Jane Blanchard Talks New Music

Category: music 312

Blanchard’s forthcoming EP “Still, Again” will arrive this summer via Gerry Loves Records (Scotland) and Monopolized Records (Canada). 

Matt Carter
Cover Art by Maggie Higgins.

Jane Blanchard is trying her best to navigate 2020. The world has changed considerably since she began planning the release of her new EP, Still, Again. The ongoing health crisis effectively ended her plans to release new music in the spring, and supporting tours of Canada and the UK were also put on hold. There’s a lot of wait-and-see happening at the moment and not surprisingly, she seems just fine with it all.  

Since co-founding Flourish in 2015, an arts and music festival in her hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick and releasing her debut EP the following year, Blanchard has always moved at a steady, calculated, and admirable pace. 

“The whole world of live streaming has opened up and I still don‘t really know how I feel about live streams in general,” said Blanchard. “I think there’s a way to do it but I think it was just thrown on all of us so quickly that we’re just fumbling around without really knowing how to do it, when to do it or why to do it.  And then with the platforms – Facebook, Zoom, Instagram. That’s a whole different conversation. Do I want to be putting all my stuff up through Facebook? Do I support just having everyone flooding to Facebook and Instagram? There aren’t really many alternatives at the moment because there hasn’t really been time for the digital side of everything to catch up.”

Like all artists who willfully take a do-it-yourself approach to their craft, Blanchard has been spending a lot of time learning to navigate the increasingly unpredictable territory of performance and event curation in 2020. 

“For me, playing a release show is almost more exciting than releasing the record itself,” she said. “Not having these shows is disappointing but also a little less stressful in some ways. Usually when you’re planning a tour you have shows that get cancelled or your car breaks down. This way has less variables but also, less fun.”

Blanchard’s forthcoming release, Still, Again is set to arrive this summer on the independent Scottish label Gerry Loves Records and the Saint John label Monopolized Records. In addition to a digital release made available through Bandcamp and most streaming services, GLR will also be pairing this new release with 2018’s Enemy for a limited-edition vinyl release with Monopolized Records releasing a cassette edition.  

“In our ten years it’s very rare that we’ve started working with an artist who has emailed a submission in,” said Gerry Loves Records co-founder Paddy Berry. “It does happen but we get so many that it can be difficult giving each one the time it deserves. It took us over three months to get to Jane’s when she contacted us in late 2018, so long in fact that the link to the demos which formed the Still, Again EP has expired. Having delved into previous work, the Enemy and Narcissus EPs, we got back in touch and were fortunate enough that we hadn’t missed the boat completely. The new songs are a marked step up from her previous releases and we’re super excited for people to finally hear them.”

Blanchard, Trask and Westner in the studio at Memramcook Recording Company. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/janeblanchardmusic

To document her latest collection of songs, Blanchard and drummer Stefan Westner once again enlisted the help of fellow musician and engineer Mike Trask at Memramcook Recording Company.

“We recorded our last EP at MRC as well,” said Blanchard, “but with that session we were only there for two days. With this one we stayed there for like five or six days, stayed with Mike and Julie [Aubé], sat in the garden and just lived the Trask life.”

Over the past four years Blanchard and Westner have continued to explore the dynamic possibilities of working with guitar, drums and vocals. From the minimalism of Narcissus (2016) to the heavier rock influence on Enemy (2018), their focus on exploring just how much sound a duo can confidently create has helped add an additional element of curiosity to Blanchard’s words and often unconventional song structures.  

“These new songs are still just guitar and drums with a bit of keyboard at the end,” said Blanchard. “Our idea has always been to record and perform as a duo. At least for now. We definitely have been experimenting with going a bit heavier and trying out some new approaches. Last year on tour we were listening to The White Stripes a lot and kind of rethinking how a duo can work. We listened to a bunch of stuff trying to learn how to come at our instruments differently and how to approach our music differently as well. 

“I’ve been trying to get away from the more folky, ethereal stuff and go towards something a little bit heavier while still having that sentiment there, if that makes sense,” she said. 

Still, Again stands in contrast to Blanchard’s earlier work while maintaining a consistent level of growth. On this recording the pair appear to no longer be bound by whispered lyrics and delicate presentation. There is an element of aggression that feels appropriate for the times. 

While Westner’s playing has opened up considerably adding to the EP’s raw and powerful delivery, it is Blanchard’s guitar work, in both tone and complexity, that gives Still, Again its sense of urgency and emphasis. 

“Playing live, I think that our set was good but we only really had a lot of fun for a couple of songs, usually the heavier or more upbeat ones,” said Blanchard. “When I was writing these songs and we were playing around with them there was that thought of, wouldn’t it be nice to have more songs that contrast our earlier stuff. The slower stuff is nice and I really enjoy doing that.  There’s something special about playing a very quiet, dramatic, slow song and having the room be really quiet, but there’s also something really fun about shifting that energy and playing with the audience. I like to experiment with that. 

“It’s also fun playing sad songs to happier music.”

Still, Again will be available digitally and on limited-edition 12” vinyl beginning July 3.

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