Arden seeing double
Chic Gamine and The Fugitives set to hit the Arden stage
Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 06:00 am
Do you remember the best double bill concert you ever attended? Most of us would be stumped.
And how do you define best? Are the best concerts the ones where artists share styles and influences? Or do complete opposites make the most gratifying experience?
When the Arden Theatre revealed its 2013-2014 season, the effervescent harmonies of two Winnipeg-based bands – Chic Gamine and Oh My Darling – was promoted as an irresistible double bill of sweet, weaving voices.
Unfortunately the spunky country roots quartet of Oh My Darling dropped out due to a scheduling conflict. After a few weeks of frantic activity, professional program presenter Caitlin North booked the Vancouver-based folk rock group The Fugitives.
Apart they are unparalleled voices that enjoyed an early liftoff in their careers. Together they are two passionate, powerhouse vocal groups.
Chic Gamine, which roughly translates into stylish minx, creates a nostalgia-inspired sound that teases and tempts. The bubbly fivesome’s last full-length album Closer, released in March 2013, delivers a sassy spin on the classic ’60s girl group vibe. A third full-length album is due for release this year.
“Thematically we sing about heartbreak, but also about hope. We’re women. We like to empower women, but we’re not a female-empowering group. We like to share celebratory experiences,” said Alexa Dirks, one of four singers in the group.
Chic Gamine was formed in 2007 after three Winnipeg-based friends Ariane Jean, Andrina Turenne and Annick Bremault recruited Montreal drummer and percussionist Sacha Daoud. That same year, Dirks was also brought into the fold and Chic Gamine was born.
The band’s 2008 self-titled debut album laced with Daoud’s Brazilian roots, enticing vocal hooks of rhythm and blues, and traces of new pop and vintage soul, sealed their future success. It won the 2009 Juno for Best Roots Album.
When Chic Gamine was initially “fresh out of the gate,” they embraced folk anthems. However, each successive album has subsequently upped the intensity of their hypnotic grooves.
“The next album has a more modern vibe, more synths and electronic drums. But it’s still vocally based. It’s the most cohesive album we’ve produced.”
In fact, Arden audiences will be the first to hear Chic Gamine’s tunes from their new as-of-yet untitled full-length album.
“We’re really excited about the music presentation. We really want people to be excited and we want to hear their feedback.”
Over on the West Coast, Brendan McLeod of The Fugitives is packing his bags and enjoying the laid-back Vancouver day. He’s reached a point in his career where the touring has taken a hit. McLeod is fed up with gas station sandwiches.
Although McLeod and fellow Fugitive Adrian Glynn have drained the romance out of touring in cramped cars, they’re gung-ho to promote their latest CD, Everything Will Happen.
Released on Oct. 22, the 11-track reveals the duo is still on a mission of blue-grass enlightenment. But this time around the acoustic pop act delivers sea-worthy chants in Wilderness Years, romantic vignettes in My, My and the pub-thumping Better Than Luck.
However, this album, which McLeod and Glynn co-wrote, hits a few noble chords thanks to chamber-pop violins and brassy horn flourishes.
“We just wanted the freedom to play with songs. But we were going for a lush sound from the get-go,” says McLeod.
He likens the lush sound to the blank page of a novel.
“It’s a fun process. You can go anywhere and explore with freedom as opposed to being handcuffed to a few instruments.”
To create Everything Will Happen, the duo spent five weeks in a recording studio with producer John Critchley (Dan Mangan).
“John creates an ear-catching sound that’s not cheesy and that’s hard to do. His work sticks in people’s brain, but you don’t want to hate it after seven plays,” laughed McLeod.
“Besides, he’s a machine. He works it ’til it’s perfect. As a result, it’s a little more cohesive then our past sound.”
Similarly to Chic Gamine, The Fugitives joined forces in 2007. McLeod and Glynn were invited to perform at a British festival. At the time McLeod, a former Canadian SLAM poetry champion, teamed up with Glynn, a working actor in Hotel Chelsea. Trying to separate their act from the masses, they blended performance poetry and music.
“Back then spoken word had started to filter into mainstream consciousness,” explained McLeod. “We meant to do one tour, but the audiences loved us and we went on for much longer.”
The magnetic spoken-word combo paved the way for future successes. Eight years down the road, spoken word has been temporarily parked making way for the triumphant folk-roots arena.
“When we come to the Arden we’ll be doing songs, stories, bluegrass and maybe some spoken word.”
The double bill is on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.