The Love Boat: Oceanship At Full Sail

Interviewed by Jessica Hilo


“Carly’s also a stripper”

“No I’m not!”

“I’ll probably just bring a camera to her work”


The story behind Ontario band, Oceanship, is a tale of two star-crossed artists lost on the high seas of musical success. A young Brad Lyon entered the University of Waterloo searching for a path to enlightenment. After unsuccessful visits with faculty members for guidance, Lyon took out an ad that misrepresented himself as an “experienced singer seeking a band.” Carly Paradis was a young piano ingénue who, at the age of nine, had already been writing her own music. She met Brad after studying fine arts, multimedia, and a little digital music. At the time, Brad had kicked around several bands, including Toronto’s Salinger-inspired “left Pency,” which he left because “it wasn’t the music I wanted to make.” “We started jamming for a bit,” Paradis explains; and clearly the pairing was perfection- the two toured China, recently released a full length album, and premiered their first music video.

                Oceanship’s sound is ascribed “thought pop, film rock” that draws its inspiration from the murky waters of life. “Music is love and we just try to get as close to that source as possible” Lyon explains. Lyrical sound bytes are drawn by ping ponging ideas off each other, “we have similar tastes and he always layers over perfect lyrics and melodies” says Paradis. Still, their strength, powerful coffee house ethereality, is influenced by film music composition. “My uncle bought one of the first satellite dishes in Canada. He used to tape movies and send them out to a certain circuit of families. I saw something like thirty to forty movies a month,” Lyon explains of his childhood. Paradis, also “a huge score fan;” has worked with composer Clint Mansell at the Ghent Film Festival and is assisting him with work for Duncan Jones’ upcoming movie “Moon.” “We love film. Our music is invariably a result of trying to get closer to that source…beyond audio…trying to get closer to another sense” says Lyon.

Beyond their audio, the band is interested in the plight for environmental sustainability, citing the work of Daniel Quinn and openly advertising alternate social systems like the Venus project. “We try to walk the talk as much as possible,” says Lyon. Operating under the tenets that environmental degradation leads to social degradation, Oceanship attempts to advocate for a sustainable culture, offering their album online only:  “I’m going to look like a nutjob here…but it’s just like gravity. I don’t go quoting Newton every time I take a step or write a song…but we are dying everyday. [In a] roundabout way…everything we do is about [that] fact.” Big values, big sounds, and big lyrics have earned the pair an international following. Much lies in their wake as discussions brew over potential label agreements.

“We’re completely independent [but] talking to a bunch of labels. In a nutshell, the right partner hasn’t presented itself” says Lyon- ever patient when it comes to magical collaborations. True to form, Oceanship’s most recent partnership, with animator Ofir Sasson, fruited them a first music video. “The opportunity kind of fell in our laps,” Lyon explains, “I was on youtube, which I never am, and stumbled onto a link, which I never do …anyway, he needed a song for his video and we needed a video for our song.” A barge of brimming talent, Oceanship is working out the kinks on its next port of travel: “we’ll be working to have our songs placed in film and television …we’re working on [touring] right now.  We hope to tour internationally again [but] we’ll tour regionally and spiral out from there.”  With a wealth of experience, and the winds of success on their back, Oceanship is sure to have smooth sailing ahead.


The Johnstones

“Dropping Stones: The Johnstones Grow Up”

By Jessica Hilo

February 10, 2009


“We were down in Hollywood to play some shows,” recalls Johnstones’ trombonist Julian Warmè, “We went to the House of Blues where they had a Karaoke night going. We did a Barenaked Ladies’ song and were a bit drunk- more obnoxious than usual. And then we were asked to leave. All of a sudden some security guards and cops come up, angrily, saying ‘Tell us what you did!?!’…After two or three hours, sitting in handcuffs, in the cold, they said ‘don’t bother coming back’ this was about 4am. And that’s how we were banned from Disneyland.” It certainly isn’t the first time a band in the music industry has had a run-in with the law, but the Johnstones’ desire for high energy havoc- drunk tanks, jail time, hospital visits- place them amongst the best, worst, and most interesting of rock’s notorious.

                The Johnstones get their name from ex-band member Kevin Johnstone: “From what I gather, Kevin decided to go do mountain biking for serious…we’ve only seen him two or three times since high school [but] we still get along great. He’s in BC. I think he’s married now.” Such is the light hearted nature of this self ascribed non-Ska but Ska-influenced, “upbeat [punk] rock band with horns,” from Ontario comprised of early twenty year olds, Ryan Long, drums, Jarek Hardy, guitar, Brent Marks, bass, Julian Warmè, trombone, and Rene Gillezeau, trumpet. “We’re not your standard cookie cutter Ska band, there’s a bit more depth to us,” explains Warmè, “we take a little bit from all of the music we listen to. We try to get our influences from many different genres,” which include acts like Dr. Dre, Rancid, Barenaked Ladies, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  To try to peg down this unpredictable band on the run would be a mistake, as local law enforcement knows I’m sure: “our music goes wherever we want it to. We don’t really feel as if we’re tied down to one specific sound. Bottom line is: we’re a live band that is high energy and a lot of fun. We don’t have any downer songs. We have solid rock songs.” Solid hits include “songs about girls, of course…[and] about bouncers and how much we hate them and how they think they’re tough shit.” What can you expect of a band who’s former album titles include rap witticism Word is Bond (2006) and 2008 release Sex (Warmè: “because sex sells- we thought it’d be funny”)? Still, bands as melodically, lyrically, and socially unhinged as the Johnstones do not tend to enjoy as much success without reigning in and exploring talent. Despite the image, the Johnstones’ focus on recent work is proof enough that they’re growing up.

                The Stones’ latest endeavors surround the release of another full length album from 20-22 demo songs produced by Flashlight Brown’s Fil Bucchino and Matt Hughes. The band intends to tour for a month, post new music on their website, and shoot two music videos in New York by the end of February. Though the new album lacks a title, “we’ve been bouncing around a few names that I don’t want to say because they’re extremely obnoxious,” it promises to drive the Stones in a new direction:  “back when I joined the band, we started taking the music seriously…as you grow older and make more music, your sound matures…I’m sure it’s cool to make four of the same albums; [but] if you look at bands like the Chili Peppers you can’t say that [the albums don’t] differ.”  Their album, in this vein, will feature more compositional cohesion, melodic exploration, and experiential focus on their use of horns- though still no talk of going full Skadomy with the assumption of a sax player: “The five of us are a good fit for each other…a sax just wouldn’t fit in.”

The Johnstones may never be the serious, focused, law abiding musicians we hope of them, but their fun-loving creed and unstoppable drive is one to take into consideration: “basically our attitude is: ‘You’re here once, you might as well have a good time and there’s no better way to have a good time than with your friends.’”


As a music reviewer, even one whose level of significance ranks amongst unicellular pond scum, it’s easy to assume a certain level self-righteousness about personal taste in music. We are the elite. We determine artistic excellence in shrouded Masonic negotiations. Dan Brown is actually writing his next novel about us. Our cloaked standards aren’t too outlandish- the Beatles, Zeppelin, Mozart (somewhere in our starry expanse a pissant Frenchman, they’re always French, is shitting himself, puffing away at a cigarette, and sliming “Mozart is total bullshit.” Barring this Euro ego-extrovert, we usually have our finger on the pulse of what’s hot or not.) So when I was afforded the opportunity of interviewing an up and coming, self-ascribed, “Hip Hop Jack Johnson,” Shwayze, I immediately jumped to my highly judgmental, holier than thou. I was initially, to say the least, put off. The Shwayz (dropping the ‘e’ to make a hip reference) makes himself an easy target. A Malibu native, born Aaron Smith, Shwayze earned his street cred while knocking around his hometown trailer park. He reached mainstream success by riding the coattails of (exploiting) his friend Cisco Adler, collaborator, writer, producer, main mix master on his upcoming release; and more notably, son of Lou Adler (you know Lou, he’s the Donald Sutherland looking gentleman who sits next to Jack Nicholson at every Lakers game. Summer of love music producer? No?) Cisco, recognized more as a privileged social magnet (cough, dated Mischa Barton, cough, naked pictures leaked on the internet) than a musician, was the frontman for a VH1 TV reality show band- phenomenon, and I use the term loosely (Vietnam prostitute loosely) Whitestarr.

This vile duo, this anti-Batman and Robin, bounded toward my sweet Oceanside town to drag out all the bottom feeders- the spoiled rich kids, the habitually intoxicated, the neoconservatives- under the pretenses of promoting what they called ‘a new west coast sound;’ as if the music was to ignite our generation’s Bukowskian renaissance or the second coming of Christ himself. The more I researched Shwayze, the easier it became to mock him: BAM! His single, “Buzzin,” was featured in a Pontiac Vibe commercial; BOOM! MTV picked up the rights to a reality TV show that follows the recording of his debut; KA-BLAOW! He rhymed his name with “Patrick Schwayze.” And I had the task of actually promoting this garbage- perhaps garbage is a harsh term; “overtly commercial soundtrack to a half naked, ill-conceived Sunday keg binge” sums it aptly. Thus my egocentric bile arose, birthed painfully, acerbically, out of the womb of my gullet. I wracked my brain for the components in how I wanted to lay into this guy. Plotting my attack like I was plotting the invasion of Normandy. Should I shoot for a Long Beach Dub Allstars tie or go for a Coolio reference? Perhaps a nice “Malibu’s Most Wanted” joke? The closer my deadline loomed, the more nervous I became- what I thought was my inner bitch twitterpating with anticipation. Turns out it was actually nerves. The catch about seeing someone love what they do and enjoy notoriety in doing it- however many flaws, whatever nay-saying; and despite all the inefficiencies and questionable trends and personal defects- is that you turn into a champion for their continued success. And here I was cocked and ready to take him down. And why? Because the content of his music was questionable? Because in the history of my Masonic standards there hasn’t been music like this? Paul McCartney crooned, “I used to be cruel to my woman. I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved;” and women creamed their panties over him. He’s one of four on the high alter of all that is pop rock music? And Jesus, don’t get me started on the wrongs of Ricky Nelson and his “Travelin’ Man.”

And so, perhaps as a means of absolution, and definitely because the article was canned (Shwayze and Adler, in their infinite wisdom, cancelled their Santa Barbara appearance), I write to you, oh invisible internet audience, to weave the great story of a boy they call Shwayze: a kid living his dream. His album “drops” June 2k8. It’ll probably be in a Starbucks somewhere.


“Bring Out the Stampede”
By Jessica Hilo
December 10, 2008

On a brisk Friday afternoon, the three young upstarts of band Stuck on Planet Earth (SOPE) returned to Bishop Allen High School for the second installment of their BakPak tour. The school was the scene of a brutal snowball attack on the band one year prior; pelt-and-run assailants who disagreed with SOPE’s grassroots method of self-promotion. This time around was no more successful, as the band faced the embarrassment of ridicule from post pubescents and ejection from school premises on the grounds of solicitation. Still, SOPE treks on, paying their dues along the thankless path of many a musical up-and-comer.

SOPE, comprised of bassist Al Capo, guitarist Adam Bianchi, and drummer Andrew Testa, is hardly new to the music world. At thirteen, Capo and Bianchi started Toronto based band Expo; influenced by 90s and early ought pop punk heroes Greenday, Blink 182, and, of course, Sum 41. Testa joined Expo six months before the band revamped its sound and changed its name entirely. “We loved their music,” Capo recalls, but tastes matured, horizons expanded, and they wanted to be taken more seriously. SOPE found a nice niche after maturation. Its sound became pop punk inspired by a cavalcade of artists of many genres from the past three decades- imagine the Police with a twist of Flock of Seagulls punctuated by the sweaty grime of old MXPX and all deliciously coated with the sheen of recklessness and overconfidence inherent of people in their twenties. The band’s success is hinged on a collaborative writing process founded on the creed “let the best song win;” that and the surprising electro mix mastery of its Flashlight Brown producer, Fil Bucchino. SOPE’s repertoire conquers melody and rhythmic complexity while maintaining the lyrical boyishness of its punk roots; but one cannot stand upon this alone on the road of professional progress and the boys are moving forward yet again.

When I asked SOPE what inspired their band name, Capo answered “everything going on inspired it.” Epic movies, environmental concerns, “everyone’s kind of panicking right now… [This is a] band name that reminds everyone that we’re human. Let’s try to turn this planet around.” SOPE is doing its part artistically, with an EP of five new, lyrically focused tracks. “This is one of the first EPs [where] we really started writing love songs and breakup songs,” Capo explains; it is also the first album to cover real world issues like reliance on technology and obsession with celebrity hedonism. Beyond lyricism, the album showcases the band’s want for innovation, as it is recorded off the floor in order to capture the energy of a live band and with songs done in four takes (Testa: “basically, we’re the shit.”) The band has greater plans with this next album, “you can’t sit on something and expect it to take you anywhere…with this record, our expectations are only as far as what we can do.” Once the months-long tedium of recording, designing album artwork, and BakPak touring is complete, the band expressed interest in a future collaboration with environmental organizations, saying “we never like to limit ourselves.” Grand ideas for a talent so promising and yet undiscovered; one would think they were talking out of their asses were it not for the next line Capo offered humbly: “This is what we want to do for a career and our lives. Whether we’re selling out a stadium or playing for five people, this is what we’re all about.”

For now, superstardom and philanthropy of Bono proportions will have to wait; it’s back to the BakPak tour for our down to earth SOPEfuls. But with a new music video, a treasure chest of clips on youtube, remixed sampling by Jose Maria, and an album on the horizon, the band that screamed “I am ready for anything” will surely test its mettle.


“Moving Right Along”
By Jessica Hilo
February 10, 2009

Since the meteoric rise of Bon Iver, acoustic guitarists and piano rockers alike have headed for the hills, so to speak, in search of the romance in reclusion, writing, and recording. In the thick of the creative process, Foreverinmotion’s Brendan Thomas is no different, inspired by New Mexico’s mud huts, rose colored deserts, and broken mesas as scene to his next album. Tapping into the energy of one of the oldest and best culturally preserved cities in the U.S, Thomas finds creativity from newfound spirituality. It would be easy to lump him alongside the other psycho-babbled Deepak Choprans and disposable disciples who feign meaning in the mundane; but Thomas, a rare find, proves to be an interminable artist on the move.

Brendan Thomas, a self-produced multi-instrumentalist, has mastered the art of creating ethereal dreamscapes in melody; which shouldn’t be a surprise with a name based on the shapelessness of music and its focus on an everlasting present. Musical comparisons include solo acts like Damien Rice, Andrew McMahon, or even Peter Mulvey, and as with their music, Thomas nails wandering melody dichotomously with uncomfortable and real lyrics- they are harsh, personal, and poetic. Therein is the beauty of Foreverinmotion: both its indomitable strength and delicate vulnerability. Though not at liberty to discuss the finer points of his latest work, a new album for release in the spring, Thomas claims great inspiration from a journey of self-discovery in moving to New Mexico. His reeducation was both spiritual and metaphysical in nature and helped him gain newfound appreciation for the little things; honing his song writing process with maturity and focus and helping him gain perspective as an artist on the rise.

Thomas has always been pigeonholed to the wrong crowd- marketed for years to the emo pop punk when he clearly belongs to an NPR generation of recovering folk addicts. Despite this misfortune, Thomas claims his latest work “is all positive. Reflective;” a bank of focused songs hinged on memory and the completeness of a recalled experience. He hopes for new directions in his latest work: “You get in a boat, you put up the sails, and you just go. See where it takes you. I am doing pretty much everything on the record. Once I do as much as I can, I’ll fly back east and get all my buddies on the new album. You can lose something by not branching your music out to other ideas from other people; [get] that chemistry that comes with working with other people.” On this odyssey, this spiritual songster hopes for more enlightenment amongst the business end of the industry: “I see growth, I see travel, and hopefully a lot of people getting into [the album]. I’m hoping the music I make will have a positive impact on people. Life is short, you can’t worry too much about money or the business side of things. I’m more driven towards the spiritual side of things. [But] you can’t be an artist and truly create with space and comfort without making money on the side. It’s kind of a fine line. To quote Bill Hicks, the comedian, ‘you’re an artist until you really start whoring out your fame, then your off the artistic role call.”

Putting pattern to the chaos of self-awareness and pinning artistry down is never an easy task, but Foreverinmotion’s Brendan Thomas, an anonymous troubadour slowly gaining his notoriety while hiding in plain sight, has his head on straight. Positioned for bigger and better things outside the preserved sanctity of New Mexico, with a new album and dreams of expansion (“I’ve done the United States pretty much to the dirt. I would love to start touring internationally”), Thomas has the humility and unique perspective of an artist destined to move by leaps and bounds: “I don’t require fame, because that’s all ego. Fame is not on my list of things that I want. I look at it more as, I continue to do what I’m doing and hopefully it will be successful. First and foremost I want to make music that reaches people and that I feel good about.”