Arts & Culture

Halifax Pop crackles and snaps

The Watch profiles four Pop Explosion artists.

This article appeared in The Watch. But you know what didn’t? Our web-exclusive questionnaire. We’ll also be uploading a full HPX 2010 photo gallery this week. Because nothing says “reliving two weeks ago” like web-exclusive content.

My Brightest Diamond

Shara Worden has spent her life uniting her love of classical music and hard rock. She credits it to a childhood with a musical family. And now, with her own baby boy, she’s passing along this thirst for musical variety. “We have music days and so I try to give him a history of recorded music,” said Worden. One day, three-month-old Constantine will be listening to Bach; one the next day it’ll be Led Zeppelin’s full discography. This musical tension has paid off in her career. As the front woman for My Brightest Diamond, she seamlessly combines her background as a classically trained vocalist and composer and her experience playing with rock bands.
While recording 2008’s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, she tried hard to avoid having a rock band basis and instead to focus on classical arrangements, enlisting Padma Newsome of The National for help. The result was an album that received critical acclaim. However, for the forthcoming record Shara is approaching the task of resolving her musical interests differently. “Right now I feel like not trying to keep them together,” she says of the two different albums she has in mind. “It’s like the great divorce in my mind,” she laughs. “You two don’t get along, stay in your rooms!”

Isis from Thunderheist

In the first five minutes of meeting Isis at the Paragon Theatre, she offers me salsa, gives me sour cherry blasters, and compliments my shoes.
She apologizes for her ADHD. But it works for her. Her energetic music, whether with the now-disbanded duo Thunderheist or as part of her upcoming solo project, is proof of that.
In her own scattered way, Isis communicates with music, her own brand of frenetic dance music. “It’s my way to connect with the regular people. It’s the only language they understand,” said Isis. “My language obviously didn’t make sense to them, it’s like I was speaking alien. So when I started making music I was able to convey feelings and ideas that I wasn’t able to get across with my dry horrible sarcasm.”
She hopes that her solo project will get out some of the ideas that got lost in her pairing with Thunderheist producer Grahm Zilla. “I think what happened with the duo was that a lot of me was lost, and I think a lot of Grahm was lost,” said Isis. “When two people become one part of you can sometimes get pushed behind, put in the closet to make room for the other person’s stuff.”
“Thunderheist is very much a part of me,” said Isis. “I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into it, so I didn’t want to just leave.
“That was the second chapter in my career,” she said. “This is the third.”

Radio Radio

Standing outside Tribeca after their set, Jacques Doucet and Alexandre Bilodeau of Acadian hip-hop group Radio Radio are the centre of attention.
“Can I get a picture with you?” asks one fan.
“Can I get a picture with you?” Bilodeau throws back.
As the pictures and bilingual praises continue, Bilodeau turns to me.
“Just keep on doing it, we are just going to flirt with this girl while you do the interview,” he says.
Pulling the girl between them, they continue to talk about their experience as shortlist nominees for this year’s Polaris Music prize, one of the most prestigious Canadian music awards.
“The shortlist was fun. The long list, we had no idea what the fuck Polaris was, and then we learned about it when we got the shortlist nomination, and we had to be there,” says Doucet.
Regardless, they were happy to play and pleased that fellow French-Canadian musicians and friends Karkwa took home the prize.
“It is helping francophone music across English Canada,” said Doucet. Since the Polaris nod for their second album, Belmundo Regal, attention around Radio Radio has been steadily growing. And now that their francophone swagger is gaining a cult following that’s just on the brink of the mainstream, they’ll have to know the awards they’re up for.

The Handsome Furs

At the beginning of a vigorous set in front of a packed crowd at St. Matthew’s Church, Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner makes amends with the Lord.
“Don’t tell Jesus I had Jameson for dinner,” he tells the crowd.
Earlier in the evening, Boeckner and his partner Alexei Perry skipped a full meal and instead had some snacks and the aforementioned alcohol. It’s all in preparation for another stop for the couple, whose constant traveling helps define their unique lifestyle and their music.
It all started for the pair when they were offered a show in Moscow three years ago.
“It’s not an easy place to get along,” said Boeckner about their time spent in Eastern Europe. “A lot of those countries are really aggressive and dirty and kind of screwed up, but in the middle of that there is a great musical and art culture.”
It’s a culture that informed their 2009 release, Face Control. Then, after taking some influence from a tour that found them in places like China and the Philippines, they’ll be making a record in January that takes its inspiration from Asia.
One track, “Damage”, was written after Perry and Boeckner witnessed a bus hijacking and police massacre outside their hotel in the Philippines. “We were stuck in this police blockade and our cab driver had a police scanner,” said Boeckner, “so I recorded the police back-and-forth and I sampled it in this song we are playing.”
Perry and Boeckner want to bring live music to areas that are neglected by mainstream artists. “I think it’s kind of a mandate in this band to go to as many places as possible,” said Perry, “no matter how far-flung.” So fortunately for their fans, the Handsome Furs’ travel mandate means an ever-changing and growing sound.

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