BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics.
BOOK OF BRIDGE THE LAST SLICE a final farewell to a local favourite by Tyler Stewart On August 27th, the longest-running music venue in Lethbridge permanently closed its doors. After 11 years of operations under brothers Jesse and Tyler Freed, The Slice was not just the most consistent place to see live music in town, but a breeding ground for the local music scene, and to many, a second home. “I discovered The Slice because of a Sun-Rype juice commercial, actually,” explains Jesse Northey, namesake of the art-pop group Jesse and the Dandelions, and a Lethbridge-raised musician now living in Edmonton. “I searched out the song from the commercial to discover it was Said The Whale, and weirdly enough, they were actually playing The Slice the next day.” As an 18-year-old just starting out in the music scene, that concert made a huge impact on Northey as he began playing shows, hosting jam nights and promoting concerts himself at The Slice. “It’s really a testament to the community of Lethbridge, how The Slice brought people together for music and developed friendships,” Northey says. “It gave me an opportunity to get up and play with people that were way beyond my skill level, but in a way I could learn and grow. I haven’t found another place that’s been that supportive.” Local songwriter and occasional bartender Shaela Miller can testify to receiving the same support – even having her face chosen for the iconic mural that graces the outside of the building. “My very first show at The Slice was the night the mural was completed,” Miller says. “The Slice was like home to me and to so many other local musicians and music lovers alike.” While The Slice nurtured the local music scene, it also played a role in developing more of a pan-Albertan music community, offering a consistent place for touring bands to route through. From hosting the kick-off to the Swig of Alberta travelling festival, to providing guarantees to touring acts that would otherwise never stop in Lethbridge, The Slice went out on a limb night after night to help musicians connect with local audiences. “There were plenty of bands like July Talk, Hollerado, Said the Whale, and others that chose to spend valuable time there,” Northey says. “It was The Slice making these types of shows happen. Without them taking that risk, the Lethbridge music scene would not be what it is today.” While the scene will soldier on, thanks to newer venues like The Owl and Attainable Records, Lethbridge has not only lost the best thin crust pizza in the province (if you ate there, you’ll know), but a place where friends were made, passions were encouraged, and community was built. “The Slice closing almost feels like a painful breakup,” Miller laments. “The kind of breakup where you are both still deeply in love, but know in your heart it is over and there is no turning back.” The end of an era is Lethbridge arrives with the closing of hub The Slice. photo: Jon Martin POSTNAMERS music to consume you by Courtney Faulkner J Being hypnotized into a trance by the delicately haunting, unearthly electronic sounds that build into a great body bursting climax is a common symptom of immersing yourself into a Postnamers live performance. To gain the full effect of this musical magic your presence really is necessary. “I’d say with Postnamers it’s 75 per cent pre-planned and 25 per cent just feeling it,” says Matthew Wilkinson, the creative front of Postnamers who encapsulates your attention with resounding vocals accompanied by disjointed dance moves. “The songs are structured in a way where even within the structure that does exist there’s so much room for members of the band to just do their own thing on top of it.” “The improvisation is built into the song,” says harpist Mary Wood, who also plays with Wilkinson in her band Feverfew. “There are times that everyone knows they can explode.” “I like crescendos,” says Wilkinson, “And the way we reach the crescendo will be different every time.” These improvisational interludes are the highlight of a Postnamers show, where all chaos is released into a fury and you find yourself completely present in your existence. On October 15th you can fully enter your body, as Postnamers plays with Melted Mirror and Physical Copies at Attainable Records. “Melted Mirror plays really clever synth-driven pop,” says Wilkinson. “Their singer is really charismatic, they’re a really fun band. And photo: Levi Manchak you can always dance your ass off to Physical Copies.” Keep tuned to a Postnamers album being released in 2017. “I’ve got a full record that’s full orchestration, it’s huge sounding,” says Wilkinson. “It was four years where all my spare moments were put into music making or masturbation.” Postnamers play with Melted Mirror and Physical copies at Attainable Records October 15th. BLISSETTE tropical glam in a 12-string guitar is a lot of strangeness that’s beautiful and needs to be celebrated, which is “There a lot of what J Blissette is rooted in,” says Jackson Tiefenbach of their current musical project and adopted artistic persona. “This is the opportunity to do something that is uniquely my own.” “Music is an avenue that allows me to be the kind of person that I want to be, and to have the freedom even just to be walking around wearing as many scarves as I am at any given moment,” says Blissette. “There’s some real self-expression and honesty to the life of an artist.” With a flair for floral shirts, black lipstick, leather jackets and a quintessential light up pink flamingo as the fifth band mate on stage, J photo: Meghan MacWhirter by Courtney Faulkner Blissette “plays songs that sound like what Marc Bolan would write if he spent three years getting drunk in Havana, and had more of an interest in government conspiracies and serial killers.” A little bit dark, and a lot of fun, they’re one of the new bands that arose from the ashes of what’s been dubbed “The Great Band Death of 2016,” a time where the Lethbridge scene experienced numerous band breakups, and the closing of a beloved music venue, The Slice. Blissette, formerly The Ruby Plumes, experienced a monumental shift in the past six months after he quit drinking and his band broke up. “Leading up to that point I had two consistencies in my life,” says Blissette, “And that was drinking and The Ruby Plumes, and those both left.” “You have these things in your life, and they keep you stable, they hold you down... that went away,” says Blissette. “I no longer have getting black out drunk to look forward to, so I have to find actual things that make me happy, or make me a better person, to look forward to.” “I got sober, and with that came, ‘There went your last excuse to be doing anything other than great things.’ So let’s really focus and try really hard, and learn to sing, and learn to be a bit more of a frontman, and make better music,” says Blissette. “Now I’m in a group of the best musicians available who are just great people working very hard, and putting more work into the music than ever.” J Blissette plays with Flatbed and Blü Shorts October 28th at the Lethbridge Fish and Game Hut. 36 | OCTOBER 2016 • BEATROUTE ROCKPILE
letters from winnipeg DUOTANG embrace nostalgia as vice by Julijana Capone MICAH Duotang are back with a new album after a 15-year hiatus. Winnipeg bass-and-drum combo Duotang have a new record, called New Occupation, their first full-length since 2001. Considering the band’s demise began in Calgary (during an argument-turned-fist-fight over ordering chicken or pizza), it only makes sense then that the reformed duo should launch a Western Canadian tour in support of the album from the same city where, over a decade ago, it all imploded. After a string of successful reunion shows in 2014 and 2015, which led to some new material surfacing, all signs had been pointing to a new album. While Duotang’s sound has always been informed by a number of sources, on New Occupation they haven’t lost sight of those garage-infused touches. With 15 more years in, it’s confident, minimalist rock ‘n’ roll fuzz ornamented with vox and self-aware lyrics. Not of one particular time, and still best served live. “I was ready to be done after our first reunion show in Winnipeg at The Good Will,” says drummer Sean Allum. “It was like this perfect night. We played great. Everybody loved it. I was the one pushing to do that show. Rod didn’t really want to do it. Then Rod brought in these new songs… This is by far our best album. Duotang 2016 is what Duotang 2001 always wanted to be.” “We have nothing to worry about and nothing to prove,” adds vocalist/bassist Rod Slaughter. “That’s a nice feeling. We’re just making music that feels right.” The album’s tongue-in-cheek lead track sets the tone with the repeating refrain “nostalgia’s a vice and I lack self-restraint,” a jab at those who’re stuck in the past. “We all know people like that, who are like, ‘It’s not good if it’s not from 1966,’” says Slaughter. “By the end of the song, I realize I’m the exact same way. I’m that person that I’m complaining about.” While two-thirds of the album’s content is new, some of the material was written at different times. “Friends,” for instance, originally appeared on the band’s first 7-inch. Even still, it all comes together into a cohesive narrative, commenting on the struggle to balance work and responsibilities (“New Occupation”) while fulfilling other passions (“That’s What Keeps Us Alive”). “I think the main theme is poking fun at people like us that are working a 9-to-5, and are still focused on doing the right thing to keep the roof over our heads,” explains ROCKPILE photo: Jason Halstead Slaughter. “But we’re not whole, we don’t feel right. We need to fill our lives with other things—whether they’re creative or destructive.” In the decade or so following their split, both members have settled into careers, and Allum now has two children (his 11-yearold daughter, Abby, appears in the mods-versus-rockers-themed video for “Karma Needs to Come Around”). Despite the fact that Duotang never did achieve any substantial level of notoriety, they still managed to make a permanent mark on many within the Canadian indie-rock scene of the late-‘90s and early 2000s. “If there was ever anything to say about Duotang, it’s what this guy once told me in Calgary,” says Allum. “He said: ‘You’re never gonna make it, but you’ll influence some bands.’ At the time it was kind of a knock on us, but you talk about Duotang now with people that were in the music scene, and they really liked us. We never had a huge audience. The small following of fans that really dug us, a lot of them were musicians.” Now many of the musicians that got behind them in their heyday are showing their support once again. Stomp Records founder and Planet Smashers frontman Matt Collyer is releasing New Occupation on his label. Vancouver power-pop act Uptights will be joining Duotang on all of their Western Canadian tour dates. Apparently, Uptights organist Jesse Gander (also a well-known record producer) reached out to Slaughter after hearing the band was putting out a new album. As well, Brent Oliver (Duotang’s manager) will be resurrecting his long dismantled outfit, Slow Fresh Oil, with Lyle Bell (of The Wet Secrets) for Duotang’s Edmonton date. “Admittedly, we were never very big, and now most people have no idea who we are,” says Slaughter. “But the fact that some people who we really admire and respect are saying it’s great that you’re doing this, that means the world to us.” “It’s all coming back full circle,” says Allum. Duotang perform at The Palomino on October 28 (Calgary), 9910 on October 29 (Edmonton), Canmore Hotel on November 2 (Canmore), The Biltmore on November 3 (Vancouver) Copper Owl on November 4 (Victoria) and The Good Will on November 12 (Winnipeg). To purchase New Occupation, head to stomprecords.com. VISSER indie-pop newcomer takes a leap forward by Julijana Capone 20. All of my friends are 20. We’re all just so dysfunctional,” says Winnipeg indie-pop wunderkind Micah Visser. “You can’t expect to have “I’m your shit together at this age.” The up-and-coming singer-songwriter is talking about the inspiration behind his new EP, Forward, a document of “the strange, fearful step into adulthood,” according to his bio, where the future is so exciting yet so uncertain. “It’s a very strange time, because everything just feels so up in the air,” he says. “A lot of things change really fast.” The album’s second track, “Keeping Up,” about dysfunctional relationships, adds to the premise, shimmering with sunny synth-pop sounds and Visser’s endearing vocal awkwardness. “The idea of two dysfunctional people trying to help each other seems like a good idea in theory, but a lot of the time it just perpetuates the cycle of dysfunction,” he says. “You don’t know why you’re keeping up with this person, but you just keep on doing it.” Before he was out of high school, Visser had released a handful of folk-inspired bedroom recordings, culminating into his first full-length, ok night, in 2015. While Visser’s previous works have been self-produced solo efforts, Forward is his first record with the inclusion of a full band—which happens to include his brother and long-time collaborator, Joseph, on guitar. “My brother has been huge every step of the way,” says Visser. “It’s been really exciting for me to take these parts that I’ve written that are fairly simple and take them to people that are so great at their instruments. They just take it that much further.” The album, as Visser notes, was not just about moving forward personally, but also musically, and allowing himself to be more open to collaboration. “I felt like I had gone as far as I could go with the sound on ok night, especially live,” says Visser. “I wanted to give people something that was a little more fun live without detracting from the emotion of the music. “Part of me, before especially, just wanted music to be about me,” he continues. “I just wanted it to be my little thing… I think of music more as a shared thing now.” Micah Visser performs at Swing Machine Factory on October 6 (Edmonton), Broken City on October 7 (Calgary), and Vangelis Tavern on October 13 (Saskatoon). For more information, head to micahvisser.com Indie-pop wunderkind Micah Visser keeps moving forward. photo: Joseph Visser BEATROUTE • OCTOBER 2016 | 37