Monday, December 6, 2010


 To coincide with the recent release of Land of Talk's latest album, Cloak and Cipher, here is the full interview I conducted with Elizabeth Powell at Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest 2009. A condensed version I wrote for SoundProof Magazine appeared in 24 Hours Ottawa.

 Land of Talk's set at Ottawa Bluesfest '09 was a victim of circumstance. Originally set to take to the Blacksheep stage at 4:45 pm, their set was switched to 6:15 pm. Then the band's start time was abruptly changed to 4:15, which resulted in me missing their set. Dejected and disappointed I retreated to the media room. Luckily for me, and for you dear readers, with help from festival staff I landed an interview with Land of Talk front woman Elizabeth Powell. Personable and cheery, Powell’s bright disposition was the perfect contrast to the gloomy, rainy day.

Bradley: I am so sorry I missed your set, how did it go?  
Elizabeth Powell: There were a few technical snags, other than that I thought it was a pretty beautiful set. From our perspective looking out over the little hill and the sun was pretty low in the sky and the clouds were hanging; it looked like there was a sense of impending doom because you could see all the dark clouds approaching. The rain didn't hit until after our show but yeah it was beautiful.

B: You have been touring a lot lately. How has the road been treating you?
EP: We released the album [Some Are Lakes] in October and we toured with Broken Social Scene. I was also singing with Broken Social Scene and playing guitar with them on that tour. That was until December and then I blew out my vocal cords. We had to cancel all the January, February and March shows. They thought I had to get surgery which I avoided. I completely healed on my own, it just took a lot longer. Now I have to wear those in ear monitors, which is better, I can hear myself better.

B: You played in various bands in Guelph before creating Land of Talk. Did those experiences shape the musical identity you possess today?
EP: Sometimes I get frustrated that I don't as sound as much like basement rock or indie pop-rock. It was a real Guelph sound. There was Jim Guthrie and the Constantines; well some of them are from Guelph. There was a total scene there it was very authentic. It was very punk rock. Sometimes I get frustrated that I haven't kept all of that. On the next album you are going to see us trying to get closer to what made me want to play music in the first place.

B: You have said the music you played before was much quieter than Land of Talk's sound. Is that accurate?
EP: It was much quieter then and that's why I started playing with other people. I thought there was probably a better way to achieve the sound I wanted, which was kind of a Blonde Redhead, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Tortoise, Nirvana kind of sound.

B: Have you toured extensively in the States?
EP: We got started in the States. We were asked to replace Hot Spring. They couldn't make it to a 'Musique Sans Frontieres' show which is a 'music without boarders' kind of thing in New York. So they recommended us and we went. We got a lot of buzz. People started blogging about us and we landed a tour with Fiery Furnaces. That was our first tour we didn't even have a label we were still burning CD-Rs and making our own little packages. We just kind of went from there and then in Canada we started playing shows here and there. But we haven’t really done a lot of extensive touring in Canada it's kind of hard as a lot of stuff is really far away. It’s like '800 hours until Winnipeg.'

B: The song Magnetic Hill from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss is one of my favourite songs. What is it about?
EP: (Laughs) It’s not about Magnetic Hill. Our drummer, Bucky [Mark Wheaton] is from Moncton, he will just call out the names of the songs. Like Speak to Me Bones. A lot of our song names are just Bucky throwing out some wacky idea. It’s really just more quirkiness and being nonsensical. 

B: What is coming up in the future for Land of Talk?
EP: We are rehearsing to record on this week and then we are doing an EP. We are going to do a cover of one of my favourite musicians Mary Margaret O’Hara. She was born in the ‘50s; she is from my mom’s generation. My mom went to art school with her. She had an album released in ‘88 called Miss America; it's amazing I think it's very hard to get. It took me 3 months to get it. I ordered it. We are doing one of her songs because I grew up with that album on vinyl. The EP [2009's Fun and Laughter] will also have 4 new songs, we are recording at Breakglass studio in Montréal.

B: Thank you so much for your time.
EP: No, thank you. You really warmed me up; I hope I didn’t ramble on too long.

Cloak and Cipher was recorded from October 2009 to January 2010 also at Breakglass studio. Produced by Jace Lasek, in addition to Powell the album features Andrew Barr on drums, Eoin Olaoghaire on bass and members of Arcade Fire and Stars.

Quarry Hymns from Cloak & Cipher (2010)

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