As another year winds down, the opportunity arises for reflection, incredulous disbelief and celebration. Twelve months can bring a great deal of change, welcome or not. Fifty-two weeks can be filled with wild adventure, staggering boredom and every possible variance in-between. Vue caught up with some of Edmonton’s music community for a look back at 2015.
Clint Frazier (CF), Shout Out Out Out Out, Physical Copies, the Franklins
Cassia Hardy (CH), Wares, Power Buddies, Borscht
Graeme MacKinnon (GM), No Problem, Strangled
Craig Martell (CM), booker at Bohemia and other venues with Double Lunch Productions
Tara McMahon (TM)—recently moved to Toronto, works as a social worker and is putting together a band in her new hometown—Switches, Midnight Crisis
Amy van Keeken (AVK), Secretaries, AwesomeHots, Amy van Keeken & Time Loop, the Amy van Keeken sing-a-long and co-host of Twang ‘n Thangs on CJSR
Jibril Yassin (JY), I Hate Sex, Strange Fries, Christmas Cocaine Showdown, Shark Falls
Vue Weekly: What was your favourite album from 2015?
CF: My favorite album was FFS, FFS. I’m a massive Sparks fan, and this was their best output since the mid ’80s. I also love what Franz Ferdinand brought to the table.
CH: I’m sure I had every song off the Faith Healer record stuck in my head at one point or another since it dropped!
GM: Right now my fave is the High LP by Australian band Royal Headache. It took a bit to grow on me, but now this thing is such a ripper. The singer sounds like an absolute angel—even though he looks insane—and the songs “Little Star” and “My Own Fantasy” are such ear-worming bangers that they mute any urges to commit murder.
CM: Desaparecidos, Payola. Desaparecidos’ first record Read Music/Speak Spanish didn’t leave my discman for a year and may be my favourite record ever. Payola isn’t that good, but man … it’s damn good.
TM: Faith Healer, Cosmic Troubles. It has gotten some serious wear and tear already.
AvK: Locally, Pal Joey, Lucky Pennies. For some reason I never knew about Pal Joey back in the day. Now I do, thankfully. I wish I could write songs like Trent Buhler.
Non-locally, Sonny and the Sunsets, Talent Night at the Ashram. Not boring! Totally pleasing production and unexpected songwriting with the best jingle-jangle and personality. Catchy as anything.
JY: Drake, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. This is likely the one record from this year I’ve listened to more than anything else, and for good reason.
VW: What was your favourite show that you saw this year?
CF: Kraftwerk at the Jubilee. It was absolutely perfect. They played all the hits, and it was the best-sounding concert I’ve ever experienced. It was probably in my top five favourite shows of all time.
CH: It might be a bit of a copout to say all of Sled Island, but considering how little sleep I got in those five days, I think an argument could be made for its inclusion as one marathon-length concert. Oxbow was a definite highlight, as was jumping off a speaker stack and crowd-surfing during King Tuff.
GM: One of the best new punk bands I saw was Orden Mundial, from Spain. They were so noisy, brutal, intense and scary. I haven’t seen a genuine Iggy-esque frontman as good as this dude in a long time. Some songs were fast and chaotic, but it was the slow repetitive ones that really did it for me. They were so hypnotic and violent-sounding it really blew me away. It was by far the best punk band I’d heard or seen all year—truly frightening.
CM: Ted Leo with Golden Years and Wares at Brixx. Ted Leo is a hero of mine. I think he’s one of the greatest living songwriters. To have him coming to town on a show I was somewhat involved in was special because he wanted to be here. He had a blast in Edmonton for a few days and loved Golden Years and Wares. It was just all very special.
TM: Drive Like Jehu at Sled [Island]. I’ve always wanted to see them, and it was a real privilege for me.
AvK: Replacements at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on May 30. It was a raw smash of perfection, in every sense. I cried constantly.
JY: Lightning Bolt at Sled Island. They’re such a strange band, so hearing them live and seeing the reaction it brought upon so many people was fantastic. Watching an experimental band get such a visceral response from a packed room felt like such a blessing to witness.
Vue Weekly: What was your favourite discovery of this year?
CF: My rescue dog, Sweetpea. She came from California at the end of 2014, but we’ve spent 2015 getting to know each other. Taking her and my other dog Gus for walks is truly the highlight of my day. Everyone should have a dog.
CH: This year I was introduced to the work of author Eden Robinson, a brilliant Canadian writer based out of Haisla First Nation in British Columbia. I read every word she has published currently, and I now wait with bated breath for her next release. Monkey Beach is a treasure of a book, which everyone should read at least twice!
GM: Funkadelic. I was listening to a lot of N.W.A. and early Dre-produced music around August when the Straight Outta Compton movie came out, and I really started noticing the heavy Funkadelic samples. I found an OG copy of Maggot Brain and thought it was the shit, but recently started going through a lot of their other material discovering how much I dig their space-psych-funk jams with their great hood-rat lyrics. Any time I feel like shit I put on “Can You Get To That” and stop caring about my problems for two-and-a-half minutes. The track “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” has been inspirational.
CM: I started buying expensive fancy socks, and it has changed everything.
TM: Hmmm, that’s tough. I think it might actually be pop music. I can’t get enough of Drake.
AvK: Calgary Folk Fest. I went for the first time this summer as part of a crew that was recording for a CJSR project called Troubadour Sedan. I was entranced by the locale—open, spacious, treed (plenty of shade!), flat and in-between two rivers/creeks (ducks!). It was relaxed and intimate, with great programming.
JY: I blame my roommate for this, but I got really into noise and grind.
VW: What was your fondest memory or most memorable accomplishment from the past year?
CF: My proudest moment of 2015 has to be managing and operating the Graphic Arts Building and our venue, SPACE. It was a dream providing a venue and studio spaces for some of the most talented artists in the city. I lost count of how many shows we put on, but they were all memorable in their own way. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat.
CH: This year was a time of huge artistic growth for me, thanks in no small part to a feminist art space/DIY venue I lived at called the Chess House. We provided affordable rehearsal space for developing artists, as well as a platform to showcase their craft in public and connect with peers. I’m proud to say we worked hard to give this city a positive and inclusionary gathering place, and its presence is deeply missed.
GM: Ripping K-town fest in Copenhagen, Denmark a new asshole was one of my favourites. To play a blinding set at the end of a whirlwind European tour to a packed house where people knew the songs and went absolutely ape-shit at such a legendary venue for a legendary fest with so many buds there was unbeatable—not only a great way to finish a tour, but a great memory for sure.
CM: Wunderbar dying was the best accomplishment. It is a nice to be able to appreciate it in the past tense.
TM: It’s hard to top the farewell show Switches played at the Empress. Being surrounded by so many amazing and talented musicians from Edmonton, and having them join in and sing made it a pretty memorable moment!
AvK: Writing and recording songs with the choir and music classes I teach at the Robin Hood Association [working with adults with disabilities]. Much of 2015 was spent songwriting and collaborating with musicians from Edmonton as part of a project spearheaded by Mark Davis and Alice Kos called All In Music. We had the best time making music and then spending eight intense days in the studio at the Audio Department with Nik Kozub recording the tracks. Music is for everyone!
JY: It was amazing to be involved with Chess House. Other awesome experiences include: playing Sled Island, Ghost Throats and touring Western Canada and meeting so many cool people in the process. It felt like a grand slam in the best possible way!
VW: Do you have a New Year’s resolution?
CF: Try to keep my shit together and help others when I can.
CH: I recently sat down and did my best to count out the number of times I had performed in public this year. It averaged out to around a show a week, if memory serves. I’d like to double that.
GM: To have a good time all the time.
CM: Make time for myself and figure out what to do next.
TM: Be more compassionate and eat less chips.
AvK: Take a few guitar lessons (finally!).
JY: Write more!