Admittedly a former indie enthusiast, my music preferences have long since shifted toward a sentimental obsession with the grunge movement, and generally all things 90′s. That said, it’s no easy task for a modern indie act to capture my attention. My initialinterest in Of The Pack sparked when I caught them at Summer Symposium this past June. Upon witnessing another equally impressive set during Phog Fest, I became adamant that a review of their debut release, Bitter EP, wasn’t far off.
Of The Pack comprises frontman Richard Dutka (also of Menos Mal), taking on guitar and lead vocal duties, bassist Nick Friars (also of World I Witness), and drummer Eric Dutka(also of Grumpy Monkeys).
The band spans so many diverse influences that I have trouble pinning them to any one genre. While their sound is unequivocally indie, perpetual glimmers of outside influences shine through, most notably, ska and punk. The result is a solid collection of seven utterly catchy tunes. Standout songs include the guitar-driven opening track, “Sea The Shore”, the comparably heavy “Sleeping Pills”, and my personal favorite, an intense indie rock anthem entitled “To Be Loved”.
Richard Dutka’s “love them or hate them” vocals are passion-packed and powerful, a style that’s ideal for delivering the band’s poignant lyrics. The combined effect sometimes verges on manic, without ever coming completely unhinged. In contrast, his brother’s exuberance behind the kit and Friar’s vivacious grooves provide the EP with an overall sanguine quality. So, be it blissful, brooding, or ambivalent, Bitter has your mood covered.
In lieu of my usual pre-review banter, I’m just going to swoop in and dive right into this one with a skull in my hand (that’s a clever nod to the album art, just so you know I’m not a total psychopath). Gypsy Chief Goliath’s (GCG) latest album, New Machines of the Night, features 10 tracks and runs about 45 minutes; it’s a good length and there’s a fair amount of diversity in its composition. The songs are meaty, with most lasting between 4 and 6 minutes in length, normally I’m not a fan of longer songs, as I find the rhythm gets stale, but Gypsy Chief Goliath remedies this by changing up riffs, adding breakdowns, or giving a different intro and outro – and it works, for the most part. I never got bored while listening to a particular song, riff, or rhythm, which is a feat considering the length of these songs! Though I wasn’t a huge fan of the initial tracks, I’ve been at this long enough to know it’s a game of tastes, and about 10 minutes into the album there’s a tonal shift that I have to admit I was digging.
The album art is original and grabbing, I kid you not, it’s an in-flight owl carrying a skull and shooting laser beams out of its eyes. I know, that’s just as awesome as it sounds. The off-kilter art is just the kind of thing to expect from Gypsy Chief Goliath, and it walks the line between minimalist and detailed. The clash of the art styles, from the stark contrasts of white, black, and red, to the use of positive and negative space is reminiscent of GCG’s music styling, particularly the clash of vocals, percussion, and harmonies which the band is known for.
I’ll admit to being skeptical of the first few songs, the melody in “Uneasy Kings” failed to grab me, and I’m not too keen on the gothic sounds brought forward in “Are You Pulling Through”, but the album picked up for me 3 or 4 tracks deep. The harmonies introduced in “Dirt Meets Rust” and “Busting the Avenue” are fantastic, the way they clash with the vocals is stirring, it really does all come together. Standout tracks are “Got No Soul” and “St. Coven’s Tavern”, with the former being my favourite song on the album. If you want to get a good idea of the shift in tone and how New Machines of Night sounds, lend your ear to “White Owl” – which presumably inspired the cover, though it doesn’t feature any lasers… – it has a soft lead-in and picks up with strong chords and cascading rhythms about a minute in, it’s fantastic.
Though the album didn’t have the amount of laser beams the cover promised, it was a good time, and if you’re a fan of metal, deathmetal, hardcore, grindcore, metalcore, or laser-beam-shooting-owlcore, I’d definitely recommend it (Okay, maybe one of those genres was made up… Maybe one). The release party for New Machines of Night is October 12, 2013, so make sure to catch them live (I know I’ve done it!) and tell them how good they sound!
Though it’s often overshadowed by my fervent music fandom, I’ve always considered myself a bit of a movie buff. While researching for an interview with Roxi D’lite earlier this year, my interest was piqued upon discovering she had recently taken on a scorching lead role in The Burlesque Assassins, a Canadian feature film which showcases an assemblage of burlesque stars. Released in January 2012, it is the first full-length film by director Jonathan Joffe, an award winning veteran of the industry.
In a movie focused on the enchanting art of burlesque, the plot line inevitably takes a backseat to the performers. Joffe takes full advantage of this by spinning a wildly over-the-top story in which a band of expertly trained women use their powers of seduction to lure in and annihilate their enemies, the “heirs to the legacy of the evil of World War II”, a trio intent on global domination. Set in the 1950′s, this movie is aptly filled to the brim with luxurious decor and sexy pinup-style costumes, complimented by a sophisticated throwback score.
As the name suggests, The Burlesque Assassins contains a considerable amount of gore. However, it does not fall prey to the exceedingly cheesy, and unrealistic effects that often plague lower-budget films, even when entering more ambitious territories of carnage, such as disembodiment and decapitation. As a long-time fan of the horror genre, this comes as a pleasant surprise.
By far the superlative element of the film lies in Roxi D’lite’s portrayal of Bourbon Sue, a small-time con woman turned international assassin. Despite this being her debut movie role, Roxi’s flair for performance art shines through as she expertly serves up a cocktail of badassery and naivety. Though the majority of Sue’s lines simply entail repeating key plot points in question form, Roxi delivers them with such genuine curiosity, expression and charisma that the result is a truly endearing character.
The Burlesque Assassins has provided further fuel for my rapidly growing obsession with this alluring art form. Aside from being immensely aesthetically appealing, the film provides an entertaining platform to host an array of sultry burlesque talent, and the entertainingly twisted plot holds it all together with just enough coherence.
Last Friday night churcHouse held the Rock A Boogie Fever – featuring Ginger St. James and The Greasemarks -at the Oasis Lounge. Being a fan of neither rockabilly nor country, I fully expected to walk away from the show feeling indifferent (maybe even disappointed), but I couldn’t have been more wrong! The fantastic music dished out by the headlining bands gave me another reason to believe that there is good music in every genre, even the ones I don’t dig (the effects of a delicious sandwich courtesy ofThe Italian Sandwich Shop on my psyche notwithstanding).
The Greasemarks opened with an entertaining and energetic set that showcased their rockabilly sounds. With lots of crowd interaction and an upbeat attitude, it’s hard not to enjoy Big Mark, Little Mark, and Heartbreak Mark when they take the stage! Yeah, that’s right, three Marks! It’s just goofy enough to be awesome (I’d hope that’s how it works, it’s what I’m banking on for my future…)! Don’t believe me? Check them out for yourself!
When Ginger St. James took the stage I had no idea what to expect, as the motley crew of looks and sounds shocked me with their talent. If this is what Hamilton sounds like, I need to hop on a train! On stage Ginger is a revelation, she sings, dances, and plays! Lord knows I can’t spin that many plates… I can barely rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time (or is it pat my stomach and rub my head? I’ll leave it to the experts). Don’t believe me? Check out the video!
Preview: Mindil Beach Markets – The Jellyfish Project
-By Armando D’Alessandro
Have you seen The Jellyfish Project promotional video by Mindil Beach Markets? Check it out! It’s definitely an inspiration!
Featured on the David Suzuki Report (website link includes an option to download a free promo mix of MBM songs!), The Jellyfish Project is an environmental awareness initiative developed by Victoria, B.C. band Mindil Beach Markets. Targeting youth generations, and with a focus on promoting stability and sustainability in oceanic ecosystems. The Jellyfish Project is being presented at Canadian schools – with the presentation accompanied by slides, videos, and a live musical performance by Mindil Beach Markets! The members of Mindil Beach Markets stress that environmental aid is “the most essential revolution of our time”, and offer a presentation which includes a high-energy rock show before touching on issues such as plastic pollution, over-fishing, and global warming. An engaging demonstration, The Jellyfish Project focuses on the concept of youth as the U-turn generation, with a spotlight on the power one person has to make a difference, as well as the responsibilities we have as individuals to improve the environment. A wholly inspirational initiative (which, is also free and not-for-profit!) The Jellyfish Project is an exciting concept with a rewarding and motivational purpose! Students attending the following post-secondary schools can check out The Jellyfish Project through presentations at these Windsor area schools – Riverside on October 1st, Massey on October 2nd, and Kingsville on October 3rd! Or you can catch (that’s an intentional fishing pun, FYI) Mindil Beach Markets performing LIVE at the Phog Lounge on October 3!.
Matt Lalonde’s Medecinal Review: More Indie than the Raiders of the Lost Ark!
-By Armando D’Alessandro
An expressive indie/alternative journey with elements of grunge, rock, blues, and jazz – Medicinal showcases just how much of a multifaceted individual Matt Lalonde is. It’s obvious that this singer/songwriter poured a lot of heart and soul into this album, and Medicinal feels very much like a labour of indie love. But that’s enough linguistic foreplay! Time to dive into my thoughts on the CD (I bet you’re excited, I know I am).
First off, let’s talk about the album art. it’s simple, eye-catching, and dare I say original. It’s nice to see cover art that is artistic while maintaining simplicity in its expression, too often I’ve seen generic computer-animated spirograph drawings that clutter, confuse, and convey zero personality. The casing itself is an environmentally friendly cardboard slipcase, which is effective (and probably cost-effective too!) in conveying Lalonde’s indie sensibilities. Though I would have preferred an included digital redemption code (ala bandcamp or itunes) though it’s fairly easy to rip the music to a computer so you can pick your poison when it comes to digital device playback, needless to say the “analog” cd more than suffices.
The album itself is comprised of 12 tracks and has a runtime around 35 minutes, obviously, the music is far and away the highlight of the package. The CD opens with “Step Lightly” – brash, original, and unapologetic, it features a great range of style and substance, adequately setting the tone for the rest of the cd. Other standouts in Lalonde’s set list include “Polishing Shame” a showcase for Matt’s catchy licks and tunes, and “This Fall”, a grungy throwback with rhythm I fondly found reminiscent of Pearl Jam’s “Last Kiss”. My favourite track on the CD has got to be “Cigarette”, which plays out like a rock-n’-roll blues jam, I know… sounds nonsensical, but it’s a great combination of music and soul. A close contender for Armando’s top billing was “All to You”, the song’s blue-grassy vibes give a real small town feel to it, and it’s definitely one of the most unique tunes on the album. The album ends on the tracks “Time for Human Beings” and “1989″, whereas the former features strong cascading rhythms, the latter is a more somber piece featuring piano work, ending the album on a more tragic, personal note.
click on the photo to view the video
Overall, the album contains a great range of sounds, to accurately describe it I would need to identify it in a sub-sub-sub genre, which is both nonsensical and stupid. So instead of impossibly describing it, I’ll sum it up as the best kind of indie music, one which mixes and enhances elements of alternative rock, grunge, blues, and hodge-podge of other sounds. Personal and evocative, Lalonde’s aptly named album, Medecinal, is a journey which sounds familiar without being derivative, and is worthy of its title… An “indie” album in all understandings of the word! Make sure to check out
When I first caught wind of the five piece up-and-coming local metalcore band, World I Witness, I was admittedly a bit skeptical. It’s been a while since a local band within this genre has successfully wowed me. But, optimist that I am, I readily accepted a copy of their debut release, a six track EP entitled The Roots Beneath Us.
While I found the first half of this EP enjoyable enough, the remaining three songs forced me to completely reevaluate this band, beginning withthe hard-hitting Scarlet, on which Sam Breault of Emerald Seas provides additional vocals. My personal favorite track, Dresden’s Reckoning follows, collapsing onto you with one of the most intense breakdowns I’ve heard of late. Finally, The Roots Beneath Us slows pace, closing with a haunting and emotionally charged title track.
This release also features some rad album art by Jordan Yen, the band’s own guitarist. Yen didn’t let any space go to waste when designing this layout, packing his interstellar artwork into every available inch. This attention to detail indicates an exceptional level of dedication which I really appreciate.
Another element that I find particularly striking about World I Witness is how dark and thought provoking their lyrical content is, which is precisely what I look for from a band of this variety. Between his diverse vocal capabilities, and obvious aptitude for the written word, vocalist Dylan Elliot makes for an ideal front man.
I’ll admit it. My usually infallible instincts were way off this time. As it turns out, the Roots Beneath Us is a promising first effort from a band whose skill and determination far surpass their years. So, what’s next for these guys? Keep an eye out for their first music video, which is set to be released later this month.
Hamilton native, Ginger St. James has been making waves lately as one of the area’s most successful country musicians. On September 20th she will be joining Toronto rockabilly trio, The Greasemarks on stage at Oasis Lounge here in Windsor for churcHouse’s ROCKABOOGIE FEVER! I had a chance to interview Ginger, soon discovering that in addition to talent, looks and charm, she packs a great attitude and killer sense of humor. Read on as we discuss her endeavors, past present and future, and why she’s so eager to come to Windsor!
AS (Amanda Sinasac): So, you started off as a burlesque entertainer, and later emerged as a country musician. Can you expand on this transition? Was it gradual or sudden?
GSJ (Ginger St James): I’ve always been a performing artist, even before I hit the stage. Singing, acting, dance and theatre were part of my life growing up, as well as country music and rock and roll. Burlesque was my first platform to “expose” myself, both musically and theatrically. While producing shows for the Steeltown Sirens, I found myself working more and more with bands and incorporating live music. I picked up the guitar again and began songwriting at this time as well. As burlesque shows slowed down for me, I began working as a solo artist and eventually working with my band I have today. So, I guess the transition was naturally gradual with sudden successful results.
AS: Are there aspects in which your burlesque experience has helped you when performing your music?
GSJ: The bump and grind of burlesque oozes sensuality and screams sexy. A lot of the time in my songwriting I hear the thump of the floor tom or the scream of a guitar lick in my mind. Hot. Songs like Boom Boom Room and Devil Dance were born while I was still performing burlesque. Although my writing at this time is more country in sound, lyrically I still like to keep “the flirt” of it all in each piece I write. I’d like to think all my experiences have helped me with performing, but it was definitely burlesque that inspired me to push the envelope and engage my audience, all the while teasing them and keeping them wanting more. Secretly in my mind, I think there is nothing better than seeing how far I can get away with a naughty phrase or a clever costume change.
AS: Your sound is undeniably country, but it’s apparent that there are a multitude of other influences, too. How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it?
GSJ: An authentic blend of country, blues and rock and roll are usually the terms I use to describe my music. A little bit of just the right ingredients go into every song, and I try not to deny myself the opportunity to create a good song based on any particular genre. Having so many different experiences in life, and working with musicians from varying backgrounds makes a great recipe. From a yodel to a hellcat growl, all elements and influences of my life can be found in our songs, both original and otherwise.
AS: From the live photos and footage I’ve seen, you’ve often got a unique blue guitar close by, and I noticed it made an appearance again on the back of your latest release, Tease. Does it have a story?
GSJ: For years I tried to find “the right” guitar. It was such a battle. I lived in Toronto a while back, and met a gentleman Mack Black who had a guitar shop around the corner from me. I would often pop my head in there, with whatever guitar I had in tow with me at the time and ask him if he could please help me make them sound better. The last guitar I took him was a hollowbody piece of s*%t and by that point I was so fed up, I didn’t know what to do. A few days later, I got a note from him explaining that he had the perfect guitar for me in his basement, a 1950’s Kay that he was gonna do up just for me! The day of my first East Coast tour, he called and told me it was ready. My friend and I stopped into the shop before hitting the highway, and I swear there were angels singing when he opened the case. My first “Garageland custom” guitar. I freakin’ love it. One of a kind, gorgeous, hot-rodded blue beauty! He is amazing, and Slim my guitar player has a sweet Harmony that Mack hot-rodded too. That guy has some tricks up his sleeves, and has a sweet store in Kensington market in Toronto.
AS: You’ve won several awards in your hometown of Hamilton, and toured all over the country. How have your friends and family reacted to your success so far?
GSJ: My family and friends are the best around. I’m not sure if I’d be able to keep gas in my tank without them. It’s also great to have understanding people around that get you, and that you can catch up with in a blink of an eye over coffee. Obviously, I’d love to be able to have bbq’s and slumber parties every week, but it just doesn’t work that way. Having unconditional love helps me write, and really be who I am. We celebrate success together… and the hangovers are well worth it!
AS: On September 20th, you’re playing at Oasis Lounge here in Windsor. What about Windsor inclines you to perform here?
GSJ: It will be our first time in Windsor… ever. I’m so excited, and we have a lot of friends and fans from the area, as well as from Michigan. I’m grateful to have an opportunity to bring our brand of music to this part of Ontario. Hopefully it won’t be our last. Windsor in many ways, is like Hamilton. Rough and tough and knows what it wants. That’s the part that draws me to it. We are fierce, just like Windsor.
AS: What steps or goals would you like to accomplish next in your music career?
GSJ: The next year holds a lot of things for us. Along with the completion of our next record, we are also working hard on a new stage show that will feature not only live music, but a host of other performers. It will be lightly based on Hee Haw, a show that I grew up watching with my father. We’re also teaming up with Sony music for a quick West Coast jaunt, and preparing for a major announcement in the new year on who will be representing our new record. As much as the music business encourages you to plan your life in a matter of months, I’m a roll with the punches kinda girl, and know that I’m always in the place I’m supposed to be. Just like Windsor. We’ll see you in September, like we’re ‘sposed to!
The churcHouse Interviews: Featuring Pomegranate Tiger
By: Armando D’Alessandro
Armando D’Alessandro: What can your fans expect from a Pomegranate Tiger live show?
Pomegranate Tiger: A lot of notes… hopefully played correctly.
After checking out Windsor’s own Pomegranate Tiger in my review of Entities, and catching them live at the Summer Symposium, I wanted to learn more about the band’s music, its history, and most importantly its members. Tried as I might have, I wasn’t able to get too many humorous or embarrassing stories out of them, but what I did get was a legitimate, informative, and fun interview with Pomegranate Tiger. So check it out and tell me what you think!
______________________________________________________________________________________________________ AD (Armando D’Alessandro): You guys have a very unique sound for the local indie scene here in Windsor, what music has influenced you guys most in your writing?
PT (Pomegranate Tiger):We have all come from a background with a focus on the theory and technicality of music so we tend to gravitate towards complexity. We basically try to create music that forces us to improve on our own abilities as performers and which we would find engaging to listen to. We want to make music which can’t be taken at face value but instead requires some digestion and thought to fully understand.
AD: Do you have any favourite hobbies or past-times (besides music, obviously)? Any pet peeves (particularly habits of other band members) or personal vices?
PT: We’re all so radically different that our interests are all over the map really. To name some hobbies just for the sake of random interest, Martin does a fair bit of sailing, Matt is into photography, Keith buys cheap shoes then complains about getting them dirty, and I’m a member of the local wine society. – Phil
AD: Which brings me to my next question, band members, past and present. Care to touch base on that?
PT: 3 of the core members have remained intact in the P.T. lineup. Shortly after recording Entities our old bass player, Chase Bryant, left the band to go study at Musician’s Institute. Chase is a phenomenal musician and our sound would not have developed the way it had if he weren’t involved, luckily for us Keith had shown some interest and stepped up as soon as Chase announced his departure. Keith has been excellent in the role and brought a very different angle to what we do.
AD: Being an instrumental band the music has to speak for itself, it has to be self-expressive. Can you tell me what some of your songs mean to you and any messages you would like to get across to your listeners that they might not be getting through the tunes?
PT: The songs are all fairly independent of one-another and every song means something different to all of us. In general, we weren’t trying to express a singular idea so much as maybe a feeling, ie. excitement, remorse, etc. We thought of it in terms of telling a story that the listener is free to think up for themselves. Pomegranate Tiger members Martin Andres, Keith Wilkinson, and Matt Sheheen (Wheres Phil?! Phil Gatti, the drummer, is cleverly hidden/edged out by Keith. I’m checking your detective skills.)
AD: Does it take any custom gear to perform your music? More importantly, can you tell us about it?
PT: It probably doesn’t require specific equipment necessarily, but, we certainly have designed our rigs around what sound we want to create. Guitar/bass rigs were at one time all fairly common “analogue” setups (ie. Engl Invaders, an Orange cab, a Port City cab, etc.) but they’ve since been consolidated down to Axe-FX systems simply for ease of transportation and consistency. Keith plays through a similar module… though I’m not sure of the specifics. I play a 7-piece Mapex Meridian set with a fair amount of cymbals for all the effects I like to use. -Phil
AD: So after releasing “Entities” in January, what’s the next big thing for you? Any specific goals you’d want to knock down in the near future? (Sell a gazillion cds, go streaking, chug 50 beers in one night, etc.?)
PT: We’ve been focused on pushing the material we have more than looking towards the future. We are releasing a single very soon (probably before this interview is printed actually) and we hope that sees the same positive reaction Entities did. We have talked about writing another album, just kind of shooting around a few ideas, and some of the ideas really excite us. As of right now there is no timeline though.
AD: Though you’re based out of Windsor, Ontario, you have fans from all around the world. How do you maintain such a large network of fans? Is there anything special about the Windsor community that makes it feel like home? (things like local fan support, Facebook updates/likes, Bandcamp, local shows, etc.)
PT: With the state of music these days, progressive/instrumental metal in particular, it seems a great deal more practical to market to the rest of the world than to our own hometown. The internet and the connectivity it provides makes the “world-stage” a reality for a band our size. Windsor has been very good to us in some senses but not really in terms of viewership/support. Unfortunately, local shows are not always the most successful of our endeavours and as such we’ve shied away from them, but who knows what will happen in the future.
AD: You guys have some pretty big shows coming up, do you have any favourite memories from past shows? Or any particularly memorable experiences with fans (good or bad)?
PT: We’ve had good and bad shows of course, as does every band. Some of the bad shows are the funniest to think back on, at the time they were panic-inducing but now they’re good for a laugh. One in particular that stands out was a hometown show where Phil’s bass drum pedals weren’t tightened onto the bass drum properly and came off mid-Maxims. The whole band was disrupted because the sound (in the venue which shall not be named…) was so poor, the only distinguishable sound was the bass drum. We basically played what we hoped was right without actually knowing where anyone else was and somehow all finished together. Who knows what it sounded like though.
AD: How do you pick the titles for your songs? Is it a long and arduous process, or short and sweet?
PT: They are usually derived from an interest or idea of one of the members during the writing process. Because we have no lyrics, naming our material is often the hardest part of the process. We’ve been stuck for weeks, months, in one or two cases even a year or more without deciding on a name. We end up with a grocery list of “working” titles for our songs (Stars was “song 3″ for probably about a year, Maxims was called “shitty-titties” or something like that).
Summer Symposium II photo courtesy of Gene Schilling
AD: Anything else you’d like to add or make a point on? (possibly on whether or not Matt might be gay?)
PT: Matt, in fact, is not gay. He does, however, wear jeans that are far too skinny.