Bob Bryden’s Yorkville Days
Bob Bryden was born in Ottawa, grew up in Oshawa and eventually made his way to Hamilton in the late ’70s to run a record store and has since richly added to our local musical landscape with his music. Musically, Bryden’s early bands, Reign Ghost formed in 1969 and Christmas formed in 1970, were exciting and adventurous although not commercial successes (with psychedelic folk and progressive rock collectors offering huge sums to get original copies of those original albums). By ’78, Bryden was a record store manager in Hamilton and forming bands like Benzene Jag and Age of Mirrors. He’d become a solo singer songwriter, most recently releasing Polaroid Verité in 2007 but his latest effort brings Bryden full circle — philosophically if not geographically. Bob Bryden’s first album in seven years is strongly inspired by his nascent years when he bussed to the hippy capital of Canada at the age of 17. Ground zero was Toronto’s Yorkville in 1968, a bohemian breeding ground for musicians like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Kensington Market. For Bob Bryden, Yorkville Days is an obvious checking of the rear view mirror but it’s also more an ode to steering things to a new idealism.
“I would not put out an album unless I had something interesting or unique to say,” offers Bryden. “I believe in sincere and honest inspiration and that’s what I wait for when I write a song. The song has to be written or I’ll die. I was waiting for money but I was also waiting for songs, that’s why it took so long to make this record. I got to a place where I had 30 songs to choose from. I worked with Kori Pop for over a year on song selection and approach and vocals. I always want input from musicians who I trust and Kori I trust implicitly for her good taste and talent.
“As this project took shape, it became clear that in more ways than one it would be a kind of return to my roots — it reminded me of doing my very first album,” continues Bryden. “That feeling was heavily fuelled by the song and the concept of Yorkville Days — but there are so many things on this album that are current and relevant. There are songs on this album about world politics and about ecology, an anti–war song is never going to die like a unique take on a love song is never going to die and I’ve got a few of those, too.”
Bryden considers Yorkville Days his kindest record, if only because of a less aggressive vocal style, and while the lyric fodder remains serious, Bryden hoped to focus on a more optimistic approach.
“When I went into Yorkville in the ’60s, of course, we were angry as teenagers rebelling but the feeling I remember was lighter and more magical,” reasons Bryden. “That youthful idealism rather than anger is in the song “Yorkville Days” and I think through this whole album. Yorkville Days is about how I spent my youth and how I was inspired. I would sit in these tiny little coffee houses, three feet away from these musicians that I idolized. It’s all about idealism and I think the world still needs idealism, as naïve as it sounds. I don’t think there are enough positive voices out there. I think it’s hard to be positive when cynicism is hip — It’s so difficult to muster positive worldviews that are deep and rich but I think there are some of us willing to try and I think my album does that.”
A recording that truly stands on its own, fraught with wit and whimsy — an exuberant Bob Bryden is at the top of his game on Yorkville Days making the kind of music he believes he’s always made in whatever the project.
Original Christmas records have long since been fetching big prices by international collectors and to combat bootlegging, Bryden has recently overseen remastering and reissuing both Reign Ghost records on vinyl. The demand for his old product has increased dramatically over the years but some fans are even unaware Bryden has a rich catalogue of music over the last four decades.
“Sometimes, I want to tell the people that still only think of me as part of Christmas or Reign Ghost that every album I’ve put out since hasn’t really been that different and they should check out the new stuff,” says Bryden. “I’ve gone through many permutations over the decades but I’m a man of many eras. I never changed my modus operandi. I did a sort of punk band and a sort of big hair new wave band but if you look at the lyrics and the melodies, I don’t think I’ve ever made a record that wasn’t psychedelic or prog rock. I love diversity and all my albums are stylistically diverse. I don’t like to be pigeon holed. Every song’s different and I would hate to bore people. I’ve always been psychedelic because to me it meant the stretching and exertion of the imagination. I’m not any different from where I was back in 1966. My music is coming out of me now like something coming out of a seventeen year old without any filters so it’s very pure, free and open and I’m happy to be back in that state.”
Jordan Abraham and David Guild produced and played on Yorkville Days with Kori Pop, Calvin Roy, Andrew Barbisan, and act as Bryden’s backing band, the Suicidal Folk Singers, for the official Yorkville Days release party this weekend. His underground cult status alone makes him a Canadian music legend but Bob Bryden remains a current, topical, vibrant and important singer/songwriter today with a youthful idealism the world certainly could use.
“I hold out hope for a little more exposure with the release of Yorkville Days,” says Bryden. “I’ve been underground so long it’s almost second nature but I’m also thinking positively to move to another level. Really, I’d love for this album to pay for the next album. I hope to achieve more visibility with this one but I’m not worried about it because regardless, in an undetermined number of years I’m going to have to make another record when I’ve found something to say again.”
Bob Bryden and the Suicidal Folk Singers play this Friday April 25 at This Ain’t Hollywood with Kensington Prairie, Hollow Earth and lighting by Dan Zen. $20 gets you in with a CD. Click on bobbryden.com
Gym Class Joke Reunite
There was a groundswell of bands that began in the ’90s and regardless of longevity, financial success or otherwise, there is a nostalgia that’s running rampant in a lot of thirty–somethings. When Ben Rispin started Burly Calling, the three–day pub crawl was about friends and family coming together to celebrate new music in Burlington but over the years the success of the festival has offered many reunions from Grade, the Spicolis, Somehow Hollow and more. Gym Class Joke was one band that perhaps never got as far as they could have but twenty years later, the original members of the band not only reunited for Burly Calling but also may be a band again.
“I started my first band in 1994 with a couple of high school buddies,” recalls guitarist Brad Sumak. “We were young little pups around 14 or 15. This Side Down played some D.I.Y outdoor punk rock shows and we saw Gym Class Joke play and loved them. We actually covered one of GCJ’s original songs so that’s how much we liked the band. When This Side Down called it quits the boys in GCJ asked if I’d like to join as a second guitar player.
Sumak would join Rich Boylan (guitar, vocals), Bob Anderson (bass), and Connor Lovat–Fraser (drums) and offer a metallic skate punk barrage on their official cassette tape release, Corporate Punk$ not too far removed from their contemporaries like Trunk, Sector7, or the Video Dead.
“We wanted to be NOFX more than NOFX wanted to be NOFX,” quips Sumak on GCJ’s music. “I think our crowning achievement, as funny or as pathetic as it might be, was actually playing on Jonovision [a ’90s CBC show geared towards teenagers hosted by Jonathan Torrens pre Trailer Park Boys fame] with Treble Charger and Sum41. Burlington has always had its unique sounding style of music if you look back at bands like Trunk, the Video Dead and Jersey. There’s something so Burlington about that kind of music and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’ve been very honored just to be a part of it.”
By 2000, Gym Class Joke was done. Sumak went on to join the Spicolis and more recently Bombing Neverland, Lovat–Fraser went on to work with Boys Night Out, Skittlebrau (with Anderson), Crazy Diamond and more recently the Eff–Holes, and Boylan now works in video production in Montreal. Twenty years after the band started and 14 years after it ended, Gym Class Joke decided to rekindle the band but seemingly retained that youthful zeal so that anyone who was there the first time around will enjoy it and if you weren’t, there’s still a reason to go.
“Nostalgia had a lot to do with getting back together,” says Sumak. “I got a message from Ben Rispin, asking if there was a chance that Gym Class Joke would get back together. To be honest, I didn’t think it would ever happen but sure enough, the next thing you know we were jamming at Toneland Studio in Burlington. We were amazed at how quickly the songs came back to us considering we hadn’t played them in fifteen years and with Connor not playing drums since GCJ ceased to exist. I wouldn’t say it was the tightest show we ever played but it certainly was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever played. And the show offers keep coming so we’re going to keep playing as long as people keep coming out.
“It is kind of funny to watch a bunch of guys that are thirty–plus get up on stage and sing songs about 14 year old ideals and mentalities but it is what it is,” adds Sumak. “I think the music still stands up though. Every NOFX album still stands up for me even though they might be a twenty–year–old record. I think our stuff does, too. We have toyed around with writing some new stuff for shits and giggles, maybe re–recording some of the old stuff and recording some new stuff. As long as it’s still fun and people want it, we’ll see what happens. I’m just hoping to see as many familiar and friendly faces out on Friday as we can get.”
Gym Class Joke plays this Friday April 25 at Club Absinthe with P.O.E, Shift D and Bring Me the Author. Doors are at 9pm and $10 gets you in.
Jacob Moon’s Fascination
Award winning singer songwriter Jacob Moon has offered eight albums of original music and dazzled audiences with his guitar prowess but with all of the accolades and success as a songwriter, perhaps a couple of special nods inspired his latest album. His video cover of Rush’s Subdivisions recorded live atop the Staircase Theatre got national attention and Moon was invited to perform for Rush at their 2010 induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rush gave him a standing ovation. The increased presence in the world of progressive rock then led to Moon being asked to join Marillion for their 2013 European live tour.
When we last spoke to Moon, he suggested his ninth CD would not be all–original for the first time because he wanted to formalize this love affair and release an album in homage to progressive rock. This week, Jacob Moon hopes you join in this Fascination.
“It really activates the young person’s imagination and for a teenaged kid, I was really into a lot of that kind of music,” explains Moon on an early love of progressive rock. “There used to be a place for the progressive music fan on FM radio to listen to their favourite music and somewhere back in the ’90s that place disappeared and it became kind of uncool music. It might finally be cool again as these things change in cyclical fashion but for people that like that music and you can’t find it anywhere. I found that when you poke your head up and say, ‘hey, I also listen to that kind of music and it’s also informed my own kind of eclectic singer/songwriter style and my arrangements of this music in a different way and interpreting it in a new way’ — people really respond to that. When you find something like that on the net, fans celebrate it, support it and they’re very loyal. I realized there was a kinship there
“If you look at the cover of Fascination, there’s a picture of a little kid with his piggy bank buying a stack of records,” adds Moon. “It’s not me but I was a young person spending my paper route money on vinyl and fascinated by the sounds I was hearing, by the sounds the guitars made and trying to get inside that machine and make it do my bidding. That’s kind of where it started with me and then I went into the vocals and the songwriting. I could do another Fascination with singer/songwriters and troubadours because that has also been a style of music that has been important to me but I felt the timing was right and the songs had coalesced and that that they had to live somewhere. I thought I had to make a record and do it before I went on this tour with Marillion. That’s what I wanted to present to their fans. It’s like a handshake to a new friend. It was a way for me to greet a whole world of fans that I had never played for and desperately wanted to play for again.”
Fascination features songs by Marillion (“Kayleigh”, “Lavender”), Rush (“Subdivisions”, “Limelight”), Peter Gabriel (“In Your Eyes”), Radiohead (“Let Down”), and Tom Waits (“Pony”), as well as two original songs that flow seamlessly with Moon’s novel interpretations. Rather than aping the songs, Moon offers an inventive take and a loving tribute to each track making it truly his own. For the Hamilton release party, the Jacob Moon Band featuring Rich Moore, Corey Lacey, Rob ‘Beatdown’ Brown and Lisa Winn will offer Moon’s latest adventures live.
“With the band, we’re going to play most of Fascination but we’ll also get to some songs from my previous record Maybe Sunshine and some other favourites,” says Moon. “I think the fans are up for it. The great thing about being an independent artist is that there is never a left turn that you can’t make. There is no reason not to be eclectic. If I were signed to a label, they’d want me to stick to a genre so they can market it. But the fans that have been with me since the beginning it’s a different story. Whatever the muse is whispering, that’s where I’m going.”
The Jacob Moon Band plays Wednesday April 30 at the Casbah. Doors are at 7pm and $15 gets you in. Click on Jacobmoon.com