The Stand GT didn’t play Ottawa much in our early days.
It wasn’t that we weren’t shown any love in the nation’s capital. It had more to do with our proximity to Montreal, being from the rural county of Glengarry. We were very connected with that scene and were fortunate to be playing shows with legendary Montreal bands like The Gruesomes, Deja Voodoo, Jerry Jerry and of course our touring pals, Ripcordz.
Our first show in Ottawa was at the “Downstairs Club”, which became “Lucky Ron’s”, then “The Hi-Fi” and is now a beer store on Rideau St. We opened for scene vets Fluid Waffle (who later became Furnanceface) and I would have met Dave Dudley (Dave’s Drum Shop), Slo’ Tom Stewart (Spaceman Music) and Patrick Banister for the first time that night – great guys who I’ve been friends with ever since.
But my memory of that evening is pretty hazy over 25 years on… (continued)
There’s a fantastic exhibit going on here in Ottawa by local photography/drummer Jamie Kronick which captures many of Ottawa’s songwriter types in their creative spaces.
Why is this guy playing an acoustic tenor guitar?
Unfortunately I missed the opening night party (or vernissage, if you’re so inclined), but caught up with the show on the weekend. I went during a very quiet time at City Hall and pretty much had the room to myself to absorb the work.
What struck me right away is Jamie’s knack for capturing these intimate moments. The lighting of each portrait reveals the layered elements contained within and you feel drawn into each creative space. If that elusive songwriting magic is really going on, you kinda feel like you’re getting a peek at it.
I was also taken aback by just how much Ottawa talent is hanging in that show and wondered if the city at large has any clue.
Besides, I’m sure Jamie will be the first to tell you this is only a sampling of the many songwriters that call Ottawa home.
Anyway, I encourage you to check out the exhibit which runs until October 12th at the Ottawa Art Gallery Annex at City Hall.
It is a really good show and quite immediately evident that a true labour of love is on display.
This wall had some nice bilingual things to say about Jamie in his quest to capture a craft that in my opinion is often superficially appreciated, but rarely understood:
It’s been a week now since our beloved Charlie passed away.
And what a sad, empty and lonely week it’s been.
As many of you know, he was truly one of the sweetest, most loveable cats we’ve ever known.
He has been a constant little rock since he first arrived in our lives as a rescued kitten during the great 1998 ice storm.
Charlie has been diabetic since he was 9, so it’s a great story to share knowing we were able to manage that with him through to almost 17 years old. Despite the 2 needles of insulin daily, he never once kitty-complained and remained ever stoic, content, cuddly and a real entertaining character.
I’m going to miss his meow-speak, his constant purrs and his unconditional love terribly.
Safe travels, our little old soul.
Merge 25 Ottawa tribute is a compilation put together by a bunch of friends and Merge Records enthusiasts from Canada’s capital to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic label. Thanks to Ben Wilson for the great idea and for lovingly pulling it all together. I chose Superchunk’s Cool because it was the first Merge song I ever heard. Here’s my personal story:
My Cool 7″ purchased one cold winter night
It was the winter of ’91 or ’92. I remember it was winter because I chose to spend my evening playing hockey. I was living in Montreal attending Concordia University and hockey seemed pretty much like the only thing to do on a cold Tuesday night.
I’ll be honest, it took some convincing. But I had recently turned down seeing pre-Nevermind Nirvana at the same venue, so you might say I was a bit skittish about repeating that life-regretting move. In those days, the cover at Foufs on Tuesdays was a dollar and they affectionately called it ‘Loonie Tuesdays’. So for a starving student, the price was right for the gamble. More on that later.
I put down my hockey stick and hockey bag and followed Colin downtown, into that dark, Montreal winter evening.
(Oh! I should remind you and provide some context here: Remember, there was no internet in those days. No ‘Let’s stream some Superchunk on YouTube before the show’. These decisions were truly a leap of faith based on word of mouth from someone who read a magazine article or heard a track on a local college station. It’s the way we rolled back then, Dear Reader. But of course if we could have, Superchunk would’ve looked and sounded like this:)
Ah, those life changing shows
What followed was nothing short of what you could call an epiphany. Superchunk were touring ‘No Pocky‘ and I watched their entire set with my mouth agape. Their pogoing energy, their volume, their corduroys, their clever catchy songs all hooked me almost immediately. And oh, that feedback. It was an elixir for my young senses.
Not only did Superchunk strike a chord that would last a lifetime that night, they injected a sort of confidence in me because they were doing exactly what I believed my own young band was trying to do at the time. It was a justification of sorts and my excitement and enthusiasm for making music was taken to a brand new high.
I bought two records that night. No Pocky For Kitty and the 45 of Cool b/w Fishing. When I got back to residence I put on the 7″ first (I had a turntable in my dorm room, natch!). I was in awe. What I saw that evening translated SO well to vinyl. I practically wore out that record in the days, weeks, months and years to come. I officially became Superchunk obsessed and pined to know more…and to see them perform again.
I got Laura, Jim and Mac to sign No Pocky. Nerd, I know.
Discovering Merge the label
In those pre-internet days it was comparatively difficult to connect with people and it was even harder to research your favourite bands. Over time I learned about Merge, the label that Mac and Laura ran together to primarily release their own records. As The Stand GT (the aforementioned young band) began to tour in earnest, we started to hear more about the label and the band and also began to realize just how much people admired this e’merging’ imprint.
(I remember meeting a band from Halifax called Merge who were worried about the conflict of their chosen name. They swore they were in touch with Laura who gave them permission to keep using it. How cool! They said she was really nice and even offered to release a 7″ for them! Wow, was I envious! Or gullible. Not sure which applies in this case.)
On The Mouth
When Superchunk came back to Montreal for the On The Mouth tour, I approached Laura and gave her The Stand GT’s ‘Blur Your Cool’ cassette (*a-hem* a record that I think stands up to this day). Nothing ever came of that, though soon after I did start a nice little collection of official Merge rejection postcards. Despite them being actual ‘rejections’ it felt like the Merge folks always took the time to acknowledge our recordings. And for a young band with an artist finding his way, that meant an awful lot to me and I wore those acknowledgements as a badge of honour.
Kind (though form letter) words from Merge HQ
Merge, of course, continued to grow and release amazing records across a wide spectrum of genres. My early faves were singles from the John Reis camp like Rocket From the Crypt’s Pigeon Eater and Drive Like Jehu’s Bullet Train to Vegas. It wasn’t all loud rock though and gorgeous records from the likes of Richard Buckner, Lambchop, M. Ward and the Radar Brothers began to appear as well.
A peek behind the curtain
In 2004 some friends and I attended the 15th anniversary party the label put together down in North Carolina. The trip was an incredible peek into the world in which Merge existed and was operating. Not only did we get to see all of our fave artists perform in intimate venues like the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, we got a first hand glimpse at the small and vibrant community that was Merge.
What struck me then and has stuck with me was that very real sense of community we all strive for. It also made me realize community starts at home. Merge wasn’t doing anything different than any of my friends with local labels were doing. It was all DIY and all about good people, shared experiences and of course, great music.
My prized Merge 15 pass
Indie rock in the global village
Since then, the world has gotten even smaller. We now have friends from Ottawa who releases records on Merge. The label has become a global music force without ever ‘selling out’ and staying as true to their roots and vision as possible. They continue to be a huge inspiration for many independent artists and I feel lucky to have been able to follow their example for many years during my own winding indie music career.
My cover of Cool is a tribute of sorts to Mac, Laura, Jon and Jim. I enjoyed reworking it into something I thought would be an interesting take on such a raucous classic. My pals Kaiser and Morgan did a great job on the vocal accompaniment and I think the result sits quite nicely along my Ottawa pals and their own heartfelt tributes.
Never have I felt such a heavy weight while putting together a cover song, though. It was powerful to pause and acknowledge the influence, the passage of time, the nostalgia and the renewed realization of what this music has meant to me.
Plus, it was damn fun:
Finally, a word to my pal, longtime collaborator and brother Bandeeto Colin:
I guess you were on to something that night when you made me put down my hockey bag and follow you downtown Montreal and onto a journey that continues today.
I thank you for that, pal. The ‘Superchunk for a buck’ story never gets old.
Spin (or was it Alternative Press?!) article that told Colin to tell me to ‘follow the light……….’
Thanks to our good pal Rob Seaton, the infamous and long lost ‘Blur Your Cool’ has been lovingly resurrected, tweaked, mastered and beaten into submission. It is now available for digital download for the first time since its release 22 years ago.
Blur Your Cool was The Stand GT‘s message in a bottle. It was a release that blew open doors for us and provided the opportunity for the band to travel far and wide, put out records around the world and meet friends we still keep in touch with today. There was magic in that tape.
We’ve compiled 12 fun facts you can read while you download it here.
Blur Your Cool was released on En Guard records in Montreal, Canada, cat number ENG 014. It was only ever released on a limited run cassette.
A video was shot for The Wait at Concordia University on 16mm film. Sadly it was never edited or released. Yet, anyway.
Kurt Bloch from the legendary Fastbacks heard Blur Your Cool and liked it so much he offered to record the band. Our first LP, They’re Magically Delicious was recorded by Kurt at Egg Studios in Seattle as a result.
Colin from The Stand GT bought Blur at Sam The Record Man in Toronto. He was soon playing the songs live.
The tape was recorded, for the most part, at Studio 365 by Rob Martin. Studio 365 is located at 365 Beaubien St in Montreal and still exists as a practice space today. Listen carefully to the start of Cut My Hand and you’ll hear the band in the next room rehearsing.
Paul Gott from the Ripcordz sang backing vocals. (You guess which songs).
I’d Tell You was a retake of an earlier version that appeared on a demo cassette called ‘Out Standing In The Field’. It was eventually covered by Ottawa’s Dead City Rebels.
Choke also appeared on an Australian compilation on AuGoGo records called ‘On Guard For Thee‘. It featured ‘A Collection of Canada’s Youth Gone Bad‘ including BUM, Chixdiggit, Von Zippers, Huevos Rancheros, Cub, Punchbuggy, The Smugglers, Crash 13 and more!
Away From Your Sway also appeared on a early En Guard comp called ‘2 Solitudes‘ which featured 50% Franco bands and 50% Anglo bands. It featured artists such as Ripcordz, Banlieue Rouge, Bliss, Velcro Soul, American Devices and Les Bons A Rien.
Jamie’s Mile was rerecorded and originally appeared on the band’s first label release, a cassette EP called ‘Another Round‘.
Many of the songs from Blur Your Cool remain in The Stand GT set today and some of them will definitely be a part of our Ottawa Explosion 2014 show.
As a bonus track, we’ve included ‘Sad Bunch Of People’ for the digital download!
As we’ve stated, it only ever came out on cassette on a limited release. Wanna release Blur Your Cool on vinyl? Get in touch with us here: campradio(at)gmail(dot)com.
So here it is, for the first time ever offered as a digital download. Stream and download Blur Your Cool!
Search older posts: