“It’s not really deep-fried in any particular style,” says Cayley Thomas with a soft laugh.
The local singer-songwriter, who released her striking debut EP, Ash Mountains, back in 2013, is discussing her upcoming full-length record, Weird Love. The album, which sees its official release this weekend, has been several years in the making, its genesis forming through a multitude of voice memos Thomas collected on her phone. Some of these were recorded closer to home—driving down the QEII, for example—while others were captured during the six months she spent travelling around Southeast Asia.
“This new album is a big, vast treasure-hunt of experiences: the things I saw, the music I heard, the people I got to know, it’s all in there,” she says. “Going on tour and seeing different places [is] also super cool, but it was really neat to kind of just cut loose for a little bit and just go and experience some different cultures and meet people from all over. I was super inspired the whole time.”
Thomas acknowledges that a shorter writing process likely would have narrowed the scope of the record, but there’s a noticeable old-school vibe that permeates throughout—she describes it as “vintage pop for modern audiences.” There’s nods to venerable jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald, a dash of Blondie and even some psychedelic ’60s pop, influences that stem as much from Thomas’s own music tastes as they do the use of vintage equipment during the recording
“I think for me, growing up listening to show tunes and a lot of jazz-standard-y stuff, truly I think that’s kind of melodically been engrained in my mind,” she explains. “If the songs come out that way I can honestly say that’s not really so much of a choice as it is what I hear, and what my ear naturally goes to. But I also think certain songs kind of survive the test of time for a reason, and I guess I can only hope for the same for the stuff that I do. But I make music because I enjoy it, and if people like it that’s definitely a bonus.”
And while Weird Love is a sonically varied collection of tunes, Thomas realized, after listening back, that most of her lyrics focused on love—but not necessarily the romantic kind so ubiquitous in music. In her case, the focus of the song could be a friend or a sibling.
“For people that know me it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that several of the songs on [Ash Mountains] were written after my brother passed away, and definitely songs off this one allude to how my family has coped since then,” she says. “But [it’s] all the different, strange variations on the vast concept that is love.”
This sense of adoration is particularly prevalent in the video for the first single from the album, “What If/I Wish,” which captures a collection of Thomas’s friends engaged in various pursuits, whether it be dance, music, makeup artistry, visual art, yoga or fixing motorcycles.
“Having kicked around Edmonton for 25 years, it’s cool to me how I’m constantly influenced by friends or artists in the community who encourage or inspire me directly or indirectly,” she explains of the concept. “The sentiment behind the song is more or less just that feeling of fuelling people forward with their life’s work, so the universal desire to commit to something greater before time runs out.”
To that end, Thomas’s creative pursuits extend beyond music as well. She graduated with a BFA in acting from the University of Alberta in 2013 and will be taking on the iconic role of Juliet in Freewill Shakespeare’s production of Romeo and Juliet this summer. Music is her primary focus, but she notes that it’s important to keep her acting chops up to par, and the benefits of performing in each environment are not mutually exclusive.
“It’s all kind of storytelling: when I’m acting I’m generally telling someone else’s story, and when I’m singing my tunes I’m telling my own story,” she says. “But performing, generally speaking, I think the more tools you have in the tool kit the better, because you need a bit more to draw on when you’re standing in front of a large group of people.”
Sat, Apr 16 (8 pm)
With the Archaics, Bud Frasier and the Electric Razors
The Needle, $15 in advance, $20 at the door