by Carey Rutherford
604 Records label mates Kieran Mercer and The Katherines are both coming to Calgary on their first tours during the JUNOFest: no pressure!! They are both remarkably listenable in completely different ways, and they’re experienced/inexperienced from opposite directions: The Katherines are the evolution of a singer-songwriter into a trio, and kieran is leaving band history behind and flourishing creatively on his own (except, like The Katherines, for the studio musicians, touring band, producer and the aforementioned record label!).
“It was such a different process doing this record,” Kieran notes, “because of the quick production. They flew me down to L.A. twice to work with(the producer) a week at a time (to) write and record 3 songs each week.”
Benefiting from the digitization of modern music, as many bands do, Kieran and the producer worked on the bed tracks at a distance, sending and discussing files, changing arrangements and styles without being in the same country. Heck, Tegan & Sara haven’t lived in the same country for YEARS, and that hasn’t cramped THEIR creativity! Kieran’s debut album, Help me Help You, gathers influences from around the musical universe (new soul, folk, pop, and even . . . hang on . . . disco!) while staying firmly rooted in 2016. How can disco be 2016? You have to hear it to believe!
“I’m a huge Bee Gees fan, and I just don’t hear many people doing that falsetto voice that Barry Gibb did, which is Barry Gibb trying to do Frankie Valli.”
Hopefully, Kieran will dare this song in Calgary, ‘cause it’s AWESOME, and your faithful Writerer
doesn’t even like disco!
The Katherines, on the other hand, are the result of a solo artist, Kate Kurdyak, embarking on a solo songwriter’s career and flourishing with the addition of her inner circle: Lauren and Kaitlyn.
Kate mentions that Kaitlyn has been her friend since pre-school and Lauren is Kate’s little sister (just finishing high school), “and we all love music and we all love performing: there’s nothing more fun than being in a band!”
This isn’t a Barbie-doll girl-band, however. Kate describes how her initial singer/songwriter beginnings, “doing the guitar-girl in coffee shops” thing, got ramped up when she entered a high-school band competition, organized 10 performers (including a string quartet and lauren and Kaitlyn) to perform, and afterwards that whittled down to the three that will perform in Calgary at the Night Owl on April 1 (with accompaniment).
“We all sang in choirs together when we were young, so we’ve got the whole singing cohesively thing down… My favourite thing to do is songwriting, so what’s most important to me is the song… I’ve been writing songs since I was 12, so that’s always been my dream.“
“Being young is just chaos,” Kate opines, “especially emotionally. So I think that uncertainty is part of the meaning of it all, for me.”
Which, stylistically, is exemplified by The Katherines re-tooled slinky versions of Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears/Chris Isaak (mashup) and Lorde, amongst their originals. And their a Capella! Maybe they lie somewhere between jazz and trance?
Kieran, performing in the Corral with Marianas Trench and Walk Off the Earth on the 2nd, admits to a related acceptable uncertainty.
“Radio is such a tricky thing: I’ve put out quite a few singles I was sure about, and literally had no feedback from radio (except last summer’s “Bang Bang”) but things can happen online too. There’s lots of acts that can sell out stadiums, and they barely get played on the radio.”
And if you think, after listening to his pop/new soul/relationship heavy music that he takes himself too seriously, just take a look at the Kieran Mercer YouTube channel.
“I like to make people laugh, (and) I’m trying to find a way to get my own personality out there… Time after time, I look at these artist who are just being themselves, and that’s what worked for them, so I’ve just got to put myself out there the way I am… It’s a huge opportunity, playing in front of all these people.”
And let me tell you: Kieran and Kaitlyn and Lauren and Kate can SING!!