Two years, hundreds of hours, and plenty of love and money later Lora Bidner is all set for the release of To the North, her impressive full length debut. The Ottawa-raised art-folk songwriter is celebrating with a release show at Live on Elgin on September 26.
Saturday’s release show will be a rare chance to hear Lora live now that she’s moved to Toronto for a music and technology masters at U of T. It’s also going to be a treat to hear Lora recreate the album’s lush sound with a full band, string section and backup vocals featuring Raphael Weinroth Browne of “The Visit” and “Flying Horses” and Mike Giamberardino of Harea Band.
Recorded with Dean Watson, To the North is an eclectic, atmospheric album with a big sound featuring lots of string arrangements, layered vocals and electronic experimentation. Lora who grew up playing piano and percussion found her drive to create at the arts high school where she played in the string ensemble. “Canterbury was where things really started to flourish because we were all collaborating,” she says. Collaboration is still a key element in Lora’s music. There are some really great ones on the album, namely “The Tide” featuring cellist Rapahel Weinroth Browne and “Ignite” featuring spoken work by JustJamaal the poet. Versatility is another key element. On the album Lora plays piano, ukulele, guitar, all the synth parts and even a little vibraphone. To the North is a 9-track journey through a range of moods and soundscapes from the melancholic “When We Were Young”, to the epic “To the North”, to eerie “The Tide”, before taking you out with the anthemic “Ignite.”
I got in touch with Lora to talk about the making of the album, her influences and the backstory to some of the songs. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.
Apt613: How would you describe your sound for those who have never heard Lora Bidner?
In so many words I would say it’s progressive, electronic art folk. Ok, so that’s like four words but a lot of people have said art folk, people have said progressive folk, and there’s a lot of electronic experimentation. It’s definitely an eclectic album. As an artist that’s my thing; every time I write something I want to do something new.
Who are some of your major influences and inspirations for this project, musical and otherwise?
Film is a big love of mine. I’ve always wanted to go into writing music for film. So movies and directors like the Coen Brothers and their films Fargo and No Country for Old Men. Their films have always inspired me and because I love film scores. I find film does translate into music for me, it’s the mood and it’s the style that I think has influenced my music in some way. Also, movies that are fantastical like the NeverEnding Story which I grew up on. The music’s also great in that.
And for other artists, Neutral Milk Hotel which is grungy folk. I love that album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. All through high school I listened to it. I would say they definitely influenced me because I just love the eclecticism of that album and their experimentation and the rawness.
Are there any other major musical pillars for the project?
There’s three I always tell people: Florence and the Machine for the production values and the drums, the pulse of the drums and the epic-ness of those songs. Lana Del Ray, her album Ultraviolence. I love the mood of her music and I love the vocal reverb on Lana Del Ray’s voice so Dean and I listened to Lana Del Ray and we wanted to find a reverb that made my voice really nice and big and luscious like Lana Del Ray’s. So writing, when I was in high school I listened to a lot of Regina Spektor.
Tell me a little bit about the recording process for the album?
I did all the pre-production in my home studio and I did a lot of the synth work at home. So “To the North”, all the electronic stuff I did myself at my home studio and when we came into the studio I wanted to do a better job of it. For example on “Author” you hear a lot of beautiful reverb and ping pong delays. We experimented with cool echoes and we experimented with positioning things in different ways and panning. I really love panning. It’s the coolest type of production to put one instrument on one end and make it move to the other so when someone is listening there’s dimension to a song. When music is coming at you from one source it’s cool but when it moves to another point you feel like it’s alive.
What was the backdrop for the lyrics on this record?
Some songs are more just the reflection of the mood I was in. So “The Tide” I was on the beach in New York City babysitting my cousins and there was a gorgeous sunset in front of me and the tide was super strong and I just sat down and played my ukulele and “The Tide” came out and I just got really moody because the sky was this gorgeous pink going into purple going into blue and the ocean was kind of ominous and I just got in this mood and I wrote. Most of my songs are like that.
Do you have a favourite song on it, maybe one that resonates personally ort that’s really fun to play?
I really do like “The Tide.” I like how moody and eerie it is, especially playing with Raph, it’s really awesome. I also like “3000 Volts” because I love the feedback I get from it. Some people really get taken aback by it. And that’s cool because it’s a difficult subject matter and I always wonder what people are going to think and if they caught on to the lyrics.
Lora Bidner’s To the North album release show is Saturday September 26 at Live on Elgin (220 Elgin St.). Doors are at 7pm, show is at 7:30pm. Advance tickets are $12. You can learn more about Laura Bidner on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.