From their upbringings in the suburbs of Halifax, Carla and Lynette Gillis had big rock star dreams. From their first instruments to their first shows, music seemed like the only option for the two sisters. Along with high school friends Amanda Braden, Nina Martin and Carotrino Sturton, who replaced Martin in further years, they turned their passion into something worth sharing with the jangly, thought out guitar sections, steady drums and catchy lyrics that would come recognizable with the Plumtree name. Working between school and life, the band toured with fellow east coasters, living out their summer fantasies on the road before deciding to focus on other projects after a cool seven year run in 2000. Even those not terribly well versed in the band’s three album catalog can find themselves familiar with the words “I’ve liked you for a thousand years,” from the 1997 single “Scott Pilgrim”, the influence behind the graphic novel series of the same name. The inspiration drawn from the song by Bryan Lee O’Malley would go to put the band back on the map creating a resurgence that no member expected. While the added fame that came with the Scott Pilgrim movie and two of Plumtree’s tracks finding homes on the soundtrack, the band all see themselves in different areas of the country and their lives and have no plans of reuniting. Not even now, 17 years after the initial split and the recent vinyl reissue of the band’s three album catalog, out through Label Obscura. That being said, they all look back fondly on their time together, especially former front woman and guitarist Carla Gillis, who I got the chance to speak to about the reissue, being a high school rock star in Halifax, inspiring a best selling graphic novel series and proving yourself as musician.
With her wise beyond her years lyrics, 2 stellar EP under her belt, a number of collaborations with various artists (including First Rate People, Luke Lalonde and Anna Wiebe) and the first tour completed, it’d seems like Anna Horvath would be sitting on top of the world. And to some, she is. 2016 has been a successful year for Hovath’s dreamy, folk moniker Merival but between everything it’s hard to find a scene of validation or sense of belonging as a woman in the music industry. Even with a vast number of amazing women out there making music, it’s something to overcome and although at times her self-diagnosed “impostor syndrome” and personal anxiety may slow down the process, it never stops the Toronto based artist from unveiling her lyrics about love, heartbreak and confusion as they flow along her gently plucking, folk melodies. Her latest release Lovers, recorded by Asher Gould-Murtagh, and the tour that follwed have been triumphant lead ins for Horvath to succeed with new music, a potential full length and the ever growing number of show dates around SW Ontario. After the tour I got the chance to sit with Merival as we discussed her experiences the first time on the road, revisiting old music and overcoming your anxieties as an artist.
If you’re familiar with Jill Krasnicki then you know her as a vegan, entrepreneur but also as as a charismatic electronic musician. Under the moniker, Animalia she’s been weaving her celestial melodies and smokey vocals throughout Toronto, where is has resided for the past 7 years. The Tasmania native has used her music to express the weighty and emotional topics affecting our world, first with her debut album Mouth Full Of Teeth and again in her soon (very soon) to be released (dissonance). In this upcoming release through Culvert Music she touches on the our effects on the environment, gun violence (in “Paradise”) and creating relationships with the world around us (“Face On”). There’s no wondering why Krasnicki describes that her writing of the albumas“heavily emotional but fast – a purging of ideas and feelings.” While working with friends Remy Perrin with the recordings and with Brandon Cronenberg, who has worked on the visuals, the latest collection of her dream pop anthems has made it’s way through the Toronto music scene before it’s release date tomorrow. Taking the Smiling Buddha stage tonight in celebration of (dissonance) I first had the opportunity to ask her about the album, delivering the emotion of her message and her music journey up to this point.
It all started one London eve on a bus ride to a rave. David Trenaman and Colleen (Coco) Collins met and fell in love. And where first comes love then comes marriage then comes a band? At least that’s the order the east coast duo followed to get where they are now. After being together for more than 20 years and playing their brand of shoegazey, spook rock music for close to 10 they have yet to strain their creative connection. Especially now with their forthcoming album, their first since 2013’s Dark Lark, due out this year and the stream of residencies at their old, coastal home in Nova Scotia, “The Quarantine (because if you’re going to produce your own brand of “spook rock” you’re going to do it in an old spooky house by the sea). And of course their continuing collaborations and the occasional “life on the road” stints that musicians usually do to keep themselves busy. During their last trip to where it all started, Dave and Coco played the winter music festival put on by friends in Out of Sound. It was during this trip I was able to chat with Coco about celebrating a decade of Construction & Destruction, collaborating with artists of different genres and the importance of women in the music world.
Vallens may be a newer name in the Toronto music scene but Robyn Phillips shouldn’t be. The front woman of the hazy shoegaze project, had cast her shadow on the local scene playing with a number of different groups, while she honed her craft and courage in order to take her rightful place at the (metaphorical) helm. With her guitar, army of pedals, smokey voice and Dorothy Vallens inspired persona, she has made her mark while becoming one of the most notable front women of Toronto, all before the release of her debut album. In the year since Vallens came to be we’ve seen the name opening for heavy touring bands, widely featured by and in the good books of major music publications and listed in the roster of one of the most well known and supportive independent labels in Canada, Hand Drawn Dracula. After dropping the Shelby Fenlon directed video for Vallen’s first single “Tennessee Haze” the next step for the songwriter is the release of the first collection of haunting and fuzzed out melodies due out in the spring of this year. The Toronto based musician and London, ON native recently played her first hometown show at the third annual Winter Spectacular festival. It was there that I got to connect with Phillips and ask her about her path to Vallens, the incestuousness of HDD and channeling her inner Alanis.
Alanna Gurr and Steph Yates are Cupcake Ductape and they want you to “get over it!” The two self-proclaimed sparkle punks have already been making noise in their hometown of Guelph, ON, while being associated with groups like Shopkeeper, Milk & Honey, The Greatest State and Little Room Labs, the recording studio owned and operated by Yates. Now the duo have cranked the volume with their collection of gritty and fuzzed out, bubblegum punk tunes. Quick paced and raw ditties about anything from puking over bad service, shitty birthdays and Judy Dench, these two have taken the riot grrl attitude and poured sugar all over it.
I got to ask bassist Alanna Gurr a little about Cupcake Ductape before their set during London’s Winter Spectacular music festival, where they’ll show the Forest City what a couple of chicks with rad attitudes can do.
Upon first seeing Danielle Fricke many are entranced by the full, atmospheric sound that the quiet girl and her electric guitar can create. Her hauntingly beautiful form of bedroom pop music has been gaining a whirlwind of attention, especially in Fricke’s hometown of London, ON. Over her years in the local music scene and with her previous band Snow Mantled Love, she’s had time to hone her gift and mold ideas and aspects into her own for the long awaited collection from Fricke’s solo efforts, Moon. Although we were introduced to the soaring soundscapes of the album over a year ago but the record got put on the back burner while the search for proper representation came around. That would come in the form of Porchlight Coffe & Records out of Seattle, a record label that had previously worked with friend Keaton Henson (his album Romantic Works was actually mixed by Fricke). Besides mixing she had managed to extend her talents to others while creating visuals for her music and the music of others, scoring short films and has already begun playing with the music for her next release.
I met up with Danielle at her “mom-agers” (mom-like friend that asks as a manager) home where we discussed the record, matching images to her music and enjoy her complete control.
With her stoner chic attitude and her collection of home recorded garage rock tunes Colleen Green is no stranger to the west coast DIY scene. Now, after grabbing the attention of Hardly Art Records and the release of her first studio album, I Want To Go Up, she’s making a splash with the critics, media and listeners alike. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee (sooo far from home) she had to learn how to transfer her honest, bare your soul lyrics into music without being fully in control. But with the help of her two good friends Casey Weissbuch (Diarrhea Planet) and Jake Orrall (JEFF The Brotherhood) the record has become a catchy pop rock offering of the anxieties of growing up and falling in love.
That brings us to where we are now. At this point Green is wrapping up a major North American tour where she took the stage in several major US and Canadian cities under her solo effort as well as Weissbuch’s (who is also her touring drummer) side project Punani Huntah, a dance hall inspired musical act. I got the chance to speak to Colleen before her set at Toronto’s Smiling Buddha back in August when she hit the stage with three local, female fronted groups; So Young, The Beverleys and Pony. Being kind of an introvert and one to take time to herself before a show (if you’ve heard the record this is no surprise), I found Green catching up on emails and sipping Canada Dry in the green room. She invited me in and I got the chance to fan girl a little (because it’s me) as well as talk to her about reaching her younger audience, letting others take the wheel and giving up things that are bad for her.