Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the EP launch party for one of my favourite singer/songwriters, Tyler Ellis. I have seen and heard Tyler many times, always with the same delight at his lyrics and the honesty of his music. Solidly backed by the Eddy Line (Howard Rabkin on bass, Gary Edwards on drums and John McLean on guitar), Tyler played to a full house at Dora Keogh to introduce his new EP Spring. You can click on the link to hear and buy the EP on iTunes.
Here is his bio from the ABC Songwriters’ Circle I used to host.
Tyler Ellis writes the most wonderfully understated, insightful, wry, disarming, and uniquely Canadian songs you are ever likely to hear. He has shared a bill with the likes of Willie P. Bennett, Ron Hynes, James Keelaghan, Julian Taylor, Steven Page, and Mr. Dressup. He has had a video on Much Music, performed live on Global and City TV, received local and national radio exposure; and has garnered national critical acclaim while happily spending most of his time writing, recording, performing locally, coaching (hockey, of course), teaching (music, of course) and spending time with his family.
I’m happy to report that the initial mixing of Sal Indigo aka Salabama’s latest four songs is done and so far the reaction from those involved has been very positive. I’m also very grateful to those guys for letting me fiddle with their creativity…learning a lot and having fun in the process. More to come with a few tunes still to track later in the spring. Now, back to recording Félix & the Cats.
Speaking of which, just a quick reminder to add to your calendar our 420 show at the Black Swan Tavern, on April 20th, obvs, with very special guests Monkey Fightin’ Snakes.
I haven’t played a solo show in quite a while, so today’s show at Might & Main Café was pleasant, rewarding and more intimidating than I expected. Overall, it went well with flubs well-disguised and a forgiving audience—thanks!
Thanks to Phillip Vonesh and the staff for the opportunity to stretch outside my comfort zone.
The studio just got a major monitor upgrade, going from the solidly serviceable Yorkville YSM-5s to beefier and crisper Yamaha HS8s. Of course, now I have to remix everything accordingly! So that’s where I’ll be up to for the next long while I think.
Partly that is because the Sunday afternoon I usually reserve for writing this blog was otherwise pleasantly taken up with a 4-song recording session with Sal Indigo, along with FatC drummer Chris Bender and graciously sitting in on bass, Lonely Hearts‘ front man Omar Saab.
This was the first run through for the new isolation booth, and first listen seems to be an enthusiastic thumbs up by Chris, who added the acoustic quality in the room was very good despite the coziness. A huge benefit was how much better everyone could hear themselves in the headphones. I guess the proof of the pudding was indeed in the eating (it seems this is the correct idiom).
The tracks have still to be mixed, and if Sal is good with it, I could feature in an upcoming blog.
This coming Sunday March 31, I will be playing a super rare solo acoustic afternoon show at the Might & Main Café from 12 to 1. Thank you to Phillip Vonesh for setting that up! Come on down for coffee and rarely performed tunes.
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, here are more musings and reports from Winterfolk XVII.
On my first evening there (the Saturday), I worked the second floor as stage tech. I was very happy to do so as one of the featured acts was Chloé Watkinson, of whom I have written about a few times already here and here. I have been a fan since seeing her with Park Eddy, introduced to me by Alan Zemaitis, her keyboardist, who also played with me at the very first Félix & the Cats show for a great birthday bash a few years back.
Chloé is a remarkable singer and performer and I was thrilled to help out, and even do a little “maintenance mixing” (don’t touch the EQs!). One of the standout tunes she played that evening is a Max Webster song, Let Go the Line, written and sung on the original release by her dad, Terry.
Here it is:
There must be a Max Webster vibe in the air as there is a also a recent reissue of another MW song, Diamonds Diamonds featuring the Barenaked Ladies collaborating with Kim Mitchell.
I brought me back to the years Mrs. Félix & the Cats and I lived on Pembroke Street and I could dash across Allan Gardens to catch a Max Webster show at Larry’s Hideaway. It’s good to see that remarkable part of Canadian music history receive deserved recognition.
As the studio is back in functioning order, I have been starting the process of mixing drums recorded here, albeit prior to the drum booth being built. One of the issues I have been dealing with is making the snare and bass drum more present and snappy. Some knob fiddling helped, but I kept wondering whether there was a better way to enhance the mix, and sure enough there is.
Logic Pro X, the application I use to record, has a cool function that allows you to Replace or Double Drum Track…
So I tried it.
The way it works, in simple terms, is that it samples the drum sound you wish to replace or double, and uses the loudest parts to generate trigger points for Logic’s own built-in samples. A great number of different snare, bass and tom drum sounds are available, so it’s a question of using one’s ears to hear what suits best and mixing in that selection to enhance what is already there, at least that’s how I use it. Mind you, this is VERY new to me so I hope I am doing it right.
Here are two samples of drums from the upcoming EP to illustrate. The difference may be subtle on ear buds or your phone’s speakers but noticeable enough through larger speakers. I think this will improve the mix.
Drums with triggered samples
If you’ve been looking at the sidebar on a laptop or desktop browser, you may have noticed I quietly slipped in a new show at the Black Swan on Easter weekend – Saturday April 20 (yes 420) to be precise. We are playing a double bill with one of my very favourite local bands, Monkey Fightin’ Snakes, whom I have written about already here.
Both Matthew from MFS and I have worked on posters for the event so I thought I’d share our complementary approaches. Enjoy!
The band had a great time last night at Relish Bar and Grill. Thanks to the folks who resisted the urge to coccoon and those who were there for Noah Zacharin and kindly struck around.
As a noteworthy aside, a distant second (twice removed?) cousin from the St. Pierre side of the family made a special trip out to the show! Thomas is the grandson of my uncle Georges’ brother in law (there will be a short quiz at the end of this blog). I have posted about that family before, and am reposting a picture of Thomas’ grandpapa’s brother (great uncle?) Georges St. Pierre on banjo at Lac Jerry sometime in the 60s. That’s me in short pants.
While we waited to set up, the band had a chance to fully appreciate Noah Zacharin’s stunning guitar skills and songwriting prowess. Noah is a widely acclaimed guitar master, multi-genre songwriter, and dynamic performer. According to his bio, he was given his first guitar at age 9, wrote his first song at 13, and began performing at 14. In December 2015, Zacharin became a full-time recording and touring musician. Born in Montreal (which explains why he spoke with me in French), Zacharin splits his time between Toronto, the road, and an off-grid cabin on the Canadian Shield. It was a thrill to hear him in such an intimate context and I invite you to check out his music at the link provided above.
And speaking of intimate settings, another of the great shows I caught at Winterfolk last weekend was a transcendent performance by jazz vocalist Simone Morris and guitarist Mike Freedman. I had the honour to MC the final evening on the cozy third floor at the Black Swan and introduce these two accomplished musicians as the final act of the festival in that venue. Can’t thank them enough for that unforgettable evening!
One of the songs we played last night was an ode to Relish, which was put together last year following a challenge by David Macmichael and Paul Brennan, the hosts of the Stir It Up Sunday open mic. A few people answered the call, Jace Traz and Dan Boggs notably. This is a demo of my attempt. I hope you like it.
The last weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Besides family commitments, I worked 3 nights at this year’s Winterfolk XVII, the first two as tech assist and the final as MC, and all at the Black Swan.
I have to comment how much I respect the organizers, hired staff and other volunteers for their commitment to making this an amazing event. Particularly, Jen who patiently herded many cats, and Kevin, Aaron and Richard for amazing technical prowess, not to mention their kindness with me, and skill and persistence with technical challenges. I learned a lot!
The great fringe benefit was listening to so many great and unique performances. There were too many to include in one post so I will drop a mention to as many as possible in the upcoming weeks.
Notable for personal reasons on Sunday afternoon was the performance by family friends Alana and Leigh Cline. Here is a bit of them in performance. It takes me back to the kind of music I would hear when visiting the relatives in the Bas-du fleuve.
Reggae Fans Take Note!
This coming Thursday evening (February 28, 2019), FatCats bassist NeMo will be holding the the bottom end with Reggaddiction at the cool Jasper Dandy. It gets even better as ABC Songwriters’ Circle alumnus and all-round muy versátil artist Lilly Mason will be up front on vocals. The band will be performing songs from Ganja Harvest, their upcoming album which pays tribute to the Canadian legend Neil Young’sHarvest album, reinterpreted in a reggae dub version. Can’t wait!
Gig This Saturday
The Cats are back at Relish this coming Saturday. As always, super big thanks to Joanne Clayton who makes musicians always feel so welcome. We hope you can come down for this show—things kick off at 9:30.
After weeks of work, the isolation room is essentially done.
Here are a few pictures to illustrate.
From top left: the “sauna” with main wall closed—padded door is on the right; the same with front wall open (this is for accessing the mics and drums easily from the front side—it’s pretty tight in there—and moving gear in and out easily; view from the front with wall open; view through the regular door. Bottom row: overhead paired mics in XY pattern—I had previously used the ORTF method but clip limitations make that challenging; cable conduit and sound maze vent for air—drummers with a good oxygen supply keep better time. Bottom right: the drummer’s perspective.
I’ve also added extra cabling so the room can double as a vocal booth or iso booth for amplifiers on overdubs.
Further tests will have to confirm whether it has reduced the outside levels as much as hoped for, but a quick check gives hope that it has gone from unbearable to somewhat annoying, at the very least.
While I haven’t stopped playing entirely (a few open mics here and there), it has been rather quiet on the performance front lately. That is about to change as the Cats are back at Relish very soon on Saturday March 2 from 9:30 to 11:30. Please put THAT on your calendars, why doncha!
This weekend, I will be volunteering at Winterfolk XVII, an annual music festival held in 3 clubs near Danforth and Broadview. You can find me at the Black Swan running cables and setting up mics on Friday and Saturday, then on Sunday evening MC’ing on the 3rd floor at the same venue. Should be a fun gig. More info including the full lineup of artists and ticket prices at the Winterfolk site here!