Modern Space moves through Edmonton

The past year has been a bit chaotic for Toronto based five piece, Modern Space. Only officially formed in late 2014, the band recorded songs, received Canada wide airplay, opened for UK rockstars The Vaccines, and were signed to Warner Music within 2015. Just last week they released their seven song LP, Before Sunrise, amidst their jam packed tour across the prairies and western Canada.

In all the chaos and excitement, some of the smaller things are the most exciting for lead singer Sean Graham, like the first time he heard his song, their first single “Pen to Paper”, on the the radio station he grew up listening to.

“My friends called me and were like ‘hey Sean we’re going to be on in like two songs.’” Graham explained. “I was at a bar so I ran out and I hailed a cab because I wanted to hear it in a car and then pretty much drove around because it ended up being four songs. I spent like 25 bucks but the song finally came on the air. I got to hear it on the radio and that was just a pretty surreal moment.”

That song is one of seven on the band’s newest EP, Before Sunrise, just released on January 22. The album, fitting it’s name, is filled with energetic vibes and stories of adventures after dark that 23 year-old Graham wrote with bandmates Sam Arion, Tay Ewart, Alex Laurie, and Cody Steele in a cabin last year.

“I like to pull a lot of my writing just from experience,” says Graham. “I always like to go out. I go to a music festival and then come back and write about being at a music festival or go on the road and try to meet people and explore and take a second to kind of recap the things that happen to you.”

If you listen to the upbeat sounds and lyrics of their EP, it might sound a lot happier than it really is though. Also inspired by literature, especially melancholic poets like Dylan Thomas, the album is still etched with darker parts.

“It still has a bit of heartbreak and sorrow in it in trying to overcome specific things,” Graham says. “Rule Britannia was very much about being with the right girl and the wrong drugs, kind of things going from good to bad super fast.”

A lot of things seem like they’re going super fast for Modern Space, but it might not seem that way for the band who have been working at this far longer than the year that they’ve been together. Graham began song writing when he was in the eighth grade and eventually developed his vocal skills in a less conventional way.

“I kind of learnt how to sing by just singing old strokes songs. For one week I would sing one half of the Strokes record and the next week I would flip the record over and just sing that… probably drove my parents crazy.”

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Modern Space have accomplished a lot in a year, and have a lot more to look forward to. They have five shows opening for the Arkells in the middle of their tour spanning from Sudbury, Ontario to Vancouver, BC. After the tour they also have the release of a couple music videos before they prepare for festival season.

But for right now Sean Graham and the rest of Modern Space seem to be enjoying his favourite things: travelling, drinking, meeting new people on the road, and of course playing their songs live. When asked about his favourite song to play live, it didn’t take long for Graham to respond.

“‘Pen to Paper’ or ‘Let it out’,” Graham answers. “Because I get to jump on Alex’s back at the very end. It’s a gamble. Sometimes we fall over, sometimes it works. You never know, you never know till you do it.”

Catch Modern Space live January 30 at the Shaw Conference Centre (opening for Arkells) or February 13 at The Brixx.

 

Images and music courtesy of Warner Music

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Hopeful Horizon at the Artery

Fawcett Alberta is a hamlet of under eighty people in Westlock County, and yet they have managed to produce three musicians that have been showing up all over stages across Edmonton. Brothers Greg and Andrew Tkach form The Gear Seabastian (with a little help form their Fawcett neighbour, Jeremy Pudlowski) and are about to release their second album, Hopeful Horizon.

Staying true to the album name, the Tkach brother have crafted five songs that look up at the brighter sides of life, even when it might not be easy to.

The first song, and arguably the strongest on the album, “A Place I Once Knew”, plays out like a three part story channelling three different eras of The Beatles.

The song starts off with lighthearted vocals from the brothers that in ways mimic that ideal Beatlesmania sound, but by the end of the song you’re well past the sounds of Abbey Road.

“I know for me John Lennon influenced me a lot just for his voice,” explained Greg Tkach. “Not only his voice but social change. Just the way he told stories and how raw and emotional his music was.”

The song is followed by a song closer to the social change that Greg speaks about. “Somehow I Still Believe” is all about putting your passionate towards creating positive change, no matter what exactly that is.

It probably has a lot to do with the passion that encouraged the pair to spend most their free time working their through the Edmonton music scene. While the band has been together for far longer, they only started playing in Edmonton when Greg moved here in 2010.

“We started playing open mics at first,” explained Andrew Tkach. “The first couple open mics were fairly nervous but after you just build off your confidence.”

They’ve played more than a few shows around town now and are about to play one of the biggest ones to date for their CD release. Hopeful Horizon’s release was scheduled for March 28 at the Artery, which has recently become the last weekend running for the small venue.

After the City of Edmonton forced the Artery’s doors closed, The Gear Seabastian’s CD release has transformed into a lot more. From an evening show to an all day affair, it’s now a grand party to say goodbye to an Edmonton favourite, and the band is more than happy to be part of it.

The brothers have been playing in the city for a few years and have made ties with many people behind the Edmonton music scene, and Artery owner Philip Muz is one of them. Muz and the Artery have been a frontrunner in Edmonton for promoting new and local bands.

“It’s a pretty welcoming scene,” says Greg Tkach about moving into the Edmonton music scene. “If you’re willing to put in the work and go out there and meet new people I think it’s not a hard transition.”

Tickets are sold out for the event, but there’s a chance more will be released for the day long event that begins at noon at the Artery. It will continue onto Sunday as well, which is not sold out online yet.

Hopeful Horizon will be available to purchase at the show through a drop card or online on March 28. The show will be one to remember for the Edmonton music community, so it’s best to find a way to be there yourself. It’s more than a CD release now.

“It’s about celebrating music,” said Greg Tkach.

The Gear Seabastian Bandcamp 

I Am Machi set to explore our ‘Magnetic North’

Edmonton based rock group I Am Machi are about to embark on an interesting journey for the next couple months. Most artists tour to promote an album, but this husband wife duo are about to road trip across Canada playing shows from Cranbrook, BC to big city Toronto to find the inspiration for their newest project. The album will appropriately be named Magnetic North and won’t be the first challenge for Nathan and Jileane.

I Am Machi began as a challenge when their friends, and bandmates, moved away or started families. Instead of trying to find replacements, the pair decided to just see how much noise the two of them could make on their own.

With Nathan on guitar and lead vocals, and Jileane banging on the drums, the pair manage to create some of the best live rock’n’roll in the city. Their shows give off a Biffy Clyro meets The Kills kind of vibe, plus a lot of fun on stage banter between the two.

These “partners in everything” have a lot to look forward to as they take on the entire nation for the very first time, but as nervous as they were, they were twice as excited when they sat down to talk about it.


Where did the name, I Am Machi come from, and who is Machi?

Jileane: I drew this like weirdly sketched, very detailed picture of a gnome holding his hat and it was kind of cute and our brother-in-law looked at it and he was like ‘his name should be Machi, spelled m-a-c-h-i.’ I was like good and wrote a little speech bubble beside the gnome and wrote “I Am Machi”. Months later we were looking for a band name, just flipping through and were like ‘that’ll work’. That was it. So it doesn’t actually mean anything.

Nathan: And now it’s too late because you can google it.

Jileane: Yea now we’re googlable [sic] so we can’t take it back. It’s too late.

Q: What was the story you were planning to tell?

N: What I’m trying to come up with is: Something by day, destroyer of misogyny at night. I don’t know what he does by day. Librarian? And destroyer of misogyny at night.

J: Is it just destroyer of misogyny? That seems oddly specific.

N: Yea well he’s got to fight the patriarchy. I don’t know. The fake story means more.

Q: You guys started off just as a two-piece wanting to see how much noise you could make. Have you ever thought of adding another member to the band?

J: You know we did for a bit. We thought about looking for a bassist.

N: It was sort of like a cocktail of convenience because it’s so easy to practice at home because we both live under the same roof. If want to practice we practice, if we wanna wear sweat pants and watch cartoons all day then we’ll do that instead. So it kind of relaxes us on that front but also I think we also want to keep challenging ourselves so we kind of stay away from getting a bassist.

J: I think at this point if we got a bassist at this point it would make us recant a lot of statements we made about why we even started the band. I just like the challenge of it being two people. When we go on tour, I mean our roommate Colin Close is coming which is awesome, but if he weren’t it would just be the two of us and it would just be a family road trip. The two of us is just really convenient. And we’re like the laziest people on the planet so this is the best way.

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Image courtesy of I Am Machi press kit.

Q: Your upcoming tour is pretty big, have you ever done anything to this size before?

N: No. We’re very excited and nervous at the same time.

J: Yea it’s a first time. I’ve never been farther east than Manitoba and Nathan’s never been farther east than Saskatchewan. This is like a big deal. We’ve never been to Ontario before so it’s really cool.

N: Our new record we’re working on, we’re calling it Magnetic North just because like, again, we’ve never really seen Canada. It’s a big country to see cause Canada is enormous. A lot of these songs ended up being written in B.C. doing some shows there so we want to like see the country that we call home before.

J: We’re all kind of influenced by our favourite and least favourite parts of this country we live in and we want to see that country before we end up recording a CD. We’re starting with this chunk.

N: Also it gives us time to finish writing it.

Q: Does Edmonton influence your music?

N: We love winter and we hate summer. I know that that makes a lot of people upset, confuses a lot of people. Really Edmonton is like this weird place of furious weather where you’ll have this short stint of summer but winter just digs in and there’s lots of snow. I mean we were colder than Mars last year weren’t we? So that’s awesome.

J: When you’re colder than a planet that’s farther from the Sun than you, that’s cold.

N: All that to say, we live kind of by the river valley so in the winter time our neighbourhood just become really quiet. I think Edmonton and Alberta as a whole, the amount of fury that’s in the land is I think really inspiring.

J: Just the physical beauty of it.

N: The last time we went on tour it was a lot of shows in B.C., and the coming back into Alberta was almost relieving because suddenly the mountains just fell away and you’re left with these contrasts of solid gold wheat fields and indescribable blue skies. There’s just something calming and inspiring.

Q: What’s been the best part of the last few years with I Am Machi?

N: Getting to this point is really neat. When we first started we were like ‘we should make music together’ but I never thought we’d get here as fast as we did. Just being able to tour and make music semi-full time or have it be a significant part of our lives. Also we’d been able to open for Pack A.D. and Taste of Iceland show last year which was, Brixx was packed wall to wall. It was awesome.

J: There’s always those moments that you come away from them going ‘This is why we do this.’ There’s been handfuls of those moments over the two, almost three years that just kind of keep making it worth while. They help keep you going into the less ideal moments, the ones where you’re like ‘Why do we do this?!’

N: We played the Taste of Iceland show which was in front of like 200 people and it was an awesome nice and made lots of friends. The next night we played in Mornville to a crowd of like 10 people who all wanted us to do country covers. We played like a foot away from a stripper pole. It was sticky.

J: It’s those really crappy moments where you’re like told onto the good parts that you know will happen because this is a gig, this is a job that you have to do cause there’s parts of every job that are shitty. Even when we did a mini Western Canada tour last year we ran out of money so we had to go home and call it quits so it was really discouraging. Even in that there were moments that we played a couple of shows in B.C., like the one at Fernandos, it was mad packed, really good. But you come out of that an play some crappy shows and then you end up running out of money and you go ‘oh my gosh this is falling apart’. But even in the midst of that there were some really good moments.

Tyler Butler battles Edmonton winters with songs

Music is often a result of where you come from and where you end up. For singer songwriter Tyler Butler, whose big move south was from the Arctic to Edmonton, his music has become an original story painting the literal cold that shakes our hearts.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tyler moved up north for six years at a young age. Since then he’s spent most of his life in Edmonton, where he discovered the guitar at 18. His previous years of poetry had met their match. Together they tell the often melancholy folk tales that take place in the prairie cold.

There is a definite sadness that is emitted from the music.

“It’s the way I sing and it’s the way I write and it’s the way the songs sound in my head,” Tyler explains. “But I’m more focused on the character in the story than trying to depress you. My happy songs sound sad and my sad songs sound sadder.”

That’s just the way his music comes out, even if he doesn’t mean for it to. Take the song Sparrow from his 2012 sophomore LP “Winter King”, which potentially could have been a optimistic love song but rather begins and ends with his lyric ‘I know someday we’ll have to kiss for the last time.’

Whether the stories are his own or those of the characters he’s created or pulled from mythology, the deciding factor often seems to be wrap around the effect Edmonton can have in the dead of winter. For many this can mean it’s time to get out, like the character in his song Royal Alex who says ‘this city’s too dry for my bones.’

Tyler is not his characters. Tyler has survived the winters and spent his time documenting how the cold isolated him from his friends and made him view the way we use the indoors in a different light. It’s some of the same friends who have had the greatest influence on his music because of their role in the Edmonton music scene.

With their help Tyler finds his fit on local stages with small quiet audiences he knows will work for him.

“If I’m trying to fight people talking or drinking,” Tyler begins, “it’s just not what my music is right for. If I try to play a big bar here in town it’s just not going to go well. It never has.”

Despite craving intimate gigs over rowdy bars, Tyler shouldn’t be confused as a shy person. He’s self aware of this dual persona as well and notices it most when he’s doing interviews.

“People are like ‘I kind of expect you to be like really sad and quiet’.”

While his music portrays this quieter sides in a lot of ways, Tyler spends most of his day shouting out through the internet as the social media communicator for MacEwan University. He got the job soon after graduating from the University of Alberta in 2011 and has been working in communications since.

Image from Tyler Butler Facebook Page.
Image from Tyler Butler Facebook Page.

Working a full-time job, having a social life, and managing his music has become a bit more difficult in the past few years as his commitments pile up. When he began his journey as a singer songwriter he felt being creative was something that just happened whenever he sat down, but things have changed and Tyler carries a lot more half written songs around than he wishes he did.

“Now,” he explains about sitting down to write, “I have to carve that time out of my week.”

No matter how busy his schedule, Tyler has managed to accomplish a lot in the past five years. He’s hit many personal milestones like receiving his degree, moving in with his girlfriend, and getting a job he loves. This is of course on top of releasing LPs, EPs, and a live album. Yet he stresses he’s still looking ahead.

When asked what what exactly he looks forward to accomplishing in the next five years, he laughs, “Oh my god, did my mom send you?”

While part of his dreams include opening up for J. Tillman in a Church, before or during the American singer songwriter’s stint with the Fleet Foxes, Tyler’s answer to this question was a lot simpler.

“I want to be writing music til I’m 85 or a hundred and sharing it with the couple hundred people around the world who care about it,” he answers. “Yea that’s where I want to be for the music side of things.”


Tyler plays Wunderbar tomorrow, February 11. More Information on Event Page.

All music available on Bandcamp.

A Wee Rant

psa

One of the most horrible things I’ve ever witnessed happened last week when Jake Bugg opened up for The Black Keys: someone was told to stop singing.

Behind my friends and I, a girl kept talking about Jake Bugg and how excited she was. Once he came on, she was cheering and singing a long to his songs, and my friend and I even shouted out the chorus to Two Fingers out with her (it’s the way it’s supposed to be done). After that I invited her to step in front of me because I’ve already seen Jake Bugg a couple times and figured she would appreciate it more, since I need a few more beers to get singing… I’m just not that comfortable with my voice.

It was great to have her so into it, just as a fellow Jake Bugg fan. Then it happened. The guy in front, hugging is girlfriend on the railing, not moving an inch during the set, turns his head and glares. Within a few minutes of the glare he turns around and SUSHES the fan and says “I know you’re really into it but please stop singing, you’re way off key.”

Excuse me?

The guy continued to stand still, and even when Dan from The Black Keys was asking the crowd for help with the songs or clapping, he stood there with his hands on the railing like a fence around his girlfriend.

I get it, you’re there to enjoy the artist, not the crowd’s voice, but move over or get a seat in the stands, don’t take the floor space of people who want to be there. I also understand you might not enjoy the opener, 99.9% of the fans were there just for the incredible show The Black Keys put on, but don’t stop others from having fun. Glare and be rude to people yelling to start mosh pits with 15 year old girls (yes old man in the dress shirt, I’m talking about you), but not to people having harmless fun.

One of the things I miss most about the Europe was the gig culture. I watched Muse in Barcelona Olympic Stadium, up in the stands, and every person around us was up and singing and dancing. If they weren’t, they moved out of the way and did so with a smile. In a tiny gig in London, a packed sweaty room was screaming lyrics in unison and no one complained or pushed. At T in the Park, people didn’t push and shove to get to the front for an artist that was one two sets later, and then pout at barrier while a different band was on. They simply waited at the back, when the set finished, one band’s fans moved out, and the next moved forward. Everyone chatted and let the shorter (often me) ahead for a better view.

Edmonton music fans, can we please be better?

MBF=My Best Friend (at the airport)

Image from CBC music
Image from CBC music

I love airports, and I love airport songs. In case you don’t know how this entirely made up genre of music works, essentially there’s two types of airport music: the fuck yea I’m getting out music (Jake Bugg, we’ll get to him soon), and the soft ones that give you butterflies (let’s talk about these).

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald has written both types of these songs because apparently he’s just constantly ditching town, and who can blame him, he’s from Calgary… ick. Seriously though, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, or MBF for our sake, is the only thing I’ll give cowtown props for, the guy is a hell of a songwriter and performer. You would know this if you came to MacEwan’s Fall Fest or Edmonton Folk Music Festival this year. No matter how intoxicated you were it would be hard not to remember getting up to stomp your feet to the infectious Brand New Spaces:

That song is the idea fuck yea I’m getting out type of song as he sings the happiest song anyone’s ever written about an ex who’s a “roller coaster”. It is also my go to song whenever I travel, even if it’s to Red Deer for the day for hockey.

I’m going to focus on the other type of songs MBF writes, the butterflies one because today at the airport I have less to be cynical about. It’s softer and simpler and actually a lot sweeter:

 

Bags packed and we’ll travel

Never been so good at a fixed life

Will you follow

Will you follow me

The roads are light

We leave town tonight

Hold on my darling

Hold on my sweetheart

Everywhere we go babe

I’m gonna be using my heart so…

I might have just talked about two of MBF’s songs, but you should really check these other songs that I associate with other things than airports and travel:

When you want to ask someone out in the cutest way possible:

When you’re dreaming of making it big in LA:

And this song just makes me mad because he played it instead of Brand New Spaces one time (even though this one is actually really soulful and the backing vocals are incredible):

If you aren’t already in love with MBF, here’s a really weird interview I with him through The Griff when we talk about his drummer’s oiled up stripper vest and who would win a fight between a shark and orca. It truly is hard hitting journalism.

Here’s his twitter and his Facebook!