The Human Orchestra’s “Bad Jokes”
The genesis for the Human Orchestra began in Caledonia in 2011 when a group of friends decided to jam together and record for fun. With over a dozen people involved, they dubbed themselves the Human Orchestra and quickly realized they had something special to offer. In the last two years, the band has changed dramatically but with their new 7-inch single Bad Jokes (recorded at Catherine North Studios with producer Michael Chambers), the Human Orchestra offers a glimpse into their past and into their future.
“It all started more as a group of friends hanging out then something musical,” recalls Florida come New York transplant vocalist J.B. Reed. “As the band began to progress, we collectively decided we really wanted to play live. Our sound was good and we wanted to do something more with this. As we developed musically, it’s now a long way from where we started. We were twelve and now we’re eight but it is so much easier to organize things and the changes have us all working toward the same goal. The band name has persevered through a lot of changes and the sound is drastically different from our first recordings but we are all now doing something we really want to do.
“Our band started off very slow with songwriting and that held us back in the past but now we have a dozen songs that we’re all very proud of,” adds Reed. “We’re setting legitimate goals and that’s what I like. When we’re working towards something, achieving things and acquiring archival things for our band, those things mean something to me. I don’t want just stories of situations of something I was once involved in. They’re road sign relics of what the band has accomplished and that’s how I see our new release.”
The current incarnation of the now Hamilton based Human Orchestra features Reed, Paul Cino (keyboard, guitar), Eric Davis (drums), Ty Howie (guitar, vocals), Dean Labute (guitar, banjo, vocals), Luke Michaels (bass), Ben Peirson (saxophone), Denis Spellen (trumpet) and Frank Woodhall (saxophone). While two CDEPs were previously released, the new 7-inch vinyl offering offers the band at a creative zenith fully incorporating all of their individual abilities and shining a light on Reed’s talent in particular.
“The base of our music is all alternative/folk but there is always fun nuances thrown in to the mix of each song,” offers Reed. “Bad Jokes has a spaghetti western feel to it. It’s the story of my travel from Florida to New York to Canada. It’s a cosmos of all of the random, awful, uninformed mistakes as we go along the way. It’s written from a relationship standpoint, telling the same awful jokes again and again. It is therapeutic for me in a sense but that’s kind of what music is. If I’m not writing about my own experiences then let’s be honest; I could write the same song over and over again with different lyrics but that wouldn’t mean anything to me and it shouldn’t mean anything to the listener. How many Dashboard Confessional albums will he write about being how sad he is when someone is breaking his heart when he’s happily married with a baby? I appreciate artists that write from their own experience rather than writing something that they know is going to sell.”
With a coloured vinyl, limited edition 45 with Reed’s artwork gracing the cover, the Human Orchestra help to create a special release that helps mark their path to what assuredly will be a bright future and a new full length they start recording next month.
“It hasn’t been easy but I enjoy it,” offers Reed. “I had planned to do theatre in New York or Los Angeles — that is what I went to school for — but here I am in Hamilton singing in a band. I am not the richest person in the world — I made a lot more money in New York than I do in Canada but I’m truly enjoying this band experience. The band was excited about incorporating my art into what we do with the band. I have a whimsical, comic book looking style to my artwork. Our band is obviously not orchestral and there is a certain irony to having animal heads for each band member. We want everything to really scream the Human Orchestra, whether it’s a poster or a pin or a 45 we want them to be able to immediately associate that with the band. The tangible things you can hold are important.
“I like the single because it’s like a bookend of our music,” adds Reed. “The song on the B-side, “Newton’s War”, is one of the first songs that we got to work on together as a band. The A-side is us right now and “Bad Jokes” was truly a group project. I wrote the lyrics and the skeleton of the song but the final project is everybody making it what it is. This is a great relic for me. It’s nice to have the two songs side by side. this single shows where we came from and where we are now and this is a nice stepping stone to our full length vinyl release. I am really excited about the future for this band.”
The Human Orchestra plays this Friday October 18 at the Casbah with Flamingo Bay, Boy with an Atlas and Quails in the Nest. Doors are at 8pm and $10 gets you in. Click on humanorchestramusic.com
Flamingo Bay’s “Loco Pony”
Kris Gies (bass, vocals), Dillon Henningson (guitar, vocals) are native Edmontonians that moved their musical adventures with their band Flamingo Bay to Hamilton last year and this weekend offer their debut full-length CD, Loco Pony.
“Dillon and I started the band and had a few different drummers at first,” says Gies. “We had all played in different bands before but Dillon and I have a similar taste in music so we both began writing and putting our work together. We were looking for a change in scenery. Edmonton is a bit secluded and we were interested in what the scene was like out here in Ontario. The original plan was to move to Toronto. So we bought tickets to the Darkness concert at the Phoenix in January 2012 and basically decided we’ll pack up and move then. We lived in Mississauga for a couple months and put out a bunch of ads looking for drummers in both Toronto and Hamilton. Vince Rankin (drums, vocals) answered one of them and we got along so we began jamming in Hamilton all the time. After a while, it just made sense to move here. I think the move has given us the chance to focus on what we want to do. We’d play anywhere that would let us.”
With an affinity for classic guitar rock in the lines of Stone Temple Pilots, Queens of the Stone Age, or Nirvana, Flamingo Bay have been honing their original sound in clubs across southern Ontario but recently ensconced themselves in a local studio to fashion their full-length recording.
“We don’t really try to write anything with a specific sound or genre it’s really just what comes out of us,” offers Gies on Flamingo Bay’s sound. “All of us enjoy classic rock and you can definitely hear it in our tunes. We just like the old school approach to music. Steve Bigas produced our latest record at Porcelain Records and Roman Marcone was the engineer. They were both really good to work with. Steve has the same vintage mentality when it comes to music and that’s how he likes to record, too. We wanted to approach the album very naturally and so we recorded it all live off the floor. We thought it would be best if we tried to capture a live sound. We have pretty good variety in our tunes. Rock and roll has lost a bit of its edge these days. Hopefully, we can help sharpen it up.”
With the new Loco Pony CD in hand, Flamingo Bay are hoping to raise enough cash to take the show on the road and visit their friends and family back in Edmonton and otherwise but this weekend, they show Hamilton what they’ve got.
“I don’t think we’re preparing any differently,” notes Gies. “Every show we do we want to be the best one yet.”
Flamingo Bay plays this Friday October 18 at the Casbah with The Human Orchestra, Boy with an Atlas and Quails in the Nest. Doors are at 8pm and $10 gets you in. Click on flamingobaymusic.com
Robert Gordon and Teenage Head’s Rock and Roll Jukebox
Since the passing of Frankie Venom’s, Teenage Head have regrouped and have performed on a semi-regular basis with longtime fan and music store owner Pete MacAulay as the new singer to, as MacAulay stated, “take Frankie’s space, not his place”. But this weekend, a special guest offers a new collaboration for the band.
Teenage Head and Robert Gordon were kindred sprits from the start. Each had a great affinity for rock and roll classics and both began their careers within the punk rock milieu. Gordon, made his recording debut at age 17 in 1964 with a group called the Confidentials — Tuff Darts was the band that kick started his career in 1976 at New York’s CBGBs. His career arc as a solo artist has seen his golden baritone collaborate with a wealth of musicians that focused on a rockabilly over dozens of recordings.
A new book on Teenage Head by Geoff Pevere dubbed Gods of the Hammer is set for release in 2014 that will hopefully well document this band at ground zero of Canadian punk in 1975. Teenage Head’s original songs are punk classics some 38 years later but they were also very different from the punk pack. While some saw punk as a vehicle to destroy old rock stars, Teenage Head weren’t afraid to show an affinity for choice rock influences (heck, the name itself is an homage to the Flaming Groovies song of the same name). Teenage Head were known to pay tribute to the Ramones and the Boys as well as to Eddie Cochrane (“Something Else”), Johnny O’Keefe and The Deejays (“Wild One”), Vince Taylor (“Brand New Cadillac”) and Chris Montez (“Some Kinda Fun”) to great effect. Bringing Gordon in as a guest collaborator with Teenage Head made sense even though it’s been years in the making.
“I’ve been a fan of Robert Gordon since he put out his first album,” offers Teenage Head guitarist Gord Lewis. “That kind of music - it`s always been ingrained in our psyche, that`s for sure. We only recorded “Something Else” in for [Teenage Head’s 1980 album] Frantic City but we had been playing that for years before the first album was recorded. Frank was really influenced by Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane so that was a part of what Teenage Head was about.
“Shaun Pilot actually came up with the idea,” adds Lewis. “He’s a Toronto promoter and he brought the idea to me when he was road managing Robert Gordon in Canada a few years ago. Robert’s been up here often in the last few years and I’ve been to all the shows. Fortunately, I was even able to go for dinner with him a couple of times. I had some great conversations with Robert when I had the chance to and I brought the idea up to him. We had kind of agreed to agree to do it some time; it just took some of the business professionals to help organize it. I brought the idea up to Lou [Molinaro, co-owner of This Ain’t Hollywood] and he contacted Robert’s people.”
It’s not the first time Gordon has collaborated with some Hamiltonians. The Shakers backed up Robert Gordon about 13 years ago although they were focusing on a set just playing Robert Gordon tunes.
“They said it was really hard,” laughs Lewis on what happened when he asked what it was like working with Robert Gordon. “That’s all Tim Gibbons would tell me.”
This weekend, Robert Gordon joins Gord Lewis (guitar), Steve Mahon (bass), Jack Pedler (drums) and Greg Brisco (keyboards) for a one night only experience that shares their musical loves. Their shared pasts offer a wealth of influential covers to play in the set list, as well as Robert Gordon standards that Teenage Head have learned and songs from the Head cannon that Gordon will take on. The show also happens just after the sad anniversary of the passing of Frankie Venom [Kerr] on October 15, 2008 and is meant as a special memorial for the fallen Teenage Head singer.
“It is in honour of Frankie but we’re not making a big deal out of it,” explains Lewis. “Frank meant so much to us, I didn’t know what to do but I know this show is something Frank would have approved of. I think it’s a good way to celebrate his legacy. I would rather be celebrating his birthday instead of when he died but we should remember Frank and Robert Gordon is a great guy to help us remember Frank.
“I’m really looking forward to this show,” adds Lewis. “Robert plays with a lot of people. It’s an honour to play with Robert Gordon. I’m on pins and needles just like everybody else to hear Robert Gordon sing Teenage Head songs. It’s still someone else’s interpretation of what we did with Frankie, but I couldn’t think of a better person to do that interpretation.” V
Robert Gordon and Teenage Head’s Rock and Roll Jukebox happens Saturday October 19 at This Ain’t Hollywood with B.B. Deville. Doors are at 9pm click on teenagehead.ca