Thus Owls


Thus Owls are a Montreal-based band comprised of husband and wife duo Erika and Simon Angell. The band originated in Sweden as an outlet for Erika’s songs, while she was making a name for herself as a prominent vocalist in the Gothenburg and Stockholm scenes. Simon meanwhile was beginning to tour more internationally with Montreal’s Patrick Watson, as a founding member of his four-piece band. The two finally met when Erika was sitting in with Loney Dear, whom Patrick Watson were supporting on tour in Europe at the time. Erika recalls that she “fell in love with Simon’s sound right away,” citing the “harshness and the sweetness combined” of his guitar, as well as his experimental approach to music. It wasn’t long before they were married, and making music together as Thus Owls. “It was the last piece of the puzzle,” she explains. Or the last piece of the first puzzle. Simon moved to Sweden and, along with an existing group of Swedish musicians, made two records with Erika while he wasn’t touring or recording with Patrick Watson. But it wasn’t until they started spending more time back in Montreal that the band’s current lineup—and sound—finally came together. Simon and Erika enlisted local drummer Stef Schneider, and keyboard player Parker Shper, to round out the permanent lineup alongside Swedish bass player Martin Höper. Simon left Patrick Watson and Erika became a Canadian citizen. It was this core group that ultimately recorded Turning Rocks in Montreal in 2013, and who’ve begun to turn heads with their powerful live show. Turning Rocks will be released worldwide by Secret City Records on April 8th, 2014. About Turning Rocks Turning Rocks is the third album by transatlantic band Thus Owls. It’s both a scrapbook of memories and oral transmissions from an island in Sweden, and a sonic experiment in tone and colour recorded in Montreal by a band clearly finding its footing. Turning Rocks is the result of a conscious effort on the part of husband and wife duo Simon and Erika Angell to follow a particular creative process. Whereas previous Thus Owls recordings sprang from Erika’s ongoing songwriting, and bigger studio experiments, Turning Rocks began as a more explicit attempt to create something lyrically and tonally cohesive. “I wanted to bring things together a bit,” Erika explains. They just had to figure out what that meant. To achieve this they employed a kind of multi-media scrapbooking method, which Erika borrowed from the filmmaking world. They amassed a set of material—music, photos, poems—that fit with what they wanted to create; not only to use for inspiration, but also to communicate their vision with collaborators. Obviously music played an important roll in this inspirational inbox: “From Talk Talk, to some 70s Japanese surf-rock, Alice Coltrane, PJ Harvey and Gonzales piano stuff,” Simon lists. “We realized a lot of the things that was catching both our ears were those old vintage 60s organs,” he explains. “So we started buying a bunch of them: a Farfisa, a Wurlitzer,” he goes on, noting that their new keyboard player, Parker Shper, shared their enthusiasm for the older gear. “It was a nice fit,” he says, and it comes through on the recordings. The album was recorded at Studio Fast Forward in Montreal. Not only was it the first time the band had recorded in Simon’s hometown, but it also happened to be the very first studio he had ever recorded in, as a teenager in the late nineties. He hadn’t been back since, but it proved a fruitful spot given the team that was employed, which included Montreal engineer Rob Heaney, and the Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek, who mixed the album at his own Breakglass Studios. Whereas the first two records had put the recording focus on choosing a big studio, “this time,” Simon explains, “it was more about who we wanted to work with.” Notable guests on the record include Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk (who sings on closer, “Thief”), Pietro Amato, and Marie-Pierre Arthur. Lyrically the album followed a similar process as the music. “I got a little tired of writing about myself all the time,” Erika says. So instead she chose a specific place as a source of inspiration; she started writing songs based on true stories her grandmother had told her, about people and events in the tiny house and village they both grew up in on Orust, an island in Sweden just north of Gothenburg. “She was a little girl growing up on the exact same land and in the same house as I did,” Erika explains “so when she spoke about all those things I felt very connected to it, even though I had no idea about any of it.” The songs began to form naturally from there, with each one on the record drawing inspiration from some life somehow connected to that place. “As Long As We Try A Little,” for example, is about her grandmother’s two aunts, seamstresses who lived and worked together, and one of their untimely ends. “Smoke Like Birds” is inspired by her grandmother’s memory of being on the coast during the Second World War, and seeing the lights from a navel battle in the distance. It’s also about her failing eyesight in the present day. The record’s artwork draws inspiration directly from Erika’s roots as well. Old photos of the home and Orust appear on the inside of the LP—including one of her grandmother as a young girl in the 1930s, in a picnic scene surrounded by family, listening to a phonograph.

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