Monday, April 27, 2009

Interview with Andy Cabic

Sunday night concerts. These frequent occurrences typically strike fear into my 9-5 heart; the exception to this conundrum is Vetiver. Their easy going folk wraps you in a soft blanket and asks for little but your ears. Having never seen them live, I was thrilled to discover they booked a date at the Biltmore as part of their N.A tour supporting their 4th album Tight Knit, their first release with Sub Pop.

Never before has a musician offered to do

their interview with me prior to sound check, so I was taken aback when Andy Cabic strolled up and sat down beside me, gear unloading behind us. "We have a bout 20 minutes if you want to chat now" he said. Cabic is as gentle as his music. In a plush red velvet booth we discussed Tight Knit, Things of The Past, Sub Pop, blogging and more. I've met only a handful of people who posses the skill of making you feel like a life long friend at first meeting, and Andy Cabic is one of them. Many artists would write you off for a discography error, but (when I made one) he gently corrected me and moved forward without judgement. Of particular note was the motivation behind their 3rd album, Things of the Past, which was to test a new combination of musicians in the studio, prior to writing new material... thereby ironing out the kinks A practical, pragmatic idea; I wouldn't be at all surprised to see an increase in cover releases. I'm a huge now a fan of Cabic as a musician and as a human being.

On to the show, Sun Wizard were first to take the stage. They are a local Vancouver band comprised of good friends: Ben Frey, James Bull, Frank Lyons, and Malcolm Jack. Colourful personalities with an even more colorful sound. This happened to be their second live to date and they killed it! With two vocalists crooning in two very different styles from opposite sides of the stage, Sun Wizard sounded like the very demarcation between the Beatles, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Upbeat, folky, melodic tunes that got people dancing with good vibes. They played for about an hour, my anticipation of Vetiver battled my desire to continue to listen to them as I wondered how their sound will grow and change in their continued collaboration. Their aesthetic was a fragmented mosaic of influences resulting lack of a cohesive quality...but rendering a dynamic collection of sounds and perhaps that's their thing! Check out Sun Wizard and another local band Adelaide live at the Railway club on May 15th.

After reading that Richard Swift is one of Cabic's favorite songwriters, my intrigue and anticipation for his performance spiked. This was the final night of Swift joining Vetiver, he had toured with them for the first leg of their N.A. jaunt, and on this evening his set was quite unique. The day before he lost his base player to a stomach bug that had previously claimed Vetiver's drummer, Otto Hauser. But the show must go on, and Swift pulled off a solo performance tremendously! I caught up with him backstage after his set, and while he expressed frustration at being backed into his first solo performance in years, he was pleased to hear that I, like the rest of the crowd, gave him props for carrying the performance with all the gusto and charisma of someone surrounded by a full band. KUDOS!

My backstage jaunt between Swift and Vetiver's performance had a purpose. As a token of my appreciation, I have begun giving musicians a bottle of my favorite thing... The Naam's Miso Gravy; the condiment equivalent of crack. I had forgotten to bestow it post interview, so I rushed back and while Vetiver was tuning, timidly popped on stage and motioned to Otto that this was for Andy. "For me?" he asked, "No, for ANDY" I specified, red in the face. Andy had now taken notice of my presence, so I apologetically explained that I had brought this and neglected to give it to him. He recognized the bottle for what it was, "that's so nice, Sarah" I put it in the green room and hurried back to the crowd to claim a spot for the show. I didn't want to miso-bomb anyone!

With the gravy safe backstage, and myself in good position, Vetiver began to play. I was thrilled to hear the same Vetiver I had come to know and love through my head phones playing in front of me. The "Tight" in Tight Knit may or may not allude to their flawless live show. The audience was quieted, subdued. Closing my eyes, it was as if I was alone in a room with Cabic and his minstrels playing solely for me. This, of course, is not the case, but I believe that every audience member could recount the same perfection and intimacy. Their music is so soft and "easy" that one song seemed to blend into another in a seamless web of travelling music. All the while making you feel fucking great! So intensely did I enjoy their performance that I forgot entirely to keep track of a set list, my apologies. They opened with Rolling Sea, the first track off Tight Knit Highlights include Sister and Everyday (the latter featured in my interview) both off Tight Knight, and You May Be Blue and Idle Ties from To Find Me Gone.

I hope that Vetiver returns to Vancouver soon, and that Andy managed to sneak the miso gravy over the boarder!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Interview with Glasvegas

I had only a few minutes with Rab Allen (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Paul Donoghue (bass guitar, backing vocals) of the Scottish band Glasvegas. With a late arrival to the venue and prolonged sound checks I raced through as many questions as I could and grabbed a quick hug from James, Paul and Rab before they were whisked away for their final sound check.

Lack of time did not impact the ease with which they greeted and spoke to me. While positioning ourselves to maximize lighting, Rab offered his leg as my seat for the interview. I hopped up for second and we all had a laugh. I wouldn't conduct an interview on my subjects lap, but I could not have placed a better ice breaker if I tried.

We covered a range of topics, including Producer Rich Costey; how he sought out the band prior to their deal with Columbia and offered to do their album for next to nothing... that is until they signed with Columbia and his fees adjusted to their budget. Rich's ear, instinct and passion in approaching Glasvegas early on are potential reasons for their decision to work with him on their next album. That, and the fact that their debut self-titled album is killing it.

When I asked about their recording experience for A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) in a Transylvanian church in Romania I learned nothing of the recording process, but rather that Paul had been chased up a tree by a rabbid dog or two. It was sideways enough that I thought he must be putting me on.

That's the beauty of airs of pretenses. They are who they are and they're singing about what impacts them. Much of James' lyrical content draws from social problems in Glasgow and their delivery can be described as nothing but straight up. Playing from the heart, singing from the heart as they are. Case in point: when the founding drummer Ryan Ross left the band for the US in 2004, James recruited Caroline McKay. He used to frequent the shop she was working in to chat (never buying a thing) and convinced her to join the band. I was hoping to speak with her directly, my curiosity about surviving as the only woman in the band grew as I spent more time with the lads. A bunch of absolute cheeky monkeys with girls on the brain. Sexually charged allegories aside, I wouldn't have changed the dialogue for anything, as you'll see I was in stitches.

They opened with "Geraldine", one of their most widely known singles in Canada, about a social worker who left her job to follow the band. Hearing hundreds who knew the lyrics well enough for James to step back and allow the crows to carry the song was superb; my fears that Glasvegas are a secret too well kept in North America were put to rest. James provided little commentary throught the performance, except to say that they had been to Vancouver a few times before and he "fucking loves it!" Set highlights include "Flowers and Football Tops" and my personal favorite, "It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry". Closing with "Daddy's Gone", a morose outlook on childhood in a single parent family and probably their most famous single in Scotland, James was the last to reluctantly leave the stage, lingering in the adoration of the crowd. The stage remained lit with a pusling white lights and a steady screech of distortion and noise held strong for at least 4 minutes. The "noise" punctuated the end of the set in a powereful way; Galsvegas is done...exclaimation point!

**click on the article title to view interview for now, video will be uploaded shortly**

Thursday, April 9, 2009

White Lies and Friendly Fires at Richards on Richards

I've been paying more attention to the Richards on Richards web site since the reality set in that it will be torn down to make way for condos in September. From the two tiered intimate layout, to the lived and loved in graffiti smothered back stage rooms, bands and fans are facing a great loss in Vancouver.

Lamentations aside, I noticed that NME was presenting a double Brit bill, darlings White Lies and Frienly Fires at Richards on Richards on April 8, 2009. I was intrigued. Once I began to dig, I was blasted by a media blitz of excitement surrounding both bands, White Lies in particular. From Rolling Stone to SXSW to David Letterman all of North America was lifting their ears and sniffing the breeze from across the pond where White Lies debut album charted at #1 in the UK in January 2009. References like Joy Division and Ian Curtis, Interpole and Echo & The Bunnymen (to name a few) flew past me as I raced towards the realization that this could be what I have been looking for.

White Lies and Friendly Fires had been trading headlining throughout their North American jaunt. On this occasion, White Lies would take the stage first. Opening their set with Farewell To The Fairground, my expectations were demolished as Jack Lawrence-Brown's pulsing, if stripped drum line took control of my feet and held a firm grasp until the last note. The crescendo of this song, culminating with a building of repeated lyrics "Keep on running, there's no place like home" written by Charles Cave (bass, backing vocals) and sung with all Harry McVeigh's (vocals, guitar) force, demonstrated their understanding of tension, taking us for our first ride down the rabbit hole of white lies. From that moment on I was only partially aware of track names, or how long they had been playing for, the intensity was overwhelming. The lighting design mirrored the moody post- punk aesthetic with bold white lights pulsing, pushing the bigger moments. It was the perfect pairing.

McVeigh's reputed likeness to Ian Curtis in his vocal stylings, well justified; this is a difficult thing for me to write, let alone believe... to label me a Joy Division fan is a gross understatement. Other set highlights include the deliciously atmospheric To Lose My Life, the dark tale and deep organ synths of Unfinished Business, and the pop gallop From The Stars. There was a brief delay half way though due to Jack's ferocious stomping. He explained after that he has a nasty habit of blowing out the kick drum mic. I think it's a barometer of his passion and prowess; or perhaps he needs a more sophisticated mic. Closing with Death, they left the stage with no encore. This might've been due to McVeigh's sore through he'd battled earlier in the tour. The truth is, my appetite for them had become insatiable and no amount of encores would've sufficed.

The white lies are the result of an evolution from the former band "Fear of Flying". Playing together since youth, the band was a developmental project, influenced heavily by brit pop and lacking substance which they began to explore in the fall of 2007 with Unfinished Business. In October of 2007 they posted on their myspace "Fear of Flying is DEAD... White Lies is alive!" and with that they re-routed towards the matured dark sound that rock has been waiting for. I can not put it any better than this, "White Lies are the glowering, glistening, moody, magnificent, cheekbones-of-granite, stone cold future of Rock."

White Lies Set List

  1. Farewell to the Fairground

  2. To Lose My Life

  3. E.S.T

  4. From The Stars

  5. A Place To Hide

  6. Unfinished Business

  7. Fiftey On Our Foreheads

  8. The Price of Love

  9. Nothing To Give

  10. Death

After the frenzied stage re-organization, Friendly Fires came charging out of the gates when they took the stage. Only acutely familiar with them prior to the show, I was delighted to find myself enrolled in experimental pop 101, instructed by Friendly Fires in the art of spontaneous combustion. Lead singer Ed Macfarlane travelled the stage in a spirited dance, inviting the audience to shed a few layers... of pretenses AND clothing. With at least 4 simultaneous cow bells, instrument swapping and Macfarlane descending into the thick of the crowd sporadically throughout their performance, Friendly Fires topped off a phenomenal evening of music.

Macfarlane's command of the stage resembled no one that I have ever seen. The combination of his care free dance moves and vocal conviction encouraged each person in attendance to dance like no one is watching...and we did! He wore black slippers with a gold fox's head emrbiodered on the top. They are one of two pairs of slippers he reserves for performance, he later told me. We mused over the significance of the fox's head, I thought it was an homage to Peter Gabrielle's beginnings in stage theatrics when he came out in a red dress and fox's head. Macfarlane was reminded of a good old chap sitting in front of the fire with his pipe. I suppose he wins, given that they are his slippers.

I thought it was curious that they opted to put the drum set on the main stage area with all theur gear tightly organized. The richards stage isn't large to begin with, why cute your pace by a third? As the set went on members began trading places and instruments in a seamless dance where the music did not stop. Insert "ah ha" moment pertaining to my earlier observation. A hiensight observation: I would have rather had Friendly Fires open and White Lies close. After the intensity of white lies, I felt that Friendly Fires lacked substance, of no fault of their own. These bands have two very different sounds, White Lies hit me like a tranquelizer dart full of all my musical buttons instead of poison. Hats off to Friendly Fires, I danced non-stop and enjoyed chatting with them afterwards. Lovely people.

Friendly Fires Set List
  1. Lovesick

  2. Jump In The Pool

  3. Skeleton Boy

  4. In The Hospital

  5. White Diamonds

  6. Strobe

  7. Photobooth

  8. On Board

  9. Paris

  10. Ex Lover
A special shout out to Malcolm and Sealed With A Kiss, who presented this show in conjunction with NME and consistently bring amazing music to Vancouver AND got me into the sold out show that has claimed many, irretrievable. Find them at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interview with George Stroumboulopoulos

Friday March 27th was one of the best days of my life. Dramatic, I know, but when you have the opportunity to meet with your career icon in your medium, in the perfect setting... well it doesn't get much better.

I had been trying to set up the interview for a few days... with no clear answer I was on the edge of my seat with my questions prepped when I received a txt from Strombo, "hey SW, it's G S how's it goin?" My colleague Alexis will verify that I jumped 5 feet in the air.

My DOP, Patrick Henry, and I picked Strombo up in Pat's truck, headed to the seawall and got down to business. The interview went relatively smoothly. In terms of our dialogue it was natural, fun, energetic. We came across a few fans of Strombo (big shocker) and halted the interview so he could say whad up. We also passed by a large commercial shoot. Now THAT was funny. Here we are, with our shot-gun mic, wire dangling below the frame and Pat walking backwards ever so carefully for 35 minutes plus... this other shoot had at least 20 people involved, a mountain of cables to power up all of their gear, I think they even had a Krafty truck. I laughed feeling mildly embarrassed for my short comings, but I though "they may have the gear, but we've got the guy".

Interviewing the interviewer is great in some ways, tricky in others. Once or twice he turned the questions on me, which was cool, but in one instance he was speaking so quickly that I hadn't understood the question. Oops! In addition, his responses were lengthy (I think I asked a question once every 2-5 minutes) which is great for me, challenging for Pat when he tried to cut it together. We have so much content that we will cut and post a second instalment of the interview. This will focus more on music, the Junos and the guests they feature on his show The Hour. Which, everyone should watch. Every night if you can!

After the interview Pat, Strombo and I went belt buckle shopping for him on Granville. He was looking for a Black Flag belt buckle and also picked up a sparkly Eazy E buckle. We then grabbed Alex Liu, producer and director, and Erik Hughes of Moneen and all piled into Pat's truck. This was perhaps the best part of the day. Picture Erik in the covered cab of the truck, strombo and I in the fold up seats tucked behind Alex and Pat who were the only ones sitting in proper seats up front. It was like an industry clown car as we piled out in front of Tojo Sushi (the inventor of the California Roll). Of course, when you're with Strombo you get great service anywhere, but we were treated exceptionally well at Tojos. After an amazing meal and a few hours of great conversation we were all given gifts from the restaurant. Each of us received a different colour promotional toenail clipper. Probably THE most random promotional item for a restaurant but I appreciate the Strombo souvenire. Mine is pink:)
George Stroumboulopoulos is one of the most legit, funny, intelligent and down to earth people I have met. He spoke to everyone who stopped him that day (at least 30 people) with the same courtesy and attention whether it was a former exec at Sony BMG or person struggling with rehab. I already respected him more than any other as a media personality, now I have the utmost respect for him as a human being. Watch The Hour on CBC and listen to the Strombo Show on the radio ( for your local station)!

Interview with Warren Spicer of Plants and Animals

I can't express how much I love Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret and it's staff.  I was ecstatic to discover that one of my favorite Montreal indie bands, Plants and Animals, would be playing there!  I landed the interview a mere two days prior to the sold out show... it was a frantic search for a DOP and editor with which to do the piece.  Luckily for me, Sheldon Pearson was on hand to save the day!

We arrived at the Biltmore on a (surprise, surprise) rainy evening on March 18th, but we managed to shoot our intro as an external with just enough light and shelter.  The sound check for P&A was underway and we had to maximize every second.  Opening act, DRM HLLR, would have to begin their sound check immediately afterwards.  My stress increased when the P&A sound check went 30 minutes over schedule.  Picture me, pacing around the dance floor, sourcing the best lighting option (this time we didn't even have a bounce sheet) and trying to be visible enough to remind Warren Spicer, lead singer and guitar player, of our presence.

Once they finished, we jumped right into the interview and, to my relief, it was as natural as chatting with a friend!  Warren was down to earth, engaged and fun.  Great Interviewee.  One funny moment was when I asked him "Can you describe your music for us in your own words?" and he replied "I try not to."  Now this is what I had imagined he might be feeling, but I had expected him to try... instead the conversation divulged into the challenges of fans and critics striving to categorize a sound... to put it in a box.  That's one of the better lessons I have learned in interviewing.  Success isn't that the subject responds how you might like them to, but that they are being themselves, that you are able to follow them and, if you're lucky, they'll meet you half way.

The interview was over in a flash (translation: 7 minutes or so).  As DRM HLLR began to strum their guitars I said, "well I guess that's all the time we have!"   I thanked Warren for his time as Sheldon and I rushed to the office behind the bar to squeeze in our VOs before the sound check was in full swing.  We just made it, and I was elated!

DRM HLLR did a wonderful job getting people on the floor and dancing, which is not an easy feat for an opening... particularly for an instrumental band.  I was impressed with their songs and stage presence.  Each well crafted (and ironically titled) piece took me on a journey of highs and lows with lots of built in stops.  You could never relax into the assumption that you understood the song and knew where it was taking you.  Full of surprises!

P&A more than lived up to their reputation.  I hadn't previously seen them live and their energy was outstanding.  It was hard to understand such a voluminous sound coming from a three man band!  By voluminous, I don't mean loud (although they were that too) but rather full, almost choral.  Warren's vocals are so strong, his sore throat that he was battling was undetectable.  Each of the members have incredible stage presence.  They concluded their set with Bye Bye Bye, but it began in a way that the audience couldn't initially detect it... although, I had bet my new friend Sarah that it they would close with that song!  When Nick began strumming the harp just before the climax the crowd went so wild that he hung in the moment strumming away, which threw Warren as to when to come in and gave us all a giggle.  This is why I love live music more than anything else in the world!!  Nick told me later that he had received a few tips on how to dramatically play the harp from an actor... it payed off!

After they left the stage, the audience screamed so relentlessly that one member of DRM HLLR who was watching from stage left, approached the mic and simply said "come on boys".  Almost immediately, they returned with one final song that ran around 7 minutes long.  SENSATIONAL!  

I tried to get my hands on a set list unsuccessfully, and was too wrapped up in the moment to make notes.  But here is the interview with B Roll of the performance, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Franz Ferdinand @ The Commodore Ballroom

It was raining in Vancouver on December 9th as I approached the entrance of the Commodore Ballroom. While fumbling around for my contact number, Bob Hardy (Bassist for Franz Ferdinand) arrived and buzzed up.  Announcing "Franz Ferdinand" when asked who he was with, I wasted no time riding his coat tail up the stairs where the sound check was under way.  A few journalists were scattered around the fringes of the dance floor striving to be simultaneously visible and out of the way.  I was one of 5 or 6 press teams patiently waiting for their 15 minutes with members of Franz Ferdinand; a feeling of every man for himself crept over the room as the sound check had already run over by 20 minutes.

I watched on with envy as the "24" team fitted singer Alex Kapranos with a wireless LAV and set up their three point lighting kit. Damn:  wouldn't it be nice to be working with more than a shot-gun mic and a bounce sheet (to be held by my future sister-in-law, Jana Morton).  One day.  "What I lack in gear, I make up for in interview prep and charisma" I told myself over and over again as we checked our lighting and shot.  Finally, it was our turn with Alex and, as luck would have it, Paul Thomson (drummer) arrived just in time to join us.

Off to a running start, I ask a question in earnest which made them laugh.  Oh well, you can't script an organic dialogue, so I took that energy and ran with it.  Kapranos is a seasoned pro in an interview.  I knew this before hand, having watched many interviews online, but I was not prepared for him to literally grab the mic and pass it back and forth between myself, Paul and he.  "Seems like you're doing my job for me" I jabbed, and he handed back my cherished weapon of mass destruction.  I had control once more.  From then on the interview flowed in a natural, dialogic way: my initial nerves gone, candid responses... the way an interview aught to be.  Until I was distracted by their tour manager Rebecca standing behind my DOP, Patrick Henry, giving me the "wrap it up" hand motion.  Unfortunately this ensued for my final two questions and left a sour taste in  my mouth.  But it's a small thing to fret, having just completed my biggest interview at that time.  So, shaking off the bad vibes, I headed home to change into my favorite pair of electric blue shiny tights and prepared to dance!!

And finally.. show time.  The opening act, Nardwuar and The Evaporators, treated the audience to an unforgettable performance.  It was not for their music that they will be remembered, but rather the head to toe spandex outfits (at least I was not alone) and partial nudity.  Quite the dichotomy.  That's all I can say about that, except that I had fun.

I watched from backstage right as Franz took the stage and commanded the audience with little effort... we were ripe for the taking after the spandex experience.  My first time seeing Franz live, I was pleased to enjoy a group of musicians who clearly knew what they were doing.  Ironically this would also become my single criticism as the set went on: the lack of spontaneity and liveness that comes out of the occasional fuck up or jab at another band member.  That was, until Kapranos began crowd surfing while playing his guitar! And just like that, they had me once more.  I rocked hard to their new tracks from Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, particularly Ulysses.  Closing their final encore with "This Fire" they left us all aflame. 

I tried to get backstage post show. HA!  Fucking forget about it.  Live Nation is as tight as they come.  Not to mention Rebecca with her iron fist refused to sign my performer releases.  Ah well, you can't win em all.  I did get a great interview and saw a kick ass show.  At the end of the day, that's all that matters.  So please enjoy!

Set List

1. Bite Hard
2. Michael
3. Matinee
4. Live Alone
5. Walk Away
6. Do You Want To?
7. Take Me Out
10. What She Came For

11. Turn It On
12. Fallen
13. Outsiders
14. This Fire

Franz Ferdinand Interview