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Photo by Andrew Carver.

Interview: Earnest pop-punk locals BB Cream play their final show this month

By Lee Pepper on November 7, 2016



One of my very favourite Ottawa bands, BB Cream, is playing their last show (boo) but also releasing their second and final album (yay), on November 29th at Pressed.

“I want to hear more songs about friendship and queerness and self-love.”

BB Cream sing about crushes, friendship, and being a teenager in Orléans, with unabashed ardour and earnestness. Before she retired from zine-writing, BB Cream’s singer and guitarist Alanna Why wrote amazing, funny, zines about her experiences with anxiety and perfectionism, dating, family, and scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

 Photo by Andrew Carver.

Photo by Andrew Carver.

Her lyrics for BB Cream share that candour. Musicians who are more committed to vulnerability than to coolness have a special place in my heart, and I appreciate how BB Cream’s songs often centre around topics like disappointment, unrequited crushes, and loneliness: the all-too-human stuff that we all experience, but often shy away from putting on display.

The way that BB Cream combines catchy pop-punk hooks with lyrics about small moments of insecurity and tenderness, has a way of making me feel OK about being a dork, about getting dumped, about being a little too earnest. For that, and how fun their live shows are, I’ll miss them, and I’ll look forward to seeing what all of the band members go on to do.

Photo by Kai Thorpe.

Photo by Kai Thorpe

Apt613 interviewed Alanna Why by email about BB Cream’s final album, compulsory heterosexuality, and great Ottawa bands. Full disclosure: Alanna Why is a good friend and we briefly played in a band together.

Apt613: What can you tell us about BB Cream’s second and final album?

Alanna Why: It’s going to be a dang banger. Very pop-punk oriented, but with some weird surprises hidden in, like organ and trumpet. The boys get to sing more songs too. Kurt sings a song he wrote called “Compulsory” about (surprise) compulsory heterosexuality and Jon sings a Beat Happening rip-off song we all wrote together while recording the last album, called “Gentle Lover.” And I have a song called “3 AM” where I sing the f-word in the chorus multiple times, so maybe don’t play that one on your campus radio show. BB Cream is getting explicit!

Kurt Grunsky of BB Cream. Photo by Andrew Carver.

Kurt Grunsky of BB Cream. Photo by Andrew Carver.

In what ways are BB Cream the band similar to (or dissimilar to) BB Cream the skincare product?

I guess we’re similar to the skincare product in the sense that we do a lot of things at once. We like to switch instruments a lot when we play live, just to keep things interesting. Also, the product is used to cover up stuff and I like to hide things in our lyrics, like my feelings.

Do you consider yourself a poptimist?

I’m a poptimist in the sense that I really like pop music and think a lot of people, namely serious music people and punks, often have a tendency to dismiss it as frivolous and trivial. I used to be a snob like them too!

But I’m unashamed that we’re a pop punk band, even though it isn’t a very fashionable or respected genre right now. I tell people that Green Day is one of my favourite bands of all time and they don’t believe me. Even though their songs may seem stupid and adolescent, on closer inspection they’re actually totally brilliant. The heart of pop music really is its deceptively beautiful simplicity.

Jon Brownlee of BB Cream, photo by Andrew Carver.

Jon Brownlee of BB Cream, photo by Andrew Carver.

What topics would you like to hear more songs about, in general?

I want to hear more songs about friendship and queerness and self love. I try to write songs like that because those are the kinds of songs I needed to hear when I was a 13-year-old shy weird girl getting into punk. But normally the songs I write just turn into something about a crush. I try to get away from only writing love songs, but I’m a hopeless romantic who fronts an emo band, so really it’s a lost cause.

What have been the highlights, or the most fun or notable parts, of your time in BB Cream?

At our second show ever, at the K-Hole, we played our song “Marc Bolan” for the first time. We had jammed it for the first time that afternoon and I didn’t even have a second verse yet, but it was so magical when we played it all together we knew we had to do it at the show. Playing in Peterborough was really fun too, because we have a lot of fans there and I had never played a show outside of Ottawa before.

Honestly just being in the band for a year and half has been a highlight in itself. I always wanted to be a band in high school but it never happened. So BB Cream has been a total dream come true, my little Joe Strummer fantasy realized. I never thought I would make an album, let alone two in the same year! I feel really proud of myself.

“I think I need to learn how to enjoy music again in secret, alone, as a listener. I think it’s going to be really nice.”

Photo by Andrew Carver.

Photo by Andrew Carver.

As we mourn the loss of BB Cream, what local (or other) bands would you recommend to fill the hole that’s being left in our hearts?

I really, really, really love Telecomo. They are a perfect, straight-forward pop band, but they are all incredibly talented musicians. I am very grateful that we get to play our last show with them. I have yet to see Lake Urmia live, but I saw a 15-second video of them on Instagram and it sounded super emo and great. I also love Doxx, Spell and Shoe Blog. I could gush about Ottawa bands for hours. Everyone is so talented!

Do any of you have any music or other projects in the works?

I want to take a little break from music. I’ve had band practice once a week for almost two years now, and it gets a bit tiring. I want to focus on writing again, but not putting it out into the world. I’ve always been making things and immediately putting them out into the void, whether through zines or bands, but I don’t know why I’ve always done that. I want to be more selfish and intentional now, and have a hermit year where I’m not constantly working on a public project. I think I need to learn how to enjoy music again in secret, alone, as a listener. I think it’s going to be really nice.

BB Cream’s final show will be Tuesday, November 29th, at Pressed (750 Gladstone Ave.), with Telecomo and Cheap Whine. Tickets are $5/PWYC. For more BB Cream, find them on Facebook or Twitter, or listen to them on Bandcamp.