For today’s look at the Borealis Longlist, we spoke to artists whose most recent album was a bit of a new direction, whether a jump across genres, or in one case, a new name.
Below are 3 sample songs off each of Dame Nature, Lady Brett Ashley, and Plaid Boys’ albums. This year’s shortlist will be revealed in December’s print issue, and online here Dec. 1st.
Dame Nature used to be called City on the Coast. Why the name change, and how is Dame Nature a different band or sound than City on the Coast
Peter Lanon: Our name change was brought upon by a unanimous feeling of an artistic growth and natural change in sound within our group. We were constantly were being viewed as “City on the Coast, that new young band in town,” etc., and we decided it was time we broke free of that and, the name change came about just in the nick of time! The new name is more befitting of what we identify with. Dame Nature represents the strong female presence in the band as well as a strong relationship with the natural landscape and atmosphere of the places that we live.
Lady Brett Ashley
This album sounds quite different than Lady Brett Ashley’s first EP from 2013. Give us a brief history of the band and how or why the sound changed. And why keep the same band name, given the changes?
Heather: I don’t think there was ever really a definitive moment where I decided to drastically change the band’s sound, it happened pretty organically over the years as the lineup shifted and my songwriting style grew.
The first EP we released in 2013, History Lessons, was recorded after we’d only played together a few weeks, which didn’t give us time to make any real decisions about what we were playing and why, but at the time I had this panicky feeling that if I didn’t solidify the songs into recording as quickly as possible, the whole thing would just slip away. After that, there were a few months where very little happened as I was travelling and the rest of the band went back to what they’d been doing before. When I went to gather the band back together again, the only one who was still around was Allie. So we started trying to piece together a new band over the course of several months, which changed the sound drastically. Adding one new musician changes things. Getting a whole new rhythm section changes things a lot.
The result was that by the time we went into the recording of our next album, Holding Pattern, in July 2014, we were once again a band that had only been together for a few weeks. I had also kind of reached the limits of what I wanted to do on a ukulele, and picked up a telecaster in that time frame. The second EP was a huge step away from the folkiness of the first and into a more pop-rock space, which can largely be attributed to my reaction to writing songs once I had spent some time with a band, and also the fresh faces on the album that put the time and energy into listening to what I wanted to create, rather than just throwing things together to go straight into the studio.
The album took longer than expected to complete in Post-Production, and eventually I cut our losses and released only those songs that felt somewhat finished as an EP in May 2015. By this time Allie had left the band to do other things and we had been playing with Arn Smit for several months. During the winter of 2015, while we were in a sort of limbo waiting to release Holding Pattern, we had found Arn and spent most of our time working on new material. We wrote most of Fault Lines then, which became a much more rock and roll effort that finally sort of felt like arriving at the place we had been headed all along.
Taking more time with the songs, and getting to know each other better as a band helped in being able to define the sound we were after. We went back into the studio one month after the release of Holding Pattern and recorded Fault Lines in summer 2015 at GNAudio. I never did change the name because it had always felt like a personal moniker, one that I had been using for various creative things that I didn’t want to put my own name on for whatever reason long before the band started. In other words, I’d become attached. Thus, as long as I am writing songs, I think there might always be some form of Lady Brett Ashley.
You and Devin are best known for loud music in bands like The Darts & Monsterbator respectively. So, how or why did Plaid Boys, and a trip into hip hop, come together?
Ashton Whitt: Plaid Boys came together one night while hanging out with Mike Simms, Bryan Hobbs, Shaun McCabe, and Matt Cull (who are all on the album as well), listening to NAS’s Illmatic record, and I suggested us putting together a hip hip rpm. I have never created any music in that genre before and I knew Mike and Bryan were/are veterans.
So when I threw the idea at them and told them I had the perfect drummer to give us some beats, and we were gonna record the drums on tape, everyone seemed down. Once Devon laid down the drum beats we made the songs around them. I never had any ideas before the drums beats. It all came after.
I would lay the bass line first, and as friends came over during the month they kept on throwing layer after layer until we had an album. Everyone would come back over and hear how the song transformed from just a drum beat. Especially Dev, he never knew what he was gonna hear.
It was a super fun project and I got to feel like a mad scientist living in my basement for a month messing around with all kinds of new synth sounds. I guess that’s how Plaid Boys became a thing. It was an idea that would have never got off the ground if it wasn’t for all the sweet friends and vibes that came with the RPM month. Lots on of love on that one for sure.
What’s a Favourite Track off the Album?
Dame Nature (Peter):
Shucks that’s a tough question. I really love the entire record, all of the songs are so unique and so important to me. we worked on them together and that brought us closer as a group. If I were to choose one to keep on the topic of moving forward, I would choose “Seventh Wave.” I’m super proud of that one and I think that we are heading sonically in that direction with our future compositions
Plaid Boys (Ashton):
My favorite track has to be “Mr. Groovy.” I absolutely love Roshni Caputo-Nimbark’s vocals in the chorus. I knew she loved hip hop and I definitely wanted her on the album, and when she stepped up to the mic it made my life. She owned it and just turned around, looked at me and said, “I guess that was okay?” I was just floored. She has such an original bad ass voice, especially when a SM-7 loves it too. She’s the best. Also, the song features Mike Simms for all the verses, and he was the back bone for the full album. He rapped on every track, besides the instrumental, so I gotta give him the props for bein Mr. Groovy.
Lady Brett Ashley (Heather):
“Mirrors” was always my favourite. It has this moody 70’s rock feel to it and a post rock bit that is a ton of fun to play. It’s definitely my favourite groove on the album.