5 Questions with Rags #74 - Lance Loiselle of LowDown Brass Band

This past summer I had the privilege of finally getting to see Chicago's mightly LowDown Brass Band live, in the flesh, for the first – and I sincerely hope not the last – time. The powerful band dazzled me instantly when I stumbled across their cover of the ska classic “Ghost Town” sometime in early 2018. As soon as the sweet sounds hit my ear drums, I knew this was a band that I HAD to witness live.
And as if I had willed it into existence, this past summer (2019) they touched down in my hometown, Victoria, British Columbia, for the first time. Part of the landmark 20th Anniversary Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival, LowDown left a huge impression on the crowd – with many people, including the Festival Director, telling me that LowDown was the surprise/new discovery of the festival. One of the most engaging stage shows I've seen in a long time, the interplay both between the band and the audience, and the members of the band with each other, was next level and made it genuinely impossible to dislike anything they were laying down. Deft players and personable dudes, LowDown Brass Band is a band you need to see if you like big brass sounds, hip-hop, funk or really, if you just like getting so LowDown. Go out of your way to see this band before they blow up in the stratosphere (Which is happening incredibly quickly right now it seems). Shortly before they landed here in Victoria, we got ahold of sousaphone player Lance Loiselle in amongst the chaos of relentless touring, for a little instalment of the 5 Questions in which we cover daredevil kayaking, the importance of practice and a theoretical days with a pair of musical legends.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Probably Off the Wall or Purple Rain.

Both classics. If you had to take one to listen to right now, which one you going for?

Probably Michael Jackson. Prince was one of my favourites, but so was Michael Jackson. All that Quincy Jones stuff is classic. Quincy's from Chicago too. He brings that Chicago horn sound to every single thing he touched for Michael Jackson.

2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?

It had to be last summer. I went kayaking in glacial waters. It wasn't that easy.

Had you been kayaking in non-glacial waters?

Glacial waters are like 30 or 40 degrees. You fall in and you're instantly numb. You're gonna fall in. Someone will go in. The river we were on was called Wrong Way.

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5 Questions with Rags #73 - Tom McGuire (Tom McGuire & The Brassholes)

Sometime in the last couple of months of 2018, the great YouTube algorithm smiled upon me and sent me a downright infectious tune called “Ric Flair,” by Tom McGuire & The Brassholes, a band I had definitely never heard of before. Instantly enamoured with the incredibly catchy single, the song quickly found its way into my daily listening diet. You know that feeling where you find a band but then there's only a few songs/videos to help satiate that sonic lust? Well, that's the feeling I was engulfed with when I started digging a bit more but thankfully for myself, and the rest of the unsuspecting world, Tom McGuire & The Brassholes were mere months away from releasing their self-titled debut album. “We started the record through a crowdfunding campaign last December (2017), which was ultimately successful. We recorded over January and February, and a bit of March too. It's been ready since then and we've been dying to have people have access to it. Nobody knew who were though so we had to kind of build it up to get the point where there would be interest in the album. It's been around about a year we've been waiting to show this to the world,” McGuire says, speaking to me from his home in Glasgow, as he prepares vinyl copies of the album to send to those ahead-of-the-curve listeners who preordered the album. And finally the time has come.

Released into the world January 18, Tom McGuire & The Brassholes is already starting to dazzle listeners with its scope, intimacy, storytelling and straight-ahead musical force. While the album is deep and rich, brimming flourishes and fresh ideas – a clearly thought-out and dense peice of sonic art – “Ric Flair,” that first single that hooked me and apparently a whole gaggle of other people, was created in nearly complete spontaneity. “Me and some of the guys in the band used to host jam sessions in town. Where there would be no one to play I would sometimes just make up songs on the spot to keep myself on my toes. One night I asked 'What's the next song gonna be?' And someone piped out 'Ric Flair!' Ooookay, here we go and I just spat out the chorus line and we spontaneously played the song and it was pretty sick. I held onto it...thankfully I remembered it. I went home and wrote it more fully and I'm very glad I did because it's the reason so many people are caring, having an idea of who we are.” He's right. Because as more people find that song and the album, more people are going to bring Tom McGuire & The Brassholes into their lives. And that means more people dancing, more people experiencing the sonic joy that this incredible band can deliver. And that can only be a good thing. Rags Music is proud to have Tom McGuire as a guest for this instalment of 5 Questions with Rags, as The Brassholes set off on what is sure to be a massive year for this phenomenal band.

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1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

First album I bought with my own money was...I used to be into punk rock. I still am actually, I love punk rock. My first record I got was a compilation from Nitro Records called Deep Thoughts and it was a killer. And I got Green Day Dookie on cassette tape. That's my roots. I remember that well. My first CD was punk rock and not some shite pop.

Yeah, I've asked that question a lot and there are some pretty regrettable answers.

I'm proud of me. There's nothing to be ashamed of for me.

2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?

Right now there's a lot of firsts happening for me. Being on national radio was a pretty big deal. We were on BBC Scotland when 'Ric Flair' was coming out. We went on BBC Scotland and played a session.

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5 Questions with Rags #72 - SIDEWAY

I first found out about SIDEWAY (formerly Sidewaysounds) a couple summers ago when he laid down tunes on a old school bus that was transporting people from downtown Victoria to the top of Brown's Mountain for Tall Tree Music Festival. (Note: That old school bus is known as The Community Action Bus and it's usually doing more important things than transporting festival goers.)`I knew literally zero things about him or what kind of music I would hear on this journey, but I was quickly pulled out of my comfortable anti-social bubble at the back of the bus, into the midst of people, closer to the speakers. Dude had the two most important things I look for in a DJ - instantly recognizable taste and no genre allegiance. Turns out, on top of being a solid DJ he's also a damned-fine producer, creating some pretty smashing, forward-thinking bass music. “For me the tune has reach up and grab your attention, that's when you know you're onto something,” Sideway told me, talking about what in music is grabbing at him these days. “I like to browse SoundCloud for hours and just have it on in the background, and when a song grabs my attention I know its worth taking a closer look at which often leads me to brand new artist discoveries. Same goes for when I’m making music… I’m very hands on, just creating until something sounds interesting and grabs my attention and then building around that as inspiration. But it's all a very fluid process for me, my tastes have evolved many times over the years and I expect that will continue.” Probably get on the train now, because if current Sideway trends continue, whoa! You're gonna be glad you got on these sounds early!

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1. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

Haha, okay this is going to sound super lame, but music was never really a big thing in our house growing up. Like, my parents didn’t really listen to anything except the odd ABBA album. Exposure for me was through friends and so the first impression made on me was Stan by Eminem. I think I was 12. I couldn't buy the album but my friends did and we had that shit on repeat just like every other kid. Another early favourite was Coolio – Gangsters Paradise. The last album I can remember buying on CD was Kid Kudi - Man on the Moon, used to rinse that out a bunch as well.

But when my cousin snuck me into my first club at 16, I fell in love with electronic music, or techno as it was referred to back then, and have really appreciated everything from minimal to trance to glitch hop to electro and dubstep. These days I favour a pretty bass-heavy, eclectic mix of tunes, basically anything that fits goes in my book.

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5 Questions with Rags #71 - Frase

Like a lot of people, I fell in love with Frase the moment I heard him start singing. His voice is illegally-smooth and soulful – captivating. And he writes groovy, chill songs full of heart, full of feeling. I always smile seeing his name on a festival lineup, knowing no matter what is going on, I'm going to get an hour of Frase calming my soul. This past summer, I caught his incredible set at Bass Coast and realized that as he's played more and become a favourite of these big west coast bass crowds, that same bass has found its way into his live sets. But where a lot of artists who experiment in heavy bass can have their identities swallowed up, Frase has found a way to blend the pensive grooves of his music with the higher energy that heavy bass injects into everything.

“I think it was osmosis. The bass kind of just worked its way in. I recognized that when you're putting on a show at nighttime in a club, people wanna dance. They want to feel the bass. I find a lot of really heavy bass music doesn't have a lot of soul in it – I'm not saying everything, but there is a compromise right? The more bass, the less soul there is usually. It's been kind of a challenge to me to make something that will work in that club environment but is still something that I'd want to listen to, something that people could put on a chill,” says Frase, talking to me on a break from touring, at home in Ymir, BC. “As a solo artist, I needed the tracks to make the show hyper. There wasn't much myself or Emily could do to make our performance more exaggerated, it was the music that had to step up and be more hype. Her being my partner and a dancer has also had a big influence on me wanting to make more dance music. I'll be working on a beat for hours and it's pretty chill, I'll play it for her and she'll be like, 'Meh.' But if I make a house song or something that's more danceable and only spent 20 minutes on, she'll say, 'Yeah, that's amazing.'”

As his profile and his sound have both expanded, Frase's audiences have become increasingly diverse, playing a variety of venues and festivals around the west coast and Canada. This past summer included a life-changing stop at Koksilah, here on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley. “Koksilah was one of my highlights, just in terms of my ethics and my values. I definitely want to give them a shout out. It's a mix of music and a lot of workshops about reconciliation and Indigenous rights. It's a more workshop-based festival than a party festival. There's so many conflicts in the world right now and it's really nice to have a festival like that that's really about progression, bringing these issues to the forefront and talking about them and working them out instead of blaming other people for what's happening. 'Koksilah' means 'thank you' in Cowichan language. The location of the festival was a former residential school and a few of the elders mentioned they can't go inside. There's a lot of trauma but that's what this whole festival is about – reconciliation and reclaiming these spaces and helping people work through this trauma and create allies to focus on the problems we're facing now – deforestation and pipeline drilling. The Indigenous are really on the pulse of that. Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Mob Bounce played, the lineup was definitely leaning towards Indigenous artists and artists of colour and as a white man I was really honoured to be invited and ask to perform in those kind of spaces. It was really powerful. I got the logo they used for the festival tattooed on my arms.”

The world is a groovier place with Frase creating music in it – in more ways than one. After a few years of grooving to his music and catching his shows, we're honoured to finally welcome this righteous bean as a guest on the 5 Questions.

If you're in Victoria this Friday (Nov. 9), make sure to go catch Frase at Capital Ballroom with the homies Illvis Freshly, Bousada and Sidewaysounds. Seriously. Do it.

1.Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

It was Fine Young Cannibals. I was 6. I remember I got a walkman – it was on tape – and I remember walking around to it non stop. I listen to that album now and it's still pretty sweet! The production and the vocals and the dance-y soulfulness it has...it's super cheesy, don't get me wrong, but I understand why my influences have gone the way they have. When I was a little kid all I listened to was dance music. Dance Mix '94 and '95, all of those, pretty mainstream poppy kind of dance music.

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5 Questions with Rags #70 - J.F. Killah

5 Questions with Rags #70 - J.F. Killah

Talk to anyone in the know around Vancouver bass and inevitably SHAHdjs are going to come up. (Also, these days it's hard to talk about said Vancouver bass without eventually also getting Levrige at some point – of which J.F. Killah comprises half.) The collective is straight-up legendary at this point, with the various members all building their own reputations outside of the home base. I don't think I've had any other name from SHAHdjs thrown at me as consistently as J.F. Killah. I wanted to chat with the Vancouver legend before she rocked Bass Hive at the Copper Owl here in Victoria last December, but I didn't. Don't really know why. But no matter, because she's back to the city this weekend (Sat., Sept. 15) to rock some ears at Rifflandia (Four of the biggest music days of the year in Victoria) in the intimate brick embrace Lucky Bar. Drum 'n' bass often doesn't jump on my radar, but thankfully, after much prodding from a few choice friends, I listened, open heart and open mind, and BAM! I enjoyed it! Much tasty, grimy hip-hop vibes in amongst the drum ‘n’ bass wilds. Thankfully, in the midst of a move and prepping for all of her serious bass-dealings, she found some time to entertain my silly questions and give y'all a little reading material.

Legit, the only photo I took for the entire

Legit, the only photo I took for the entire

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

I was part of that Columbia House club where you could get a bunch of cassette tapes for like a dollar if you committed to buying a certain number more later on. Amongst them were Snow - Informer, MC Hammer - Too Legit to Quit, and I think some Janet Jackson and En Vogue... To be honest, I can't remember them all. I do remember the first time I heard the song "Informer" by Snow at a pool party at a local swimming pool when I was about 10 years old. From that point I really wanted to know what the song was and was stoked when I finally found out.

2. What's your best memory of a teacher growing up?

I had this one teacher, Miss Gonzalez who taught music and played the clarinet. She had a bathtub in her classroom and if it was your lucky day you got to sit in there with a friend instead of at your desk. That same teacher gave a test that said to please make sure you read through the entire test before beginning the questions. I of course didn't want to waste time so immediately began answering the questions. Everyone was panicking because of how long it was taking and time was running out. When the time was up and no one had finished she told us to turn to the last page. Sure enough, the last page said if you actually read through to this page you do not have to answer any of the questions! Definitely a good lesson on the importance of following directions and in such a sly way haha.

3. If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

Shopping spree with Andre 3000. Haha but really I'd hang out with my partner Andrew, working on tunes.

4. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

Just started renting a studio space for the first time a couple weeks ago. Looking forward to being as loud as we want!

5. If you had one wish for the west coast bass scene over the next year, what would it be?

To continue on the path it's been heading. I think we've got a really good thing going! There are so many talented artists all just feeding off of one another. Many are making it to a world class level which is really inspiring.

6. Your Guest Question is from the homie DJ All Good... Can you give me one good, clean joke that you could tell to around a grandma?

How do you make a kleenex dance?

Put a little boogey in it!