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.

Read More

Pierre Stemmett - Float EP (Review)

Pierre Stemmett – Float EP (Review)

float-2.jpg

Pierre Stemmett manages to hit a shocking number of musical spots on the aptly titled Float – a four-song collection of deeply contemplative and emotional tracks that gently winds and seeps its way into your ears. Undoubtedly headphone/empty (Or at least single-occupied) room music, mired in youthful heartbreak but brimming with introspection that belies Stemmett's youth, Float does flash moments that would fit perfectly in a downtempo DJ set or a smaller house party. It's the difference between the aching lilting chords of “Sleep Walking” and the deep, droning bass of “Blur” with its gently plucked strings and hard-driving bars courtesy of fellow South African Kearne Dragon. Both songs are dripping with the aforementioned heartbreak and longing – the dominating feelings permeating the EP front to back. Stemmett's delicate, emotive voice cries “I know you hate me, but I love you/I wish I could do this without you” in between surprisingly disarming (and appropriately emotional) rapid-fire raps on the seriously big “Head Space” – it's a moment that proves how starkly naked Stemmett can be about his feelings, a trait that continues to set his music apart from stuff that may be sonically similar. The title track “Float” sets the space with its atmospheric, almost anti-gravitational feeling, untethered to almost anything beyond Stemmett's attention-demanding voice. Like any good EP, Float is a cohesive musical idea, completely filler-free and leaving the listener craving more of the sonic vision. Highly recommended listening. (Independent)

Chali 2na & The House of Vibe, The Gaff - 09.02.19 - Capital Ballroom, Victoria, BC

Chali 2na & The House of Vibe, The Gaff – 09.02.19 – Capital Ballroom, Victoria, BC

IMG_5072.jpg

Yo, Canada, can we just give Chali 2na honorary citizenship already? The hip-hop legend (Both with a spray can and on the mic) is basically family now here on the Canadian West Coast and Saturday night at Capital Ballroom in Victoria, Chali 2na and his incredible band, The House of Vibe, showed yet again why he's a mainstay in people listening diets...and judging from the reception he and the band received for 2+ hours, a mainstay in peoples' hearts.

The band, one of the tightest (But somehow ephemerally loose at the same time) bands around, The House of Vibe held things down with ease as they helped 2na run through a career-spanning set that touched on two-plus decades of Chali's world class hip-hop. Loose and relaxed, the band was smiling as much as the man himself (Which is A LOT) during the set as they flexed their considerably funky muscles from beginning to end. Every time I see these cats play (I've seen them more than a dozen times now), I always think at least once in the night, “Man, Anthony (Brewster) is fucking sick. I know he gets some spotlight every set, but I really wanna see him do an opening set or something one of these times.” And then, this past Saturday, as I'm thinking that very thought, the band launches into an extended medley with Anthony front and centre rocking “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Smoke Two Joints.” Note to the House of Vibe for next time: Loved that, more of that please. As great of a band as the House of Vibe is, Chali 2na is the guy that makes the motor move.

IMG_4904.jpg

Just know Chali from Jurassic 5? Well, he's gonna play a few songs to cover you. Know him from his more recent work with The Funk Hunters and Westwood Recordings (Like his recently released beast of an EP Instrumentality)? He's got you covered. Know Chali from his (I'm calling it here) timeless hip-hop masterpiece, Fish Outta Water? He's got you covered there as well. In fact, no matter how many times I've seen the songs from F.O.W. I'm still amazed at how big they hit in the live setting. Whether it's the hard-hitting “Guns Up” or the tender, contemplative “Righteous Way,” or the downright grimy “So Crazy,” the songs on that landmark album are captivating. They are a part of my musical make-up now. I could honestly watch Chali and the House of Vibe just play that album once a year for the rest of my life and I'd be a happy human. Thankfully though, Chali is straight-up relentless in his output and is always creating new music and new art. The thoughtful and sublime “Blue Marble” from Instrumentality was a track that I originally glossed over, but in a live setting, whooooa boy, that struck deep. As 2na continues to add music to his repertoire, his sets just get longer, adding new stuff into the mix while not taking old staples out. It's a good choice because honestly, is there such a thing as too much Chali 2na? After more than two hours of grooving and smiling, I think a packed Capital Ballroom would answer that with a resounding “No. No, there is never too much 2na.” Another west-coast success for the immortal 2na fish.

IMG_5004.jpg

Alright, I'd be remiss in writing this little review without mentioning the groovy stylings of one of the smoothers operators in the DJ game, The Gaff. Getting things started on a rare snowy night in Victoria is never an easy thing and I was one of only a handful of people there when Gaff took his place behind the decks, but he did the thing and gave zero fucks how many people were there, going in straight away with the goods. At one point my brother asked me, “So, Gaff is a scratch guy right?” A moment later Gaff was scratching up a storm, as he does, and my brother was in. That's a win on a dude notoriously iffy on the whole DJ thing. And apparently, his main turntable (The left, because he's a lefty) stopped reading Serato 10 minutes into his set so he had to dig into his apparently vast improvisation skills to make that shit go- The mark of a true master. By the time he finished his set the room was packed and sweaty, all lubed up and ready for Chali & The House of Vibe to do their thing. Good snap.

IMG_4787.jpg

Back to Bass-ics: A Guide to Bamboo Bass Festival 2019

Bamboo Bass Festival 2019 – Back 2 Bass-ics

Hola, orta vez! Bamboo Bass Festival is now less than a month away, and it’s getting down to crunch time when it comes to prepping for the adventure of a lifetime. Most of you reading this probably have your flights and accommodations already in order (and if you don’t…get on that, yesterday), but what about the other details? Things like transportation, food, what to bring, and what to do before you leave? If you haven’t traveled much before, there’s a lot more to it than you’d expect…and if you do have the experience, then you know how easy it is to miss something!

This will be my third trip to the jungle, and while that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, trust me when I say there is plenty to learn with each visit. With the last two years being some of my best festival experiences to date, I couldn’t be more excited to return to the jungle surrounded by friends and the jungle crew that is quickly becoming la familia.

From everything you need to know about to Bamboo Bass, to the basics of traveling to & from the Rich Coast, this guide is a collection of tips and tricks to ensure your experience in paradise be the absolute best one it can be!

Read More

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.

—————————————————

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.

Read More