Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
Sound of Lions are in sketch board mode. The Ottawa five-piece has made a big dent on a wildly lively scene with their mashed-up sound that brings in elements of trip-hop, pop, hip-hop, and soul, as heard on their debut album 11:44, which came out last year. Album number two is in the works with an expected release date in late 2013. On a Monday evening, after the band’s rehearsal, the early-stage ideas are volleying about at drummer Marco Campagna’s kitchen table.
Conversations keep coming around to a fork in the road. Should we go in this direction or that direction? Record on lo-fi gear, or using digital equipment, or a bit of both? Play up the soul? Kick up the hip-hop rhymes?
So, what to do with all of this? Trying to define a sound while including the talents and viewpoints of five members is a challenge. When we catch the band, they’re at the point where they’re trying to create a throughline from a stylistic haywire.
Sound-wise, the band is spoiled for choice. They do quite a few things well. For one, front-woman Whitney Delion’s vocals are a fine blend of pop and pathos — they make every song. Christian Awad’s sampling, scratching, and rhyming is always in the right places and in measured doses. Having guitarist Will Assad throw down a vocal here and there adds yet another texture on tracks that are rich and referential: Listening to the early demos of the forthcoming album brings to mind the best of ‘90s shoegaze, for starters.
“When writing and recording the last album, we learned that the little details can make the mood of a song or change where a song goes,” Awad says. “We’re trying to fine tune [the details] for this record. We can really use that to make a song more interesting to a listener.”
The band hopes to write a huge batch of songs and include only the best tracks and the best versions on the new album, to be recorded by Jason Jaknunas and produced by Phil Lafreniere, a musician and head of the Up and Up Music label.
Having the outside perspective of a producer will help to sort out the dilemmas and give the new album direction. Lafreniere and Jaknunas are a powerhouse production team and are known for their preference for a “dirty” sound, made rich by the use of tape in recording. That throwback quality would be a fine complement to vocalist Delion’s vintage timbre.
(Lafreniere, on tour in Europe with the Soulazz Orchestra, could not be reached in time for Ottawa Magazine’s deadline).
As producer, Lafreniere is known to ask his musicians to defend their ideas — why do you want to keep that part? That style? Having to justify your artistic choices forces you to think through your work thoroughly and this technique creates a framework for the recording process — something that Sound of Lions is looking to establish.
“That’s the beauty of it,” says bass player Joel Soucy. “We’re going to have this conversation, it’s going to be intense, and we’re going to disagree a lot. Bringing in an outside producer will add another opinion — so it might be just what we need, or it’ll add more tension, but the end result will be good because we all really care about it. It just might take a while to get there.”
Sound of Lions play amid the flesh and frills of the third annual Zombie Strippers Halloween Show. Wednesday at Babylon, 9 p.m., $10 cover (or a penalizing $15 cover charge if you show up without a costume).
Nero — the city’s jam-band of choice since the ‘90s — plays a Halloween show Saturday at Mavericks, 9 p.m., $20.
Prog-pop trio Silkken Laumann will perform a DJ set at their Grave Concern Crypt Party Saturday at the Ottawa Jail Hostel. They’ll mix horror film samples into their dancefloor-hogging mash of groove, classic cuts, and funk. The event is a pre-party for Powershift 2012, a kind of climate-aware Occupy-type protest taking place on the Hill on Monday. DJ set 10 p.m., $5.
Tara Holloway makes a hometown stop on her Canadian tour. After years of gigging, the redhead with the guitar and the nic-stained voice finally finished her debut album called Sins to Confess. Hear the songs Saturday at the Raw Sugar Café. 8:30 p.m., $10.
Mike Dubue of the band the Hilotrons steps away from the pop tradition and into a composing role as co-writer of Eschatos, a live dramatic radio play to be performed Tuesday at Knox Presbyterian Church as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. 6:30 p.m., $20.
DJs Atherton and So Nice — the guys behind the monthly hip hop karaoke series — pull out their records for a Halloween jam called Crooks & Costumes inside the old jailhouse (the bar there is called Mugshots) on Wednesday night. Hear ‘90s hip hop tunes starting at 9 p.m., cover is $5.