Experimental Experience

Local Musician Tamples In New Territory With New Musical Project

The Jon Cohen Experimental have a “buffet of influences”

When I spoke to Jon Cohen, he and the rest of the Jon Cohen Experimental, which consists of drummer Sebastian Cote and bass player Ken Martin, were in the misty city of Charlottetown, P.E.I. prepping to play a venue called The Alibi.

The trio of Montreal music scene veterans decided to kick off their first tour in two years on the East Coast to warm themselves up for their upcoming coast-to-coast tour.

“We’ve had a really good turn-out,” Cohen told me. “This is our first tour in a long time, and we’re seeing where we can tighten up our live show and how we can make it as good as possible. The best way to do that is to tour.”

The group is about to release a new album titled Behold. Aside from the trio which, according to Cohen, makes up the true core of the Experimental, a laundry list of renowned local musicians have contributed their talents to the album, including Evan Cranley of Stars and Murray Lightburn of The Dears.

“It was really nice to have different people come in and lend in their voices to something the three of us had been working on for so long,” Cohen said. “[We] were almost losing perspective of where it was going, so to have other people bring in a fresh approach to [the album] that we were so familiar with, and that was getting a little stale on our side, really breathed new life into the recording.”

Though there is such a diversity of perspective on Behold, Jon Cohen’s own personal experiences have the strongest presence on the album. Over the past ten years, he has played with bands such as The Dears and The Social Register, among many others. With so much experience under his belt, moving on to create his own project seemed a natural transition; and, naturally, Cohen has a myriad of influences to work with.

Cohen’s subdued, moody crooning brings back what the alternative music world lost with the passing of Elliott Smith, and an array of references can be heard in the Experimental’s musical arrangements. Their sound offers a unique combination of styles and references; Cohen’s guitar playing is soaked in reverb and distortion, yet still manages to deliver a melodic, pop-rock feel.

“It’s a buffet of influences, and that’s the beauty of this record,” Cohen said. “There’s a string through the entire record that keeps the whole thing together, but each song takes you to a completely different space and style. [The references are] very hard to pinpoint, but it still all seems very familiar. It’s progressive, but it’s mainstream at the same time. That’s the best part; being able to say, ‘What did you hear?’”

The Jon Cohen Experimental play a concert to celebrate the release of Behold on Thursday Sept. 16. The band will be playing at the bottom of a large, empty swimming pool in Bains Mathieu (2915 Ontario St. E.) while visual artists paint their interpretation of the music during the set. They will also be playing during POP Montreal on Sept. 30.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 05, published September 14, 2010.