PHOTO CREDIT: Becca Lemir
Ace of Wands
I have featured Ace of Wands before…
PHOTO CREDIT: Becca Lemir
but there is something ever-evolving and fascinating about them that compels repeated investigation. I have been finding out about their latest track, 10,000 Feet, and what its story is; whether there will be another track coming very soon – they talk about their formation and which artists are an inspiration to them.
I wanted to know how important Toronto is to the band and whether they are touring; if we will see them in the U.K. soon; what advice they would offer artists coming through – they recommend a couple of promising artists to check out.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Things have been great over here! I’ve been on vacation for the last two weeks, which actually feels kind of crazy given how much stuff I have on the go…
How are you taking to the heat at the moment? Is it encouraging songwriting and creativity?
The heat has been so crazy. I work outside as a gardener when I’m not playing music and the heat can be oppressive and exhausting. But, I am still writing songs so I can still be functional creatively. Toronto had a major rainfall this week that caused flooding in a lot of the city. Our rehearsal space was under a foot of water, which has wreaked some havoc in our lives. Luckily, we share the space with some wonderful bands and everyone leapt into action to save gear and start the massive clean-up.
10,000 Feet is your new single. Can you explain the story behind the song?
10,000 Feet was written last year after I got back from a tour across Canada in the dead of winter. I had never travelled west in Canada before and it was pretty shocking to me to fully realize the Toronto bubble that I live in. A lot of Canada is incredibly isolated. There are so many tiny communities with hours of empty highway separating them, living through the harshest conditions of winter I have ever experienced. The tour made me appreciate the ways in which a finding community can be crucial.
When I got back from the tour, this was the first song I wrote for what has now become the full realization of Ace of Wands. It tries to capture that loneliness I felt and the bonds you make with people to try and escape it, even for a little while.
I believe the song, and its digital download, is accompanied by an 8” balsa wood glider. Your previous song, Grown from Good, came with wildflower seeds and a glass full of soil! What is the reason behind these initiatives? Is it to get the listener to appreciate the physical and connect with the earth?
I am really interested in creating music that can be immersive and interactive for the listener. While I have always been drawn to Rock and Pop music in my writing, I find that more often than not unusual performance elements and merchandise seem to be more reserved for avant-garde or experimental artists. This method of music distribution is an attempt to engage with our audiences in a much more tactile and playful way than just selling a C.D.
When we talk about music, and the practice of creating, we use the word ‘play’ - I play violin, I play guitar etc. Thinking of the use of this verb (which is very specific to music and not other art forms) inspired me to come up with a method of distribution that encourages ‘play’ while at the same time listening to our music. The balsa gliders will be laser-etched with a design inspired by the tarot card we are named after and will come with an accompanying download card. I am always interested in creating art that can be used again and again, rather than just put on a shelf or sent to the landfill.
I believe 10,000 Feet is part of a trilogy. Can you talk about that and what the third song might be about?
Yes. We are releasing a third E.P. this fall, along with a video to complete the trilogy. I have stockpiled so many songs since starting to write for this project and the lead single one is certainly one of the oldest of those. The song is called Lioness and is probably our loudest and most aggressive song; heavily inspired by Sleater-Kinney - one of my favourite bands of all time. It continues the theme of spiritual transformation that weaves through 10,000 Feet and Grown from Good.
There is also a current of rage that runs through the song; an emotion I am afraid of in others and in myself. I wanted to try to get in touch with this emotion and think it will be a good contrast to the more contemplative first two singles. The video will also introduce the third member of A.O.W., our drummer Jody.
How did Ace of Wands come together? Do you remember what bonded the band?
The three of us have all been gigging musicians for our whole adult lives but didn’t cross paths until recently. While the Toronto scene is relatively small and interconnected, it’s amazing the number of factors that can keep people apart - genre, age and neighbourhood etc. We found each other playing on tour and in bands around town and the bond was instant. Anna and Jody represent two of the deepest friend connections I am lucky enough to have. It’s a special thing to collaborate with people who present no judgement, are compassionate and committed and interested in all the experimentation I want to do.
In terms of older music; who do you count as influences and idols?
I would say my biggest musical idol has to be PJ Harvey. She is a goddess of Rock and Roll and art as far as I am concerned. I saw her play in Toronto last year and immediately set all of my professional and artistic goals for the future. Too inspiring for words.
Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?
We are playing in London/ON and Toronto/ON on August 17/18 to release our new E.P. with more dates in the autumn. We were also accepted as Musicians in Residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta this December. This will be an incredible experience. We get to work with musical mentors and other visiting residents for what is basically a two-week songwriting session in the mountains. It is so humbling to be asked to take part! Hopefully, we will play shows in Edmonton and Calgary when we are out west.
Might you come to the U.K. soon? Do you like British music?
I would love to take A.O.W. to the U.K. I am really impressed by all the great music coming out of the U.K. and feel like we could fit in well with the scene there. Artists like Nadine Shah, Goat Girl; Marika Hackman, The Staves; Fat White Family and Temples are all really resonating with me right now.
How important are Toronto and its people regarding the way you write and design your music?
Toronto is a very special place to make music, but it has its challenges. The cost of living has gone up so much in recent years that it is hard for musicians and artists to create all that they want while needing to work; pay rent etc. But, the community is really resilient. There have been a number of venues that have either closed or changed hands over the last decade and it has become harder and harder to book shows.
However, there are a few really supportive venues who are interested in live music as a viable business model. For our own part, we wanted to facilitate creating a D.I.Y. space for music with the primary goal of breaking down some of the genre barriers that keep the different scenes in Toronto apart. It’s called Songs of Wands Live and it is a concert series with rotating locations, creating a safe and intimate environment for musical experimentation.
PHOTO CREDIT: Becca Lemir
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I played in a band for many years called Rival Boys and one of my favourite memories from that is playing at a summer camp for the councillor’s end-of-season party. I guess they had become huge fans of the music as they worked at the camp that year. We were a surprise for them and I will always remember the school bus of screaming teenagers that pulled up before our set. I felt like I was in the Spice Girls or something.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would love to go on tour with Metronomy. They all seem like the nicest bunch; their music and live show is all I aspire to one day. Truly amazing.
On the rider, I think having a travelling masseuse would be ideal! Gotta get the shoulders loose before the gig.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I guess just try to keep faith in your own art and do what feels right and authentic for you. Whatever that is, even if people don’t like it. If you like it, that’s all that matters...I’m working on this one daily!
IN THIS PHOTO: Happy Axe/PHOTO CREDIT: Briana Davis
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I have a very full schedule - which is how I seem to like it. Ha. But, when I am feeling particularly burn-out, my favourite thing is to go camping, have a swim; read a book and make a fire.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Thank you, Sam! Here’s my pick:
Viper Fish - Goat Girl
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