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Scary Bear Soundtrack. Photo provided.

Talking Albums: Scary Bear Soundtrack

By John McDonald on May 5, 2020

Blending indie dream pop, shoe gaze, and twee pop with Sonic Youth and Cocteau Twins influences, Scary Bear Soundtrack has resisted the conventional three-minute pop song format through the years. Despite the band’s direction to “turn off the radios, they don’t sing about us,” Scary Bear Soundtrack has emerged on national airwaves and made their mark in Canadian music. Described by Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs, Wolf Parade, Operators) as “weird and very Canadian,” they announced in a March 5th blog: “NEW YEAR, NEW MATERIALS, NEW MEMBERS, NEW SHOWS.”

And then, of course, we were hit with a NEW SITUATION! Talk about a spanner in the works.

We caught up with multi-instrumentalist Gloria Guns to see how she and her band members (Kevin Ledlow, Maggie Woodley, Dannik Curley and Trevor Pritchard) are spending their time at home now that their plans have come to a sudden stop.

Scary Bear Soundtrack:

Gloria Guns: After we put out our latest album, boomerang kids, we played some really fun gigs. We had one lined up to headline Pressed with Brooklyn band So Sensitive and Toronto’s Rapport, until that show—along with all live shows—was cancelled due to the pandemic.

We’d been experimenting with a new process of collaborative songwriting and were looking forward to showcasing some of the new material we had all written together, at the show. Now all of it—including the songwriting—has halted since we can’t get together and jam.

We are all fortunate to have other sources of income that haven’t been interrupted and most of us are working from home, except Trevor who has been busy in the CBC newsroom in his producer/reporter role. Some of us are taking care of young kids at home. Some of us are spending a lot of time talking to our cats. For me, besides working part-time with the government, I work in gender-based research and that work has not slowed down at all.

I miss writing and playing music with the band a lot. But I have been using this opportunity to explore other random aspects of performance to grow as an artist. I’m working with my traditional Korean music teacher Sosun Suh to keep learning to play the haegeum (a type of Korean violin). And I’ve been taking burlesque dance lessons from Sassy Muffin, teaching myself a type of roller dance called jam skating, and learning the basics of deejaying at virtual roller discos I’ve been hosting with Ottawa Roller Derby.

Through these weird times though, we’ve been really appreciating the role that music has played in getting us through.

Maggie Woodley: While unable to physically be with my bandmates, I have been getting inspiration from other music. The Twilight Sad is one of the most important bands in my life, both personally and as an inspiration for my guitar playing. They have recently released an incredible live album, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME LIVE, recorded on tour last year. To share this with the world during this time, when there is no live music, is a wonderful reminder that it won’t be like this all the time.

Kevin Ledlow: I’ve gone down a hole of rediscovering Fugazi and, in the absence of any live performances, have been eating up their live stuff, which is fantastic. There’s a documentary out there of their live performances and I’ve been watching it, pieces at a time.

I only got into them recently, but they’re one of those bands I wish I discovered when I was 20 ‘cause I would’ve dug their aesthetic and approach to music immensely and would’ve been going crazy over their live music.

Also, for fans of Fiona Apple, she’s got a new album that just came out and it’s really good.

Gloria: For me, the question of what album I’ve been listening to is interesting because a lot of the music I’ve been listening to are not in album form, with the music world changing.

For example, I got to attend some lovely virtual concerts by Ottawa’s King Kimbit, Amanda Lowe, and Kimberly Sunstrum, as well as Clio Em, a classical/indie crossover artist in Vienna.

I’ve been feeling really inspired lately by LÂLKA, this powerful woman artist of colour from Australia who reminds me a bit of Grimes and really shines at doing her own thing and taking total control of all aspects of production. She doesn’t seem to release her music in album form. She takes stage performance really seriously as part of her art, which may be partly why I’ve started taking dance lessons during this pandemic and trying out weird outfits.

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I’ve also been discovering angry Korean female rappers from compilations from the Korean TV show Unpretty Rapstar.

Lido Pimiento’s new album Miss Colombia, so intimately rooted in her Colombian background, has really validated some of my own efforts into re-connecting with my own Korean heritage.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been learning to play the traditional Korean drum (janggu), flute (danso), and violin (haegeum). When Japan occupied Korea last century, the Japanese colonial forces made every effort to suppress and erase Korean culture, including our musical traditions. So these opportunities to learn here in Canada from talented professional performers from South Korea has been so meaningful for me.

Before music like Lido Pimiento’s or Mélissa Laveaux’s Radio Siwèl, I wouldn’t have thought about incorporating these elements of my cultural history into my music. I never would have believed that there is a significant taste here for anything other than a strict Western/North American sound. But maybe people’s tastes are getting a bit more refined and open-minded, so we’ll see if Lido’s approach to her new album influences my future works.

Drummer Kevin gave me a heads up about Fiona Apple’s brand new album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, and I can’t stop listening to it. It’s so provocative, and with my fourth time listening to it, I’m still digesting it. I’ve been into Fiona Apple since her first album Tidal came out when I was a pre-teen. She has always been an incredibly expressive poet and a pianist (like I was!) during a time when all the rock musicians played guitar. With her latest album, I’m so glad that she seems to have taken complete control over the recording and producing this time, because you can really see her authentic style and insights shining through, raw, sincere, and unfiltered instead of over-produced by external forces. I was reading about the process behind her album, which involved recording things on her phone and GarageBand and playing her own percussion parts, leaving in mistakes, incorporating street sounds, and improvising on the spot.

It’s too bad that she’s only felt like she could have this freedom and confidence now at the age of 42. It makes me think: Could you imagine the incredible works that young women artists could be creating, if they just had the confidence in their own abilities and the tools, and if someone just took a few minutes to show them how to edit and multi-track their own music, instead of having other producers’ thumbprints all over their work to translate it to be more “marketable”?

Nobody is translating for Fiona Apple in Fetch the Bolt Cutters. This is all Fiona, unapologetic Fiona. She has, in this album, retained her unique knack for tackling complex concepts in her lyrics, like reflecting on gender power dynamics and how women are often pitted against each other instead of supporting each other.  This is a really nuanced issue in feminist discourses, and I personally would have no idea how to talk about this except in the form of a dry academic essay, and here she is, singing it in poetry. The album makes for a fantastic soundtrack while I’m working on my projects in gender-based violence! And her line “Kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up” could be an anthem we all will want to sing at some point.


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