Friday, December 17, 2010

Gianna Lauren (SCQ's Year-End Questionnaire Part I)

One of the finest releases out of Halifax this year surely belonged to Gianna Lauren, whose new record Some Move Closer, Some Move On carried inspiration like fog covering streetlights. At first, nothing in the arrangements sticks out; Lauren’s vocals seem slightly detached from the structure and most every song ponders carefully plotted turns. And then a whole world opens up, one built of restraint – a sort of smoke-and-mirrors to slowly reveal her undeniable aura. Lauren brings a lot of character to this mini-interview, describing her musical journey across Canada and the terrifying tale behind a cozy SCQ favourite. (Photo by Scott Blackburn)

SCQ: Every list-lover's favourite question: what are your top albums of 2010? Feel free to include any older yet worthy records you discovered this year.

GL: I've always had really obscure taste in music and this year's selection definitely showcases my diversity of interests. In 2010 I was really impressed by the new releases from Ariel Pink, Rae Spoon, Richard Laviolette & the Oil Spills, Olenka & the Autumn Lovers, Jen Lane, Big Boi, Imaginary Cities, Liars, Circle vs. Square, Bill Frisell, Laura Veirs, Joanna Newsom, and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

I was introduced to Townes van Zandt's "Live at the Old Quarter in Houston, Texas". It has been a meaningful discovery, to say the least.

SCQ: What were you listening to a lot of while recording your excellent Some Move Closer, Some Move On?

GL: I made an eclectic record with Daniel Ledwell (In-Flight Safety, Jenn Grant) entitled Some Move Closer, Some Move On. At the time we were both listening to, and drawing inspiration from, Laura Veirs's "Saltbreakers", Midlake's "The Trials of Van Occupanter", Daniel Lanois, and Sigur Ros. We especially admired the production on recordings by Blonde Redhead and The Cardigans. You should hear Ledwell's solo stuff - it's awesome.

SCQ: Be cocky for once in your life: what was the finest thing you did all year? That moment where you actually thought "shit, I nailed that..."?

GL: Ha...that's cute. If I had to choose just one, hm...oh, kidding, This summer I toured across Canada by train, while performing on and off the train, with singer-songwriter Adam Fox aka Field Assembly (Toronto/Windsor). We were fans of each other's music from afar and spontaneously coordinated this collaborative project that would take us on the rails for one month. It was the most equally rewarding and challenging experience to date. There were a ton of awesome moments, like when we nailed a great sound, or met super interesting/strange people who we never would have met otherwise, and hanging out with friends who live all over the country....all the while witnessing the coast-to-coast scenery from the window of a train (although we DID get on and off to play city wasn't total captivity...but you could do it that way if you wanted, I suppose). It was tough at times - privacy is a rarity and you don't always have control over your own transportation or food or daily schedule. And, being attached at the hip with someone you barely know is a really wonderful way to get to know someone!

We would play a handful of 45 minute sets throughout the day in different parts of the train. Our last performance on VIA Rail between Edmonton and Vancouver was in the economy/coach section, and the train was just pulling into the Rocky Mountains. The car was packed to the edges with people who were singing and clapping along, smiling and laughing and looking out the window and genuinely enjoying the experience. It was such a pleasant surprise for everyone because the passengers were not expecting live music. Adam and I ended up meeting some of these people again at our following city shows in Vancouver and Victoria, BC.

A month gone by, everything said and done, Adam and I each took a vacation on the west coast, mostly enjoying being STILL. And, we are still good friends. I would do it all over again in a flash!

SCQ: Effect and Cause: Walking home from work listening to 'Cardigan', I realized how perfectly your songs evoke dusk. With autumn's sun setting earlier into night, everything from 'Be Nice' to 'Nightmares' stretches and casts light like downtown shadows. Okay, your turn: confess a true tale that inspired one of the songs on Some Move Closer, Some Move On.

GL: Well, it's funny you mention "Cardigan" because that little song has a big story behind it (it's also funny you mention dusk because I find dusk very stimulating). Two winters ago I moved to Halifax from Ottawa on a whim. I was intrigued by the music scene on the east coast and I knew a couple of people in the city, so that was enough for me - I packed my car and drove out. I moved into a quirky apartment above a Newfoundland grocery store with two other musicians and a visual artist. They failed to tell me that the room I would be renting had no heat. So, my second night in Halifax, I'm settling in and trying to stay warm with candles candles candles, all lit up around the room. My fuzzy gray grandfather sweater caught on fire and I went up in flames faster than the speed of light. My whole entire sweater was one big flame. It was SO SCARY. I threw myself to the ground and rolled around until the fire was gone. Even though I was pretty shaken up, I picked up my guitar and wrote "Cardigan".

SCQ: If all the reasonable and implausible ideas in your head came to fruition in 2011, what would they be?

GL: In my world or the real world? I guess they're both the same. In general, I think we'd all like to see better roads for cyclists, a sustainable industry for farmers, and cheaper ways to my immediate life I'd like to keep writing songs, collaborate more musically, introduce the populace to vegan donuts, travel south for a bit, and bring bikes to smaller communities.

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