Category Archives: Department Babble

School’s Out: An Interview with Rosie Long Decter

On the last Friday before McGill’s reading week, just as students were preparing to turn off their brains for a minute, I managed to sit down with Rosie Long Decter. As a vocalist and synth player in the popular band Bodywash, as well as the new music librarian at CKUT, Rosie has set the bar high for what it means to be a student in the Montreal music scene. Based on her fantastic resume, I knew Rosie would be able to provide some unique insight on the student scene in the city as well as some advice for those looking to get started as musicians in Montreal.

Nora: Ok, so – you’re in Bodywash, which is a really great band putting out some really amazing stuff. You guys started as a McGill band, is that true?

Rosie: Yes.

N: Could you give me your origin story? How did you guys get together as a band?

R: So, two of our members met through rez and living together: one of our guitarists and our old bassists. And they knew Chris, who is our guitarist and singer, through mutual friends, and the three of them started jamming together. Chris actually met out drummer, Austin, at a SSMU Musician’s Collective meet-and-greet. So that was a group on campus that was very useful for us. Most of us were in Gardiner [a McGill Residence], and Gardiner used to have once-a-month coffee houses. I was always a solo musician – I used to do a lot of singer-songwriter stuff and the guys saw me performing and asked if I wanted to jam.

I think for us, the context of us all being in Gardiner was super important because Gardiner used to have a music room that students could use. So that’s where we practiced all of first year, the Gardiner music room.

N: That’s sweet.

R: I mean, it was kind of a shithole, but you know, it was our shithole. Continue reading

School’s Out: Alexia Avina

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When the topic of McGill student musicians comes up, it’s rare that the name Alexia Avina isn’t mentioned. As both a prolific solo musician and part of the dreamy electro duo, Best Fern, she is pretty much the pinnacle of what a writer like me could hope to find in the student scene.

Earlier this week, Avina posted a track called ‘Cups’ on her Soundcloud page. For fans of her work, this song hits all the bases of what makes Avina’s music special. The whispery vocals so characteristic of her work are especially noteworthy, not only in the sweet, sad lyrics but also in the layered, dreamy back-up vocals that saturate the track. Rich guitar melodies drift in and out, softly fading into a warm hum at the end of the song.

In her Facebook post about the song, Avina expressed her nervousness about releasing the song and asked for kindness from listeners. ‘Cups’ is a soothing track to drift away to, and I hope that the calming vibes the song conjured for me are given back to Alexia Avina in return.

– Nora Duffy

Artist Profile: An Hour with Molly Drag

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I ventured up to Le Dépanneur Café in the Mile End a few weeks ago to chat with Molly Drag (née Michael Hansford) about his upcoming album, Whatever Reason. After settling down with our coffees, Hansford confided that he and his roommate, Aaron Powell (Fog Lake), actually live right around the corner from the café; it has been a long-term dream of his to eventually end up in this neighborhood, and he appeared very at home with the plants and locals populating the crowded joint.

Most of Whatever Reason was recorded in a basement studio in London, Ontario. Hansford moved to Montreal this summer with only a few close possessions, and conceded that at first, he felt quite isolated in his new home. The loneliness was compounded by the fact that he knew very few people, and would have to wake up in the early hours of the morning to get to his job at the time as a café cook. This solitude, though now only a memory, ended up inspiring one of the tracks on the new release; he has also begun to sprinkle Québecois into his latest songs to celebrate and acknowledge, in his words, “a culture that has been here for so long, and has fought to keep it.” 

Hansford has an exciting, frenetic energy about him at times, and it shows in his music. When he writes or records, it is done all at once; everything is done “on the record” without much forethought, and he will sit for hours in his apartment focused solely on his craft. On previous albums such as the sprawling Deeply Flawed release, Hansford acknowledges a lack of focus; every song is raw, intimate, and wandering.  Hansford praised the more focused energy of the Whatever Reason, describing the contrast between various tracks: “There’s a bit of anger on this record, but there’s also a lot of self-reflection.”

Whatever Reason is a very conceptual album, signaling “the end to a dark trilogy” of records that Molly Drag has produced so far. The contemplative attitude reflects an “addiction” to nostalgia, and the inevitable sense of separation that accompanies those feelings. He also described his inspiration for the album cover art: a painting he saw of a sick child surrounded by piles of things that they love, but that are just out of reach. Whatever Reason’s album cover depicts a young girl in a dark wood surrounded by rabbits, Hansford’s favorite animal.

For an important project such as this, Hansford said he was happy to have a solid, more permanent live lineup to support his vocals. Powell acts as his secondary guitarist, adding a professional aspect to their good personal relationship; in fact, all but one of the Molly Drag lineup also play in Fog Lake. The constancy and familiarity helps to make the live performances sound more like the recorded ones, a factor that Hansford holds in very high regard: “If people have been listening to your music and they go see you live expecting to hear what they love, and they don’t, you’re not doing your job properly. You’re there to entertain.” For Hansford, the most important issue at hand is the integrity of the project; he needs musicians who want the project to succeed as much as he does, instead of being there simply to play or just to support him.

After the official interview ended we lingered at Dépanneur a bit longer, chatting with ease about mutual friends and personal heroes – he regaled me with a story of his online conversations with local author Heather O’Neill – before Hansford looked sheepishly at his phone and said he had to duck out early; there apparently was no water in his apartment. We ushered ourselves out into the Mile End dusk and parted with handshakes and smiles before he hurried up Avenue du Parc, shoulders hunched against the wind and signature wool cap bobbing up and down: a true Montrealer out and about in his city.

Whatever Reason will be released April 21, 2017 and is available for pre-order now.

interview by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

 

School’s Out: Pottery @ Bar Le Ritz P.D.B.

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An excited hum filled Bar le Ritz PDB on Thursday night in anticipation of the first show from the newly-formed Montreal group, Pottery. I loitered with friends of the band around the stage, drinking beer and waiting to hear what Pottery was all about; with no music online and a week-old Facebook page, it was hard to know what to expect.

Around 10pm the quintet, two of whom are students, took the stage. Understandably for such a new project, there was equal nervousness and anticipation from the crowd as they launched into their set. The first tune started with a long vamped intro, slowly building on one chord until exploding into a soaring chorus. The whole room let out a deep breath – the band sounded tight and confident, and all the tension melted away as Pottery plowed through the rest of their set.

The songs were mostly upbeat rock numbers with some interesting influences of boudoir jazz, new wave, and a little country, resulting in a remarkably balanced sound overall. The rhythm section stayed steady and driving while the guitarists traded riffs back and forth over droning, rich synth chords. Austin, Pottery’s frontman, kept the stage banter minimal with the occasional brief song introduction and a few “thank yous” throughout the set. His stage presence, though, was a force to be reckoned with: his energy during the performance was contagious and his vocals, punctuated by some excited shouts and fun lyrics (something about Hank Williams doing speed?), had a similar effect. After half a dozen songs, the set finished off with a fast rock & roll number showcasing a sample of the riff, if I’m not mistaken, from Gary Numan’s “Cars.” Sick.

Short but sweet, the first show by Pottery was a great debut and an impressive start for a group that’s going places. Someone in the crowd told me they got asked to play another show right after their set, and given the strength of their debut performance it comes as little surprise. They’ve got a few more shows this spring that I highly recommend everyone check out, especially if you’ve got a taste for local bands on the rise.

– Review and photo by Nora Duffy

 

CKUT Presents: School’s Out!

The winter months in Montreal can be rough, especially in the era of climate change when the rapid fluctuations in temperature can seem almost worse than just a normal, unrelenting deep freeze. This year, I decided my course of action against the elements would be to take refuge in the amazingly diverse music scene that exists within the city. In particular, I wanted to focus on how students like me contribute to the music culture of Montreal. Who are they? What kind of stuff are they playing? Over the next few months, the School’s Out series is going to try to answer these questions and shed light on the talented students who are making waves in the city and beyond.

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Released this past January, Space Race is the first LP from Montreal’s own The Sad Birthdays, a band made up of four guys who happen to be students. It’s a whole lot of good ol’ rock and roll, but also draws on influences so varied that it hard to pin down exactly what’s going on in a few adjectives. The low, droning vocals on some songs are definitely reminiscent of early ‘90s grunge, but the addition of melodic guitar riffs and steady four-on-the-floor drums sound more like something out of ‘70s classic rock. The band takes a stab at pinning their genre down on their Facebook page, describing themselves as “a grungy psychedelic baroque pop band,” which I’d say is a pretty good summary. What is clear is that these guys are coming up with stuff that is distinct and new but also irresistibly fun.

Some of the magic of Space Race comes from its unpredictability. At first listen, the classic catchy guitar riffs and steady driving rhythm section sets the listener up for a run-of-the-mill-four-guys-in-a-rock-band trope. But there’s more to it than that. In particular, the lyrics on songs like “RIO,” “Movies” and “Pantless” threw some curveballs into the mix that helped to reify the laid-back, cool vibe of the album. One line goes, “I’m pantless by the ocean/ I’m pantless by the pool/ My friends are all around me/ And they’re pantless, too”. Who can’t get behind a lyric that? Another surprising touch came from the song “Lie,” which showcases not only a really sweet vocal performance, but also a fantastic arrangement for trombone, flugelhorn, flute, and French horn.

The Sad Birthdays certainly hit the ground running with this one. Whether you love a good homage to classic rock without the same old tired tunes, appreciate some high quality sound production, or are just looking for a fun set of tracks by some local Montrealers, Space Race is a great album to hit all those bases.

 

jazz amuck’s 20 not-to-miss albums of 2016

Jazz lovers, take note – the one & only John B, host of CKUT’s famed Jazz Amuck, has put together a real doozy of a list recapping the heaviest hitters of 2016. Whether your tastes veer towards the freest of sounds or you dig more traditional styles, we’ve got you covered. Check out the full list below and tune into Jazz Amuck every Friday from 9-11am on CKUT.

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ingrid laubrock – serpentines – intakt
henry threadgill & ensemble double up – old locks and irregular verbs – pi
tyshawn sorey – the inner spectrum of variables – pi
mary halvorson octet – away with you – firehouse 12
anna webber’s simple trio – binary – skirl CC
wadada leo smith golden quintet – america’s national parks – cuneiform
michael formanek ensemble kolossus – the distance – ecm
bobby kapp & matthew shipp – cactus – northern spy
taylor ho bynum – plustet – firehouse 12
mark dresser seven – sedimental you – clean feed
nick fraser quartet – starer -self-released CC
steve lehman & sélébéyone – sélébéyone – pi
sao paulo underground – cantos invisiveis – cuneiform
ingrid laubrock + tom rainey – buoyancy – relative pitch
dan weiss – sixteen: drumers suite – pi recordings
nicolas caloia – les bonnes histoires – ambiances magnétiques CC
vijay iyer / wadada leo smith – a cosmic rhythm with each stroke – ecm
greg ward – touch my beloved’s thought – greenleaf
quinsin nachoff – flux – mythology CC
atlantis jazz ensemble – oceanic suite – marlow CC

Very Special NEW SHIT!

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It’s funding drive o’clock! Tune in today at 3pm to 90.3 CKUT for an extra awesome edition of New Shit: we’ll have LIVE performances by Un Blonde and Clear Spot as well as an interview and guest DJ set from Drainolith.
You know what might even be better than New Shit?
PRIZES!!
For the first few lucky donors of $25 and up, we have packs featuring a cornucopia of releases from independent Montreal label Fixture Records, cassettes from Egg Paper Factory, and a bunch a vinyl goodies from Constellation Records. Those who call early can take their pick of the packs below.

Fixture Records Pack
Phern – Pause Clope flexi 7″

The Submissives – Do You Really Love Me? cassette
Brave Radar – Lion Head LP
Jef Elise Barbara – Sexe Machin / Sex Machine 7″
Lantern – Black Highways and Green Garden Roads cassette
Fixture Records compilation #4 CD

Egg Paper Pack (all cassette)
Gretchen – Oblique Contours
Whitney K – Pony
Inland Island – Zsa Zsa’s Window Opens Slowly
The Painters – Specks of Dust
Family Band – Family Band ’15
…and super cool Egg Paper stickers and a pin!
Vinyl Pack #1 – CLAIMED
Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufield – Never Were The Way She Was
Vinyl Pack #2 – CLAIMED
Automatisme – Momentform Accumulations
Jason Sharp – A Boat Upon Its Blood
Vinyl Pack #3 – CLAIMED
Jerusalem In My Heart – If He Dies, If If If If If If
Off World – 1
Vinyl Pack #4
Ought – Sun Coming Down
Drainolith – Hysteria (+ bonus patch!)

CKUT Referendum 2016: VOTE YES

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Autumn is officially here, which means it’s time to delve into some yearly existentialism. The question that will be on McGill students’ minds from October 21-26 is this: should CKUT 90.3 FM exist? 

Heavy.

If you’re a McGill student and are scratching your head as to why this question is even being posed, here’s a little history lesson that might prove educational. While CKUT was formed as “Radio McGill” in the 1940s, it became a fully-licensed FM station in 1987. The following year, a successful referendum allowed CKUT to be funded by a student fee levy, which basically means that a small part of your tuition is helping us put out cool vibes to the McGill campus and city of Montreal every day, year-round. In 2007, McGill announced that all student fees had to have an “expiration date” every 5 years. The student fee dedicated to CKUT makes up 54% of our funding, and as a non-profit station we would no longer be able to exist should you decide to vote NO.

You, as a thrifty and intelligent McGill student, might also be wondering why in the world you would ever need CKUT’s services; after all, we’re just a radio station, right?

Well… not quite. Here are examples of the many other services that we provide at 3647 Rue University: journalism school (which, by the way, McGill University does not provide) for those interested in honing interview skills or writing for the radio, sound engineering and DJ tutorials, and access to our extensive music library of over 78,000 physical releases.

As a paying member of CKUT, you have the power to vote at our Annual General Meeting. Students who volunteer for CKUT are included in many, if not all, government and administrative decisions and are allowed to participate on our governing committees. CKUT bridges the McGill and Montreal communities by providing conferences, panels, and concerts for a wide variety of charitable and educational outreach opportunities. We have been voted #1 Radio Station for Cult MTL’s Best of Montreal poll. Our membership base consists of over 300 student and community volunteers helping to bring you the best of alternative and cultural radio on a 24/7 basis.

If you’re still undecided about us, see here for a more detailed explanation of why CKUT 90.3 FM matters to both McGill and Montreal. Voting is super convenient, too: if you have access to a computer and basic wifi, you can click the “YES” button to keep us in business. Existential crisis averted.

VOTE “YES” TO KEEP CKUT ALIVE BETWEEN OCTOBER 21-26!!!!!

All the cool kids are doing it.

-PSA brought to you by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

CKUT Music Department’s Pop Picks

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Feeling overwhelmed by the choices at this year’s Pop Montreal festival? It’s totally understandable, and you’re definitely not the only one. But fear not — CKUT music programmer Mike B. has mapped out a plan to guide you through the highlights of this year’s programming. Here’s the lowdown on the essential shows of Pop 2015:

WEDNESDAY
Cheap Wig is set to go on at 12:30am at Brasserie Beaubien. They’re a mega cool queer glam punk act with rad cassette art and wonderfully noisey sounds.

THURSDAY
The Letouts + Caymans + Towanda + JLK + In Hock at Brasserie Beaubien
Local punk superstars, Towanda, go on at 10:30. And if you haven’t seen the sludgey, all girl trio live yet, you need to.

FRIDAY
The Orb + Mateo Murphy + Vosper at SAT
The Orb goes on at midnight. The Orb as in the ambient house duo that’s been kicking since 1988. They released Moonbuilding 2703 AD in June, so they’ll probably be mostly playing things from that, but just in case they play their more classic pieces you should probably study their last 12 studio albums so you can have all of your choreography prepared.

SATURDAY
Hag Face + Brazilian Money + Babysitter + No.Negative
Calgary’s Hag Face plays at midnight. Obviously you should try to see as many female punk bands this weekend as possible, but if you can only see one then make it Hag Face.

SUNDAY
Heathers + Psychic Lie + Sigh Down One + Jilted X + Loosestrife at Brasserie Beaubien
Riot Grrrl-inspired Heathers goes on at 12:30 with their brand of “femme punk” and “sequin grunge.” They should definitely be loud enough for you to remember the ecstasy of ringing ears and sweaty bliss until Pop comes back next year.

– M. Baek

Revisiting the Dub Rifles

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THE DUB RIFLES
A Retrospect by CKUT’s Vince Tinguely

A few years ago, I read a beat-up copy of Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige. One could immediately sense this was a damn clever book when it came out back in 1979 – back in 1979 there weren’t too many books partaking of ‘punk’ design values – a lurid pink-black-and-yellow cover, featuring a stark cartoon portrait of a Ziggy-era Bowie-clone. It stood out to such an extent that I remembered it, a quarter-century later, when I came upon it in some thrift shop or other. Based on that odd media-memory alone (in our mediated world much memory devotes itself to media) I bought the book.

Reading Subculture: The Meaning of Style now means reading it as an artifact. Hebdige was writing about the punk subculture in Britain, specifically – dragooning ruminations upon its ‘antecedents’ like the mod, teddy boy and glam scenes in order to pad the book out beyond a couple of chapters. (Weirdly, he completely ignores or excludes the hippie subculture of the sixties – apparently because hippie culture was so big it falls outside of the purview of the ‘subcultural’ focus. But to me it looks like an omission big enough to drive Kesey’s bus through. I guess he likes his countercultures nice and small and contained within the dominant überculture.)

He was writing about punk in the very midst of that scene’s flourishing, which lent his thoughts a nicely unfinished, unpolished and inconclusive flavour. What I found most stimulating about the book was Hebdige’s examination of British Rasta youth culture as the flipside of the British punk scene. For some reason it was only by reading this book that I finally ‘realized’ the connection. It’s a strange thing, since I know for sure I lived this connection at the time.

I distinctly remember the first time I really felt like I was participating in something that I’d only previously known through mediated forms like records (ie. Gang of Four’s Entertainment, and the Lee Perry-produced Bob Marley and the Wailers bootleg bought at Canadian Tire for $3.99) – when the Dub Rifles played Domus Legis, a law frat house in Halifax, in June of 1983.

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