Rising indie acts Katie Stelmanis, The Balconies, and Whale Tooth played to a vocal and appreciative crowd at the Roundhouse this past Friday, as part of Steamwhistle’s Unsigned Concert series. The local brewery started the series to promote the best talent in Toronto yet to sign to a label; the events also raise money for the Artist Health Centre Foundation.
For Whale Tooth and The Balconies, it was one more in a long running series of split bills. The two pop rock bands have played numerous shows together in the past few years, since they were just starting out, supporting each other at CD releases, and hometown and touring shows.
“We played with [Whale Tooth] on our first ever show in Toronto, at Rancho Relaxo,” reminisces The Balconies’ Jacquie Neville, whose Ottawa-born band made Toronto their home base last year. “It feels like we’re brothers and sisters.” Jacquie would know from siblings in rock and roll; she shares vocal duties in The Balconies with brother and bassist Stephen Neville.
“It’s a big love fest,” jokes Whale Tooth drummer Seb Noroozi, as his band takes a breather in the upstairs lounge at the Roundhouse, after kicking the night off onstage with a typically energetic set. It’s clear that the bands are happy to be linked to each other, as both continue to garner more and more attention for their live shows, records, and videos.
“We really get along with them, and the music blends well together,” agrees Jacquie. “And it’s really nice to have another female in [the mix].” She’s referring to charismatic Whale Tooth lead singer Elise LeGrow; indeed, all three bands on this fourteenth Unsigned bill are fronted by strong female vocalists, unusual at a rock and roll showcase.
For Whale Tooth, the “indie” designation is something they’re trying out once again. The band was briefly signed to Spooky Ruben‘s Hi-Hat Recordings, but decided that their upcoming full length debut (“Definitely by the end of the year, maybe by this fall,” promises guitarist Norm Maschke) would be self-released. “We want to start with a clean slate (for the LP),” clarifies Norm, though the band is justifiably proud of their debut EP.
While Whale Tooth is currently unsigned, their frontwoman has recently signed to Sony/ATV for an upcoming jazz singer album. Elise, asked if she has any concerns about splitting her time between projects, has none at all. “[Sony/ATV is] totally supportive of Whale Tooth; that’s what’s great about working with them,” she says, pointing out that the positive buzz they’re generating benefits both projects.
As for the prospect of future shared bills, both bands seem keen for the association to continue. For the Steamwhistle series, “We came as a package deal—take it or leave it!” proclaims a grinning Jacquie. To Steamwhistle’s credit, they were canny enough to accept said package.
Photos by Corbin Smith.