Vol. 21 No. 9 • March 5 - 11, 2015 In Our 20th Year Serving Greater Hamilton

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Hamilton Music Notes

by Ric Taylor
February 20 - 26, 2014
Illitry Release Party

From the first time I saw the name, its pronunciation never mind its possible meaning confounded me. But that would be by design for the man that started Illitry. Troy Witherow began Illitry (pronounced ILL–a–tree), as a solo project to explore organic and electronic music but would soon collaborate with Chester Edington to reach his goals. Last year, Illitry became one of the local underground buzzbands — thanks to their live shows and perhaps their approach to marketing their music. They’re methodically releasing singles to the public building up to a forthcoming album, tentatively scheduled for the fall, and this weekend, Illitry takes to the stage to celebrate that next step closer to realizing their dreams.

    “I started this in 2011 as a solo project and didn’t really play out the first year,” recalls Witherow. “We then started trying to add a drummer and bass player to fill it out so that it’d be a whole band and that’s what we’ve been working on for the last year and a half. We just brought in Glen Watkinson on drums; he used to be in the Good Hunters and Dan Leytham on bass. The name Illitry was born out of the frustration of not being able to find a regular band name. Every name was already taken so I just made up a word. A lot of the bands I was listening to at the time had strange names and I wanted a name that would look suitable on one of those bands’ bills, even if we might not get to play with them any time soon.”

    Inspired by the likes of Sigur Ros and Radiohead, Illitry are now an atmospheric–electronic rock band, making music that has pop sensibilities but exploring the boundaries of what is defined as pop.

    “I like to describe it as music that would be on the outskirts of somebody’s pop music collection,” reasons Witherow. “There are some hooks in it and it’s pretty listenable. It’s not extremely experimental but it’s got a lot of experimental qualities to it — not to the point where it’s alienating but at least challenging to the listener. And we’re trying to do it in a creative way. We always battle for the strangest way when we’re trying to finish a song.”

While bands can find it difficult to establish themselves among the din of musical choices on stages and on the World Wide Web, Illitry have chosen to release their music only when they feel it is ready and in a fashion that will lead up to a grand reveal for a full length.

    “We released two singles, “Goshen” in February and “Kingdom Perverted” in November of 2013,” explains Witherow. “We’re kind of this goal–oriented band and we have this plan to release this new single this week and then another single this spring to ramp up to the album. The big release is happening this fall probably during Supercrawl. Our last song was more twisted, experimental and not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea but this new song, “Follow Me”, has a lot of hooks. Lyrically it’s pretty easy to connect to and it showcases our dancey, electronic vibe. I always think the music is pop music but with that edgy experimental quality to it.

    While currently at McMaster University studying psychology, he could probably accomplish whatever he sets his mind on but Witherow confirms that music is his passion and his future will be with that bewilderingly named band, Illitry.

    “I don’t want to have a degree as a fall back but I need the money to put into this band now,” says Witherow. “I work as a support worker. I like that kind of work but I kind of also need it to fuel Illitry. We’re obviously not doing this band for the money at this point — I don’t know if we’ll ever be doing it for the money. I’ve gone to Redeemer and Mohawk Colleges and I’m in McMaster now but every time I’m in school I just get frustrated thinking, ‘where is my life going?’  I’ve got this career idea but it doesn’t seem like it’s going somewhere. It wasn’t until I really decided I was going to make music a big part of my life and focus on it — that’s fulfillment itself. It might sound cheesy, but I don’t know what else I could do with my life and feel this fulfilled doing.”

Illitry release their new music this Saturday February 22 at the Casbah with Lyon, Allosaurus, and Elissa Mielke. Doors are at 9PM. Click on illitry.com

Big Lonely Tour Kick Off

    Jake Heise (guitar, vocals), Cole Mortillaro (drums), Ciarán Downes (guitar, vocals) and T.J. Bowman (bass) cut their teeth on local music stages as teens in bands like Airlines, We Live In Igloos and Cardboard Fox during their time at MM Robinson and Notre Dame High Schools in Burlington. As they graduated into post secondary education Big Lonely was born and the four would find themselves sharing a house as they attended Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. This weekend, Big Lonely returns to where it began to kick off their first tour.

    “We formed the band the year after high school about a year and a half ago,” recalls Heise. “The band name doesn’t really mean much but it comes from a run at Mount St. Louis Moonstone where Ciarán liked to go, it was his favourite ski run and he always wanted to have band made that so when we needed a name, we decided to just go with that. We all live in the same house in London now. There are a lot more opportunities in London than we did in Burlington. Hamilton has a great scene but we went to Fanshawe College and formed some sort of group here so that’s where we are right now. I’m in Television Broadcasting, Cole is in Business, Ciarán graduated from Music Industry Arts, he actually was able to record our first EP at the school last year.”

    With their recently released EP, Short Stories with Recurring Characters, Big Lonely establish themselves as a capable indie rock band with strong pop sensibilities in the vein of the Strokes or Smoking Popes. But don’t think that an EP name suggesting literary leanings means the music is too cerebral for the average fan.

    “A lot of stuff comes out of nowhere, but I think that it works for us,” notes Heise. “I’d say that we’re pretty spastic, crazy indie rock with a lot of energy. I write a lot about personal experiences with lines that I come up with during interactions of people — a lot of stuff like that. I’ve always been a fan of lyrics in songs and being able to relate to them. I’ve always been into music because of that so when I write my lyrics I want to write relatable stuff. But there aren’t many literary references. I haven’t been the biggest reader the last couple of years, but I’d like to read more. The last year or two, I’ve read a lot of George R. Martin — the HBO show Game of Thrones is based on his books. Actually, we all read those a lot.”

    With reading week fast approaching, reading books is not on the itinerary, instead Big Lonely hope to increase their national presence with their first tour and bringing along some friends they’ve made in London.

    “Big Lonely is going on tour with our friends in OL’CD so naturally, we are throwing a kickoff party at our favourite place to play, The Boston Manor,” smiles Heise. “We put together this show and know people in every one of the bands that we put on the bill — we love doing shows with our friends. There are some folkier bands and some rock and roll in there but it all works together. We’re doing 10 dates on a tour over our reading week to Montreal, Ottawa and Kingston and Hamilton on March 1 at the Casbah. It’s the first time we’re doing this kind of thing but making music — it’s what we all want to do, so if it can work out, that is the dream. We’re still doing the school thing but we’re going to stay together as long as we can. Cole and I have another year of school, so we’re going to be based out of London for another year and then after that, we’ll see. Hopefully, things just keep getting better.”

Big Lonely play this Friday February 21 at the Boston Manor with OL’CD, Oh Geronimo, Sweet and Lowdown and Whitebrow. Doors are at 8pm.
     Click on facebook.com/biglonelyband

The Fourth Annual Tom Waits Tribute

    What is Tom Waits connection to Hamilton? Seemingly, the American singer–songwriter, composer, and actor with a bourbon soaked rasp and equally soaked presentation has had great influence on a throng of locals. Brad Hails and the Killin’ Time Band began organizing a heartfelt tribute to their musical inspirations four years ago and it has since become an annual February tradition attracting dozens of local musicians and hundreds to raise money for a worthy charity.

    “I loved the idea of the show because Tom Waits fans are so random,” explains Hails. “There is no mould or uniform for his fans, you find them everywhere playing all different styles of music and the common ground bringing all these genres together is an appreciation for Tom Waits. I first saw Tom Waits on The Mule Variations Tour in 1999. I remember my buddies and I were sitting beside Hayden and we were like, ‘Holy shit, that’s Hayden.’ I am a big fan of Hayden’s as well, [Killin’ Time Band singer guitarist] Jaret Koop and I got to play with him at Foodstock and he was an awesome dude. Then Tom Waits comes on stage throwing handfuls of pixie dust onto his bandmates from the top of his fedora and it’s like he reached out with one giant hand and owned the audience. It no longer mattered that we were sitting with Hayden or anything else for that matter you were completely owned at that moment by Tom. I had never been so consumed by an entertainer before and at that moment, my love for his music and performance only grew. It also taught me a huge lesson as a budding entertainer. There is more to playing on a stage then being able to play your instrument. This is also a lesson I learned from my grandfather, Gordie Tapp. It sometimes seems to be a forgotten art but entertaining and engaging your audience is just as important as playing great music, sometimes even more important.

    “The highlight of doing this has been is the opportunity to play with all these amazing musicians and friends,” adds Hails. “We expected the first year to be the one and only but before we even walked off stage Brodie [Schwendiman, Casbah promoter] booked the second annual. The next two years were amazing, the audience returns every year with so many new friends and familiar faces – returning artists and new artists and so many great renditions of Tom’s music. Alfie Smith and Trevor Howard have never missed a year and I was even able to reconnect with Archibald Jay who lent me my first Tom Waits CD Small Change, which I refused to return to him after a very young band we played in together broke up and we hadn’t spoken for years.”

    Trevor Howard, Alfie Smith, Todd knight (LO–FI), Scott Hunter, Jay Macdonald, Bowman, Dan Walsh, Jacob Moon, Chuck Coles, Steve Vincent De Piante, Jonny Kerr, Ron Elliott, Jonny Goldie, Naked House and more join Hails Koop, Brian Bennie (bass) and Paul Dickinson (drums) and the Killin’ Time Band for a full night of Waits to celebrate the music and raise funds for Hamilton Mission Services.

    “It’s important for us to try and give back to the community and this show has become a yearly meeting place for fans with a common love,” says Hails. “We hope to recapture the same love and vibe that has been in the Casbah the last 3 years. You have artists of all levels sharing the stage and admiration for the songs they are playing and for each other. Anyone who loves music should come out, it’s not your regular show. You’re going to see new interpretations of some great music, enjoy a night with like–minded folk and soak up a great vibe while supporting and enjoying local talent. It’s a street level tribute to a huge and influential body of work by a timeless and mysterious artist whose fans are as crazy as he is. Not only will you have your mind opened up by some great music you will get to see a huge range of musicians, from up and comer to movers and shakers on the scene to the elders you will leave with a new twist on some Tom Waits and maybe a new favourite artist to check out.”  V

The Fourth Annual Tom Waits Tribute happens Wednesday February 26 at the Casbah. Doors are at 8pm and $10 gets you in.
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