Link Live Sessions
Our video team films musicians playing in various spots around the city.
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.”
The trees outside Mile End’s Salon Sweet William shuddered in a frigid wind, but inside Maerin Hunting warmed the room with an intimate performance of “I’ll Tell Ya,” a song telling a story from the perspective of a former crush, detailing her anticipation before anything happened.
“I wrote this song after we finally started dating, and this was my way of explaining my angst, waiting for him to tell me that he liked me,” said Maerin.
Maerin grew up in Montreal, the daughter of a dancer and art history major who met in Concordia’s Drawing 101. Now in the final stretch of her undergrad in jazz voice, it was her great-aunt that first inspired Maerin to study music—giving a piano to her family home.
“I remember playing all kinds of old jazz standards with her around Christmas,” Maerin said. “When I was at Vanier [College] I started studying pop voice, but I quickly switched into jazz voice, not knowing [these were] songs I had been singing with my grandparents. I knew a whole repertoire already.”
She now does most of her songwriting on guitar, something she credits to hearing the likes of pop songwriters John Mayer and Jack Johnson as a kid. The heartthrob factor didn’t hurt, either.
“The same reason boys start to play guitar, to get girls,” jokes bassist Patrick Latreille about Maerin’s choice of instrument.
She’s been playing her original material live now for over a year, an experience of baring personal experience textured by a full band moving softly around her. It’s a feeling she’s becoming more comfortable with as time goes on.
“You can be onstage and let people know things about you that you wouldn’t necessarily tell them in conversation,” said Maerin. “It’s a very personal and vulnerable space.”
The band, under the name Maerin, is in pre-production for their debut full-length record, and are hoping to be playing festivals come summer time.
“My favourite after-show comment was this one individual who said, ‘Maerin, it felt like you held my hand through issues I’ve yet to go through,’” she said.
“I think that’s a pretty good example of what I strive to do.”
Before hitting the stage at Divan Orange last Thursday, Victoria, B.C.’s Current Swell met up with us at Café Santropol for a little acoustic set.
They played a stripped-down version of “I Wanna Bird,” their soulful tune inspired by Taj Mahal’s “Corrina” filled with rich four-part vocal harmonies—a testament to the group’s chemistry.
“There’s nothing like singing with other people you feel connected to, it’s a really gelling thing,” said lead singer Scott Stanton.
“Some of it is technical, you know, what notes can we do together, and the rest is just putting your soul into it, and for us it’s so fun.”
The depth of their coastal country sound gives away the years the band has spent together honing their craft. The current lineup has been playing together for four years, but Stanton and guitarist Dave Lang have been writing together for seven.
Things started as they often do, a casual project for a simple shared love of playing.
“We didn’t know anything about being a band, we were just having fun writing songs together and it all just sort of happened, so that’s probably what the whole humble, seven-year start equates to,” said Lang.
They had been touring on and off since the addition of drummer Chris Peterson and bassist Ghosty, but after getting signed to Nettwerk Records, the pace has picked up this past year.
Now backed by a label, they’re looking to release their latest LP, Long Time Ago, wherever they can, starting with an Australian release, accompanied with some festival dates.
“The talk in the background, what might happen, is really exciting. We don’t get too worked up until it’s booked, but it’s fixin’ to be a big year,” said Lang.
“We’ve had two weekends off this summer, it’s funny to see what you work yourself into if you try really hard,” said Stanton.
You can hear Julie Matson on the airwaves in daylight hours on CJLO hosting “With Gay Abandon.” Once the sun goes down, however, the signal changes into the electronic drone sounds of Echo Beach, her synth-heavy solo endeavour.
“They have the same flavour,” says Matson of her radio show and musical project. “I don’t play simply synth-based music [on “With Gay Abandon”], but definitely in that experimental vein for sure.”
Echo Beach is an act of juxtaposition, a meditative ambience placed against harsher sounds, wrapping the listener in their own cocoon of layered vocals over analogue and digital modules.
The Link caught up with Matson on one of the first sub-zero nights of the season—luckily in a heated location. Her spacey take on the old Depeche Mode song “Photographic” ricocheted off the walls of a downtown parking garage like aural springboards.
“That particular song is really special [to me],” says Matson. “Depeche Mode has been my favourite band since the age of 10. When I heard it I became obsessed with it. I was like, ‘How do they make that music?’
“I taught myself how to play keyboards in grade nine because I bought a Depeche Mode songbook.”
Her take on “Photographic” is a murky mood-setter.
“I want to take you to that place where you think about things that happened for you, or have happened to you, it sort of takes you a journey somewhere else while still being in the same room,” she said.
“Visuals are telling you a story, but music takes you where you can go, and I hope that’s what my music does to people.”
Echo Beach / Nov. 16 (M for Montreal) / l’Esco (4467 St. Denis St.)