Lyrics

A few mixed-up words on mixed-up words.

I like a good lyric as much as the next person. When a perfect phrase grabs you, it’s a sublime moment of understanding.

But I also kind of like it when a song is hard to understand.

As a kid, I mainly bought albums on cassette. In those days, it would seem tapes were a cheap afterthought from a record business perspective: they came without their own custom design, and certainly without lyrics printed. So I would spend hours trying to decipher what my favourite singers were singing. Sometimes, when I eventually found out what it was, I liked my own interpretations better.

Just as one example, for the longest time I thought that the line in Rush’s “Freewill”—the stars aren’t aligned, or the gods are malign—was the stars on the line of the dark summer night—a more poetic, if less meaningful per se (and certainly less showy), turn of phrase.

(Incidentally, I could say a lot of things about the recently deceased Neil Peart as a lyricist, and his perhaps unfortunate influence on my young writer’s mind, but I’m not sure this is the place, or indeed if that place in fact exists. But I will excerpt this passage from the same song—which incidentally I could never understand despite hundreds of listens, and remained a mystery until I looked it up recently—as a fond farewell…)

Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt
That’s far too fleet 


Mumbling towards ecstasy

Later in life, I would become enraptured with deliberately mumble-mouthed singers. Obvious examples include Michael Stipe with the early REM, Mick Jagger on Exile on Main Street, Kurt Cobain whose vocals were slurred enough to be mocked by Weird Al… I liked the mystery of these unintelligible hooks, plus maybe I found some justification there for my own inability, or unwillingness, to sing clearly (as a child choral singer, I was often pestered to open my mouth wider and enunciate).

On the extreme end of incomprehensibility, you’ve got outright nonsense lyrics—the dadaist poetry of Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra,” the famous backwards hook in the chorus of Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” or the work of singers like Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser or Duchess Says’ Annie-Claude, who went as far as to make up their own languages… to me, these are the purest reflections of the idea that the important thing in a song lyric is how it sounds, not what it “means.”

I only once had the audacity to try this wordless approach myself in a song, very early on. If I’d been left to my own devices, most or all of my songs might just have had nonsense lyrics, but clearer heads prevailed…

Getting around to the point…

All of this is just to explain why, for many years, I resisted sharing the WP’s lyrics, even though people have asked about them from time to time. I guess I thought that song lyrics were meant to be heard, not read.

In keeping my lyrics obscure I was also deeply affected by David Thomas of Pere Ubu, who once declared in some liner notes that “Printing lyrics is a Bad Thing.” (What can I say? I’ve always been susceptible to strong personalities, manifestos and decrees.)

Well, times have changed, and now I want you all to bask in the brilliance of my lyricism. So I’ve made all the WP lyrics—from the random surrealism of the early days, to the self-help-influenced posicore pronouncements of the mid-late 2000s, to the emotional oversharing of the last decade—public for the people to enjoy. Now, you can saunter on over to the WP Bandcamp page and find out what I’m going on about in your favourite song.

Just be warned…. it won’t be as mysterious!

2019: The Year in World Providing

Let me just start with a quick promo announcement: I’m doing a Bandcamp holiday sale through the end of 2019. Everything is 20% off, and the first 5 orders get this cool poster, by Montreal artist HUYNH, delivered straight to your door. Just go to the WP Bandcamp page and enter the discount code 2019 at checkout.

OK, with that out of the way…

As you may have heard, 2019 was the 20th anniversary of The World Provider.

I did a reissue of the very first WP tape, The Elements of Style, with bonus tracks and new liner notes by me and producers Peaches and Taylor Savvy.

My friend Jonathan of Unpopular Arts unearthed this video, shot by Stacey in Berlin in 2000 or 2001 and originally released on a VHS compilation of superhero-themed Super 8 movies by an anarchist film collective:

I did an interview on Ottawa’s CKCU-FM (one of the best campus-community stations out there, btw). The sound quality is not great, but it’s a pretty good overview of the history and theory of the WP for those interested…

And we did some shows, notably an anniversary spectacular in Montreal with a strict Greatest Hits setlist (see poster above), that I was very happy with.

Live in Montreal, October 2019. Photo by Jen McIntyre

All in all, I have mixed feelings about how the year went, and about looking back over 20 years of the WP. This year, like all the rest, had highs and lows. I’m never sure how honest to be about these things. In the past, when I’ve tried to speak candidly about career stuff, the result has been described (by people I respect a lot) as “whiny” and “depressing.” (I was going more for “honest” and “real,” but as Nigel Tufnel said about clever and stupid, it’s a fine line.)

So let me say instead: I’m more interested in the next 20 years.

Musical highlights of 2019

Charlotte Cornfield: Charlotte is a friend and I’m proud to say that I once even roped her into playing drums with the WP. But I’m not just hyping up a friend when I say that she’s an amazing songwriter and singer. Her new album, The Shape Of Your Name, is her best yet, and her show at Pop Montreal gave me tears and chills. If you don’t know her, get on it.

Triples: I’ve known sisters Eva and Madeline Link since they were little kids, and they’ve always impressed me with their talents. Their new record, Big Time, is a banger. Madeline’s solo project, Pax, is very cool too.

Murray A. Lightburn: OK, this guy I’m really not objective about, as I’m not only a longtime fan but he’s also a friend, has produced three records for me, and we’ve played in each other’s bands. The thing is, as I’ve tried to explain in the past, I simply have really good taste in music, and in friends—I can’t help it.

Anyway! Murray’s new solo record is on an old-school soul/R&B tip and it’s sweet. I had the honour of singing backup at his Montreal album launch show and it was a great experience. For those who are fans of his “other” band The Dears, I heard a new tune of theirs the other night and it was pretty great: monster riffs, strings, laser sounds, and Natalia singing. I look forward to hearing more…

According to Spotify, this year I mainly listened to the Beatles, Beach Boys, Parquet Courts, Reigning Sound, Shintaro Sakamoto, and the theme from the Popeye movie (that was mainly my son’s doing). I’m fine with that, I think—although I’m always looking for recommendations, both within and beyond my musical comfort zones, if you have them.

RIP Justin Haynes

Probably the biggest, and saddest, news on the personal front this year was the death of Justin Haynes. He was not a close friend, but he was very close with my brother, and was someone I respected a lot. Only after his passing did I find out that he had recently published some personal essays about his experiences with homelessness and low-income housing. I urge everyone to read these, to agitate for affordable housing, and most importantly, to check in on the people in your life who need help, and to reach out if you need it.

It’s tough out there, let’s take care of each other.

The WP turns 20

The WP turns 20 this year.

Yup, it was way back in the final year of the last millenium that I did the first recordings and shows under the name The World Provider.


Early press release

Since then, the WP has wavered from solo act to duo to band and back again, with many personnel and musical changes along the way.

I’m still figuring it out, and in a lot of ways I’m more interested in the next 20 years than the last 20.

But we are doing a couple of things to mark this anniversary.

We’re going to do some shows this fall with new costumes, theatrics, and a strict “greatest hits” set list.

And I’m doing a cassette reissue of the first WP tape, The Elements of Style, featuring new liner notes from Peaches, Taylor Savvy and myself, as well as two cassette-only bonus tracks from deep in the vaults.

Grabbing material from the 4-track master tape

Stay tuned for more news!

2018: The Year in World Providing

2108 was a big year for the WP. In case you might have missed it…

We released a new EP, Old Dreams. Check it out on your favourite music platform here.

I collaborated with director Adam Traynor, editor Kara Blake, director of photography Jules de Niverville and art director Thea Metcalfe on a video for the song “Everything.”

The WP did our first shows in two years, with Stacey back on drums, longtime member Gord Allen on bass and new keyboardist Valérie B, along with a few special guests. We debuted our new stage costumes by Elise Boudreau Graham. Got to share the stage with old friends (The Canadian Romantic, garbageface, Daiquiri) and new (Marker Starling, Lost Creatures, and the link-less Bibliotek). We were really happy with how the shows went and are excited to play again.

But 2019 is going to be even bigger! It’s the 20th anniversary of the WP and we’ll be doing some special shows. I’m currently strategizing our set list, so if there are any songs you want to hear, let me know in the comments or on the socials.

Some music I’m currently digging:

Mocky, A Day at United 

Eliza Kavtion, The Rez That Svmmer

Marker Starling, Trust An Amateur

Speaking of (other people’s) music, I’m going to be co-hosting one of my favourite radio shows, the Free Kick on CKUT, on Sunday January 20 from 11-1 if you’d like to tune in.

This is a weird time in the world, or maybe it’s just reverted to its natural state of chaos and strife. I don’t have a solution, but I think we should try to be more kind to each other. It sounds simple, even pat, but it’s actually not that easy to do. And in general, I’ve found that the hardest things to do are often the most important.

If you’re reading this, all the best and hope to see you in 2019!

Everything – the new WP video

This summer, I got together with old friends Adam Traynor, Kara Blake and Thea Metcalfe to brainstorm an idea for a new WP video. I had close to zero budget, but they had some cool ideas.

After hearing the new tunes, Adam and Kara selected the song “Everything” – not the usual guns-blazing anthem we choose for a single, but I was game. We shot it at the end of the summer with cinematographer Jules de Niverville. Now it’s ready for your enjoyment.

The song was produced by Murray Lightburn and features Chilly Gonzales on piano. It’s from the new EP Old Dreams, which you can buy or stream on your favourite platform here.

Old Dreams – the new WP EP


Cover art by Todd Stewart

Buy or stream it on your favourite music platform from this link right here

The new World Provider EP, Old Dreams, is out November 2 on Ting Dun.

The 5-song record is produced by Murray Lightburn and features longtime WP contributors/pals Stacey DeWolfe, Chilly Gonzales, Steve Raegele and my brother Nick Fraser.

Or pick up the limited edition 10″ vinyl EP available exclusively at Phonopolis in Montreal.

New WP coming soon

The new WP record is officially in the can! Details are to follow, but I can confirm that it’s a five-song EP called Old Dreams; it’s once again produced by Murray Lightburn and features longtime WP pals Stacey DeWolfe, Chilly Gonzales, Steve Raegele and my brother Nick Fraser; it will be released this fall in a (very) limited edition 10″ vinyl as well as on all digital platforms, and we will be doing some shows for the release.

I posted a few pics from the sessions last year, but here are a few more to tide you over until we have more to share.

Can’t wait for you to hear these new tunes!

Murray laying down some bass. Yes, he dresses this well just for a day in the home studio.

My baby bro slamming down some tracks with the “cymbal on the snare” trick in full force.

Steve getting his John Cage on with some prepared guitar.

Musical Delights

There’s a lot of music out there, so much that you can’t keep track of it and invariably miss out on most of it. I wanted to take this space to shout out a few artists who’ve recently released music I’ve found inspiring. Almost all these artists are people I know personally, but I’m not here to blow smoke up my friends’ asses. I just have good taste in music and in friends, that’s all. Maybe this will be a series, I dunno. But I enjoy these and I hope you do too.

Sheenah Ko

Photo: Vivien Gaumand

I’ve said it before, but Sheenah is a ray of sunshine cutting through the grumpy, cynical miasma of the Montreal music scene.
File under: Mellow synth grooves spreading good vibes.

Julien Beillard

Some of you may recall that I wrote a book a few years ago on Ottawa indie rock pioneers Wooden Stars. When I interviewed singer/guitarist Julien Beillard for the book, he professed to being basically done with making music, so I was very pleasantly surprised to hear that he was recording again. And the result—produced by his longtime collaborator Geoffrey Pye (Yellow Jacket Avenger) and even featuring a Mike Feuerstack lap steel cameo for all y’all Wooden Stars completists—doesn’t disappoint.
File under: Heavy-duty songwriting interlaced with some noisy explorations. 

Triples

I’ve known these young sisters since they were little kids, and I’m thrilled to see them making such cool music. I watched the Kurt Cobain documentary the other day (verdict: OK—be sure to take it with a grain of salt, or Buzz Osborne’s review) and I couldn’t help but think, certainly not for the first time, about the horrible influence that Seattle grunge had on mainstream rock. If false grunge is best embodied by Nickelback and its ilk, and its platonic ideal personified in the Melvins, Triples represents its long-neglected sweet side.
File under: Heavy riffs, nice melodies, and introspective lyrics.

feu doux

Stéphane Lafleur is not only a cool musicien (Avec pas d’casque), but one of Quebec’s most interesting filmmakers (Continental, Tu dors Nicole). As an occasional filmmaker myself, I have a special jealousy for people who make music and film (especially when they’re actually good at both). This project is a collaboration with longtime WP friend and collaborator Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux (Organ Mood, Chocolat, Rock Forest) and it’s really great.
File under: Eerie and exciting, ambient soundscapes with meat on the bone.

2017: The Year in World Providing

2017 was the first year that I didn’t do any WP shows since 1999, or in other words, in the entire history of the WP. That feels strange. However, I did stay busy with music.

Working with producer Murray Lightburn for the third time, I recorded five new songs. They sound pretty different than anything I’ve done so far, so I’m curious to see what people will think. Murray and I did most of the music ourselves, Stacey sings on a bunch of tracks, and longtime WP cohorts Chilly Gonzales, Steve Raegele and my brother Nick Fraser all make appearances. These tunes will be released in some form in 2018, and the WP will get back on the road.

For better or worse, the sax track was never added

The other thing that kept me busy was the 30th anniversary tour of the Permanent Stains, the band I’ve been in since junior high school. We released an updated edition of our autobiography, Let’s Get Greasy, and did five shows in Ontario and Quebec. The tour was probably one of my favourite experiences ever. In our heyday we were notorious for being theatrical and confrontational but not very good—but today, with half the band being full-time pro musicians, I knew we could make an impact musically as well as theatrically. Some may be surprised by this, due to my reputation for haphazard sloppiness, but I actually have very high standards both for the WP and the Stains: I want to blow people’s minds. And if I may say so, I think we accomplished that this summer. But don’t take it from me…

Some of the shows were mostly for old friends, which was fun, but when we played in North Bay and Peterborough, the audience was all young people rocking out, which was super energizing. We also got to play with a bunch of really cool bands and artists, including old friends like garbageface, Broken Puppy and Just Like the Movies, but also new (or new to us) artists like Ugly Cry, Eliza Kavtion, Gamma Scum, Like a Girl, Coastal Pigs Worn Robot and Lonely Parade. The tour was full of friendship, hysterical laughter and ridiculous stunts both onstage and off. To be able to spend that time with the band—my brother and a bunch of my closest friends—and to pull off our absurdist spectacle so successfully, was really like an adolescent fantasy come true, and I hope to work with the Stains again before too long.

While I was on the road with the Stains, I was contacted to host a panel discussion at Pop Montreal with recently reunited 90s band Royal Trux. I was familiar, if not intimate, with their music, but I was curious (and flattered) enough to say yes. Starting at that moment and continuing up until minutes before the panel, people from my close friends to the highest ranks of Pop authority warned me that the band were notoriously difficult. I figured I had to get my Nardwuar on and do scrupulous research in order to not be publicly humiliated.

Chatting with the Trux. Photo courtesy of Steven Balogh

In the end, the research paid off and/or the band’s difficulty was greatly exaggerated, but it was a pretty great experience—they were just funny, smart, very candid people. In addition to a nominal fee I got a festival pass out of it, which was great. I saw a number of shows, including nostalgic classic album run-throughs by pals The Dears and Besnard Lakes, a great set by Carodiario which also was apparently Maica’s last under that moniker, and a rager by the Trux themselves. The best was a NYC rapper named Quay Dash. I was on my way home from another show when I ran into my friend Roxanne aka Donzelle, who urged me to join her, and I’m so glad I did. True hip-hop, raw and real, like I hadn’t seen onstage in years.

Anyway, I’m excited to share my new music and to get performing again. Thanks for reading, and I hope to be seeing you soon!

 

 

Permanent Stains

The WP has been hard at work this year, getting a new batch of songs in the can. They will be released in some form in 2018, and I’m very happy with them. But this summer, I’ve been busy with another project: the 30th anniversary tour of the Permanent Stains!

The Stains circa ’89

The Stains was my high school band, and though we’ve done things here and there since that era, we’ve been inactive for the last decade. I’m very excited about this tour, and the anniversary re-edition of our autobiography, Let’s Get Greasy, with a bunch of new material.

There’s a lot I could say about the Stains, but you can read all about it in the book, or get a hint from this video with some of the messiest moments from our Ottawa early-90s punk scene heyday:

It was weird for me to watch the old footage that I compiled to make this video. A friend was asking me “What were you guys thinking?” and I have to say, it’s hard for me to remember or connect with my vision at the time. We just wanted to perform, freak people out, and have fun. And make good music – we may have fallen short of that particular goal a lot of the time, but we were just teenagers, and we’ve done all right for ourselves since; all of us still play music, many in a full-time pro capacity.

On that note, another thing I noticed going through the old materials was that from very early on, I defined the band as being bad. Was this a pre-emptive strike against criticism, a lazy way to excuse sloppiness, or just the pervasive influence of Mad magazine with its “usual gang of idiots” self-definition? At any rate, I now want to come clean and say that I think, and have always thought, that we actually rule.

Our antics may or may not be as crazy as a bunch of genteel middle-aged artists – we’ll see. All I know is that to play music with my brother and a bunch of my closest friends is something that brings me a lot of happiness, and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Come check us out at these dates:

Wednesday August 9 – OttawaPressed
with Coastal Pigs and Worn Robot
8pm * $8
FB event

Thursday August 10 – MontrealLa Vitrola
With Ugly Cry, Eliza Kavtion, Gamma Scum
9pm * $10/PWYC
FB event

Friday August 11 – North BayWhite Water Gallery
With Lightmares and Like A Girl
8:30 pm
FB event

Saturday August 12 – TorontoBurdock
With Broken Puppy and Just Like the Movies
8:30 * $8/10
FB event

Sunday August 13 – PeterboroughThe Spill
Garbageday 2017 with garbageface, The Lonely Parade, Heartless Romantics and Jesse “The Magic Man” Rose!
9pm * $8