Interview: Poull Brien, director of Charles Bradley: Soul of America

June 27, 2012 Written by Melody Lau No comments

The life of Charles Bradley is the epitome of a Cinderella story and, at times, is almost hard to fathom. Having gone through homelessness, tragedy and abuse, the 63 year-old soul singer’s triumphant rise to success might read like a script but not even the most skilled actors can portray the emotion that Bradley emotes in real life, onstage and in Poull Brien’s documentary, Charles Bradley: Soul of America.

After offering to direct a music video for Bradley, Brien and producer Alex Brough sat down with the singer as he regaled them with his incredible stories, leaving the pair with no other choice than to pursue a full-length film.

“I remember thinking how cinematic the whole thing sounded,” Brien tells The Singing Lamb. “Alex and I took Charles to dinner one night and pitched him the idea of shooting a documentary and luckily he was a little tipsy and had no idea what he was signing up for.

“I’m sure if he knew I’d be following him obsessively, making him endure freezing weather to get that pointless b-roll shot of him walking into or out of a building and sneaking up to his rood to steal shots at 5 a.m., his reaction might have been different.”

The result is a film that depicts the hard times of Bradley and takes a look at his journey from the rough neighbourhoods of New York to the doors of Daptone Records but, more importantly, is entirely underlined by an uncanny sense of hope and optimism that’ll strike a chord with audiences.

“He’s always in the moment and is generally bursting with enthusiasm, surprise and childlike wonder,” explains Brien. “He says he’s going through the childhood he never had right now and you really see that when you’re with him; it’s endearing, beautiful and totally entertaining.”

Having followed Bradley around leading up to the release of his debut album, No Time For Dreaming, Brien and Brough must’ve been apprehensive about the success of the entire project. What if Bradley didn’t succeed? What if that CD release show didn’t sell out and no one cared? Thankfully, for them and for us, Bradley’s career took off immediately, capturing the hearts of soul lovers everywhere and even through the skepticism, Brien and Brough knew it would all work out.

“We all knew this was something so unique and positive that it had to be done,” says Brien. “And that ultimately it would pay off.”

So, what was Bradley’s reaction to watching the film?

“It was beautiful – hugs and tears, laughing and crying,” says Brien. “It was basically like taking an entire theatre full of people and jamming the collective intensity of all their reactions through one incredibly enthusiastic 63-year-old man-child.”

Catch a screening of Charles Bradley: Soul of America tomorrow night at the Open Roof Festival with a performance from Army Girls preceding the film. Tickets are $15, doors are at 7:30PM.

Overheard at Shows (NXNE Edition, Part 2)

June 27, 2012 Written by Melody Lau No comments

“You disappeared, did you make out with them?”

“Sometimes she’s looks super Asian…”

“CHEEKBONES.” (a girl referring to the lead singer of a band)

“He was tall and looked like a real man. A real man, like a viking man.”

“Wherever there’s a body of water, you know you’re fucked.” (someone on the ferry ride to Toronto Island for the Smith Westerns)

“Does it really suck there?” (people walking to the Smith Westerns show asking the people leaving the show)

“Cut it with the fucking smoke, man. We’re not Echo and the Bunnymen.” (What Matt Good said after the smoke machine was left on a little long during his set)

The feelings I will and won’t miss: The contradictions of finishing a record

June 27, 2012 Written by Guest Contributor No comments

In no other profession is there seemingly so much energy and output compacted into such a tiny project. For all the blood, sweat and tears that go into making an album, the typical 30-50 minutes of finished material hardly represents the hours, weeks and sometimes years that go into the project.

This morning, we listened to some semi-finalized mixes from our album. This process is always equally one part satisfying, one part terrifying and one part strange. The Tyrannosaurus guitar sounds and mammoth drum beats squeezed into a little file, that goes into a little black machine, through a cable and out speakers. Six people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions, (in this case) documented over a year long period, is now tied up in a pretty 42 minute bow. Albums are funny because they’re snapshots. Sometimes they’re family photos, everyone lined up in perfect order, complacent smiles and clean outfits. But sometimes you catch the family in a fight, hair’s being pulled, their sweaters are stained and the kids are crying. A record is only a sampler of what a band can produce. And like language, it’s inherently limiting. Like trying to pour your heart out into a postcard-sized letter.

There has to come a point where you tell yourself that it’ s done. Otherwise edits, changes, additions and subtractions can go on forever. I’ll miss the time in which the record was made. When you’re in the process of making one, it’s the catalyst for everything (“that idea will go on the record” “we’ll tour when the record comes out” “We have to find a great artist for the album art”) and I’m sure I’ll miss the ever-present push to get stuff done for the release date. But as the date approaches, it becomes more of a burden, picking apart every last microscopic detail, until you’re splitting sand. That’s something I won’t miss for sure.

So as soon as I can come to terms with the finite-ness of the mixes, I have to come to terms with now releasing this record into the world. Whether the ‘drop’ of the record reverberates on a micro-scale, or to Grand Canyon echo-type proportions, you can never know. But at least I know I can go from what I’m sure this guy feels like sometimes, to having a much wider and less ‘tunnel vision’ view of our work.

That is until the next record….

Adam Nanji and Katrina Jones are part of the Vancouver-based indie rock band, The Belle Game. Together, they will provide a bi-weekly column showing their perspective on all things music.

Overheard at Shows (NXNE Edition)

June 18, 2012 Written by Melody Lau No comments

The Flaming Lips @ Yonge-Dundas Square


Guy 1: “Have you ever crowd surfed before?”
Guy 2: “No.”
Guy 1: “Well, this is going to be the night, my friend.”
Guy 2: “No, I can’t. I’m not drunk enough.”
Guy 1: “DO IT.”

(Getting out of the crowded pit): “WE’RE ALIVEEEEEEEE”

Read more

[NXNE] Playing the ‘Singing Lamb’ game with Eternal Summers

June 15, 2012 Written by Wini Lo No comments

If you were a singing animal, what animal would you be?

Jonathan: I’ll be a cat. I own three cats, I just love cats a lot. There’s a cat [statue] sitting there up on the dash that I look at regularly while we’re driving and it just makes me feel better.

Nicole: I think I’d be either an owl or a cricket. I think more of a cricket – ‘cause I’m a bit of a spaz but also chill at nighttime.

Daniel: What would I be?

Nicole (to Daniel): I think you’d be a raccoon or badger. Something forest and woodland…

Daniel: I’m gonna go with a big deer. With a big rack.

Jonathan: So you’re a buck, you’d be a buck.

Daniel: I’ll change my mind tomorrow and email you… No wait, I’m a bullfrog. I want to be them all.

[NXNE] An interview with Eternal Summers

June 15, 2012 Written by Wini Lo No comments
[NXNE] An interview with Eternal Summers


It’s their first time in Toronto as a band and Eternal Summers are doing NXNE. Singer/guitarist Nicole is the only member who has visited before; her sister attended school at OCAD. Also? She’s the only member of the band who’s had poutine before.

Eternal Summers, the three-piece band from Roanoke, VA started out in 2008 as a duo – Nicole Yun (guitar/vocals) and Daniel Cundiff (drums). Bassist Jonathan Woods joined the band last year. Their band name comes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (you know, the famous one that begins with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) and unintentionally landed the band into the same genre categorizing Best Coast and Real Estate, to name a few.

“I was very clueless about modern music, as far as what’s happening on blogs and stuff,” says Nicole. “We recorded some songs and put them on the internet, and then we got lumped in with all these other bands that were supposedly ‘beachy’ sounding but I had no idea this was going on.”

“These are small pop songs, done minimally. I think the name really got us into a certain audience realm, which we wouldn’t have gotten into.”

“Nor did we consider ourselves ‘beachy’,” Daniel adds.

The band had a fairly casual start with Daniel laughingly describing that in the beginning, he’d say, “Okay, I’ll play this one show…” which turned into more shows. “’Well, we should record these songs.’ And then we did another gig,” he recalls. “I never thought I’d be in Canada with these two guys. It was not like, ‘Let’s rule the world’ – at all. It was just fun. It just felt good.”

With day jobs and reality looming in the background, the band definitely takes their music seriously but making music full-time is “the dream.” Coming from Roanoke, where the music scene is “random, genuine and unique,” Jonathan says, “People there strive for things, because there’s not a lot going on – I know that’s why I’m making music.”

On the topic of making music, the band’s second full-length album, Correct Behavior, drops July 24 and was mixed by Sune Rose Wagner from The Raveonettes and Alonzo Vargas. Previously, the band recorded and mixed their own music from start to finish.

Of the finished product, Nicole says, “There’s still an aura of it sounding analog but it’s got this like, punch in the face quality to it that’s definitely more modern.”

“People definitely can’t say it’s ‘lo-fi’ because it’s… not,” she adds.

The band’s rapport and friendship seem evident, especially when you consider how long bands spend together in a tour van, traveling from one destination to another for weeks (or months!) at a time. “Going on tour is like vacation, in a way,” says Nicole.

“It’s great to show up and be like, I’ve got something to do here. I’m going to play music. And experience a different place every night,” says Jonathan. “Eight hour van rides can be a bummer. But even then, they’re not bad. Good company.” (Awww!)

“One of my favourite parts is just the constant moving, the constant stimulation, yet anti-stimulation,” says Daniel. “There’s a lot of downtime. It’s like, hurry up and wait. Get here at 6, now wait until 10. Try to maintain energy. It’s strange… but it’s so strange and I like it.”