Lisa Bozikovic sits at the piano in the Tranzac Club’s Southern Cross Lounge. Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.
The Tranzac Club is in trouble, and while the Annex staple is raising money to stay alive, Torontoist is conducting a series of interviews with musicians who have close ties to it. Up today: Lisa Bozikovic, whose debut album, Lost August, we liked. She’s toured all across Canada, most recently opening for Ohbijou, who she joined last weekend for a fundraiser at the Tranzac.
LISA BOZIKOVIC: I can’t even imagine how I would have started in music without the Tranzac. I came here when I first moved to Toronto in 2006, a little under four years ago. Everything about it was very supportive… I came to an open mic my first time, when I was totally new to Toronto, and I had no idea where to go, where to start playing shows—I didn’t know how to play shows. I was living in an environment that wasn’t conducive to meeting other musicians, or people in the music community; but the first time I walked in here, I felt totally welcomed. I think Colin [Puffer, the Tranzac’s longtime sound technician] was here, and he gave me a mix CD at the end of the night, saying “You should listen to this, because this sounds like this!” It was this introduction to Toronto music.
Half the musicians I work with now, or have met in Toronto, are through the Tranzac.
TORONTOIST: So it’s a community hub, for musicians, or the circles you travel in…
LB: Yeah, yeah! But it’s also a good starting point when you’ve just moved to the city, because so many people come through its doors; musicians gravitate towards it. I don’t think there’s anything like it in other cities, this particular scene, or the experimental scene, or folk scene.
TORONTOIST: And you can say that with some authority—you’ve just gotten back from being on tour. Where were you touring most recently?
LB: I toured out west with Ohbijou, opening for them on the coast. And then, I played some of my own shows around Vancouver Island, and stayed there for a while.
TORONTOIST: I’ve spent some time on the west coast myself, and there are a lot of really neat, arts-oriented, collective-run spaces and venues on Vancouver Island, and elsewhere in B.C.
LB: But they’re not as big. [Laughs.] The amount and variety of stuff that comes through the Tranzac is pretty extraordinary.
TORONTOIST: That’s what’s great about the Tranzac, I think; it has that small town feel in this huge bustling metropolis. It feels like those cottages and community-run clubs in small communities, like Wakefield’s Black Sheep Inn.
LB: Absolutely, and that’s why it’s not intimidating for a new musician moving to the city. Or also, if you want to try something different… people come here, and it’s like being in someone’s living room. There aren’t many places like that in Toronto that have that aura.
TORONTOIST: Have you booked nights at the Tranzac, yourself?
LB: I haven’t had a residency, no, though I’ve played here a lot. I do have a residency at the Holy Oak Cafe.
TORONTOIST: What’s the connection with the Holy Oak and the Tranzac?
LB: Justin used to work at the Tranzac, for… I don’t know how many years, but probably a long time, and then he opened up his own place.
TORONTOIST: I’ve talked with Bob Wiseman, and Evalyn Parry, who’ve both been coming here for a long time, but I wanted to get a perspective from somebody like yourself, who’s relatively new to the Toronto music scene.
LB: Sure. Well, all, or many, of my friends who have moved here more recently, or my friends who were here [at the Tranzac] before me, had that same impression: that this is a rich place to start performing, and there’s this tapestry of connections, this really beautiful community. A community that’s really unique, that’s supportive and open to new ideas.
I met Sandro Perri here, through playing a show, and he became a good friend, and ended up producing my album. I could list fifty people I’ve met through the Tranzac who have helped me [with my music].
TORONTOIST: So the Tranzac’s been going through a rough period…
LB: Which has happened before.
TORONTOIST: Yes, but they’re really hoping to rally the troops this time, so to speak….I’ve been coming here a long time, a decade or more of seeing shows, especially during the Fringe Festival, which has moved on. This [Save The Tranzac campaign] is looking to bring people back to the club, and get them involved. Unless the Tranzac transitions through this period, we’re all going to lose it, because this is prime real estate.
LB: The Toronto Women’s Bookstore just recently had a major fundraising drive to keep from going bankrupt, and they managed to raise, I think, like forty thousand dollars.
TORONTOIST: So there’s reason to be optimistic about the Tranzac’s campaign. There are so many groups: the improv jazz scene, the folk scene, all sorts of different music scenes, and theatre groups who use the Main Hall stage, like the Queen’s Players, and the Toronto Zine Library, which uses the upstairs space—there are so many groups that get so much use out of the Tranzac. It’s just a question of getting the word out, so everyone rallies around the club to save it.
LB: It’s so funny… I feel like, by default, everyone knows that this is one of the most amazing and comfortable places to be in the city, and integral to the development of the particular kind of experimental and open-minded art that happens here.
TORONTOIST: You’d think, but it’s also a well-kept secret just how much goes on here, and that’s part of the problem. The community at large needs to know all about the Tranzac’s true worth.
LB: And I’m hoping to help any way I can.
Next up in the Tranzac Transcripts: Bob Wiseman.