Monday, March 31, 2008

Shared Vision Q & A

My Q & A with Luke Hogan appears in this month's Shared Vision. Pick up a copy or go to Shared Vision to see the full story.

Living from Ground to Jar

By Andrea Warner

Luke Hogan believes it takes a healthy diet and his special brand of TLC to make his customers feel their best. A certified herbalist, this is one man who isn’t afraid to get dirty to help other people feel good. His products are homegrown and harvested with his own hands, ensuring only the best ingredients make it into ours.

Luke’s biggest inspiration: “The healing power of plants. I think it’s amazing that we can make natural health and beauty products that work and are actually good for us.”

On the challenges of using all-natural ingredients: “I came to the realization that to maintain a high level of quality control at every stage, I needed to grow the herbs we use.”

Royal Herbs’ most sought after item: “Our face creams. There’s a day cream that features CoQ10, which is an antioxidant. Many people take CoQ10 internally for cardiovascular health, but topically it will fight damage caused by the sun or the environment.”

Luke’s hottest beauty secret: “I think a healthy diet is really important. A good regime of a nice, natural cleanser, moisturizer, and you’re set.”

His biggest cosmetic pet peeve: “The ingredients found in most mainstream health and beauty products. Many of them are unnecessary and some are potentially harmful to us, and our environment.”

In his former life, he worked as “a driving instructor. When you’re sitting on the other side of the car you don’t have a steering wheel, but you have a gas and a brake pedal. I can’t tell you the countless times that I [helped] avoid an accident.”

Luke wishes all 12-year-old girls realized that “they won’t always be 12.”

Vampire Weekend

We reviewed Vampire Weekend's show Thursday night. Go to Beyond Robson to see the full review and pictures!

Vampire Weekend
By Andrea Warner

While no blood was actually shed at the Vampire Weekend show at Richard's on Thursday night, I have the pulled neck and bruises to prove I was front and centre for the best show Vancouver's seen this year.

Opening band YACHT took the sold-out crowd by storm, turning Richards on Richards into a head-bopping, ass-shaking, sweat-filled aerobics class. Lead singer Jona and new sidekick Claire worked the stage like kids who forgot to take their Ritalin, all sexy-awkward high kicks, jumps, and bumps 'n grinds. Jona looks like the real-life manifestation of Napoleon Dynamite. A dance off between the two would be heaven.

When Vampire Weekend came out about a half-hour later, the excitement from YACHT's set still hadn't worn off. The band looked like nice college kids who'd just come from the library, until they ripped in to their very first song, Mansard Roof. It's impossible to know whether a super-hyped band (like Vampire Weekend) will live up to all the buzz, so it's a huge relief when they do. The set was tight, the audience knew all of the words, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be won over by Vampire Weekend's shyly befuddled smiles of 'how the hell did this happen?'

Friday, March 28, 2008

Punk Rock Warlord

My review of Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten appears in the newest edition of Fast Forward Weekly.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
By Andrea Warner

He became the poster boy for the punk movement, as famous for his politics as he was for his snarling stage presence. Now the lead singer of The Clash is the subject of Julien Temple’s fascinating but spotty Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
. While Unwritten effectively illustrates how a collection of moments can affect the zeitgeist of a generation, it never quite gets inside the mystery of the man himself.

Born to a diplomat father who was known for challenging authority, Strummer and his older brother David lived in five different countries by the time they were in grade school. Temple gets the details right and lingers for the perfect amount of time on some of the tough revelations, such as David’s suicide and Strummer identifying his brother’s body, all by the age of 18.

The large midsection of Unwritten is devoted to The Clash, and there’s plenty of volatile material here that should have been covered in an entirely separate film. Strummer’s politics provided the thrust of The Clash’s power-to-the-people message, but it wasn’t all he was. Yet Unwritten devotes more than half of its running time to The Clash’s hirings, firings and ego explosions, while the 10 years Strummer spent trying to exorcise that band from his system is wrapped up in about six minutes.

Referred to briefly as the “wilderness years,” Temple treads very lightly on Strummer’s own dark period following the breakup of The Clash, when he retreated from the public. The film hints that he may have become a preacher for a short time. Say what? This is the consistent frustration with Unwritten: the dots aren’t connected enough to fully realize Strummer as an icon and as a person. Friends, musicians and a variety of celebrities appear throughout the film, but Temple makes no attempt to identify individuals beyond their names, and offers no explanation about their connection to Strummer. It's distracting when Johnny Depp suddenly shows up, but it’s downright disconcerting when Matt Dillon comes aboard.

That said, Unwritten has plenty of momentum, and there are many reasons to recommend it. The imagery is wonderful and intersperses archival footage, fictionalized scenes, animations of Strummer’s art, scenes from Orwell’s Animal Farm and present-day interviews with a truly varied assortment of people gathered around campfires. Throughout, Strummer often acts as a narrator to his own life, with sound clips culled from interviews and his popular radio show, London Calling. Like The Clash’s music and the do-it-yourself punk ethos, Unwritten feels like it colours outside the lines of the traditional documentary form, and this is where it succeeds as a fitting tribute to the original “punk rock warlord.”

8 x 10 Glossy

My story on the Leaping Thespians' newest production, 8 x 10 Glossy is in the latest edition of Xtra West!

8 x 10 Glossy preview
By Andrea Warner

Leaping Thespians director Karen White read over 50 scripts before 8 x 10 Glossy caught her eye.

To her, the play's myriad themes — sexuality, political activism, and family dysfunction — felt particularly relevant for a 2008 audience, even one steeped in modern liberations.

Written by Sarah Dreher, 8 x 10 Glossy is set in 1984. At its centre is Carter, a lesbian activist and photojournalist, who returns home on the one-year anniversary of her father's death to face her sister, Julie, a repressed and unhappy housewife, and her mother, Kettie, finally free after years of abuse. Julie's attractive new friend, Lisa, and the unseen nosy neighbour round out the cast.

Having come out herself in 1978, White strongly identifies with the sexual themes the play explores, and recalls the struggles facing the lesbian community during that pivotal time.

"The majority of people were against gays at the time," White explains. "I knew many women on the fringe of the lesbian-feminist community who didn't call themselves lesbian; they 'just happened to be in love with a women.' It was still very much the love that dare not speak its name, except in the safe enclaves of lesbian culture: the bars, softball teams, and many feminist organizations."

Times have changed but modern audiences will likely be able to draw many comparisons between then and now, White suggests.

"Every young woman coming out now, even though she's coming out in a different world, wants the approval of her family. Lots of women now, even though they know it's okay to be a lesbian, still don't think they are. They're surprised by feelings for a woman."

In 8 x 10 Glossy, Carter may be out and proud, but she's still desperate for Julie's approval. Julie, afraid of her own feelings for Lisa, can't help but lash out at Carter.

The sisters' relationship is complicated, fraught with expectation and disappointment, but the underlying love between the siblings fuels every scene.

Taylor Stutchbury plays Julie and is empathetic to the struggles her character faces in confronting her sexuality.

"I was closer to Carter in realizing my orientation, yet sexuality is something which has evolved for me over time and it is there where I can understand Julie's struggle," Stutchbury says. "Sexuality for me has to do with acceptance of yourself. Julie's internalized homophobia is something I struggled with when I was younger and it still pokes out its head as I age."

"Women who proclaimed their lesbianism often lost custody of their children, a theme only alluded to in this story but a strong undercurrent," White points out, noting the potential costs of coming out for Julie are not the same as for her sister.

"For Julie, being a favoured young mom in the town, getting her identity from others, doing what is expected of her is second nature," White explains. "So many women lost close connections with family after coming out, there was a lot to lose. A lot to lose especially if you are not sure, and how can you be sure until you try?"

Eroca Zales, who plays Kettie, sees an ugly similarity between 8 x 10's 1984 politics and the current political condition. She recounts a pivotal scene where Carter likens the persecution of gays to the holocaust, and asks, "It's happening again, isn't it?"

"Of course that is happening now in the States with the Christian right," Zales says. "It's a very dangerous political movement. Very repressive to many people — women's right to choose, gays, Muslims, on and on."

Like many plays that prove timeless, 8 x 10's gift is Dreher's dialogue: honest and unpretentious, with plenty of moments of dark wit, tense confrontation, and cute flirting.

We're introduced to Carter and Lisa within minutes of the curtain rising. Lisa is obviously at home in Kettie's backyard, and Carter is intrigued by the stranger who seems so close to her sister. The two women who are competing for Julie's affections circle each other with caution, friendship, and a spark of attraction.

Great dialogue also propels the rise and fall of the heated exchanges between Carter and Julie as they butt heads and then back down, only to keep the pattern on repeat.

Leigh Burrows plays Carter, and while she acknowledges the play touches on important issues about sexuality, she feels the main focus is family.

"What makes the story universal is the way the family interacts, the way we keep up appearances," Burrows says. "Even though there is all this stuff that goes on behind the scenes and behind all the closed doors."

"When I first told one of my sisters that I was a lesbian, it was in a public place in Fredericton, New Brunswick. At the time she worried about [what] people would think when she gave me a hug," Stutchbury recalls. "Years later she came out as a lesbian and it gave me better understanding about what had been going on for her."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Into the Woods

Into the Woods is on now until March 29th. You should go!

My review appeared on Beyond Robson last week, and I've posted it below as well.

Into the Woods
By Andrea Warner

Long before Shrek, there was another twisted, more sophisticated take on fairy tales to answer the question of "What happens after happily ever after?"

Into the Woods, on now at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, is the hit Broadway musical from Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). More than any of his other productions, Into the Woods is stuffed to the brim with memorable characters and witty, wonderful songs.

Many of our nostalgic favourites get the revamped treatment, their intentions and their morals as compromised as any real person: Jack, with the bean stalk, is lovable but dim-witted; Little Red Riding Hood wields a knife with delectable pleasure; Rapunzel is a traumatized Virgin Mary, held captive by a wicked witch who just wants to be a mother.

The cast is fantastic, and the energy is high. A few performances to note: Jonathan Winsby and Ryan Reid as the two vapid but charming Princes are fun lotharios, and their voices blend beautifully on their two duets. Linda Quibell as the Witch alternates between heartbreak and evil, her powerful voice propelling many of the more emotional songs in the second half. Ultimately, it's Ingrid Nilson, as Little Red Riding Hood, who steals the show with excellent comedic timing, a unique voice, and a striking resemblance to a shrunken Reese Witherspoon.

It's a family friendly production to some extent, but some of the themes are mature (infidelity, revenge), and the body count is high throughout the more somber second half. The venue is small and intimate, and it's rare to attend a musical that isn't distorted by microphones. This is Patrick Street Productions' first show, and it's gratifying to see them tackle such a large-scale production so successfully.

Into the Woods continues until March 29th at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Never Back Down

My review of Never Back Down appeared in Thursday's Westender.

Never Back Down
1 star
By Andrea Warner

Borrowing heavily from every movie involving a wise mentor and an angry young man with issues, Never Back Down attempts to disguise violent brawls as life lessons about responsibility, growing up, and forgiveness. A vicious roundhouse kick to the jaw? That’s the sound of men beginning to heal.

Sean Faris (who looks like a young Tom Cruise) plays Jake, the new kid in school whose reputation as a fighter precedes him through the magic of YouTube-like videos showcasing his “mad skills”. When he immediately falls for the hot blonde, laughably named Baja, it’s no secret that she’ll be the girlfriend of his future nemesis, Ryan, the sociopath leader of the underground fight club that’s permeated this Orlando community.

Jake finds a mentor and a father figure in two-time Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou’s Jean Roqua, a mixed martial artist with his own skeletons in the closet, demanding that his clients only fight inside his gym, not on the street. Hounsou’s acting talents are wasted here, but his bulging biceps bring believability to his character’s reputation as The Best Fighter Ever.

The conclusion is anti-climactic and formulaic, and the quick-cut editing tries to hold the attention of the ADD crowd. The script feels stale, even with the modern, digital tweaks—every kid has a cellphone to record the action and make a celebrity out of winners and losers via the miracle of the Internet. It’s Gossip Girl meets Fight Club, without the cleverness of either.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Funny Games

Here's my review of Funny Games from this week's Westender.

Funny Games
3 stars
By Andrea Warner

Horrifying, disturbing, and unsettling. Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s remake of his own film of the same name, is a chance to watch your own worst nightmare come true: two angelic looking psychopaths torture and terrorize a family for no other reason, it seems, than “entertainment”.

Naomi Watts and Tim Roth are Ann and George, a wealthy couple arriving at their summer home with their young son, Georgie. The family’s quaint and quiet perfection is in the details: a large vacation home, hidden behind a huge gate, nestled on the water; car trip games of guess the opera; state of the art golf clubs. They appear to be a family entirely untouched by violence; lives lived in a fragile bubble.

Until they meet Peter and Paul who are “visiting” neighbours. The tension is almost unbearable from the first ten minutes onward. Michael Pitt’s Paul is coolly persistent, his exaggerated politeness both mocking and terrifying. Brady Corbet’s Peter has a penetrating gaze, creepy in its vacancy, and a genuinely intimidating unibrow. The games alternate between psychological and physical torture, and the vicious outbursts keep the family, and the audience, on edge.

Haneke makes interesting and unusual choices with the action, periodically breaking through the fourth wall as Paul stares deeply into the camera, addressing the audience directly, or “rewinds” an entire portion of the film in a bizarre twist on create-your-own-ending. Funny Games is the darkest of thrillers, relentlessly violating its characters, but it’s the audience that bears the blunt force of the trauma.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Queer + Asian = ?

My story appears in today's Xtra West!

Caught Between Two Sets of Expectations
By Andrea Warner

A panel discussion at the University of British Columbia (UBC) raised more questions than it answered when it brought together an assortment of participants to talk about what it means to be queer and Asian.

Hosted by UBC's Asian Canadian Cultural Organization, the Mar 7 discussion capped off two days of workshops regarding Asian experiences.

Titled Queer + Asian = ? it was touted as a safe haven for people to share their own stories about being queer, racism in the gay community, struggles with coming out, and the cultural give and take between Asian family values and more Western norms.

The most wide-ranging discussion stemmed from the concept of coming out.

"Western culture advocates the individual, whereas Asian culture is more about the collective," says Allen Chen, a 21-year-old UBC student, who says being Asian-Canadian and queer means being caught between two sets of expectations.

For many of the panelists, being gay is only one facet of their identity — and not the dominant facet at that. In contrast, many felt the norm in Vancouver's gay community is to identify first by sexual orientation, then by ethnicity, cultural association, or career.

Being gay isn't a topic generally discussed with family members, panelists noted.

"In Chinese culture, straight or gay, we all hide our relationships," says Lydia Luk, who works at The Centre on Bute St.

Luk has been in a relationship with a woman for over four years but has never told her family. But, she points out, several of her straight friends are also in long-term relationships and haven't told their families either. It's not so much a secret, she says, as a culture founded on respect and privacy.

"There's the idea of a Confucian duty to carry on the family line," Chen says. "As long as you fulfill the public duty, you can live your private life." It's not uncommon for men to marry, have children, and continue to have sex with men on the side.

Asian communities can be incredibly small and close knit, notes Luk, so word gets around very quickly if someone comes out. That's why, she explains, "sometimes we're out in certain communities and sometimes we're not."

Coming out to family also means finding the right words, something that can be difficult in some languages.

"I haven't been able to say I'm gay in Chinese," Chen says. "It's a bad word. It's immediately connoted as negative."

Several people echoed having similar difficulties. For instance, there is no equivalent to "coming out" in Cantonese, as the terms are all very technical. Even if some people wanted to have the conversation, it could prove almost impossible.

For Asian Canadians who do decide to come out, many have difficulty finding resources that reflect their own cultural realities. The majority of resources target English speakers, and while translations are available, language barriers may muddle the meaning and intention of the words.

Additionally, many Asian cultures don't seek support networks outside the family. There are currently no Asian members of PFLAG, a statistic the organization is desperately hoping will change in coming years.

Asian Canadians may also face discrimination within the gay community, an idea that's referred to as a "pecking order" of idealized looks, cultures, and experiences. One of the questions raised by the panel was: is racial preference simply preference or is it racism? And, just because you're attracted to people of the same sex, does that mean you're automatically accepted into the gay community?

Several people in the room pointed to gay personal ads that tell Asians not to bother responding.

"We're supposed to be a community that is oppressed, so we should be aware but I just as quickly realized, no, it doesn't necessarily work that way," says Luk. "And that's too bad."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anne Murray interview

My Anne Murray profile appears in the Charleston City Paper today!

Cool Is Her Middle Name: Anne Murray rides the 'chick bus' into Charleston

By Andrea Warner

Anne Murray is as Canadian as hockey, maple syrup, and beaver tails. She's rocked the same hairstyle since 1986. Her name may not be synonymous with cool, but evidence keeps mounting to the contrary: she was best friends with the late Dusty Springfield, she hung out with the Beatles, and her latest album, Anne Murray Duets: Friends and Legends, took Billboard's country and internet sales charts by storm.

Murray's voice, a powerful contralto, is as rich as her career is long. Her current cross-country tour boasts stops in over 50 cities, where she proudly rides on a "chick bus" with her daughter and the three other women in the band. (The guys get their own buses.) Though the pace can be exhausting, she's feeling well rested when we connect over the phone.

Speaking from her hotel in Florida, where the weather has turned unseasonably cold, Murray is ill equipped for the dip in temperature, but her laugh is like her reputation: warm and generous. The fans that crowd her shows know what to expect, but the uninitiated audience will likely be humbled by the family-like camaraderie. That, and the 40-plus years of performing experience she brings to the stage.

"A lot of people are surprised by the sense of humor and the fun that we have," she says. "This group has been together a long time. We're like a family, and we have fun on stage. And, I have nothing left to prove anymore. I go out and sing and have a good time, and I think people enjoy that."

Murray grew up inspired by musicians who also enjoyed having a good time with their craft. Her musical tastes are all over the map — a fact she attributes to her parents and the eras in which she grew up.

"I listened to every kind of music, Murray says. "My parents listened to Bing Crosby, Perry Como, the Mills Brothers. I loved Doris Day, Patty Page, and Rosemary Clooney. I went through the rock 'n' roll era, then the folk era. All of those things had an influence on me. And then The Beatles came. The Beatles were like the second coming to me. Then Dusty Springfield was in there. She was my favorite. She's always been one of my favorite female vocalists."

Duets is entirely devoted to women vocalists, and the contributors couldn't be more diverse: Shania Twain, Olivia Newton John, Carole King, and Celine Dion, to name a few. Murray's own sound has influenced artists like Nelly Furtado, Jann Arden, and Sarah MacLachlan, and she readily admits that some of the contributors to Duets were more than a little apprehensive to meet her.

"Some of these girls, like k.d. lang, Shania, Nelly Furtado, were weaned on my music," Murray says. "They were a little intimidated and nervous, but not for long."

Some might imagine that an album boasting hugely successful singers would mean massaging a lot of egos, but Murray speaks of the process with nothing but fondness.

"There wasn't a diva in the lot. Everyone came really well prepared. Everyone had a lot of fun doing it. It was just a great experience," Murray says. And there were some pleasant revelations along the way.

Murray initially had zero interest in making the album. Her record company spent a lot of time convincing her to give it a try. Lured by the idea of creating a collaborative album, she finally agreed.

"I wasn't interested at all," she remembers. "But, they kept pushing and they had a big meeting with my management people and their people and they twisted my arm. And, here we are: two Juno nominations [the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys] and double platinum. It's been a shocker. Goes to show you I don't always know what's best for me."

British Sea Power at the Plaza

You can read my review of British Sea Power at the Plaza on Beyond Robson.

Here's a preview:

A combination of crappy crowd and uninspired performances came close to making British Sea Power at the Plaza on Wednesday night a complete wash.

The lackluster Elizabeth opened the show, and they tried to get the audience engaged, but it wasn't happening. A three-foot circumference remained empty around the stage for the majority of Elizabeth's set, until the lead singer finally implored the audience to come closer. With just one song left, it felt a bit too little too late for such antics. And, nothing's sadder than a failed clap-along.

Well, except two failed clap-alongs. colourmusic followed Elizabeth, and also failed to make any kind of connection with the crowd. Major problems with the sound prompted an uncomfortably long break between sets, and colourmusic never seemed to recover from the off-putting start. The band's white track suits make a great visual statement, but they, too, failed to get the audience moving. The sound was muddled, which may or may not be more of an issue with the venue. colourmusic have a lot of huge ideas, but the concept felt lost that night. It'll be interesting to see them the next time they come to town. It felt like there was promise there.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Elias interview

I sat down with Elias for a profile in March's Discorder. Pick up a copy if you can--the pictures are worth it.

They Work Hard for the Money
Elias Interview
By Andrea Warner

Elias, the alternative indie band from Vancouver, is perched on the brink of success—they have a major talent agent behind them, the brand new album All We Want, and camera-ready faces to get the girls’ hearts racing. So how does a fledgling local rock band make the jump from local following to national (or international) fan favourite?

Hard work.

The Elias boys continue to work hard to pay their dues. Cross-Canada bus tour horror stories? Check. Labour-intensive day jobs to pay for their demo? Check. Long, long hours rehearsing to perfect their sound and stage presence? Check.

There is even photographic evidence of lead guitarist Rob Tornroos as a five-year-old strumming a tennis racket while rocking out to Jon Bon Jovi. So, check off embarrassing/endearing childhood dreamer off the list, too. Elias is ready to kick it up a notch and take Canada by storm with their sweet sound and urgent rhythms. Oh, and to find Rob a girlfriend. That’s also on the agenda.

Elias was still pretty far in the future when the band started to take shape in 2000. Lead singer Brian Healy and his brother, bass player Jonny, joined forces with Rob and drummer Dominic Coletta, and by 2005 they’d released a self-titled EP that garnered media attention and had built a loyal fan base through dynamic live shows throughout Western Canada. This is also where Elias attracted the attention of the venerable booking agency, and Canada’s largest, Sam L. Feldman & Associates.

With careers and futures entirely intertwined, the teasing and self-deprecating humour Brian and Rob share over coffee make it easy to assume the entire band is like a family.

“You get to know how to push each other’s buttons pretty well, piss each other off. Rob and I actually live next door to each other now, and work together and are in a band together. He’s sick of me,” Brian jokes.

And, that’s not even the familial bond at Elias’s core. Brothers Brian and Jonny contend with personal and professional dynamics, and minimize the impact on the band.

“We fight all the time,” Brian says, while Rob laughs knowingly. “Had a fight earlier today. Not physical, but I might have punched him once. Usually it’s just verbal abuse and as fast as it happens, it’s resolved.”

“Well, it’s over,” Rob interjects. “I don’t know if it’s resolved.”

Right now Elias isn’t living the glamorous rock star lifestyle. They spend at least three or four nights a week rehearsing in a Gastown space, and have played almost every venue in Vancouver. They’ve also spent long road trips in a cramped van driving from Vancouver to Toronto, meeting new fans, getting on each other’s nerves, and discovering their own personal Bermuda Triangle: Regina.

“We broke down three times going across the country, and every time it was in Regina,” Brian says. “Every time!”

All We Want has also been a labour of love, and it pretty well sums up Elias’s dream to play music and bring their music to a wider audience.

“We’ve been recording All We Want for about two years,” Rob says. “Some of the songs we wrote before, but we kept writing while we were recording.”

“I think the newer songs, inevitably for a band, will ring more true because they’re more current,” Brian says. “The meaning behind them is more recent and the music’s fresher for them.”

Musically, All We Want has received comparisons to Radiohead and Mars Volta, to name just a few. And while Brian and Rob can list off a long list of bigger bands who have influenced their sound, they are also mindful of the smaller bands who have found big success through smart choices.

“Arcade Fire’s celebrity is incredible, because they sort of did it themselves,” Brian says. “In the past it was about getting that label to sign you, but that’s not ideal anymore. It’s better to get out on the Internet or over the radio that way and enable yourselves. Like Rob says, go overseas and tour more. That’d be ideal. We had MySpace feature us in the spring and that brought tons of people and crazy plays.”

By day, Rob and Brian toil as landscapers, facing off against dirt, heavy lifting, manufactured greenery, and buckets of Vancouver rain. Their outlook is refreshing in its determination: these day jobs paid to produce Elias’s debut album, and the band is doing it their own way. The hard work is starting to pay off, and the perks, though not plentiful, have a neat shine.

“We played North by Northeast last May and we went to the Feldman barbecue held at their Toronto office and there’s lots of signed acts there. You’re partying and drinking with a bunch of people you recognize,” Rob says, of one memorable experience.

“We opened up for the Subways once at the Commodore and that was an incredible experience,” Brian says. “We’ve seen umpteen shows of our favourite bands and here we are walking out on stage. I remember, almost in that pause-time moment, walking out on stage and being like ‘here we are’. This is so bizarre to me. Looking out where you were looking in before.”

“And we opened up for Fiction Plane at the Plaza Club, Sting’s son’s band, a couple nights before the Police tour kicked off here in town, and that was pretty surreal because Sting showed up,” Rob says. “After we had played, but regardless. We looked up and everyone’s staring at Sting. We are huge Police fans so it was just crazy.”

The mixture of the heady fun stuff and daily real-life grind does take it’s toll, though.

“It’s tiring and stressful. You just pick yourself up and keep going,” Brian says. “Come home from work and motivate yourself to head back out.”

“You get a half hour off [between work and rehearsal], and then head back down to Gastown,” Rob says.

And the coming year won’t be much of a reprieve, as Elias burst headstrong into 2008 with a list of goals to achieve.

“We want to do a lot of that background stuff,” Rob says. “More videos, touring to support the album, and getting the word out there across Canada. Maybe branching out to the UK or the US.”

And, finding Rob his life mate, of course, by turning this article into a personal ad.

“I’m a single, 25-year-old male, searching for a suitable life partner,” Rob says. “Must like watching movies,…”

“Long walks on the beach,” Brian adds.

“Long walks anywhere. Driving and holding hands. And cats. Can you put that in there?”

“And a picture. No shirt,” Brian says.

Elias may be the hardest working local band, but boys will be boys.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Threat From Outer Space

This is my Discorder review of Threat From Outer Space's latest album.

Threat From Outer Space
Bleeding the Dying Elephant
By Andrea Warner

Threat From Outer Space label their live show as a ‘barn burning dance floor graveyard”, and damned if they don’t make the energy transcend the boundaries of stereo speakers, bursting through with the shoulder-bobbing, booty-shaking new album, Bleeding the Dying Elephant.

The five-piece from East Vancouver take elements of rap, hip-hop, and indie pop, and sets them against a grand backdrop of humming, synthesized beats and grand flourishes of trumpet. The sound is familiar to more mainstream fare, but the unique rhythms keep things fresh.

One of the album’s best tracks, “I’ll Get Over”, brings on the funk with searing trumpets while another stand out, “Beginning of the End”, the album’s last track, brings the volume down with a voice that’s almost a dark whisper before flaring into a full-bodied chorus layered with electronics.

“5:40 AM” is exactly the kind of song you want to end the party on with its slow groove and subtly suggestive beat. “Stay Awake” offers up sinfully slow bass and an awesome Q & A chorus to counteract the track’s sing-speak resonance.

Even the lyrically tired “Guesswork”, which offers a recycled groaner like “9/11 was an inside job”, can’t mute the pulsing beats and charming brass that pushes the song from mediocre to good. “Worldwide” attempts to highlight the global intricacies of war, environment, and poverty—it’s pretty far-reaching, and at times feels more like a sermon than a solution or exploration, but at least it’s thought provoking.

TFOS’s socialist approach to making music lists the “key players” in the band, but doesn’t isolate the contributions. It’s just one more oddly confounding detail about this East Side gem.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jon and Roy's Another Noon

This album review appears in March's Discorder!

Jon and Roy
Another Noon
By Andrea Warner

Jon and Roy new album, Another Noon, is reminiscent of great folk music like Simon and Garfunkel or Cat Stevens. Another Noon is a quiet and engaging companion to a day spent inside watching the rain fall, or drinking coffee while holding hands with someone adorable.

The album’s opening track, also doubles as the album’s title, and is an engaging little ditty, while “DT Stylee” offers up handclaps, a winner every time. The countrified “Little Bit of Love” is a foot-stomping charmer.

The entire percussion section comes out in “Moonlight”, and the guitar sounds like a literal interpretation of someone moseying down a backcountry road. On “Long Road”, moseying gives way to galloping horses. “Thanks For That” offers up a lovely and bittersweet lilting shrug.

The interesting give and take between Jon’s voice and his guitar contrasts nicely with Roy’s restrained percussion. If anything, the guitar is sometimes too omnipresent, almost obliterating Jon’s voice on several tracks. However, the biggest criticism Another Noon might face is the “sameness” of the songs—they’re not terribly distinguishable from each other on first or third listen.

That said, Another Noon is consistent and cohesive—there’s not a single song that feels out of place. Throughout, the guitar and drum offer something quick, like feet skipping, and it’s easy to imagine Another Noon scored across a cheeky and poignant independent film. Almost every song gives the illusion of moving forward while looking fondly behind you. The implied motion somehow provokes happy feelings, the album’s very quaintness catching on like a smile.

Monday, March 3, 2008


The March issue of Discorder hits the streets today. I have four pieces in it, so I thought I'd post one a day, saving the biggest one for last: my profile with Elias.

Once Film Review
By Andrea Warner

Once is the rarest of musicals, simultaneously rooted in possibility, reality and fantasy: the busker-by-day/vacuum-repair-by-night guy meets “cute” with the girl who rolls her Hoover behind her and happens to be a brilliant piano player. Thus begins their shyly innocent courtship making music together.

The “guy” is Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Frames, and the “girl” is Markéta Irglová, our leads who must navigate new terrain as their friendship blossoms, fueled by creativity and the possible spark of something more. Irglová’s face is young but wise, and the depth of her smile endears her to the camera. Hansard is older, not necessarily wiser, but he conveys his world-weariness without a bitter tinge. He’s lost, but he’s still hopeful, and this is what draws the two together.

Our heroine tries to take care of her daughter and her mother, with no sign of the husband to whom she’s bound. Our hero deals with his failings: his girlfriend has left him, his music career is stalled, and he’s living over his father’s repair shop. Hansard and Irglová’s chemistry is sweet and powerful, and watching the push-pull between them is breathtakingly sad. It may have helped that the professional musicians, but untrained actors, happened to actually fall in love during the three-week filming.

Set in Dublin, and directed by John Carney (once a member of the Frames, himself), Once is a testament to the power of a cheaply made great film trumping a bloated, big budget flick any day. Tight close ups, hand held cameras, and natural lighting helps create a feeling of intimacy and emotional investment.

Once’s real charm is the music. With the majority written by Hansard and Irglová, the songs are perfect fodder to relay the hidden feelings and deeper desires of these emotional and impassioned characters. The pair even scored an Oscar nomination for “Falling Slowly”, the beautiful song of yearning that sets the entire film in motion. Hansard and Irgová’s voices are powerfully contrasted: his desperate growl buoyed by her gentle urging as they crescendo like waves breaking on the beach.

As the audience is invited inside the process of writing songs, crafted through give and take, it feels like the moments reach well beyond the celluloid. We’re privy to the most secret of rituals—watching a relationship being built from the ground up note by note.