Officially, you might call them a garage band, because I first saw them several years ago playing in front of a garage at the Gilmour Street Yard Sale. And I like that they haven’t thrown out the garage aesthetic even while they cultivate a solid following in Peterborough.
Even back then they were doing crafty things with guitars and liberally doling out complicated back beats in covers that had a retro feel reminiscent of 80’s bands like Bedoin Soundclash, Pukka Orchestra or The Clash.
These days they are performing and recording all original material. Charlotte Dempsey (bass, vocals) and Anwyn Climenhage (drums, vocals) aren’t quite out of high school, and Augusta Veno (guitar, vocals) is just finishing her first year in Trent’s Environmental Studies, but they are already on regular rotation in the Peterborough music scene and have won the auspicious 2014 Emerging Artist Award from the Peterborough Folk Festival.
I caught up with them coming out of Studio A at Trent Radio where they spin some of their favs on the Lonely Hour, Tuesdays, at 6:30pm. Anwyn had a vinyl issue of a Dave Brubeck album under one arm. “Ugh, that is so indie! Looking for more hipster material? We only play songs that have less than 100,000 views on Youtube! So you’ll be sure to know that you know it first!”
Later they let me sit in on a basement rehearsal and shared their musical influences – everything from St. Vincent to Halifax-based Cousins, with Led Zeppelin, Beatles and Radio Head thrown in for good measure. They have stuck together for over 3 years and seem remarkably egalitarian in all aspects of the band. They tell me the songwriting usually emerges from jam sessions and all of them contribute to the melodies, lyrics and arrangements.
The songwriting is outstanding. They’re pop rock surfers hovering at the intersection of ska and punk. I catch little hints of a jazz spectrum, and I have a feeling Patti Smith might have had something to do with this too. And yes, what’s that? A riff that sounds an awful lot like the Doobie Brothers’ Jesus is Just Alright tucked into Depressing Song. I love the way they can shift gears mid-song; the way they can cut surfer guitar licks with punk rhythms. Their lyrics are ironic without being smug, serious without self-pity or self-consciousness.
How do they see their careers evolving? In the absence of a dedicated music school in the area, they are mostly self-taught, but have been nurtured by the local music community, like the band Watershed Hour and venues like The Spill. “I’m waving at 6 people whenever I go downtown,” says Anwyn, but she adds sometimes they would appreciate a bit of critical feedback. They tell me that Bandcamp and Facebook have made it easier for a young indie band to distribute music and promote their gigs. “Facebook humanizes bands,” Augusta says. By opening for some out of town bands they are building up connections in Halifax and Montreal and hope to take it on the road in the not-too-distant future.
They’ll be releasing their first multi-track cd, Sheer Luxury, produced by Jill Staveley of Trent Radio and RC4G Peterborough, on June 14th, 2014 at the Red Garnet. The Community Radio Fund of Canada, via the Trent Radio Kitchen Sessions, brought local musicians together and provided funding for the album. The Lonely Parade was chosen to produce one of 3 recordings. A side note: they commissioned the art for the cd release poster from an artist they discovered online, Luna Slater.
Don’t miss a chance to get out and hear them live. They’ll be opening for the Constantines for the Peterborough Folk Festival kickoff at Market Hall on August 22, 2014. In performance they have an energy that is driving without being aggressive and may never fully translate to recording. I’m revelling in the complex structures of some remarkably catchy tunes and can’t wait for more.