Terra Lightfoot, the Juno-nominated singer-songwriter and Sonic Unyon recording artist, has finally made her first stop in Hamilton since the New Mistakes tour began.
Lightfoot has been playing shows nearly every night for the past three weeks.
From kicking off her tour in Kansas City, Missouri to selling out a show in Winnipeg, Manitoba and playing in four different cities in British Columbia, she’s had one epic performance after the other.
Long-time fans quickly filled both sold-out shows at the McMaster LIVELab on March 9 and 10, waiting for Lightfoot’s highly anticipated performance with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Strings in her adopted hometown.
Before music took over Lightfoot’s life, she was an Anthropology and Peace Studies student at McMaster for four years before deciding to start playing music for a living.
“It gets really easy once you’re doing music for your career to become so absorbed in it that you don’t know who you are as a person anymore. But I do other things, like I hike a lot, do yoga and other things to keep me entertained,” explained Lightfoot.
“Traveling for me is very inspiring. I get a lot of inspiration from the landscapes that we get to see and the cities.”
“But music definitely is a part of every fiber of my being.”
Lightfoot has come a long way since first learning to play “Hells Bells” by AC/DC on the guitar at 12 years old and debuting her self-titled album in 2011.
New Mistakes draws on her unforgettable experiences on the road, telling stories with powerful vocals alongside feet-stomping rhythms of rock, soul and blues.
“Traveling for me is very inspiring. I get a lot of inspiration from the landscapes that we get to see and the cities,” explained Lightfoot.
“I do a lot of hiking when we’re away so nature’s super inspiring for me too. Getting to see the different flora and fauna all over the world, that’s the most exciting thing.”
Long night drives along the highway until finally pulling over in White River, seeing a blanket of stars over Dakota, drinking champagne in Paris and a sudden chill felt in Berlin have all inspired the lyrics behind some of Lightfoot’s acclaimed tracks.
Constantly travelling has also influenced the way Lightfoot lives her life.
She’s become a more relaxed person since coming to the realization that she can’t control everything around her, rather she lets the road dictate her journey.
Lightfoot’s approach to life is carefree and spontaneous, very much the same way she approaches music.
“I pay attention to the first idea that I get and try and honour it as much as I can. I work with it until I don’t know what’s going on anymore…. Sometimes, I just play it for the first time and it just happens, it just clicks,” explained Lightfoot.
“‘Like ‘Ruthless’ is a song on the new record that I wrote in about eight minutes…. And that happens sometimes and it’s beautiful when it does, but it doesn’t always happen that way. So it’s something you have to practice at like anything else.”
“Norma Gale”, another new song on New Mistakes, is a track that has been in the works for years.
It first started off as a country song telling the story of famous musician in the 70s that Lightfoot had met and connected with, but the tune changed to incorporate electronic drums over the course of two years.
New Mistakes, which has received a Juno nomination for Adult Alternative Album of the Year, is an album Lightfoot is particularly proud of as it serves to empower women.
The people Lightfoot chose to work with on the record strongly support her taking charge of her own music in every step of a song’s development.
“When people listen to this record they can hear a woman in power. That’s not often something we get to listen to because it’s a male-dominated industry.”
Lightfoot was taking a break from rehearsal when we met, she was wearing an “I’m the worst” t-shirt and fuzzy socks, a nod towards her contagious easy-going attitude.
The shirt was an ironic choice given the fact that her music has been making many successful strives this year.
Lightfoot will be making her way back to British Columbia next week to play some shows with different musicians, sing a few songs with Jim Cuddy and of course get to be among all the best musicians in the country at the Juno Awards in Vancouver on March 24.
Being a woman in a male-dominated scene, specifically in music, is never the easiest course of action, but prominent Hamilton DJs are making waves within the scene.
The fight for a place in the music scene has created a supportive community of women who are working together to make their beats heard. With a focus on helping each other through collaboration and promotion, these women are making sure that their respective music scenes see an inclusive space for everyone.
DJing in general began to take off in the 1960s and 70s, finding influence particularly within the hippie and disco eras. Most of the DJs shaping the movement during this time were almost exclusively part of the LGBTQ+ scene and after the Stonewall riots in New York City, nightclubs became a popular scene and became a more inclusive space.
From the beginning, DJing has served as a space for loud self-expression, a cultural movement founded on peace, love, unity and respect. From there, the evolution of the nightclub scene took form, reflecting the needs for particular styles and communities and creating various types of music genres that we know today.
Female DJs have always been an inspirational force within the scene, with the earliest female DJ on the scene being traced back to 1912. In 1922, Sybil True was one of the first people to ever play records on the radio, borrowing records from 6a local record store and playing them on air to encourage young people to gain interest in radio broadcasting careers.
Another important woman on the scene is Annie Nightingale, who was one of the first globally famous radio DJs. Her beginnings in 1963 at BBC Radio 1 is still one of the highest-revered positions on the charts, and in history.
With the help of a few prominent Hamilton DJs, including DJ Fazooli, DJ I Heart Hamilton, DJ Donna Lovejoy and DJ Rosé, women in Hamilton will have the opportunity to mix up the scene.
The early years of DJ Fazooli (Julie Fazooli Marquis)’s career, there were several instances that made it difficult to be a female DJ. There were very few other female DJs when she first stepped onto the rave scene in Toronto in the late 1990s and the misogyny was rampant.
For that reason, Fazooli took it upon herself to learn how to spin by actively watching her heroes while they played, and “obsessively” listening to mixes trying to figure out how it was done.
“Any time I asked someone to teach me how to spin, they always assumed I wanted to date them,” said Fazooli. “My first live performance at a rave was filmed, and when I saw the footage, they had pretty much focused my whole screen time with the camera pointing up the back of my skirt. I got intimidated regularly by men who would line up in front of the turntables to stare me down and watch every movement of my hands.”
Despite these instances of misogyny within the scene, Fazooli continued learning and teaching herself the ways of the turntable. She continues to DJ today, playing a multitude of venues within the city including Club Absinthe, the Casbah, Sous Bas and This Ain’t Hollywood, to name a few.
“I’m the type that bites back when annoyed, so now I get treated with a ton more respect and people know I am very capable of what I do, and not mess with me,” said Fazooli. “You gotta be tough sometimes — there’s no room to be passive and sometimes people need to be reminded that women are just as talented as men when it comes to DJing.”
Last year, Fazooli and other other female DJs in Hamilton, including Donna Lovejoy, I Heart Hamilton and DJ Rosé, came together to create the Diamond DJ Collective. The collective serves as an alliance to combine their different strengths and to promote themselves within the community.
Each DJ within the collective uses different styles and genres of music together that blend well when they play together. They also come from a variety of different social backgrounds and immersed into each one.
“The tides are turning. By having conversations and being open about experiences we’ve had, it’s so empowering to voice it and be validated by other women,” said DJ I Heart Hamilton (Kristin Archer). “From there we can figure out how to make the scene more inclusive. There’s a lot to unpack but we won’t get anywhere without having some tough conversations.”
To keep up with the stamina that female DJs have been seeing over the past few years, Fazooli and fellow DJ, Donna Lovejoy, launched a series of workshops. Under the title of Women’s DJ Workshop, the pair are teaching introductory classes to women and non-binary folk in Hamilton.
Women’s DJ Workshop originally came to the pair after being approached by the Art Gallery of Hamilton to create a series of workshops, but found that logistics would be costly, making it inaccessible for individuals to join. The duo then condensed it to an introductory, one-afternoon workshop so that people could test the waters first.
“DJing is incredibly intensive in both time spent practicing and finding records, and the financial burden of buying pricey equipment and building a proper vinyl collection,” said Fazooli. “You need to have an insatiable thirst for music and playing with music to even consider it as a hobby, as it’s a big investment on both of those levels. So a proper introduction to test the waters to see if it’s a good fit is key.”
For those who felt intimidated by the technical aspects, the workshop created a friendly and educational atmosphere. By pointing out all of the similarities between all of the different brands of equipment, the workshop ensured that new DJs were able to confidently adapt to changes when they were faced with an unfamiliar set-up in a live situation.
The major goal of the workshop was to start a conversation and about what it would be like to become a DJ without overwhelming students. Fazooli stresses that DJing is not an easy set of skills to earn, so the workshops aim to make it as simple as possible to understand, taking away the fear of misconception or obstacle for students.
“I think when people are put in front of all of this equipment and a few crates of records they get easily overwhelmed,” said Fazooli. “So this was a chance to kind of simplify
and break it down so that people could see that once you practice and get the techniques and concepts down, the world opens right up for you and it begins to be a lot of fun.”
In future workshops, Lovejoy and Fazooli will be covering more information about troubleshooting and specific technical aspects to ensure students feel armed with knowledge of how to overcome stressful technical mishaps.
By preparing students for anything that may come their way, the pair hope to instill a sense of independence, which is a quality that is crucial in DJing, and to create a new wave of empowered individuals, capable of creating new and exciting ventures for themselves in our community.
“The music scene is still very deeply rooted in being open to everyone as it always has been, with very few exceptions,” said Fazooli. “I find it hard to fathom that any scene would exist without women and non-binary people as an intrinsic part of their foundation.”
While DJing in general is heavily male dominated, the support and encouragement from two talented women in the capacity of a student can be crucial. Being backed by a network of women can help other women gain confidence to move forward on their own and have the ability to create their own style.
The workshops will continue on a bi-monthly basis beginning in April, and Women’s DJ Workshop will be hosting a meet and greet DJ session on March 17 at Dr. Disc.
By: Vanessa Polojac
A shared love for noise rock, plenty of practice room jam sessions and a journey across Europe helped forged the decade-long friendship behind Look Vibrant.
The Montreal-based noise/art-pop band’s futuristic sounds and high-energy performances will be featured again on their upcoming studio album.
Look Vibrant will be dropping their well-awaited debut full- length album The Up Here Place, set to release on March 15.
Look Vibrant is composed of Justin Lazarus (keyboard/synthesizer & vocals), Matthew Murphy (guitar & vocals), Eli Kaufman (drums) and Alex Rand (bass & backing vocals).
Both Lazarus and Murphy knew from an early age that music was something that they were bound to pursue.
Their friendship began over a decade ago while they were both attending the Etobicoke School of the Arts.
“We were always jamming out in the practice room,” said Lazarus.
“A lot of the bands that influence us now have come from those jam sessions. We both liked noise music and bands that many other kids [did not listen to], bands like Black Dice.”
Then when the two graduated from high school, the best friends decided not to go onto post-secondary school right away. They travelled across the world and showcased their musical abilities.
They backpacked across Europe to gain a worldly perspective and inspiration while busking to survive.
This is when Lazarus and Murphy began the musical endeavour of Look Vibrant.
“The band name sparked up from a mistranslation,” said Lazarus.
“While we were in a record store in Italy, someone was trying to introduce us to Luke Vibert (a British electronic recording artist) but we understood the name as Look Vibrant because of his accent,” said Lazarus.
The following summer, the two packed up and moved from Toronto to Montreal to record their first demo under the name Look Vibrant.This name also sparked an idea for the two close friends.
Coming from a background in all forms of art, they knew that the visuals would correspond with their band name.
Look Vibrant has been heavily involved with the image of their band.For the past five years, the band has been collaborating with Montreal based artist, Max Taeuschel.
His work has been featured in Pitchfork, POP Montreal, Art Matters and many other Canadian art publications.
“The name of our band lent itself to our aesthetic. … We grew up with Max and he has been with the band forever. He is really the mastermind behind all of the bright colours in our music videos, live shows and band art.” said Lazarus.
Much like Hamilton, Montreal is a city that takes pride in their music scene and focuses on promoting their artists. Lazarus and Murphy were both drawn to Montreal because their alternative-rock idols hailed from the city.
In 2013, they met Rand, who is also a native to Toronto and Kaufman in Montreal to complete the rest of Look Vibrant.
Although forming and emerging out of the Montreal music scene, Lazarus found there to be a distinct difference between his own band and the rest of the city’s music scene. But over time, they have become a staple indie act in the city.
“At the time we started out there was a lot of jangly guitar rock music that had come from Calgary and heavy electronic music that was becoming very famous in [Montreal],” explained Lazarus.
“We did not fit into those categories, so we felt [distant] to what was evolving musically in the city.”
Look Vibrant is a unique band because their music does not seem to fit into any specific genre.
At the beginning, Lazarus and Murphy were heavily influenced by the noise music genre that directly inspired their debut singles “Plateau” and “Stranger Kind”. Now, the band is looking to evolve and progress past the acts that initially inspired their first jam sessions.
“During the past few years, Matt went back to school. He polished our sound for our current album although we kept some of the low-fi noise elements,” said Lazarus.
With the release of their debut album, Look Vibrant has moved away from this genre of music to a more electro-acoustic sound.
For the rest of 2018, the band will be heading across Southern Ontario to embark on a headlining tour promoting their debut album.
They have also have begun working on their follow-up album and are hoping to release new music shortly after the debut of The Up Here Place.
By: Anisha Rajkunar
The lights cut out abruptly, and the sound of melancholic chords progressed. What followed was a warm welcome from the anxiously awaiting Hamilton crowd.
On Nov. 7 the Casbah played host to synth-pop indie darlings, the Zolas.
Hailing from Vancouver, Zachary Gray, Cody Hiles and Dwight Abell, accompanied by Tom Heuckendorff on piano, knew just how to keep the crowd going on a chilly fall night.
The group has just embarked on a tour, which was kickstarted with a free performance at Sonic Boom in Toronto.
The final track on their 2016 record Swooner, “Why Do I Wait,” started their set. Gray stated that this was one of his favourite songs on the album. They had never played it live before the Sonic Boom performance that took place the night before.
The Casbah crowd was lucky enough to be serenaded by it as well. Gray’s inspirations for this song were sparked from his life, his friend’s life and from Canadian musician Sean Nicholas Savage’s live performances.
“That’s the kind of show that I want to have. Like when you leave, you feel a bit of a kinship to the other people who were there that night.”
“I remember watching this video of him [Sean Nicholas Savage] playing at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona just looking way too high. The song is [about] being into somebody and being crazy about someone, always holding a candle to them when you know… the timing will never be right.”
A few years ago, the band was in Venice and had a day off on their tour.
Gray and his bandmates had a “hilariously cliché romantic encounter” where they spent the night on a boat in order to see as much of the city as they possibly could in that one night.
“That’s what the end of the song is about. It’s about making a connection to someone in a setting like that where it’s almost too cliché to believe it’s happening.”
Through the song Gray reflects on being the center of attention as a performer, a sentiment that was also inspired by the Sean Nicholas Savage concert footage.
“You can be an absolute star for an hour and a half in one evening and you can finish that set and as soon as you’re off stage, you’re a pretty normal person, especially once you’ve left the venue and you go home. You might play a show for 10,000 people and within two hours once you’ve finished that show, you’re at home eating macaroni and cheese with nothing to do.”
Gray described their live performance as feeling the warmth of the crowd.
For “Escape Artist,” Gray took his microphone and a small keyboard into the middle of the crowd and played amongst them with the phone flashlights of fans illuminating the experience.
“It’s nice to make a moment that that feels less sort of pedagogical, where it’s not just us on stage and [the audience] watching us on stage with all the lights on us [and them] in the dark.”
“For a secular society, you need these evenings where people come together and are in the same room, listening to the same words and participating in broader ideas. That’s the kind of show that I want to have. Like when you leave, you feel a bit of a kinship to the other people who were there that night… you’re all going to go out and you’re going to make a little bit of a change.”
The Zolas are all about embracing the moment on stage. From Abell’s electrifying dance moves, to catching cheeky smirks between Hiles and Gray, they truly soak it in.
In the future, the Zolas plan to release singles as soon as they finish mixing them.
If you want to hear a new song sooner you may catch it at one of their live shows first, as they performed an unreleased track called “Ultramarine” at The Casbah, and we can expect to hear more from the Zolas in the coming year.
By: Vanessa Polojac
Matthew Angus is a Calgary native who moved to Toronto over a decade ago in hopes of becoming a Canadian household name. Being a part of many projects before his latest indie act, Angus made connections with various local musicians, who eventually came to form his most cohesive project yet: the Fast Romantics.
Matthew Angus (lead vocals), Kirty (guitar & synthesizer), Kevin Black (lead guitar), Jeffery Lewis (bass), Nick McKinlay (drums) and Lisa Lorenz (keyboardist). The Fast Romantics is the product of every band member’s separate musical journey.
All the band members have been heavily involved in the Toronto music scene for the past decade.
“We all admire each other’s talents as musicians and knew each other socially through performing alongside each other while apart of different bands,” explained Angus. “The current line-up of musicians for the Fast Romantics really happened organically. Over the course of six months, each person came into my life and made it apart that they shared similar views in music as myself, so they came along the journey that is the Fast Romantics.”
Released in April 2017, American Love is the first record for this specific set of members. In 2009, with a different line-up the first self-titled LP was released. In the eight-year time span, the band has been through vast different member and sounds.
“I think since 2009 we have evolved a lot as a band and I can confidently say that this this line-up of musicians that play on American Love are here to stay,” said Angus.
This album is personal project for each member of the band. Over three years the album was made and was predicted to be a success from the beginning starting with the first single “Julia” that came out in 2014.
‘“Julia’ got a lot of attention on radio and that had never happened to us before. It has been a very long but rewarding journey with this band. I am very happy with this album and this group of people,” explained Angus.
“We have these van rides that we take because we’re on tour and it’s crazy that out of the six of us we all bring elements of different musical styles into the band. But one group of musicians that are a major influence on the band is Arcade Fire. We’re inspired by their rise to Canadian music fame and then their international level of success,” said Angus.
Gus Van Gough, a popular Canadian producer, mixed American Love. In the past he has worked with famous Canadian bands such as Arkells, White Horse and Said The Whale.
“He’s our musical soulmate currently,” said Angus. “We collaborate with him well and he really inspires us. The most important quality within a producer is a connection between the producer and the musician. Gus understood us right away. All of the group members agree that American Love is the first and best representation of The Fast Romantics.”
American Love was almost finished during the height of the American election, a time when the band was playing many tour dates in the United States. The album was initially written as a collection of love songs and the hardships within romantic relationships but there was not yet a title. The American political situation effected the band in a direct way.
“When we arrived back to Canada, that’s when we realized our message with this album is not finished yet. A few months before the rerecorded was released we ended up going back to the studio re-writing and adding elements to the songs about the American political reality,” said Angus.
American Love is written context of Canada’s view on American politics with a lot of American imagery. The political climate became the backdrop for the stories and lyrical inspiration for the songs on the record.
The Fast Romantics are rising to Canadian fame, getting much attention since the release of their current album; American Love. Being featured on CBC radio and the Toronto Sun. While they make their way through a cross-country tour alongside the Elwins, the band plans to release new music in the near future.