Bernice, the project of Toronto-based vocalist/songwriter Robin Dann, blends “melodies reminiscent of artists like Sade with the playful sounds of artists like Deerhoof and Dirty Projectors” (Pigeons & Planes). Dann is a trained vocalist with a Masters in Music from Goldsmiths, University of London, and her band – Thom Gill (keyboards/samples), Felicity Williams (vocals), Phil Melanson (percussion), and Dan Fortin (bass) – features active members of Bahamas, Owen Pallett, Leif Vollebekk, and DIANA.
Following the release of two singles – “St Lucia” and “Don’t Wanna Be European” – Bernice hit the road supporting Martha Wainwright and released Puff, a 5-song EP in June ‘17 to resounding critical acclaim from Pitchfork, NPR, Zane Lowe, and The Fader. Stereogum and Exclaim Magazine named the release as one of the ‘Best EPs of 2017. Puff was produced by Grammy Award-winner Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Lucius) and Matt Smith (Owen Pallett).
Bernice followed the maximalist EP with minimalist sophomore album Puff: In The Air Without A Shape released in May ’18 on Arts & Crafts. Continuing their enigmatic exploration of pop, jazz, and R&B, Bernice’s new album attempts to mimic the playful intimacy of the band’s live show. The album was called “a monument to ephemerality” by the New York Times and received a long-list nomination for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize.
Bud Collins Trio
No one is entirely sure when the Bud Collins Trio was formed, some believe it was the 70s, other say 80s. The band don’t seem to agree themselves. They have always played strange and beautiful pop music. They have never sounded much like any other band, but yet mysteriously like many.
It’s primarily a kind of pop, but with a mixture of textures from various eras of pop and rock, and many other influences apparent, such as jazz, progressive rock, electronic music, lounge, and fusion. Comparisons range from XTC, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, to Robyn Hitchcock, echoes of Brian Wilson, Camper Van Beethoven, the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Elliott Smith, and Todd Rundgren. But the band warn that this is merely speculation and could just be hearsay. They then begin to urgently insist that it actually is just hearsay. People hear things, they say things, what can be done?
They started playing on and off campus around the University of Connecticut in the early days, then elsewhere in their home state, the land of forlorn woods, insurance sales, and the hideous ennui of privilege, at various clubs in the Hartford and New Haven areas. Soon they expanded their territory to most of New England, including Portland ME, various NH and VT college towns, Providence and some of the Rhode Island beach clubs, and Boston, as well as a good number of steady and weekly shows in NYC. They played the legendary CBGB in New York several times, and were the only freakish progressive whatever band on a Christmas compilation of NY punk bands from the CBGB era of the late 80’s.
The BC3 was a steadfast part of the US indie scene through the late eighties and mid-nineties. During that time their video “Fisticuffs” aired a number of times on MTV Basement Tapes, and they played with well-known acts\musicians such as Bob Mould, Blues Traveler, Maceo Parker, and The Monks of Doom (half of Camper Van Beethoven). They lived in vans. They played gigs and split the money on gas station burritos.
In 1994 Bud Collins played for the Real Bud Collins (Wimbledon doubles champ \ Boston Globe columnist\NBC Tennis commentator) when he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame, and Sports Illustrated ran a human interest story on the event with a full two page spread. Bud Collins the man was then afterwards seen at BC3 gigs in Boston on more than one occasion, having a cocktail and listening to the quizzical magic of his namesake band.
At a certain point in the mid-nineties the band split up for a time, but sometime around 2008 the band reassembled – and the incongruous pieces of the musical puzzle once again fell back into their unlikely shape.
Even more surprising, they started again entirely from scratch, with all new music, with most of the original members from all of the incarnations. It was like the resurrection of the Phoenix bird, if the Phoenix bird were a strange meta-pop band from Connecticut.
In the following years up to the present the band have prolifically written. They’ve cataloged more than 100 new tunes, many of which are figuring into different current projects, including an upcoming full length release, State Vector Collapse, scheduled for some time in 2018. They released the Quasarmoto EP in the winter of 2016. This critically well received EP featured more lush and strange pop, psychedelic, progressive, dreamy, chill and thought provoking music, and charted well on US college radio (109 nationally).
The Bud Collins Trio make strange and beautiful pop music. They do not fall squarely into a genre, but yet might fit uncomfortably in many. They mix eras and influences that include jazz, progressive rock, electronic music, lounge, and fusion. Comparisons range from XTC, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, to Robyn Hitchcock, echoes of Brian Wilson, Camper Van Beethoven, the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Elliott Smith, and Todd Rundgren.
Low Ceilings is an indie-folk project currently based in Windsor, CT. While the group has taken many forms over the years, its core has always been Ben Mueller, who writes the songs; produces, records, and mixes the albums; and handles acoustic guitar and vocals live.
Low Ceilings’ recordings tactfully straddle the line between lush production value and intimate, basementy lo-fi in a way that only a college career in the Boston DIY scene could make possible. While attending Emerson College, Mueller, a Connecticut native, started the group with some friends and released an EP and two full-lengths as a full band. Boston, a veritable cornucopia of music venues formal and informal, gave them plenty of room to play. They belted their folky rock with a progressive tilt everywhere they could: basements, bars, living rooms, and venues like Club Passim, Club Bohemia, and The Middle East. The band has also performed across New England, notably in an empty swimming pool in Nashua, New Hampshire; The Met in Pawtucket, Rhode Island; and AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island. Digital Wheat Paste’s TJ Foster called their self-titled EP a “tremendously impressive record…songs that somehow sound intimately lo-fi and carefully polished all at the same time.”
After finishing school and moving back to Windsor, Low Ceilings became a Mueller solo project. The 5-song EP Least Favored Painting, out May 1st 2018, is the first release since the change. And change is good: CT Scramble wrote of the EP that “throughout its almost beachside strummings, there is a weary urban beat mysticism that permeates its mood, weighing down what could be easily sunny pop songs with something more literary, wistful, and vibey.” Mueller is currently performing solo and working up to the next Low Ceilings full-length.