Vancouver quartet JPNSGRLS gave us Circulation two years ago – Power of Pop’s Album of 2014 – and new album, Divorce, proves that Circulation’s artistic success was not a one-off. We caught up with vocalist Charlie Kerr (far right, above) via email to talk about the stories behind Divorce.
Vancouver quartet returns with a new LP after a change in personnel. Oliver Mann left the group after recording the album, with new guitarist Colton Lauro now onboard joining vocalist Charlie Kerr, bassist Chris McClellan and drummer Graham Serl. This sophomore effort, follows Circulation, Power of Pop’s Album of 2014.
GLASS ANIMALS – LIVE AT THE BILTMORE CABARET, VANCOUVERGLASS ANIMALS – LIVE AT THE BILTMORE CABARET, VANCOUVER
As you can see from my blurry pictures, the Biltmore Cabaret was absolutely packed and rocking for Glass Animals last night. Playing songs mainly from their lovely debut LP – Zaba – the quartet hypnotized the young-ish audience with its dynamic mix of indie pop and EDM vibes. Everything seemed to happen in a slo-mo trance as frontman Dave Bayley bedazzled the crowd with tasteful melodies & sharp guitars whilst the insistent groove keep the momentum going into 7th heaven. Songs like”Black Mambo”, “Gooey” & “Walla Walla” had the kids in dance extacy!
THE OCEANOGRAPHERS + SMASH BOOM POW: LIVE IN VANCOUVERTHE OCEANOGRAPHERS + SMASH BOOM POW: LIVE IN VANCOUVER
My first indie gig in Vancouver was at the Future Sound Club and by the time I got there, Smash Boom Pow – 2nd band on the bill – were already on stage. This young band certainly has some intriguing ideas – at some point even blending blues rock riffs with post-punk structures – but certainly the songwriting has much room for improvement. Nothing too memorable about most of their music although there was clear potential evident.
The headliners for the night – The Oceanographers – were definitely popular with the crowd. Although somewhat generic post-punk revivalist, there was also sufficient melodic development in their songs to suggest that the quartet had the promise of more sophisticated work ahead. Frontman Clayton Dupuis certainly had the cheekbones for the part and played the part of focal point credibly as the band led the frenzied crowd through danceable post-punk numbers that at least provides them with a strong foundation for further improvement. One to watch out for!
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I had the privilege of getting a tour of Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver. Founded by Bob Ezrin, Garth Richardson and Kevin Williams, Nimbus is a music school which emphasizes audio recording but also provides modules relating to music production, post-production, live sound and music business. Campus Director Rob Stefanson was kind enough to walk me around the Nimbus facilities, which were pretty impressive.
I managed to catch a few classes in sessions (even an exam!) and a couple of students fast asleep after a night of work (the facilities are available 24/7!). But more importantly, I learned from Rob about the impact that Nimbus had on the Vancouver music community as many bands were given valuable assistance from Nimbus students which enhanced the quality of music in Vancouver by the same token. For instance, JPNSGRLS had recorded parts of their debut EP at Nimbus as had a few other Vancouver indie bands so definitely, the music scene has benefited from the presence of Nimbus within the community.
Food for thought for our own local music scene, for sure!
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In just the first four tracks of Circulation – the Vancouver quartet’s full-length debut (released by Light Organ Records on 15th July) – JPNSGRLS (pronounced as “Japanese Girls”) clearly demarcate what makes them so special in this age of pristine pop hacks and artless copyists. There’s the visceral melodicism of 90s grunge (“Smalls”), the slinky dynamism of 70s power pop (“Tiger”), the epic urgency of the millennial post-punk revival (“Brandon”) and the post-modern appropriation of Afrocentric music (“Circulation”), that demonstrate the band’s ability to slip and slide across the various musical references that have driven contemporary indie rock into mainstream acceptance.
Central to JPNSGRLS modus operandi is a willingness to break down its song components into clearly definable roles that is distinctive enough to stand on its own but the sum of which is greater than its individual parts. In theoretical terms, whilst the song accompaniments perform their harmonic functions, there are also enough polyphonic elements in the guitars (Oliver Mann), bass (Chris McClelland) and drums (Graham Serl) to create entirely unique arrangements that elevate these songs way above your what even the most competent rhythm sections are able to achieve in indie rock.
Singer Charlie Kerr’s vocal delivery of the meaningful lyrics is the glue that keeps this intricate latticework moving together like a well-designed well-oiled music machine. Kerr certainly has a way to make his singing almost conversational in tone, emotionally resonant and yet operating as highly intelligent banter as well. Like in the way he expresses a sense of low self-esteem in the title track – “Like I’m counting Mississippi’s till it’s convenient/You say I’m nothing baby, we’re in agreement” or in the manner he pays tribute to the late Brandon Teena in “Brandon” (a trans man who was tragically raped and murdered) “Cause Brandon really understands/What it means to be a man” or in the internal psychological warfare that thrives within relationships expressed in the animalistic iconology of “Tiger” – “I’m a spider/I wanna crawl up your legs girl”.
But of course, Circulation is more than its first four tracks as the band brings the lyrical and musical concepts further in the frenetic “Mushrooms”, the mesmerizing “Tennis Shoes”, the rollicking “Laughing Gas” and the angularly funky “David and Goliath”. Simply put, Circulation is one of those albums, rock lovers can listen to all the way through – a rarity in itself in 2014. Bloody essential!
Circulation, the debut full-length album from PoP Buzz Band JPNSGRLS will be released very very shortly and this official music video of “Smalls” is an excellent primer. Music-wise the song is nice and spiky with enough grunge elements to make it somewhat trendy. The video is a clever counterpoint – at times reminding me of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World! Enjoy!!