Vancouver musicians share their summer songs
It’s all fine and dandy to want to pedal around the city on a pimped-out fixie plastered with stickers that read “One Less Car”. Hell, it’s probably even ecologically responsible, considering the whole world is currently headed to hell in a petrol-burning handcart thanks to our now-global reliance on gasoline. But there’s only one problem with that: there’s no dignity in cruising Robson Street on a hot summer night when you’re reduced to blaring your favourite summer tune from an ’80s-era boombox that you’ve painstakingly duct-taped to your Nutcase bike helmet. No, to truly make a statement, you need to be popping the clutch on a ’69 Plymouth Road Runner and then cranking the shit out of that Alpine. With summer officially on the horizon, we asked some of our favourite local artists what they are looking forward to over the next couple of months, and who’ll be providing the soundtrack when they get behind the wheel.
Gillian Thomson lends her sweetly smoky voice to Sister Says, the jazz-and-soul-influenced duo that also features her brother Robert.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “ ‘Tell Me Something Good’ by Rufus and Chaka Khan. I picked it because it’s super funky and reminds me of the summertime, riding in the car with friends and family.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “For me, it’s how somehow Vancouverites manage to get even more relaxed. When it becomes officially flip-flop-wearing weather, people get really jazzed about it.”
Big John Bates has what Pavement might describe as miles of style, as the Gretsch-slinging frontman drags throwback roots music through the heart of Death Valley on the recently released Headless Fowl.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “Beck’s song ‘Girl’ screams out summer to me—and no, not just because the word summer is in it. It’s got the whole chill summer vibe and sunny memories are pre-installed. Repeat as required.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “Hmm, did I mention I live downtown on a boat? Vancouver’s waterfront makes summer here awesome. The beaches—I’m looking at you Wreck—islands and coves are so effin’ beautiful. The fireworks are out of control on the water, bursting overhead. You can tie up at Granville Island for dinner or grab a case of beer. And my marina is on the seawall, so I can always just lay back with a drink and watch the sunset while the city moves by.”
Sean Bletcher and Hugh Macdonald are the dual frontmen for Facts, an outfit specializing in synth-powered indie pop that, come to think of it, would make a pretty good summer-driving soundtrack.
Top tune to crank while cruising: (Bletcher) “This summer it’s going to be Japandroids—‘The House That Heaven Built’ off their new album [Celebration Rock]. The boys are back!”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: (Macdonald) “There is a short but sweet window that we get where this city is amazing. People come here and think it’s like that all the time, and then they move here and get pissed off and move away again. But yeah, that window, when we’re all bike riding, drinking, and smoking at the beach, and pretending we’re good at golf—that’s the best.”
Sabrina Robson belts out the blues with enough old-school authenticity to impress R.L. Burnside as one half of Vancouver’s This Is THE SHOES.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “ ‘The Pusher’ by Steppenwolf because it’s a badass song that’s perfect when you’re driving with the volume cranked. The song sets the tone for Easy Rider, which is one of the greatest cruising movies of all time.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “Beaches, beers, and beautiful people. Trekking down to Wreck Beach with a few friends and a few beers, and just taking it all in (naked skim-boarding is quite the spectacle). Some of my favourite local brews are released this time of year, so that’s definitely a highlight. And it’s always amusing to see all of the good-looking folks strut around the city. Vancouver has some world-class babes.”
Jon Roper sings and plays guitar in the unapologetically hard-rocking power trio Friction Project, whose song “City in the Rain” is hopefully not a forecast of Vancouver weather for the next three months.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “I’d have to say ‘Minerva’ by Deftones. It’s meditative, spooky, and for some reason wildly refreshing.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “Martini crawl from the Cascade Room to the Bayside Lounge on a cooking-hot night.”
Jody Quine is well on her way to proving herself a master of social media, as the genre-spanning (think folk-jazz-pop) chanteuse is seemingly all over the Intraweb, whether it be with her hyperactive Twitter account or her weekly webcam show, Thursday Night Live. Watch for an EP this fall.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “With the Queen of Hearts clothespinned to my back tire, there was always a certain speed of clacking at which I loved cruising my neighbourhood. Like, ‘I’m here and I like to make noise.’ It’s a similar feeling when I expel Harper Blynn’s ‘In Another Life’ from my minivan. The clacking is now a speedy snare coupled with sweet male vocals and a chorus that kicks my kids into belting along. I am now that Queen of Hearts making noise, and I like it.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “It’s like being close friends with a supermodel who is only home between major campaigns to shine her light on you—living in Vancouver can have the most exquisite moments of beauty. Every year, this incredible coast that we live on is blasted with sunshine and we can all revel in living in the most beautiful city in the world.”
Graham Madden and his Tough Lovers bandmates make swoon-worthy indie pop that’s as tuneful as it is wistful and dreamy.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “ ‘Still D.R.E.’ by Dr. Dre. It’s just undeniably badass. Such a classic cruising song. Reminds me of throwing that album  on my cassette player back in the day. I had to record a copy of the album onto cassette because my parents wouldn’t let me buy it.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “The best thing about Vancouver in the summertime is the copious amount of babes in this city and their general lack of clothing.”
Malcolm Jack can be found in front of the mike with Capitol 6, a band that finds the sweet spot between ’60s garage, paisley pop, and cosmic country on its just-released Pretty Lost.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “ ‘Waterfall’ by the Fresh & Onlys is the best new jangle-pop tune to come out in years. If I’m riding my bike to a gig or something, their album Play It Strange is pretty much always in my Walkman.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “Recording new songs in the shed with the door open, catching some of that sweet ambient traffic noise.”
Danny Newton crafts refreshingly gimmick-free pop-rock tunes with his band Danny Echo, which is where he can be found when he’s not coordinating special effects for Hollywood North productions.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “Whilst driving my Japanese import, I try to destroy the stock speakers with a bit of Trippple Nippples’ ‘LSD’.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “Outdoor shows and festivals.”
Dave Keogh sings for local hard-drinking Celtic rockers the Town Pants. He also plays the banjo, the guitar, the mandolin, and the tin whistle, but presumably not all at the same time.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “Our cruising season usually starts in June with a 50-plus-hour drive to New York, so no one tune can possibly define it. All the band members get a chance to deejay, so we might listen to Ray LaMontagne followed by Elvis, into some Butthole Surfers or perhaps Louis Prima. Or BBC documentaries. Or Adele, with a side of Anthrax. Or a Stevie Ray Vaughan–Ramones mashup…”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “We’ve been on tour every summer for the last 15 years, so I really don’t remember, but I can only imagine how fantastic it is to be here in the summer when the rest of the year is so great. Walking the Stanley Park seawall in January is amazing; in July it could only be better.”
Courtney Ewan turns country into something gothic and haunting with Twin River, whose EP Rough Gold can currently be found in finer bricks-and-mortar record stores across the city.
Top tune to crank while cruising: “Ladyhawk’s ‘S.T.H.D.’ I don’t think he ever really believes me when I say this, but Darcy Hancock is my favourite guitar player—that lead guitar in that song is genius. That song makes me nostalgic for hazy summer nights I can’t remember very well.”
Best thing about Vancouver in the summer: “The first day you go to the beach and realize that everyone there has also developed exactly the same beer belly you’ve been obsessing over for the past month.”