The name comes from a song I wrote – it’s about worshiping a person or a thing that turns out to be weaker or more flawed than you originally thought. In our culture, founded on market capitalism, people primarily worship things. You know when you impulse buy a sweet button-down Hawaiian t-shirt from an Instagram ad, but when it arrives all the buttons fall off and it looks less cool than the picture? That’s a paper idol. Or maybe I just have bad luck shopping on Instagram.
Where do you record? Basement? Professional studio?
I mostly record in my small production studio in East LA. It’s in a studio complex near the Mariachi District, so there’s tons of good food and cool music stuff happening around there. My bandmate Adam has a studio only a few minutes away, so sometimes we’ll work at his place. But given that everything happens on my laptop, I can really produce anywhere. Most of “Seen This All Before” was produced at a Starbucks in New York City. Right now, I’m at my childhood home sitting on a picnic-table-turned-music-studio where I’ll be producing material for the next EP.
What instruments do you play, and which digital audio workstations do you use?
I play guitar, bass, drumset, and sing. Adam’s got the synth and piano chops. We both use Ableton Live.
What brings you more joy, writing the lyrics or the music?
The music. It’s what comes naturally. Writing lyrics can be extremely difficult. Sometimes I’ll flow with it and come up with cool lyrics… other times I’m tearing my hair out. If I sit with the song long enough, the words come eventually. Usually.
Regarding “Seen This All Before,” were you trying to recreate the feeling of boredom with your tone and lyrics? Can you say a bit about repetition and boredom?
I’m really glad you caught onto that – most people ask about the anger of the song. The song isn’t angry, it’s lethargic and jaded. Clearly, the character in the song can’t reckon with his emotions and puts on this bored, confident front to protect himself. Or maybe his perspective is warranted? I wrote the song during a relatively bad nervous breakdown; I was feeling things very strongly at the time. But my anxiety is repetitive in nature, there’s an obsessional component that makes it all seems familiar and boring after a while. On top of that, the rest of the world is experiencing the same problems as me, and so have my ancestors, and so will my decedents. The result: my problems are just not that interesting. That’s the absurdity of “Seen This All Before”.
What emotion do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
That feeling when you’re at a party and have a random epiphany about aliens, or a new business idea, which then makes you have way more fun at the party.
And also, how do you feel, or want to feel, when you’re making it?
When I’m deep in a production, I’m meditating. My mind is turned off, I’m not thinking about the time or my headache or my rent payments – I’m focused on the specific track I’m working on. Ableton and I have a great relationship. It took us six long years to get there, but I’m at the point where my ideas can translate pretty fluidly into music. It feels good to make stuff. And Adam is basically a musical extension of myself, we have the same deep understanding of where we want this project to go and what it should sound like. Luckily, we don’t have the exact same taste in music, so he brings some jazz chops and a jam-band mentality to the table. Overall, we’re a happy team.
Regarding the song “Clouds,” is it a love song, a breakup song, or neither?
“Clouds” is about a relationship where my girlfriend broke up with me, then insisted on getting back together, then left me again three weeks later. It’s a love song and a breakup song!
Are you eager to get back to live concerts, or have you been happy doing live streams in the digital space? Do you foresee hybrid concerts in your future, such as your recent EP release party?
Adam and I can’t wait to play live again. We had a few local LA shows in October and are looking to tour soon. I think the hybrid concert model would be great to continue, especially with everything going on. In addition, our fanbase is international, so until our world tour it’s cool to stream the shows online!
What inspired the switch in direction from med school to musician?
Medicine is a family business – both my parents and my sister are doctors, my grandfather was a pharmacist, and my aunts and uncles are in medicine. Growing up, I figured I’d join them. I used to dress up as a doctor for Halloween. I went so far as finishing a pre-med curriculum at Wesleyan University and taking a medical technology job following graduation. Sitting at my desk job, I kept hearing this inner voice that said, “Go!” I ignored it for many months. Then I spent a weekend in LA on business, and met up with buddies from Wesleyan who encouraged me to move there and make music. I figured that’s where “Go!” was telling me to go. So, like many Midwestern hopefuls before me, I quit my job and drove down to LA with lots of music gear and no plan whatsoever.
You describe your music as “Delusional Pop” – did you coin that or was it already established industry jargon?
Adam actually came up with that one! Sums it up good huh?
Does the colour yellow mean something to you, or does it just happen to be your fave?
Neither, actually. After writing “Clouds,” I spent some time thinking about the visual aesthetic, and the first thing that popped in my head was the yellow umbrella. From there, I came up with the album art, and Mania Days became the yellow EP. Something about yellow is dreamy and “open,” it was the perfect color for Mania Days. Paper Idol has always stuck to the three primary colors for the art, so we might choose a new one for the next project…
Will your new Bond movie be called:
James Bond: Paper Never Dies
James Bond: Octopaper
James Bond: GoldenEyedol?
Oh my goodness these are great – I vote Octopaper.
Bud Light Limes or craft beer?
Craft beer. Too many bad high-school hangovers with Bud Light.
The Rio Theatre was absolutely rocked on November 9th by COIN. With the absence of the opening act, Valley, who were unable to get across the border, Chase Lawrence (lead vocals/synths), Ryan Winnen (drums), Joe Memmel (lead guitar/backing vocals), and Matt Martin (bass) came out to a somewhat cool crowd, murmuring with excitement.
The first live sounds of the night came from Memmel‘s Fender Mustang for their song Chapstick, a single they released in early October. The tone of his opening riff cut like a knife through the anticipation of what the night had in store. There were no more questions at this point; we were in for a show.
As the night went on, it became more and more apparent why COIN has experienced the success they have; not only were they all incredible musicians, but they each had a distinct knack for showmanship. Whether it was Lawrence jumping on top of his keyboard mid solo or Memmel becoming a human extension of his guitar and falling to his knees at the strum of a chord, there was always something going on up there that caught your eye. The passion they have for their music was evident and contagious.
I was able to get my hands on their setlist after the show, and this was the order of the songs they played.
Before playing You Are The Traffic, the only song they performed from their most recent album, Rainbow Mixtape, Lawrence mentioned that they wrote 26 new songs in the last year. Which, under normal circumstances, would be basically impossible for a band trying to balance a touring schedule. The feat becomes even more impressive when you consider the quality of the 26 songs that they produced. But, as we all know, time can seem endless during a lockdown; something Lawrence credited as the main reason they were able to write so much.
I was slightly disappointed they didn’t play more of their new songs from their recent albums Rainbow Mixtape and Green Blue + Indigo Violet; the night was primarily focused on their album Dreamland, which they didn’t get a chance to tour in 2020 due to COVID-19. I can’t blame them; it’s a strange position for a band to release an album, then get halted from touring due to a global pandemic, sending them into a writing frenzy that resulted in two new albums in one year. The good news, there is a lot more new music that they will be performing soon.
The night ended off with their most popular song to date, Talk Too Much. Even after seventeen songs, they were able to muster up a powerful performance that had the entire building singing along with them. Lawrence ended the night by simply saying, “see you next time,” with confident assurance in his tone that was well deserved after that performance. He knew, as well as everyone else in that crowd, that we were going to be seeing him again.
Sifat and Samprit are Broun, a dynamic new band out of Jakarta and Toronto, with their roots in Dhaka. After the release of their first single, “Escape the Feeling,” 987’s Mikhail and Torben sat virtually down to talk to Broun about their style, experiences, influences, what gets them outta bed in the morning, and whether they like bud light lime better than craft beer. Read below the results of the experiment.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Hello Broun! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us… virtually. Can you talk about your musical backgrounds? Do you have any formal training? Did you teach yourselves everything you know?
[Sifat:] My mom was a pop singer in the 80s and as kids, my sister and I were encouraged to learn eastern classical music. I respected it, but never really vibed with it. Fast forward a few years “Everybody” by Backstreet Boys came out. My sister and I were allowed to purchase the cassette and we could sing every song on the album by heart. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, but then I saw a concert by Linkin Park in 2000 on MTV and was mesmerized by Mike Shinoda playing multiple instruments whilst singing and rapping and all my teenage hormones wanted was to be in a band.
[Samprit:] I wanted to play guitar since I heard Eddie Van Halen’s [rip] solo in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” on cassette in the early 90s. In 2004, I finally got a guitar and over the years, took guitar lessons on and off from several capable guitar teachers until about 2009. After a 6 year hiatus from music, in late 2016 I took an interest in electronic music and started to teach myself producing from YouTube tutorials and forums.
[Sifat:] Samprit and I went to the same middle school and were two of the only rock n’ roll kids in a school dominated by hip-hop lovers. We bought the same Ibanez electric guitars, went to the same guitar teacher for lessons and listened to and jammed to a lot of rock and metal music.
I never learned how to sing, I always just could do it naturally. I did, however, learn a lot of breathing techniques and tips online once I started singing live. Samprit was a guitar prodigy in our teens, and while we did go to an amazing teacher for guitar lessons (Saadi Muktafi), he always had a knack for self-learning. In fact, he has learned everything about music production and sound design from Youtube and Twitch streams of famous producers.
[Mikhail and Torben:] You say that you came up making tunes in Dhaka. What kind of music do people make there? How have those styles influenced your music? Are there any Bangladeshi artists or bands that continue to influence you?
[Sifat:] Dhaka is one of the densest cities in the world and thus has a lot of music. Much of the mainstream music there is inspired by modern pop with eastern classical melodies and a noticeable influence from Bollywood music.
However, we started playing music during, what is commonly referred to as, the Bangladesh Underground Rock and Metal movement of the early 2000s—which was basically a group of kids who were tired of listening to what was on TV and wanted to sound edgy and different. We went to concerts in small overcrowded venues on the weekends and would be in the front row to watch bands that played covers of Metallica and Nirvana. By 2007 we had a band with the goal of sounding as different as we could from other artists in the scene, and so we would try to sound like bands like Alter Bridge, Incubus and Porcupine Tree, who at the time were new and fresh for the scene. Bands that continue to influence us from the Dhaka scene are Artcell, Black, Cryptic Fate and Nemesis to name a few. There are hundreds more.
In 2010, we released two rock singles with our band Absent Element which received a fair amount of radio play acclaim from the community, but were slowly discarded as one hit wonders as Samprit permanently moved to Canada and I was away from Dhaka for 6 years being in Canada and the UK till 2016.
The underground scene from Dhaka really influenced us not just musically, but in teaching us that kids of any age or background could come together and create something from nothing. Huh? Oh, why bud light lime of course! Anyways, the scene has now evolved far beyond just rock and metal, but continues to be a spirited generation of creators supporting each other and looking for the next unique sound. In fact more than one third of all of Broun’s listens still come from our old fans in Dhaka.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Sorry to interrupt but, do you prefer bud light lime or craft beer?
[Sifat:] Craft beer haha
[Mikhail and Torben:] Do you still visit Dhaka? Have things changed there since you’ve been abroad?
[Sifat:] Yes, In fact, I was living there between 2016 and 2019. Things have changed massively. The internet has only fuelled the scene’s creativity and diversity. You can find all sorts of genres and listeners there now.
[Mikhail and Torben:] You guys have been ‘virtually’ jamming almost every weekend since May 2020 despite being halfway around the world from each other; do you have any more releases planned for the near future? Singles? EP? Album?
[Sifat:] We’ve been virtually jamming actively since May after we realized we really had nothing to do on the weekends because of Covid. But honestly, I don’t think we ever stopped nerding out on music since 2004. We still talk guitars, some crazy riff or breakdown in a song, our favourite concert videos—you should see our chats. I think Facebook once told me I have exchanged the most number of messages with Samprit amongst all of my connections.
Yes, Broun is a long term project. It is something that we wish to pursue for many years to come. We see this as us finally pursuing our “Freedom to follow our calls” as musicians. (*coughs* teaser from second single *coughs*). We have written about 7-8 songs now that we really like, with 2 in the final stages of production now. This goal is to release one single a month till 2021. If we can get a decent following by then, a sabbatical from work and our first face to face meeting in 10 years is on the cards!
[Mikhail and Torben:] Your song blends elements from a few different genres. It’s the type of music that could really take off. Are you guys working towards the goal of Broun replacing your corporate jobs?
[Sifat:] Glad listeners are picking up on the variety of our influence. Absolutely. Believe it or not, both of us just turned 30. We really think it’s now or never. While we will need to hold on to our jobs for now, if we can really make music at the level that we aspire to, who knows what’s possible.
Right now, we are just trying to be time-management ninjas, and channel the kind of discipline we’ve been able to cultivate in our jobs towards our creative endeavours.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Has Covid affected how you produce music? Did you have any shows or tours that you had to cancel? Are you thinking of ways that you can adapt and continue to connect with people despite being unable to perform live?
[Sifat:] Covid has changed the game for us. It forced us to get rid of our mind-numbing weekend distractions and actually sit at home and give music one more shot. While I did play a few open mics here and there for the last few months, we didn’t even exist as an act—so covid was more of a catalyst than an inconvenience for us. In May, Samprit randomly sent me a synth backing with a beat and in 15 minutes of our first zoom call we had the first verse and chorus of “Escape The Feeling”. Over the next few weeks, we went back and forth on the arrangement, structure and mix of the song. By June, when it was done—it was something we were really proud of and it opened our eyes to the possibilities we had as a duo. We started writing other material in full force while planning how to market ourselves as an act online. Above everything else, we want to make good quality music that people would love to jam to—whether that be at work, the gym or a sold out stadium. However, we live in the age of digital media and thus online content is always going to be an important tool for us to reach our audience.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Did you enjoy producing the music video for “Escape the Feeling”? Would you like to do more videos in the future, and do you see them as an integral piece of modern music production?
[Sifat:] It was the most fun I have had in a very long time, and am really sad Samprit could not be part of it. A little back story. I was lucky enough to randomly come across Wina, a film producer in Jakarta. She liked the song instantly and agreed to assemble a team of 3—Putrisa, Adit and her brother Monty who did everything on the video, starting from concept, direction till the final cut. Along the way I asked my friend Adara to play the eccentric and mysterious girl in the video. Yousuf helped drive us around, took some photos and also featured in a little cameo. It all just came together like magic! Believe it or not, we filmed everything on a Sunday night from 5PM to 5AM. These guys were super supportive and honestly are our very first fans and believers. I have promised to get them backstage passess when we play Tomorrowland haha. We definitely will do more videos in the future, maybe stuff that’s a little easier to shoot. We have been exploring lyric videos as an option too. Online content is the prime way to build engagement with an audience now. I have actually been YouTubing for the past few years, and the skills I have picked up have been insanely useful so far. I even made Samprit do a photoshoot, and he’s the type who hasn’t uploaded a photo in 8 years.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Do you think that metropolitan life and corporate work stifle creativity? Is there any room for creativity in the world of work?
[Sifat:] Not at all. We feel like it gives us a chip on our shoulder to fight for our dreams harder. If we didn’t have our jobs, what would we be trying to escape from? It’s a strange paradox.
The corporate hustle also teaches you to be tough, work with tight deadlines and prioritize ruthlessly. Honestly we’re the type of people who would be lazy bums otherwise. The world of work is extremely dynamic now. Creativity is an essential skill needed to thrive in it. In fact, our colleagues fully know about and support our music.
Life in the city exposes you to a lot of stories. These stories fuel imagination and creativity.
[Mikhail and Torben:] How did you two end up in Toronto and Jakarta? Are your new homes starting to influence your music in different ways?
[Sifat:] Samprit’s family emigrated to Canada in 2010. He studied at UofT, and being the perfect poster boy engineer, found his footing in the tech industry in Toronto. I was more of a confused hopper—after completing university in the UK I was part of a tech startup in Dhaka. The connections I made there brought me to my current gig in Jakarta. I really like Indonesia, and plan to stay here for the next 2 years at least.
[Mikhail and Torben:] Who would you most like to collaborate with?
[Sifat:] The priority right now is to really establish our own unique and recognizable sound. We have exchanged messages with many musicians in Toronto, Dhaka and Jakarta – but for now we’re heads down in work trying to get our craft right.
[Mikhail and Torben:] What is one message you would give to your fans?
[Sifat:] Be honest with us, tell us what you really think.
Feedback is the one thing that will help catapult us to a global stage.
You’re the architects of our dreams as much as we are.
[Mikhail and Torben:]Thanks for chatting with us, Broun!
The last instalment of Rifflandia took place in downtown Victoria from September 13th – 16th, 2018. In its 11th year, it has established itself as an excellent west coast mid-size festival experience. The festival grounds themselves were a manageable and excellent size. The crowds felt busy and excited, but not overwhelming. Even bathroom lines were reasonable; something not every festival can boast.
This festival took place throughout the city. Philips Brewery had stages in their backyard and the main festival grounds were at Royal Athletic Park. However, once the main acts were done for the evening, various bars and clubs throughout the downtown core continued to play Rifflandia events well into the night.
NineEightSeven took the “Tsawwassen –> Swartz Bay” ferry across on Thursday night, and pre-gamed with a BC Burger. Night One started with Adventure Club at the Phillips Backyard. We arrived and found ourselves slightly not in the mental state of the largely UVic crowd who had been partying longer. Realizing our mistake, we set out to remedy this issue and stumbled upon the biggest surprise of the festival:
Diamond Café took the stage at the Capital Ballroom, and is all we’ve been talking about since. The group is young, but the lead singer’s voice is enormous. They have an 80s sound, and a dancey, sensual vibe. The lead singer would frequently carry the room away with a note hitting a higher range or held longer than anyone expected.
NineEightSeven entered Royal Athletic Park for Blitzen Trapper at the RiffTop Tent. Royal Athletic Park had two stages: Rifftop and Main. Given the size of the festival grounds, they essentially alternate. Blitzen Trapper hails from Oregon, and they have a decidedly Pacific Northwest vibe, perfectly at home in the Victoria surrounds.
Royal Athletic Park closed the night with Daniel Caesar. His soulful voice and rarely-flashed heartbreaking smile made the crowd fall in love completely. His voice and sound brought a private show feeling to the Main Stage in Victoria.
NineEightSeven then returned to the Capital Ballroom for a completely contrasting musical experience, Fucked Up. Their sound inspired a (admittedly low key) mosh pit and let audience members release any lingering energy.
There were two acts that NineEightSeven were most amped for going into Rifflandia, and they happened to both be on Saturday (late afternoon/evening).
Before that, though, Sonreal delivered some feel-good sing-along rap. He moves like no one I’ve ever seen. Legs seemingly on springs, microphone nearly parallel to the ground, and then he’s suddenly up and back and sing rapping in a completely different part of the stage.
However, for us, the whole festival had been opening for Bishop Briggs – and she delivered. Moving around the stage like a boxer, one moment sprinting, another ready to fight. Her demon, pixie dream energy somehow directly correlated to the deep, full vocals behind banger after banger. She charged from stage left to stage right, and made us all fall in love. She took moments to address the crowd and her higher, more reserved speaking voice nearly quivered with gratitude and excitement. She belted out high energy, big vocals hits like “White Flag”, “Hallowed Ground”, and “Wild Horses”. She sheepishly apologized for her first love song, “Baby” (about Sir Sly frontman, Landon Jacobs), and warned parents in the audience of some mildly explicit lyrics. And, of course, delivered her biggest hit (so far!), “River”. We love Bishop Briggs.
In the Saturday closer, a different kind of female lead took the stage: Jessie Reyez from Toronto. She’d made cross-Canada radio waves with “Figures” in late 2017. But anyone who thought “Figures” was her whole sound would have been incredibly surprised at the R&B/rap sound she brought to stage. She angrily dismantles sexual harassment in the music industry in “Gatekeeper”; laughs at fuckbois in “Bodycount”; even more angrily yells at fuckbois in her collaboration with Eminem, “Nice Guy”; dances along to the Dua Lipa/Calvin Harris “One Kiss” that she penned; and slows down and opens up in “Apple Juice”. She spoke to the crowd frequently throughout the set, bringing us in and making it more a of a conversation than simply a collection of songs.
It’s clear that, after 11 years of running this annual event, Rifflandia has this whole festival thing down. Can’t wait for the next edition 🙂
There’s a lot of uncertainty around the world right now, but one thing’s for sure: artists from all corners of the earth are making sure their craft still thrives during these crazy times. Isla Noir is no exception.
Back on the scene for the first time since her debut EP (2012), “Hawkmen”, Isla Noir has just released her newest single, “Breathe Underwater”.
To Isla, the ocean is like a second home. Growing up in Australia meant every summer and many seasons in between were spent by the sea. Now based in Vancouver, the artist has lived in many places around the world over the years, and brings all her memories back to life through her music.
Breathe Underwater encapsulates twelve years of ocean-exploration, a journey that began with Isla’s first dive in Koh Phi Phi back in 2008. Through this song, she transports you to a world beneath the waves, and squeezes more than a decade of subaqueous memories into four and half minutes. The pulsating bass paired with crystal clear vocals makes you feel like you’re actually forty metres below the surface.
Isla’s style could be described as “dark pop” – although it seems almost unfair to narrow her music down to one genre. Isla Noir writes and produces her own songs which are drawn from her life experiences, and beautifully balance true stories and escapism.
This was the first year of Constellation Fest and NineEightSeven’s first year covering it!
Constellation took place on Hendricks Field in Squamish from July 26th – 28th. The Greater Vancouver festival market has been notably lean in 2019 as older mainstays such as Squamish Valley Music Festival and Pemberton have bitten the dust while Skookum and Rifflandia took a year off.
Constellation aimed to bring a west coast mid-size festival experience to the Pacific Northwest, and it did just that. The weekend was met with idyllic July weather (apart from a brief Friday shower). The festival grounds themselves were an excellent size. The crowds felt busy and excited, but not overwhelming. Beer, food, and bathroom lines were manageable. Similar to Rifflandia, Constellation used two alternating stages, with the main stage facing the Stawamus Chief.
Beyond the music, Constellation mixed in local vendors and artists, with several art installations evolving over the course of the festival. One paint-by-numbers zone had a large canvas and allowed everyone to get involved.
It is also worth noting that Constellation had many initiatives to go zero waste. They appeared to be partnering with waste giant, GFL, which allowed for waste-of-all-kind depositories and kept the festival grounds spick and span.
NineEightSeven’s 2019 Constellation Festival began in Vancouver Friday afternoon. By locating in Squamish, getting to the festival was relatively easy via car or festival shuttles. While camping was available off-site, NineEightSeven stayed at a nearby hotel to maximize sleep, bathrobes and water slides.
Our festival began with Canadian act, Dear Rouge performing local radio mainstays “Black to Gold”, “Live Through The Night” and others. Lead singer, Danielle McTaggart, partnered with purple smoke bombs and a black and white robe, brought NineEightSeven right into Constellation’s mode.
Following them, Edmonton band of brothers Scenic Route to Alaska took the smaller Creative BC Stage to smoke and a brief rain shower. They have a ‘Central Canada‘ guitar sound that fit right into the evening and fed into Friday headliner Serena Ryder.
She began with her biggest hit, high energy, “Stompa”. From there, through the smoke machines, she mixed in slow songs and heavier guitar and eventually caused the only rainstorm of the weekend.
After a brief pit-stop, NineEightSeven hit up the official after-party at the best nightclub on the Sea-to-Sky, The Knotty Burl. Truly having everything one might look for in a post festival experience, The Knotty Burl provided a nightly option for a sweatier dance party after a day in the grass with more relaxed music. Hot Hot Heat’s bassist, Parker Bossley, played to a packed crowd eager for the night to continue.
NineEightSeven made it in for Vancouver’s own, Peach Pit. Well, we made it in before that but got stuck at festival sponsor, Nude’s activity zone, sipping beverages and playing corn-hole. The Saturday crowd was a wide range of ages, with a surprisingly large number of kids. The family atmosphere felt at-one with a Squamish weekend while little posses of children roamed around coming up with games that only they could understand. Peach Pit came with facial hair, and a Vancouver hipster look and sound on the main stage.
Following Peach Pit, rapper (and briefly Studio Q host) Shad was on the Creative BC Stage. He mixed older classics with some newer tracks and upped the hip-hop significantly after a couple days of largely Indie Rock.
Following in the hip-hop vein was A Tribe Called Red. They began with a message, letting the crowd know that one of their members had been profiled and taken out of the festival. In response, the crowd booed and were firmly siding with A Tribe Called Red. Once the set began, some truly spectacular indigenous dancers and hoops wowed and accompanied classics such as “Electric Pow Wow Drum”.
NineEightSeven’s surprise favourite of the weekend followed, Cosmo Sheldrake. A couple of his songs have hit the mainstream in a few surprising ways, “The Moss” and “Come Along”, popping up in places such as Apple ads and the intro to The Masked Singer. He seems to mix lyrics you might associate with Dr. Seuss into a looped DJ set. His soft-spoken London accent matches his on-stage persona: perfectly: unassuming, but in full control. Fortunately, this was not the last time we saw Cosmo that evening.
In the roll of the Saturday closer, Jessie Reyez. You probably know her by now, but if not, she made cross-Canada radio waves with “Figures” in late 2017. However, only associating her music with Figures misses the R&B/rap sound of much of her other stuff. Unfortunately, Jessie hurt herself a few weeks prior and for a while Constellation looked dicey. However, she made it and began in her signature hoodie and hat. She went through classics such as “Gatekeeper”, “Apple Juice” and “Body Count” before lying down on the stage. Typically, she rips back and forth and today her movement was decidedly slower. She then said:
“You guys my back is killing me. I don’t want to stop the show, but I’ve got to sit down”.
All of a sudden, a couch appeared on stage and she lay on it and kept singing all the way through a closing “Figures”. As she likes to, she frequently brought the crowd in, telling stories of coming up performing on the street, and dealing with industry low-lifes.
However, the night was far from done as Cosmo Sheldrake was performing at The Knotty Burl. Reprising some tunes from earlier, with some new loops and mixes, he nearly didn’t play his biggest hit, “Come Along”. Fortunately, some aggressive crowd cajoling brought him back on stage to finish off Saturday at Constellation with this tune.
Sunday began slowly for NineEightSeven and the festival. Following legalization, cannabis giant Aurora sponsored a Weed Garden, enabling Aurora plastered hats to be on almost each on every head in the grounds. We checked it out before taking in songstress, Begonia. She has a big voice (think Lily Allen) perfect for larger venues and for taking in on the grass in front of the main stage.
Sit back and get ready to go for a wild ride, because that’s exactly how the Judah & The Lion concert felt.
Their advertised opening act Floracash was a no-show, with local Vancouver band Harlequin Gold taking their place without explanation.
Set in the gorgeous Orpheum theatre, the acoustics played out well, although the seating situation made it a little hard to rock out. When it was time for Judah & The Lion to come out, the lights dimmed drawing a hush over the crowd. The great white sheet hanging in front of the stage became illuminated, silhouetting the band and their marching drums hanging from their necks. An intense play of light and sound began, with the shadows and flashes matching the marching band beats. Choir like vocals filled the air and then suddenly the curtain was dropped to reveal Judah & The Lion performing the title track from their latest album “Pep Talks”.
In a blast of music and art, the concert was underway with such high energy from Judah Akers as he ran around stage moving in such a signature way, it was hard not to smile at his authentic love of performing.
If you’re new to Judah & The Lion, they’re a Tennessee band with a 21 Pilots-meets-bluegrass vibe. Their music is a wonderful amalgamation of guitars, banjo’s, electronics and suburban teen angst. Their lyrics are always relatable and honest in a way that makes you feel like you’ve lived the same life, or at least a parallel.
Judah kept referring to the seats in the Orpheum as a hinderance to rocking out, but urged the crowd to overlook the seats and come dance in the aisles. Between songs, he made audience participation a game by separating the crowd into two teams. One team was placed on banjo player Nate Zuercher‘s side and the remaining team on mandolin player Brian Macdonald‘s side. Making everyone dance without inhibition, Judah kept the crowd participation up the entire night, constantly jumping from side to side without playing favourites.
The segue between songs was a beautiful storyline, carried along by perfectly timed lights and sound.
It felt like a magical experience in a church of music, with the way Judah slowed down the music and took the time to talk about his personal experience of being on the road, and how he came to write “pictures” – a song recorded with Kacey Musgraves.
Judah opened up about his parents’ divorce and struggle with addiction, explaining that the song stemmed from an emotional call from his mother, while she was packing up his childhood home up during his tour. The song started with only him on stage, but ended with the entire band coming out to support him with vocals and other instruments.
Each of the band members wore tops that had the word “family” emblazoned across the front, and it felt like family and unity were the main themes of the night.
Moving from slow songs on piano, to high energy seemed like an impossible task, but with flashes of air cannons and bright lights, they were at it again, throwing the cheering crowd into favourites from their 2017 album Folk Hop N’Roll.
Running into the crowd and all the way to the back of the theatre, Judah made sure to high five as many fans as possible (something that must have been a nightmare for his security). He announced that he wanted to “bring out the rowdy” from the crowd, urging all of us to let go of our shyness and just dance, or do what felt right.
Though this was the 54th show on their Pep Talk tour, the band showed no signs of fatigue.
There was a truly touching moment when Judah played a song on his twelve string, slowing everything down to truly connect with the crowd. Nate had several gorgeous banjo solo’s, showcasing his true talent of the instrument, with quick fingered bluegrass riffs. Not to be outdone by his bandmates, Brian switched between various guitars and the mandolin throughout the entire set. The supporting band members were just as incredible with their energetic playing and tight beats.
This is a band that needs to be seen live to have a masterclass in what a great performance looks like. From the cohesion that came with telling stories between songs through light and sound, to the rad dance moves of Judah moving like liquid and solid state all at the same time, there was not one fault during the almost two hour long set.
Positivity oozed from the band, and they reinforced the importance of family, love, respect and not letting your negatives stop you from doing anything.
Their encore consisted of three final songs, the crowd practically yelling the lyrics to “Take It All Back”. Once the final curtain had closed and the lights were up, the crowd walked out on clouds of elation. People that were once strangers felt like friends, not a single unsmiling face was seen in the Orpheum.
Australian folk/indie band Boy & Bear played at the iconic Commodore Ballroom with Stu Larsen as their opener.
Stu had a voice that felt like a lullaby washing over the crowd. His style was aptly suited to Boy & Bear fans and his mellow vibes created a gentle sway that felt soft and soothing to everyone that arrived early.
Without aplomb, Boy & Bear entered the stage shortly after Larsen‘s final song to begin their set. David Hosking‘s vocals were moody, sounding like something straight from a record. There was a gritty soulfulness that added depth to each song, something that needs to be heard live rather than on an mp3 recording.
Their set consisted of old interspersed within new tracks. Their latest album “Suck On Light” was released five days before the concert, with Hosking introducing the title song to the crowd proudly. One lucky fan at the front was handed a bright orange vinyl pressing of the album, Hosking explained that even the band hadn’t received their own copies.
Killian Gavin‘s guitar work was simple but soulful, the rest of the band playing beautifully to create the sort of dreamy atmosphere that suited the songs. Hosking had a way of delivering the lyrics to each song, as if telling a story for the first time. The moodiness of the lighting show matched the warm fall/autumn sentiment that had settled over Vancouver on this grey, drizzly night.
The backing vocals and harmonies of all the band members melded into one voice, creating a warmth to meet Hosking‘s solidarity in his bold vocals.
During song changes, several of the members were seen drinking beers on stage, making the concert feel more like an intimate backyard show rather than a large theatre performance.
Once Boy & Bear had finished their set they left the stage, only to return moments later to perform the encore fans patiently waited for. David announced that they had never done encore’s in the past and that this tour was their first time trying it out.
Finishing with four more songs, midway through the encore Stu Larsen was invited back on stage. A hush fell over the crowd as people knew they were about to hear a fan favourite. Jonathan Hart‘s iconic banjo riff signalled the beginning of Boy & Bear‘s most famous cover from Melbourne band, Crowded House. “Fall At Your Feet“ was a treat to hear live, the harmonies were nothing short of breathtaking, with every member joining in, including an impressive show from Tim Hart, playing both drums and vocals in unison.
The chill in the air on September 28th seemed fitting to welcome the Icelandic band Of Monsters And Men to Vancouver for their first show in three years. If you’re a devoted reader of 987 then this band needs absolutely no introduction.
With lights down and nervous cheers rising up, Thunderbird Arena at UBC took on an almost ethereal, church-like feeling. Slow viking tones wavered over the crowd as the five band members took their positions in near darkness. With just the soulful high notes crying out from Brynjar Leifsson‘s guitar, he was joined by the underlying bass of Kristján Páll Kristjánsson before everything else came crashing into place in perfect precision.
Nanna Bryndis Hulmardottir threw the band into their first song “Alligator” which comes from their latest album “Fever Dream“. Her energetic singing and presence set off the Vancouver show, creating a playful atmosphere.
A huge eye from the cover of Fever Dream hung at the back of stage, looking out over the crowd with a watchful stare. The stage was awash with red and white lighting, the songs moving from upbeat to the more soulful offerings from their older albums. Nanna was a true joy to watch while she would jump back and forth between playfully beating the drums alongside Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, then running to the front of the stage with her guitar and vocals that cut crystal clear across the arena. Ragnar Porhallsson had the sort of soothing voice that felt like you were being played a lullaby softly.
The band’s dynamic played out well on stage and the lighting was perfectly matched with the emotion of each song. The band’s drummer, Arnar, was like a meerkat constantly standing atop his drum kit to engage with the crowd, while still playing with his feet. As if begging not to be forgotten behind his hulking drum-kit, he would clap his sticks high in the air to get the crowd going.
When slower songs were played, almost everyone in the venue raised their phone flashlights to create and ethereal feeling that matched Nanna’s soulful musings. She commented that the sentiment had not gone unnoticed, saying she was almost moved to tears by the show of solidarity with their songs.
The band left the stage for several minutes, before coming back to play four more songs that had the entire stadium singing along. Nanna ran into the crowd guided by a flashlight, skipping in a full circle before climbing back onto stage to finish the set.
Vancouver was the last leg of their five week North American tour, the band now sets sail for Ireland to begin their UK Tour.
Curated by NOFX frontman, Fat Mike, Punk in Drublic is a touring festival that celebrates the hedonistic, beer-soaked spirit of punk rock by bringing together a line-up of fresh and legacy punk bands, along with a beer festival offering unique craft beer.
I joined the hoards of punk rockers that descended upon the PNE Amphitheatre for the second-ever Canadian date, which featured NOFX,Bad Religion, Anti-Flag, The Real McKenzies, and Chixdiggit. The sky was clear and the sun beat down. By the time I’d made it through the gates, I was damn thirsty.
In a slightly un-punk move, the craft beer tents were only open for a few hours at the beginning of the day. This made for an in-cohesive festival experience as the beer fest and punk shows were separate entities. Either way, there was no way I was going to waste my precious beer tokens so I chose to endure long lines in the blazing parking lot to make the most of my short time at the beer festival. Here are my thoughts on the beers I got to sample:
Fuggles & Warlock– Fusion West Coast IPA: Kinda standard IPA with hoppy, woody tones. I was a little disappointed because F&W make the Kiwami Plum Sour which is one of my favourite beers ever, and it’s just so unusual tasting. I was hoping for something weirder from them.
House of Funk Brewing Co.– Funk Juice Vol. 8, Coconut and Pineapple: I’m a sucker for a sour and this was probably my favourite beer of the fest. It was yummy, potent juice and in the midday heat, it conjured up visions of a sandy tropical island.
Taylight Brewing Inc. – Slack Tide Hazy Pale Ale: Tasty af, rich, and fragrant. This one had a flavour you had to literally scrape off the back of your tongue. I could probably only drink one or two of these. It was probably only 5% but tasted like 7%, for sure.
Dead Frog Brewery – Moscow Mule Lime Ginger White Ale: Fresh, light, and fizzy with a ginger-lime aftertaste! A decent summer lager that helped rinse my palate after the heavy Taylight. This one really quenched my thirst, thank you.
Electric Bicycle Brewing – Tart Pale Ale: I was drawn to Electric Bicycle because of their psychedelic red and blue tent that hurt my eyes to look at. I didn’t regret my decision. I could’ve mistaken this ale for a sour as it was so citrusy and acidic. Loved it.
Because of my beer tasting diversion, I only caught the end of Chixdiggit. The Calgary band offered your standard Fat Wreck style polished pop-punk. Nasally vocals, whoas and all. With the crowd still filtering over from the beer fest, the sound seemed lost in the space of the half-empty arena. The high-end guitars didn’t quite cut and the bass was boomy and washed out. Singer, KJ Jansen, gave a slightly obnoxious speech which featured many shout-outs, including several to himself. People seemed to dig their last song, “Geocities Kitty”and there were lots of sing-alongs in the chorus. The band got the crowd going, but their peppy shtik wasn’t for me.
Despite being the only straight-edge band at the festival, political punks Anti-Flag proved that they can have fun too. The sound wasn’t much better, but they had the stage presence and tunes to make up for it. Their setlist rarely ventured beyond 2006 and featured “Turncoat” and the frantic “Fuck Police Brutality,” which welcomed the day’s first circle pit. Whether performing flailing stage acrobatics or preaching super-focused political messages, Anti-Flag’s energy was consistently intense. The set felt fleeting but they definitely left everyone wanting more.
The crowd swelled in size to pay respects to the legendary Bad Religion. While the band members now look like a bunch of college professors (and I’m pretty sure vocalist Greg Graffin actually is a college professor…) they’re definitely not past it. They blasted through a 20 song, career-spanning setlist. The opener, “Fuck Armageddon,” was raw and ferocious with its speedy power chords, soaring vocal melodies and harmonies. “You” won the nostalgia award for giving me flashbacks to playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on PS1.
They mostly played tunes from their 2019 album, Age of Unreason. New songs like “Chaos from Within” and “End of History” stay true to Bad Religion’s melodic punk roots but exemplified the fact that in all the years they’ve existed, the band has remained more or less unchanged in terms of style. I’ve really got to give it to Bad Religion for their passion and professionalism. These guys have been together for almost 40 years but still played harder and faster than bands half their age.
The last time I saw NOFX live was over 10 years ago, so when they danced onstage to “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, it seemed pretty on point. I soon realized that even though so much time had passed, not much had changed.
They played a ton of fan favourites, “Linoleum” and “Perfect Government,” and the second Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater jam of the day, “Separation of Church and Skate.” The classic tracks whipped the crowd up into a sweaty mass of mohawks, dreads, and bare torsos. They also peppered the set with some reggae numbers, including a cover of Rancid’s “Radio,” that helped to switch up the pace and added to the fun, party vibe.
Drummer, Smelly, was relentless as he smashed the kit with his signature beats. Guitarist, El Hefe, parped away at his trumpet as the audience oi-oi’d their way through “Bob” and he backed up Fat Mike’s leads with flawless vocal harmonies throughout the performance.
As I mentioned earlier, the fest was plagued with sketchy sound, which was a shame for NOFX, a band that loves to talk shit between songs. From my position, I could barely hear their stage banter. Fat Mike and co seemed unaware though, as there was A LOT of it. I did catch one particularly offensive joke that I wouldn’t dare repeat. Even after last years’ Punk in Drublic controversy, they still found time to try and cause offence.
Like partying with your oldest buds, there’s something extremely comforting about the familiar fun of a NOFX show. After 10 years, I thought things might be vastly different. But what I got was NOFX by numbers and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.