Succulence Now - a Q&A with Bernice

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Routine tends to blind us to the miraculous: choosing the same path to work, scheduling social time around self-care rituals, settling for the same algorithmically targeted personal playlists. With the world seemingly surfing its way down the evolutionary toilet, it’s not surprising that so many of us want to pacify our senses by sailing familiar waters. Popular music, and the industries that serve/prey on it, aren’t immune to those forces either. We hear it in the ubiquity of anthemic hey-ho choruses, fashion-heavy artist press photos, and the eerie, homogenous lilting vocal style that seems requisite for the top 40 of all genres now.

That’s where Bernice come in. A few years in the works now, the project blossomed in early 2017 with the release of the Puff EP, a 6-song collection of skewed and sinewy electro-pop. Lead by vocalist/songwriter Robin Dann, Bernice offer a distinct and welcome contrast to the routine: serpentine melodies that arch towards the unknown, rhythmic breaths that enrich the lungs, and lyrical imagery that never leans on vapid tropes, but rather urges us bask in the succulence of the unexpected.

ROLF KLAUSENER: When I say "Ottawa", what mental image immediately conjures in your noggin?
ROBIN DANN: Skating in my auntie Sharon’s back yard as a kid!

RK: Why "Bernice"?
Bernice was my grandmother’s name.

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RK: Dream act to open up for, alive or dead.
RD: Micachu, or maybe like early 70s Miles Davis (Dan), or the Cocteau Twins (Phil) or Jim O’Rourke (Thom)

RK: What's your current favourite food, and where can we eat one?
RD: Festival! I tried it in Jamaica but I’m sure you can get it in Toronto! Delicious fried dumpling made of heavenly stuff.

RK: If you could have an all night, campfire chat with any living musician or songwriter, who would it be, and why?
RD: Maya Rudolph being Beyoncé, because, well, just imagine that chat! (also maybe she’d slip out of character and then I’d be hanging with Maya Rudolph)

RK: Vocally, your melodic choices are damn playful, mellifluous, but also furtively unusual. What forces do you reckon influenced the directions you explore via melody?
RD: Thank you! I try to not develop habits... I guess that plays into it. And to write melodies that I’ll enjoy singing for a while.  

RK: What inspired the song "Don't Want to be European"? Lyrically, it vacillates between the impressionistic and a loose narrative, dark and light, being hunted by metaphorical dogs, and being kids making out under the moon. What's going on here?
RD: That one is about a bear! we did a residency at the Banff centre and on day 1 a bear cub was shot down from a tree on campus - the idea was to stun him and move him away from the centre, but sadly he died because he fell from too great a height. I wrote the song the next day. It’s from the bear’s perspective, looking down from his branch, not wanting to leave his peaceful spot.

RK: Would you rather wind down with a single movie, any movie, at the cinema, or binge-watch a series? If so, what would you recommend?
RD: I’d rather be at home watching something on our projector. I recommend Discovering Bigfoot, which Thom recommended to me - it’s on Netflix - - lots of laughs, spooks, camping, everything you want. The main guy is truly one of the greats.

RK: 3 Toronto artists currently napalming your cerebellum. 
RD: Luge (band), Aisha Sasha John (performer),  Andrew Zukerman/Julia Male as their duo(music/dance), Bridget Moser (performer). That’s 4!  They are all beyond definition and beyond belief.

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RK: Your one wish for tomorrow's show?
RD: Peaceful and happy vibes! no tears. Good omens from the stars. For someone to bring a dog! and birthday cake for Rolf!

RK: Aw frig. Thanks, Robin!
RD: no, thank YOU!

— BERNICE play tonight at Black Squirrel Books along with NYC's Erica Eso, OTT/NYC's Adam Saikaley, and features interactive installations from OTT's Conor Byron. $7-10 suggested donation at the door. All Ages / 19+ .

by Rolf Klausener