Saturday, August 31, 2013

Roberta Bondar [Interview # 151]

1) Some people have a first and last name and choose to perform music under a more typical looking band name.   You are a band of four members performing under a first and last name that isn’t a member of the band.  What’s up with that?

A: With there being so many musical projects out there competing for everyone’s attention, often times – and understandably – the listener has to judge a band by their name to help filter the infinite mass down to a manageable number of a few prospective favorites. We opted for something homey that was weird without being weird, with the hopes that it would catch people off guard and make them pause long enough to listen to our tunes. This was also with the assumption that everyone already knew who the actual Roberta Bondar was. We later realized that – especially outside of Canada – a lot of people don’t and we became concerned that we were actually marketing ourselves as a singer-songwriter. But hey! C’est la vie. To be honest, there wasn’t much discussion of a name until our first show was booked and we realized that something had to be on the flyer. Making a lot of noise was our first priority. After that, looking sexy.

2) You are from Canada, which seems to be doing better than just Celine Dion in terms of music lately.   Who are some of your other favorite Canadian bands?

A: In our humble opinion, Canada is killing it on all fronts at the moment. I think there’s a long history of Canadian artists outside of the mainstream feeling somewhat ashamed of being from Canada for the reasons of Celine, Nickleback, Avril, etc. It’s confusing why most (commercial) Canadian media focus on promoting what is ultimately a pale imitation of American culture, rather than cultivating and supporting their own. I suppose the answer to my confusion is most likely “money”, but I don’t think it has to be that way. Thankfully the internet has blown open the avenues of distributing media across the globe and you’re seeing like minded people connect and share and create in ways that were not possible before. Canada is a huge landmass with our people spread out in pockets. The low populous density effects thing more than most people expect. All this to say that we are extremely proud to represent Canada and most every act we meet up here tends to feel the same way. If you want to know this great land has to offer, first and foremost check out Weird Canada ( and move outward in an upward spiral from there. They are by far our favourite aggregate of Canadian media.
As a bonus, here's a short list of a few of our favourite Canadian bands: Boyhood (Ottawa, ON), CROSSS (Hamilton, ON), WTCHS (Hamilton, ON), The Brabazons (Montreal, QC), The Grime Kings (Belleville, ON),  Silver Dapple (Montreal, QC), Psyche Tongues (Toronto, ON), Diane (Vancouver, BC), Yellowteeth (Sackville, NB)…

3)         Is it really harder to get into the U.S. then it is to get into Canada?

A: Yes, but it depends on how you mean. We’ve never actually attempted to perform in the U.S., but it involves the arduous – and costly – task of joining the musician’s union so that you can purchase a temporary work visa. This is in addition to booking the shows and affording the tour. I’m sure it’s the same way for bands coming up here, but what I can say is that I’ve always waited longer in customs going into the States than I ever have coming back home.

4) What is it like to be a part of the Bruised Tongue family? Do you also find yourself biting your tongue a lot? Or is it also because you were once in a car crash that totaled your car but left you with only a bruised tongue?
Bruised Tongue is great. They are a small, incestuous, yet sonically diverse label within Ottawa. They release music via the cassette tape medium for artists both from Ottawa and outside of the 613. Because it is so small, it is fairly informal and there is no bureaucratic bullshit. If we're running low on tapes to sell at a show, we usually just text one of the Bruised Tongue guys and they'll duplicate another run for us. The informality also provides a supportive atmosphere that fosters a lot of creativity within Ottawa (I believe): if someone has a weird idea or non-typical project idea, Bruised Tongue is a space where those experiments can be tested and often warmly received.  They also have a cool annual compilation they release called "Afterburners." This compilation, mostly made up of Ottawan musicians, is a very valuable snapshot of the Ottawa music scene. It's up for free on the Bruised Tongue website, if you want to listen to some solid tunes!

5) You have music released on cassettes, which I feel are the ultimate form of music playback. Is your newest EP called “Hiss” as a tribute to the almighty cassette tape?
Tapes are pretty. They feel substantial. The artwork is often custom-made. They also have a warm analogue sound that often gets lost in CDRs or MP3s.  Another cool aspect to the tape medium is that when you hold a tape, you are holding the proof of work that one other person took hours to complete; it takes a motherfucking long time to duplicate 100 tapes, and I think knowing the depth of detail and hardwork that goes into each individual plastic cassette is astounding. With tapes, it's not a huge factory making the cassettes, but one individual or the band themselves putting in the hours of hard work into producing that medium. That micro-level aspect to the casette adds a feeling of real connectivity to the band and music, which I like.

6) Final thoughts, shout outs, Canadian myths debunked, etc…??

I was sitting on a beach the other day discussing with a few friends who had toured Europe and the States how Canada is sort of seen as a joke beyond our domestic borders. I mean, we kind of are. We have all of these silly stereotypes and the well known musicians that we do export are kind of lame. But beyond whatever myths or stereotypes you may have heard, there are many more truths that don't seem to gain as much attention. The music community within Canada, (at least the one I am part of) is small, warm, community-based, progressive, and extremely thought provoking. There are weird and insane projects going on in Canada just like there are in Brooklyn or Tokyo. The unfortunate aspect is that Canadian cities are often pretty insular, and you have to tap into the right scenes to know what's going on. But if you're open to exploring, you could find yourself in a basement participating in an occult, smokey, and transic art performance. Everybody's weird, even Canada (and yes, that was a pun). 

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