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Ornaments at the CKCU studio (Photo courtesy of Mike Bowkett)
Q & A with ORNAMENTS
Interview by Ren Tomovcik / Photos by Scott Penner
"Combining punky power chords, Zeppelinesque blues licks and earthy grooves reminiscent of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Ottawa-based 3-piece Ornaments walks that fine line between ferocious and melodic," proclaims the band's official website. Ornaments certainly have some big shoes to fill - but their energy, focus and creativity have set them well on their way to establishing themselves in the capital.
Casey Beaulieu (bass/vocals/keys), Kevin Kozachanko (drums/vocals), and David Pierce (guitar/vocals) make up the dynamic trio, set to release their first EP this spring. David chats with Ottawafocus about inspiration, influences, and the timeless, raw power of rock music.
David, how did ORNAMENTS originally come together? Are you all from Ottawa originally?
We're all fairly new to Ottawa. I moved here from St. John's, Newfoundland in 2006, Kevin is from Espanola and Casey is from Renfrew. I met Casey a couple of summers ago when he answered an ad I had placed online looking for musicians. We formed a band called The Death of Apollo, which was kind of a precursor to Ornaments.
Kev played drums in a band called The Traps, who were forced into a hiatus when the other members moved away. Kev and I had a mutual acquaintance who knew I needed a drummer for a new project and knew Kev needed a band, so we got really lucky on the timing.
Writing and performing music with a band always creates a patchwork of several people's influences. Do you all have similar musical tastes, or do you think you all bring different 'flavours' to the band's sound? What do you have in common musically?
I would say that we all have very diverse musical tastes, but that we also have a lot of core elements that are close to each of our hearts. We're all big into traditional rock sounds and raw, stripped down, ambient music - stuff that really stands out on a good sound system or a good set of headphones. Groove, rhythmic cohesiveness and melody are important to all of us.
Do you have any quirky 'band personalities' that come out when you get together as a group?
We're a strange bunch of people! Really serious in many ways, and really goofy in others. As far as personalities, I'm guilty of too many lame puns that make everyone groan. Casey is the devil's advocate that keeps us from getting too carried away with our ideas. Kev is the voice of reason, the mediator. I'm just glad our mothers aren't in the room during rehearsals, because they'd probably be mortified on so many levels!
New bands are always being compared to established artists, much to their chagrin. Who have you been likened to, and what's the weirdest comparison you've ever heard made about your sound?
It seems like everyone that hears us throws out a different comparison. I've heard Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Sam Roberts, The Who, The White Stripes, Gang of Four...The weirdest one I heard was "a bit of Tom Waits." If you're reading this and you love Tom Waits, I'll tell you right now, we'll disappoint you - we sound nothing like Tom Waits!
On that note, what specific thing do you think sets your sound apart from other bands?
We've talked plenty about how, musically speaking, it's all been done in one way or another. We're probably not going to be able to reinvent guitar rock at this point. We just treat the music as a vehicle for communication. But I do feel like there's a lack of gritty, lo-fi rock music right now. A lot of rock music is so watered down and overproduced that it doesn't feel natural.
We tend to like those really creative, spur-of-the-moment records like Neil Young and Crazy Horse made back in the day - set up in someone's living room, plug in and let it go, mistakes and all. Our goal is to achieve that kind of lo-fi aesthetic that's gone missing in guitar rock in recent years.
Was there a defining moment when you first felt like you were 'making it' on the capital's music scene?
We somehow managed to book the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield for our first ever show back in August 2009. I'm not sure how we did that exactly! Considering that it's such a legendary venue that's hosted so many true artists over the years, we were really humbled that our little rock band went over so well with the crowd and with Paul, the owner. We worked really hard to prepare for that show and I think it gave us the sense that we might be on to something.
Where and with whom did you record your new EP?
We did the EP with Paul "Yogi" Granger at his home studio, The Meatlocker. Yogi definitely helped us out a lot with sounds and textures. We also got Laura from Kevin's old band The Traps to come in and sing backing vocals on "Red Letter." The members of the Traps had and still have a lot of love between them all, so it was great to make that connection between past and present and pay tribute to that.
If your music was a drink, what kind of drink would it be?
Well, if you "are what you eat," it would have to be coffee, because it seems to fuel all of our rehearsals.
Have any other bands or musicians (especially locally) been particularly influential or helpful to you as you got your start?
We owe Yogi a huge debt of gratitude for being the guy that introduced us to each other and helped make our first EP happen. He's spent a lot more time on our mixes than he ever charged us for, and he's a very patient man!
Then there's Glenn Nuotio, who's a friend of mine from home and a terrific Ottawa-based singer/songwriter. He really encouraged me to get involved in the scene when I moved here.
The Harvey Cartel, The Face of Jam and Lindsay Ferguson have been real advocates for our band as well. Finally, I owe The Murder Plans a big thank you for helping me get three different bands off the ground up here, including Ornaments.
On the whole, do you find that the Ottawa music scene is a supportive one?
Honestly, I didn't think it was at first, but as we're getting deeper into it, it's starting to show its true colours. There are some awesome people making things happen here in Ottawa!
What are your favourite places to play or see live music in Ottawa?
I love The Black Sheep, even though it's not technically in Ottawa. The Rainbow is gorgeous and the staff are amazing. We're also really high on The Cajun Attic as a live venue.
Worldwide, what would be your dream venue to play?
CBGB in New York would have been cool before they closed it - a tiny, packed, sweaty room with loads of energy. I'd love to play one of the big festivals like Bonnaroo, that would be amazing!
Finally, if you could pick any musician, alive or dead, to collaborate on a song with Ornaments, who would it be and what would they do on the track?
For me, it'd be Neil Young or Joe Strummer. They could do whatever they wanted, and I would do whatever they told me to do!
MORE FROM ORNAMENTS
- Check out the band's official website
- Ornaments on Myspace
- Ornaments on Twitter
- Ornaments on Facebook
Ornaments EP Release w/ The Murder Plans & Riishi Von Rex
Saturday, April 24 @ Avant Garde Bar
135 Besserer Street, Ottawa
Doors @ 8:30pm
Cover $5 or $8 with EP
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