The Zilis’ Sketches II
Few local bands have grown up with such a spotlight on them but for the last eight years, Sean Royle (vocals, guitar), Justin Bozzo (vocals, bass) and Zander Lamothe (drums, vocals) have been teenagers that captured the imagination of many a fan and critic. As they moved into adulthood, they shied away from the hard rock / heavy metal stylings they gleamed from their parent’s record collections when they played as Dean Lickyer. As the Zilis, they take more from the Beatles’ White album and make a wide range of rock with different flavours clearly documented on their debut CD, Sketches, released back in July 2012. This weekend, the Zilis return with perhaps a similar mindset but even more galvanized in their path to offer their new CD, Sketches II.
“We’ve played over 200 shows since we released Sketches,” offers Bozzo. “We also filmed two music videos and made another record. Right now, we’re in the midst of a mini–tour around the 401. I teach music and go to McMaster full–time, so the past eighteen months have been real busy. But I enjoy it, and things have been going well.”
“We toured around Ontario as well as out east and back — the band really started to find its groove and we matured as a whole,” interjects Royle. “When you’re playing shows three or four times a week it really gives you the opportunity to experiment with different approaches to your songs and also to get very comfortable with the guys around you. The second album is really where the last one takes off. Maybe you could say it has a bit more of a mature sound to it because it’s our second studio attempt. However, I think that kind of stuff just happens as any band grows. You get tighter and better at what you’re doing. Ultimately, you get a little closer to capturing the sound and ideas you’re chasing as an artist.”
“Our first album touched on a lot, but there was still a lot more that we wanted to do,” adds Bozzo. “In a way, it’s just a continuation of the kinds of songs that we love. The title, Sketches II, just seemed appropriate. There’s a blues number on it, a Motowny one, indie and heartland rock. But if I had to describe the album to someone, I’d say it’s just rock and roll.”
Returning to 410 Studios with producer Carm Milioto, the Zilis have honed their songs on the live stage and so recording them meant they’d do the songs without editing live off the floor. It captures the excitement of the songs and with a wide repertoire of styles now available to them, Sketches II is a fun romp that easily lends itself to a party listen.
“We choose to record live off the floor because it’s the only way where we feel we can not only capture what we’re trying to do in the studio, but also feel comfortable while doing it,” notes Royle. “It’s a moment in time where you’re all together in one room, trying to bang out the best version of that particular track. It’s a very honest way to go about recording and the only way we feel we can capture what The Zilis are all about.”
“The way I see it, the Zilis are group of well seasoned musicians that are heavily influenced by a variety of different genres such as folk, blues, jazz, pop, country–the list goes on,” says Royle. “We try and put that all together in one big sauce pan and what you get is a very honest form of what we feel rock n roll is all about.”
“We’ve been playing music together for eight years,” adds Bozzo. “We’re very proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish, but as a trio, I feel like things are firing on all cylinders. We love to improvise and I feel we play off of each other very well. Someone coming to our show is going to see a group of guys that really enjoy what they do, not because they hope to get rich and famous from it, but because it’s a part of who they are. When you see the Zilis, you’re going to see rock and roll how it’s meant to be played.”
The Zilis play this Friday February 7 at This Ain’t Hollywood with the Bandicoots and Go To The West. Doors for the licensed all ages gig are at 9pm and tickets are $5 for 19+ and $8 for ages under 19. Click on www.thezilis.com
The Return of the Saffron Sect
Gavin Dianda started making music back in his high school days at Westdale and even then, his focus was always on a ‘60s mod–garage–psychedelic vibe. The Swinging Gurus, the Bards, Thee Gnostics, and more were all part of an underground rock explosion in the late 90s. But when he saw the Polyester Explosion play in Hamilton, he moved to Toronto to join that band. He’d continue making his own music with the mod/freakbeat band The Satisfaction but would eventually become part of Toronto’s Flashing Lights (with ex–Superfriendz guitarist Matt Murphy) and then More Plastic. Dianda has helped bring a slew of garage type rock to a national audience over the years but this weekend he returns with a particularly poignant and personal psychedelic exploration with the long dormant Saffron Sect.
“I wanted to do my own thing again, and wanted to revive acoustic guitars, sitars, dulcimers,” recalls Dianda on the beginnings of the Saffron Sect. “I was studying medieval music more casually then I do now, and both trad and rad folk music was sort of what I was into, perhaps to give my ears a rest so I started the Saffron Sect. We basically began in Hamilton, playing a Kinks tribute night at the Corktown and a George Harrison tribute with Bob Bryden and made out official debut at the 10,000 Microgrammes of Music festival at the Casbah.
“The Saffron Sect started with myself on acoustic guitar and Katie Iarocci who sang harmony and played dulcimer, autoharp and flute,” adds Dianda. “Then Jay Anderson and Matt McLaren were forced to join us on tablas/clink clink and double bass respectively. We had various people join us, friends and lovers and that sort of thing on tamboura, glockenspiel, hurdy–gurdy, pedal steel, slide–whistle. Katie and Matt left us, when we went to tour the UK, Katie to start a family and Matt to play in Steamboat (with Jay), and now Biblical (with Jay again). We found Kristina Koskinen, Calvin Brown and Richard Gibson. Our sound is a mixture of Technicolor psychedelic sounds from whatever beams through the pink ether into our heads and down out our fingertips and other wiggling appendages. It’s some San Francisco ballroom influence west coast vibes, and some English pastoral fairy dust psych–leaf from Gandalf’s garden for good measure, wrapped up with a icy water seaweed folk–rock wrap and a little lunar blues from before the time of towns and concrete.”
One could draw comparisons to the likes of Syd Barrett, T–Rex, Donovan or even Bob Bryden’s ‘70s era band, Christmas (who the Saffron Sect helped to resurrect for a few select shows), but there’s something wildly original in the Sect’s esoteric experiments. While the Sect have been dormant for the last few years, Dianda and company decided to recently revisit what the SS were and offers their first gig in three plus years back where it all began.
“For the past few years I’ve been playing and studying medieval music, getting involved in historically informed performance practice and manuscript sources,” notes Dianda. “I zipped over to the British Museum for the first ever Citole Symposium and checked out some medieval manuscripts at the British Library of London, started building medieval instruments like Citoles and Gitterns to play upon, became an amateur luthier and am a standing member of the Royal Ontario Museum’s Company of Players. Being obsessed with twelfth to fourteenth century troubadour and minnesingers music is no small undertaking for me.
“It’s true, the Saffron Sect have not been the most active band, we’re lazy and have 100 fingers in 1000 pies but we’ve been playing more frequently as of late which makes us all happy,” adds Dianda. “Playing in Hamilton however is quite a coup, not only to return to our spiritual birthplace but also because neither Calvin nor Richie has left their three block radius in Kensington Market for the past six years now. The Saffron Sect began in Hamilton as a lamb, all dulcimers and recorders and songs about the branches of May and all that, now we return like an electric lion, stately and majestically blazing Technicolor tunes for tomorrow’s people. Welcome to the new mythological times.” V
Saffron Sect play this Saturday February 8 at This Ain`t Hollywood with the BB Guns, the Mogs and more. Click on saffronsect.ca
Nelson Mandela: A Musical Tribute
As a sought after guitarist, Frank Koren has a lot to keep him busy, travelling to New York frequently for studio work or recording or performing with the likes of Rae Billings, Lori Yates, Harrison Kennedy as well as with his wife Kim Koren and daughter Marra with Dawn and Marra locally. But with the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, the guitarist decided to make time to create an event in honour of a man that sincerely inspired him and helped shape his ideals as an adult.
“I was a teenager and university student from ‘80 to ‘89,” recalls Koren. “Grade 9 started the ‘80s off for me with Reagan, the Soviet Union and the evil empire — it was a pretty bleak period in our history. By the end of the decade, the Berlin wall had fallen down, I was in Europe late November 1989 backpacking and just saying, wow, this is our generation and communism has fallen. On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed and he was involved in my university experience at the University of Toronto, in that we were involved in protesting. The whole decade was dark and it certainly lightened up by the end of the decade with the culmination of Mandela’s release in 1990.
“To me, he was an amazing human being that existed at a time when I became politically aware — I was formed by some of what he preached and taught and how he lived,” adds Koren. “When he died, I wanted to do something to pay tribute to him. The idea was to honour him musically with local artists and this year’s money will go to Hamilton Food banks but in the future we want to get a charity or a program involved that more espouses Mandela’s philosophies and life’s work.”
As a South African anti–apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, Mandela served over 27 years in prison as part of his political beliefs and upon release even served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. After suffering from a prolonged respiratory infection, Mandela died December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.
For the Mandela musical tribute, Koren has enlisted the likes of Harrison Kennedy, Tomi Swick, Christopher Clause, Queen Cee, Filimone Manuel, Fred Magie, Kim Koren, Jason Hachey, Marra Koren, Steve Parton, Lou Molinaro, Duanne Rutter, Andy Griffiths, Melissa Bel, Josh Lamothe, Quails in the Nest, Peter Ormond and more to play music inspired from Mandela’s era.
“The template for the music chosen is the 1988 seventieth birthday bash for Mandela at Wembley Stadium,” says Koren. “We had an eleven hour concert with Sting, Simple Minds, Joe Cocker and more who all played the concert and there’s a bunch of songs to choose from. We also included songs about Africa and songs of protest. It’s a lot of serious things to think about but it’s going to be a party with fun songs. We want to celebrate rather than be bummed out about it. I was saddened by his death but we were expecting it. Nonetheless, what he did is what I want to celebrate. I’ve just finished his autobiography, “Long Walk To Freedom”, and it’s an amazing read and very inspirational. It’s amazing what the human spirit can tolerate.
“I hope to see a whole lot people out there to support and enjoy the music,” adds Koren. “It’s the music I grew up with and kind of exciting to look back at some of those songs. For the ten dollars you can help out a lot of people and have four hours of stellar entertainment.” V
Nelson Mandela: A Musical Tribute happens this Sunday February 9 at this Ain`t Hollywood from 6pm to 10pm and your $10 donation goes to the Hamilton Food Bank. Donations of canned goods are also encouraged. Find Nelson Mandela: A Musical Tribute on facebook.com