Last month, on February 19, Calgary-based duo Sidney York (consisting of Brandi Sidoryk and Krista Wodelet) was at Divant Orange in Montreal, Que. Stumbling into the St. Laurent venue, they immediately caught my attention with Wodelet playing a bassoon, of all instruments. What makes the duo even more interesting is that Sidoryk is a classically trained opera singer.
Not surprisingly, the duo’s music offers a very refreshing sound – it’s almost like new-wave synth-pop, but the addition of the bassoon, along with other instruments like horns and fiddles coming in and out of various tracks, really puts their music in a genre of its own.
Sidney York is a band that must be seen live because you really get to feel the deep bass of the bassoon and the full sound of all the instruments. At times, they experiment with their instruments and create sounds that are absolutely mind-blowing.
“When we play live, I run the bassoon through a pedal board and I really like to use sounds that are not bassoon sounds,” said Wodelet.
“We have that fixture of using bassoon in all its organic qualities, but then using it in a way when it’s like, ‘Is that a guitar?'” adds Sidoryk.
“It’s kind of cool and it blows peoples’ minds a lot of times when they hear the line they heard on a record that they thought was a lead guitar sound [and find out it] is a bassoon part, and they see a live show and they’re like, so that’s what that was!”
The duo also point out their lyrics and how, for some people, it comes out more when you see them performing.
“Sometimes people don’t really see all of the intimate details and intimate ideas conveyed by the lyrics unless you really watch the artists do it,” said Sidoryk. “I mean, a lot of people think our music is really fun and upbeat, and a lot of the times it does sound really fun and upbeat. Then you listen to the lyrics. . . .”
The pair summarized those lyrics as showing just how messed up they are, reflecting on a time when someone called their music “psycho-pop”. Though Sidoryk reassures fans that they are like anyone else because, at the end of the day, we are all messed up in some way.
Sidney York was once a solo act featuring Sidoryk alone. Wodelet became an integral part of their music soon after the first record was released in 2011. The two have since put their creative minds together to release their second album, <3s, and have become almost inseparable.
“I originally joined the band as a side person,” said Wodelet. “. . . the fact that it has grown to what it is, is really due to the fact that we work so well together and started writing songs together. It really was kind of greater together than when we were alone.”
“And the collaborative process – it started so organically, which is why Sidney York changed from a solo project to a duo,” added Sidoryk. “It was because it was so natural and it worked so well and I think the way our music progressed as we started to strengthen the collaborative bond, it was so much bigger than I expected or Krista expected. So it’s amazing how much room for growth there is when you add another creative mind into the mix.”
Such as the creative, experimentation vibe of their music, the band also experimented with how they released <3s. Throughout 2014, they will drop five volumes every two months to subscribers; the first was in January and the second is coming soon on March 18.
The first volume featured two songs, ‘Hearts’ and ‘Electrolove’. Both tracks are tongue in cheek, as the duo puts it. The latter features a traditional synth-pop sound featuring pews and beeps and whirs, amidst a cool, groovy rhythm. ‘Hearts’ is a little bit more of an upbeat song, featuring what sounds like an awesome guitar line after the two-minute mark, but is actually Wodelet on bassoon. Watching this song live is pretty awesome, especially when Wodelet pulls out her bassoon and starts rocking it out – how often do you see that?!
Sidoryk’s vocals is flawless – it’s clear and melodic and it is quite an achievement for her to sing the way she does in these pop tracks, being a classically trained opera singer; most vocalists like her end up expanding out into death metal bands, a la Nightwish.
“I find a lot of people do struggle with that transition, a lot of opera singers or classically trained vocalists will try to make that switch to some different genre being jazz or pop or rock, or a really popular one for former opera vocalists: metal,” said Sidoryk. “But it’s hard to do it effectively, just because of the way you train as a classical musician; the traditions are very regimented and you learn to do things in a certain way.”
“I spent my life listening to both sides of the coin, and when I made the decision to do the pop music I had already been listening, and listening is the best way of learning a genre anyways,” said Sidoryk.
The second volume of <3s, set to be released on March 18, is emphasized by the duo as being dark.
“We organized these volumes in a very calculated way,” said Sidoryk. “We wanted them to be a part of the whole record, yet still stand as a strong unit and pieces of art by themselves.”
Sidoryk says that it made complete sense for the next two songs to be paired up on the second volume, which Wodelet calls “more emotionally involved” as opposed to the first volume, which was more tongue in cheek.
Things got really heavy when Sidoryk, to the amusement of Wodelet, talked about metaphors of ammunition and self-inflicted death all in her cheerful voice and sounding more and more like a member from a death metal band (a solo project, maybe?).
The complete record as a whole is described by Sidoryk as featuring more experimentation with the sounds of their instruments – indicative of how the duo just keeps pushing the limits to what they can do with their music.
To sum it all up, Wodelet describes herself and Sidoryk as “nerds at the core of it” and their music as being a “dark, bitter centre wrapped in a sparkly, sweet shell.”
“When you really bite into it,” adds Sidoryk. “it’s pretty dark and complex, with mixed meters that a lot of people don’t notice.”
That darkness has yet to show through in their music, but what the two “psycho-pop” nerds have shown is an ability to stand out and entertain with a high level of creativity that is sure to take them far in their music career – the future is indeed bright for Sidney York.
For more on Sidney York, visit www.sidneyyork.com.