolf in there. Colin James and Colin Linden, they'll know, but hopefully everybody else will just think it's a cool little vocal."
For the most part, Thornley's vocals hew towards the hot and large on Tiny Pictures - his pipes are a Chris Cornell-sized arena-ready instrument on the power ballad "Be There For Me", and he achieves new heights of emotional truth on the soaring Chad Kroeger co-write "Your Song".
"Another Memory" ends the album with perhaps the strangest of Thornley's mutant strains of old and new, where arpeggiated "Dear Prudence" snatches of psychedelia bump up against a headbanger's chorus of no uncertain power, like Alice in Chains gone hyper-melodic. And there's a backstory that gives the song an even greater wallop.
Thornley explains, "I went down and wrote that in LA with Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider, who were from Eleven and who've done a bunch of work with Queens of the Stone Age and Chris Cornell, and Natasha actually just passed away this summer, so, it kind a made it a little more apt that we end the record with that song. And there's a couple of ringing piano notes at the end of it, and I was adamant that we just let them hang there and linger for a moment. It's sort of a tip of the hat. It's certainly not enough of a tribute but it's my own private way of saying bye."
But the centrepiece of Tiny Pictures, in terms of its brassy and uncomplicated love of '70s rock, is "Might Be the End", which comes in on a bed of Hammond organ and exits on what Thornley describes as "a long, awesome, lonely cowboy jam". In between, it's Pink Floyd writ large and a chorus of Thornley's channeling Freddie Mercury. He calls it a "whole team of fucking neurotics". The fans will doubtless call it something nicer - "Might Be the End" might be Thornley's greatest moment yet, which is saying something.
And indeed, something should be said about the rest of Tiny Pictures - like the shiny Dave Genn assisted single "Make Believe", which started with Ian's dad describing a dream. "He called me the other day and said, 'I'm getting a fucking credit for that'," Thornley laughs. "It'll be Thornley, Thornley, Genn."
And then there's the Storm Thorgerson -designed artwork that graces the new album, and which inspires a killer impersonation of the legendary British graphic artist if you're lucky enough to catch Thornley in the right mood.
Or there's the tale of Raskulinecz's Jack Black-worthy wrangling of St. Andrews Children’s Choir on "Under the Radar".
Or the fact that Rush's Alex Lifeson was often seen cleaning up after Ian and Nick as he played host to the sloppy duo at his Lerxst Sound studios, removing half-empty coffee cups and inserting coasters underneath errant cans of pop. Even with all the heavyweight friends that got on board for Thornley's magnificent obsession, nothing perhaps impresses quite so much as being able to say that Alex Lifeson was your cleaning lady.
And there's more still - tales tall and wide as the music itself. But there's been enough talk and enough waiting for Tiny Pictures already.
It’s time to listen - finally.# vimeo.com/8542391 Uploaded 14.8K Plays 11 Likes 0 Comments
604 Records presents one of their bands, The Zolas!
There’s something happening on the west coast. Whether it’s in the air, the water, or the drugs, a pool of talent has formed around the notion that you can have your pop and eat it too, with brainy, prog-influenced weird-beards like Bend Sinister and arcane psycho-confectioners Mother Mother demonstrating that musical complexity can still be hummable. Commercial, even.
Throw the Zolas into the picture and dammit – you might even call it a scene! Not that it’s ever been a concern to long-term musical partners Zach Gray and Tom Dobrzanski, who established their gifts for intricate songcraft three years ago under the name Lotus Child.
Since then, the duo has finessed its formula into something even busier yet no less direct, filling their new album Tic Toc Tic with hairpin turns, schizoid tonal shifts, multiple parts, and a sort of cabaret strut.
Miraculously, between New Pornographers vet Howard Redekopp’s unfinicky production and the clarity of Gray and Dobrzanski’s vision, Tic Toc Tic works like a charm. Complex without being alienating, it aims equally and with dead-eyed precision for the head, heart, and groin.
Guitarist-vocalist Gray hits on the twin poles that define Tic Toc Tic when he reveals an equal passion for the visceral Scandinavian dream pop of Mew, whose influence is obvious, and the classic music hall rag of the Kinks, whose influence is anything but. Not on first listen, anyway, though the presence of Ray Davies is felt in Gray’s lyrics. Particularly when he turns his attention to the mundane, like the character in “You’re Too Cool” who wrestles with his vulnerability at Vancouver’s hipster HQ the Biltmore. Or the confessional “Body Ash”, which documents a relationship on the ropes. The directness of its sentiment echoes what Gray describes as Davies’ “populism”.
“The first words in ‘Body Ash’ are ‘my balls’,” he laughs. “Literally. I’m not hiding behind any metaphors.” Soundwise, Gray says he was aiming for “self-conscious Jeff Buckley”, which also goes some way towards describing a lot of the music on Tic Toc Tic.
Boxing the listener with their virtuosity right off the top, opener “You’re Too Cool” is six minutes of fortified waltz-time piano dissolving into what Gray characterizes as an “anti-chorus”. “The Great Collapse” is swaggering and deceptively sunny power-pop for apocalyptic future scenarios. “Marlaina Kamikaze” bounces between big band stickwork from drummer Ali Siadat, braying trumpet, and a decadent stride-piano breakdown.
Meanwhile, “You Better Watch Out” has Gray anguishing over a cute girl on a bus while cascading piano arpeggios and Aidan Knight’s hyperactive bass push his suffering to operatic levels of high drama. “Queen of Relax” is featherlite prog, and “Cab Driver” somehow contrives to be both the most straightforward number on Tic Toc Tic, and the most demanding. “It’s the most fun to play,” says Dobrzanski, who caps the song with a libidinous boogie-woogie throwdown sizzling enough to give “Honky Cat” era Elton a case of pianist envy. “It’s a rock-out,” he continues. “I like the athleticism involved in parts of it. It’s actually work.”
If “Cab Driver” finds the Zolas in an almost conventional mood, “I’ve Got Leeches” and album closer “Pyramid Scheme” both explore the fringes of the songwriting team’s expanding universe. Gray describes the first as “baroque” and “Bowie-esque”, while the latter, he admits perhaps a little freely, “is the track where we don’t care if anyone ever listens to it.” As such, it includes what Gray calls “a vaguely Maori, haunted house, war chant section.” Deadpans Dobrzanski, “That moment might come across as a bit out there.”
In truth, Tic Toc Tic is a little out there from bar one to its closing outburst of unbound inspiration. Perhaps it has something to do with the duo’s seasoned friendship – they met as choirboys in Grade 9 – or a working relationship that begins with Gray broadstroking ideas and passing them along to Dobrzanski, his classical musically inclined “details guy”.
Whatever alchemical thing lies beneath the sparkling progressive pop of Tic Toc Tic, the partnership has made its great leap forward. It’s our job to catch up. And we should consider it a pleasure.# vimeo.com/8541399 Uploaded 3,004 Plays 6 Likes 0 Comments
In Canada, we’re a record label in the truest sense. 604 Records 'Vimeo Group' is a place for viewers to watch and listen to some extraordinary Canadian talent. With artists like "Theory of a Deadman", "Marianas Trench", "Thornley", "Faber Drive", "Armchair…
In Canada, we’re a record label in the truest sense. 604 Records 'Vimeo Group' is a place for viewers to watch and listen to some extraordinary Canadian talent. With artists like "Theory of a Deadman", "Marianas Trench", "Thornley", "Faber Drive", "Armchair Cynics", "Oakalla", "Jessis Ferrell", "The Zolas", "Aaron Pritchett" and more, it is a great place to fall in love with music again!
- “It’s not like I found a cure for cancer,” Simkin offers. “I don’t fool myself about the importance, but you know what? Maybe we make the world a bit better because we put some art out there that makes people feel good, and that feels pretty important to me. And it’s been a wonderful ride. The experiences I’ve had, the things I’ve seen, the people I’ve met, handing gold records to our bands, and even writing huge royalty cheques to Theory of a Deadman… ”
“I still feel great about that,” he says.
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