Reuben And The Dark

What started off as a solo project, quickly grew into a talented 5 multi-instrumentalist band from Calgary led by lead vocalist and founder Reuben Bullock. The band members have evolved over the years but the current line-up features Shea Alain, Brock Geiger, Dillon Whitfield, and Kaelen Ohm. Their haunting indie-folk music exudes many different emotions and tries to capture the contrast between light and dark.

Since, the band opened for Hayden and Doug Paisley at the Danforth Music Hall last year, we’ve been hearing more about RATD in the Canadian music scene. After their North American tour with Australian indie-folk band, Boy & Bear, Novella had the chance to talk exclusively with Reuben about the bands’ latest album, Funeral Sky, their most memorable concert experiences and what’s in store for the up-and-coming band from Calgary.

There have been a few changes in band members, so tell me a little bit about the formation of Reuben And The Dark and how it’s evolved over the years. 

It came from a solo project of me performing and recording under my own name. I put together sort of a back up band to perform the very first CD, which was the solo album that I had done with a guy in Calgary. So I guess I put together a back up band played the show and that kind of ended up being the last time I played solo, you know after doing that one show it was nice having these guys with me on the stage that I never went back to being solo for the most part. And that went on for a year or so until we started getting booked for bigger shows, planning more recordings and played so much as a band that Reuben And The Dark just became a way of saying this is a project instead of just a guy and a guitar. And the lineup has shifted and probably will continue to as life changes but yeah there’s definitely a chord that kind of remains from the beginning and then people have come and gone.

So right now you just finished the North American tour with Boy & Bear. How’d that go?

 It was great. We just got off that now. I just got back to Calgary 2 days ago. It was good we were on the road for almost 6 weeks. It started in Austin and we did Austin City Limits [Music Festival], which was an honour to be a part of. Then we joined Boy & Bear in Montreal and played about 15 shows with them. I wasn’t very familiar with their music or them personally but we ended up getting along really well and there was enough in common with the audience. We could play to their audience every night and have a nice time. It ended up being a really nice tour.

It was definitely a good collaboration since both bands have that similar indie-folk feel.

Yeah and we got the chance to play some venues that we wouldn’t be playing if we were touring on our own so we stepped it up. We played a lot of theatres, ballrooms, which is kind of where I’d like to be for sure.

Tell me the process you went through making your latest album Funeral Sky.

Funeral Sky is kind of interesting because it was done over two years and kind of recorded and re-recorded a number of times. It was the first time that a real attention to detail was put into recording. I’ve never been one to stress too much being in the studio just a lot of times we go in, plugged in and play the song until it was finished. Now we tried a bunch of different things like some of the tunes are recorded in a basement with a tape machine, some of them we went up to the Banff Centre and got to use state of the art facility. And with others we worked with a producer in Toronto and a friend of mine from London came down, he’s a drummer in a band from out there, and he created the whole record for us and then we took all of those sessions and really looked at it to see what was going to fit the best under the theme of the album title. It’s kind of a curated collection of recordings more than a concept album.

The album definitely exudes deeper and meaningful emotions. What was your emotional state during that time when writing the songs, if you want to share?

Yeah, I don’t know I suppose with writing maybe more dramatic imageries and scenarios have always felt closer. Drawing from just life [laughs]. Not to be general but the idea though with it was to not just show things that are depressing; I wanted it to have its dark side but at the same time for it to kind of feel full of life too. You know for it to be sad but joyous at the same time. Trying to work with the duality of light and dark really.

Who have been some of your biggest inspirations in music and your writing?

I feel like because my writing tends to be more lyrical maybe content and story based, I think I draw from a lot of relationships, friends and the people in my life, stories I hear and tell. I mean the music really comes together in a way that my musical influences tend to be the people that I’m playing with in the band. I just sit down and play with an acoustic guitar and tend to write as much as I can and then we’ll get together as a band and the rest of the music happens in that way.

What’s your go-to album? Something that’s always iPod ready.

I listen to more records actually. I don’t tend to listen to much music on the run. The only time I get to really listen to music properly is when I’m sitting down at home. A record I listen to quite a bit is Muchacho by the band Phosphorescent. That one’s probably got the most spins in the last year for me.

What was your most memorable concert experience Reuben And The Dark played?

Playing hometown in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta has always been nice because the audience is always so great. I would say getting to be a part of Austin City Limits [Music Festival] was pretty massive just because it’s something that not a lot of many bands get to play that festival and we felt pretty lucky to get to spend 10 days in Austin. And then there’s so many in this year alone that had so many great highlights of just playing Canadian music festivals and sharing the stage with some of the bands. But the standout would be Austin City Limits.

You also played at Osheaga this year. Was that your first time at the festival?

Yeah, that was really nice. Montreal was nuts [laughs]. Yeah it was and I’d really love to go back to it.

What’s next for Reuben And The Dark?

Well we’re doing a west coast tour kind of coming up right away and then hopefully taking the holidays and a couple of the winter months to regroup and refocus for spring.

Will you be coming to Toronto soon?

Yeah, really soon. We’re actually moving up there. So there will be more Toronto in the future.

Funeral Sky can be purchased on iTunes. Get to know more about the band at reubenandthedark.com

Photo Cred: Photo 1 (cover photo) by Neil Van, Photo 2 & 3 by Mackenzie Walker

Stan Olthuis

Award-winning mixed media artist, Stan Olthuis, is not just your average artist. Instead of using the typical refined paintbrush and blank white canvas, Olthuis uses unconventional art tools such as cracked wood, plywood, house paint and scrapers to create unique paintings with substance. His beautiful artwork not only captures the city’s streets filled with construction hoardings, torn posters, graffiti and boutiques that light up the night with shimmering gowns but he captures it in a mesmerizing way where the city becomes a visual masterpiece, which many of us overlook during our busy lives and hectic commutes.

His current exhibition at Abbozzo Gallery, entitled Rags to Riches, showcases some of his most noted and recent work. The breathtaking gowns were inspired by late night strolls in the dark city noting the contrasts of designer and bridal boutiques glistening in the night with the pearly white and shimmering gowns. Over a cup of coffee, Stan revealed to Novella the inspiration behind some of his work, his ritual before he starts painting and what he can’t live without in his studio.

What inspired the Rags to Riches collection?

It’s sort of an interesting story because I hadn’t been painting for a long time and over the years I would go for walks or rides at night. The city is basically gray, but I love all the layers it has from all of the construction hoardings, posters that are ripped off and re-layered and graffiti. The weather eats it up so nicely and sometimes you get these amazing images. On those kinds of walks I’d come around the corner and see some designer and bridal boutiques that would just glow and glisten with beautiful white and silk gowns in the front of the shops. Walking by, they always seem to have some story going on. I really wanted to start painting again so I’d use the contrast of painting something so refined [gowns] with tools that were unrefined. I’d paint on surfaces that were unrefined, use tools that were unrefined, and I didn’t use the typical tools. So I’d use things like house paint, scrapers, paint on things like cracked wood, plywood and I’d go out and peel off posters and take chunks of that and any materials that I could find but in contrast depict things that were so refined. That’s why I married the two.

What’s your ritual before you start painting?

There’s a little bit of romance in the surface for me. It really starts by picking up the board or canvas and then sizing it. I really do think about a feeling even though I don’t have something in mind for the piece at the time; I get to know it in some ways. I like to feel the surface with my hands gauging the space and the gestures I might use. I very quickly, disturb the surface so I take away from it being a flat surface. I like to get marks on it fast and it’ll have some texture to it. As soon as I start putting paint on it, it becomes alive. Suddenly there’s space where there wasn’t space and there’s a whole lot of activity that goes on. I call myself a process painter because I really work with how it’s developing and I know that there are things that I want to achieve out of it but I don’t push it too hard, I just go with it.

What themes do you try to pursue? Or do you just go with a feeling you have at the time?

Primarily time, energy and gesture. Subject matter is wide open.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? 

There are but I would say they’re usually the firsts of everything. Like I did a lot of print making in Chicago and it was the first time I did lithographs on stone, which catapulted me into a new way of thinking. So that was an important piece. The very first time I did a large-scale painting at my studio in Toronto. It was the first time I did an 8-foot painting, it was a ‘eureka’ moment. At the time, I was hanging out with the guys from Painters 11, Tom Hodgson, he’s an abstract expressionist and we were friends and I learned a lot from him. The first time I did a painting where I rejected all artist materials and used house paint, a piece of plywood that was outside for 20 years and scrapers. That was another freeing moment.

Inspiration is a very broad question, but have there been moments in your life that have stood out that you carry with you and your art?

The funny thing about inspiration is I do get inspired; I’m inspired by a lot of things. Chuck Close’s thought on inspiration: “I don’t work with inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” The best thing is just to get to work. My friend Ron Bokes, who’s been painting for years, I sent him one of my paintings recently and he said, “That’s nice! Get back to work, those things don’t paint themselves!” which is exactly what I think. If you don’t show up, nothing is going to happen. Writers write and painters paint so I take this inspiration and I think everything happens when you focus on it whatever that is in your life. You focus on things and you will find that if you really want them to happen and expect them to happen and assume that they are already happening, they do happen.

What’s your most important artist tool and is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

My imagination. You can take everything away except my pencils.

How has your practice changed over time?

Turning fear into an advantage.

How do you know when a piece of your work is finished? Is there a moment when you drop your paintbrushes and say, “That’s it, I’m finished”?

Yeah I do. Having said that I have gone back to pieces and added to them. But in most cases, I consider it a silent dialogue between the painting and myself and it’s a cooperative effort. You come to the agreement together that we’re done.

On top of painting, you delve into mixed media as well. Do you prefer one to the other?

I don’t see the difference. I see it more as I love making art and I especially love drawing; it’s the heart of what I do. But it’s whatever the moment requires for me. I draw on my paintings, I use sand paper and I use artist mediums.

Tell me about the XO Collection, which won you an award for the When Harry Met Sally piece.

When I started making them it was a matter of taking something that is in the common area, a vernacular thing that people would use to sign off in their emails [XOXO] and things like that and because I’ve been playing with layers and street stuff such as graffiti it sort of fell into that.

You can check out more of Stan Olthuis’ work stanolthuis.com

Monomyth

If you miss some of the classic English and American rock bands like Stone Roses, Beach Boys and The Byrds then you need to start listening to Monomyth. Formed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the band’s lineup consists of Seamus Dalton, Andrew Mazerolle, Josh Salter, Matt Peters and Scott Grundy. Monomyth’s styles combine pop rock and psychedelic music that takes you through a hypnotic trance while blasting their debut album Saturnalia Regalia!, which released this past summer.

After watching their setup at the Junction Music Festival, we couldn’t wait to learn more about the band and take a musical journey through the 1960s to present day. Monomyth answered some questions exclusively for Novella revealing some of the band’s legendary music influences, the process behind Saturnalia Regalia! and what tunes can be found recently played on their iPod.

Tell me a little bit about Monomyth and how the band came together. 

Monomyth was formed when Seamus and I [Josh] were living together three years ago.  His band had just come to an end and he needed a new project.  I was looking to start something a little more subtle than my previous bands.  We played our first show in an empty lot across from the library.  We started off with some sort of idea that we were making music in the tradition of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain even going as far as having a drummer who only played standup drums like Bobby Gillespie.  Since then we’ve changed the lineup around a handful of times and our guitar sound has gotten significantly cleaner.

Tell me the process you went through making your latest album Saturnalia Regalia!

We had many of these songs written for a long while.  We’d toured a lot of the songs so when Mint offered to put a record out for us we hastily laid down what became our record.  We recorded the bass and drums together to tape along with scratch guitar and then overdubbed guitar parts at the Echo Chamber in Halifax with Dave Ewenson and Charles Austin.  Some of the scratch guitars made it onto the record, others we reduced to get a little more exact.  The vocals were all recorded at my home using a Neuman we borrowed from our friends in Heaven For Real.

Who inspires your music? I get the UK music scene vibe from the 80s/90s (like Stone Roses). Are these the type of bands you listen to?

I [Josh] definitely dig the Stone Roses (I’ve been listening to “Don’t Stop” a lot lately).  We basically studied the Creation Records back catalogue.  The Byrds, Big Star, Beach Boys and that other B-band. All A+ to us.  Then the lo-fi and general tossed off of bands like Guided By Voices, BJM, early Shoes and the Television Personalities.

For each band member, what music is always iPod ready?

Josh : Chris Stamey “The Summer Sun”.  Alex Chilton helmed production job pre-dBs.  Very twee with a strange lyrics about the eiffel tower falling down.

Seamus – Jeremih “Don’t Tell Em'”.  Don’t need to explain this one.

Andrew : Brown Acid Reflux “Peppermint Woman”.  Halifax band from the early 70s.  A slice of trashy Zeppelin worship.  You can almost hear the blacklight.

Scott Grundy : V/A – Buzzer Beaters and Bonus Eaters: Nigerian Quiz Show Themes 1974-1984. A strange tape a friend gave me.  On a label called “Analog Gulag” that I can’t find anything about.  Really interesting, pre-dominantly synth pieces.

What was your most memorable concert experience when you performed? 

Our last show touring with Dog Day a few years ago.  They were dipping into the US and we didn’t have VISAs so we had to part ways.  We were playing the Waldorf and there was a considerable crowd because locals Apollo Ghosts were playing.  Dog Day invited Seamus and I [Josh] to play walls of feedback over the last half of their closing song.  Great way to end our cross-Canada trip with them.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

David Cronenberg.

Where in Toronto and Halifax do you go to scope out the music scene?

When we are in Toronto we usually end up at the Smiling Buddah.  Basically if Mark Pesci is putting it on, we are there.  We really dig the noisier stuff coming out of there like New Fries, HSY,and Soupcans.  On the poppier side, The Taste who are partially Halifax ex-pats are really great.

What would be your theme song? 

That is easy.  “Theme from Monomyth” from our last record.

Fill in the blank: I can’t live without _____. 

Josh: A Cloud in the Trousers.

Seamus: Swamps.

Andrew: A heartbeat.

Scott: Mark.

What’s next for Monomyth? 

We’ve been saying it forever but we have a less band-oriented record Seamus and I made called “Psychedelic Laundromat”.  It was all done on a little four-track.  Besides that we have another record we are recording with Mike Wright from Each Other at Drone’s in Montreal.  We recorded four tracks with him during our last tour and it was a great vibe plus we have always worked with Mike since our first bands so it seems pretty natural to go that path.

Will you be coming back to Toronto any time soon?

We should be coming through at the end of January/beginning of February if we can get it together.

Saturnalia Regalia! is available for purchase on iTunes.

(Photo credit: Photo 1 (cover photo), 2, 3, 4 by Laura Lynn Petrick – Photo 5 by Curtis Rothney)

OTHERWORLD: Karen Silver’s Debut Exhibit

It was a wet and foggy night; the perfect atmosphere to check out Karen Silver’s debut photography exhibit hosted at the Urban Gallery, which is located on Queen St. East and Parliament.

Silver’s photography exhibit OTHERWORLD is exactly that, another world.  At first glance, you think you’ve seen the photograph in all its entirety, until you take another look and notice something new that makes the image that much more breathtaking. Each photograph comes to life and reveals an alternate reality that is mesmerizingly majestic.

My experience when first observing the exhibit had me explore my fear of the unknown, an unnerving realm to tackle. Then I discovered that there are many layers of imagery and each photograph contains its own magic. After talking to Silver about her photos, the underlying message resonates to all of us about ‘finding our own artistry and the magic that is within us all’.

OTHERWORLD can be seen from now until November 29, 2014 at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen Street East, Toronto.

Urban Gallery Website

 

Analogue Gallery Celebrates 5 Years

It was a night of some old time rock & roll at the Analogue Gallery this past Friday.

Located at Queen and Bathurst, the gallery celebrated its 5th year anniversary by hosting a birthday soirée showcasing some of the most iconic moments in music history. Novella had the honour of attending the birthday bash and got to check out some of the coolest most intimate photographs taken of our cultural icons. Since the owner and Creative Director, Lucia Graca, founded the gallery in 2009, it has become Toronto’s premiere Rock & Roll gallery.

Guests were greeted with some wine and good old-fashioned jazz beats while browsing through the iconic photographs taken by the industry’s most noted photographers such as Ethan Russell, Danny Clinch, among several others including the gallery’s owner Lucia Graca. Whether it was Keith Richards walking out of his Rolling Stones private jet with a drink in hand, or David Bowie’s passport inspired photo, or even Jay-Z smoking a cigar, every photograph had us wondering how amazing it must have been to be there at that moment when the image was captured.

Overall, the birthday party soirée was a great success and showcased what the Analogue Gallery has to offer. Visit the gallery for some exclusive photographs that were taken behind the scenes of some of you favourite cultural figures taken by some of the most talented photographers in the industry. Cheers to another 5 years!

Analogue Gallery Website

(Photo Credit: Cover Photo – Ray Stephenson, Photo 1, 2, 7, 8, 10 – Analogue Gallery, Photo 3, 4 – Ethan Russell, Photo 5 – Danny Clinch, Photo 6, 9  – Lucia Graca)