A Conversation with San Fermin at Wayhome 2017

There are certain artists that take many years to find a sure footing in the music industry and be recognized for their work. San Fermin is not one of them. A short while after getting out of university, Ellis Ludwig-Leone began composing music for his best friend, Allan. Soon after that, they gained a record deal and began writing for an entire band. Their numbers quickly grew and so did their success.

We sat down with San Fermin’s lead musician, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who writes and composes all the music the band releases, to discuss their festival experience and San Fermin’s beginnings. 

Kimberley Drapack: How did you meet and form the band?

Ellis Ludwig Leone: Allan, one of our lead singers, and I had been close friends for a long time. We met when we were like 15, and I’d always had bands with him. I went and studied classical music in university and when I graduated I wrote this record for him to sing, and I didn’t really have any plans for it, I just thought it would be fun.

We recorded it and got a record deal and then suddenly, the record label was like, “you gotta go tour.” That changed everything, then we had to get together all the band members. It totally went in a way that I did not expect.

K: Fresh out of school you were ready for the next step, and then it found you. 

ELL: Yeah. I studied classical music and I was thinking about going that way and suddenly, we had this record that was getting attention from people who weren’t classical musicians at all and then I sort of just realized that it was a pop record. That led to touring a lot and, now, here we are.

K: Tell us about your early years. Was it easy to get your off the ground or were there other obstacles you had to overcome?

ELL: The cool thing was that we had a lot of press attention right away, which I am thankful for now because I probably didn’t realize at the time that that was fueling everything and bringing people to the shows.

That said, you can be on lists, but people still need to discover you. You still play these shows where you’re taking eight members of a band — it’s a big band — and you’re taking them to these expensive places, and the logistics are crazy.

So the big challenge for the first couple of years was making it work financially, which is kind of a boring problem, but real. Everyone kind of bought in and devoted their time to it and now we’re at a point where it feels like it’s a real, stable, good thing that everyone loves doing. We’re going on tour for half the year.

K: Touring is always fun?

ELL: Yeah, it’s great and it’s tough. I think a lot of people who don’t tour, when they hear, “oh, you’re going to Toronto this weekend, that’s great, I’d love to go there” but a lot of what we see is hotels and venues. Every now and then you have a day where you can explore a city but there isn’t a lot of downtime and travelling.

There are moments when your body hurts. You’ve gained weight because you’ve eaten like shit, and those are real sacrifices that I think people, when they talk to you, don’t really take seriously, but there are things that are downers. For the most part, I really like it.

K: What was your time like at Yale? Did you feel as though your formal education offered a guideline for your future music career?

ELL: I think so. When I was in school in classes I often felt like a little bit of an outsider. When I started an indie band, I still felt a little bit like an outsider but I think it’s sort of good to always feel outside of the paradigm. Then you are thinking about it, and you’re questioning what’s good, what draws you to it, and what doesn’t. I think that was a pretty big thing for me.

I was just writing music in a way that made sense to me and happened to make sense to other people. It helped me think about how to write for all those instruments.

K: So you write every piece for each section? 

ELL: Right. I write a score.

K: So it’s within your classical training?

ELL: You saw the show, so it’s gone away from that a little bit. Which is what happens when you’re playing festivals or rock. You’re playing these venues that are made for rock bands so you sort to push towards that. I happily did that. But there is still a lot of that classical stuff in there where parts are notated, I think about the arrangements a lot, and I’m very careful with how I divvy up the notes.

K: Was that something you kept in mind when you were writing your newest album?

ELL: The new record was kind of interesting because as I was writing it, I really knew who I was writing it for, because I’ve played a hundred shows with these guys. When I write a sax line, I really tailor it to Stephen, when I write a trumpet line, I tailor it to John. I think that’s led the live show to be more of a coherent, explosive thing.

K: So, it’s come a long way from knowing your bandmates for years now?

ELL: For the first record, I just wrote it. Whoever I could get to play it, it was great, but it was a different relationship.

K: You released your self titled album in September of 2013. Can you explain some of the emotions and backstory behind the records on this album?

ELL: That was a very exciting and weird time. A lot of stuff went really quickly — it went from a sort of bedroom project to where the third of fourth show we ever played was a Tiny Desk concert. The fifth or six show we ever played was Bowery ballroom, and suddenly we were doing this thing.

I didn’t know what keyboard to play, I was still making all these decisions. It was a really intense time because there was all this stuff coming down the pipe that I was figuring out how to respond to as it happened.

“Oh we have to make a music video?” Well, fuck… I don’t know. But that was really exciting and cool. I remember hearing Sonsick, which was our single on that record, on the radio for the first time.

K: What was that feeling like?

ELL: It was crazy! I was just driving with my girlfriend or something, and I thought, “wow… people know this song.”

K: Are there ever times where you felt like there are other songs you would rather play instead?

ELL: Yeah… let’s leave it at that. There’s a few singles that we play because the fans expect them, but we’re kind of over it.

K: Your third album, Belong, released in April of this year and your single was released through TIME magazine. What can this album teach the listener about you, or just in general?

ELL: The thing that I wanted to do with this record is that I wanted to write a record that felt both more accessible to people — just from the type of sounds, there are no interludes, it’s more direct songwriting -—but also make the lyrics more personal. In the past, I’ve hidden behind the lyrics a little bit. I think it was accomplished. I think the songs have a bit more of a glossy sheen to them. If you spend time with it, it’s stuff that comes from deep and somewhat tumultuous place in my life. Pulling off that trick, making something seem sleek but also have depth, is somewhat difficult.

San Fermin

K: Are there certain songs that you listen to in this album or earlier albums that you don’t listen to all the time, but you hear them and it brings you back to a certain moment in your life?

ELL: For earlier albums that definitely happens. There is a song on the first record called Daedalus. I was in Banff while writing it and I was thinking that the record needed a closer, something special. We were writing it and leaving the studio and thinking that I made a really good song there. Then I didn’t play it for years, and we played it the other day for the first time.

K: What is it like making a setlist for a big music festival like Wayhome?

ELL: For a festival like this you have a stripped down set, where I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily all of our best songs but in a way it’s all the songs that work the best in this setting. Some songs I really like that you just can’t play here. You can’t really play the acoustic ballads. You need an audience who is all there for you, but here you have people that are here for you and people who are walking by, and you want to be able to catch them with a festival jam.

K: In making that setlist, are you driving for that?

ELL: You think about that and you think about songs that are immediately graspable and that hit hard, and you think about the image that you want to project at that festival. Are you trying to reach new fans or are you trying to play the funnest, most party song? Or are you trying to curate this sort of thoughtful experience? When you have forty-five minutes on the main stage, you think, let’s hit them with our best. Sometimes it changes. Today I made the call to play Methuselah, which is an acoustic-chiller song from the first record, instead of No Devil, which is a big anthem, just because I wanted to do it.

K: Is that the most fun part of running a band?

ELL: The most fun part is after the shows when you get to meet people who the songs resonate with. It still feels unreal to me. If I haven’t played a show for a couple of weeks, I’ll forget that there are all these people out there who care about what I do and it makes me feel really good when I get to meet them. It hasn’t worn off yet.

K: Have you ever met a fan where you’ve had that genuine experience, where they tell you about a tough time in their life that your music has helped them through?

ELL: Totally. Our fans are really loyal and intense about that. When we go on headline tours, we’ll have a bunch of people in the front of the crowd who know the lyrics to all the songs, and that’s really cool. You’re here for a deeper experience that you had with this stuff.

I feel like I’m someone who has trouble talking to strangers a lot. I have trouble connecting, and to suddenly be like… that you can connect to someone is a special thing.

K: Was there ever any stage fright?

ELL: Weirdly, even though I write all the music, I’m probably not someone who people are watching as much on stage because I’m in front of the keyboard.

There was a little bit of stage fright at the very beginning but after that it was pretty clear that A) nobody was counting on me to do anything too much and B) shows are fun. I have a lot of great musicians with me. Even if I totally stopped playing, we’d still be a great group of people.

K: Is that the best part, being around people you have great relationships with for eight months or so at a time?

ELL: It’s a strange relationship, because in a way, it’s almost like a sibling, but then weirdly, you’ll get home and maybe you won’t see them for a couple of months. You won’t call them or anything, and then you’ll get back together and you’re closer than close, because you’re literally spending all your time together.

K: Do you feel as though your band is tailored to a festival setting, or a sort of more intimate setting?

ELL: That’s changed. At the beginning of the band, I was all about intimate spaces. We then started to have some success at festivals and I thought that was really fun. My ideal shows are at a thousand cap room but they’re all there for you. That’s the best, you get a little bit of the size. I just like playing for a receptive audience. That is what I care about the most.

K: What was it like in the first show you had where you saw an audience member singing back your lyrics?

ELL: It happened pretty early on, but the first time I really remember it was at a Lollapalooza after show in 2014 where I realized that everyone in the crowd was singing along. That was awesome. I remember getting in the van after and saying, “Guys, we’re onto something.”

K: Did this reaffirm that you needed to keep going?

ELL: Yeah. Since it’s become more routine, I take it for granted sometimes. But when we perform Sonsick and everyone sings that one part, the fact that they even took five minutes out of their life to memorize it, is more than I’ve done for them, so it makes me feel special.

K: That must be a great connection you create with people, in that, you may not know them on a personal level, but you do in a way that you didn’t know about.

ELL: They’re at least familiar with some part of me and when I talk to fans, I appreciate that we can start on some common ground.

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Front Women Fashion Icons

When hearing of a front man (or woman), fashion should be synonymous with this term. Fashion and music have gone hand in hand for years and the person at the front of the stage, with all eyes on them will set the tone not only vocally or with performance, but also by showing off their esthetical perception of what the act should be seen as. Take the Beatles for instance, the matching suits were indication of their polite sound at the time. Enter the infamous album, “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the bands fashion completely changed to be edgier and more theatrical. Clothes matter- they create a sense of wonder and additional artistic value that sends out the idea that the audience is not just viewing a musical concert, but a full out visual performance. Here are some front ladies throughout the years who display exceptional tones and clothes alike.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin has always been a favourite of the 60’s with her eclectic attitude, vocal tone and the look to match. Feathers,bell sleeves, embroidery and velvet are all looks that the modern “boho chic” girl can thank Janis (one of the pioneers of this hippie-style look) for today! What is especially interesting in her onstage outfits, is her ability to create a care-free attitude while still showing off her creativity in attention to details.

Debbie Harry (Blondie)

A sensation in not only punk/new wave music of the 1970’s, but also in experimental fashion. Throughout her many years of performing, Blondie has managed to change her look with the times while still keeping key signature pieces in order to stay true to her image (this sparks my existential question asking exactly, WHO would Blondie be if she had brown hair?).She is the strangest and most wonderful mix of tough girl meets sophistication and maintains this standard today while she still rocks the stage.

Siouxsie Sioux

Another staple to the punk scene of the 1970’s is Siouxsie Sioux of “Siouxsie and the Banshees”. The English singer  stirred up quite a following for not only her shameless rebel behaviour but also for her looks that embody both punk and gothic backgrounds. Her bondage clothing and signature cat-eye makeup either left her audiences in fear or in envy.

Cher

Having made famous numerous looks throughout the years (including the mid-drift), Cher has inspired performers and fashion lovers alike to take risks and to be celebratory of the female body. Her outfits have been so iconic throughout the years that while many will wonder what a performer will play during their concert, a fan of Cher’s will be equally as curious when dreaming of what she will wear on stage. Just this year, Cher proved to all that she has not lost her fashion influence when she rocked it in a leather outfit at the Billboard Music Awards!

Tina Turner

Diva, Tina Turner has always been a performer that designers such as Giorgio Armani, Versace and Bob Mackie have loved to dress. This is likely due to her ability to showcase confidence and radiating appreciation for the masterpieces in which she has worn on stage. From mini dresses, plunging necklines and lingerie- nothing is too high or too low for Tina Turner to rock during a performance!

Gwen Stefani

A perfect blend between masculine patterns and items with feminine twists is how Gwen Stefani has made her look famous. Her constant plaid and Doc Martens have been a continuous way of giving a nod to her punk roots with her original band “No Doubt”, while her evolving makeup, hair, and flashy touches show off her desire to play with fashion and femininity!

Solange Knowles

Call me crazy, but given the choice between raiding any Knowles sister’s wardrobe, and Solange always wins. Her performance attire is always fashion forward and vibrant making her overall esthetic on stage truly something worth seeing. It’s as if the singer takes inspiration by whatever fabulous outfit she has on and allows it to fuel her powerful performances!

Lady Gaga

Of course the modern artist deserves recognition as one of the most fashionable performers of this age as well as of all time. This is because, Lady Gaga puts as much thought and effort into her wardrobe as she does with her carefully written out  musical pieces, and amazing performances. To Gaga,no show will be played without careful attention to her outfit matching the theme that she is setting. Each outfit that the singer wears, carefully embodies the message of her songs of the time as well as the feelings that should be conveyed while watching her.

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A Conversation with The Junction on their New Album City Nights

As an artist,  you will do anything to practice your craft and make a living out of it. If you put in hours, days, and years of unrelenting hard work and dedication, you may be lucky enough to see your dreams become reality. That being said, the journey to success doesn’t always take overnight. Many artists spend years producing art that reflects their psyche. By exploring an artist’s chronologically, we see their journey on display with its ups and downs and their very real emotions.

The Junction is a Toronto-based band and has spent the past seventeen years navigating its music scene. Originally from Brampton, the trio is made up of Michael Taylor, Matt Jameson, and Brent Jackson. We had the opportunity to chat with the bassist, Matt Jameson, and discuss the band’s early history and their new album, City Nights.

Kimberley Drapack: How did you first meet and form the band? 

Matt Jameson: Jackson and Taylor grew up down the street from one another and started playing music together with a music teacher. They later met Jameson after he saw them perform at a battle of the bands at his high school when they had no bass player.

K: What has it been like navigating the Toronto Music scene for the past seventeen years? Have you seen any major changes? 

MJ: It started with us coming to Toronto and playing a few shows and then feeling the pressure from promoters to bring people out and we didn’t really know how to handle it so we retreated back to the burbs. We played a lot around Brampton where we eventually grew our audience and then started playing more around Toronto like Guelph and Burlington. Getting older we finally started playing more in TO and have pretty much made The Horseshoe Tavern our home and have played there for every album release show we’ve ever had.

K: Tell me about City Nights. What does this album have to say? What can it teach us? 

MJ: City nights is written mainly from personal perspective from living in the city and bathing in its nightlife. The city thrives on social beings and party people. I’ve been dancing in the middle of it for years. As a musician I’ve benefited greatly from it. As a partier I’ve certainly abused it. I have a love-hate relationship with downtown these days. It brings the best and worst of me out. It can truly be damaging for restless souls.

This album’s lyrics are personal and self-reflective. I put the microscope on me and pulled myself apart in every way by questioning who I’ve become through substances, challenging my darkness, and my weaknesses while reminding myself to be a bit more empathetic. The party has turned me upside down and flipped me inside out.

City Nights is about many things but it’s mainly about checking in with yourself. It’s a big space here in Toronto. I definitely think this album can serve as anyone’s companion and make anyone feel less alone especially if they are also isolated by some of the thoughts on how the big city can move you and push you around.

If not to learn anything it can still be danced to.

Oh city nights… what would I do?

K: You mention that City Nights is an album that should first be heard through headphones. Why is this? 

MJ: Lots of space was carved out in the songwriting. It made way for other sonic elements to weave in between. Lots of different instruments, effects and panning create some awesome textures. If listened to on headphones, you’d be able to step inside the environment that was designed.

K: You are currently signed to Culvert music. How did this collaboration begin? Did you always intend on becoming signed for this particular album?

MJ: Jameson’s mom is friends with Phil’s (one of the founders) mom and he used to give Phil swimming lessons. Hence, Phil and Jameson go way back and have always been in touch over the years regarding music and the business around it. When it came time to talk about working with one another, we recorded some demos and shopped them around to labels and Culvert was clearly the best home for the project.

K: What is your favourite Toronto venue to play in?

MJ: The Horseshoe Tavern. There’s no place like home.

K: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? How did you overcome it? 

MJ: Getting out of our major label deal and getting another record made after that was probably our biggest hurdle. Check out this post from Brent a few months ago:

TEN YEARS FOLKS! 

10 years ago this was huge to us. Major Label. Early 20’s. Touring Canada. First time hearing ‘components of four’ on ‘edge102.1’ ‘Much Music’ playing the video. We didn’t know what kind of ride we were in for. But, we felt damn great.10 years later and looking back at it.. well… truthfully, it hasn’t aged well for me and the memories of struggle that came just after it’s release, aren’t the coolest to think about. But, those are key ingredients to our story and I’m blessed they unfolded the way they did…starting from one of the biggest fights we’ve ever had in NYC, directly after it was mastered… or being dropped from our booking agents, while on tour.. or driving 40 hours straight from Saskatchewan to Universals head office (unkempt and out of it) to ask if we could get off the label and then hear them tell us they didn’t like the record anyways. We really felt like lost dogs for a second. To top it off the song we were (most likely) signed for, ‘frequencies’ never became a hit. Just couldn’t get it on radio. Matt and I even went radio station to radio station all across Canada trying to get it serviced. We couldn’t get the damn hit on 😉 This record was a struggle and I’m sure most bands would’ve packed it in right then and there. But, these memories are my favourites. Because, It’s this struggle and this story, that divides us from the rest. Time and age and popularity mean nothing to us. 10 years ago and 10 years from now It’s always gonna be about the music. Music is our life and I personally don’t need anything to validate that. My wealth, is in the music. 

Sure we got knocked down and some people might even think we failed. But, I look at this record and I hear a band that didn’t change a single note for anyone. Sure I think it’s an ugly and challenging album. I don’t listen to it that often. But, I’ll never knock it. It’s a rock in our catalog. It helped us grow into our future albums. It allowed us to be free from any expectations on “making it”. 10 years on…The Junction lives and we are the real deal!

Love,

Brent and the guys xo

K: A Music Blog, Yea? Describes Who Am I as: “one enchanting song as its irresistible bass grove, dreamy vocals, and playfully driven synths are flawlessly fused with old-school seventies atmospherics.” Would you agree? Why or why not?

MJ: I wouldn’t deny those adjectives. Sounds a lot like what we were going for.

K: What’s next for you? 

MJ: We’re at that vulnerable point right now where we’re not really sure what’s next. We just put the record out and had a great album release show. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how people react to it and take it from there.

K: In another life, with a different set of dreams and goals, what career would you most likely have?

MJ: Surf bum/Astronaut.

Check out City Nights by The Junction and continue following our arts and culture coverage on  FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Hanging with Hollerado: A Conversation on New Music, Touring, and Politics

As we grow up, we often dream of pursuing a career with our best friends from childhood. While more often than not, over time, our early years of entrepreneurship between lemonade stands, babysitting, and walking our neighbours dog fades away. After growing up on the same street in small town in Ontario, the four-person collective, Hollerado, has made their dreams into a reality.

Hollerado is certainly no stranger to the Canadian tour circuit. They have toured with big names such as Sum 41, Weezer, and Passion Pit. They have also been nominated for several Juno awards, and most recently have played at Canadian Music Week. Their third studio album, Born Yesterday is now available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.

We had the chance to chat with Hollerado about the message behind their music and their love for GT Snow Racers.

Kimberley Drapack: How did you meet and form the band?

Hollerado: We met a long time ago, on an island in the Rideau River in a place called Manotick. We first played in our garage, right next to our dad’s old motorcycle and a pile of toboggans and GT Snow Racers.

K: What’s your favourite aspect of performing in Toronto?

H: Getting to the show on the streetcar! Nothing better than riding the Rocket to rock it!

K: Your first album, Record in a Bag was released in 2009 as a free digital download. What is the biggest transformation from this early record to your newest record, Born Yesterday?

H: A lot has happened in the world since 2009, and it’s hard not to be a reflection of that change and transformation, which is a good thing.  So, our views have broadened, in terms of what we sing about, but at the same time we still want to remain how we are.

K: In your early years, you spent some time in Montreal where you built your name. What is it about the music scene in Montreal that helped you grow as a band?

H: Montreal is cheap, so we could spend a lot of time writing and playing, and not a lot of time working to pay rent.  And compared to the hilly topography of Manotick, Montreal was a bustling, flat, metropolis; a barren wasteland when it came to GT Snow racing hills. Again, we were forced to write and play music to pass the time.

K: You have been nominated for 3 Juno awards, (one in 2011, one in 2012, and one in 2014) what was this experience like?  

H: It’s a great way to catch up with your friends in other bands that you never see because you’re always touring.  Plus, getting to watch Nickelback perform every year is great.

K: Currently, you are on tour with Sum 41. What is your favourite part about touring? Is it ever hard to be away from home for too long?

H: Our love of playing live is a big reason why we do this.  There’s nothing more exciting for us than connecting with a crowd, and feeling like they’re invested in the show just as much as we are.  It can be strange being away from home for a month or more at a time though, no question.  But little moments on the road, and support from our friends and family back home, make it doable.  And sometimes brands will reach out and try and make your life a little more comfortable if they see you’re touring across Canada in the winter or something. They might give you some free gear to go have fun on the hills in exchange for the odd plug in an interview.

K: Your video for “Americanarama” has gained over 1.4 Million YouTube views. What was your first reaction to its success?

H: It was a lot of fun making that video.  We expected our friends to think it was cool, but never thought it would be seen by as many people as it did.

K: Your new single, “Grief Money” has a pretty powerful video and message. What inspired this?  

H: Grief Money was written before Trump was even a candidate, but it was still a reaction to the dark side of politics.  We don’t hate politicians in general, but it does feel like corruption, fear-mongering, greed and opportunism are out of control.

K: Would you describe it as a protest song? 

H: I think it’s more of an anger song than a protest song!

K: If you could collab with any other artists, who would it be and why?

H: Thundercat because they are groovy beyond belief. And we love groovy.

K: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

H: We just want to keep playing music, write songs we’re proud of, and play in space some day.

Check out their new album, Born Yesterday and continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Tagging along with Texas King at Canadian Music Week

As a fan of most genres of music, and Canadian talent in particular, I was excited to attend this year’s Canadian Music Week from April 18th to 23rd and check-in with a few bands I was excited to see live. Canadian Music Week, or CMW for short, showcased a plethora of local and international artists that were either up-and-coming, or seasoned veterans. After a long, luxurious Easter weekend where I nearly sent myself into a food coma, I was geared up for the long week ahead, mentally and physically preparing myself for long days at work, followed by late nights in different Toronto concert halls.

I began my week on Tuesday at Adelaide Hall, where I planned to meet up with the London-based band, Texas King. Formed in 2012 by front man and lead-singer, Jordan MacDonald, Texas King soon grew to be a four person collective with Colin Gray as lead guitar and back-up vocals, Phil Spina on bass, and Rob Shipway on drums. The band holds a regular slot at CMW as this is their fourth or fifth year playing the festival. Along with Canadian Music Week, Texas King has played NXNE, Scene Fest, and KOI Fest.

I tagged along with Jordan, Phil, Colin and fill-in drummer, Mark Swan throughout the night and dished on music, their early history, and what its like to be an independent artist.

 

Once meeting up with band members, Jordan MacDonald and Phil Spina, we began to walk over to Adelaide Hall. I had known Jordan since my early years in high school and ever since then had followed the success of his band. The first Texas King EP holds some of my favourite songs to which I know all the lyrics. While the EP was released in 2013, it currently stands as the main source of music currently available to the public by Texas King. Before chatting with Jordan and Phil, I had expectations of hearing the EP in its entirety at the show, but Jordan confirmed that, while it is a classic, the band has created an onslaught of music since then and has their debut album ready to be released at any moment.

As we walk over to the musical hall, I ask if the band is currently seeking representation, especially in regards to the release date of their new album. Jordan responds, “We’ve been shopping [the album] around different labels and stuff. Then we kind of hit this standstill with this one label we were talking to, so now we’re just kind of doing this final showcase thing.”

On April 29th, the band is performing a showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern. While the band has performed at the Horseshoe prior to this show, they are hoping to use this specific showcase as a way to gain recognition and attention of certain label representatives who frequent this venue.

I comment on the importance of the Horseshoe Tavern as a music venue. Jordan agrees and adds, “it’s good for showcases too because industry people know that bar and they know that you’re not going to be able to play there if you’re shit.”

We laugh, and Phil adds to the conversation by stating that with, “certain venues it’s hard to get people out to. Nothing against those venues, but there are certain venues that people like to go to. If you play somewhere cool, like Sneaky Dees, odds are, people will want to go there anyway and they’ll decide to check us out. As opposed to a smaller place, where people don’t know where it is, or sometimes the bands are hit and miss there.”

 

                                                                                                         Photo: Courtesy of Texas King

As we continue walking, I try poking around and getting more information about their upcoming album. While they answered all of my questions, they still are keeping most of the information on the down-low in order to build suspense and allow for the work to be interpreted when the time is right. I asked if the album had yet been mastered, to which Phil replied, “Yeah, it was mastered a few months ago. It’s pretty much all done. We’re in the art stage, it’s the only thing left. We just need to get artwork and then it will be ready to put out.”

I then asked if the band was currently looking for for artists to submit their work and if they were shopping it out that way. Phil noted that their drummer was responsible for handling the band’s graphics. He was responsible for their website design, and their merch design, because of this, he assumes that Rob will probably create their artwork for the album.

                                                                                                                Photo by: Kimberley Drapack

Once we entered the venue, another band, The Honest Heart Collective was currently in the middle of their sound check. We hung around and listened to part of their set. Texas King is currently touring with The Honest Heart Collective and urged me to check out their music. The two remaining band members, Colin and fill-in drummer, Mark, soon joined us after struggling to find parking.

Texas King soon took the stage and settled in quickly to their designated roles. After plugging in their equipment, and making sure they had everything in place, they began their sound check which brought a sense of nostalgia to the small space. The band played two new songs off their upcoming album, along with an older song, titled “Come Find Me” from their 2013 EP.

After a quick sound check, I tagged along Jordan and went outside for a smoke break. I asked if he was still the main songwriter of the group, to which he replied, “I still write all the songs. There’s a couple exceptions – a couple tunes where someone will come up with something, but for the most part, I write the tunes and bring it in still skeleton like. I still write most of them on my acoustic.”

Jordan finished the last drag of his cigarette and added, “I still imagine it in my head and then bring it to the band room.”

After sound check, we had some time to kill before the band’s slot in the showcase at 11pm. Around 6:30, I tagged along with Colin, Phil, and Mark, in search of some sort of food before our long night. I asked about the whereabouts of their resident drummer, Rob, to which Phil replied: “He was supposed to be back a couple of days ago, but work sort of fisted him and said we’re adding another day. He told work that he can’t stay, but they’re making him.”

Colin laughed and chimed in, “Imagine how badass it would have been if he did fly in and arrive just in time for somebody to pick him up and drop him off at the venue, and as he walks in, someone throws him a pair of sticks and he catches them out of midair.”

Phil replies, “That would be bad ass, but that would give me the worst anxiety all day.”

 

                                                                                                         Photo by: Kimberley Drapack

We then move onto the topic of work outside the band. I ask each member what job they currently have to be able to support the job they actually want to do. It becomes a funny conversation, the notion that in order to pursue a creative role, one must find another, (and sometimes multiple) job(s) in order to support their passion projects. Phil states that he works at a venue in London, and Colin replies that he has plays other people’s music, rather than his own.

Upon topics of origin stories, we recounted the early years of the band and how they formed their collective. Phil replied, “when we originally started with our first drummer, we were all in Fanshawe, and then our original drummer left 8 months or a year in. Our current drummer also went to Fanshawe, but we didn’t meet him there. I played in a band with him before. But the three of us met in the same program.”

Jordan and Colin got started in 2012 in their first year of college as an acoustic duo, and later, Phil and Rob joined the band to create the rest of Texas King. While finishing their final year of college, the band released their debut EP. Colin adds, “we released the it right during the end of exams.”

We returned to the venue and chatted with other band members playing the showcase that night. We laughed at a typo on the CMW handbook that said, “Mississausage Showcase” rather than the intended, “Mississauga Showcase.” One member of a Montreal band playing before Texas King stated that he used to play in a band called, “Crushed Luther”, and were once billed as “Crushed Leather.” Conversations like these had me triple checking my notes to make sure I had my own facts straight.

During our downtime, I chatted more with the band to get a sense of what Toronto venues they had under their belts. Phil listed off, “The Horseshoe Tavern, Sneaky Dees, The Drake, The Bovine Sex Club.” Colin added, “we’ve played a lot of places. You name anything on Queen and we’ve done it.”

 

                                                                                                                   Photo: by Kimberley Drapack

In comparison to the previously listed venues in Toronto, Adelaide Hall, which they were playing that night, had a promising set up. Audience members can get pretty close to the stage and right into the action. There’s even the chance of creating a pit. I asked if they encouraged this type of behaviour and Colin chimed in: “Yeah. Well, not like a pit where they kill each other, but Jordan is good at getting people to come up. He is charismatic and gets people who are bumming around the outskirts to come closer when the show starts.”

Along with Jordan’s ability to get the crowd amped up, the band has a great set time for their showcase. Phil recalls an earlier CMW where they had a great deal of luck as well: “We were at the Hideout, our very first year at CMW and the show was on a Tuesday around 8PM. We thought that no one is going to be here, but it was pretty packed. That’s when we realized that with CMW, it goes out the window. Just because you’re playing on a Tuesday or Wednesday, it would normally be kind of shitty, but that year, across the street was tattoo rock parlour, and the show started later, but it was with, “Stuck on Planet Earth, The Dirty Nill, and The Reason.” A lot of people ended up coming to the Hideout for our show at 8PM, and then at 9:30PM, they went over to see the shows at the other venue. Jeff from Teenage Kicks came out and saw us and then after we were done as the night went on, everyone went across the street. So, it’s very much about when you play versus what other is going on that night.”

We circled back to the discussion of  the much anticipated album. I asked when exactly it would be released. Phil stated that they were trying to keep most of the information low on the radar, and as far as naming the album, they were “tossing around a couple of ideas, but I don’t think we’ve settled on one yet. We usually just tell people “it’s coming.”

That’s sort of the general music rule within music: you’ll get it when you get it and until then, you’ve got to be patient. Phil agrees, and adds, “I don’t usually feel like explaining to people that there’s so much more behind it than just releasing music.”

                                                                                                                       Photo by: Kimberley Drapack

As the showcase began, we huddled backstage and tossed around stories as the bands playing before them set the tone for the evening.  We got on the topic of funny tour stories, and Phil recalled a time when he had to get 10 stitches in his hand before a show. Colin piped in, “we were rock climbing in Sudbury on a fine afternoon.”

Phil continues retelling the story and says, “we were going from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury, with plenty of time. On the sides of the roads, there’s a bunch of boulders – huge rocks, that are loose. After going and checking out a river, we decided we should leave, because we had to get loaded and get ready for soundcheck…”

Colin adds again, “after having a great day…”

Phil laughs. “We were 15 mins outside of Sudbury and it was the last show of the tour before going home. We were climbing up the boulders to get up to the road, and one of the ones I stepped on was loose. It slid out and I fell forward and instinctually put out my hands to catch myself and one of the rocks was a corner, the edge of the rock went right into my hand. I cut the artery. I was bleeding a lot and I needed two stitches just to close up the artery.”

I asked if they had flown into panic mode as soon as the injury happened. Phil stated that he knew right away that he needed stitches and Colin added, “Robbie ripped off his shirt in a heartbeat and wraps his hand. Jordan was in the van already and we were yelling, “start the van!”

Phil continued the story. “Jordan was sleeping. We made it back to the van, and Jordan is just waking up from his nap and there I was, gushing blood.”

Colin ended the saga by stating: “when we got to the hospital, the nurse wrapped his hand and said the wait would be around 20 minutes, a pretty reasonable time, and we got out to the waiting room, and within 4 minutes, it was already completely soaked in blood and dripping. We had to go back and be like, can you re-wrap this? They then rushed us to the front.”

I fished around for more stories, as I knew they had more to tell. Colin retells a story during one of their earlier years at Canadian Music Week. “Another time during Canadian Music Week, were at the Dakota and drinking with an industry guy and we were having jäger bombs, having a great time. We were new to this whole CMW thing but we knew this guy from another conference we were at before and he took us under his wing and brought us to an after hours party at the Bovine Sex Club. We walked in and I remember there are all these people… two members of The Trews, the guitar player from Billy Talent and John Lennon’s son, who does a solo project. It was sick, we were welcomed and then that night, we were doing a funny snap story together, cracking beers with a bunch of people with our arms around them, and seeing who we could get on the story. We got the bass player of The Trews to get on a snap story with us and crack a beer. He didn’t know: we were just like, “hey man, get on this snap story with us!” and we cracked a beer and took a sip together. It was probably our coolest snap story to date.”

At this point they are getting ready to perform and Colin ends with: “Another time, we forgot Robbie’s drum kit. But you probably should add that.”

                                                                                                           Photo: Courtesy of Texas King

Later after their set, Jordan and I stand outside the venue and reflect on the show. The energy was incredible, just as I remember it being, and as audience members trickle out of the venue, Jordan gets many words of praise.

He told me that in between sound check and their show, he went over to a bar close by where they claimed to have drinks for $2.50. After ordering a double bourbon, the bartender asks for $19.50. We laugh, and after asking why he didn’t ask the bartender about the mix-up, Jordan claims that it wasn’t the right time, as there was a crowd of guys standing around him in suits who were next up to get a drink. He adds, “yeah, they were just there, being rich, and as soon as I heard the price they were looking at me like, “you got a problem with that? Is it too much?” So, I just had to be like… just take half the money I have for the whole week.”

It was now around 12AM and I was ready to start my long journey home. Jordan told me to hang out, but I politely declined and as I had a train to catch. Before leaving, I had one last question that I was surprised I didn’t know the answer to. I asked Jordan to tell me the story behind the name of the band.

Jordan put up his right hand and said, “It’s from my adoptive name, Austin James. It’s a little word flay with the fingers. If you go Austin Texas and King James, then in the middle there, is Texas King. It’s dumb, but it seemed clever at the time.”

He explains that he was renamed Jordan Andrew MacDonald. “Yeah, my parents switched it up. You can do that with dogs, and apparently, people too.”

I ask what is next for Texas King. For now, if a label doesn’t work out, they plan on releasing the album independently, as they’ve done from the beginning with their music. “We’ll do it indie as we’ve done with the EP and stuff, tour it out of the van, make our own copies.” The first EP was self-produced and self-recorded and anyone who has self-recorded and self-promoted their own music knows that it requires a lot of time, manpower, and money, which isn’t always abundant during one’s early years.

With their debut album, they did things a little more professionally, while still having a hand in every part of the process. As of this current moment in time, Texas King remains independent and and without any external industry help.

                                                                                                                Photo: Courtesy of Texas King

Another goal on the horizon is getting Texas King on the radio. “We’re putting out a single,” says Jordan. I wondered if it was one of the newer songs I heard this evening, to which he replied, “no.”

Artists like Jordan have a pile of songs at the ready as his creativity never stops. I wonder then, in the current climate of awaiting a record deal, do artists often fall to the wayside, their creativity tested and tried over again, while they relentlessly self-promote their work that deserves a higher recognition? Bands like Texas King are doing extremely well, upping the roster at CMW and as I’m sure we’ll eventually see, headlining shows, and occupying prime spots in the showcase.

Jordan refers to a song they debuted tonight, titled, “Small Towns.” Along with this single, they have a few more in store, but they are not playing them quite yet.

On the other side, there is a cool self-starter vibe with Texas King where being independent is a large part of who they are. Jordan states that it’s “cool being indie because then you get to make all your own money, but I just wish there was more to make.” I add the fact that you also get to own your own music – your masters, what you release as your single, and so forth. Jordan agrees with this point and we call it a day.

 

 

Keep an eye out for Texas King‘s debut album coming soon and continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.