You may have noticed that musicians spend a lot of time in establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. This doesn’t mean that they’re all unrepentant lushes, of course. It just means that bars happen to be where most of the gigs are. Musicians do get thirsty, however. After working up a sweat on-stage, they might even get thirstier than most of us. So, surely you can forgive them for that extra drink—or two, or three—they may indulge in. Maybe you can even overlook the fact that they invariably order a double when you’re buying. Hell, they probably earned every drop.
We rounded up a few of our favourite local indie types and asked them what sort of cocktails they’d like to quaff (on our dime, no doubt) and which tunes they’d prefer to spin while they’re sipping. Because if there’s anything you can rely on musicians for, apart from being late with the rent, it’s their willingness to express an opinion, even if no one was asking for it.
Singer-guitarist Becky Black spends large chunks of the year living out of a van with the hard-rawking Pack a.d., whose excellent latest outing, Unpersons, cements the group as one of the city’s A-list indie acts.
Killer cocktail: “I’m always partial to a boozy old-man drink like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned—it makes alcoholism seem fancier. And the old-man part is appropriate considering how I usually start spouting ‘wisdom’ after a few too many. Or maybe just the right amount of many. I didn’t need all those brain cells anyway—they were obstructing my genius.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “For some reason, ‘Light My Fire’ by the Doors comes to my mind, but not because I particularly like that song. Actually, I hate it. The organ solo makes me angry. But maybe everyone needs to go on a good angry table-flipping drunk every once in a while. I’m a pretty passive person, but I think that song could induce it. In combo with a Makers Mark Manhattan times six.”
Given that his debut single is a Celtic-folk stomper called “Drunk in Exile”, it’s a safe bet that Pat Chessell has warmed a barstool or two in his time.
Killer cocktail: “The Don King. One of the best-tasting drinks I’ve ever had, and it gets the job done quickly. Take a pint glass, throw in some ice. Throw two shots of high-quality spiced rum in there. Fill the rest of the glass half-full of Guinness and top off with Coke. Be careful, my friends, they hit ya fast. I’m not welcome back into a certain casino after a night of drinking these.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “I’d have to go with anything by Tom Waits. ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’ is my go-to track, as it sums up some nights for musicians. Waits’s vocals on this track sound like he’s coming off a two-week bender, so if this song doesn’t inspire you to pour yourself another whisky, I don’t know what would.”
Shmoo Ritchie sings—er, more accurately, howls her brains out—with whip-smart art-core act Keep Tidy. Like records where every song clocks in at under two minutes? Well, then, you’re going to love the band’s latest digital album, BUDSBUDS.
Killer cocktail: “Sangria, man. Tastes like juice. Looks like juice, too. I’m waiting on something like 150 litres of u-brew wine that a few friends and I ordered. We’re throwing a house-warming sangria barbecue this summer. It is not BYOB. It’s ‘Drink our BDOB.’ Which also stands for Do It Backwards. So, you know. Sangria, man.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “I’m shotgunning warm cans of Lucky while listening to Paul Simon. ‘If you’ll be my bodyguard (*stab*)/I can be your long-lost pal (*crack*)/I can call you Betty (*burp*)/Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.’ ”
Marty Zylstra sings and plays guitar for Sweetheart, which specializes in power pop, with the emphasis on power.
Killer cocktail: “My favourite cocktail is easily a Caesar. That is so typically Canadian, right? Yes, I’m a walking cliché. Right. In my opinion, it’s the best way to start off a party or an afternoon drinking session on a patio downtown in the summer. I like mine tall, extra black—like with so much Worcestershire that it’s no longer red and looks black like the depths of hell, yet salty—not too spicy, extra limes, and lots of stuffed olives. Don’t forget the good vodka. Or the cheap vodka. Horseradish is also good in there. Fuck, you could even throw some pepper in, or steak spice. This sounds more like a steak than a drink, but that’s what makes it great. Also, I don’t know if it cures hangovers, but they always go down quickly and burn a tinge to make you feel alive.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “The Wombats. Britpop is a constant on my iPhone, and I’ve been really into this band since 2008. I don’t know what it is about bands from Liverpool, but for whatever reason bands from this region of the U.K. are always on the top of my list. Their song ‘Girls/Fast Cars’ is playing right now. In my head. Thanks. Now it’ll be stuck there for a week. FML.”
John Sponarski sings tuneful folk-rock numbers with Portage and Main, and despite his band’s name, he no doubt thanks his lucky stars every night that he doesn’t actually live in Winnipeg.
Killer cocktail: “Well, let’s just go ahead and say that you aren’t typically going to find a piece of fruit or an umbrella in my drink. Not that there’s anything wrong with that sort of thing. I just tend to stick to the two major food groups: beer and whisky. If I want a cold one on a hot day, an East Van Champagne—Pacific Pilsner—or a Vitamin P—Old Style Pilsner—suits me just fine. That being said, if I’m feeling particularly adventurous and no one’s looking, I’ll take a Cadillac Margarita: one-and-a-half ounces premium tequila, one ounce Grand Marnier, three-quarters of an ounce lime juice, and a salt rim, on the rocks.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “What would I take to tickle the eardrums with this tasty beverage? Well, to me there’s no better summer jam than Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. That tune just oozes sunshine. You know what? While we’re at it, drop the pin on Highway 61 Revisited and let ’er ride. Let’s make an afternoon of it.”
Clearly a man who likes being in charge, Mike Luno leads a trio named after him, the band’s latest, Get Inside, confidently drawing on everything from classic rock to gut-punch funk to AM-radio pop.
Killer cocktail: “A few years ago, I was thrown a birthday party by an Austrian ex-pat. She’d been given a bottle of rum by a relative, and the drink made its way into everyone at that party. We didn’t come down from the ceiling until well into the morning. Ever wonder how Julie Andrews got the von Trapp kids to wear flowered curtains and sing from the trees in the course of one afternoon? I’m certain it was Stroh. Here, then, is a Green Eye Austrianized (call it a Freud Eye, perhaps): one part Stroh (or high-proof spiced rum…or vodka to tone it down), one part blue curaçao, two parts orange juice, one part Tuaca (optional). Shake in ice and serve.
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “Accompanying summertime music would be Daniel Lanois’s Shine album. Very earthy, organic, tuneful, haunting, timeless, and it packs a hell of a punch—much like the drink. It will take you on a ride from heartbreaking pedal-steel soliloquies to molten meteorites of guitar filth and back by way of Acadia and New Orleans. Drummer Brian Blade propels it like a hipster heartbeat on the brink of behind-the-beat arrest. Gibson Firebirds and Les Paul Specials were never so beautifully dirty.”
Under the name Clouds of Analog, singer-guitarist Robin Younge crafts brooding but hopeful alt-rock.
Killer cocktail: “The Rusty Box. No, not the old ginger stripper you took home from the Penthouse at 3 a.m., but my twist on the classic Rusty Nail. Take an ounce and a half of Spicebox whisky and three-quarters of an ounce of Drambuie. Shake gently over ice. It’s unfortunately addicting, due to the vanilla-infused whisky, making it a much livelier drink than the good old classic. Definitely my go-to before any performance—the drink, not the stripper.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “ ‘Daniel’ by Bat for Lashes. When I think of the summer, I think of throwing on my runners and hitting the trails, longboarding Stanley Park or hiking abandoned ski runs. This song just makes me wanna go. The beat has this ever-pounding groove that doesn’t quit. Right from the beginning, you feel the pull to move forward. The only problem is, once the song ends you are fumbling to get the song to start again before the next track begins. Getting lost for three-and-a-half minutes in a song is what music is all about.”
Tagged by many as one of Canada’s best-kept jazz secrets, clarinetist James Danderfer conjures up the spirit of the late Jelly Roll Morton on this past spring’s Swingin’ at the Patricia.
Killer cocktail: “Yes, I play the clarinet, and yes, I am telling you that the Clarinet, created by ‘2012 Best Canadian Bartender’ Jay Jones at Shangri-La’s MARKET, is the best cocktail in town. It’s not a gimmick. I was skeptical too. How could it possibly live up to its name? Here’s how: the 1.5 ounces of Rittenhouse 100 Rye commands attention, .25 ounce of Luxardo’s Maraschino liqueur provides a little humour, two dashes of the Bitter Truth orange bitters livens everything up, and finally, one ounce of dry Claret rounds out the dulcet tones of this cocktail. And that is the Clarinet.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “To complement this classic yet unique drink, why not go ahead and complete the circle with an equally classic and unique clarinetist, jazz legend Artie Shaw? Play any song off Shaw’s 1954 Last Recordings album while sipping on a Clarinet, and prepare to be transported to a sophisticated place, at once romantic and jubilant.”
In No Sinner’s “Boo Hoo Hoo”, bluesy belter Colleen Rennison lets the world know where she stands when it comes to booze: “You know I love the smell of whisky/And I hate the taste of gin.”
Killer cocktail: “Vodka Caesar is the only thing I drink besides beer and whisky. Lots of horseradish, lots of Tabasco, lime, fresh cracked pepper, and as many pickled beans as I can fit. Doesn’t hurt if you’re having one over breakfast with a one-night stand.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “I can’t stop listening to the Coasters. The song ‘Young Blood’ gets my juices flowing pretty good, and ‘Down in Mexico’ will take you all the way to the bedroom.”
When not playing guitar with prog-pop vets Bend Sinister—whose new album Small Fame arrives this July—Joseph Blood can be found walking through the rain and walking through the mud, forever looking for a bar called the Bucket of Blood.
Killer cocktail: “I’m writing this while in the throes of the rock ’n’ roll-, booze-, and LSD-fuelled mayhem of Sled Island, and, as my ears are still ringing from the Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and I’m feeling some Canadian pride, I’ll come out with the Bloody Caesar. Seriously, it’s Calgary’s greatest export. I had two with breakfast yesterday and they saved my freaking life. I like ’em filled with stank, extra dark and spicy, and loaded with every pickle in the fridge. This summer, I plan to go Martin Picard–wild and make my own Clamato juice on the beach.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “If it’s a casual sip in the sun in my back yard, I’ll put on Return of the Grievous Angel by Gram Parsons with Emmy-lou Harris. But if I’m really going to get into it, I mean brain-damaged-knife-fight-staring-into-the-abyss drunk, I’ll crank ‘Stagger Lee’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.”
The way Andrea Lukic alternates between singing and screaming, you’d swear the Nü Sensae bassist was actually two different people. We’re betting at least one of them needs a good, stiff drink after a set of the trio’s face-melting noise-punk.
Killer cocktail: “This cocktail is my favourite cocktail to have in the summer. It’s a cocktail I learned that Elvis was drinking heavily towards the end of his life. Priscilla would make it and serve it to him to slam down with a cheeseburger—it’s called the Bonkers Rocker. You soak a chunk of watermelon and extra crispy bacon in four shots of bourbon, add a spoonful of maple syrup, a shot of chocolate porter, a dash of Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap, couple drops of Sriracha, lots of mint and rosemary, and top that off with rose water. In the end, you light a batch of sage and throw it in, flame pointing up, and sip it while the sage burns. If you are like Elvis you’ll drink the ashes, but it’s optional.”
Spinnin’ while sippin’: “I like to listen to two things when drinking cocktails: ‘From Enslavement to Obliteration’ by Napalm Death in the afternoon if I’m lying at the beach enjoying the waves, rays, and babes, and ‘Tell Me This Is a Dream’ by the Delfonics at night before I go out looking in people’s windows. Sometimes I don’t drink to either and I chain-smoke in a dark room to Mobb Deep, drinking the Bonkers Rocker.”