Posts Tagged ‘indie’


March 9th, 2012

Winnipeg musicians are deep thinkers. You only have to read a few liner notes for proof of that. And the cerebral undercurrent in Winnipeg’s music has a long history: the city’s been producing music with substance since the early days of its indie scene. In the mid-80s Winnipeg had an unusual number of politically–minded bands, one of which attracted the interest of a highly-regarded American punk label.

Julie Penner, violinist for Do Make Say Think, grew up in Winnipeg. She thinks Winnipeg’s isolation and its status as a “have not” province left a mark on its music scene.

“There’s a slight edge and maybe that edge is good for art,” she says. “Sometimes there’s a bit of bitterness, but it can also be a bitter creativity.”

In this episode of The Birth of Canadian Indie, we’ll hear about Winnipeg’s most political – and longest-lived – indie band. And we’ll hear from some of the many musicians they inspired.

Click the link below to listen.

CBC Radio 3

The Birth of Canadian Indie: Winnipeg

March 3rd, 2012

The Winnipeg episode of my ongoing series for CBC Radio 3 is on Grant Lawrence’s podcast this week. What a fun episode to put together. Really made me want to visit Winnipeg, too. It’s a city I’m fond of without ever having been there. I have an affinity for small prairie cities with chips on their shoulders.


The episode gives a seven-minute overview of Winnipeg’s early punk scene and how it developed into the unusually literate and politically charged music scene that exists in the city today. As always, it was rather a lot to cover in seven short minutes. But, of course, huge fun trying to squeeze as much in as possible. One of the highlights was an interview with The Weakerthans’ cerebral, articulate frontman John K. Samson. Here’s my favourite outtake from the interview:

“I’m kind of a thwarted fiction writer, that’s what I’ve always wanted to be since I was a kid, so I’ve tried to transfer those ambitions into pop songs. So that’s the starting point for my lyrics, I think, is to try and tell stories, and to tell stories about the city that I’m from. It’s kind of become the main theme of my work, and something that I’ll be writing about for the rest of my life trying to figure out.”

I also had a long chat with Do Make Say Think’s brilliant Julie Penner, who gave me a lot of background on the city as well as a list of amazing old Winnipeg bands, almost none of whom, alas, I managed to fit into the story. I did dig up this superb YouTube clip of Red Fisher, though, one of the late 80s bands that almost all of my interviewees mentioned. The fashions in the video are almost as much fun as the music. Red Fisher’s drummer, Jason Tait, now plays with The Weakerthans.

Special thanks to Blair from Endearing Records for this episode. He gave me a lesson on Winnipeg’s early music scene and told me where to start.

You can hear the episode on CBC Radio 3’s podcast #310, or you can stream it right here.


November 20th, 2011

Montreal is, without question, Canada’s indie Mecca. Even aside from the Grammy/Juno/Polaris winners, Montreal has a wealth of indie talent these days — both homegrown and transplanted from elsewhere on the continent. Why is the city host to such musical bounty? Amy Millan of Stars describes the inspiring atmosphere of her adopted hometown:

“When you’re walking down the street and it’s covered in snow and there’s a clown juggling next to you in his crazy pants and everyone’s speaking French, you feel taken outside of your life.”

But there’s more behind Montreal’s colossal indie rep than just its European-tinged romance. And it hasn’t always been a bastion of independent music. In this episode of The Birth of Canadian Indie we’ll hear about Montreal in the 1980s, a time when underground music had few live venues and little support from the disco-loving public…

Click the link below to listen.

CBC Radio 3


September 20th, 2011

Affectionately referred to as “Dirt City” by many in its local music community, Edmonton inspires mixed feelings in its denizens. Its long winters and remoteness from Canada’s larger centres can make it a challenging place to live. Especially for touring musicians. But at the same time, the city produces some of Canada’s freshest and most innovative indie music. Edmonton country luminary Corb Lund says that Edmonton musicians are risk takers.

“It’s a little different than some other cities,” he says. “People are very willing to step out on a limb.”

And Edmonton indie has always been on the leading edge. Musicians in that city have been pushing boundaries and crossing genres since the early days of the underground music scene. In this episode of The Birth of Canadian Indie, we’ll hear about 1980s Edmonton, where the musical inventiveness resulted in a mash-up of country music with good, old-fashioned punk rock.

Click the link below to listen.

CBC Radio 3