This year's Sled Island Festival brought all all the usual raucus ruckus to Calgary, Alberta on Treaty 7 Territory. Our "intrepid" (scare quote our own) correspondents, Miranda Young and Jordan Stovra could be found pounding the pavement and tracking down luminaries from the festival lineup for interviews. They also managed to squeeze in some fun along the way. Scroll down for interviews with Bad Buddy, Ada Lea, B.A. Johnston, Supermoon, comedian Robby Hoffman, and more. We'll start things off with, ostensibly, Miranda's rundown of the weekend.
I felt a fleeting combination of excitement and fear driving that familiar 7-hour drive to Calgary for Sled Island on Thursday morning. I had never been to Sled Island before, and definitely never “reported” for anything before, and I had no idea what to expect. It was a whole new world, and my jitters overpowered me. Everything was new and exciting, but also somewhat terrifying. But, onward and upward! Ain’t no stoppin’ this gal.
My first night at Sled Island was an exploratory one. I resisted the urge to meet up with my Saskatoon peers and ventured out on my own. Although I am originally from Calgary, I am a bit of a stranger to the nightlife, so I felt obliged to check out as much as possible that first night.
I kicked things off with a show at Central City Church with Ada Lea and Wye Oak. I sat in awe and amazement with the voices ringing through the church and truly set the tone for the rest of the weekend. After the chills had subsided, I headed off to a completely different show, The Shiverettes, at the Palomino. I jumped up and down the stairs to see as much as possible in terms of shows there and I did as much dancing and head-banging as my body would allow.
I started Friday morning off with a bang and some serious Eggs Benny, hoping to regain some strength from the night prior. I then met with the lovely Ali Levy from Ada Lea, at the Calgary Tower, and chatted with her for a while about bunnies, idols and songwriting (see below
I also had the pleasure of meeting the grrl punk rockers, THICK. Tubby Dog was the next stop on my journey with cheap beer, hot dogs and the CFCR showcase. It was the loveliest feeling to be surrounded by such an inviting community in a weird home away from home. It felt like a slice of Saskatoon had just been plopped into Calgary as I watched Caves.
From there, I headed over to the Mint Records Showcase at Commonwealth to chat with Allie Hanlon of Peach Kelli Pop and catch what was left of Dumb and Lié. I ran into Adrienne LaBelle of Supermoon and promised her an interview later in the weekend. From there, I stopped at the Ship & Anchor for some goodnight rock and roll.
Saturday morning began with my daily dose of Tubby Dog for the Weird Canada Showcase with Supermoon and Chunder Buffet. They reminded me what stage presence is and that a birthday tiara never gets old. I was lucky enough to catch up with Supermoon after their set. After a few margaritas over Happy Hour with the Saskatoon gang, I headed to Studio Bell. It was a huge treat to check out the state of the art facility and I was truly inspired design-wise by the incredible planning and finishing details that went into the space. Alder & Ash made me feel like I was walking on a cloud and I left feeling even more awe-struck that I had felt walking in. Although solo cello music wasn’t something I had usually considered my thing, it was completely dreamy and made me feel all sorts of feels.
The night ended off with a bang at the Femme Wave show at Dickens Pub. Peach Kelli Pop, BB, Glaux and Cherry Glazerr mesmerized everyone with all of their wicked costumes and tight harmonies. It was a delight to finish the weekend off with some of my favourite bangers by Cherry Glazerr.
Sled was full of surprises and excitement and was truly a great time. It was wonderful to be able to embrace my Saskatoon community from afar and I felt so lucky to be able to test out Sled for the first time with my CFCR hat. Next time, I hope to get at least three weeks of good, quality sleep and self-care in before and after Sled Island for top-tier party performance and keeping up with the toonses.
Ada Lea opened up for Wye Oak on Thursday Night at Sled Island. They filled Central City Church with a thick dreamy haze of haunting. Ali Levy’s voice rang through the church like bells and each song felt like the blossoming of a beautifully intricate flower. I caught up with Ali Levy on Friday morning at the Artist’s Lounge at the Calgary Tower to chat about her songwriting process.
MY: Can you tell me a little about Ada Lea and how you have evolved over the last few years?
AL: After the release of the EP our sound made a sharp turn, leaving the double bass behind while still staying curious about melodies and lyrics. In a way I feel the band just began this year, when we started recording the new songs for the album.
MY: Why do you think that change in your sound has taken place?
AL: The upright bass was extremely limiting as a primary melodic instrument. I wanted to be able to walk around the park casually instead of having to drag this cumbersome thing around. I think I’m also writing different kinds of songs on the guitar now, with a slightly different goal in mind.
MY: Can you tell me a little bit about that song writing process?
AL: I discovered Destroyer this year and realized he’s an artist I've been trying to find my whole life. He recounts these special and intricate stories using surprising language for song, that are then coupled with just really kind of fun and loose melodies with great sounds and arrangements for a band.
I personally have to always be searching for honesty, and not necessarily broad strokes when writing songs. I think what makes a good song is really getting into the nitty-gritty and exploring the details you wouldn’t consider at first glance. Exploring all the senses in that one moment. What I mean by broad strokes are broad statements like, “Oh I feel sad,” but instead like, "I feel sad", but "where am I" and "how does that sound" and "what does it look and smell like?" I really enjoy exploring those feelings. A song is the perfect place to do that.
MY: I think that songwriting is probably one of those things that all artists struggle with. How do you keep those songs relevant to everyday when it’s something so based on a fleeting feeling? Do you ever get in a song-writing rut?
AL: I don’t feel like I get into ruts often, but sometimes I realize that I have to get out of my own way to let a song come together. When I do hit that wall, it’s usually because I’m trying to do something that is not really existing around me. It’s a notion I have of how things should be and if I can just get out of my own way and let it happen naturally while still asking those fun questions of, “what does that smell like?” I’ll be okay. But there is also the existential struggle of, “what is the point of sharing this experience?” but I think I’m thinking of that less and less as I get older.
I imagine it’s going to be a long journey to find out what really excites me. The hardest thing is to sing those songs over and over again and present them to a group of people. If you’re just singing through the lyrics and not conveying anything, people see right through that. When a song is new, singing it to people and yourself is the easiest thing to do, but after a while of playing it, how do you keep that magic? I’m still struggling with how to do that, how to stay connected to songs after having played them over a long period of time.
Stay tuned for a full-length album filled with Ali’s musings, from Ada Lea in October.
Supermoon is a lovely combobulation of dreamy pop and garage rock. Their melodies drive deep and keep you bopping your head and moving your feet, in an excitable, but far from basic manner. They are cute and quirky, while simultaneously dark and brooding. Each song features a different voice from the band, leaving tons of room for variation in their work. Supermoon consists of Adrienne LaBelle, Alie Lynch, Katie Gravestock and Selina Cammond. Together their voices and talents create a truly unique listening experience that is akin to a shot of really dark shot of espresso with just the right amount of honey.
I had the pleasure of meeting Adrienne LaBelle, multi-instrumentalist in Supermoon, in the girl’s washroom at Commonwealth during the Mint Records Showcase on Friday at Sled after my interview with Peach Kelli Pop. Against our better judgement, we had a couple shots of celebratory Sour Puss together, and I promised her an interview with the band at some point during the weekend. She was a delight to chat with, and I made a point of catching her set the next day. I caught up with her and the rest of the band at Tubby Dog over the Weird Canada showcase after their set on Saturday.
MY: Can you guys tell me a little about who Supermoon is and where you came from? Tell us the origin story!
SM: We are a band from Vancouver, BC. We started 4 years ago. How did it start… (Alie)
So, three of us were in a band called Movieland for a bit, and then one of our members moved away. Selina and I used to be roommates and we hosted an impromptu New Years party and Katie was there. We were like, “Man, we should just start a new band with Katie!” And then we did! Actually, it was Sled Island that made us be a real band, because we drunkenly said we were gonna do that and then we never practiced or wrote any songs and then we decided to apply for Sled Island in 2014. And we got in under the old band and then we were like, “Oh sh*t, now we like gotta write some songs!” so that’s how Supermoon began. (Adrienne)
A story of desperation. A good old scam. Scrapping it out since 2014. (Alie)
MY: So how do you guys describe your sound now, after all that scrapping it out?
SM: I think now what I always say is, dark pop. (Alie)
Angsty, moody pop sometimes we say. (Selina)
We used to say scrappy fuzz pop, but it really has evolved, (Adrienne)
MY: There’s still a little bit of scrappy there…
SM: There’s still some scrap. Less fuzz maybe. (Adrienne)
MY: It looks like it’s kind of been a while since you’ve put out a new album. Do you guys have a plan for a new one soon? Anything in the works?
We’ve written a couple new songs, at this point, like 3. (Adrienne)
We are slow movers, we move slowly. But ya, I don’t know, we haven’t fully discussed our plans. So we are just kind of playing shows, and writing songs when we can and seeing where that goes. We are just gonna see what happens. (Selina)
We write pretty collaboratively, and we are all so busy with other projects, so it’s hard to write quickly, but we have kinda talked about doing one of those things, I keep hearing about bands sequestering themselves in the woods and making an album in like, a week. (Adrienne)
I think that’s a really good idea. That would work really well. (Katie)
Take a cruise! We should go on a cruise! (Selina)
I would be down for that! We work well under deadlines, but right now we don’t have any deadlines, so we are like “oh yaaaa… we’ll write a new album soon,” and then it’s like two years later, and there’s new album yet. (Alie)
We just have to apply for another festival, with a harsh deadline and need new material. If we get into Pop Montreal, that’ll do that it for us. (Katie)
Ya, maybe we’ll write a cruise album. (Selina)
Supermoon will be heading to Oakland, California shortly for a West Coast tour. We hope they will be making a stop in our dear town of Saskatoon, SK for a show sometime in the near future, and perhaps stop at the station for an on-air interview as well. *hint, hint* In the meantime, you can catch their latest full length album, “Playland” (on Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, or Mint Records.)