Interview with Papal Visit

Interview by Mark Anthony Brennan

I had a chat with Pierre Cormier of Papal Visit. The Saint John, NB band is led by Cormier and vocalist/lyricist Adam Mowery. We talked about the beginnings of the band and the making of their latest album, ‘Five Fathom Hole’, a 25-track blockbuster.


MB: I’m doing great out here on the West Coast. How’s the East Coast?

PC: Right now it’s raining, but it’s almost summer so that’s good.

MB: Yeah, kind of the same here in Victoria. OK, let’s go back a bit. How long has Papal Visit been together?

PC: The first album came out in 2015 but we started about two years before that. It started randomly by me just recording stuff. I don’t really write lyrics. My friend Adam (Mowery) and I were in a band called Wooden Wives, but he moved to Halifax. I just started thinking that maybe Adam would want to contribute lyrics to one of these tunes, so I sent one to him and ask him. He was gracious enough to do it and I liked it so much I sent him another one. After two or three of those we thought we should get a name and see if we want to put stuff out. It wasn’t intended to be a live thing at first but it morphed into that eventually. We have a beautiful rehearsal space here in Saint John and it was just sitting there doing nothing, so I thought I’d start working on my own stuff and then it just sort of turned into Papal Visit.

MB: Before ‘Five Fathom Hole’ the last album you put out was five years ago. Why the gap?

PC:  We had most of ‘Five Fathom Hole’ already recorded back in 2017. We wanted to put it out on vinyl, that was our main goal with the 3rd album. So we had to play some gigs, save some money. We also wanted it to be a huge album — we wanted 28 to 30 songs. But we figured that you can only fit about 44 minutes on a record, so we jam-packed it. There’s only about 30 seconds of leeway, so we pretty well stuffed it. So it took a little bit more time. And then covid hit, and we asked ourselves, “Do we really want to release an album that we can’t play shows?” It was hard to justify putting out physical copies then so we decided to wait. 

MB:  What I like about ‘Five Fathom Hole’ is the variety. There’s the really solid songs like “The Heaviness” and “The Opposite Heart”, but then there’s some experimental stuff, especially towards the end.

PC:  Well, that’s Adam’s work. He did the sequencing. A lot of the songs are a minute or two longer, but he made it all fit in there like a collage. He squeezed a lot those songs. Some of the songs are five minutes long, but that’s his magic [in making them shorter]. Whenever I didn’t have an idea I’d get the guys together at the jam spot and we’d just goof around and see what we could come up with. We sent them all to Adam and he liked them all, so we ended doing something with everything!

MB: It’s definitely a fun album.

PC:  We were having fun doing it, there’s no real pressure. We’re serious, though — we want to make good music. But we wanna have fun too.

MB:  Well, that sense of fun comes across. OK, so what’s up for the rest of the year? Touring?

PC:  Touring is so expensive. If we do tour it will be just the Atlantic provinces. Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, Halifax and Charlottetown. That would be it. We are hoping to maybe go to Pop Montreal in September. But we’re not sure. And then there’s recording — we are going to keep recording, that’s for sure. We already have a 4th record pretty much ready.

MB:  OK, one more really important thing. Who do think is going to win the Cup?

PC: Well, I was going for Toronto. But now… I kind of hope that New York wins that series because Tampa’s already won enough. I’ve been transfixed by the Blue Jays. That’s all I’ve been watching. When you called I was watching the game from yesterday.

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Music to Your Ears: Five Albums For Your “Must Hear” List

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan


‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’ by Tess Parks

Although she has collaborated with others over the years (mostly notably with Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre), ‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’ is only Tess Parks’ second full-length album since her 2013 debut. And the loss is certainly ours, as she proves her gift for composition and in creating a laid-back, lysergic sweetness.

Throughout the album her piano plonks the melody, the guitar wails the mood, and the drums keep it all in check. Whether it’s the gentle folkishness of “WOW”, the shimmering pop of “Happy Birthday Forever”, or the more blues feel of “Do You Pray”, Parks maintains a breezy, freewheeling attitude that is relaxing. It isn’t that she is not serious because she displays a certain gravitas, as evidenced in her gravelly spoken word on the slinky, trip-hop inflected number “Brexit at Tiffany’s”.

Fans of dreamy, swirling psych-pop will find a home here. So, Tess, please don’t keep us waiting nine years next time.


‘Five Fathom Hole’ by Papal Visit

It has been five years since Papal Visit released their last full-length album, ‘Golden Grove’, so they have a lot of material packed into their latest offering, ‘Five Fathom Hole’. In fact, there are a staggering 25 tracks, although with short running lengths the entire album only lasts 43 minutes.

Time will tell, of course, but this must surely be their magnum opus, with the full breadth of core members Adam Mowery and Pierre Cormier’s creativity on display. Yes, there is a certain coherence of style here (call it lo-fi americana punk-rock) but it is played out in many forms. “Destroy the Hive” is classic ‘60s garage rock, while “Wolfgang Von Trips” is wild, unbridled punk. Then there slower numbers, like the stoner-pop “Tootsie Pop” and “The Swimmer”, which sounds like The Beatles at their heaviest. Towards the end of the album there are some flights of pure fancy, like “Fuzz Tone Opera”, a literal experiment in fuzz guitar, and the weird psych rock “Flight of Fantasy” with indistinct vocals and instrumentation that is “barely there”.

The cream that rises to the top are tunes like “The Opposite Heart” and “The Heaviness”, tracks which showcase Mowery’s unique, quirky vocals and the two songwriters’ flair for exquisite pop gems.


‘You Have Got To Be Kidding Me’ by fanclubwallet

In the last 10 years or so (maybe longer) the term “indie pop” has been devaluated to the point that it basically means radio-friendly, commercially packaged music. It is, therefore, refreshing to hear an artist who is true to its original meaning, i.e. intriguing music that it not “run-of-the-mill”.

Ottawa singer-songwriter Hannah Judge (aka fanclubwallet) is absolutely charming with her quaint voice, but it is her clever arrangements that make the tracks on ‘You Have Got To Be Kidding Me’ something special. She has a gentle, feathery-light touch on tracks like “Fell Through”, but the choppiness of the drums makes it bouncy and interesting. There are some terrific synth flourishes throughout, but particularly evident on “That I Won’t Do” as a nice complement to the woozy backing and breathless vocals. In fact, the airy and wonky instrumental “55” proves that she doesn’t even have to sing in order to charm.

Lyrically the album is uplifting and assertive. On the high-energy rock-pop gem “Gr8 Timing!” she chirps:

“I don’t deserve to be/With someone that hurts me/So I’ll just spend/All of my time with myself/I don’t need anybody else’s help”

In the album notes, Judge declares “i am simply just kickin it”. We have to agree — yes, you are!


‘Something’s Gotta Give!’ by The John Denver Airport Conspiracy

The intrigue of Toronto’s The John Denver Airport Conspiracy starts with their name, which cleverly reference two urban myths (the mystery of John Denver’s plane crash and the strange tales surrounding Denver Airport), but it certainly doesn’t end there. On ‘Something’s Gotta Give!’ the band brings together disparate styles from the 1960’s in a carefree celebration.

JDAC lovingly recreates the underground sound of psych-garage rock, with the jangle of The Byrds and the pop stylings of early Velvet Underground. The track “Green Chair” is truly evocative, featuring ‘60s organ and guitar, while others like “JDAC” kind of bring to mind The Kinks (but on acid). “Ritchie Says” is a lovely ballad with lilting vocals, but the group also go into extended Grateful Dead-style jams, such as on “The World Has Surely Lost Its Head”. 

The production is lo-fi and murky, but that just makes the trip to the lysergic days of hippiedom more complete.


‘Lushings’ by Lushings

With ballads both dark and beautiful, the Calgary band Lushings come up with some interesting ideas on how to break out of the loneliness and isolation that the pandemic brought to our lives.

“Something” kicks things off in an upbeat mood, with a lively pace. Highlighted by a memorable guitar lick and Kendra Lush’s coy vocals, the next track “Rough Me Up” gets more into the meat of the matter with the lines: “Sell me out and rough me up again/I’ve been far too lonely with these walls for friends/Do me some harm. I’ll get by.”  Musically, it all leans towards ‘90s alternative, even though there are shades of ‘60s surf, particularly on “The Little You Know”. However, lyrically this is completely a creature of 2022, as evidenced on the deliberately paced “Pretty Machines”: “Sidewinding brittle and mean, it’s a crime you’d settle for me/I dream of pretty machines, I will go now follow their lead”.

If there was any silver-lining to the pandemic perhaps it’s the fact that some of us had time to sit back and reflect on the realities of life, and Lushings have come out of the covid era swinging.

Baffled Octopi/Coast to Coast to Coast Top 25 Canadian Songs of 2019

by Mark Anthony Brennan

Baffleed 2019

 

 

25. “Cosmic Joke” by Crashing into Things
Electrifying psych-garage from Victoria.

 

 

24. “Sweet Little Thing” by Radiant Baby
Completely over-the-top saccharin-sweet electro-pop. Try to resist.

 

 

23. “Féminin Masculin” by Bleu Nuit
Doom and excitement, melded into a post-rock whole.

 

 

22. “Treasures of the Blind” by Braintree
Artsy garage with a killer arrangement.

 

 

21. “I’ve Been Waiting for This Moment” by Slut Prophet
Raw punk, served up with delicious wit.

 

 

20. “Hegemony” by Usse
Usse use a minimalist approach to create a menacing and edgy atmosphere.

 

 

19. “Sophie’s Dad” by Kamikaze Nurse
Noisy and melodic. Relentless and meandering. KC Wei and company are a band of contrasts.

 

 

18. “Nice Song (ft. Eliza Niemi)” by WLMRT
With the addition of Eliza Niemi (Mauno), WLMRT make a nice song. Uh-oh.

 

 

17. “Witch” by Man Meat
Sludge-heavy and razor sharp, from the Saskatoon power trio.

 

 

16. “Jim Says It’s OK If I Die” by TETRIX
Perhaps even more creepy than last year’s “Drugs in the Water”.

 

 

15. “Mostly Ocean” by Graftician
Soulful calm in an exotic landscape.

 

 

14. “It’s a Cruel World!” by FLOOR CRY
Hauntingly beautiful single from Winnipeg’s Felicia Sekundiak (aka Floor Cry).

 

 

13. “I Feel Unholy” by PROPERTY
There is something quite holy in the performance of “I Feel Unholy”.

 

 

12. “The Heaviness” by PAPAL VISIT
A bubbling pot of angst, dread and fear, but it’s a delicious stew.

 

 

11. “Dead of Night” by Orville Peck
Cowboy theme music for a David Lynch movie.

 

 

10. “FATAL” by DEBBY FRIDAY
A frightening collision of rock, hip-hop and electronic, thanks to the fearless Debby Friday.

 

 

9. “Amelia” by Sleeepy Dog
A countrified slacker tune about a dude whose girlfriend gets kidnapped by some guys he’s in trouble with. Poor Amelia.

 

 

8. “Money” by Polly Dactic
Bordering on glammish horror rock, but the gravity of the post-punk atmosphere makes the evil more sincere.

 

 

7. “Big Mouth” by Necking
The bounce of punk-pop, but with the kick-to-the-balls of hardcore.

 

 

6. “Candy BB” by Crystal Eyes
A dreamy track from Erin Jenkins (Crystal Eyes) that has a sense of endlessness.

 

 

5. “Hung Ron” by Cowbo Morsche
This track is so quirky that it seems literally warped.

 

 

4. “Rod Crowhop” by STOiK
Alarming beats and industrial grinds set an ominous tone in this exciting blend of traditional indigenous and modern electronic.

 

 

3. “Freeloader Feast” by Deliluh
Art punky approach, with an edgy down beat and an angular vocal delivery that’s unnerving.

 

2. “V” by Swim Team
The amazing trio known as Swim Team mesmerize us with an instrumental (mostly) that builds subtly and slowly.

 

 

 

1. “Shelley Duvall in 3 Women” by Greys
The Toronto-based band create a brooding base of uneasy grunge, with rising spires of gloomy elegance.

Baffled Octopi/Coast to Coast to Coast Top 25 Canadian Albums of 2019

by Mark Anthony Brennan

whoop-szo

 
25. “Allo Futur” by Claude l’Anthrope
Claude Sophie Périard indulges in delicious beats.

 

24. “DRI HIEV” by DRI HIEV
DRi HIEV’s debut full-length is packed with cleverly arranged industrial beats and noise.

 

23. “Honey” by lungbutter
Art-punk meets doom/sludge. It’s like thick, tasty molasses.

 

22. “Dark Beings” by LAL
Both dark and bubbly, this neo-soul/electronic album is slinky and satisfying.

 

21. “Salt” by Blessed
Blessed proves they are one of the premier alternative bands around. A poised album, with both warmth and edginess.

 
20. “Above All Else” by redress
Victoria experimental artist scores big with minimalist electronics and highly personal vocals.

 

19. “Dear Bongo” by Motherhood
Fredericton’s Motherhood manage to make a cohesive statement, despite pulling out everything from doom rock to electronica and artsy punk.

 

18. “V” by Swim Team
Vancouver trio like to play improv-style, but they always seem to have complete control of their avant-pop/experimental garage sound.

 

17. “Stillness and Stars 2” by Stillness and Stars
Prog rock never sounded as fresh and relevant as this.

 

16. “Pity Party” by Slut Prophet
Noisy and wild punk, with a wicked, sly sense of humour.

 

15. “Every House Has a Light On” by TETRIX
TETRIX combine throw-back accordion with current doom-laden psych.

 

14. “Le jardin des mémoires” by Bleu Nuit
Post-punk in attitude but catchy and engaging in its delivery.

 

13. “Have You Met Elliott?” by Hélène Barbier
Have You Heard Hélène Barbier? If not you are missing out on her quirky vocals and sly (sometimes dark) arrangements.

 

12. “Foreign Bodies” by Sunglaciers
Shoegazey, melodic, gritty and edgy. All smoothly delivered by Sunglaciers.

 

11. “The Same But By Different Means” by Yves Jarvis
Formerly known as Un Blond, Jarvis continues to expand his musical universe with transcendent coolness.

 

10. “A Gaze Among Them” by B I G | B R A V E
Experimental posr-rock with heavy emphasis on thundering percussion and bass.

 

9. “Significant Changes” by Jayda G
Intricate textures and intriguing beats are rife on this electronic/house/soul release.

 

8. “Metamorphonic” by Bombnivores
This Halifax duo crank out coolly modern, slick and groove-based music.

 

7. “The Strange One” by MNGWA
This Vancouver collective serve up feisty world music like you’ve never heard. Exciting and multicultural, with impressive progressive touches.

 
6. “C’est ça” by Fly Pan Am
Fly Pan Am are veterans, but ‘C’est ça’ beats the pants pants off any contemporaries in the realm of avant/post-rock.

 
5. “Flowers for S” by Usse
With a solid foot in free-form jazz, Usse come up with the most impressive experimental/electronic album of the year.

 
4. “Primitive Feelings” (Parts I & II) by The High Dials
A delightful and clever blend of styles that makes for a trippy, cool, exciting, and groovy ride.

 
3. “Age Hasn’t Spoiled You” by Greys
Waves of grungy noise punctuated with islands of relative calm. This is, however, a highly focused album with fierce intensity.

 
2. “When I say to you Black Lightning” by Common Holly
Brigitte Naggar’s sophomore effort varies from folk to slinky rock and never lets up on emotional content.

 
1. “Warrior Down” by WHOOP-Szo
The Guelph band reaches new heights (and depths) on this concept album. The emotional power pushes through the heavy weight of their devastating music.

Album Reviews: Bombnivores/Mallsex/Common Holly/Hélène Barbier/Usse

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan



‘Metamorphonic’  by Bombnivores

(Halifax)bombnivores 4

Halifax is known is a major regional music centre, but one would hardly expect something as coolly modern, slick and groove-based as Bombnivores. Even more impressive is that it all comes from the minds of two individuals: Jamie Larade (drums, samples, bass) & Sheldon Kelly (vocals, keys, bass.)

Kelly’s soft vocals ease into your soul by osmosis, while Larade’s percussion keeps things grounded. Songs like “Watching the Heat Curve” could simply float off into the ether but the nice, fat rhythm section keeps your toes tapping on Earth.

Killer track:  “Sunset Splitter”



‘Live in Reverse’  by Mallsex

(Vancouver)mallsex

Opening track “The Crux” starts in a blaze of distorted, strident guitar. Hellish, you may think. The song then settles into a beat and the vocals come in. Normality? Hardly. This is when the real hell starts.

Mining element of gothic post-punk, this Vancouver trio present a dark offering of synth-washed rock. Vocals are majestic, in a mournful, foreboding way, while the garagey beats get you dancing with the Devil.

Killer track: “Sewer Bells”







‘When I say to you Black Lightning’  by Common Holly

(Montreal)common

Brigitte Naggar (aka Common Holly) follows up her excellent debut (2017’s ‘Playing House’) with an impressive, more experimental work. Her vocal and lyrical honesty is still on full display but there is an edginess, and perhaps a sense of fear of an ugly world. For example, on “Uuu” her voice is light, whimsical even, but the subject matter is anything but, (“You’re throwing on logs/Trying to silence the ones/The ones that contradict you”).

‘When I say to you Black Lightning’ works on all levels. It varies from folk (“Little Down”) to slinky rock (“Joshua Snakes”) and never lets up on emotional content.

Killer Track:  “Joshua Snakes”




‘Have You Met Elliott?’  by Hélène Barbier

(Montreal)helene

Hélène Barbier is another excellent singer-songwriter who follows her own unique path. Her vocal delivery is sweet and soft, and often deceivingly so. On “Cold” there’s an atonal quality to the music that provides a dark edge, while “Discipline Alley” has an overall nervousness to it.

Although she relies on invoking a sense of unease within her listeners, Barbier herself is comfortable in her own creative skin, slipping from a gentle whisper in your ear to the voice of alarm (such as on “Country Club”).

Killer track:  “She is a Bully”




‘Flowers for S’  by Usse

(Saint John, NB)usse

Usse hail from Saint John, NB, but frankly sound more like an illustrious member of the Montreal post-rock crowd. ‘Flowers for S’ is perhaps the finest example of electronic experimentalism we’ve heard all year.

With a solid foot in free-form jazz, this collective’s music is as much improvised (or more) as it is composed, as evidenced on the 13 minute epic “Imaginative Sympathy / Retreat”. Even the shorter, more concise numbers, such as “Free Speech Apologist Technologies”, have a flowing, unbridled feel, while the politically-charged “Hegemony” stops and starts with hesitancy.

The album is a wonderful example of apparent chaos packaged in aesthetically pleasing chunks.

Killer track:  “Hegemony”