by Kait Fowlie
Photos by Becca Lemire
Not even the garbage trucks and their reeking street residue could stop us during NXNE. The moon was shining high in the sky and we were drinking pre mixed mojitos as we set off into the night of sweet melodious music. Our bikes were our chariots and triumphantly, we paved the way, throwing elbows when necessary, to a few memorable shows across the city. We didn’t get so distracted by cute fanboys and glistening drinks that we forgot to write stuff down though, and take pictures. Here they are!
I’m sort of convinced Tristen is a petite folk goddess in disguise who will lure you into enchantment with her sweet voice and cute face then one day turn around and take over the world with ruthless inspiration and fury. She played songs from debut LP “Charlatans at the Garden Gate” which is being released in New York this fall, and sufficiently won over the entire crowd. Myself included.
Is this your first time in Toronto?
I came to Toronto when I was 12. But yeah, definitely my first time here as an adult. We got in at 8 last night, and got some time to hang in (Trinity Bellwoods) park today.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Chicago on the south side. I lived in the city through college and then moved to Nashville afterward.
How did you first start out playing music?
I started out at home. My dad’s a musician, so there was always lots of music in the family. I started actually writing songs at 14. My first instrument was the guitar, then I played piano for a while, about 5 years.
What’s next up on your tour?
Tomorrow we’re going to Hudson, Boston, then New York on tour. We’re doing 9 shows in 8 days! I’ve been touring for the last year, when we went all around the northeast and southwest (states). Our home base in New York and Nashville, though, my label is in New York.
What music is currently inspiring you?
I really like MGMT’s new record. We just went to Bonnaroo and saw Dr Dog, which was really good. Stevie Wonder was the most incredible thing I’ve seen in my life – and I’m not usually one to be like “this is fuckin sick”, but he was just unlike anything. They’ve been together for 60 years, just being funky as shit. They are the most talented people in the world.
I really like your video for Matchstick Murder on your Myspace. Do you have any other videos?
Real ones? We have one we shot on my front porch, dressed like fools and smoking a huge joint. As far as real ones, just one for this record. We’re doing artwork and stuff right now, so it’s all pretty unknown.
Jency Hirunrusme (keyboard, vocals) and Ryan Hamilton (guitar, vocals) make quite the duo. Outside the Painted Lady before the show, we chat about breakups, barbecue and Maxim parties, but their real personality comes out on stage. “Last year we had the honor of touring with Metric” Ryan announces in the middle of the set. “They always talked about this thing called poutine, which sounds kind of dirty, really, but I finally tried it last night, and let me say, Toronto … not impressed.” “Whatever,” Jency chimes in. “He had it at like 4 in the morning and he was like, ‘oh my god this is so good …’”
They are all about antics. Their onstage banter – mostly Ryan talking about how everyone in Toronto is skinny and attractive, and Jency rolling her eyes, sort of makes me wonder how these two possibly make this band work. But work it does, and their set was a product of these two talented people reconciling their differences and making the most of troubled times.
Your latest album, Truth on Tape, was praised for fusing pop and folk. What are your influences with these genres?
Ryan: Jency likes electric and indie stuff and I’m more into 60’s folk music. Our latest album is our musical preferences meeting in the middle.
A lot of your songs are about breakups. Would you consider this a breakup album?
Ryan: It is. It’s about our breakup, actually.
Jency: We started writing these songs together, then after we broke up he would sing them to me and e-mail them to me and try to hurt my feelings.
Ryan: It’s the ultimate comeback, to take the things you made together and rework them and pick them apart and make them totally technical.
It’s been two years since your first album, Blue Roses. How have things changed for you since then?
Ryan: We’ve sort of moved back around to where we started. We’re playing some of our old tracks again. We’ve grown and enhanced our sound a bit, the new record is not as folksy. But the first one was successful enough for us to get signed and get noticed.
Jency: It’s more slick. Influences like Electric President come through more.
How did you two meet?
Ryan: We met at a theatre in Dallas, then we started dating. We’re no longer dating, but we’re still in the band together.
Jency: It was this Maxim party, for Maxim girls, and I told my friend to bring a girl, and she brought Ryan. I was like, this isn’t a girl!
Ryan: We were both in line for the bathroom. The guys line was so long, and she saw me waiting and grabbed me and dragged me into the girls bathroom and we peed in the same stall. Then we shook hands and introduced ourselves. And now we’re here. In Toronto.
What are some other bands that inspire you?
Jency / Ryan: Metric, Dr. Dog, Broken Bells, Middle East (a musical collective from Australia.)
Sort of a Colbie Callait meets Norah Jones, Megan is a U of T grad turned piano / breathy vocals virtuoso. At the end of her set, a group of her fans sing happy birthday to her. A total bombshell with a beach-ish, laid back vibe going on, I think we’ll be seeing much more of Megan in Toronto in the near future.
Where are you from?
I’m from Caledon. I went to U of T, where I majored in English and Political Science. I went to Mayfield, an arts high school in Caledon, so I studied vocal there and did the whole classical conservatory thing. At the end of high school, I started writing songs. I was in a band called Reilly at the time.
What music are you listening to this summer?
A lot of Arcade Fire, I’m excited for the new Strokes, Laura Marling, Julian Casablancas, Cat Power, Dum Dum Girls.
Whats your favourite part of the music scene in Toronto?
It’s its own entity. There’s a really unique and distinct sound. Even if you’re not a musician, you’re into it too, it’s a very prevalent thing here. It’s awesome how prevalent it is.
Any sweet summer plans?
Hopefully I’ll be playing lots of shows in Toronto this summer! I’m going on a road trip this Sunday through Cape Cod and Vermont. My EP comes out in August.
The Racoon Wedding
This band believes in their songs because they believe in Brantford, the humble town of their origins. When I walk into the Garrison, raucous reverb assaults our ears. I cast my eyes to the stage to see five dudes in threadbare attire, lots of beer bottles, and cavorting around ala The Ramones. However, as The Racoon Wedding revealed throughout their set, they have enough soul to make old school Motown – type lyrics work, as well as tying in some of their own ska / punk flavors. Tim Ford, front man and owner of the Ford Plant, a venue that serves as the hub of the music scene in Brantford, which has hosted such bands as the Arcade Fire, By Divine Right, and Wintersleep, is pretty much solely responsible for facilitating music of substance to the small town of Brantford.
How long has The Racoon Wedding been together?
2 years. A bunch of bands that played at the Ford Plant kind of collaborated. I picked my favorite people out of all of them.
What are your influences?
We like a lot of Motown, the Band, Otis Redding, obscure funk bands from the 60’s. The whole band has punk roots. We’re into old black music like Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. But no matter how we play, it comes out kind of fast and furious. I hate that movie.
How long are you guys in Toronto?
We’re in town for one night, leaving at 6 am.
Any other bands you’re looking forward to seeing at NXNE?
We wanted to see Iggy pop, but we have Pavement tickets, which are at conflicting times!
What’s going on at the Ford Plant these days?
Tomorrow night, there’s going to be an Australian band called The Grates and the next night, a band from Japan called Zooboombs that we’re going to be playing with.
What do you do when you’re not playing music and managing the Ford Plant?
I manage Sunrise Records in Brantford, when I’m not at the Ford Plant or playing shows. It’s the best life ever, really.
What’s happening in the future for Racoon Wedding?
We’re going on tour at the end of July. We generally try not to play too much in Brantford, but we’re playing with the Zoobombs at the Ford Plant on July 9th.
Sorry, I probably have beer breath.
(Mine is probably worse).
I’m quite positive I grabbed Hannah, the firey goddess / front woman of Foxfire, by the shoulders at Wrongbar and told her that the meaning of life was revealed to me during her set. Which is true. Picture 5 beautiful people with electrifying stage presence and chemistry crooning 80’s inspired dance beats reminiscent of Tears for Fears, Blondie and all things psychedelic. The result was an impressive and uninhibited dance party. Add on top of that, if you will, a bass player with the most perfect facial hair you could ever wish for in a man and you might have an idea what went down at midnight at Wrongbar at midnight.
Where are you from?
Toronto. I live right above Pizza Pizza, (by Wrongbar) actually.
Have you played NXNE before?
This is our fourth time playing NXNE. This is the first time not hung over.
Who else are you pumped about seeing play?
Iggy, Surfer Blood, and all my buddies!
What are you favourite venues to play at in the city?
Sneaky Dees, back in the day. It’s a bit different now, though. I love playing house parties, and the Garrison – I love what Shaun’s done with the place. Wherever anyone will have us!
What’s on your summer mixtape?
My Sharona, Slow Ride, Holland Oates, Harry James the trumpet player , Amber Skies … Man, I’m going to be really embarrassed when I read this list. Anything by Led Zeppelin, classic rock, classic swing.
How long has Foxfire been together?
Foxfire’s been together for 4 years, but this new lineup, only a few months.
by Haley Cullingham
During NXNE, the sidewalk outside the Hyatt Hotel becomes crowded with gorgeous, sleepy-looking, well-dressed musicians, and Jaclyn is no exception. We sat down on a bench to talk about the band’s first ever North by Northeast, and half-way through our interview Mike Lobel and the rest of Boys Who Say No come up to give hugs and grins, and a beefy reporter wearing the same hat as her tips it in her direction, doing a good job of emphasizing the community vibe of NXNE that makes it so special.
What’s your favourite thing about NXNE?
That everyone’s coming down to Toronto to congregate to make music. It’s like, everybody is here in our venues, in our city? No other city has as many venues as we do.
Where are your favourite places to play in Toronto?
El Mocambo, Rancho Relaxo-I always like that place. The Garrison, hands down, I think is wicked. They curate good shows, as well. They pick a theme and stick to it-they’re the best in the city at that. People will leave if it’s opposite types of music, but no one leaves at The Garrison.
Who are you most excited to see at NXNE?
Quintron & Miss Pussycat at The Garrison. I just recently discovered them. They’re a husband and wife duo. They’re live show is full of chaos, they mix up crazy costumes. They have this reconverted VW van, and they do puppet shows. I’m also excited for Iggy, and the Trinity Bellwoods picnics. Make Your Exit and Dinosaur Bones have great acoustic sets.
What advice would you give people for next year?
Everyone’s making schedules, but it’s disappointing. Chill out. Half of the bands I’ve never heard of, and just came across, are pretty incredible. Throw yourself into the NXNE universe and let it take you on a trip of beautiful sounds. We had things we wanted to see before and after our show, but everyone at Rancho was so awesome, so we stayed. Discover new bands.
If you could play with anyone at the festival, who would it be?
Quintron and Miss Pussycat. I dig them so much right now, I think it’s so wicked what they’re doing.
What’s in your NXNE Survival Kit?
The handbook, money, charged cell phone, albums to pass out to people, pad and paper to take down phone numbers, contacts. Ear drums.
If you could compare Corduroy to any living thing, what would it be?
I don’t know how to explain what I’m thinking right now. A pigeon that was just pulled out of a top hat. I’m trying to think of magic, when you see it for the first time and you know how it happens, but it’s still awesome.