“The combination of mess and chaos has been one of the things I’ve been most interested in,” says Airick Woodhead, the primary songwriter and producer behind Doldrums. The freewheeling Montreal-based electronic pop group is freshly signed to the iconic rock label Sub Pop and has just released its new record, The Air Conditioned Nightmare, on April 7, 2015. “With psychedelic music, it’s often what you read into it rather than what it tells you. So even though there’s more information, it leaves more up to the listener.”
Named after the 1945 Henry Miller book, The Air Conditioned Nightmare brings to mind the image of a dystopian present where even temporary discomfort is an inconvenience to be avoided at all costs. But for all the technological conceits of the title, Woodhead’s lyrics revolve around human interactions, romantic entanglements and the uneasy dynamics of contemporary urban life.
We’re at this time where a lot of music is being really explicit about its themes. I still like the idea of the songwriter addressing issues thematically [but] still having a romanticism in whatever themes you’re addressing.
“We’re at this time where a lot of music is being really explicit about its themes. I still like the idea of the songwriter addressing issues thematically [but] still having a romanticism in whatever themes you’re addressing.”
Woodhead’s previous effort, 2013’s Lesser Evil, emerged from the backdrop of a burgeoning loft party scene in Montreal that found musicians of various genres playing mixed bills at all-night gatherings and drawing inspiration from club music, like a 21st century version of Manchester’s rave scene. Airick Woodhead lived in one such venue, the legendary Le Rideau déchiré (the Torn Curtain).
“I still jam at Torn [Curtain]. I definitely reminisce about that one summer that was fucking crazy every weekend, like 500 people,” says Woodhead. “Having a setting for your music is the most important thing. Having a venue especially makes for the most fertile ground for creativity because you have people [performing] and you have an audience. There gets to be some communication there. It sets the parameters for necessary creativity.”
A jumble of distorted samples, ethereal vocals and electronic noise that sounds like the damaged laptop it came from, Lesser Evil figured amongst the second wave of physical releases to come from Montreal’s Arbutus Records, a cadre of Mile End pop futurists with divergent sounds but a similar ethos and aesthetic. But since that time, the principal figures have been largely absent from the city, be it due to touring obligations or relocation.
“I don’t think I would’ve been able to make records at all if it hadn’t been for the support of people like Seb [Cowan, CEO of Arbutus Records] and Claire [Boucher, of Grimes]. I don’t think the music would’ve sounded the way it did if it wasn’t for Kyle [Jukka, from Pop Winds and Flow Child], Tim [Lafontaine, from Cop Car Bonfire] and Sami [Blanco].”
The Air Conditioned Nightmare is a deeper listen than Lesser Evil, a distinctively more mature and organic statement that draws from the considerable mixing talents of Damian Taylor (Björk, Arcade Fire) and Shawn Everett (Julian Casablancas, Weezer). The Air Conditioned Nightmare occasionally sounds like the soundtrack to the after-party at the end of the world. This shift has a lot to do with Woodhead moonlighting as a DJ in recent years.
“I have so much respect for having a honed, cohesive DJ set,” says Woodhead. “It’s more about learning about genre in general, in terms of electronic music… Getting into tools a bit more in that way, drum sounds and patterns, things like that. Deconstructing techno has been the most creative thing for me.”
Album opener “HOTFOOT” is the closest Woodhead gets to replicating the frenetic live energy of the afterhours events he arose from – a raging storm of digital screams, cymbal crashes and skittering techno rhythms.
“I would love for Doldrums to sound like the house band at the Montreal weird loft party. That’s all I care about.”
In the ten years since Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg started First Aid Kit, they have been going non-stop. The indie-folk duo got their start when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral, and have since released four albums, won five Swedish Grammis awards, and brought two of their idols to tears on live television. Following a brief hiatus, and four years after their last record, Stay Gold, First Aid Kit is back with Ruins, a raw account of losing love and finding yourself. In the middle of a North American tour, Georgie talked to Klara and Johanna about the new album and what brought them to Ruins. G—You’ve said in past interviews that Stay Gold was a more put-together, polished kind of album, and Ruins is a lot rawer. What caused that shift? JS—The production of Stay Gold is very lush and elegant, and I think that’s what we wanted at the time. But we started longing for this rawness, this almost lo-fi aspect that we had on our first records. [For Ruins]…our attitude was that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If we sing a bum note or there’s a little crack
Charlotte Cardin is on track to having her biggest year yet. The electro jazz-pop singer has been nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards. Along the way, she has performed at Osheaga—an experience she calls “surreal”, having attended for years growing up in Montréal—and Festival d’été de Québec where she opened for Sting and Peter Gabriel. More recently, she has been touring behind her EPs Big Boy (Cult Nation Records, 2016) and Main Girl (Sony Music, 2017). Through this past September and October, she supported Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), and she’s been on tour with BØRNS since January. This spring, Cardin will headline her own dates. Prior to her full-time career in music, Cardin modelled in fashion which afforded her pocket money and freedom to work on her art. She also competed on the first season of La Voix, a francophone Canadian version of The Voice. But being on television, like modelling, was never her passion. “I never really felt that much pressure when I was on TV. For me, there’s something a lot more real about what I’m doing right now.” She feels more pressure performing her own
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad