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!



Musical happenings

We played two shows this summer after a relatively long period of dormancy. The shows were super fun. I want to give a big thank you to the promoters, the other artists we played with, and everyone who came out. These were the kind of shows that remind me why we do this crazy thing.

Our show at Pop Montreal was a little less triumphant. I don’t know if it was the bill of wildly disparate acts, or just the simple fact that it was a rainy Wednesday night at midnight, but we had trouble getting out a crowd. Having said that, the crowd we did get was of a high quality, with some old friends and some people who’d never seen the WP in action, and who liked what they saw.

Onstage, I had to internally repeat my mantra that it’s as important to give the same quality of show for a small crowd as a big one. I really believe that, but I sometimes feel like saying to festivals, and other promoters: if you put us in front of a big crowd ready to have fun, we will deliver. Repeatedly proven, that’s the WP guarantee.

WP live at Pop Montreal 2014, photo by Cindy Lopez via Cult MTL.
WP live at Pop Montreal 2014, photo by Cindy Lopez via Cult MTL.


Photo by Todd Stewart
Photo by Todd Stewart

I saw a number of other enjoyable shows at Pop this year, floating around ADD-style with the privilege of my artist’s pass, but the highlight didn’t happen until the final night of the fest.

On Sunday night I wandered downtown to see the Unicorns reunion. For anyone who missed it, these guys were a cornerstone of the whole “Montreal music scene” explosion (Arcade Fire’s first big US tour was opening for them)—or would have been, if they hadn’t broken up at the height of their fame.

The Unicorns and the WP shared the stage once in 2003, opening for our mutual hero Daniel Johnston. They were so new to the game that they were billed below me!
The Unicorns and the WP shared the stage once in 2003, opening for our mutual hero Daniel Johnston. They were so new to the game that they were billed below me! The poster is by Seripop.

I thought the show would be like a high school reunion, full of old-timers, but to my surprise it was mostly younger people who never had a chance to see the band back in the day. I was happy to see the guys get their due, but seeing them play songs from their only album, recorded when they were still teenagers, didn’t hold that much appeal to me. Maybe the past 10 years have gone by too quickly for me to feel nostalgia! I snuck out and biked up to Divan Orange to see Shonen Knife.

And man, am I glad I did. Their showmanship, energy and songs totally renewed my faith in rock n’ roll, as corny as it sounds. And I know everyone there felt the same way. It’s been years since I’ve seen a show where the room was so full of joy. When I think about it, it’s crazy that a band that’s been around for over 30 years, and that toured with Nirvana post-Nevermind among many other accomplishments, was playing such a small room. But what fun to be in that room.

Shonen Knife live at Divan Orange, photo by Krista Muir.
Shonen Knife live at Divan Orange, photo by Krista Muir.

Our next show is in Toronto on October 11, put on by our old friends at the Wavelength series. And our new single is coming very soon… stay tuned.

Oh, and one more plug: this Sunday, September 28, I’m super stoked and honoured to be co-hosting one of my favourite radio shows, Free Kick, on CKUT in Montreal. I’ll be digging deep into my collection for strange gems and hopefully previewing some new stuff by favourite artists. It’s from 11am-1pm on 90.3 FM in Montreal or ckut.ca.

Standing in the (back) spotlight

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







Post-Pop ponderings

On the home stretch of a 16-hour work day, suddenly the wisdom of staying out past 3am seems questionable. I don’t have the stamina of my younger days. But it was worth it all the same, just to see Big Freedia rapping “Ass everywhere, ass ass everywhere” as hordes of kids literally swung from the rafters, popping their booties as best a white Canadian can.

It was the climax of Pop Montreal. Other highlights for me included the Dears (who never cease to amaze me with the contrast between their “mopey pop” image and the raw, guns-blazing, shredding intensity of their live shows), Deerhoof (who I saw twice, at an official show and an afterparty, and who I like more than ever after realizing they’re basically nerdier than Rush), a windy rooftop set by chilled-out pop ensemble Ensemble (no, that wasn’t a typo, I’m just being lazy), and of course the mighty Corpusse at Barfly, working his usual magic (backed up by ever-demure keyboardist Lorenz Peter) on the crowd of old-timers and puzzled young hipsters who were there for the bill of noise-punk upstarts.

This is the first Pop in many years that I didn’t actually play at, but the fest did start out with the premiere of my Corpusse documentary at Blue Sunshine. I’ll say no more since this is the site for the WP, not my filmmaking alter ego, except that I had a great time.

I hesitate to say any discouraging words about Pop after they provided such pleasures, but I feel that not offering constructive criticism is as bad as the reflexive Pop-bashing that was so popular a couple of years ago. Dan and his ever-rotating crew have helped put the city on the map, brought some amazing shows to town, and made a lot of really bold programming choices, and they deserve credit for that. They’re also notorious for their disorganization and terrible communication. They seem to get away with this as “part of the laid-back Montreal charm,” but this year everyone I spoke to—artists, venue reps, technicians—had some kind of fairly major complaint. So all I have to say to Pop is: when your organization and communication rises to the level of your programming, you’ll have truly accomplished an amazing festival. Just sayin’.

Speaking of excellence, we are playing a show this Friday at Studio Juste pour rire—a benefit show for Galerie DARE-DARE with a hot lineup. Details here. Stay tuned for more news soon!