Sunday, March 28, 2010

One-Week Job Project

My interview with blogger-turned-author Sean Aiken is in this week's WE.

Blogger Sean Aiken, seen here at the controls of an Air Force helicopter, tried out 52 jobs in 52 weeks, and leveraged his online chronicle into his first book, The One-Week Job Project.

Blogger Sean Aiken, seen here at the controls of an Air Force helicopter, tried out 52 jobs in 52 weeks, and leveraged his online chronicle into his first book, The One-Week Job Project.

Credit: supplied

Blogger becomes a Jack of all trades

Like a lot of recent college graduates, Sean Aiken was completely clueless about how to translate 20 years of schooling into a meaningful career. The drought of regimented daily rituals — classes, homework, deadlines, repeat — had an almost paralyzing effect on the then 25-year-old Capilano College Business Administration major. Living in his parents’ basement, he faced the question every post-grad dreads: What are you going to do with your life?

Five years later, it seems, “Write a book!” was the long-awaited answer to that query. Aiken is the author of The One-Week Job Project, a book based on his 2006-2007 blog of the same name, detailing his year-long adventure trying out 52 different jobs over 52 weeks. The often-humorous collection details Aiken’s career smorgasbord (exterminator, tattoo artist, cowboy), falling in love on the road, and a few offers he flat-out refused (gay porn). In an interview with WE, Aiken talks about finding a career and the future of the One-Week Job Project.

WE: You graduated with a degree in business administration, but you ended up with a book deal. Had you always been interested in writing?
Aiken: Growing up, I wasn’t too interested in formal writing, but I always enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. Most often it would transpire into short poems or rants about life.

How did you arrive at the idea for a series of one-week jobs?
When I was looking for a job, I saw all of these important-sounding job titles, but I had no idea what the job would actually be like. I was scared at the thought of committing to one, not liking it, and then feeling trapped in the position. I think a mistake that many people make when deciding on a career is to focus on the title and ignore the characteristics of the particular career and its associated lifestyle.

The fiscal feasibility of something like the One-Week Job Project seems daunting, particularly since you donated your work earnings to charity. Did you have savings to help you embark on a year of constant travel?
I had a few hundred dollars in savings to get me started, but I had no clue how I was going to keep it up for a year. For the first five weeks I stayed in the Vancouver area, so I was able to live at home [in my parents’ basement]. Once the project started, I wrote a post on my website,, to try and find a sponsor to help with travel expenses. Luckily, contacted me in Week 5 and agreed to give me $1,000 a month. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been able to continue. During the entire year, I didn’t have to pay for accommodations once. I stayed with my employers, with people who contacted me through the website, or used [home-stay website] I also kept costs down by taking the bus, hitchhiking, or using Craigslist ride-share whenever possible.

How did the project impact you?
I learned that I don’t necessarily need to have my “dream job” in order to be happy at work. There are many other factors that contribute to job satisfaction. When I asked my coworkers what they liked most about their job, the common answer I heard was the people they worked with. I also recognized that those who were most passionate about their jobs were the ones who had a vision of how they were contributing to something greater than themselves. For example, I worked on an organic dairy farm with a guy named George. The job demands long hours, very hard work, and early mornings. After a couple of days I thought, “How can anyone enjoy this?” But George seemed to love it. To George, he was providing food for thousands of people while contributing to the environment with his organic farming practices. He understood the significance of his job, and that’s where he derived his job satisfaction.

What are your next steps?
Currently, we’re finishing post-production on the documentary that will be available at the same time as the book. Also, I just started the One-Week Job Program, which will allow others to have a similar experience. We’re providing three individuals $3,000 each over the course of two months. They’ll perform eight different one-week jobs and blog from the website. Anyone interested can apply at

The One-Week Job Project will be available across Canada beginning April 17 from Penguin Books.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Atom Egoyan

My interview with Atom Egoyan appears in this week's WE.

Acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan on the set of his latest film, Chloe, with stars Amanda Seyfried (left) and Julianne Moore.

Acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan on the set of his latest film, Chloe, with stars Amanda Seyfried (left) and Julianne Moore.

Credit: supplied

Atom Egoyan lets ‘Chloe’ put words in his mouth

When Atom Egoyan watched the sexy French thriller Nathalie in 2005, he had no idea that three years later he’d be at the helm of Chloe, its North American adaptation, and knee-deep in A-list actors, rising stars, and unthinkable tragedy.

Now, on the other side of directing his most star-studded, Hollywood-friendly fare to date, the director spoke with WE by phone while relaxing at his parents’ home in Victoria, shortly before embarking on several weeks of non-stop publicity for the film. (It opens in select cities, including Vancouver, on March 26.)

For Egoyan fans, the film’s premise — a middle-aged woman (Julianne Moore) hires a young, unstable escort (Amanda Seyfried) to test her husband’s (Liam Neeson) fidelity, only to find herself seduced as well — echoes elements of his previous work. Drama, deceit, and the darkest aspects of sexuality can be found in previous Egoyan works such as The Sweet Hereafter and Where the Truth Lies. The difference with Chloe, he says, was freedom from his own words.

“It was an opportunity to work outside my normal comfort zone,” Egoyan laughs, alluding to his first time directing a feature script that he didn’t pen himself. “In terms of my own scripts, I was getting more and more complicated, so this was a really good opportunity. It’s subject matter that was close enough to my own sensibility, [but] it offered me the option to sort of simplify my own work.”

The script highlights sex, obsession, and insecurity, and offers a particularly steamy scene in which Moore and Seyfried crank up the heat. (Egoyan’s own rule to ensure a natural performance between his co-stars: “Make sure they understand how they’re being photographed, that they’re going to look great!”) But it was the script’s underlying theme — a long-married couple trying to find a way back to each other — that proved particularly close to the director’s heart.

“I think there’s this point at which you take certain things for granted, and you forget that a relationship involves a lot of work,” Egoyan says. “Even though things become more comfortable, that very comfort creates a strange paralysis sometimes, and people can kind of drift into a strange place where they lose an erotic excitement. It takes a lot of work; you have to find space and ways to reignite things.”

Somewhat surprisingly, writer-director-producer Ivan Reitman, best known for big-budget comedies like Ghostbusters, was the initial mastermind behind Chloe. He handpicked Egoyan after deciding to adapt writer-director Anne Fontaine’s Nathalie for North American audiences. Egoyan was flattered by Reitman’s selection, but acknowledges there was some give and take throughout filming.

“I had heard that he’s a tough producer, but it’s all about communication,” Egoyan says. “We spent a lot of time together beforehand. He was very clear with me: He’d loved my movies, but there were certain things he didn’t want this to be and certain things he wanted me to focus on. And I listened to him, because this was a film that he wanted to direct at one point, but he realized he wouldn’t be able to get the performers he wanted because he’s used to doing comedy... and so he was very honest with me and I was very honest with him.”

Convincing Reitman to let him set Chloe in Toronto (instead of its scripted location, San Francisco) required some effort on Egoyan’s part. He attributes this, in part, to a generational shift between the two of them.

“Ivan, James Cameron, Norman Jewison — these are directors that had to leave the country [to achieve success],” Egoyan says. “I came from a different formation. I was really happy making my films here, because these are films that couldn’t be made in the States. I never had that fantasy of moving to the States for my career.”

And yet, for all of Chloe’s remarkable firsts, one tragic accident almost stalled the entire film. Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson, died during filming after falling and hitting her head at a Quebec ski resort. Over a year has passed, but Egoyan still sounds awed when he remembers Neeson returning to the set and his role as a philandering husband (depicted in graphic sex scenes) after taking just a week off to bury his wife and console his two children.

“He was a hero,” Egoyan says. “When he came back, he wanted to finish the film as quickly as possible, and we just had to contain our emotions. It was amazing. It was a miracle. But, given what this film was about, and what he had to play, it was really monumental what he was able to pull off.”

With the emotional and mental toll of Chloe nearly behind him, Egoyan is pragmatic about whether his future plans include directing more scripts written by other people.

“You have to be really honest with yourself,” he says. “This script was close enough to me that I felt I could do something unique with it. You can read a script and enjoy it, but are you the best person to direct it? If there are people you think would do a better job, you shouldn’t be directing it.”

Hot Tub Time Machine

My review of Hot Tub Time Machine appears in WE this week.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE: Eighties-era send-up starring John Cusack opens in theatres Friday, Mar. 26.


Starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry

Directed by Steve Pink

Hot Tub Time Machine pretty much plays its cards in its title, so if those four words don’t make you smile, just stay home. This is a comedy that laughs at itself, its stars, and everything ’80s, including Cold War paranoia, affirmative action, cocaine use, gay panic, and, of course, that decade’s Day-Glo parade of neon fashion travesties.

Half of the film’s winking brilliance is in the casting: ’80s poster boy John Cusack is Adam, a corporate schmuck who’s grown apart from his old buddies, Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson), and whose mid-twenties computer-nerd nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), lives in his basement. After an accident nearly claims Lou’s life, the four men embark on a weekend road-trip to revisit the ski-lodge hangout of the original trio’s youthful glory days.

Too bad it’s now a shuttered ghost town. The bellhop (an excellent Crispin Glover) is surly and one-armed, and the hot tub’s on the fritz. But then, suddenly, the hot tub’s bubbling invitingly, and the men jump in for some drunken, hilarious debauchery. They wake up and — bam!— it’s 1986. Oh, and Chevy Chase is the mystical, cryptic repairman who instructs the group to do exactly as they did the first time around, over two decades ago (even though Jacob wasn’t even alive then), so that they don’t alter the future and other time-travel mumbo jumbo. Of course, the older trio can’t resist trying to do things better the second time around, since their current lives are such messes.

The script, co-written by Josh Heald and Sean Anderson (She’s Out of My League, Sex Drive), offers a clever hijacking on the typical bromance genre of raunchy guy comedies, but it sags a few times under the weight of a handful of predictable moments. Luckily, these stumbles are offset by many awesome WTF scenes (such as an oft-referenced, never explained “Great White Buffalo” chant) and a cast seemingly game for anything. What might have turned out to be another tepid dip into bathroom and locker-room humour is instead one of the year’s funniest films so far. ★★★ —Andrea Warner

Thursday, March 18, 2010


My review of HIVE3 is in this week's WE.

Theatre Replacement’s S.P.A.M.

Theatre Replacement’s S.P.A.M.

Credit: supplied

STAGE: HIVE returns with eclecticism intact

It might seem like something as cool and fun as HIVE, the annual independent-theatre showcase now in its third year, belongs in a larger and more cosmopolitan city, like Montreal or Berlin. What Vancouver has done to deserve it, who knows? But I, for one, am appropriately grateful. HIVE3, which launched March 11 and continues through to the 20th, offers the same ambitious set-up as in previous years: a continuous rotation of site-specific theatre installations, all under 10 minutes, from 12 different local, independent companies. The individual productions never fail to surprise, with bursts of creativity on display no matter which way you turn. Here are some highlights from my first go-round.

Boca del Lupo’s sobering and sad meditation about a journalist who struggles with survivor’s guilt after a tour of duty as a foreign correspondent. It’s wisely crafted, intimate, and offers food for thought on the experiences most of us take for granted.

An audience-participation fest that needed better microphones on the night I saw it, but that features a fun twist on the act of drunk-dialing. Two members from Theatre Replacement sit at small desks with martinis and a list of phone numbers from audience members, each of whom have agreed to be phoned and asked live questions (which cover a range of embarrassing topics, like first kisses). It’s lighter fare than some of the other pieces, but it’s damn fun.

Easily the strangest experience I had at HIVE3 was witnessing the collaboration between Theatre Conspiracy and Gasheart Theatre. Its three actors — loosely representing father, mother, and child — were given the hardest task of the night, tackling a squirrely script, laden with subtext and metaphor, that alternately lambastes and celebrates Canadian icons and nationalistic fervour, and also finds time to address subjects such as cupcakes, sexism, and physical abuse.

November Theatre presented one of the loveliest moments of the evening with a nostalgic trip down memory lane that romanticizes the vinyl LP over digital music. A solo performance that commands the audience’s attention.

Pi Theatre accomplishes something incredible, crafting one of the rawest, most compellingly emotional pieces of theatre to grace any Vancouver stage this year. That it lasts a mere 10 minutes, at most, is the icing on the cake. Wearing headphones, the audience is entirely immersed in a push-pull war of words between a married couple, and a third party who sings the soundtrack to their possibly unravelling existence.

HIVE virgins should note that the evening, which features the theatre components from 7-10:30 p.m., and various indie bands every evening starting at 11 p.m., is an exercise in organized chaos. Planning to see every event? Schedule your attendance to spread out over the remaining three nights, because gaining entrance to the show of your choice isn’t really your choice at all. (For example, Electric Company holds draws about every 30 to 60 minutes to determine which people get to view their work — one person at a time.) Gaining entrance to many of the spectacles is a crapshoot, but almost everything you hit is worthwhile.

HIVE3 continues to March 20 at the Centre for Digital Media (577 Great Northern Way). Tickets $20-$25 from 604-629-8849. Cover for bands only (after 10 p.m.), $5. Info:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Indigo Girls

My interview with the Indigo Girls appears in the current issue of Xtra West.

OUT IN FRONT. "It was scary to be gay - we didn't want that to be our identifier at first," the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray (back, with Emily Saliers) admits. "We had mentors who were women artists and had seen them be so pigeonholed."

The Indigo Girls on how they stay relevant
By Andrea Warner

Their image might be as fashionable as socks and sandals, but the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Saliers don’t care.

In fact, the lesbian folk-rock duo has made a career ignoring the naysayers and bulldozing the barriers of convention. How else could they have survived more than 20 years in the music industry, navigating a male-dominated, heterosexual hierarchy?

Ray admits it hasn’t been easy. The Indigo Girls released their first major label album in 1988 and earned a Grammy Award in 1990. They continued to generate Billboard-charting albums, building a large fan base even before joining the women-only Lilith Fair festival, which may have marked the height of their popularity.

“I feel like women are still stuck in that cycle where for a while it’s really trendy to have more strong women and more women played on the radio, and then there’ll be a backlash against it,” Ray says.

She and Saliers agree that rock music is the biggest hurdle for women in music.

“Rock is still really male and really white,” Ray says. “Folk music, that’s where women are either kind of trendy or they’re not.

“When we started, we were coming on the heels of our mentors who had to struggle to have a word in the studio,” she continues. “The producer would run things and take the instruments out of the women’s hands and put them in some studio guy’s hands, and that was the story we were told by our older friends in the corporate major label world. Then Heart came along, and other groups, that made it obvious that women can do it themselves.”

But the Indigo Girls weren’t just women being self-sufficient. They were also lesbians, publicly out in virtually untested waters.

“It was scary to be gay — we didn’t want that to be our identifier at first,” Ray admits. “We had mentors who were women artists and had seen them be so pigeonholed and were so bitter about it. You know, ‘Don’t just play to a gay audience, it will be your doom.’ After our second CD, I started talking more about it in the press, and Emily was coming around to talking about it. We definitely came out through a time when fear was a big part of it.”

Being openly gay allowed the Indigo Girls to mine a built-in audience, but it’s proven to be a double-edged sword. For better or for worse, their music has been described as “political lesbian folk music.”

“We might sing to an audience of political lesbians, and we might be political lesbians, but I don’t know if you can categorize our music that way,” Rays says. “I understand why people use that. I think we’re still in a queer movement in music where we’re trying to be part of an infrastructure where the gatekeepers are still straight white men. But I don’t really pay attention to it anymore. In my opinion, it’s not really a way to define music.... It’s like when they say, ‘That guy plays white hip hop.’ You know they don’t mean anything good,” Ray laughs.

“I can see why we’re labelled as such,” Saliers says. “There’s not a lot of open-mindedness. Once you’re gay, you’re gay and you’re pegged. My first fear was that we would be pigeonholed and we were, but that’s just short-mindedness. It’s just life. Not all of our songs have political content, and they’re not all about lesbian reality, though that’s the lens with which we view life, obviously. Can’t get around that.”

It’s also impossible to ignore the fact that plenty of other rock and pop acts have surpassed the Indigo Girls in popularity. Lady Gaga (Ray is a huge fan), Katy Perry and a host of others have recently claimed the spotlight, but neither Saliers or Ray is concerned about fading into obscurity just yet.

“The proof is in young people experiencing our music in a positive way. If you can speak to young people, then I think your music is still relevant. We’ve been around so long that our first generation of fans all have kids now, practically, so we get their kids, thank God,” Saliers laughs.

“Amy and I write songs about what’s happening in the world, and we’re deeply troubled by war and injustice and inspired by nature, and that subject matter will always be relevant. It’s a human concern; it doesn’t matter if you’re a lesbian, an artist or a postal worker.”

The recently remounted Lilith Fair will likely broaden the Indigo Girls’ audience, and the timing couldn’t be better. They’ve recently given the middle finger to conventional record labels, successfully going independent again and reclaiming their roots with their most recent album, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. Their last independent release was 25 years ago.

“It’s so liberating,” Saliers says. “There’s nothing a label can do for us that we can’t do on our own. We have the same management and the same agent, and we’ve had the same touring people for a long time, so we can do it ourselves. There’s nothing a label does for us except get in our way, slow down the process of getting stuff out and take a chunk of our money.”

“We’re older, we’ve been around for a long time, we’re queer, we’re political, all those things that record labels don’t know how to deal with,” Ray adds. “It’s funny. It’s like they were better about it in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, dealing with that strident artist personality that’s doing something against the grain.

“Major labels are for people who can be part of the mainstream and that’s fine, but we don’t fit in there,” Ray says. “It feels good to be doing what we want. That’s how we started and it’s always been where my heart’s at.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hey Ocean!

My interview with Hey Ocean! appears in this week's WE: Best of the City issue.

Hey Ocean! respond with varying degrees of enthusiasm to their Best Local Band win.

Hey Ocean! respond with varying degrees of enthusiasm to their Best Local Band win.

Credit: supplied

Sea of possibilities

Five years ago, Vancouver’s Hey Ocean! were just dipping their toes into Vancouver’s seemingly bottomless indie music scene. Nowadays, the pop-funk quartet (singer-flautist Ashleigh Ball, singer-guitarist David Beckingham, singer-bassist Dave Vertesi, and drummer Adam Cormier) are seasoned pros who have built up such a substantial following, they took the top spot in the Best Local Band category of this year’s Best of the City readers’ poll.

WE interviewed Beckingham about Hey Ocean!’s success, and the group’s unlikely connection to Gene Simmons of KISS.

What are some of the biggest challenges for up-and-coming bands in Vancouver, and how can you get past them?
Beckingham: We started off just playing locally, in Vancouver and in Victoria, and with the odd Whistler show. And then, about three years ago, we started touring coast to coast in Canada. About two years ago, we played our first show in the States, and since then have toured there a few times, and our visits there are ever-increasing in length and response. To up-and-coming bands in Vancouver, I would say the biggest challenge can be our own misconceptions of the music industry. A lot of bands think that someone will discover them, sign them to a major label, and create a career for them that makes them rich and famous. They’re wrong. This happens rarely, but more and more bands these days are finding success — or at least making a living — being heavily involved in doing their own dirty work. If you believe in the music you’re making and people dig it, then go with it: make a record, and tour as much and as far as it makes sense and you can afford, then make another record and tour even further. It’s hard work sometimes and rewarding other times, but as long as you have a good team and you’re constantly creating and showing people what you do, you’ll be fine.

The band has a pretty strong DIY ethic. How important is creative control to the group’s success?
That depends on one’s idea of success. People have tried to persuade us to make changes to our songwriting and band dynamic that they thought would make us more commercially viable, and we’re always open to listen to people’s advice. If we completely disagree with it, then it goes in the can, and if it seems to make us all go, “Hmmm, interesting,” then it gets talked about. We’ve been a DIY and a LAYG — learn-as-you-go — band from the start.

Gene Simmons came to check you guys out back in July. What’s the best piece of wisdom he offered you?
I think that Gene saw us as a Canadian DIY act that really didn’t know too much about this biz — compared to him, the veteran, anyway — and that wouldn’t be doing anything really significant in the future without his resources. I think he was quite taken aback when we didn’t jump at the offer to open for the likes of U2 within a year if we signed all of our creative power over to him. He did have some good songwriting advice for us to brew over; he was very adamant that we focus on personal pronouns, giving the listener an immediate person with whom to relate. What a guy!

Friday, March 12, 2010

She's Out of My League review

My review of She's Out of My League is online at

Starring Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve
Directed by Jim Field Smith

Molly is a hard 10 and Kirk is barely a five, so how could the beautiful girl with the great rack, cool job, and all that hockey knowledge want to bump bits with an awkward, lanky loser who works in airport security? Because She’s Out of My League is the quintessential male fantasy flick, wherein geeks inherit the earth and nail the babes, but with a tidy After-School Special self-esteem hug thrown in for good measure.

Kirk (Jay Baruchel) is invited to meet up with Molly (Alice Eve) after he finds her lost cellphone, and, much to his buddies’ shock, she asks him out on a date. As his friends and family talk incessantly — and often stupidly — about how impossibly hot Molly is, and how the “chasm” on the hotness scale is too wide for Kirk to make the leap, our gawky hero suffers numerous embarrassments and setbacks that culminate in a predictable climax.

The film’s premise, while very 1980s, doesn’t feel completely stale, thanks to some reasonably funny one-liners, a memorable testicles-shaving scene, and the two likeable leads. Eve’s not just a typical pretty face; she has a solid grasp on making Molly feel three-dimensional, no matter how hard the script attempts to reduce her to merely the sum of her body parts. Meanwhile, Baruchel conjures an enjoyable combination of Christian Slater, John Cusack, and Patrick Dempsey, with enough of his own wit added in to make Kirk empathetic even when he’s at his most irritating. She’s Out of My League scores two points for casting, but loses five for predictability, rendering it a victim of its own “Hot or Not?” scoring system. Mostly, it’s just lukewarm. ★★—Andrea Warner

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remember me review

My review of Remember Me appears in Fast Forward Weekly in Calgary.

Remember Me memorably awful

Romance aims for deep meaning, falls far short of the mark

In the indulgent and banal romantic drama Remember Me, Robert Pattinson (Twilight's pretty, pale and brooding vampire heartthrob) proves he's not looking to stretch much beyond his comfort zone. He trades fangs for bleached teeth as Tyler, a young New Yorker with a pulse (barely), who's also pretty, pale and brooding, but for good reason. He's still grieving his brother's suicide, which has essentially turned him into one of those sensitive, tortured douches who quotes Gandhi, writes poetry, creates "funny" and complex filing methods at his bookstore job and audits university classes for no good reason. Well, one good reason: He meets Ally (Emilie de Ravin), a girl with her own demons from witnessing her mother's murder on a subway platform 10 years earlier.

Tyler's grief has manifested itself in numerous clichéd ways: chain-smoking, sleeping late and an inability to abide authority. He's indignantly angry with his workaholic father (a miscast Pierce Brosnan) for not being more loving towards his sister, Caroline (the film's sole bright spot, played by Ruby Jenirs), a 12-year-old wise-child being bullied at school. His short fuse leads to a scuffle with a hardened cop (Chris Cooper), who also happens to be Ally's dad. Tyler allows himself to be coerced into trying to hook up with her as revenge, but ends up falling for her instead.

The script, from first-time writer Will Fetters, is annoying and clunky, repeatedly congratulating itself on its own perceived cleverness. But be assured, it's never clever, not once, to anyone over the age of 12. The dialogue thinks it’s layered with subtext and philosophical grandeur, but is ultimately laughable. Sample exchange: Ally: "I don't date sociology majors." Tyler: "Lucky for you I'm undecided." Ally: "'Bout what?" Tyler: (pause and meaningful stare) "Everything."

The dialogue, though, isn't even the worst part. Nor is having to listen to Pattinson (English), de Ravin (Australian) and Brosnan (Irish) rock-climb the slippery surfaces of their American accents. It's the slow-motion wreck that happens within the last 30 minutes of the film as you realize for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, where this is all heading. The climax aims for deep meaning and subtle contemplation, but settles for grossly obvious and emotionally ineffective, appealing only to Twihards and young girls who cut themselves. Remember Me proves impossible to forget, but for all the wrong reasons.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt

Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! is the best name ever for whatever it is these folks do.

Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! couldn't be more ecstatic

Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'

Just when it seems bands with punctuation marks had gone the way of the Aughts, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! comes barreling into pop consciousness. The assembly of hipsters — the brainchild of de facto leader, 22-year-old Neil Fridd — aren't reinvigorating synth-pop or indie-rock, but rather marrying the two with avant garde, open-arm party spectacles.

The N.Y.C.-based collective doesn't even have an album to its credit yet, but they've already been profiled in The New York Times, thanks to a reputation for hosting body-shaking, beat-breaking throw-downs. It's elevated by their "just fucking do it!" joie de vivre and a propensity for flamboyant costumes that seem to come straight from the world's most awesome tickle-trunk.

"We show up with a billion lights, bags of costumes, 60 or more light sabers, and really good songs," Fridd says. "We grab mics and say, 'We're going to throw an awesome dance party, run around, and scream about how fucking cool it is to finally kiss that person you've been crushing on for months.' There is nothing better than partying until five in the morning when you have to be up for work at seven, and how your friends are so fucking great."

The group's hard-partying, love everyone, dance 'n' thrash vibe doesn't necessarily translate on their upcoming debut LP, I Love You. I Love You. I Love You And I'm In Love With You. Have An Awesome Day! Have The Best Day Of Your Life!. The loose vibe of most of the tracks calls to mind a drug-fueled campfire singalong, particularly the casually catchy and nostalgic "Snowday," which boasts some nifty banjo playing and periodic vocal bursts from the backing singers.

While it makes sense to release an LP so people who can't go to shows have something other than grainy YouTube videos to capture some aspect of Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, the point of this group is to bring together hundreds of young and old bodies, squeezing, sweating, and congealing into one giant, gyrating fire hazard. If someone is dressed like a disco unicorn, all the better.

Basia Bulat

My interview with Basia Bulat is online at

Basia Bulat. Autoharp not pictured.

Basia Bulat. Autoharp not pictured.

Credit: supplied

By Andrea Warner

Basia Bulat wasn’t looking to become the face of the autoharp when she released her debut disc in 2005. Made mostly for friends, the self-titled EP featured a variety of stringed instruments, but most people seemed to immediately latch onto her affection for the archaic, seldom-seem zither, thanks in large part to her tendency to pose with one in photographs. The EP caught the attention of legendary U.K. indie label Rough Trade, which, in 2007, released Bulat’s critically acclaimed (and Polaris-nominated) full-length album, Oh My Darling.

Three years later, Bulat’s just released her much-anticipated follow-up, Heart of My Own, another sweetly charming strum-fest that showcases the Ontario native’s strong vocals (reminiscent of Natalie Merchant), and also features subtle detours into rock and roots territory, with plenty of drums, banjo, and violin. And, of course, there’s still the autoharp, which is never far from any conversation about Bulat.

Bulat spoke to WE over the phone last week, while the 2010 Winter Games were still in full swing.

How’s your day going?
I was watching the Olympics. It was great.

Do you have a favourite event?
I’m a little bit partial to watching snowboarding and half-pipe events, just because I used to snowboard. I actually used to teach snowboarding. (Laughs) Yeah, little known fact. I haven’t been in three or four years — it’s shameful, really. It was in high school when I was teaching.

So, it was snowboard and then autoharp.
(Laughs) Yeah. It was a logical progression.

Were you surprised by how well your album was received in this world of Nickelback appreciation, considering it features a lot of ukulele and autoharp?
I wasn’t really surprised because of the instruments I was playing, because I was also playing guitar and piano. I think my first record — I don’t think you can plan for people or expect people to like your music. You just have to be really grateful if they do. It’s not necessarily something where I was going, “Oh, I’m so shocked.” I was just really humbled by it. And for it to mean something to people, that’s a really big thing; that’s not something I would take for granted. I’ve had people come up to me after a show and tell me Oh My Darling has helped them through a really tough time, or different songs have helped them through this or that, and so that’s incredibly moving for me, because that’s what music does for me. To be able to do that for someone else is really incredible.

What’s been the steepest learning curve for you between Oh My Darling and Heart of My Own?
Oh, there are so many learning curves! (Laughs) I don’t think I’ve had it harder than anyone else. I think I work really hard, and I know a lot of artists and musicians who do, and I think a lot of people — it’s also the kind of thing you go through in any career, in a lot of ways. You try to make sure that what you’re doing is being true to yourself and feeling confident in your work. There were certain things for me: for example, I hadn’t played solo until my record had come out. I had this opportunity and it was necessary that I played solo; I was opening for Wintersleep on the East Coast, and I had a band for me for all these gigs, but I had to play this one solo show in Newfoundland. I was terrified because it was 1,000 people! (Laughs) But it’s a testament to how kind and generous the people of Newfoundland are; they made it seem like we were all in a living room together — it was so much fun.

What are the biggest differences between creating music on the road versus a space you call your home?
I still kind of feel like I’m making songs for my friends and myself, so, in some ways, that hasn’t changed. I think a lot of touring — it’s not at home, but just writing songs and performing feels like I’m at home. (Laughs) If that makes any sense. I’m just always writing, so I’m really lucky that I just keep having ideas for songs. I’m the kind of writer that, as soon as an idea comes into my head, I have to try and find a way to get it out, regardless of wherever I am.

Basia Bulat plays St. James Hall (3214 W. 10th), 7 pm. Tickets $16 from