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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
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James Brotheridge
Published Thursday September 18, 06:07 pm
With their third album, Zeus finally feels they’re the band they want to be

ZEUS

Friday 19

Amigos

 

So: what’s the story with the album name Classic Zeus?

Simple. Mike O’Brien, one of three contributing songwriters in the five-man group, says that three albums in, they’d felt like they’d come to something that really represented the band.

“When we got to the end of this one, we felt like this one sounded really cohesive and the most like a band that’s really come together,” he says. “We thought about self-titling it, but then I think Neil was the one who had the idea for Classic Zeus. It’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s just another way of self-titling the record with a bit of humour thrown in.”

The Toronto group had an immediate impact on the Canadian music scene when their widely loved debut EP, Sounds Like Zeus, came out on Arts and Crafts in 2009 — and they haven’t slowed much since, especially when it comes to touring.

The constant activity was part of the reason why, when they returned home at the start of the summer of 2013, they were up for some lighter, goofier fun.

“The silliness is definitely at an all-time high in Zeus these days,” says O’Brien. “It feels really good to be lighthearted — that’s our approach right now. It’s why we started making music: to have a good time and to make each other laugh and smile. That definitely holds true for the making of this album, although it was a longer journey through those phases of being silly, but also [of] getting heavy and all that stuff, which was good. We did the whole ride.”

“Longer journey” is no understatement; they spent about a year recording the album. Luckily, they have their own space, the Ill Eagle Studio, to record in. They needed it, since they started with a large pool of songs from all corners of the band.

“[Classic Zeus] still sounds like Zeus and makes sense in our repertoire, but it’s definitely a bit of a new vibe for us. And it’s definitely the most cohesive set of songs, but that comes from the luxury of getting to work with 30 songs and see which fit together.”

Their vibe has indeed changed, if only a bit. You’d never mistake them for debauched L.A. rockers at any point over their history, but Classic Zeus diverges from the loose and fun rock of before, and heads into lighter territory. Organ and piano accent almost every song, and acoustic guitars are far more prominent than in the past. Overall, it’s great.

The band’s new style fits the lyrical content of the songs, a more reflective and lightly melancholic view than what’s represented on their older albums. Even in bouncy pop tracks like “Miss My Friends” and “27 Is the New 17”, you hardly need to go further than the title to find the anxieties of a bunch of guys whose lives are spent on the road.

For O’Brien, the style and content meshed perfectly this time around.

“It ended up being a slightly more laidback and softer record. I don’t know how that happened, it just ended up being more of a laidback record in some ways. But it’s also got some deeper moments of intensity emotionally, instead of [deepening] through an overdriven rock part. There’s just an inherent intensity in the music.”

 

ALVVAYS

Friday 19

Louis’

Bittersweet with a hint of lament, Toronto indie-pop quintet Alvvays has crafted a debut album that captures the jubilant spark of youth just before it begins to flicker. Pop strains waft through fuzzy retro sounds alongside singer Molly Rankin’s vocals, which dip between feigned detachment and earnest longing.

Produced by Chad VanGaalen, Alvvays’ self-titled LP isn’t exactly a coming-of-age record, says Rankin — but it kinda is.

It wasn’t intentional, but there seems to be a theme of rejection and melancholy, which is prevalent when you’re in your mid-20s and reflecting on past times,” she says. “I never wanted the songs to be super serious. It’s got a lighthearted sentiment in a witty realm.

I feel like my general demeanour is dependent on the weather, so I think a lot of the bleak stuff spawned from being miserable in the winter. It’s kind of funny, because the instrumentation is kind of sunny and beachy, which makes me happy because it would be a really bleak record otherwise.”

Rankin (daughter and niece to members of the famed Maritimes band The Rankin Family) admits that many of the songs have an isolating quality. The majority of the album was penned in her current home in Toronto, but for “Archie, Marry Me” (one of the LP’s lead singles), Rankin says she was hunkered down in a Prince Edward Island farmhouse in the middle of winter.

Crackly guitars and buzzy hooks are definitely a big part of the band’s charm, but Rankin is still at somewhat of a loss to explain their current popularity.

I don’t think we’ve ever been in the right place at the right time [before],” she says. “Everything has been really gradual — in Toronto, it took us two years to generate any sort of interest at all. And we were doing a lot of really low-key things, which wasn’t really intentional. But it was sparse in a good way. [The growing interest] must have been from the live show, because we didn’t really have anything else to offer anybody.”

 

WIDE MOUTH MASON

Friday 26

Capitol

Back in the late ‘90s, Wide Mouth Mason emerged from the trenches of Saskatoon to major-label stardom, enjoying high-profile tours with the likes of AC/DC and ZZ Top.

Their pace has slowed considerably since, with only two albums (including their most recent, No Bad Days) in the last decade.

So: will there ever be another album? And if so, will fans be left waiting another five years for it? Quite likely — and hopefully — not, says drummer Safwan Javed.

We’re definitely overdue,” he says. “Usually you put out an album and you do a comprehensive national tour. For us, that’s really stretched out over a lot longer period of time. That said, we’ve been discussing this as a band for when we’re going to write, although we’ve found that being in the studio is a lot quicker for us snow.

I think it’s likely due to us being cohesive as a band, along with a lot more live performances under our belts. So when we get together to write and record, we tend to knock it out of the park. And it’s really because we still find it fun to play together.”


Fusing bluesy guitar riffs with scorching solos and heavy rhythms, Wide Mouth Mason was formed in 1995 by guitarist Shaun Verreault, Javed and bassist Earl Pereira. The band got a massive boost from the inclusion of their song “My Old Self” on the iconic Big Shiny Tunes compilation series.

Pereira eventually left the band, and Wide Mouth Mason drafted Gordie Johnson to fill in on bass. It’s been several years since the Big Sugar frontman came on board, and Javed says he’s been an excellent addition.

He’s really hands-on as a producer, and he leaves his mark wherever he goes musically. It certainly changed how the songwriting and the production works since he’s come on with the band. And it’s been for the better. There’s a lot of laughter, and it keeps us grounded and it makes the experience more enjoyable.”

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