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!

 

 

Back In the Saddle

Almost exactly three years after we started recording our last record Always, I went back in the studio with Murray Lightburn to start laying down some new WP.

Our first dispute was over footwear. Murray evidently felt my striped pink and orange socks were not butch enough. I stood my ground.

We’ve been taking things at a steady pace, getting together about once a week except when Murray is out of town with The Dears or on his own. I’m hoping the timeline will be something between History of Pain, which we took two years to record, and Always, which was completed in a relatively quick three-month burst of productivity.

 

Staring into the depths of my soul, the existential void, or just a couple of vintage mics.

All I can tell you is that so far we’ve recorded three tracks; they sound nothing like each other, and completely different from anything the WP has done before. So, it should be interesting.

2016: The Year in World Providing

After a quiet period, mainly due to the birth of our son, the WP started to get back in action this year. In the spring we released our latest EP Always. Produced by Murray Lightburn and featuring a song co-written with Mocky and a cameo from Chilly Gonzales on piano, it’s been called a return to the “classic” WP sound and, well, what more can I say? I like it, and I hope you do too.

We also put out a video for “Hey Joanne” directed by Montreal artist and musician Bryce Cody.

And we got back on the road! It was a short jaunt, but we had a lot of fun. In Toronto, we were backed by a one-off supergroup featuring three of my favourite musicians and human beings in general: Charlotte Cornfield, Adam Waito and Matt Collins. Here we are performing the title track from Always:

In Montreal, we were joined by our longtime collaborators Gordon Allen and Warren Auld, along with Tim Kingsbury (Sam Patch, Arcade Fire) on guitar. In Ottawa, none of my wish-list guests could make it, so Warren, Gord and I played as a power trio with Stacey’s vocals on top. And that was fun too.

In the fall, we had the opportunity to play at Montreal’s best film festival, the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, at an afterparty of sorts for our old friend Adam Traynor’s new web series Le Ball-trap. Murray, Warren and Gord filled out the lineup, and José Garcia did some amazing visuals. Here we are performing “Avalanches” from History of Pain:

And to cap the year off, we were included in Sean Michaels’ list of the best songs of 2016. What an honour!

IN OTHER NEWS…

I didn’t see a ton of shows this year, apart from some great bands we shared the stage with such as Triple Gangers, Muelkik, EXE, Douce Angoisse and Sheenah Ko. I did see one show, however, that was very memorable. It was a triple bill of Napalm Death, Melvins and Melt-Banana.

They were all awesome, but the Melvins show was really life-affirming. They have always been one of my favourite bands, but I hadn’t seen them play for years. I noticed that they had a new bass player, and he was giving off a really good vibe. You know when a veteran band has a new, young member who just seems really overjoyed to be onstage with these guys? It was like that, but as I looked closer I realized that this guy wasn’t that young. But he had the energy of a young person, just really getting into it and enjoying himself onstage. Eventually he was introduced and I realized it was Steve McDonald from Redd Kross. I can’t really express how motivating it was to see the enjoyment he was having and putting forth to the audience. The fact that someone can still be that energetic and positive after many years in the music game gave me a much-needed renewal of faith.

The other big thing that happened this year was that Gordon Thomas, who we made a documentary about years ago and stayed friends with for years after, passed away just shy of his 100th birthday. I wrote a few words about him and the experience of visiting him just before he died.

I also wrote about:

I didn’t do a ton of freelance writing this year, but I was happy with this review of gay Québécois wrestling icon Pat Patterson’s autobiography.

2016 was a tough year for a lot of people, and I fear that the next few years may be just as hard or harder. I don’t know what to say or what to do, except to try to be a good person and engage in my community as much as I can. WP-wise, I’ll be working on some new material and a new stage show which I hope to share with as many people as possible.

If you’re reading this, I thank you for your support, I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon!

Things of Note

We’re doing a free show in Montreal, as part of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, curated by longtime friend and associate Adam Traynor. Details are to be announced soon, but I can say that it’s on Monday October 10 and that it will be a good lineup. Update: the lineup has been announced! Adam’s totally insane and awesome web series Le Ball Trap will be screening, followed by performances by the WP, Sarah Neufeld (violinist for Arcade Fire and an acclaimed solo artist in her own right) and Le Ball Trap music composer Victor Le Masne. And the whole thing is FREE! More details here.

I recently joined Spotify and have been enjoying it a lot. The “Discover Weekly” playlist is a great feature; I find most online entities’ efforts to target my taste comical to the point of poignancy, but Spotify does a pretty fine job of predicting what I will like. I started compiling a playlist of my own, and plan to update it and create more of them over time. Almost the entire WP catalogue is on there too, as indeed it is on most streaming platforms, so if you too enjoy listening to music this way, check it out.

HistoryOfPain_final_cover

Today is the fifth anniversary of the release of History of Pain. It’s an album that took us a long time to make (we worked on it for at least two years on and off, starting before the previous record Hard Feelings even came out) and one that I like a lot, though I think it’s a bit misunderstood, partly of my own doing.

I sometimes think it’s the most underrated WP album. I’ve been thinking about putting together a “Greatest Hits” compilation for the 20th anniversary of the WP in 2019, and I thought of assembling a parallel “greatest misses” or “shoulda-been hits” collection… but when I started to mentally compile it, almost all the tunes were from History of Pain.

Murray wanted to bring out the garage rock side of the WP, and as it happened, we were listening to a lot of that kind of music at the time. Not the generic three-chord garage stuff, more like a lot of classic power pop and glam rock, and more current stuff like Jay Reatard, Reigning Sound… basically we were listening to WFMU a lot. Plus, I felt like I had really taken the “rock anthems with keyboards instead of guitars” angle as far as it could go. So it seemed to make sense to put the guitars up front.

Somehow, in the promotion of the album, the angle emerged that “they replaced their synths with guitars and changed from electro to garage.” This is a bit misleading; the WP was never really strictly electro, there were guitars on many of the Lost Illusions/Hard Feelings songs, and History of Pain has keyboards on every song but one. But it is a “rock record” for sure, and I think some of the people who dug the raw synth-punk of the early WP were a bit underwhelmed.

Between that, the fact that our distributor went belly-up just before the album came out, and a million other little strokes from the fickle finger of fate, it felt like the record didn’t quite get the attention we thought it deserved. But whatever, I still like it.

Speaking of History of Pain, to promote its release I got a bunch of talented friends to do remixes, and released them for free on this site. For your convenience, this Summer of Pain series is now available on the WP Soundcloud page. Hope you enjoy it!

 

As far as the present and future of the WP, I’m working on some new songs and strategizing my next moves. Wherever you are, I hope to connect with you soon.

ALWAYS – new WP EP out May 27!

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The World Provider’s Always to be released May 27!

Produced by Murray Lightburn (The Dears, The Darcys), Always is a return to The World Provider’s roots in lo-fi synth-pop. With overtones of 90’s grunge and garage rock, the songs pair the WP’s traditional budget synths with fuzzed-out guitars, dreamy melodies and restrained looseness.

Features the singles “Pam Pam” (featuring Chilly Gonzales on piano) and “Autumn Wheels” (described by The Globe and Mail’s Sean Michaels as a “song you need to hear”) plus four new tracks!

With an upcoming video for “Hey Joanne” and shows in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, the WP’s low-budget theatrical synth rock spectacular is back in action.

Always is available digitally on May 27, 2016 via Ting Dun. Or come to one of our shows and pick up a T-shirt with download code, or even (if you’re really old-school) a CD.

2015

m-lucien

Hi everyone, sorry for the long absence. I have about as rock-solid an excuse as it gets: becoming a parent. Only days after the release of our “Pam Pam” single and our Toronto show this fall, our son came into our lives and we have had our hands pretty full ever since.

Of course how this will impact the WP is not yet clear. All I can say is that I am still actively writing songs and scheming up plans for the future. Then there’s the small matter of the batch of songs we recorded last year. We worked again with producer Murray Lightburn, who endeavoured to combine the classic WP sound (if you missed the synths on the last record, they’re back in full force) with more refined song structure befitting our veteran status in the pursuit of pop perfection.

The tunes are all mixed, mastered and ready to go, and I’m very happy with them. It’s just a matter of figuring out what makes the most sense as far as a release format and strategy. Not so simple these days. But I’m working on it.

I don’t have a list of favourite shows from 2014, as I have in previous years. Shonen Knife at Pop Montreal was pretty much the best hands down, with a special nod to Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars in the category of “shows I never thought I’d see.”

We also did a few WP shows that were very fun and memorable, and where we got to play with some inspiring artists. So to Blake Hargreaves, the folks at Passovah and Wavelength, and all the bands we played with: thank you. You gave us a much-needed and much-appreciated renewal of musical faith.

And if you’re reading this, thanks for caring. I appreciate that a lot too. Stay tuned for more updates.

 

 

 

Our New Single & Video

The new video for “Pam Pam” is directed by our longtime friend and collaborator Kara Blake. Katie Ward did the choreography. Chilly Gonzales plays piano on the track, which was produced by Murray Lightburn.

 

If you like the song, you can download it for free from our Bandcamp or Soundcloud pages. You can still also purchase it as part of this compilation of local Montreal bands, with proceeds going to the Ange-Aimée Woods memorial bursary.

Scenes from the Studio

We recently finished recording some new WP tracks, produced by our good pal and collaborator Murray Lightburn.

People have been asking me what the new stuff sounds like, and I’m not sure what to say. It’s sounding good—more or less classic WP style with perhaps a more refined songwriting approach.

I couldn’t say just yet when or in what form these will be released, but I will be sure to let people know when it happens.

In the meantime, here are some photos from the sessions. The B&W, analog (aka good) ones are by Murray, the others by me.

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The essence of the "classic" WP sound: Yamaha PSR-12 and Ace Tone.
The essence of the “classic” WP sound: Yamaha PSR-12 and Ace Tone.
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Our guest Coco takes the opportunity for some chill time.

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Stacey in her finest Canadian winter recording outfit.
Stacey in her finest Canadian winter recording outfit.
Murray practicing the art of mic placement.
Murray practicing the art of mic placement.

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Murray lays down the all-important tambourine track. But, should it be half-time or double-time? Sexual metaphors were soon to follow.
Murray lays down the all-important tambourine track. But, should it be half-time or double-time? Sexual metaphors were soon to follow.

 

View from the vocal booth.
View from the vocal booth.
Tracking done.
Tracking done.

 

 

 

Musical News

I’ve been in the studio recording new WP tracks. So far we have one song in the can, another almost done. I feel good about these tunes, and I look forward to sharing them.

In other musical news:

WP producer and occasional band member, The Dears frontman, and multimedia auteur extraordinaire Murray Lightburn has a new single, “A Thousand Light Years,” coming out. He’s releasing a self-directed video (which I’ve seen, it’s very cool) in a most unusual way: at least at first, it’s screening only at appointed times next Sunday, February 9. More info here.

You can also listen to this very cool remix by Sebastien Grainger right away:

 

Looking further forward into 2014, I recently got word that Mocky, the enigmatic producer/songwriter/musical genius best known for his work with Feist and Jamie Lidell, is releasing a new album on June 18. He describes it as the “sonic heir” to 2009’s Saskamodie, which is one of my favourite records of the century so far, so I am pretty stoked. It’s being released on his own Heavy Sheet label and that’s about all I can tell you… keep your ears to the ground.

Standing in the (back) spotlight

I have a new gig as a backup vocalist for Murray Lightburn’s Mass:Light.

mass-light

As some of you may know, Murray produced the last WP album, History of Pain, as well as recording and mixing the most recent Lion Farm EP, and has performed as a member of the WP band at our last couple of shows. So we have gotten to know each other pretty well over the past few years.

All the same, I am also a big fan of his work, so it’s a thrill to be part of his show. It’s been described as an “electronic pop opera,” which is as accurate a description as I can imagine but still doesn’t quite capture the experience. It’s a lo-fi sci-fi multimedia musical, all held together with Murray’s usual mix of conceptual grandeur, heart-on-sleeve sincerity and amazing vocal powers.

I am singing backup. It’s the first time I’ve been strictly supporting someone else’s musical vision since being part of the Feist touring band back in the day. Then as now, it’s a great experience to simply learn my own parts and not worry about all the other details. But the parts themselves are a big challenge. The harmonies are complicated, and push the limits of my vocal range at both ends. But it’s a challenge that’s been great fun to take on.

The project had its debut a couple of weeks ago at Pop Montreal, and we are playing Toronto on October 12. Details here. If you’re in town, I recommend coming to check it out.

After that, the project is up in the air as far as I know (though there’s talk of a performance at the M for Montreal fest in November). But I’ve got a lot of other irons in the fire—including some brand-new WP tunes I’m pretty stoked about, that we plan to record this winter and bring to the world in 2014.