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Officer Girl


Talking Bands

by Marianne Dowling

Officer Girl

For rock upstarts Officer Girl, the philosophy seems to be the band that stays together, plays together.

While three of the five musicians have played in bands together since junior high, it’s been in more recently that Stephen Mac Isaac, (vocalist) Jon Stubbs, (bass) Adam Gallant, Luke Macdonald (guitars) and Andrew Bardauskas (drums) have really gotten to know each other as both band mates and roommates while creating their eclectic sound.

“Everyone has a lot of input into the song writing process and a lot of different styles come in that way because we’re so differently influenced,” says Bardauskas.

“We share a room to make it work,” says Gallant.

The songs on the band’s four track EP, as well as the ones for their upcoming full length CD include everything from folk to metal, rock to pop. Influences include everything from Sparta to Jamiroquai. It was all written, practiced, produced, and recorded in the living room of the band’s three-bedroom house.

The guys, who claim their band name stems from a “run-in with the cops,” spend a lot of time together making their own music as well as recording demos for other bands.

All the time spent in close quarters seems to be working for the band creatively. They say working, living, and playing music together isn’t stifling at all, but in fact, this familiarity helps them write better music.

“The more comfortable you are with the people in your band, the more I think you’ll get done,” says Bardauskas. “If you’re hanging out with someone everyday you can say ‘no, that part sucks—re-write it, do it over again.’”

The music that came out of these sessions has been hard for the band to define.

“A lot of our songs are fairly different. Some are kind of poppier than others and some are more complex and hard to grasp,” says Stubbs.

“We’re all over the board, really,” says Bardauskas.

Like so many Indie bands, fitting into a genre isn’t something they are going to spend a lot of time working on. Officer Girl prefer to say they are just a rock band—no matter what style they play or how many unconventional elements they bring to the songs. Just as long as they like how it sounds, they’ll play it.

“If we write a song and it turns out to be catchier than the rest of them, then that’s a bonus,” says Bardauskas.

One definite bonus has been the extra exposure they received after opening for their pals in Mars Hill last April. The place was packed, the energy was high and Officer Girl want more.

“As long as people are into the music, then that’s all you can really ask for,” says Bardauskas.

This is Marianne’s last installment of Talking Bands—she is moving on. Thanks from The Buzz—Editor.

 

Don’t Give Up the Search


The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Review by Marianne Dowling

Whether she’s screaming out the angst-filled poetry of a 15-year old punk, stumbling around as a middle-aged drunk, or bragging about high sperm count as a disco-obsessed body builder, Laurie Murphy is consistently fascinating in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

Written by Jane Wagner, the one woman play spans over ten years and features a dozen characters, a challenge for any actor. Over the course of two hours, not only does Murphy play the parts of young and old, rich and poor, and male and female, she sometimes carries a dialogue between characters in the same scene.

Although it often looked like Murphy had a very bad case of multiple personality disorder—especially when the characters were arguing—it is never confusing. The switches back and forth between the bag lady and the prostitutes, or the grandmother to the grandfather were done with ease. The accents, gestures, and postures of each one are consistent right down to the slightest nuance.

Aside from the character juggling and the physical toll this takes on its star (within the first fifteen minutes, Murphy was sweating while playing a character taking an exercise class), it’s the everyday ramblings of the everyday characters that really catch the audience’s attention. Hopefully, it also makes them wonder about themselves. It is, after all, a play about searching for intelligent life, so without at least some introspection on the part of the audience, the play loses a lot of its meaning.

The plot is an unusual one to say the least. A bag lady named Trudy is visited by aliens who want to know more about Earthlings. The way they accomplish this is by latching on to her mind while she channels a wide variety of people for study.

Even though the characters are of different social and economic backgrounds, different ages, and express vastly different opinions—they actually have more in common than first meets the eye and ear.

Like all of us Earthlings, they have hopes and dreams, ambitions, fears, worries, questions, hang-ups, and regrets. Some characters are cheaters, drug users, and others are insecure, spoiled and angry. But whether they are sympathetic or despicable, loveable or aggravating—they are only human trying to find happiness and make their way in the world.

Aside from this, the lives of many of the characters are intertwined in unusual and unexpected ways—adding to the theme of connection. One of the most memorable parts of the script comes near the end of the play, when Trudy tells the audience that what she’s discovered through her work with the extra-terrestrials is that “everything is a part of everything.” People share the same atoms, and breathe the same air. The play stresses that there is a “cosmic crazy glue” keeping even the most incompatible, mismatched people together whether they like it or not.

All in all, an uplifting play filled with thought-provoking dialogue and laughter. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. We humans are a funny species.

The April Storm


Talking Bands

by Marianne DowlingTwo Hours Traffic

PEI pop quartet Two Hours Traffic offers a more energetic, edgier sound this time around with the release of their new self-titled album.

While their first CD, The April Storm, was rooted in melancholy, acoustic guitars, this latest album is full of punchy rock beats, sharp hooks and at times—even cryptic lyrics.

Liam Corcoran (vocals/guitars,) Alec O’Hanley (guitars/piano/vocals,) Andrew MacDonald (bass) and Derek Ellis (drums) say there were a number of factors that influenced the musical departure.

“The last album, we were listening to a lot of Beck’s Sea Change and Hayden—and now we’re getting into listening to rockier stuff like The Clash, The Pixies, and stuff like that,” says O’Hanley.

New tracks like “Mr. Saturday” feature darker moments with Corcoran growling “I need my faith in you to last/I’m living my life in glass-” some of the album’s most vulnerable lyrics.

But Corcoran laughs when asked what Mr. Saturday is about and plays down the song’s unsettling mood.

“It’s not specifically about one event or anything. After you write a song, you can relate it to a million different things. It’s good that it can be interpreted a lot of different ways,” says Corcoran.

O’Hanley points out another reason for some of the sad sentiment.

“A lot of the songs were written when either me or Liam had long distance girlfriends, so that’s kind of a theme that runs through it.”

That’s not to say the album is all tears—in fact the band says most of the new tracks are more fun to play than anything else they have written.

“I think it’s catchier and easier to sing along with,” says MacDonald. “It gets people moving a bit more.”

“We were happy with our first CD, but it was sometimes harder to get an energetic live show out of the earlier songs. There is a lot more energy in this new album,” says Corcoran.

The person Two Hours Traffic says was most influential to their recording process was their producer and Halifax rocker Joel Plaskett. The band first caught Plaskett’s attention after he listened to their song “Think More Often Than I Should” off The April Storm.

He liked it so much he offered to help them record their new songs. Over the year it took to record, Plaskett stressed the importance of keeping their pop songs short and sweet.

“He made us focus on the right things,” says Ellis.

“Joel helped us a lot with song structure and making songs more precise and I think we kind of learned a lot from that. The songs are stronger,” says MacDonald.

Plaskett says he is proud of the finished product and when he listens to Two Hours Traffic, he hears something special that reminds him of why he got into the music business in the first place.

“The simplicity of some of their tunes was really refreshing and reminded me of what cool pop music is. Their songs aren’t self indulgent and they always put melody and words first,” says Plaskett.

Don't Give Up the Search

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Review by Marianne Dowling

Whether she’s screaming out the angst-filled poetry of a 15-year old punk, stumbling around as a middle-aged drunk, or bragging about high sperm count as a disco-obsessed body builder, Laurie Murphy is consistently fascinating in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

Written by Jane Wagner, the one woman play spans over ten years and features a dozen characters, a challenge for any actor. Over the course of two hours, not only does Murphy play the parts of young and old, rich and poor, and male and female, she sometimes carries a dialogue between characters in the same scene.

Although it often looked like Murphy had a very bad case of multiple personality disorder—especially when the characters were arguing—it is never confusing. The switches back and forth between the bag lady and the prostitutes, or the grandmother to the grandfather were done with ease. The accents, gestures, and postures of each one are consistent right down to the slightest nuance.

Aside from the character juggling and the physical toll this takes on its star (within the first fifteen minutes, Murphy was sweating while playing a character taking an exercise class), it’s the everyday ramblings of the everyday characters that really catch the audience’s attention. Hopefully, it also makes them wonder about themselves. It is, after all, a play about searching for intelligent life, so without at least some introspection on the part of the audience, the play loses a lot of its meaning.

The plot is an unusual one to say the least. A bag lady named Trudy is visited by aliens who want to know more about Earthlings. The way they accomplish this is by latching on to her mind while she channels a wide variety of people for study.

Even though the characters are of different social and economic backgrounds, different ages, and express vastly different opinions—they actually have more in common than first meets the eye and ear.

Like all of us Earthlings, they have hopes and dreams, ambitions, fears, worries, questions, hang-ups, and regrets. Some characters are cheaters, drug users, and others are insecure, spoiled and angry. But whether they are sympathetic or despicable, loveable or aggravating—they are only human trying to find happiness and make their way in the world.

Aside from this, the lives of many of the characters are intertwined in unusual and unexpected ways—adding to the theme of connection. One of the most memorable parts of the script comes near the end of the play, when Trudy tells the audience that what she’s discovered through her work with the extra-terrestrials is that “everything is a part of everything.” People share the same atoms, and breathe the same air. The play stresses that there is a “cosmic crazy glue” keeping even the most incompatible, mismatched people together whether they like it or not.

All in all, an uplifting play filled with thought-provoking dialogue and laughter. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. We humans are a funny species.

The Robots


Talking Bands

by Marianne Dowling

The Robots, from left: Peter Rankin, Keith Baglole, Chris Doiron, Phil MacIsaac

Listening to The Robots talk about music is a little like listening to a physicist talk about the construction of an atom—the band mates’ plethora of knowledge on the subject is so detailed it can be overwhelming and confusing unless an encyclopedia is near by.

The band sites composers Ennio Morricone, and Vangelis as well as obscure art-rockers Can, as influences to their unique rock sound. Unfortunately, this uniqueness has meant the band has had trouble finding an audience in a city more familiar with Hoobastank and Nickelback than with Kraftwerk.

“We’re really segregated from the rest of the scene,” says drummer Phil MacIsaac.

He and Chris Doiron (bass), Keith Baglole (piano/vocals), and Peter Rankin (guitars/vocals) are sitting in an empty Chinese restaurant on a quiet Sunday afternoon. They laugh as Baglole and Rankin reminisce about their unorthodox (and admittedly pretentious) projects of the past—including an EP inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment—but turn serious when they discuss isolation from the rest of the PEI bands.

“I think sometimes that we’re in a vacuum. We’re only welcome at Baba’s,” says Rankin.

He is very frank as he discusses why The Robots feel like outsiders.

“If you’re going to be successful in Charlottetown, you’re either going to be an Emo band and court the proletariat of the all ages show…or you’re going to be a jam band.”

The Robots’ unusual song structure, often including more than one chorus and not as much repetition as most radio-friendly music, ensures they are neither.

“We listen to some pretty far-out stuff, but we are pop music. We’re not trying to confound,” says Rankin.

The band hasn’t been able to gauge what the public opinion is of them, but as far as they can tell, most people are leaving perplexed.

“Just in general, it’s been confusion and apathy,” says Rankin.

“It’s a lot to take in at once, especially at a small place like Baba’s,” admits MacIsaac.

“I think people are almost too polite in Charlottetown. They won’t tell you when they don’t like you and I’d almost rather that,” says Baglole.

When asked if this means he wouldn’t mind a bit of heckling at his shows, Baglole pauses and jokes, “Just as long as it was done eloquently.”

Audiences may be stand-offish to this point, but the band does not intend to compromise.

“I would love if the songs we wrote got on Magic 93. I think that would be cool as hell,” says Baglole. “We’re not doing this in any attempt to alienate people—we just want to write the stuff that we find interesting.”

Some of those songs will be on The Robots upcoming EP, due out in either April or early May. A subsequent tour of the Maritimes will follow, and the band hopes to play in Montreal as soon as possible.

Putting It to the Test

by Marianne Dowling

Here’s my confession: I love Canadian Idol. I’ve been gearing up for the show’s third installment by watching Simon Cowell drive verbal stakes through the hearts of contestants at the American Idol auditions. These preliminaries are my favourite part of the show. When Cowell sits at the judging table next to an ever-shrinking Randy Jackson and an ever-more plastic Paula Abdul—I feel contentment. At this point in my life, I’m not sure of much, but the one thing I do know is that when I watch Idol—I’ll be entertained for the next hour.

And like most people who watch on a regular basis, I think the real fun starts when those clueless kids (the ones who think they are the best singers in the world) stand in front of the judges and belt out something so audibly unholy it makes Yoko Ono sound as pure as Charlotte Church. The judges inevitably cringe and snap the contestant into reality by telling him/her that he/she…well…sucks. Yippee!

I’ve often asked myself how these people, who clearly can’t hold a note in a bucket, think they’re talented. Sometimes I attribute it to tone-deafness, but most of the time I’ve blamed it on insanity. I mean, no reasonable person could be that delusional, right? Or could they? In March, I decided to put myself through a very unscientific experiment to see if these people are as crazy as I thought—or if I’m as sane as I think.

I consider myself a fairly lucid person (you’ll have to trust me on that one) and although I don’t think I’m a good singer, I have always prided myself on my writing, cooking, and spelling. I gathered a panel of “experts” to be my very own Simon Cowells, and Sass Jordans and judge me in each discipline. My friend, a teacher, would test my spelling; my cousin, a professor, would mark one of my essays; and two friends training at the Culinary Institute would grade my cooking. With any luck, I could prove whether I was as good as I thought, or whether I was deluding myself like so many Idol hopefuls.

First was the spelling test. My friend Margo tested me on 35 commonly misspelled words. I wasn’t too fazed until she took out her red marking pen (!) Even more painful was my final grade: 51%. I can no longer say I’m a good speller. I blame computer spell checks.

Next, onto cooking. While this didn’t go too badly (they did have seconds) the culinary guys said the colour was too dull, the vegetable were a bit soggy, and the asparagus was cut too long. I have to face it—I’m no Julia Child.

Last was my writing test. I wrote an essay about my favourite band. I hadn’t written anything academic since graduating from UPEI. I suppose this is my excuse for lacking clarity in the essay, writing too informally, and forgetting proper pagination. She didn’t give me a grade, but I got the hint.

My lesson: We’re all a little delusional, that’s why bad singers at Canadian Idol auditions are never in short supply. Buy earplugs.

Out From Under

Talking Bands

by Marianne Dowling

Out From Under embrace after a rehearsal held after hours at Piece A Cake Restuarant (business owned by band guitarist Wes Gallant). From left: Jeff Cameron, Alexander Reuss, Jeff Stewart, Michael Stanley, Wes Gallant and Shane Coady.

Out From Under embrace after a rehearsal held after hours at Piece A Cake Restuarant (business owned by band guitarist Wes Gallant). From left: Jeff Cameron, Alexander Reuss, Jeff Stewart, Michael Stanley, Wes Gallant and Shane Coady.

Good food, good drink, good friends, and the great outdoors; that’s what inspires the guys from Out From Under. So it’s no surprise the band chose to record their first album at a raucous New Year’s party with their friends and fans rather than in the confines of a studio.

All but one of the thirteen tracks on Live at Leo’s captured the band’s eclectic sound at Brennan’s last December (the final track was recorded in studio.) The live music on the CD is fueled with an energy that can only come with playing to a room full of admirers.

“It’s a snapshot, really,” says bass player/vocalist Michael Stanley. “It’s just sort of a live photograph of us. It’ll never be the same again.”

And that’s just the way they like it. Stanley, along with Jeff Cameron (acoustic guitar/vocals), Wes Gallant (electric guitar/vocals), Alexander Reuss (harmonica), Jeff Stewart (electric guitar/vocals), and Shane Coady (drums) consider the Brennan’s gig one of their favourites, but are no in hurry to re-create it. In fact, they go out of their way—and out of town—to ensure all of their shows are memorable and unique.

In the summer, this usually includes playing outside surrounded by trees and flowers. “There are these hippies that have these parties in the summer out in the country. Those are our favourite gigs—outside, playing in the woods,” says Reuss.

For the band, the more unconventional, the better. In the past year, Out From Under has played its fair share of Charlottetown bars, but mixes it up with outdoor shows in Victoria, the Dixon Road, and Brookvale. In Brookvale, the band played in a cross country ski chalet before playing yet another show in the woods by a bonfire.

So whether it’s playing a summer solstice party or a concert for the Green Party (Stanley is a member) the band says this variety makes playing more fun and stops boredom from setting in.

“It’s a different dynamic every time, different atmosphere. That’s what keeps it interesting,” says Stewart. “You don’t want to be stuck in any sort of a groove.”

The dynamics have changed quite a bit for Stewart, Cameron, and Gallant. Just over a year ago, the three were in Under the Hood with bass player Steve Hunter and drummer John McDonald. When Hunter and McDonald quit, the band quickly regrouped with Coady and Stanley. After practicing with the band a number of times, Reuss joined in with his harmonica and Out From Under was born. Since then, the band has been quickly forming a tight bond and seems surprised at how well everyone is getting along.

“I’ve never worked as well with anyone as I have with this band,” says Stanley.

“The camaraderie is more important than the music, I hate to say it, but in a way, I think it is,” says Gallant.

And when your band includes two chefs, one of whom owns a restaurant downtown that doubles as a practice space, there is always enough food around to keep everyone happy.

“It’s an event every time we get together. There are good food, good conversation, and good music,” says Stanley.

This summer the band plans on playing more than just parties. The February 12 release of Live at Leo’s has the band looking at festivals and off-Island gigs.

But no matter where they go, it seems the good times follow. “We’ve been very fortunate,” says Stewart, “We’re a happy, positive sort of band.”

Mars Hill Material


New CD from category-defying group earns ECMA nomination

by Marianne Dowling

Mars Hill members, from left: Chloe Clark, Chris Coupland and Dean Dunsford (and good dogs). Absent band members: David Weale and Devin Cesario

Mars Hill could care less about winning a popularity contest. Like the high school kid wearing the Morrissey t-shirt—who has the secret admiration of his peers, but no chance to win Prom King—the band would rather be original than be liked.

One listen to the heartbreaking poetry spoken over wailing trumpets, soft drum beats and a swooning organ on the new album Oxcart, and it’s clear the songs are more likely to be covered by Barney the Dinosaur than played on Top 40 radio.

Again, it’s not like this bothers anyone in Mars Hill. Until their recent ECMA nomination, they didn’t even know what to call their music, so the ECMA judges labeled it for them.

“We are officially Alternative,” says pianist Chris Coupland in a mocking, matter-of-fact tone.

Coupland, along with Chloe Cork (trumpet/vocals), David Weale (drums/sax), Dean Dunsford (bass) and Devin Casario (vocals), will play the showcase in Sydney, Nova Scotia on the heals of their CD Launch at Baba’s February 4. The band’s competition in the alternative category includes The Heavy Blinkers, Julie Doiron, Vetch and PEI folk singer Nathan Wiley, but for the members of Mars Hill, the nomination is all they care about.

“Being nominated is more important than winning,” says Coupland. “The judging process they use to determine which albums will be eligible to win the award was actually done through a panel of judges who have to judge the album by merit alone.”

Coupland says once the nominees are chosen, the judging becomes nothing more than a popularity contest, with voters voting for familiar band names.

Cork, Dunsford and Coupland are sitting together in their rehearsal space—a large, cluttered, dimly lit room on the main floor of Dunsford’s house. Weale isn’t able to make the interview and neither is Casario, who is in Halifax. “This is actually the only way you could hear any of what we have to say,” jokes Coupland of the chatty poet.

An old-looking couch sits against one wall and a mish-mash of bongo drums, guitar cases, microphones, a Farfisa organ, and a drum kit fill up the majority of the room.

It looks like a creative space with unframed paintings hanging from every wall. The band jams, and arranges music here, pulling from a variety of influences ranging from classical, 70s rock, and jazz.

“We all write the music, we all contribute, you know. We all bring our own talents and everything into it,” says Cork.

The only part of the songs not done as a collaborative effort is the poetry, which is all Casario’s work. Casario subject matter is heavy: death, God, longing, loss, and loneliness to name just a few. His words act as almost as an emotional anchor to the often dreamy, lullaby-esque chords.

“There’s personal agony in some of the words,” says Coupland. Coupland goes one step further in describing his band mate’s style. “He’s more Leonard Cohen than Jim Morrison.”

But the emotionally charged poetry has found a diverse fan base in Charlottetown.

“Middle-aged, young to super old. It’s one of those CDs that would appeal to any age group,” says Cork.

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