A Northern Chorus not just shoegazing

Hamilton band hits London

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A Northern Chorus

A Northern Chorus’ beautifully restrained sound has been categorized as shoegaze, art rock, and dream pop, but Stu Livingstone simply dubs it “orchestral rock.”

A Northern Chorus " lead singer/guitarist Livingstone, cellist Alex McMaster, drummer Steve Hesselink, bassist Owen Davies, drummer Craig Halliday, violinist Erin Aurich and guitarist Pete Hall " use instruments like cello and flute to create a new rock sound.

Despite the band’s unique sound, Livingston says it can’t resist singing along to classic songs by The Band, Def Leppard, and AC/DC while on the road.

Since 2001, the band has recorded three albums on Hamilton’s Sonic Unyon Records: Before We All Go To Pieces, Spirit Flags and Bitter Hands Resign.

On 2005’s Bitter Hands Resign, the band shifted away from overly lengthy songs and added more strings to its sound.

“On our new record, we actually have our original violinist back with us, so we have two strong players,” Livingston says.

Bitter Hands Resign was recorded in a converted barn in Caistor Centre, Ontario. Livingstone says the barn was a comfortable recording experience.

“It’s the kind of environment you can go over there and stay over for five or six days at a time and just work on the songs for an entire day,” he says.

“It does add to the sound as well, just having a huge reverb in the room. It adds an ambiance.”

Livingstone and Hall are the band’s main songwriters. They often use a “storytelling” format for lyrics. For example, “Winterize,” is a story about singer Elliott Smith’s death and his battle with depression.

“I’m a big fan of lyrics,” Livingstone says. “With bands like Slow Dive and The Verve, on their early records, you don’t really hear the lyrics so much. You have to search on the Internet to find them.

“I like to be able to hear words in songs. We have lots of thick harmonies too, and I think it’s important to put that in the forefront, because not too many bands are doing that these days.”

A Northern Chorus is playing a few gigs across Canada and the U.S. before performing at the popular South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

“Our tour last April was kind of based around getting into South by Southwest, but we never got in, so that was kind of disappointing,” Livingston says, adding the band is excited about playing the festival for the first time.

A Northern Chorus plays tonight at The Alex P. Keaton. The show starts at 8 p.m.

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