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Late November

Talking Bands
by Fraser MacCallum

Andrew Waite, Sarah Sandford, George Maros, Jon Millington (photo: Fraser McCallum)Charlottetown’s music scene has hit a growth spurt. Every week there’s a CD release and a new band jumps into the fray during this local music puberty. Enter Late November. The rock band is barely six months old but has already played several high calibre shows and is picking up steam.

The quartet is led by 20-year-old Sarah Sandford of Kings County, who easily garners the “little girl with a big presence” handle, but in all the right ways. The PEI scene may be a crowded market right now, however there are very few front-women with full bands.

On stage with Late November, Sandford has a strong, full voice and keeps your attention, something she‘s conscious of. “There’s lots of pressure in putting on a performance and I have to portray an image beyond just being a little girl.” Always quick to keep things comical, she adds, “I’m also, like, three feet tall so I have to put out a lot of energy to compensate!”

Late November also includes lead guitarist Andrew Waite, bassist Jon Millington, and drummer George Maros. Last summer Sandford, who has played solo for few years, recruited Waite and Maros for a gig at Hal Mill’s famous “Dunk” venue in Breadalbane. Needing a bass player, Waite called up fellow UPEI student Millington, who also plays with cover rockers Sunday Punch. Something clicked, and Late November’s set at “Dunkstock” was a crowd hit. “The sound we all created really worked,” Millington remembers fondly. “Afterwards we said let’s just form a band, cause we rock!”

Although they are still working on their set, Late November have a rare dynamic for Charlottetown, melding Sandford’s clear, folky vocals with a lively rock foundation, that evokes references to Fleetwood Mac or Tragically Hip. Guitarist Waite, who also writes in the band, cites Zeppelin and Tower of Power as influences while Sandford leans towards Pink Floyd and Pete Seeger.

While the Charlottetown music community is prospering, Waite and Maros, both from Summerside, feel that the western capital’s scene is lagging behind. “Its kind of a drag,” says Maros “like Charlottetown, there are very few places to play, but in Summerside there aren’t many groups and not many people interested in hearing bar bands. I have to drive to Charlottetown to practice, play and see music.”

At press time the foursome were still beaming though, coming off of a packed show at the Alibi and en route to Fredericton for their first off-Island gig. In terms of recording, they demoed five original songs this past fall (you can hear the infectious track ‘Heart of Hearing’ on but are taking the time to polish their live set before releasing any studio work. “Right now, we want to keep developing but are aiming to record a full-length in the summer,” says Waite. In the meantime, Sandford wants to fill the band fund from local gigs, play to other Maritime crowds, and write a ton.

The North Lakes

Talking Bands
by Fraser McCallum

Nathan Gill, Mike Carver, Gillian Arsenault, Chris FrancisWhen The North Lakes went into studio to record their first album, their drummer, Carver, was keen to be given a nickname by sound engineer Charles Austin, who is known to affectionately dole them out. Austin’s response was, “I don’t know if I like you yet” but before long, Carver found himself with a handle to be proud of—”Fat-head.”

Over a beer at Baba’s, Carver laughs it off but underlines that this was all part of a great experience recording with Austin. “It was excellent, really laid back. We spent two packed days recording at Echo Chamber in Halifax and came away with nine tracks…more than we planned for.”

The North Lakes play a punchy brand of blues and folk rock that sounds like Jack White, Velvet Underground, and Bob Dylan crammed into a sports car together. Heavy on rock guitars and busy drumming, they are just as much a lyrical band however, with a poetic, Dylan-style of prose.

In addition to Carver on drums, Nathan Gill fronts lead vocals and plays rhythm, CF Francis plays bass, Gillian Arsenault sings backup, and Chris Robison plays lead guitar. Local man-about-town, Roger Carter also adds keys at some shows and contributes on COBRA, The North Lakes’ forthcoming EP.

The nine-track album draws its name from a defunct blues record company from Chicago. “It’s just a handsome word,” laughs Gill proudly, “but yeah, we’re really pumped to put this out. We think it sounds great and are proud of the team and methods behind it.”

Some of the choices the Lakes made at Echo Chamber were to distort the vocals and to have Austin mix the album to tape. Sound mixing to tape fits the band’s throwback sound and was done to give their album a warmer, nostalgic quality. “Mixing to tape is just…kind of romantic,” laughs bass player Francis.

The group started in early 2009 when Carver, Gill and Arsenault, who all had other bands, were each looking to start another project. Carver and Gill were both members of String Theory and Carver (a man with as many projects as Charlottetown has Murphy’s restaurants) was playing drums for Arsenault’s band, The Barnkats. “We’re not sure where Francis came from,” Carver laughs, “but we’re keeping him.”

Robison and Carter came on as supporting members for a lively Hunter’s show opening up for The Novaks and it stuck. Other highlights to date include gigs with Cuff the Duke and Caledonia.

Gill is the main writer for the Lakes but Arsenault is also starting to write some songs now and is enjoying a different role than in her own band “Its cool to play with this kind of sound, it opens your mind musically. The Barnkats is more pop and glam so this is a change of writing style. It’s a bit nerve-wracking and there’s a lot of trust placed in the other guys, but its great.”

Jay Lapointe (mastering for Museum Pieces, Buck 65) mastered the album and in addition to Carter, Stratford’s Kinley Dowling plays violin on select tracks and Pat Deighan lends guitar to the song “All over you.” Local artist Rebecca Ford has designed the artwork for COBRA, which will be released April 16 at Hunter’s.

The North Lakes are at Baba’s March 25.

Cashmere Disciples

Talking Bands
by Fraser McCallum

Phil, Berne, Walker, Heggie and DreaLike so many lovely things, the Cashmere Disciples came from Shoppers Drug Mart. In 2004, lead singer Drew Heggie and drummer Joel Walker met while both working late shifts at the Charlottetown pharmacy. While they waited to go home, general male small-talk cut to the point, leading to the inevitable, “sooo … you play music?” question, and like that, the seed was planted.

Fast-forward five years later to 2010. Roots-rockers the Cashmere Disciples are brimming with excitement to release their first full-length album next month. Since 2004, they’ve released an EP, rotated several band members, and had more confusing changes than NBC’s late night lineup, but now all five members assert that their time has come. “The band is at a great place, ” says Heggie. “Everyone’s more involved now and writing their own parts. We’re on a steady rise.”

The new lineup features Heggie on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Berne Driscoll on organ and piano, Walker on drums, Phil White on lead guitar, and Drea MacDonald on bass and backing vocals. The recent addition of Driscoll’s organ and MacDonald’s lonesome harmonies give some of Heggie’s new material an epic, gripping charm, one that is a gem to take in live.

Drawing on influences such as the Counting Crows, Graham Parsons, and The Band, The Disciples’ sound is self-described as “folk rock with a country tinge,” big on shuffles, organs, and open chords. “We all come from very different musical backgrounds though,” Heggie explains. “And we couldn’t listen to more different kinds of music.”

Heggie had played with popular Newfoundland band The Domestics, who he describes as “a band with a lot of snap-shirts and cowboy stuff.” Guitarist White played mostly rock and metal beforehand while good friend Driscoll is a classically trained pianist.

MacDonald, the newest Disciple, also sings and fronts her own band but had no trouble walking into a group of guys with a few years history. “I knew the band really well already, so it was super fun from the get-go. I’d never played bass before but that came quickly.”

Walker was ecstatic to get the chance to rock with a bar-band, “I’d played in concert and jazz bands for years but had no fun, musical friends otherwise.” Before things get too sappy, the drummer throws out a groaner of a joke about keys-player Driscoll. “And do you know what they say about us? That Berne has one glorious organ.”

Busy Charlottetown music producer Adam Gallant recorded the Cashmere Disciples’ new album over a windy weekend last July. All ten tracks were recorded live off the floor in Joel’s barn in Drummore. Look for a release date in early March. Other future plans include a potential 7 ‘’ vinyl print and off-Island shows.

Heggie is just stoked to be playing steadily again and feels the band has evolved considerably. MacDonald agrees saying, “We’re not doing this to see what people think. It’s just awesome to be in a band that writes great songs. We love doing it.”

Guitarist White nods as well, “We’re just enjoying playing and getting together. There’s no need for riches.”

Get discipled this month, February 6th at Hunter’s and the 27th at the Alibi.

The Danks

Talking Bands
by Fraser McCallum

The Danks (photo: Fraser McCallum)An interview with the Danks is kind of like stumbling into a family reunion at mealtime. It’s loud, chaotic, full of ridiculous inside jokes, and visitors can pop in at any moment.

Over the course of an entertaining hour together, conversation touches on their impressive year as a rising indie-rock band in Canada. Much of the time, however, examines heavy subjects such as the Mighty Ducks, Nicolas Cage, the Muppets, and just why Alec has a busted up lip in their recent music video for single “Planet Beach” (more on that later).

The Danks, who consist of Brohan Moore, Phil MacIsaac, Alec O’Hanley and Andy MacDonald, had a very successful 2009 with the release of their full length record Are you afraid of The Danks?, multiple ECMA and PEIMA award nominations, and two national tours with label-mates Two Hours Traffic.

“The award nominations are a nice affirmation of what we’re doing,” says lead guitarist O’Hanley “We’ve never written with awards in mind and this is the first time we’ve applied…so our batting average is looking good.”

That’s not all. The Danks’ album, a full-length CD of power-punk burners, has been added to Air Canada’s in-flight playlist program and single “Die Young” is still charting on XM radio. Its safe to say the Danks are carrying some momentum.

After touring the country twice now drummer MacIsaac feels their live show has naturally sharpened “You become a lot stronger, playing night after night. Our choice of set list is much tighter now too.” Lead singer Moore disagrees “Andy gets worse with every show” he grins.

After playing venues coast-coast, a few jump out as memorable. “Some places were really great that you wouldn’t expect,” Moore recalls “We had an amazing show in Saskatoon, kids up front singing along to every word”. In Calgary they may as well have been playing Hunter’s as dozens of Islanders working there came out and cheered on their hometown rockers. As for the most challenging city to play the band immediately agrees “Thunderbay, Ontario. Bad hotels and too many domestic disputes.” And with that, its ridiculous story time again with the Collagen rock boys.

The Danks plan to record new songs in the spring and the guitar player is working as musical advisor for the new Boxer the Horse album as well as assisting solo artist Molly Rankin (yes, of those Rankins) with her first release. O’Hanley is impressed with Charlottetown’s growing music scene “When you look coast to coast, the quality of bands per capita here is unrivalled.”

Oh, and as to that story about his busted lip in the music video? “We filmed with Richie Mitchell at a school in eastern PEI,” Moore explains with a smile. ”The night before we went out Alec got jumped by a couple of ninth graders. They pulled him right off his bike!” The room breaks into laughter once more and O’Hanley nods unabashedly “It was a pretty even fight, but the niners had the edge.”

See the damage and the video for “Planet Beach” at

*Phil MacIsaac, Brohan Moore, Andy MacDonald, Alec O’Hanley

Death Avengers

Talking Bands
by Fraser McCallum

Death AvengersThe Death Avengers are “a happy, healthy family” says lead singer, Aaron Jackson. “This band’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”

It’s a family affair of sorts with brothers Aaron and Ryan Crane on keys and guitar. The electro-pop band is rounded out by Kelly Rayner on the Casio keyboard. The brothers have led popular PEI band Smothered in Hugs for years but the Death Avengers are barely a year old. The three boys all grew up in Morell and met along the way in school. Ryan and Kelly met later (she was a “townie” as he describes, tongue-in-cheek). Needing a live band for a party they were throwing, the Cranes pulled the foursome together, playing to friends at 3 in the morning. Something worked, as a year later, the Avengers already have a steady following, a thrilling live show, and funding for a demo CD under their belts.

Tinkerbell. Spacecar Racecar. Rattlesnake Jim. These are just a few of the band’s hilarious, yet electrifying tunes. “I had no musical knowledge when we started,” laughs Jackson. “But, I did have a binder full of lyrics from high school. I was ecstatic I could use this stuff!” When it comes to the writing phase Jackson’s job is to come up with slogans and abstract lyrics, says Aaron Crane. “We build around Jackson’s ideas and themes. Kelly adds a sweet Casio hook or tone and then Ryan and I fill in around it.”

Jackson’s big influences include Guided by Voices, beat writers like Kerouac and Gatsby, and even the Power Rangers. This strange blend leads to a dynamic show that features tons of vocal chants, all-too-catchy riffs, and a thumping drum machine. Ryan adds, “I think if you come to an Avengers show, you lose the impression that this a side project. Aaron is just amazing.”

For Kelly it’s a slight adjustment being on stage. After years of dropping her boyfriend Ryan off to Hugs practices, she’s now writing songs and playing under the lights. “I’m getting used to it. It’s weird…but exciting.” When it comes to their working relationship Ryan makes it clear. “Kelly and Jackson are the fuel and Aaron and I are the machine that helps it work.” Ryan enjoys the contrast from the Hugs, where he writes and sings lead. For him there’s less pressure and more space to focus on guitar and really enjoy the music.

Although less business-heavy and perhaps more about fun than the Hugs, all four members are excited about the Avengers’ future. “There are tons of jokes but we take our shows seriously and want to accomplish something,” Ryan ensures. The Death Avengers recently received a grant and are now recording a demo with local producer Adam Gallant. Jackson wants to keep these tracks as live-feeling as possible. “We want that same sound. A little bacteria around the edges.”

As for their thoughts on the buzzing local scene the DAs are inspired. Ryan feels that Charlottetown is at its organizational peak these days. “There are so many bands right now. It’s a good thing.” The guitar player credits Steve Barber of Hunter’s, producer Adam Gallant, promoter Matt Dixon, Music PEI, and good old Baba’s as just some of the forces that are really helping to build a more professional local music scene.

The Death Avengers can be seen December 22 at The Guild’s Food and Warmth show in Charlottetown.

Milks and Rectangles

Talking Bands
by Fraser McCallum

Milks and RectanglesIt started with snowpants. “Justin was playing guitar in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I played…a fairy,” laughs Christian Ledwell, lead singer of Milks and Rectangles. It was at this theatre production’s cast party where the two met and discovered a mutual admiration for indy band Interpol. After a few jams, a rhythm section was recruited and the band Snowpants Tapdance was born, an early version of Milks and Rectangles.

That band, perhaps due to its cumbersome attire, did not last long but would evolve over a few years into PEI rock quartet, Milks and Rectangles. Ledwell, Justin Uyterlinde (lead guitar), and bass guitarist Brandon Williams remained and soon drummer Mike Carver would round out the lineup. Drawing on influences such as Franz Ferdinand, Beck and Tom Waits the band is now known for a catchy indy-rock sound that’s defined by crunchy guitars and tight, thumping drums.

Hot off the release of their debut EP, Civic Virtues, the Charlottetown-based band are busy these days. October saw a mini-tour with Halifax heavy hitters In-flight Safety and “the Milks” were recently branded on to the new rock label Night Danger Records. “Right now Night Danger has In-flight, ourselves and unofficially Dan Ledwell’s solo stuff,” says Christian. “It’s a way for the artists to help promote one another and showcase together.”

Brother Dan recorded the group’s EP and the dynamic was prosperous, unlike when some siblings are cramped into small spaces for excessive hours. “Dan was great. So supportive,” Christian reflects. “He put in a ton of time and energy—from mixing in Halifax, to adding horns, to eventually mastering it himself. Lots of gluten-free snacks too.” It was a family affair in some respects with older brother Patrick doing the album’s graphic layout and Dan’s girlfriend, Islander Jenn Grant, adding some harmonies on the infectious track “Slander Debunked.”

The album was recorded in bedrooms and living rooms between four houses. “Basically whoever would put up with the noise,” laughs bass player Brandon. The Milks’ drummer Mike is inspired by the local music landscape right now. “It seemed before that Halifax was the happening scene but right now Charlottetown’s making a name for itself. When bands like Two Hours Traffic get some national attention it can help turn the spotlight this way.”

According to Mike and his bandmates, future plans for Milks and Rectangles include showcases, another demo and a vinyl print with some fellow Charlottetown scenesters. “Right now there’s just a ton of friends in bands around here trying to make good music and help one another out.” Mike responds, “We all really just want to make the most of this.”

Haunted Hearts

Talking Bands
by Fraser McCallum

Dennis Ellsworth, Mike Macdougall, Blue Gillis, Johnny Ross (photo: Fraser McCallum)We’re playing the kind of stuff our parents listened to when we were all growing up,” says bass player Blu Gillis with a smile when asked to describe the Haunted Hearts’ music. “It sounds like a bunch of drunk cowboys trying to get up the stairs.”

Charlottetown’s Haunted Hearts have been together for just over a year but are already making a splash. They draw on influences ranging from Buck Owens and Fred Eaglesmith to the more contemporary likes of Ryan Adams and Wilco. Playing a blend of country, roots and honky-tonk music the foursome is led by singer-songwriter Dennis Ellsworth on guitar and vocals with Mike Macdougall on drums, Johnny Ross on keys and Gillis on bass.

“It was a long road to find just the right people for this band,” says Ellsworth who also plays with Battery Point. The seed was planted when Ellsworth was visiting PEI from his then-home of Toronto in 2007. He was blown away by the local talent at the annual Close to the Coast music fest and thought he should pack his bags and have a go at the East Coast music scene once more.

The band benefits from its musically diverse lineup, all seasoned performers from other groups. Ross is known for his talents on the keys and the cover band that bares his name, Macdougall from past Charlottetown bands like Eyes for Telescopes and The Tuesdays, and Gillis from a variety of covers projects. “This is more creative,” says the bass player. “We’re teaching each other lots. Its very exciting.”

An impassioned Ellsworth feels the band is one of the best he’s been in. “When playing together a lot comes out unconsciously with these guys. They’re really good at putting the right amount of energy into something and still having a great time.” This translates well into their live show as the young Hearts have been able to play a wide variety of gigs to very receptive crowds, from Harmony House to the Nigwek street fest to the bar gigs of Baba’s and Hunter’s.

All four musicians are excited for the next few months with Music PEI showcases, Maritime gigs and hopefully the ECMAs in Sydney on the horizon. Ellsworth gets a light in his eye when speaking of such things. “I want to seize whatever opportunities come our way. This is the type of music I really love. Our live show is only going to get better the more we get out there and we all want to take it to the next level.”

The Hearts recently released their first album, entitled Thank You, Goodnight recorded by Adam Gallant.

Hearty Laughs


Review by Fraser McCallum

"Single while male seeks woman to share life.” So begins Looking, an upbeat romantic comedy from prolific Canadian playwright Norm Foster staged this summer at Victoria Playhouse. Norm Foster’s comedies are known for their whimsy and user-friendliness, and have been staged eight times in Victoria. Looking is a light-hearted tale of ordinary folk on the lookout for love, acceptance and maybe someone who knows all the words to their favourite songs.

Directed by Victoria Playhouse Artistic Director Erskine Smith, Looking has a simple premise. Val (Laura Morgan) is an OR nurse who invites her cop-friend Nina (Alicia Altass) along on a blind date. Their eyebrows elevate instantly as the mystery date chooses a seedy watering hole called “The Private Dick” for their rendezvous. The date turns out to be neurotic storage salesman Andy (Tyler Kelly) who has brought his cocky pal Matt (Josh Byrne), a wistful disc jockey. “The correct term is broadcaster…,” he keeps asserting. Sparks fly instantly between Matt and Nina who quickly run off to get better acquainted at Nina’s pad. Meanwhile, Andy the hopeful bachelor, can only crack brutal jokes and drag timid Val to a Holy Trolls metal rock show (and not a Holly Cole concert as she had understood), where she gets hit in the head with a beer bottle. The two-act show follows this quirky foursome as they play relationship hid-and-go -seek, and each tries to uncover what they are really pining for.

Although a small cast, the synergy between them was excellent. All four created endearing and authentic personalities, with Altass particularly shining bright as headstrong cop Nina. Her role demands emotional peaks and valleys, which Altass delivers with poise. But her strong suit is her comic delivery. Dry and icy with just the right timing, it is reminiscent of the style of comedian Sarah Silverman and made many a merely “okay” joke hit big.

Kelly was hilarious as well as the helpless Andy. He’s that guy in every used car lot, mustachioed and decked out in too-high jeans and collared shirts that look like ironing-board covers. The audience instantly took to the loveable loser, and his performance harkens back to dozens of great, grinning fools on 22 Minutes and Kids In The Hall.

Set designer Scott MacConnell and his team created a vivid setting with three turntable pieces that revolve to provide six different locales. The attention to detail is impressive. The cheap and kitschy Private Dick bar whooshes around between scenes and suddenly becomes Nina’s ultra-hip, IKEA-inspired bachelor pad, and, as a theatre-goer, you truly believe the scene.

At times Looking lacks flavour, and during a few crucial plot developments the acting seemed uninspired. As well, the characters are all meant to be late thirty/early forty-somethings with salt and pepper hair for the men, and complaints about sagging this and that for the women. However, the cast are all in their mid-twenties, and, through no fault of their own, looked and moved much like their own real (unsagging) age.

The ending comes and goes as quickly as a mailman, and one is left wondering about Foster’s intentions. Foster’s material is light and digestible, but sometimes a bit too familiar and sit-com safe for this reviewer. That said, the creative team and performers should be applauded because their production of Looking delivers hearty laughs, and made for a good night out at the ever-charming Victoria Playhouse.

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