Parlour Steps Ring That Bell Video Release

Wow, we all look so cute in this video! Julie did a great job putting together outfits for Rob, Rees, and I. She borrowed the clothes from the vintage clothing store where she works (Thanks C’est La Vie!) so we had access to much cooler stuff than we would have left to our own meager wardrobes.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this video. Strange, (slow motion chair smashing) unexpected (chair choreography), and funny (Rees’s very skinny jeans).

This video used to be up on youtube, now it’s listed as private:( You can see it on vimeo by clicking the link below.

It’s great to have an official video of us playing together. What a pleasure it was to perform and make songs with Rees, Julie, Rob and Caleb.

Parlour Steps, Portland OR

Rees, Julie and I drove from Seattle to Portland together. I drove part of the way, in Julie’s silver PT Cruiser (his name is Petey). I was secretly pretty stoked to get a chance to drive her car. There’s a teeny tiny little Main Street hipster buried deep inside my stark minimalist exterior. And that little hipster was pleased as punch to throw on her horn rimmed glasses, thrift store tweed blazer and drive Petey proud and fast.

We stopped for gas and when we went in to pay there was a stack of thick magazines called “Are You Prepared For Armageddon?” right next to the cashier.

“How much is this”, I asked.
“Oh, it’s free”, she said. “That guy’s always in here dropping more off”.
Rees and I promptly grabbed copies for ourselves. I was dying to know who “that guy” was, but I didn’t want to draw any more attention to ourselves.

I thought it was going to be tips and recommendations on appropriate preparations for Judgement Day, like earthquake preparedness guidelines. (“When Armageddon comes, take cover under a sturdy table until the rain of fire stops”) But no. It was pretty disappointing. It turns out to prepare for Armageddon you have to read the Bible a lot, and warn people who don’t read the Bible that they are in for a world of hurt come that glorious day when the Prince Of Peace comes to reign over the righteous.

At least Rees and I had plenty to discuss while Julie slept, though. There was a big accident on the highway coming into Portland and we crawled along in the pouring rain for 2 hours before we arrived at Rees’s cousins’ place where we were staying. I first met Joe and Rochelle 2 years ago when Parlour Steps stayed with them in my first tour with them in 2008. Since then they had reproduced and I was looking forward to meeting their 5 month old son.

We played with the baby – Connor was very friendly and smiley – got changed for the show and arrived at the venue, Mississippi Studios, with just enough time to grab some dinner before we had to play. There was a fast and delicious Thai restaurant right across the street.

I think I’ll always think of Parlour Steps when I eat Thai food. It seemed to be the cuisine we could all agree on so we ate a lot of Thai food together over the years, across many provinces and states.

One last change in a bar washroom. Juile lent me one of her “extra shirts”, much cooler than anything I had. Once I again I reap the benefits of her overpacking!

And yes, this was the last time for bar washroom wardrobe changes. It was the last time for everything. This was our last show together. Julie has decided to leave the band to pursue her career (and eventually her own store) as an optician, and Rob is moving to Montreal. Maybe Caleb will continue Parlour Steps in some form, but it won’t ever be with this specific group of people anymore.

It’s always a little jarring to face big changes, but I’m feeling pretty good about everything. I made some wonderful friends in this band that I’ll stay close with forever. I helped make songs for a really good album, and I had some unique and amazing adventures that would not have been possible without being in Parlour Steps. Who knows what the future holds, and that’s pretty exciting to me.

It was a fantastic show for us. We played very well, the sound was well balanced and comfortable onstage. The room filled up as we played, and Rees had his own cheering section as his Portland relatives screamed in delight for all his guitar solos. A really satisfying bookend to my Parlour Steps experience.

Afterwards we sold some cd’s, and then Julie and I climbed high up onto a catwalk beside the stage to watch Wintersleep again. They packed that place. It was inspiring. After they were done, Julie and I were ready to head back to Joe’s house to crash. But just as we were making our escape, a very tall, polite young man asked Julie if he could borrow her bass, as his had just broken 2 strings. He was in the last band of the night, Hey Marseilles. She of course said yes, and we resigned ourselves to staying put for another couple hours.

And I’m so glad we did! Hey Marseilles were a revelation. They were wonderful, beautiful songs, amazing musicians, great live show. Their keyboard player had a Nord Electro 2 and an accordion. The bass player Sam also played cello. There was a string section, 2 guitars and a great drummer. It’s just so much fun to discover a great band by hearing them play live.

A perfect end to a great night.

Julie, Rob and I drove back together the next morning. It was a beautiful drive.

Except for the massive rush hour we hit coming into Vancouver, spending the last 2 hours of the drive crawling through the Massey tunnel. But other than that, a successful weekend.

Parlour Steps, Seattle WA

Parlour Steps had the great good fortune to open for Halifax indie band Wintersleep for a couple of their U.S. shows on their most recent tour. We were going to play in Seattle and Portland for the weekend.

Julie, Rob and I drove down together in Julie’s car. We had no problem getting across the border and arrived at the club, The Tractor, in plenty of time. We made checked in with the staff and settled in to wait for Caleb and Rees to show up with the gear.

There were a lot of red cowboy boots hanging around.

We amused ourselves by taking pictures of each other taking pictures, good natured insults, and talking about Caleb and Rees while they weren’t there to defend themselves. Not really, guys. Well, not very much.

Julie and I went for dinner after all our gear was loaded in and set up. We’ve had lovely dinners all over Canada and the U.S. together, just her and I. I’m not sure how it happens, but frequently we end up eating separately from the boys. Sometimes Rees joins our girl-dinners, which is also fun. He’s a man who knows how to be good friends with women. I’m married to a guy who has that same talent, it’s a wonderful thing.

Tonight it was just the gals though. Rees, Caleb and Rob came to meet later on and we all hung out until it was time for the first band to start. They were a local Seattle band called Land Of Pines. Really nice people and good songs.

Another washroom/dressing room wardrobe change, (very cramped)

and then it was our turn. We had a nicely polished set and it was good and loud onstage. People turned their heads towards the dance floor and gradually pressed closer to the stage. Afterwards we sold cd’s, all to people who’d never heard of us before. And extras as gifts for their friends too. That’s always nice when that happens. A total stranger whose first impression of your band playing live is so good that they buy your album for themselves and their friends on the spot

Wintersleep was such a good way to close the night. They are a very powerful, heavy, melodic rock band.

The song they are famous for (Weighty Ghost) is a beautiful, soft ballad. That’s all I knew of Wintersleep before I saw them. As soon as they started their first song, I was immediately impressed by their loud, unified heaviness. Much more prog than I expected, so I was delighted. It’s just fantastic to see a good prog band live. That’s right, I said it. I love prog rock.

Tomorrow, on to Portland.

Recent Ear Candy Discoveries

As some of you already know, I play keyboards and sing in a Vancouver band called Parlour Steps. For the past 5 months we’ve been part of a province wide music competition called The Peak Performance Project. The Top 20 bands have been working together for the past 5 months to complete various challenges and events while being assessed by a panel of judges for our efforts. Sure, there’s a lot of prize money on the line but for me that most amazing part of the competition has been to meet these artists, play shows with them, and hear their songs.
Here are the Top 20 bands I’m currently listening to who have really impressed me with their work:
Yes Nice – “Blindfolded”
Their song “Horses” gave me chills the first time I heard it live, and it remains the most cheerful song about the Apocalypse I’ve ever heard.
Yuca – “Yuca”
Matt has a pure, angelic voice that works amazingly with Justin’s shreddingly awesome guitar skills and a powerhouse rhythm section. Their music is intense and melodic and demands the listener’s full attention.
Aidan Knight – “Versacolor”
Aidan Knight and his band The Friendly Friends have completely charmed the entire audience every time I’ve seen them live. They play beautiful, relaxed, pretty music that sets the listener at ease and provides a moment to breathe deeply.
Said The Whale – “Islands Disappear”
Delicious multi-part harmonies, two delightful gents up front singing with their guitars, and a generous blend of folk/rock/indie makes their songs instantly familiar to me, even from the first listen.
All of these albums can be previewed/purchased on iTunes or you can go to any of these bands’ websites to order physical copies. Besides being great musicians, these people are lovely and decent and struggling to make it as creative artists in B.C. Check them out and I’m sure you’ll find they deserve your support.

Parlour Steps, Ring That Bell Video Shoot

We had one weekend in mid-October to make a video for “Ring That Bell”. Director Robert Riendreau

and his partner Deborah

had transformed a totally non-descript windowless underground room into a really cool set with nothing more than a few light bulbs and some black electrical tape and vinyl squares.

I seriously underestimated how many times I would hear “Ring That Bell” that weekend. About halfway through day 1 I had completely memorized the whole song and was thinking playback was probably no longer necessary. We could probably lip synch it without even hearing it.

Julie brought her Thunderbird, a gorgeous instrument that is approximately the same size as she is.

You have to be very strong to carry around a Thunderbird all day. Grrrrr!

Everyone took a turn sleeping in my keyboard case. (When they weren’t needed on set, of course).

Except Rees. That guy takes his vitamins and is always very high energy.

This was the first “real” video shoot I had been to, where there’s a director and a set and stuff like that. It was fascinating to see what ideas Robert had and how he went about capturing them.

And of course, no work day would be complete without a light saber battle. Robert pulled the ones his mom gave him and he and Rees entertained us halfway through day 2.

I’m very curious to see what the final video will look like. Release scheduled for late November!

Top 20 Peak Performance Showcase Highlights

As part of the Peak Performance Project (which seems to go on and on without end, but the finish line is actually in sight now), each of the Top 20 bands performed at a concert showcase with 3 other fellow Peak bands at the Red Room in Vancouver.

Even though I am an ardent, avowed introvert (Say it quietly, to yourself! I’m an introvert and I’m proud!) I went to all the showcases, which took place every Thursday during September. Every band had to do a cover of a “classic Canadian song”, which led to some unexpected gems.

Vince Vacarro did a nice rendition of a Sam Roberts song. Interesting, as he had been relentlessly compared to Sam Roberts all during Boot Camp.

Acres Of Lions did a fantastic cover of Never Surrender by Corey Hart. They really impressed me at Boot Camp. Very loud, very powerful, very skilled musicians.

Aidan Knight, always a crowd favorite, did not disappoint. I thought it was a brave choice to perform without a drummer in such a rock and roll environment.

Yes Nice. One of my new favorite bands. I loved their showcase at Boot Camp. It was truly exciting. Their cover was “Run With Us”, the theme to “The Raccoons”, which will mean nothing to you if you didn’t watch CBC as a small child in the 80’s. I did, and I shrieked with delight when I recognized this song. Very unique and imaginative. Nathaniel was one of the standout frontmen, I thought.

Debra-Jean and the Means. Dark, scary, very powerful rock songs sung by an amazing voice that really knows how to sing. (And it’s not easy at all to sing properly and well) Very thoughtful harmony, lots of strange minor chords and dissonant voicings. I thought hers were the most adventurous and unusual songs, structurally speaking. Her cover was “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, which seemed to come as a relief to the crowd after several of her originals. I love music that does not reveal itself fully on the first listen. Debra Jean was very intriguing and I’m looking forward to sitting down with her songs and getting to know them.

41st and Home – such nice guys, and they did a standout, very compelling cover of “Life Is A Highway”. You’d think there’d be nothing you could do with such a worn out song, but they really surprised me.

Christopher Arruda. One of the best piano players I saw at Boot Camp (and he also plays guitar) and an incredibly powerful voice. It’s always neat to see a male singer really belt it out.

And then there was Behind Sapphire. They performed in their pajamas,

their lead singer sang into an exquisitely tarnished trophy,

they had people in very convincing astronaut costumes handing out download cards and dancing in the crowd,

and then they threw bags of feathers all over the place. Pretty cool.

Said The Whale. Crowd favorites, fan favorites, one of my favorites. They just have something together, a chemistry that is fun to watch. They did a cover of “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” by Paul Anka. They are very, very smart – they have such good, creative ideas. At Boot Camp they had a horn section playing on a little balcony up in the rafters that surprised almost everyone…we heard horns all of a sudden and had to look up to find them. At the Red Room they threw confetti on the crowd. A lot of confetti. Right after Behind Sapphire’s feathers. The dance floor was buried.

Greg Sczebel. You can’t go wrong with a key-tar. And a string section, and one of the best bass players I’ve ever seen.

Yuca. A very loud, heavy band, with a lead singer who sounds like an angel with a pure clean voice. Very impressive musicianship. And it all goes together perfectly. They did “Say What You Want” by Nelly Furtado, and it really worked.

And finally, Kyprios. His band was awesome, and they looked amazing and polished. His cover was a hip hop re-working of Sweet City Woman by The Stampeders. All the other bands were good, really good. Some were more imaginative than others. Some had better songs than others. But when Kyprios tore the roof off the Red Room, something happened. He had the whole package, I guess. He acted like he was a huge superstar and I think he made everyone believe that he was. Probably exactly what the Peak is looking for. And he had the songs and the band to back it up.

Parlour Steps, Peak Performance Showcase

Fresh from the triumph of Bumbershoot and Foodfest, we rehearsed like mad and were as ready as possible for our show in the Peak Performance Project Concert Series at the Red Room in Vancouver.  There would be a panel of judges. Their marks would factor heavily into the overall points total that would determine the winners of the competition. So it was very important to play as well as we could.

And we did, we played as well as we possibly could. After 2 weeks of intense rehearsing, more preparation than I’ve ever seen happen in this band, we had crafted a wonderful set. And it went off without a hitch. We played before a packed house of 500+ people. The dance floor was hopping. So many of our fans turned out. They sang along to all the songs. It was heartwarming. After our last song, they chanted “PARLOUR STEPS! PARLOUR STEPS!” A delightful first.

I don’t even care what the final result will be. We got a lot of positive feedback from the Peak Performance faculty who were in attendance that night, which was lovely, but also not that important. The main thing is, it was the best show I’ve ever played with this band. Bumbershoot was also really good, but the time we spent in rehearsals and preparation made this Red Room show even more tight and polished. We gained confidence from our repeated practices. How else can you really gain confidence, other than preparation, planning, repetition, practicing? Improvising is fun too. But this was not the venue for improvising.

I was proud of our hard work, and I was ecstatic that it paid off. We reached a new level of achievement as a band, so naturally I was tickled. I just love getting better at stuff. I guess that also means I love hard work and preparation, which I do. And attention to detail. But I’m not as boring as this sounds. After all, I do play in a hip band.

Here’s the Parlour Steps cover of Teenland, by the Northern Pikes. All the Top 20 Peak bands had to do a cover of a ‘classic’ Canadian song for the Red Room showcase series. My first time coming out from behind my keyboard to sing.