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Have Car, Will Write

by Katie Rankin

Talking Bands
Reviews

When I was 18 years old, a friend who worked at UPEI’s student newspaper helped me and another friend sneak into The Wave in order to see our number one music crush Joel Plaskett perform. This resourceful friend also helped us get backstage after the concert in order to interview Plaskett. While my friend had a legitimate reason to spend over an hour chatting with Plaskett, I was at a loss when I got home with a filled tape recorder and notebook. What would I do with this? What if Joel found out that I wasted his time for no reason and he never lets me see him play again? After I fretted over my future career as a journalist and my future life as Joel’s wife, I decided to write the best article I could and submit it to The Buzz. Although I had no experience interviewing, transcribing or writing a profile, Peter Richards graciously read my interview and offered to put a shortened version in The Buzz that would align with Plaskett’s appearance at Shoreline Festival later that summer. As most followers of PEI’s music scene know, Shoreline was cancelled that year and my Plaskett article was utterly useless.

Instead, Richards offered me a regular summer writing gig of reviewing plays and performances throughout the Island. Living in Hunter River, being willing to drive outside of Charlottetown, and having access to my parents’ car made me an ideal writer for The Buzz when so many theatres exist outside the realm of the city. I saw it as an opportunity to build my resume for applying to journalism school, my mom (my plus one) loved accompanying me to these complimentary plays, and Richards liked that I had a car. The funny thing is that I have no training or knowledge about theatre, singing, or dance, yet I felt completely confident in reviewing these performances. My logic was that if I am upfront and honest with the reader about my limited knowledge on the subject and I consider the performance in the the context of its players, its budget, and its location, I can give Buzz readers a fair review. A friend once told me his theatre professor made copies of my review of The Outsider put on by UPEI’s theatre group. He passed out the copies to the class, gave them an assignment to write a review, and said, “This is a good review. This is what it should like.” I laughed because that same professor gave me a 75 on most of my essays.

When I returned home after completing my journalism degree, I was lost and was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. The Buzz was a bit of a refuge and reassurance that my degree was not entirely worthless. Richards offered that I take over the column Talking Bands in which local bands are featured. I felt comfortable interviewing local bands because my former band The Barnkats had interacted or played with most of them, but I also hoped to find new bands that were emerging. For over a year I submitted my monthly column, but found it increasingly difficult to find new bands or even news about bands. What was most frustrating is how few women play in bands in Charlottetown. I interviewed two bands over the course of my column that had female members. Women of PEI: go play music. It is super fun and most people will be kind and gracious.

As I packed my belongings to move to St. Catharines, I also wrote my last column. The Buzz was and still is a wonderful experience. The number of plays, performers, and bands I have been exposed to because of my work is incomparable. It was job that was not a chore, and one that helped me maintain and improve my skills as a writer and interviewer. The Buzz is integral in promoting PEI’s cultural and arts community and will be the first thing I’ll read when I get home for summer vacation.

The Talking Bands column has endured since November of 2004, and there appears to be an ever-replenishing well of new bands to draw from—most of whom are willing to talk. We may be forced to create a future

column dedicated to those Islanders who did not play in a band. Our current Talking Bands columnist is the aimiable Luke Arbuckle and he follows in another Buzz tradition—recruiting students from the Holland College Journalism program to give them a chance at real world (Buzz world) assignments. This list includes Charissa Reeves, Jaclyn Killins, Jill Hamilton, Lyndsey Arsenault and Marianne Dowling. We have also grabbed a couple of King’s College students along the way including Christian Ledwell and Fraser MacCallum. They are all climbing to greater heights, but we are very grateful for their contributions along the way.

Katie Rankin is…

Katie RankinKatie Rankin is from Hunter River. She is currently finishing her MA in Popular Culture at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. She says that she misses The Buzz, The Barnkats, bike rides, and summers in Charlottetown.

Atta Boy!

Talking Bands
by Katie Rankin

Alexi Ladéroute, Ryan Merry, Dan Roper, Cory Roper (photo: Katie Rankin)Charlottetown’s newest rock band Atta Boy! formed on a Tuesday. The band’s first show was on a Thursday—two days later. Surprisingly, the band and the song it wrote for that first show stuck, and now the band is writing more songs and playing more shows, some that are even planned weeks in advance.

This winter Cory Roper (drums, guitars, accordion, banjo, vocals) heard about the show Rockin’ for Dollars at Baba’s and thought it would be a great chance to play music. He enlisted his brother Daniel Roper, co-worker Alexi Ladéroute and fellow open-mic host Ryan Merry to form an impromptu group. The date for the show approached much quicker, weeks quicker, than Cory realized and they were left with two days to write a song.

“We didn’t know A) how the band should sound, B) what the song was going to be about, so we opened a dictionary and pointed at a word and it was ‘screech owls’ so we wrote a song about owls and then we called it ‘Wingin’ It’,” says Merry (guitar, drums, vocals). After that show, they couldn’t resist becoming a permanent band. “The reception was so good that first show that we were like ‘Okay, guess we gotta keep doing this,’” says Ladéroute (bass, guitar, vocals). “And the fact that we could write a song in two days and have it down pat and handle multiple instruments and have fun doing it,” says Cory.

Every member of Atta Boy! plays multiple instruments, including Daniel who plays bass, and also auxiliary. “Wingin’ It” is the only song the band has written entirely as a group, something that Cory says came organically despite the looming deadline.

“The rest of the time Cory or I will have a song written fairly complete and then bring it to the band and then it kind of fleshes together,” says Ladéroute. Atta Boy! tends to play both acoustic and plugged-in shows. “That’s the thing about the songs we write-they’re super malleable. Like we manage to play almost punk shows and we’ve played country shows just by toning it down or turning it up,” says Ladéroute. He says the band’s sound has been compared to everything from Western-themed movies to Queens of the Stone Age.

For Atta Boy! everything involving writing and playing music should be fun. “My biggest pet peeve anytime I’ve ever seen a band is when a band doesn’t look like they’re having fun. Music is hands-down the most fun thing you can ever do so if you’re up there and you look bored and you look like you’re not having fun that sucks,” says Merry. The band’s theory is that if you’re having fun, people in the audience will too.

Catch Atta Boy! on September 13 at Baba’s with Bad Uncle and Cud Eastbound.

This is Katie Rankin’s last Talking Bands column as she leaves for Ontario to pursue a Master of Pop Culture degree. The Buzz thanks Katie for her excellent contributions, and wishes her success at Brock University.

All Things Island

Come All Ye

Review by Katie Rankin

It’s a difficult task for Islanders and visitors alike to succinctly capture the wonderful, addicting, often ridiculous nature of this island. Sure we can all agree PEI is special. But what is it about this place that makes it so different from any other? Come-All-Ye at The Mack tries to answer this question with a group of talented musicians singing some of the best Island-centered songs, paired with Patrick Ledwell’s hilarious and frighteningly accurate observations about our home. Although using storytelling and song to paint a picture of the Island is certainly not a new idea, Ledwell’s stand-up sensibilities and younger outlook make it feel totally fresh.

The show opens with a blend of Island voices, ones we might not have heard before but that feel very familiar. The audio is from interviews conducted by Dutch Thompson over the years and they, along with archival video and photos of the Island, set the tone for the rest of Come-All-Ye. This is a show that loves poking fun at the absurdities of the Island but does so in a loving way.

Early in the evening, Ledwell tells us that the easiest way to be claimed an Islander, even if you weren’t born here, is to become famous. This hilarious truth is even found in the show’s song selection with performances of Gene MacLellan and Stompin’ Tom Connors songs. The entire musical ensemble, including Caroline Bernard, Ashley Condon, John Connolly, Chas Guay and Mark Haines perform with confidence, joy and energy.

My only issue with the musical direction of the show was how the singing on a well-known song like Lennie Gallant’s “Peter’s Dream” was divided. The musicians traded off the singing line-by-line so that there was a new voice on each line. These songs are so rich and well-known that this arrangement was quite jarring and gave it a cheesy, musical theatre feel.

Despite the big laughs, there are many touching moments found in Come All Ye, touching because they are rooted in real, personal experiences. “Betty’s Song” written and performed by Ashley Condon is about her mother, the first fisherwoman in Murray Harbour North to be the captain of her own fishing boat. The song is a sweet tribute to her hardworking single mother and Condon delivers it with pride and love. Ledwell is consistently funny, but his reading of his father Frank’s poem “John of the Island” is another serious and touching moment.

The entire show does an excellent job of balancing the serious with the comedic while seamlessly connecting themes between stories and songs. For example, when Ledwell starts talking about the Confederation Bridge he subtly shifts the stories from hilariously mocking to a sadder nostalgia for the ferry. This leads perfectly into Mark Haines and John Connolly doing a lovely version of Allan Rankin’s “Northumberland Pride.”

Come All Ye is a celebration of all things Island. It is a love letter to this weird, insular, intoxicating place where we live. Maybe we won’t ever be able to answer what makes this place so special, it’s just that complicated an answer. But Come-All-Ye sure gives you long list with which you can start. Come-All-Ye is playing at The Mack until September.   

Wildcat

Talking Bands
by Katie Rankin

Wildcat (photo: Katie Rankin)Charlottetown’s newest band Wildcat is basically a super-team of some of the city’s finest producers and musician. Formed and fronted by former Boxer the Horse bassist and newbie guitar player and singer Richard MacLeod, Wildcat’s been playing together for about a year, but only recently started playing shows and releasing material. Last spring MacLeod returned home from traveling, having written a bunch of songs and started looking for a band. Bass player Colin MacIsaac introduced him to drummer Shawn Gallant, while MacLeod’s roommate Adam Gallant (Raccoon Bandit) introduced him to guitar player Chris Robison (North Lakes). “It started out as sort of like a punk-er thing and now it’s morphing. I brought songs in that I didn’t really have plans for a full band and once you get jamming with them you kind of get what you’re going for,” says MacLeod.

MacLeod admits that writing, especially the lyrics, is still difficult. “The way it works is one or two lines will come out and then we’ll just get drunk and put me in a closet and record them,” he says. He also gives a lot of credit to his band mates, as well as producers Adam Gallant and Andrew Murray (Sister Jack, English Words) and mixer Colin Buchanan (Paper Lions) with helping shape the songs. “We each bring something different to the table. So he [Richard] writes like the main idea and then we all put our own flavour on it,” says Robison. Lyrics aren’t the only thing MacLeod’s been perfecting. “It’s weird too because you kind of gotta find your voice and that takes time. Like I’ve gone through probably three different distinct stages of singing. I’m kind of falling into one now,” he says. His band mates jokingly remind him that he blew his vocal chords trying to find it.

MacLeod says despite the growing pains he likes being the frontman. “I get to put the intensity exactly where I want it.” And even though he’s traded in bass for guitar, the songs are still bass-centric. “He writes from a bassist’s point of the view still so, all the bass are written by Colin, but the song set up, the core of it is bass. You can hear that when he puts the song together it’s made for bass. It’s like a dream to play bass for his songs,” says Robison.

Wildcat is working on its second set of a single/b-side to be released in July, with a third set in August. It’s a unique approach, one that MacLeod says benefits the songwriting process. “There’s a lot of reasons behind it. It’s feasible, schedule-wise it’s easier. We’re still developing the sound so it’s like we’re writing as we go so that’s why we’re recording the vocals the day of. I don’t think any of us thought it was gonna turn out like that, what’s in there right now.” Wildcat will release its next single and b-side Johnny’s Meds/Friendly Gestures on July 5 with Coyote and Fox and the Hound at Baba’s.

Milks and Rectangles

Talking Bands
by Katie Rankin

Milks and RectanglesMilks and Rectangles is grateful for email. With one band member at sea, another in vet school, and the rest in other bands, Milks spent much of the last year emailing demos back and forth in preparation for the band’s first full-length album Milks and Rectangles. Lead singer and guitar player Christian Ledwell did the chunk of the songwriting out in the country, with the band recording about half the record in Halifax with Charles Austin later that fall. The rest, including vocals, was recorded with Ledwell’s brother Daniel, who recently received a Juno nomination for his production of Jenn Grant’s latest album.

“We had some time to learn how to be a band,” Ledwell says about the year-long process. He says the band’s seven year relationship makes the long-distance communication work. “I know what Justin [Uyterlinde, lead guitar] can do well and I can write the part that I know he’ll play really well but he takes it and makes it his own, changes it around and does a much better job than if I was playing it,” says Ledwell. He also credits his friendship with bass player Brandon Williams with the band’s ability to work around Williams’s inconvenient schedule as a coast guard. Drummer Mike Carver agrees that it can be frustrating but everyone needs a day job. “Brandon put it nicely,” says Ledwell. “‘You don’t want to be relying on the band to pay the electric bill.’”

The band says Daniel Ledwell’s enthusiasm and encouragement made him the perfect producer, and despite being brothers, there was no ego-clashing between he and Christian. “It’s fun to watch you two work because if we worked with another producer we’d have to really explain things whereas you guys have that like brother-talk almost. A language of your own,” says Carver. Daniel also knows each band member’s limitations. Ledwell credits playing bass player for Boxer the Horse with improving his stage presence. “I’m not a natural performer and it’s taken me a while to come around to it. I like songwriting and I kind of became a band leader by default.”

The album’s influences vary from Wolf Parade to Leonard Cohen to Beck. Milks and Rectangles will release the album for free online, something the band’s done with past EPs. “I just want people to hear it and like it. That’s the reason for spending a year writing it and doing other things that really suck like writing grant applications and answering emails,” says Ledwell. Milks and Rectangles CD release show is at Hunter’s Ale House on June 9 with Boxer the Horse.

North Lakes

Talking Bands
by Katie Rankin

Chris Francis, Nathan Gill, Roger Carter, Mike Carver, Chris RobinsonNorth Lakes is a rock and roll band in denial. Or at least they used to be. Leaving behind the band’s more folky, alt-country tinged sound, this month North Lakes release Grand Prix, the fast-moving follow-up to 2010’s Cobra. “We got to the point where we felt like we wanted to make an aggressive rock record because it’s just how we like to play. It’s how we engage with music, it’s reflective of a lot of music we really enjoy,” says lead singer and guitarist Nathan Gill.

Described as “a kick in the blood,” the album boasts eight songs under just 28 minutes. The lyrical concision required for these short songs challenges and interests Gill. “I’m curious about how attention spans operate with the way music is consumed these days,” says Gill. The band hopes this approach will allow listeners to connect with the brevity of both the songs and the album and end up putting it on repeat.

The idea of loops and closed circuitry is most obvious in the album title Grand Prix. However, each song has some connection to the album’s circular theme . “It’s about going around in circles in your head, driving around and ending up in the same position you started in,” says Gill.

The album was recorded mostly at Long Creek Church, an unused Baptist church. Gill, along with drummer Mike Carver, bassist Chris Francis, keyboard player Roger Carter and lead guitarist Chris Robinson, used the space to its advantage. Recognizing the monstrous room’s potential with its vaulted ceilings, the drums were set up on the altar. “And then we put a lot of the guitar amps at different points in the gymnasium in the basement. So we put the amps there for a really cool natural reverb through this basketball court,” says Gill.

Produced by North Lake’s friend and fellow musician Colin Buchanan (Paper Lions), the experience was a learning process for both sides. “It was really good to have a neutral ear to balance ideas off of and give his unbiased impressions of what would be going on,” says Gill. It was also unique because Buchanan knew the songs from their early stages, making his approach to the music personal, with a full understanding. Get your copy of the record at the Grand Prix release show at the Clover Club on May 5 in Charlottetown.

Paper Lions

Talking Bands
by Katie Rankin

John MacPhee, David Cyrus MacDonald, Rob MacPhee, Colin Buchanan (photo: Katie Rankin)A couple of months ago, after seeing no money from their label, Paper Lions made the band’s last album 2010‘s Trophies available for free online. One day while breaking for lunch at practice, the guys checked the band’s website. “Usually we get 200 hits a day and we came up at lunch and there was like 800 hits and we were like, ‘What the hell is going on?’” says guitar player Colin Buchanan. Somehow the band’s story ended up on the front page of popular user-generated website Reddit, leading to about 10,000 downloads of Trophies.

“I think what it turned into was ‘Paper Lions gives label the middle finger,’” says lead singer and guitar player John MacPhee, “But in reality, we didn’t know what the sales were like, but we knew the sales weren’t crazy.” Instead of chasing a few thousand dollars through legal routes, the guys ended up getting their music out to more people through the dilemma. “It was the story that resonated with them,” says MacPhee.

The situation showed the band the real shift that’s happening in the music business. “We’ve been a touring band for eight years and played thousands of shows in front of a lot of people, but in that one afternoon we exposed our music to way more people than we had before and we didn’t even have to leave home for it,” says Buchanan. It reinforced the band’s belief that it can be successful while staying rooted on PEI. Buchanan and MacPhee, along with drummer David Cyrus MacDonald and bass player Rob MacPhee were always told they should move to Toronto or New York to make it big. “The channels of distribution have opened up, but ultimately you just need to write the best songs you can write,” says MacPhee.

Paper Lions are heading back into the studio this month, recording in Vancouver with producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographer, Mother Mother). “It’s a natural progression from Trophies. Lyrically it sort of explores a more specific time in our life. John and Rob and I growing up in Belfast, a lot of the songs are just about being a kid,” says Buchanan. It was a lot easier to write about these nostalgic, shared memories than the usual personal lyrics of one person. “We sit around and just laugh and remember funny things from when we were kids and then hopefully poetically put that to song,” says Buchanan.

To help pay for the cost of recording the guys started a campaign to raise money and filmed a funny video asking for support. “To call it donating is a bit misleading, it’s like a pre-order campaign, but rather than a couple months before the record comes out it’s before the record’s made,” says MacPhee. Basically people can donate and with the donation comes, at minimum, a download of the new album. See the hot tub video and help out Paper Lions at paperlions.com.

www.indiegogo.com/Recording-a-Full-Length-Record-with-Howard-Redekopp?a=465550

Boxer the Horse

Talking Bands
by Katie Rankin

Boxer the HorseAfter several years in the local scene, Boxer the Horse knows a lot about music, but the band also knows almost as much about Caesars—where to get the best ones in Canada, in Charlottetown and even Caesar-making competitions. With the release of their sophomore album French Residency this month and a national tour with Juno Award-winning group Said the Whale, the guys hope to gain even more momentum, and will most likely drink a few Caesars.

Produced by Alec O’Hanley and recorded during the end of summer and into the fall in O’Hanley’s basement and drummer Isaac Neily’s barn, French Residency was created with a low-maintenance approach. “We did it on a little tape machine for the most part, reel to reel on two-inch tape. It was pretty rewarding to do it like that,” says guitarist and singer Jeremy Gaudet. Gaudet likens recording on tape versus digitally onto a computer to taking a picture with an analog camera versus taking a picture on a digital camera and giving it an analog effect. “Most people probably wouldn’t be able to tell but it’s the satisfaction you get knowing you’re physically imprinting your sound on tape,” says Gaudet.

Some of the songs were recorded with little to no rehearsal, a technique that influenced the sound. “The goal was to record it loosely, and as quickly and as scrappy as possible on old equipment,” says Gaudet. The band recorded about 17 songs, but ended up cutting it down to 11, leaving behind the ballad-y numbers. “It’s kind of a party record,” says bass player Christian Ledwell. Gaudet says they kept the album “intentionally upbeat” since those would be the songs fans would most enjoy.

Since Boxer’s last record, 2010‘s Would You Please, the group has switched up members and who plays what instrument. Former drummer Andrew Woods, now plays guitar, while Neily switched from guitar and keyboard to drums. Gaudet says Woods has a lot more input on the songwriting. “He takes on a much more active role in melodies and chords.” While, with Neily on drums, the songs feature less keyboard than previous recordings. Ledwell, who is also lead singer/songwriter for Milk and Rectangles, joined the band about a year ago. “I really kind of defer to these guys’ artistic direction, so it’s been interesting to learn and play someone else’s style.” French Residency will be released on March 13, with a release show at the Charlottetown Legion on March 23.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

Jimmy Rankin shows

November 22 at Trailside Café
November 23 at Harbourfront Theatre Jimmy Rankin's new Moving East (o [ ... ]

ACT to present Rainbow Valley—An Island ...

November 8–10 & 15–17
The Guild ACT (a community theatre) has announced a family musical, Ra [ ... ]

Musical theatre blues

On the Road with Dutch Mason starring John Connolly Select dates to September 22
The Mack The “Pr [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Free transportation at Cloggeroo

The provincial government will sponsor free transportation at this year’s Cloggeroo festival to he [ ... ]

Charlottetown’s Historic Squares exhibit...

The City of Charlottetown Planning and Heritage Department has created an exhibit exploring the hist [ ... ]