Pony Girl Releases Paper Bag Deal Debut Album

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Pony Girl

Listening Party: Friday 6 p.m., The Record Centre, 1099 Wellington St. (free admission)

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Kick-Off Concert: 8 p.m. Nov. 18, Club SAW, 67 Nicholas Street (tickets at songkick.com)

With references to online shopping, cancel culture, war and the Age of Anxiety, Ottawa-Gatineau band Pony Girl appear to be channeling the turmoil of life during the pandemic on their new long-awaited album, Enny One Will Love You.

But according to band members Pascal Huot and Yolande Laroche, the songs were actually written and recorded before the advent of COVID-19. Thanks in part to Huot’s habit of waiting until the last minute to finalize lyrics, the songs capture what’s on his mind even if he hasn’t fully understood the meaning.

« I think it (helped) me stay a little bit more aware of the environment and be more thoughtful, » the 33-year-old singer-songwriter says of his mindfulness technique. “It’s also an exploration of trying to write in a more fragmented way. I wanted to reflect the way we are constantly shown information out of context and we put it together and contextualize it. I think the pandemic just made us take a closer look at things that were already there. »

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Produced by the band with their friend and collaborator Phillipe Charbonneau, the result is a gorgeous shoe-watching collection of songs set in a modern rock tapestry that combines chamber pop instrumentation and effervescent electronics, complete with the contrasting vocals of Laroche and Huot. . The art-rock band are celebrating the release with a listening party at the Record Center on Friday, followed by a handful of live shows next month.

While creating the music wasn’t a pandemic project for the 10-year-old collective, what was accomplished during the shutdowns was a deal with respected Toronto indie label Paper Bag Records, the company that helped launch the career of Broken Social Scene, stars and Tokyo police club.

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“The pandemic made us consider reaching out and just trying to grow the team, grow the family,” says Huot. « We tried to share it with as many people as possible and Paper Bag was interested in helping. We signed with them late last year.

It’s an unusual outward move for a band that has always had an insular, do-it-yourself approach to music. Formed 10 years ago, Pony Girl was born when Huot had the idea of ​​bringing together musicians from his circle of friends. At the time, he and bassist Greggory Clark worked at a café frequented by Laroche, an old friend from Orleans who was studying classical music at the University of Ottawa.

« I was like, ‘Let’s start this project that’s unlike anything else we’re doing right now,' » Huot recalled. « We started playing together and trying to mix chamber music and folk music and it became a melting pot of different experiences and musical tastes for everyone. »

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For Laroche, a classically trained musician who studied the clarinet, the first rehearsal was a shock because there were no sheet music. « I remember coming to someone’s basement with four boys and asking, ‘Where’s the map? « Pascal kept encouraging me, » she says. « It took a while but we figured it out slowly. »

Laroche, 32, has been playing music since she started piano lessons at the age of six, while Huot is the son of a musician who has always had instruments around him. What attracted him in his youth, however, was a tape recording of his father and his friends jamming. « I thought that was the coolest thing, » he says, adding that it probably sparked his desire to document his life’s moments through recording and photography.

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As Pony Girl, the band released two albums in their early years, although Enny One Will Love You was their first since 2015. Despite the current trend of churning out one song at a time, recent sessions have produced enough material for two complete albums. The second should be out next year.

“We made a twin record and there are a lot of contrasts, a lot of things that exist at the same time even though they usually contradict each other,” says Huot. “Everything is really beautiful but also broken at the same time. If anything, the other record is maybe a bit more upbeat, maybe losing a bit of cynicism to this one, but there’s still that duality.

As for singles vs. albums, Pony Girl has never been a band that adheres to trends. After much debate, they decided it was important to release a full album, as well as a series of videos.

« It depends on what excites us and how we define satisfaction, » Huot said. « We do it this way because we want it, and we don’t really need to know if it’s popular or if it’s what everyone wants. It’s what we want.


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