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The Greville Tapes Music Club is a sonic blind date

Jan 21, 2016

The East Coast split tape series and tour pairs Julie Doiron with Nancy Pants.

Julie Doiron photo: Aaron McKenzie Fraser

Collaboration has always been a major tenet of the Canadian music landscape, and has helped drive our fledgling industry from a quirky, quaint little pocket of brilliance to a full-fledged national juggernaut. The Greville Tapes Music Club is a new musical endeavour that takes this beautiful, tiny flame of collaboration and stokes it into an epic blaze of creativity, mystery, and full-on friendship.

The set-up is fairly simple, but the result is a tour de force. Two bands or artists who have never met are sequestered away to the icy, tranquil village of Port Greville, Nova Scotia for a few days to collaborate on two original songs each. Holed up in the Quarantine studio run by Colleen Collins and Dave Trenaman (who form the dirgey doom-rock duo Construction & Destruction), the artists spend a few days writing and recording, and then feverishly mix the songs, hand dub a bunch of cassettes, and head out on tour to bring it to the masses – all in the span of around two weeks.

It’s a whirlwind of a project, and behind-the-scenes maestro and all-around great guy Peter Rowan couldn’t be more excited about how it’s been rolling out.

“I’ve always loved the concept of collaborative experiences, things like The Basement Tapes, which I kind of reference in the name,” says Rowan.

The idea for the Greville Tapes Music Club occurred to Rowan after moving back to the East Coast.

“I was looking for a way to do something that would enable me to spend more time in Port Greville, which is basically my happy place, and to work with Dave and Colleen, so once I moved back east everything kind of fell into place,” he says.

The first iteration of the project, kind of a trial run, paired Fredericton’s dirty art-rock trio Motherhood with Ottawa’s hero of the blues harp Catriona Sturton. The result was a gorgeous swath of songs that flitter from doo-wop to jittery, blues-soaked rock, all swirling around honeysuckle sweet melodies.

According to Rowan, that “trial run” couldn’t possibly have gone any better.

“I had high hopes, and it met or surpassed every expectation I could have imagined,” he says. “It started as a blind date and now they’re friends for life; how incredibly gratifying.”

Motherhood multi-instrumentalist and vocalist – as well as Shifty Bits Cult mover and shaker – Penelope Stevens echoes the statement, calling the whole process “fun and weird and fun.” She admits that going into it no one really knew what to expect.

“It’s a scary thing, a blind date,” Stevens says. “Going into it there was a lot of excitement mixed with underlying dread, but the dread dissipated as soon as we met Catriona. It was a bit trippy having a fourth and equal voice in the mixing process, but I think it ensured that we were all thinking outside of our usual boxes.”

After the recording and tour turned out to be a wild success, the Shifty Bits Cult came on as a more permanent partner, taking the project to another level altogether.

“As soon as we did the first one it was obvious that the whole motivation of the Cult was pretty much in lockstep with my motivations,” says Rowan. “Part of the idea of the Club is to collaborate on as many elements as possible; not just the music.”

“Peter buys into the Cult aesthetic and mantra and we buy into his get-shit-done kind of attitude,” adds Stevens. “We’re super stoked to work together and bring this cool, weird project to life.”

Saint John, New Brunswick’s Monopolized Records came on board a bit later. When Rowan realized he wanted to step up the distribution of the project, he opted to look local.

“I realized that there was an entity here already that could help us, but also we could help by including in this project as we’re able to bring some slightly higher profile artists on board,” he says. “One for all, and all for one; so to speak.”

Now, the project is gearing up for its second outing, uniting infamous and inimitable East Coast songwriter Julie Doiron with the witty, charming and maniacally dirty pop of Montreal’s Nancy Pants.

For Doiron, it’s a chance for her to dust off the guitar and jump back into songwriting mode after a fair amount of downtime, but it’s also a tiny bit nerve-wracking, even for someone so seasoned in the ways of the industry.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” she admits. “I’m a bit nervous because it’s easy to be insecure going in, but ultimately I’m very excited and hope that the insecurity will disappear as soon as I arrive. I haven’t really focused on that much lately and one of the things about this project is that it has reminded me that I actually can still write songs. This is a very exciting realization.”

Part of what makes this project so exciting and unique is that it pairs up-and-coming independent acts with more established names, bridging the gap between artists in Canada, and opening up a wealth of opportunities for parties on both sides.

“Usually when newer artists are paired with more established ones it’s within the framework of ‘opening band/headlining band’ so the opportunity to collaborate is really exciting,” says Nancy Pants bassist and vocalist Adam Waito.

“It really gives a community feeling to it all and that is something I really feel and love about Canada: it’s a big family!” says Nancy Pants guitarist and vocalist Ohara Hale. “We are speaking and creating and listening and responding to each other because it’s all ours together.”

With their freshly recorded collaboration in tow, Julie Doiron and Nancy Pants will be hitting the road next week, kicking off the tour in Sackville, NB on January 28th. See the full dates on the poster below:

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