Link Live Sessions
Our video team films musicians playing in various spots around the city.
Soap-Box Assembly isn’t exactly a political band, although you might get that impression from their name. They named themselves after Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, where anyone and everyone is invited to get up on a soapbox (or any other box they have handy) and speak, preach or rant.
“Onstage, it’s like we’re standing on our own soapbox,” said lead singer and guitarist Jonathan Blake. “And the ‘assembly’ stands for the people around us.”
Up there on the platform with him are Tariq Sattaur (vocals, bass), Marc Richard (vocals, sax), and Joel Massinon (drums). Each from a different province, they all met in Montreal and formed the band last year.
Even Blake has trouble describing their sound. “I always feel like other people can tell what our band is better than we can,” he says before settling on ‘folk ‘n’ roll.’
It may not be easy to tell from their upbeat tunes, but much of their music is fueled by angst.
“I think our sound is really defined by what our generation is going through and has to deal with,” he said. “It’s all about finding a place, finding a niche. We’re trying to express some of that. Call it young person angst, but beautiful things come from conflict.”
In their Mile End apartment/makeshift studio in December, they played their catchy track, “Working for the Manic.” Written after the 2008 federal election, it’s about getting people to question their beliefs, says Blake.
“It’s like giving the man the finger, I guess. Well, not really. It’s more like telling them to look at everything around them.”
The Concordia Greenhouse played host to some good ol’ folk music on Friday evening. Local trio Street Meat performed “Le Mésadapté,” a track full of old-fashioned mandolin, double bass and accordion—a first for the Link Live Sessions.
“Le Mésadapté” was the first French song the guys ever wrote, with bassist Jean-Philippe Demers-Lelotte on vocals. The band started with the three street musicians teaching each other their repertoire, and they continue to mash their respective musical histories together.
Demers-Lolotte’s love of rockabilly shines through as he furiously thumps the bass, while Lucas Choi Zimbel’s accordion binds it all together with an Eastern European bounce.
While they’ve largely moved from the street to the stage, “they’re both interconnected,” says Paul Dawson, in charge of the mandolin and percussion. Choi Zimbel says busking is often how they get gigs.
This tune is off their record Comme D’la Viande, named as such because of the confusion some French people would have when seeing them on the street.
“We’d say ‘comme d’la viande’ after almost every time,” said Demers-Lelotte.
Street Meat (w/ Bad Uncle & The Boxcar Boys) // Nov. 1 // Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 9:30 p.m. // $12
Once the yoga session was over at The Plant, things got a little loud. We shot the guys in Kurvi Tasch in the Van Horne space ahead of their POP Montreal show.
“Collaboration is the main thing. There was a lick that we worked off of and then a chorus came after that,” said singer and guitarist Alex Nicol of their song “Dead End.”
It’s the band’s usual way of doing things, layering their parts together to form a new song.
They’ve been playing together since the fall of 2011, born in a basement in Villeray that was a short-lived rehearsal space once it became clear they were too loud.
It’s when Nicol, along with bassist Mike Heinermann and drummer Oliver Finlay all lived together in that space that the band was really formed.
“It was really more out of convenience that we started playing together,” jokes Finlay.
Kurvi Tasch is no soft-spoken folk band. Furious drums, heavily effected guitar and lead bass lines drive their almost-new wave sound. In their performance at The Plant, Nicol’s voice gave a slight Morrissey impression, floating on top of the chords in drawn out tones.
In the next few months they’re playing shows on the East Coast of Canada and New York, and they’ve already been out to Alberta earlier this year for the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
“Everything’s sporadic, everything’s a demo. What we need is to put out a record,” said Nicol. “We just have to learn how to record ourselves, and that’s huge for our band in the next six months.”
Kurvi Tasch // Sept. 25 // Casa del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 8 p.m. // $10
Driving through Montreal on a wet, grey afternoon in a Grand Caravan with John Carroll and a few friends seemed somehow relevant to the performance we’d just seen.
In an impressively cramped and wildly decorated antique shop called Rétro Ville on Notre-Dame St. in St. Henri, Carroll had just told a foreboding tale that sounded a lot like a mutiny done up in his characteristically heavy, warbling ragged blues.
While patiently, albeit somewhat confusedly, navigating along Atwater Avenue headed back north toward the Mile End, Carroll explained his new song, “The Captain is Lying.”
“It ended up for me being a sort of nautical misadventure coupled with a scathing political critique,” said Carroll, in his slow, vaguely sarcastic way of speaking.
“I guess it’s a critique of governments that perpetually tell untruths, saying one thing and doing the other, and the people who follow them and don’t ask enough questions and who end up in situations that might not be in their best interest because they trusted an untrustworthy government.”
Now in his early 40’s and with a musical career that stretches over 20 years, we ask Carroll about staying relevant for himself, and how after so many years an artist continues to reinvent what they do. He says he doesn’t quite see it that way.
“I try to write the best songs that I can write, and they end up being the way that they are,” said Carroll. “I feel like taking responsibility for guiding everything would be a little bit inaccurate in my case. I do the best I can and settle with what I’m comfortable with.
“I try to write songs and become a better musician.”
Carroll’s music has taken him around the world, and most recently to a stage at Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Despite the years of playing, and the success he’s had, he says that the music scene and the bars, whether packed or empty, haven’t jaded him.
“I still have great experiences playing where someone will come up to me and it’s apparent that they’ve been genuinely moved by something that’s occurred in my performance,” he said. “To me that’s very gratifying.
“That’s why I listen to music—I like to be moved.”
John Carroll will play Friday, Sept. 20 at le Cagibi with local folk duo, Salton Sea. Check the Facebook event for more info.
Before his set at Casa Del Popolo, Patrick Krief played an acoustic version of “Lost in Japan” for us in his Côte Saint-Luc home. It’s a song about his time in that country, where he felt the strongest sense of Lost in Translation -esque culture shock.
Recorded over several months in a “shitty apartment in Côte-des-Neiges,” The Dears guitarist will have his solo record Hundered Thousand Pieces released in the United States next month, coinciding with a US tour that includes a stop in Austin for South by Southwest.
It’s a dark, guitar-driven indie record that rarely keeps to the same arrangement from song to song.
Once working under the name Black Diamond Bay, Krief now plays with his own name on the marquee.
“I was a bit reluctant, but people were threatening to leave the band if I didn’t change the name,” Krief said of the change to Black Diamond Bay. “And it didn’t sound like a solo project, so I did. But then they quit on me.
“So I thought, there’s only going to be one constant, and that’s me.”
That became even more true after recording Hundred Thousand Pieces, where he played nearly everything himself.
“I was being romantic about it, the first guy who showed up I was going to give him the job,” Krief said, about the process of finding a band to fill out that sound live. “But two months in, the band was sounding like shit.
“I had to be that guy who said ‘you’re not good enough.‘”
It’s a role he’s familiar with, having directed bands from a young age.
“I started putting bands together when I was 12 or 13, and I was always the leader. I took myself so seriously even as a 12-year-old. I have letters I wrote to other band members, that were really angry shit,” he laughs.
He’s put together a band of like-minded musicians now, performing under the name Krief.
“It’s not forced, it’s like the director being comfortable enough with the actor to let him reinterpret the script,” he says. “That’s what we have in The Dears. It doesn’t matter who writes the song, it’s like ‘I know what you’re going for.’ Like, if we’re going for that Motown thing, I got it.”
Krief took a songwriting role in the last The Dears record, 2011’s Degeneration Street, a first since joining the band in 2003. Before that, singer Murray Lightburn had always been the main songwriter.
“Sometimes I’d have an idea that I knew was good, but I didn’t know where to go with it. I’d call up Murray and say, ‘do you think this is shit?‘” said Krief.
And if Lightburn was feeling it, the song would end up in The Dears’ repertoire.
“I don’t care about that world when I’m doing this,” says Krief about his more famous project. “This is for whoever wants it, I’m not going after the path that The Dears took, this has its own trajectory. It doesn’t matter if it’s smaller or if it’s bigger.”