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CMW 2016: a little bit of everything Friday in Toronto – 6th May 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

For at least 1 day during a multi-day festival, you owe it to yourself the benefit of a doubt to have a relaxed day. Or you do what I did on Friday at Canadian Music Week 2016, taking it easy and succumbing to the throes of a bad cold Friday night.

It started promisingly enough. Demi Louise, the lovely yet inexplicably unsigned Australian singer/songwriter who I befriended at SXSW 2016, played a blistering series of shows out in Toronto. One of the more relaxed shows she did was at Drake One Fifty Friday afternoon. Despite a chilly wind that pervaded the city all week, the young Demi brought the sunniness from her hometown of Melbourne to the afternoon’s festivities. Her beautiful voice shone on her current single ‘Taxi Driver’, while she sparkled in her stage patter, so honoured in winning a songwriting award now displayed proudly in her family’s home.

Demi Louise CMW 2016 Drake One Fifty

I had every intention to make it in time for Vancouver duo Fine Times at the Cave, the dance venue above the famous Lee’s Palace. Unfortunately, I made it just as they were packing up. No matter. I hung out for who I was really waiting for, electropop artist NINA. The German-born, London-based musician was dressed to the nines in a white suit jacket with black accents. And as might be expected for someone from her genre, the beats of her music were massive, and the feeling of girl power – or maybe better phrased as independent woman power! – came through in her uplifting, empowering tunes. She has an EP out this Friday, which should be a great introduction of her music to new fans and a cementing of her talent to her already devoted fan base.

NINA CMW 2016 Cave Friday

Due to a terrible miscalculation in distance and location, I missed both Northern Ireland’s PORTS and The Magnettes from Sweden playing at the Nightowl. I’ll have to visit the venue next year. When I realised the error of my ways, I decided to cut my losses and head on to the Smiling Buddha, where I had planned to finish out my evening. The College Street venue’s line-up for the night was not one of enlightenment, unless you’re the kind of person who finds hard rock a pathway to such a higher plane.

Double Date with Death CMW 2016 Smiling Buddha Friday

Double Date with Death are a Montreal lo-fi trio who play loud, hard and fast. If I were to say I could distinguish between their songs, I’d be lying, as I didn’t have time to investigate their music properly prior to the festival. In a way, I’m sure the band themselves had no idea how well the venue’s lack of variation in stage lighting reflect the name of their band perfectly. That said, I did enjoy their slapdash, unforgiving delivery and there were plenty of headbanging punters who clearly agreed.

Broken Hands were up next. Compared to the bare stage setup of Double Date with Death, the Kent band used up nearly every single centimeter of space at the Smiling Buddha. I’d had a taste of their debut album ‘Turbulence’, having the opportunity to watch them do an in-store at Rough Trade East last October shortly after the LP’s release. However, I was sure after touring around the album in the UK, their confidence would be sky high out here in Toronto.

Broken Hands CMW 2016 Smiling Buddha Friday

Happily, they exceeded my expectations, the conjunction of sound ringing in my ears. Although frontman Dale Norton was dressed in a white lab coat and looked more appropriate for a biology lab, once the music started, he was more like an angry beast having finally been let out of his cage. More in your face than I had ever experienced before, Norton’s stage presence has definitely increased multifold, spitting out the lyrics to ‘Who Sent You?’ and ‘Meteor’ with strength and a sneer. The only fault to their set, which is a minor quibble, is that the moments of mellowness and balladry on ‘Turbulence’ didn’t get an airing. However, given the tone for the evening and it being their last show in Toronto for the week, I don’t blame them for leaving it all onstage in a blistering show of power.

Right, so on to the last act of the night, Overhead, the Albatross. Being courted on social media by family members of a band performing isn’t something I am used to, but it did increase my curiosity about them. They had even more band members and stuff than Broken Hands did, so they didn’t bother staying all onstage, with two of their group joining us on the floor.

A friend described them as “a cross between Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor”, which doesn’t help me much as I’m not a follower of either band. There’s definitely a rebellious prog edge to Overhead, the Albatross, which makes total sense, given that they’ve christened themselves with a name that while not indicating dangerous subversiveness, it’s sufficient to note the brazen headstrongness of doing their own thing and exactly what they want. Curious? Have a watch and listen to their song ‘Big River Man’ below.

 

Video of the Moment #2090: NINA

 
By on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Electropop artist NINA will be releasing a new EP later this month. The four-track ‘Beyond Memory’ extended player will be released will feature two new songs, ‘Beyond Memory’ and ‘Purple Sun’, plus special remixes of each. NINA has been working with longtime friend to Erasure and legendary producer Richard X on the EP, and of working with the legendary producer, she said recently to Clash:

I’m very excited to have Richard X producing and curating my new release. He is very selective, so I’m humbled to have him on board. He totally gets my vision and my sound. These songs are very close to me, as it was a long creative process to get them how i wanted them, and I opened up to write very personal lyrics.

Have a watch of the dusky video to the title track below. ‘Beyond Memory’ the EP will drop on the 27th of May on Aztec Records and can be pre-ordered on CD and cassette formats here.

 

CMW 2016 Interview: NINA

 
By on Wednesday, 11th May 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Across Europe and the UK, electronic music has become a mainstay. Electropop in particular has become part of the fabric, if you will, of the music landscape and history for that part of the world. Originally from Berlin, musician NINA now calls London home. She’s working hard to make her mark as an up-and-coming electropop artist in this always busy part of the music market. She showcased last week at Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016, playing two shows in Toronto during the festival. Ahead of the event in the Great White North, NINA kindly answered our Quickfire Questions tailored just for this year’s CMW, and you can read her answers back here.

In the below interview, she tells me about the supportive synthwave community she finds herself in and whose fans have kept her going. We also chat about a tour in North America she went on as support for Erasure. She’s maintained a friendship with them and managed a very useful connection production-wise that will likely prove priceless in the future of her music. Have a listen to our conversation and be a fly on the wall below. I’ve also embedded below the interview a stream of her self-described dream pop cover of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’. She performed it at The (Dance) Cave Thursday night during CMW and it blew me away, so I wanted to share it with all of you.

 

(CMW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #107: NINA

 
By on Monday, 25th April 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

I’ll be leaving for my first Canadian Music Week (CMW) in just a few days, so leading up to the event, we’ll be previewing some of the acts I’m keen on seeing while I’m in Toronto. We’ll be asking some of these artists to answer a special list of Quickfire Questions tailored specifically to CMW 2016. German born but now London-based singer/songwriter NINA specialises in synthpop, so it’s not surprising that she cites Depeche Mode as one of her earliest musical influences. Somehow I think this woman and I will be fast friends!

Given her love of all things from the ’80s, I was quite surprised to hear which album she would take with her to heaven, as well as the two artists she narrowed her choices down to for her favourite writer of all time. And thanks to NINA, I’ve got four more artists to check out in Toronto, so thank you NINA for your kind assistance! If you’re heading out to CMW 2016, you can catch her at the Cave (upstairs from the legendary Lee’s Palace) on Friday the 6th of May at 9 PM, as well as at Studio Bar Saturday the 7th of May at 1 AM.

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Dreamy. Melancholic. ’80s.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word ‘Canada’?
Idyllic national parks.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Toronto? Have you been before?
I’ve never been to Canada before, but it’s always been a dream of mine. I’m very excited to discover Toronto and explore the local music scene.

Of the bands who have already been announced (https://cmw.net/music/artists/), do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
Love X Stereo – I’m kinda in love with this girl’s voice.
Jesper Munk – What a voice! This German boy’s got soul.
Glass Apple Bonzai – Awesome synthpop band. Nostalgia!
Big Black Delta – Of course! I worked with him in the past, and he always delivers an amazing show.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase for your time at CMW that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Everywhere I go, I take my rather big Dr. Nelson’s ceramic inhaler with me. It’s a weird shape so people don’t usually know what it’s for. It helps my vocal chords to relax and hydrate with steam. Let’s see what the guys at the airport say!

You are receiving funding from PRS for Music Foundation to make the trip over to the pond to showcase at CMW. Tell us about how you got involved with PRS Foundation and what their funding means to your trip / your career.
I played at ‘Live At Heart’ in Sweden last year and someone in the music industry mentioned I should go to CMW and so my record label Aztec Records applied for PRS funding and luckily we were accepted. I’m so grateful to PRS for making this trip happen. Their support is vital for independent artists and labels like us, to get heard abroad and to reach wider audiences.

After CMW, what’s up next for you? Writing and recording? TGE / summer festivals / etc.? Do tell!
My new EP ‘Beyond Memory’ will be out on the 27th of May worldwide. The rest of the year I’m focusing on touring and finishing my debut album. I’ll be playing some shows in the UK, France and Italy and I’m also supporting DE/VISION again in Germany in October, which I’m super excited about.

Now, let’s switch gears to our usual list of Quickfire Questions:

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Talk Talk – ‘Such A Shame’. Still one of my favourite songs. They were huge in Germany in the ’80s.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Michael Jackson – ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’. I must have been about 4 or 5, and I always listened to this song on our long car journeys with my mum. I knew all the lyrics.

What song makes you laugh?
Alanis Morissette – ‘Ironic’. It’s such a classic, and the lyrics are so true.

What song makes you cry?
Phosphorescent – ‘Song For Zula’. It’s really beautifully written. So sad, it moves you. You can tell Matthew is a real poet. The melody was made in heaven. The first time I heard it, I had to Shazam it instantly.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Maria McKee – ‘Show Me Heaven’. I remember being on a skiing trip in Austria with my dad when I had a crush on someone for the first time. I was sad when I had to leave and then the song was playing on the radio as my dad drove off. I never told anyone, I tried to keep my emotions to myself.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
I love Pink Floyd – ‘Comfortably Numb’. It’s pretty dark and a perfect song for when you’re feeling angry or frustrated.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Purple Rain’ by Prince. It’s genius and out of this world.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Can I pick two? David Bowie. I think he was a very special artist (visually and sonically) and wrote the most beautiful lyrics and melodies. And Bob Dylan, I recently read his book ‘Chronicles’ and fell in love all over again with his writing. I was already a fan of his music, but his book was something else.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
A photographer. I love how you can freeze a memory in just one click. Taking photographs is really therapeutic for me. Or maybe a perfumer. I’m very passionate about fragrances and one day I’d love to create my own.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
‘The Doors’ by The Doors. I’m the biggest Doors fan, I grew up listening to their music. Jim Morrison always inspired me, especially as he was quite shy and reserved like myself. His performances were magic, unpredictable and captivating.

Many thanks to NINA for her answers and Laura for her kind assistance!

 
 
 

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