Happy New Year!
With every New Year, I’ve been able to look back at the year gone by and simply be content to wax ecstatic at the ever–increasing volume of releases from a growing list of cool bands in the greater Hamilton area. But 2012 was a little different. The music is getting better, and for better and for worse, it’s not just you and I making note of this greatness anymore.
Bookended by two local bands playing the biggest shows of their careers in two of the city’s biggest venues, Hamilton music has undeniably hit a new level. YouTube is the new medium for the world and bands like All About Maggie, Sumo Cyco and many others have strategically capitalized on that and developed a rabid international following. Going internet only for 2012 with a handful of songs did little for bands in the MySpace.com days of a decade ago but New Hands hands down have the biggest word of mouth in the city for a group only set to release a debut 7–inch vinyl in 2013. Of Gentlemen and Cowards parlayed an internet battle of the bands to garner a guest spot on Late Night with David Letterman. The New York Times wrote about Drew Smith’s Indo–Eurasian video creation for “Smoke and Mirrors”. Young Rival bassist John Smith edited some raw creative face painting to mesmerizing effect in a viral video for “Two Reasons” to bolster Young Rival’s sophomore full length.
Digital wasn’t all good – for the Rest, a digital hard drive glitch almost sank their visions of releasing their third full–length collection of songs, Seesaw, and even almost tanked the band. With the digital and a very lovingly put together vinyl release, the Rest would create the Hamilton Music Awards Record of the Year by sticking to the course and offering a meticulously crafted memento for fans to take home.
Many bands stuck to a more traditional formula of playing live as much as you can but few have accomplished what Monster Truck has. What Hamilton band sells out two nights in Toronto and immediately has three sell out shows in their hometown? No one did, until Monster Truck did it this past December. Almost no one isn’t talking about Monster Truck and their epic ‘70s retro arena rock. Dine Alone Records only recently gathered up their two electronic internet–only EPs on to one full–length vinyl release, Don’t Fuck With The Truck, but it’s the new album in the New Year that has everyone talking. Right now, these guys are already living the dream – and I wouldn’t be surprised at what heights Monster Truck achieves in 2013.
While the band is currently recording their sophomore full length for 2013, the Dinner Belles wowed audiences with their country soul at a myriad of shows from opening for Daniel Lanois and Feist at the Greenbelt Festival, to headlining the over capacity Locke Street Festival and more. The Dinner Belles did not disappoint and only keep getting better.
Two of the younger bands in town are totally committed to vinyl, and a punk approach that is captivating audiences. Live, TV Freaks harkens back to the sheer power and attack of a Black Flag in their heyday while the slightly more literate Dirty Nil are achieving greatness with a series of stunning 7–inch releases that veer from the Stooges to Weezer and beyond.
2012 will be remembered for Alexisonfire ending their career with their biggest Hamilton show at Copps Coliseum. But the year began with Arkells, offering one of their biggest shows at the Hamilton Convention Center in support of their sophomore CD, Michigan Left. The show was killer but I couldn’t help being distracted by the near ticker tape updates on a viral video from Burlington’s Walk Off The Earth.
“It was very early in the morning on January 5, 2012 that we released that video,” recalls Walk Off The Earth’s Sarah Blackwood. “I know tons of stuff has happened after that but I don’t even remember January last year. I remember how I felt when the video went viral but there’s just so much stuff that just started happening after that, It seems like a crazy blur. We were still doing what we’re doing now, it’s just more people are watching it now.”
WOTE’s inventive remake of Gotye’s “Someone That I Used to Know” featured all five members playing one guitar simultaneously. It captured international attention and has now reached over 150 million YouTube views. The band was recently featured in a special YouTube production alongside Psy (he of the epic “Gangnam Style”) and more as one of the artists that summed up the year. For many people, even in Hamilton, WOTE had just come out of nowhere.
“It probably has happened to a lot of bands, where the world suddenly opens up their eyes to them and says, ‘oh, we’re discovering this new band’ but really we’ve been around like what seems forever, working on different projects and trying to make things happen,” says Blackwood. “Still it is really nice to have some sort of recognition for the work that you’ve done. I would love to thank everyone, especially locally, for all of the support – it’s been amazing.”
With a four song sampling form their 2013 full–length, R.E.V.O., already attracting more fans, the band continues to release new music and new videos for fans. Their “Gang of Rhythm” video was released in December and already is well above a million views but that’s par for the course for this outstanding band.
In honour of their 2012 breakout video, January 1 of 2013 WOTE released a new cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” featuring beat boxer Terry ‘krNfx’ Im. Cheekily dubbed ‘five people, no guitar’ the dub step Lion–Sleeps–Tonight vibed all acapella track already has a quarter million views within a few hours of release. 2012 was just the first phase of what should be an astounding 2013 for Walk Off The Earth.
“R.E.V.O. stands for Realize Every Victory Outright,” explains Blackwood on the new album title. “We think it’s kind of how we live. We have been doing this for a few years and it can be discouraging in the music industry with them saying, ‘your ideas are stupid’, ‘seen that before’ or ‘you shouldn’t be doing that because they’re never going to care’. We just wanted to say ‘fuck you’ to all of those negative people and do what we do and in the end eventually, it did pay off. Now, we just want to spread that kind of lifestyle to people. When you want to follow your dreams, go for it even when people might be telling you otherwise. It’s about positive energy and positive living.
“The full length comes out in February and we’re really excited about that,” adds Blackwood. “We’re going to do a video for every single song. We have a European tour lined up in March and hopefully by then the record will be catching on with people and we’ll be doing some summer festival touring. It’s going to be another crazy year but now that I think we’ve kind of found our place and settled into our characters, it should be a little bit smoother. We had to learn so much so fast last year but now I think we’re ready to take another year on.” Click on WalkOffTheEarth.com
Featuring Julian Hache (vocals, guitar), Josh Levesque (bass, vocals), Sean Boyle (drums), and Cory Robin (guitar, vocals) – Hey Brother is a group of Brantford twenty–somethings that have recently been turning some heads. While they’ve recently won Y108’s local music battle of the bands as well as the Local Group of the Year by People’s Choice award at the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards, Hey Brother have already released two CDEPs and been hard at work fashioning their ear catching rock for a few years.
“It started with me and Josh playing together five years ago as a two piece, doing some acoustic stuff,” recalls Hache. “His girlfriend back then urged us to get a drummer so we put up a flyer to get some players and it’s been transforming and changing ever since.
Rock, alternative, garage and grunge all are poured into the Hey Brother mélange but for their latest video, “Buddy”, you could definitely put them alongside the likes of Joel Plaskett or Two Hours Traffic.
“People always ask, ‘how would you describe your music?’ and we’ve never seemed to be able to put ourselves into one genre,” offers Hache. “We’re mostly rock and roll but whatever mood strikes us when we want to write – we don’t confine ourselves to anyone genre. There are too many influences to count but rock and roll pretty much binds us as a band.”
With 2010’s "Circadian Rhythm" and 2012’s "Feel Sharp" CDEPs, the recent accolades have encouraged the band to capitalize on their growing notoriety and get the music out to more people. Hache and company are planning to offer up a full length tentatively before year’s end but they’re focus for the start of the New Year is to just play more. And this week a showcase that offers a smattering of Hamilton Music Awards nominees and winners – proving it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, for the young bands involved, it can be about making new musical friends and building community.
“We’ve made a lot of major commitments this past year and hoping to make a career out of this,” says Hache. “We play a lot around our hometown a lot but that’s one of our goals for 2013, to play more around Ontario. We’re going to try to broaden our horizons with shows. We’re going to be touring all the major cities in Ontario and doing as many shows as we can and we’re putting most of our energies into a new album for the fall.
“But it’s also really important for us to branch out and make friends with other bands,” he adds. “Community is an important thing with this band. Having a cool group of bands we can play with and that we love. We didn’t think that we were going to win the award we did but it was amazing and we were very honoured to be a part of such a great thing. We’re excited to be playing a show with these other bands that were also nominated at the HMAs. They’re great solid bands with lots of awesome music and they’re just great guys. It should be some great talent. It’s definitely going to be an energetic show. We hope that the club is still standing after we’re done playing but we can’t make any promises.”
Hey Brother plays this Thursday January 3 at This Ain't Hollywood with Dawn Before Descent and Illusion Avenue. Doors for the all ages/ licensed event are at 930 and $5 gets you in. Click on hey–brother.com
Queen Cee’s Femme–nomenal II
We haven’t spoken to Queen Cee Robinson since her last CD release back in the summer of 2008 but while word that a new album tentatively scheduled this year, the soul, RnB singer has been busy helping other females find their footing with a special charitable organization she’s founded.
“I’m just getting back into the studio with some new material and exploring different avenues with regard to where I want to actually go with my music,” muses Queen Cee. “I’m doing it on my own terms and doing whatever I can to be creative and do what comes naturally to me. I’d like to release something this year but I don’t want to pressure myself or do anything that is not one hundred percent.
“But I put a lot more time into the not–for profit organization, Be–You–tiful Girls Club Inc., that I started about four or five years ago – in 2012 we just became an official organization with the government so I’m really excited about that,” adds Queen Cee. “Being a female artist, I wanted to have another outlet for girls in this awesome city of Hamilton where girls can be empowered beyond lectures. We actually let girls to take part in different creative experiences and let them do it on their own. Rather than pointing at a direction, we hope to let them find it themselves with the help of other artists in the city. There’s a ton of girls, and youth in general, that can’t afford to do these kinds of extracurricular activities so hopefully I can create experiences that they can take more part in and find something of interest for themselves.”
Queen Cee hopes to offer real encouragement and build character in our city’s youth that might otherwise just be looked down upon and that kind of altruism should always be applauded. With things ramping up for Be–You–tiful Girls Club, this week Queen Cee and company offer up a special all female showcase to help raise funds to foster more local talent.
“The showcase is meant to represent local female artists from our city who are doing great things with music and outside of music,” Says Queen Cee. “We’re coming together to raise awareness for females in music and in the arts and to raise awareness for Be–You–tiful Girls Club. I got some ladies that are doing some great things in music right now and we’re going to put on a show and hopefully develop some support for the artists and for the cause.
“Sara London and Lady ASG have both had a good year – Amarna Tiye has been my backing vocalist for years but I think it’s her time to shine,” adds Queen Cee. “I’m all about pushing artists and giving them that extra something to help them do what they love to do. There are a lot of people that have been making music in this city for many years and there’s also new people that are bringing another vibe to the city as well. Everybody should come out. If you love soul, RnB, hip hop, jazz, neo–soul, fusion – if you love music and you love vocals and you just love good vibes, that’s who should come out. It’s going to be a soulful night and a great opportunity to support the empowerment and uplifting of young girls in this city.
Femme–nomenal II happens on Tuesday January 8 at the Casbah with Queen Cee, Sara London, geneva b., Lady ASG, Angelina Gomes, Amarna Tiye and more. Doors open at 8pm and $10 gets you in. Click on www.facebook.com/beyoutifulgirlsclub