by Carey Rutherford
The Sled trundles along, and while other festivals mentioned by performers (NXNE, Halifax Pop, Canadian Music Week, etc.) may come and go, this one is OURS! So What Are You Doing Sitting There Reading This Article? Go out and support Live MUSIC!!!
Well, if you’re going to read about it, perhaps a couple of Albertans can enlighten you to the states of new music in our expansive domain. Both Ghostkeeper, and Gianna Lauren, who play this Saturday at 4 pm and Friday at 1 pm, respectively, originate in Alberta, but the results have been very different. Thank Goodness!
Shane, of Ghostkeeper, tries to explain what the heck it is they’re playing: can he define it for me? “No, we’re not into a set voice: my voice, or Sara’s voice, or anyone’s voice. We’re trying to explore the possibilities of each song; how far we can push it, when it’s still ‘pop’. It’s unpredictable in many ways, and we’re hoping to build an audience that can come to expect that. If we had one sound for every song all through the record, we’d get pretty depressed.” We both laugh.
“We’re just trying to push the search as much as we can: with every song; with every line.”
He’s not exaggerating: their latest disc, Horse Chief, War Thief includes bluegrassy guitar sounds, a Jimmy Page-like guitar/bow solo, except apparently on saw, quirky sardonic moments like “Who’s the best Indian on the CBC?” which begs the question ‘what’s best?’), psychedelic synthesizer work, primal poetic shrieks and a little bit of lots of other things. But it’s not just to mess with the listener’s expectations.
“It’s good business (to be different than others): we want to keep our music a bit more sacred. We really cherish our friendships together, and our artistic vision. We don’t just want money getting in the way of our vision, of music being our sincere art.. . . . Now, if some record company wants to pick it up and offer us a lot of money, I wouldn’t ignore that.”
This is Ghostkeeper’s 3rd disc, and Shane mentions that “it’s definitely a progression. This disc is definitely more intense: lyrically, compositionally, tonally. I’d say the first 2 records were a lot easier to listen to, because we’re constantly progressing, trying to become less derivative.
“You can still say it’s rock ‘n roll, and this is influenced by an old folk song, and this section is r & b, and this is influenced by the Beatles. What we want to obtain on the 4th record . . . is that no-one can even tell where it came from.”
And now for something completely different. Gianna Lauren.
“On this album I played electric guitar: a guitar I’ve had since I was 14 years old studying jazz. It’s a red, hollow-body Ibanez Artstar. And I sang, and had some fun with vocal harmonies, as well.”
Gianna Lauren is a little modest in this description, because she also composed all of the music for On Personhood before the recording sessions began, and organized those session based on the reputations of the musicians and producer and space, all of which created an idea Gianna brought to fruition.
“I like to think I’m doing something different than your typical, female, singer-songwriter. I often walk into a venue where I’m going to perform, and the technician immediately says, ‘Could you plug your acoustic guitar into the (line input)?’ Well, I don’t play acoustic guitar . . . and I tend to play around with sound and space and ambience, and try to create an atmosphere as well as a soundtrack to an event. “It’s also been refreshing to shed that singer-songwriter approach with this new album. My previous works have been more internal, more of a process with myself. With this record it’s a-band album recorded live-off-the-floor, which took a lot of pressure off of myself as the central focus.”
Gianna mentions that the recording, which took 5 days, incorporated people that she had worked and played with at different times, on different stages, throughout her career, and not only was she delighted beyond all expectations by the results, but to her surprise all of them were available to tour the music with her as well.
“the energy in the room was astounding: the engineer was losing his mind! He couldn’t believe what was happening, it came together so naturally.”
I ask Gianna for the inevitable list of influences to give potential audience members/album purchasers an idea of where she’s going musically, what might prepare them for her performance:
“I try to break it down into 3 categories: what I sound like (atmospheric indie-rock); who I sound like (Laura Veirs, Sharon Van Etten, Cat Power); and who my influences are.
“I grew up on classic rock . . . but then I started studying jazz guitar when I was really young . . . and then I went through a period when I was studying classical guitar).” And then there was post-rock, and now she’s hooked on Canadian music.
And guess what? There’s Ghostkeeper, Gianna Lauren,. . . & A LOT More Canadian music at Sled Island.
Just like I told you.