Monday, October 17, 2005

Three New Songs

Andrew came in to my office last week with three new killer demos of recent songs that he has written. They are wonderfully romantic and strange songs with twists and turns at every corner. I can't wait to get my hands on them. HEALTH keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Concert review of A Heavy Blinkers Trio

concert review: Julie Doiron, The Heavy Blinkers, Snailhouse @ The Casbah(Hamilton, Ontario), September 15, 2005

A downsized version of Halifax's The Heavy Blinkers, currently performing as a trio, came to Toronto yesterday for a performance at Canadian Music Cafe as part of the Toronto International Film Festival . That was by invite only but the the band played an intimate show at The Casbah in Hamilton ON later that day. Fortunately, I was able to catch that show. Unfortunately, the show was criminally underattended. I was one of maybe 8 people in the audience yesterday(not counting some of The Heavy Blinkers' Jason MacIaasac's family who were in the audience). Even though I'd gone to the show solo I still enjoyed the artists' sets immensely. The Heavy Blinkers were playing as a trio and perform some new material whose song names you can catch over at their blog. The 'Blinkers yesterday evening consisted of Mr. Jason MacIsaac, David Christensen, and their hired vocalist Jenn Grant who they'd only met a month ago. Jenn's taking over vocal duties for Ruth Minnikin who's currently on tour with her own psychedlic-country band The Reels. As much as I enjoy the delicate vocals of Ruth, there was a robustness to Jenn's vocals which was really awesome to hear. Yes, did she nail the vocals and then some. Instrumentally, the songs were basically down to keyboards and acoustic guitar with a nice touch of clarinet on several songs. If you're a fan of The Heavy Blinkers' brand of orch-pop/Brian Wilson inspired music, I guarantee that the new songs will pierce your heart. And remember these were acoustic versions. I'm looking forward to the gussied-up band versions.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

HEALTH interview


News From The Great Beyond

Heavy Blinkers in the Studio

"I recently saw a documentary about Roswell and it renewed my faith in the fact that something dodgy is going on. I am not sure if the government is reverse-engineering spaceships or anything, but why the hell not?"

Such is the theory of The Heavy Blinkers' Jason MacIsaac. The Nova Scotia based band is in the midst of recording new material for a CD entitled Health, but music wasn't all that was on his mind. In fact, as he is writing an email to this writer, he checks Area 51 on a few remote satellites. After 10 minutes he returns and reports. "I couldn't make much out, but I didn't not see aliens. I don't know, I have so many bits and pieces of Roswell info as mental furniture in my brain, I can't separate fact from the Dwight Yoakam/Kyle McLaughlin movie."

After this bit of journalistic and scientific insight, the conversation turns to music.

Having lived in both NY and LA, the competition to be noticed is fierce. Being tucked away in your corner of the world, does making music, and honing your craft, become easier?

I am not sure if it makes it any easier, but there aren't as many distractions, to be sure. I live in a city of about 300,000, and it's very much a tourist town. I spend most of my time at my piano in the dark, in my living room, with a cat on my lap. I am a firm believer that Nova Scotia's four VERY distinct seasons inform my writing and perhaps the overall mood of our city. Out of the corner of our eye, we see things being born, growing, and dying, year after year. I think that subconsciously it has an effect on a person. When I look back at lyrics that I have written, many of them seem to be preoccupied with the weather and the life cycle. On a more practical level, it is often too cold to go outside, so I will default to tea and my piano quite a bit in the winter. I get more writing done in the winter than the other three seasons combined.

What can you reveal about the "Health"?

Health is a song cycle about martyred saints, people who are lost and who have lost, and ultimately death, I suppose. It's a really upbeat album. There are many female characters that occupy the Health songs, and in many ways they are related. Most of the characters are amalgams of historical figures and women who had an impact on my childhood. It's a pretty depressing, sparse set of songs. That being said, there are two or three songs that lyrically have nothing to do with the rest of the album, but they were written at the same time and I was in the same head-space, so to me, they warrant inclusion.

I read on your blog (The Heavy Blinkers Album #5 Blog) that 'Health' was going to be a double album. That is quite an ambitious undertaking. When did you decide to go that route and what factors entered into making the decision?

Everyone, and I mean everyone, I know is telling me that it should be a single album. Perhaps two albums of material will fit on one disc as with our self-titled album, so I can cheat that way. It's just awfully hard to divorce songs from an album when there is an overarching narrative that must be told. Getting rid of a particular song might be tantamount to getting rid of the conclusion, or the body, or the intro etc. I consciously decided to make a double concept album and I am not looking back and imposing "concept album" status on it. It was written that way. For better or worse, I have a plan.

You have been debuting various tracks from 'Health.' What are the advantages and disadvantages of that strategy.

I'm just trying to suss out how they will be received. I already have the order of the songs figured out, so it's weird playing them out of context. It's even more weird playing them alongside older material, but it is thrilling to play them nevertheless. Most of the songs are a bit austere, and, lyrically, a bit (and I hesitate to use this word..) poetic. Historically, Heavy Blinkers gigs have consisted largely of the upbeat danceable material out of respect for those who want to shake a tail-feather. These new shows are more for people who come in from the rain and who would rather just listen to music, hopefully some pretty music that will inspire them.

Are you a type A or type B personality? What effect does that have on the day-to-day operations of the band?

I guess in some very specific way, I'm type A. When it comes to the music, I am a driven workaholic, always busy, impatient, etc. However, when dealing with people, I am definitely type B. I am a very laid back person, but my music is precious to me and I can get cranky. Everyone in the band is good friends and there have been very few fights over the past seven or so years. I'm a pretty lousy communicator when it comes to trying to express the music in my head to other people, and I am sure that it is frustrating for the band at times.

I noticed you did some shows with Jenn Grant. Is Ruth Minnikin still a member of the HB?

Ruth is still a member of the Heavy Blinkers. Recently, Ruth has been on tour with her psych-country outfit and then immediately back on the road with her "Traveling Wilburys" style super-songwriter group. Working with Jenn was born out of necessity., but she is a gem! Her spirit is infectious and she understands the importance of nuance. We have been very careful to do totally different material, and to present it as a trio. It's a totally different animal. We flew to Toronto to do the Toronto Film Festival and we leave at the end of November for a two week tour of the U.K.. Jenn is wonderful.

Finally, when will the new material be released?

I am hoping that all the tracking will be done by the summer and that it will be out this time next year, but we may see Roswellian aliens before we see Health. I will keep you posted.

Roswell, The U.K. & Tribeca

1.I recently did an interview with a New Mexican blog/E-Zine where I talk about Health. The zine is called THE GREAT BEYOND and the link is here

2. A Heavy Blinkers Trio will be playing a dozen or so new songs from HEALTH at the Tribeca in Halifax on Thursday November 3rd at 9:00pm sharp.

3.A Heavy Blinkers Trio will be leaving for the U.K. in the end of November for two weeks of shows, promoting HEALTH. There are new dates popping up every day and I will have the dates posted here and on our website in the days to come.