Tag Archives: DIANA

CMW reviews: The first night of DIANA’s “DIG DEEP/GET HIGH” was the Anti-CMW – DIANA with Jennifer Castle, ASMR Buds, and Matthew “Doc” Dunn @ Drake Underground – May 8, 2014

A “band” spent an entire set making tea onstage and I assure you it was awesome
By Tom Beedham
DIANA performing improvised interpretations of their 'Perpetual Surrender' LP at the Drake Underground for the first of their curated performances for CMW, "DIG DEEP." Photo: Tom Beedham
Canadian Music Week is a large-scale, heavily sponsored music industry event that could best be summed up by a philosophy toward reliable metrics – think “much dollars, very hashtag.” So it goes without saying that more than a few were surprised by the news that, this year, the Toronto-based festival was allowing not one, but two nights of programming curated around community representation and distinct artistic visions from local buzz band DIANA: “DIG DEEP/GET HIGH.”

The first of those events – DIG DEEP – took place last night at the Drake Underground. Promised as an evening that would mine the benefits of “solitude/looking inward,” it was host to performances that were entirely antithetical to the trending topic CMW strives to be: hard left turn improv renderings of pop songs, a minimalist ASMR-catered iced tea instructional, raga drones, and stream of consciousness folk songs. That the first two of the four avant-creative performances given here were categorized as “rock” on CMW’s website is all the more telling of the festival’s conservative values and an operating vocabulary entirely lacking compatibility with what was going on here.

Audiences only had to look to the start of the night for reification of the latter. Before kicking off the show with a short but spiritually arresting 25-minute set, Matthew “Doc” Dunn had to entertain a festival stage manager following him around like a lost puppy, repeatedly asking if he was going to start playing as people were still filtering in.

CMW events are often toted for their ability to launch artists’ careers, but in reality, wristband holders are encouraged to embrace the festival’s gamification and venue hop to skip out on opening bands they’ve never heard of so they can (maybe) catch another band they #love halfway across the city. To wit, the liberty to jump from a performance at one venue to another elsewhere is a big appeal to obtaining a festival wristband. In these cases it can be endlessly irksome to arrive at a venue only to wait for band x to come onstage, especially if you left another performance early to do so. Stage managers that keep bands on time are essential to preventing this from happening. But it’s also expected that opening bands will delay their start time to allow greater audiences a chance to catch their sets, and waiting between bands is a reality of concert attendance. At a festival like CMW, where all performances are given equal hour-long blocks in which to do their thing, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the next scheduled performance, there’s little harm done (even less so at a presentation like DIG DEEP, where the acts performing are all peers – in some cases appearing onstage together that night – that are sympathetic to each others’ needs).

In effect, the rushed production felt from CMW just translated to a failure on the festival’s part to register the immersive community experience the event aspired to be.

Some time after Dunn had finished delivering his audience to another plane of being with his juxtaposition of raga-affected slide guitars and bendy bleeps and bloops, ASMR Buds took the stage. Consisting of Bernice members Robin Dann, Felicity Williams, and Colin Fisher (also of Caribou and Not the Wind, Not the Flag) as well as Matthew Pencer (LOOM), ASMR Buds provided what was probably the most peculiarly adventurous set delivered under the CMW banner this year. In a performance that spoke to the experience of the autonomous sensory meridian response phenomenon from which the group borrowed its name (read about it), the “band” brought the room to a murmuring silence as it asked the audience to consider the relieving powers some of the lifeworld’s most subtle stimuli possess.

Bracketing a whispered performance that saw them document the making, herbal effects, and consumption of different iced teas, all the while tapping the process with some sensitive mics, Dann and Williams sat seated on a pillow before an assortment of tea candles. On either side of them, Fisher elicited hushed tones and peculiar textures from the electric guitar and arsenal of effect pedals he brought in tow while Pencer played with the vocals and layered the sounds on a laptop, turning it all into a live stereo collage.

Then it was time for DIANA to take its own turn at helming this big, weird, droney beast it spirited into fruition. They kept Dann, Fisher, and Williams all on stage, also cramming sound processor Dafydd Hughes into the space for a set that promised to be their “most opiated performance ever” and aimed “to melt you into yr seats.” They dug into (see what I did there?) extended studies of Perpetual Surrender’s title track, “Curtains,” “New House,” and a loose cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” that bled into a reworking of “Born Again,” but the crowd that crushed towards the stage to get a close look at their performance dissipated significantly as the set went on. You can guess why. Folks directed here from the festival schedule expected the tropical pop grooves DIANA committed to wax. What they got was (relatively) indulgent experimentation and exploration.

Then broody folk songwriter Jennifer Castle took the stage to follow them. Singing and playing her electric guitar with closed eyes from her seated position on the stage floor, she had been playing to a room about as populated as (but a little less shy than) the one that came out early for Doc Dunn. But then she was told she only had one song left.

What followed was an exchange that emphasized the commitment to art that had been under the dim blue spotlights all night.

“Really? It’s like one in the morning oh my god,” Castle said. (To the stage manager and CMW’s credit, it was actually just before midnight, when a separate CMW event was about to begin in the same space. They probably needed the time to clear people out so they could charge a second cover, which isn’t ethically questionable at all.)

“I, for the record, never, ever, need anybody to tell me it’s the last song,” said Castle (her emphasis). “People are always like, ‘Why the fuck do you play for five minutes? You suuuuck.’”

As much as Castle was speaking to her own situation, her response also conveyed the complicated relationship felt between festivals like CMW and the tightknit communities they interrupt. It was a terrific night of challenging performances, but it also came packaged with the trappings of a machine that refused compatibility.

DIANA returns to the Drake Underground tonight with the second part of its CMW showcase, “GET HIGH”: a night of dance music promising to mine the benefits of extroversion and giving outward. Joined by performances from House of Monroe, Ice Cream, and Pacific High DJs, DIANA will play house interpretations of songs from Perpetual Surrender.


WL14 reviews: DIANA @ Adelaide Hall – Feb. 14, 2014

DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 – Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

By Tom Beedham
“We come from here, which is nice,” DIANA frontwoman Carmen Elle told the crowd at Adelaide Hall in earnest on Feb. 14. She went on to explain she finds herself bragging about the city’s music scene when the band is abroad.

DIANA has had some time off from hometown gigs since an extensive international tour bracketing the release of its 2013 debut Perpetual Surrender brought it back to Toronto Sept. 26, so there was no surprise to see plenty of smiling faces awaiting the band’s Wavelength performance. The band didn’t come to Wavelength bearing any new material, and they weren’t without their flaws—a miscued sample fully derailed “That Feeling” mid-song, leading Elle to declare, “This is Y2K, people. This is not an exercise. It is not a drill. Stock up on bottled water,” before the problem was resolved and the band could run through the track from the bridge onwards—but no one seemed irked by any of this.

Instead, the audience was content to celebrate an album it’s had proper time to process, a sentiment made clear by plenty of listeners caught singing along at any given point in the set. Or maybe—as Elle suggested they do at the show—they just wanted to “get desperately drunk on music. And then puke in the cab on the way home. Musical puking.” But either way, they all seemed confident DIANA would deliver. And they did.

More photos:
DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham DIANA @ Adelaide Hall for WL14 - Feb. 14, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

DIANA setlist:
“Strange Attraction”
“Perpetual Surrender”
“That Feeling”
[Instrumental interlude]
“Foreign Installation”
“New House”
“Born Again”

Originally published by Aesthetic Magazine.

Q&A: Army Girls

Army Girls at eBar April 3, 2013. (Photo by Tom Beedham)

Making perfect sense as the act to open the first (non-secret) concert of Kazoo! Fest 2013, Army Girls is a two-piece garage pop duo that thrives on the do it yourself ethos that defines the annual Guelph concert series and the organization that birthed it. I sat down with guitarist Carmen Elle (DIANA, Donlands and Mortimer, Austra) and drummer Andy Smith (Doldrums) to talk about managing conflicting schedules, their near kitchen-related band name, getting Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook to produce their 2011 EP Close to the Bone, as well as what the future has in store for them.

Tom Beedham: Hi Carmen. Hi Andy. Welcome to Guelph. I understand this is your first show here.

Andy Smith: We’ve both been here many times, but our first show, yeah. Indeed.

TB: Your first show in Guelph as Army Girls, at least.

AS: Yeah.

Carmen Elle: Yeah.

TB: For the people at home reading this, can you just explain what Army Girls is all about?

CE: Yeah! We are a two-piece rock-and-roll band consisting of guitar, drums, and vocals, and we write songs about fear and loneliness, um, pretty much exclusively.

AS: Yeah. All the simple things in life.

CE: All the simple things in life – yeah.

TB: I hear Army Girls was almost named after a kitchen appliance instead.

AS: Really?

CE: Really?

AS: Who said that?

TB: It was in an interview you guys did. You were talking about looking around the kitchen and just putting the word “The” before things.

AS: Fork? Spoon?

CE: Spoon? Fork?

AS: Knife? And then we were ladle.

CE: Ladle. Yeah, it’s true. The act of finding a band name was a lengthy process full of disappointing realizations about the limits of our imaginations.

AS: Yeah. Every time I stop to think about it, it’s always like… you know… whatever I come up with there would probably be something that is 10 times better, and then something that is 10 times better than that.

CE: I feel like everybody thinks that they’re more creative than maybe they actually are. Which isn’t to say that people aren’t creative; it just means that we don’t apply ourselves very often.

AS: Or it’s that fear and we’re self-doubting.

CE: Yeeeah. Especially for bands. “We can come up with a name.”

TB: So how did you end up with “Army Girls”?

CE: I saw someone on the street who was… she was a girl wearing an army jacket, she had a cool haircut, and I just went, “Oh, Army Girls.”

AS: And I said yes. Because—

CE: He said, “I don’t hate it.”

AS: Yeah. “I don’t hate it,” and, “Let’s use that and get it out of the way and continue.”

CE: Yeah. Like try coming up with a band name right now.

TB: Uh, I was going to say Army Ants, but that’s probably because Army Girls is right in front of me.

CE: And I thought The Macaroni and Cheese in my head.

AS: That could work, you know?

TB: More stuff in the kitchen!

CE: Yeah!

AS: It’s all about the kitchen.

CE: It’s hard.

TB: Makes sense. So you’re here for Kazoo! Fest. How did that get set up?

AS: Email, basically.

CE: Well, we got asked to play Wavelength Music Festival in Toronto last February with PS I Love You, um that was a super-super awesome show.

AS: It was a great show, yeah.

TB: Ah. And Kazoo! was a co-presenter with Wavelength this year.

CE: Well, a few of the guys who I guess run Kazoo! were at that show, and they offered us a slot in the festival that year but we I believe were out of town for that. So they followed up this year and we were happy to do it.

TB: You’re both involved in other projects. Can you talk about them and what it’s like balancing being in different bands?

AS: Well currently I’m not too involved in anything else.

TB: Aren’t you still involved in Doldrums?

AS: No, no. I only played the first eight shows back in like 2010.

TB: Oh, my mistake! I wasn’t sure so I’d actually tried to find videos of recent Doldrums gigs, and the ones I did find didn’t really give a clear view of who was on the kit, but it looked like it could be you, so I just figured it was.

CE: But his stage setup – Airick [Woodhead, a.k.a. the mastermind behind Doldrums], who’s a friend of ours – it evolves I would say like every album, but he’s super prolific and his stage requirements change a lot and so he’s always getting cool other players.

AS: Absolutely.

CE: Like our friend Steve [Foster] who I’m also in a band with, is his drummer right now.

TB: Is that DIANA?

CE: Donlands and Mortimer.

TB: Another one?

CE: Another one, yeah. [Laughs]

AS: You can’t keep up with her.

CE: Yeah. I guess I’m in three bands, which is kind of time consuming and it’s kind of confusing. There’s like a Google Calendar that nobody checks. Donlands and Mortimer is a band that I’ve been in for six years and we like to joke that we’re a reverse super group. You know how sometimes famous musicians will get together and they’ll be like, let’s start a band? Like Foo Fighters or whatever. Wait. Queens of the Stone Age.

TB: Well, Foo Fighters, too sort of, but yeah moreso Queens of the Stone Age.

Well Donlands… we all started playing together before we could play our instruments too well, and now Johnny [Spence] the keyboard player is in Tegan and Sara’s band, Steve’s in Doldrums, I’ve got this other band DIANA that’s doing really well… So yeah, it’s challenging for sure—

AS: But it’s to be expected, really.

CE: Yeah, but it’s awesome.

TB: So I was going to say both of you were at this year’s SXSW, but I guess you [Andy] were not.

AS: I was not.

TB: But you [Carmen] were there with DIANA. How was that experience, showing your music off to people that might have never heard of you before?

CE: Oh, it was super super awesome. We were on tour for the entire month opening for Tegan and Sara. We toured down to South by with them, so the entire month was kind of this huge high for us. We were super, super, super grateful and by the time we got down to South by, um… I think we were really tight as well, which, you know, felt really, really good for a band like that. Yeah. I had an amazing time at South by. I like Texas.

TB: So [Carmen], as you were saying, DIANA really took off over the winter and you went on tour with Tegan and Sara. What was that like?

CE: Oh, um, it was kind of a bad first tour to go on, because it spoiled us, and now every other tour we go on will not be as good.

TB: Did you get an extensive rider?

CE: We got a rider. And that was amazing.

TB: Did you put anything crazy on it?

CE: Batteries. Nine-volt batteries. They’re so expensive.

AS: Super Nintendo?

CE: Um, no [laughs]. We put dark chocolate on there – like 85 per cent – the good stuff, one grapefruit…

TB: I’ve actually got a pretty cool story about DIANA. My girlfriend and I went to the Long Winter show you guys played back in November for our first date. So we actually had our first dance during your set.

CE: Really?!

AS: That’s fancy.

CE: To what song? Was it like a slow jammer?

TB: All I can remember is it wasn’t “Born Again.”

CE: Might’ve been the other one, “Perpetual Surrender.” Like with the saxophone solo?

TB: Yeah! That’s totally it.

AS: Saxophone did it.

CE: Well, you’re welcome.

TB: Thank you. She’s probably going to make fun of me. I’m embarrassing. Anyway, Speaking of Long Winter and tying this back in with Army Girls, the two of you wrote and recorded your EP, Close to the Bone in 2011 with Ben Cook of Fucked Up, who presented that series. What was that process like?

CE: I knew of Ben Cook through a friend of mine, Simone TB, who’s in a band called Tropics and another called The Highest Order, and she kept throwing these Young Governor seven-inches at me and being like, “Ben Cook sings like an angel,” so I listened to a bunch of his stuff on MySpace, and agreed with her and also additionally thought that the sonic quality of his recordings was pretty similar to what I though that Army Girls should sound like on recording. So I cold called him, and he said yes, and then four hours later we have this record.

AS: It was a very good chemistry I suppose where we just kind of banged it out super quickly and it sounded kind of how we wanted it to sound.

TB: Any plans to set up some shows with his other band, Yacht Club? That’d be a good fit.

CE: Yeah. [I’d] love to play a show with Yacht Club. Actually we keep trying to book shows with Yacht Club and either we’ll pitch one or they’ll pitch one, and almost always it doesn’t fit with our schedules. But yeah, hopefully sooner rather than later. And I mean Ben Cook’s name is faithfully in every single conversation we have about who to work with in the future. We’re pretty happy with that dude in our lives.

TB: Wrapping things up, what does the future have in store for Army Girls? Any studio time lined up? Tour plans?

AS: I suppose our EP is being reissued by Blocks [Recording Club] with updated artwork—

CE: And two new tunes on it.

AS: And two new tunes. And I guess that’s kind of to-be-determined – the release date – but it’ll be available probably within a month or two, and then I guess just working towards doing our first full length.

CE: We’re writing pretty hardcore right now. We’re taking our time with it so that it sounds nice and shiny.

(first published by The Ontarion on April 4, 2013)

Kazoo! Fest reviews: Army Girls @eBar April 3

Army Girls opening up Kazoo! Fest on April 3 at Guelph’s eBar. (Photo by Tom Beedham)

Setting garage and pop sensibilities high in their MO, singer/guitarist Carmen Elle (DIANA, Donlands and Mortimer, Austra) and drummer Andy Smith (Doldrums) are a two-piece, but no small force to be reckoned with. The group’s performance wasn’t without some technical hiccups (Elle’s guitar kept unplugging), but where that denied the group an opportunity exhibit to what are really some irresistibly catchy songs that are cushioned by Elle’s vocals – ranging from soothing and soft to passionately unrestrained – the group made up in charisma. Definitely a group (and performers) to keep your eye on.

For an interview with Army Girls, Click here

2012 in Concert Stubs

Alexisonfire at Sound Academy Dec. 29, 2012 (their second-last show ever).

Alexisonfire at Sound Academy Dec. 29, 2012 (their second-last show ever).

It’s that time of the year when everyone tries to take stock of the chaos of the past 12 months, so for the sake of documentation, I’ve made a list of all the bands I managed to catch in 2012. I was only offered a short sample of some of these acts at festivals, but a lot were at shows of their own. There were also a lot of really stand-out performances in this mix and it’s coincidentally the great time of annual top 10/20/25/50/whatever lists, so maybe I’ll get around to picking out some of my favourites as well.
Here’s who I checked out in concert this year, through work or out of my own volition:
  • Action Bronson
  • Alexisonfire (twice)
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Bad Religion
  • Ben Caplan
  • Black Label Society
  • Black Lips
  • The Buzzcocks
  • Cancer Bats (twice)
  • Ceremony (twice)
  • Dan Mangan
  • Death Grips
  • Deftones
  • Descendents
  • Dillinger Escape Plan
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Feist
  • Florence + the Machine
  • Fucked Up (thrice)
  • Girl Talk
  • Goatwhore
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • Gogol Bordello
  • Greg Ginn and the Royal We
  • GWAR
  • The Hives
  • Hollerado (twice)
  • In Flames
  • Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong
  • Justice
  • Kids & Explosions
  • Killer Mike (twice)
  • Less Than Jake
  • Lowlands
  • Madness
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Mazzy Star
  • MellowHype
  • METZ
  • Moneen
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  • NOFX
  • OFF!
  • Protest the Hero (twice)
  • Pulp
  • Radiohead
  • Raekwon and Ghostface Killah
  • Refused (twice)
  • Rival Schools
  • Slipknot
  • Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre (feat. the Tupac hologram, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa)
  • Shotgun Jimmie
  • Squeeze
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • System of a Down
  • Teenage Head
  • Tool
  • Trash Talk
  • USS
  • The Wooden Sky