Walrus-1
Members (from left to right) Justin, Jordan, Justin and Keith (in the back) from WALRUS playing their sold out March 1st show with WINTERSLEEP at the Grad Club

Kingston was in good hand’s this past Tuesday, after music goers were treated to another sold out Grad Club show packed with new faces and boasting the young band of east coast rockers – Walrus. I caught up with the band before they hit the stage, effectively starting their 17+ show bender promoting their new EP – Goodbye Something.

Online, the gents describe their music as a myriad of psychedelic pop, grunge, shoegaze and alternative rock. It’s an evolving genre, finding it’s way into music across the board with bands like Real Estate, Alvvays, Elsa and Tame Impala. It’s a genre that can be difficult to perfect for broad audiences accustomed to more polished studio-crafted sounds. Most psychedelic bands rely heavily on high amounts of vocal reverb, heavily distorted guitar effects and long jams which when executed poorly can create a muddled sound.

For Walrus however, it seems like they’ve struck a perfect balance. On describing how their sound has changed over time, lead guitarist Jordan remarked it “used to be a mish-mash of a lot of parts. Not a lot of it was really worked out. We would get in each others way. So I think it would’ve sounded a little more in your face”. Now, “it’s gotten fuller, a little more controlled. We’ve played so many shows that you want to make it that way” said Justin, the bands drummer.

Whatever their recipe, they were doing something right on the blisteringly cold winter night at the club – the place was a total jam. Their set really highlighted their ability to pull you through every song. Many tunes feature laid back glam rock guitar melodies from guitarist Jordan, which pairs nicely with the dynamic drumming and strong pop-y bass lines. But it’s their lead singer Justin, writer for most of their songs, who ties it all together – boasting an impressive vocal range, which through his FX pedal, securely brings together their ultra-dreamy sound.

As a band, they always seem very genuine on stage. Justin, wearing a brightly colour USA jacket (ironically on the night of Super Tuesday) remarked on their bassist Keith’s fresh haircut before the tour, “give a round of applause for Keith’s hair – looks great” with cheers from the crowd followed by “…you’re too kind” and laughs. They rocked out to some of their past hits from their EP Glam Returns like my personal favourite “Banger” as well as unreleased tunes like “In Timely Fashion”. Check out the rollercoaster ride, It’s No Myth To Me for a good embodiment of their sound:

 

Hometown Halifax

Backstage, I spoke to the team about the music scene in Halifax. As a southern Ontario kid, I admittedly am only familiar with a few recent indie Halifax bands, notably the dream pop ladies from Vulva Culture. The band remarked how Halifax’s intimate, isolated environment can give way to a lot of collaboration between music communities both large and small, “there are a lot of open ears” Keith recalls. “East coast spots are very isolated from what’s going on in Toronto and Montreal so everyone is playing together and doing their own thing. We have punk bands playing with electric bands” said vocalist Justin.

Despite this being their first time on stage at The Grad Club, these musicians have managed to hit Kingston before on previous tours, notably when they played at the art-fusion studio space The Artell. With a lot of ground to cover and many shows on the roadmap, the realities of finding venues outside of Halifax to play at are clear: lots of driving, lots of gear – make the most out of every tour, this one being the bands 4th major. Laughing, Justin recalls their luxurious 10 passenger 1980 Chevy that among other vans died during the tour, this one on the way to Pop Montreal.  After their show he remarks they “still sweating, tore down and immediately went to play another show”. True rocker spirit.

With over 200+ shows as a group under their belt, you can tell the band is clearly still in their element. They begin their tour with 5 dates alongside Canadian hero’s Wintersleep who they shared the stage with on Tuesday. They are excited, Wintersleep has some serious pull and will no doubt bring them some fresh ears and packed venues. Whether you enjoy some laid back surf sounding guitar rifts paired with dreamy vocals, or rather get your feet moving during their intense jams, there is something for everyone in Walrus. Give them a listen, toss them in a playlist and get ready to hear the name come up again and again. In the words of Justin on drums, “there will be more”.

Here’s a wild video highlighting there upcoming tour dates:

Tour video teaser, by the wonderful Jeff Miller

Posted by Walrus on Wednesday, March 2, 2016

 

// Nick

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 6.48.55 PM

I want to compare this guy to the talents of our time and prior – if only to try and understand the sheer mastery on display. I genuinely do.

There’s the vocal control and songwriting like Frank Ocean along with a falsetto that reads like a humbler, more organic version of The Weeknd’s. It’s hard not to pick up on the natural trap elements that brings the likes of Bryson Tiller and Ty Dolla $ign to mind. Although subtle, there are performance elements that beckon Prince and choral arrangements that feed off 90’s R&B influences Boyz II Men, 112, and Backstreet.

But I don’t think tracing derivatives or comparisons do dvsn justice – or have a place for that matter. This is music that comes from such a genuine and vulnerable place that its value, to both an individual listener and to music culture as a whole, is lost when trying to accept it as anything less than authentic.

Toronto’s dvsn has released four songs to date, now available across all major streaming services. Nobody knows who he is or what he looks like. This strategy, employed successfully by the likes of The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Burial,[1] has quietly become a winning strategy for talented artists. It effectively lets the music stand on its merit while harvesting a deep, genuine intrigue for the artist’s brand that money could never buy. What we do know is that dvsn is affiliated with known OVO producer Nineteen85, who architected “Hotline Bling” (!) and “Hold On We’re Going Home” (!!) – so there’s that.

dvsn does so much right. Each of his songs thus far creates a distinct setting that is so confident in its theme and voice. There is such command over the higher level structure of the composition that a song can go so many different places, change tempos, and strip down layers so effectively before you hit the track’s halfway mark. Instrumentally, the tracks themselves are crafted with so much care for what all the pieces sound like together. There is never a reliance upon any one element (ie. percussion, keyboard riff). Instead, there are multiple layers, uniquely engineered sounds (from vocal samples to keyboards), and carefully placed hits that are sublimely sparse enough to let the vocals shine through while still keeping the tracks moving.

 

Admittedly, the crux, or thesis, of this article isn’t overly earth-shattering: simply put, I want you to want to listen to dvsn. To be clear, this is very different from me just wanting you to listen to a four-letter Canadian artist – instead, I think that if you appreciate music on any level, whether it be technical, aesthetic or whatever, you owe it to yourself to indulge in everything right about music’s craft in 2015.

[1] Not a comparison :)

– Vasanth