Twilight Hotel is the musical partnership of Brandy Zdan & Dave Quanbury.
Together they possess an elusive chemistry and musical style that is dark, moody and rooted in some kind of nostalgic passion for scratchy records and vintage guitar tones. They combine a rock n roll sensibility, compelling songwriting, and haunting arrangements while standing comfortably outside your predictable genre box.
In late 2009 Zdan & Quanbury made the trek across the New Mexico/Arizona desert from their new home in Austin, TX to Los Angeles, CA to record their third album "When The Wolves Go Blind". They holed up in Kingsize soundlabs for 3 days and laid down the album live off the floor.
"When it came time to making the record, we could only imagine this batch of songs with Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits, Mavis Staples) behind the kit and John Whynot (Lucinda Williams, Blue Rodeo) at the board. John brought in bassist Jeff Turmes to round out the rhythm section as well as lend his talents on Saxophone and Banjo. Jeff and Stephan have been playing together for 15 plus years, it was a perfect choice." says Quanbury.
'When the Wolves Go Blind' further defines Twilight Hotel's sound. From the hypnotic ride of the title track to the cinematic landscape of 'The Darkness,' the album is infused with a sense of travel and reflection.
"Most of the songs on the album were co-written between the two of us while we were touring Highway Prayer" says Zdan. "The experiences we had out there on the road and the feeling we'd have coming home to Winnipeg in the winter informed the lonely lap-steel lament 'Frozen Town,' and the odyssey 'Mahogany Veneer.' In the past we'd written third person narratives about seedy characters and Americana but this time around we realized that we were becoming the subjects of our writing."
Hailing from the fertile music scene of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Zdan & Quanbury have been combining their talents for 8 years and now make their home in Austin, Texas. In 2008, they released their sophomore album Highway Prayer, produced by Colin Linden. Highway Prayer has received critical praise both nationally & internationally including a debut at #2 on the Euro Americana Chart , a Western Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Roots Album Duo/Group, a 2009 JUNO nomination for “Roots & Traditional Album of the Year”.
Brandy Zdan- vocals, electric guitar, accordion, lap steel
Dave Quanbury- vocal, electric guitar, Stomp box
A rotating door of Drummers/percussionists
Twilight Hotel When the Wolves Go Blind 2011
Twilight Hotel Highway Prayer 2008
Twilight Hotel Bethune January 2006
Brandy Zdan & Dave Quanbury Self-titled 2004
Dave Quanbury No Vancancy 2003
Brandy Zdan Live at 280 2002
4 Star UNCUT Review
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UNCUT Review/4 Stars/March 2011 4 STARS Third album of Americana noir from rising Canuck duo ...UNCUT Review/4 Stars/March 2011
Third album of Americana noir from rising Canuck duo
Although David Quanbury and Brandy Zdan have relocated from Winnipeg to Austin, TX, the chilly gloom of their homeland remains a powerful presence in their music. On the title track, cavernous production and an anxious vocal duet are enough to evoke empty prairies.
Third album of Americana noir from rising Canuck duo
Although David Quanbury and Brandy Zdan have relocated from Winnipeg to Austin, TX, the chilly gloom of their homeland remains a powerful presence in their music. On the title track, cavernous production and an anxious vocal duet are enough to evoke empty prairies. On “The Master”, Quanbury’s twanging guitar does the job, while ‘Frozen Town” describes a burg where “it’s too cold for car thieves”.
Zdan’s accordion lends a strand of mid-European cabaret, and the dark moods invite comparisons to Nick Cave, but the couple have become rulers of their own genre.
Review- Austin Chronicle
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Recently transplanted from Winnipeg, Canada, Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury have no trouble embracing...Recently transplanted from Winnipeg, Canada, Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury have no trouble embracing their Southern clime by unraveling narratives of the weary and the road with an ethereal Americana pull on their third LP. Zdan's vocal vulnerability pairs powerfully and seductively with Quanbury's easier drawl, especially on steel-ripped "Dream of Letting Go" and haunting closer "When I'm Gone." Lonesome Heroes from the North Country.
Review- The Globe & Mail
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Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury write songs that feel like old leather, worn and soft in some parts an...Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury write songs that feel like old leather, worn and soft in some parts and tough and weathered in others. They moved to Austin, Texas, to make this record, playing most of the instruments themselves and pairing their voices in songs that reverberate with things noticed on the road and packed away for later inspection. Mahogany Veneer describes a transit through New York, Memphis and a flooded-out New Orleans, and the way a train in those semi-mythic places triggers a longing for their home town of Winnipeg. They’re fond of waltzes and habanera rhythms that kick a little dust, and many tracks have the purposefully shabby feeling cultivated by the likes of Tom Waits. But it’s also a singer’s record, that savours a good, singable melody and gets a lot of variety from Zdan’s earthy yet vulnerable alto and Quanbury’s lighter tenor.
Maverick Magazine UK -Review
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Supreme country-folk from hugely talented Canadian Duo Twilight Hotel, a Canadian duo consisting ...Supreme country-folk from hugely talented Canadian Duo
Twilight Hotel, a Canadian duo consisting of Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury, have got something pretty special going on here, and it’s evident right from the get-go.
Highway Prayer busts into life with a tasty little rockabilly blues thing called Viva la Vinyl. It’s not clear who’s playing what but the groove is an absolute monster, and it rolls along on the strength of that groove and two perfectly matched voices.
Zdan and Quanbury are more than just musical collaborators, thery’re lovers too, and that connection clearly fuels the bond to a deeper level. This is especially felt on the slower songs like Impatient Love, a gentle touch of country-folk with ‘timeless classic’ written all over it. The harmonies drip with sensual gold and the sentiments behind the lyrics come over as heartfelt and dressed in love.
Zdan’s voice has the same purity as Tift Merritt’s, but under the surface lurks a really powerful engine and she’s not afraid to rev it up from time to time. There menace in that voice too: the half spoken/half sung Iowalta Morningside is downright eerie and is carried along on a wave of throbbing, dirty guitars. Any of HP’s thirteen songs will bring rewards and all are enhanced by a spacious and clean production from Colin Linden. This release also features the last-ever performance from Richard Bell, the original keyboardist for the one and only Janis Joplin.
I can see this album appearing on quite a few ‘best of the year’ lists; it’s a riveting listen and bursting to the gills with magical moments.
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Although they hail from Winnipeg, MB, the mood of this second album from the folk/blues duo comprise...Although they hail from Winnipeg, MB, the mood of this second album from the folk/blues duo comprised of Dave Quanbury and Brandy Zdan is solidly rooted in the Deep South. Credit for this can partially go to producer Colin Linden (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings), who invited the pair to record at his Nashville studio, but the steamy vibe only accentuates Highway Prayer’s 12 richly detailed tales from the other side of the tracks. Both Quanbury and Zdan contribute equally to the writing, giving the songs alternating perspectives, and when they duet on “Impatient Love” and “Sand In Your Eyes,” the results are classic country weepers. But overall, the album shows the ease with which the pair can toss off intensely dark narratives, as on “Iowalta Morningside,” and “The Ballad Of Salvador And Isabelle.” Like fellow Winnipegger Luke Doucet, Twilight Hotel take strong cues from Tom Waits, but the undeniable chemistry between Quanbury and Zdan, along with some high-powered musical backing from Linden on slide guitar, and the final appearance from late keyboardist Richard Bell, makes Highway Prayer endlessly compelling.
Canadian Roots Duo Twilight Hotel Mixes Love, Music
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In a sense it’s country. Some of it’s blues,” says Brandy Zdan, one half of the independent Winnipeg...In a sense it’s country. Some of it’s blues,” says Brandy Zdan, one half of the independent Winnipeg Roots outfit Twilight Hotel. Hailing from the frigid city eight hours north of Minneapolis, Zdan and her boyfriend/bandmate Dave Quanbury have crafted an organic and earthy sound that lands somewhere between folk, country, blues, and rock. Good luck pinpointing exactly where those genres converge, however; each song on the duo’s upcoming album Highway Prayer seemingly highlights a different one of their many musical influences–while still clinging, of course, to a distinctly Twilight thread. “It’s our own thing, which I’m really proud,” Zdan says.
To what does the duo owe their creative prowess?
“We have a winter that’s insane. I mean it’s so cold. You just stay in and work on your craft, because there’s nothing else to do,” Zdan explains. “And there’s so much space between big cities [in Canada] that you end up feeling a little isolated. I think that’s why Winnipeg has such a vibrant [music] scene—there’s no external factors going into the music people are making, they’re just doing it. They’re creating something here and then just taking it elsewhere.”
And take it elsewhere Twilight Hotel has. Since recording their first, self-titled LP in 2003, Zdan and Quanbury have become one of the Roots Music scene’s most buzzworthy new artists, playing over 200 North American dates in 2007, and picking up an Independent Music Awards nomination in “Best Americana Album” for 2006’s Bethune.
And the duo, according to Zdan, is only beginning to hit its stride. Despite the widespread critical success of Bethune, “Dave and I both feel like Highway Prayer really is the first Twilight Hotel record,” she says. “We feel like this is actually who we are, and it took a while to evolve into what it was going to be.”
That evolution began back in 2002, when Dave and Brandy met at the Trout River Music Festival. If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was close. Both were there supporting other artists, and although they chatted during the festival, it wasn’t until a post-festival jam session, situated around a campfire under the stars, that they began really getting to know each other. “It was definitely a romantic meeting,” Zdan says.
They played cover songs for each other, and soon some of their own songs, and before long a new romantic and musical partnership was born.
Twilight Hotel’s union of romance and music has garnered comparisons to some of music’s most well-known couples, including Johnny and June Carter Cash and Ian and Sylvia Tyson. But Zdan is quick to point out that, “the reason why we’re being compared to them is because of the chemistry on stage. Our relationship helps our music, our music helps our relationship.”
And on days when things aren’t going quite so smoothly on the home front? “That’s a challenge we’ve had to work on,” she says. “Say we’ve had a fight, and then I have to do an interview and [the interviewer] will ask a question about our relationship, and I’ll think ‘oh, geez, I don’t want to talk about him.’”
“It’s constantly something we work on. But it is definitely a blessing to be able to tour with the person you love and have a great time with them. There’s nothing better than that.”
If Brandy and Dave’s romantic beginning seems a little nostalgic, maybe that’s fitting; both are old souls caught up in an iPod generation–a fact that shines through in their music, and especially on Highway Prayer, a record which they recorded in Nashville with Canadian blues artist and producer Colin Linden. He helped the duo build around their sound rather than reshaping it with the modern, paint-by-number production techniques.
While the duo didn’t necessarily set out to record a retro sounding record, Zdan says, they knew they wanted to capture a certain magic. “We wanted something that was based around what Dave and I do. We had worked really hard on setting up specific arrangements for songs, and we road tested them for a very long time, so we felt like we were in the middle and Colin put instruments around us to emphasize what we were doing. Not the kind of approach where you strip everything away and start again, which means that by the time you end up getting to your parts and your singing, you might have to end up changing what you’ve done to fit what everybody else has done [before you]. That’s what we did with our first album. This time, we wanted to focus on capturing those true, real sounds.”
And real sounds abound on Highway Prayer. From the classic country bend of “Impatient Love” to the heartbreaking “Sand in Your Eyes,” it is a record that sounds as genuine as it is distinct, and as distinctly genuine as few records can claim to be. And then there’s that certain intangible quality unique to two people in love singing together.
“I really do believe that when Dave and I sing together and play together there is something being created that you cannot really see,” Zdan says. “If a band has magic being created when they’re playing their songs, that will come through on the recording. We’re big fans of lots of old recordings. We love old jazz, old country. And all those guys were playing in a room together. Almost none of it was multi-tracked. People were just playing the song and creating that energy, and I think that can be captured on a recording. And you can hear when someone has a smile on their face when they’re singing or playing.”
Someone like the late Richard Bell; the famed Canadian musician who (among other career highlights) played piano for Janis Joplin. Bell’s last performances are captured on Highway Prayer.
“There’s a bonus track at the end of the album that Colin and Richard play on together. And that is something that’s very special. When we got the final mixes, Colin added that on and it was a total surprise. We were like, ‘oh, what’s track 13? Let’s listen to it.’ And we were just sitting there in awe, thinking, ‘wow.’ You can hear the communication between those two friends. It’s an amazing performance,” Zdan says.
As much ground as Highway Prayer covers sonically, it covers lyrically. While Twlight Hotel’s songs are inspired by the duo’s rural setting and, Zdan notes, Winnipeg’s extreme isolation, the duo isn’t afraid to tackle some distinctly American topics. The new album includes a song about I-35 (commonly called the “Road to Salvation” or the “Holy Highway”), which inspired the disc’s title, as well as an unexpected but startlingly poignant song about the plight of Mexican immigrants in the United States.
“I think a lot of people probably wouldn’t agree with that song,” Zdan says of the latter, titled “The Ballad of Salvador and Isabella,” which Dave wrote. “I think it’s a story that needs to be told. And I think that’s what songwriters do, really—even if you don’t have any direct connection to it…what we do is observe situations and express those observations and issues, and then the listener can interpret them how they want.”
But is there a place in the music world for a smart, politically savvy, and sometimes risky folk/country/etc duo?
“There’s always going to be music lovers. And even though some people might not say that our music is mainstream, I think it’s highly accessible to a lot of people. The mainstream music industry doesn’t give listeners enough credit these days. When we’re playing shows and we see what the audience has to say afterwards…it’s the person that I would have never expected to react to our music that just falls in love with it.”
And as for those “insane” Manitoba winters?
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to move from this town. We love it so much, it’s such a great place to come back to. Ten minutes from the city and I’m on my parent’s farm in the middle of nowhere and it feels fabulous.”
Review- Americana UK
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Highway Prayer, the second album from Canada’s first couple of alt-retro-countrified folk is full of...Highway Prayer, the second album from Canada’s first couple of alt-retro-countrified folk is full of splendid love tokens and mysteriously menacing stories. The perky opening mission statement of viva la vinyl doesn’t quite set the tone for the doomier sensitivities of the rest of the (long) record. There’s hints of a classic 1950s/ early 60s melody and sound, made fully modern by the his and hers voices, both of which have a little something unique. They work together well, as on ‘Impatient love’, a song George and Tammy might have covered on a peaceful day.
The temptation of working with your lover must be to fill an album with confessional love songs, but the personal is counterbalanced with a political and social conscious, most notably on the somewhat overlong and Ricky Valance-ish misery of “the Ballad of Salvador and Isabelle” and on Slumber Queen.
This is a fine, exciting record.
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If you like your music nice and neat and fitting within a particular predictable genre or style, the...If you like your music nice and neat and fitting within a particular predictable genre or style, then stay far, far away from Canadian roots-rock duo Twilight Hotel.
Brandy Zdan (vocals, electric/acoustic guitar, accordion) and Dave Quanbury (vocals, electric/acoustic guitar) hail from Winnipeg on the Eastern edge of the prairie region of Western Canada (eight hours north of Minneapolis via 9513). I don’t know much about the region, but if Twilight Hotel’s new release “Highway Prayer” is any cultural barometer of the area, it seems to be chilly, desolate albeit fertile terrain.
Twilight Hotel are no newcomers to the game. After recording their first self-titled LP in 2003, Zdan and Quanbury have been a hot item in Canadian roots circles and have played more than 200 North American dates in 2007.
Highway Prayer finds Zdan and Quanbury putting all those dues paid on full display as they artfully craft a pan-American world placed somewhere between Andrew Bird’s jazz-gypsy-folk and and Johnny and June’s soulful-earthy duets. Halfway between the cafe’ and the roadhouse. The stories on “Highway Prayer” unfold like a dark map of the heart and carries on the fine folk/country tradition of storytelling from the point of view of those inflicting or bearing hardships.Recorded in Nashville, TN, Highway Prayer, features noable guest musicians including the late Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band), Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits), and Dave Roe (Johnny Cash).
Things blasts to life with “Viva la Vinyl,” a rave-up-scat-duet ode to the joy of analog music recordings which sounds as joyous and as impromptu porch jam session with plenty of sour mash being passed and hoisted.
On “No Place for a Woman” MS. Zdan belts out a reverb-draped lament about a family’s rough life in the coal mine. “Impatient Love” is a yearning duet that highlights the couples harmony and shimmers in it’s beauty. The title cut takes us out to the dark, desolate dirt roads made familiar by Neko Case and is made even more forbidding by Richard Bell organ work.
Slumber Queen is a a hard-coiled cha-cha in the gypsy-jazz vein of Andrew Bird and Iowalta Morningside follows hot on it’s trail with a chilly night-life narrative that Nick Cave would be proud of. On Shadow of a Man Zdan moves us into the gritty junk yard baroque jazz were Tom Waits reigns supreme and she does a fine job of marking her territory.
As mentioned before Richard Bell, the Canadian musician perhaps best remembered as the pianist for Janis Joplin and her Full Tilt Boogie Band, lent his considerable talent to what was to be his last work and “Highway Prayer” is made even more spectacular because of it. The last track Best Buds showcases Bell and dobro player Colin Linden is a great testament to the man and his talent.
Honest Love, Honest Music
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The only fire that burns more brightly than their music is the one between them. Brandy Zdan and Dav...The only fire that burns more brightly than their music is the one between them. Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury form the folk-inspired duo known as Twilight Hotel. Formed in 2002 at an Ontario music festival, the couple hails from the fertile music scene of Winnipeg, a leading con- tributor to the folk-country music genre in Canada.
“We met briefl y during the day [at the Ontario festival] and then we had a very romantic campfi re jam late in the evening. It was both musical and romantic [our connec- tion]. I think we saw the sun rise that morning, if I remember cor- rectly,” recalls Zdan.
As their relationship unfolded, they both continued to write songs and perform them for their solo projects, all the while writing songs for what would be their fi rst album together as boyfriend and girlfriend. The product of their labour was an album merely titled after the two of their full names in 2004. Building up a major following on the live concert circuit, they took some higher expectations into the studio with them when they recorded their sophomore album, Bethune.
“Our audience, old and new, were seeing an energy on stage,” says Zdan. “They would always tell us how we need to capture that on the next album. I think that we did capture something. Iʼm not sure itʼs the live show or what it is, but it is some- thing.”
The album showcased their connection and dark, twang-filled Americana sound, garnering them critical acclaim and comparisons to folk legends such as Leonard Co- hen and indie-folk revivalist Iron and Wine. The acclaim culminated in a nomination for Best Ameri- cana Album at the 2007 American Independent Music Awards. Zdan has mixed feelings about the ac- claim and awards Twilight Hotel has received along the way.
“It always great to get recogni- tion and be placed among people you respect,” admits Zdan. “Iʼm not too sure that I believe in awards though. There are many great musicians and artists that never get recognized who deserve it.”
Jan. 29 marks the release of their newest, most elaborate and complete album to date, Highway Prayer. Itʼs also the fi rst album for which Zdan and Quanbury wrote songs together.
“We didnʼt actually write songs together until the last year,” ex- plains Zdan. “That was the one thing that we kept separate for a long time. We would write about each other and the past. Now with our writing to- gether, we are more observational about the world around us and we love to create stories that may or may not be true.”
The album marks a more com- plete and unique turn in the bandʼs sound, making the band a staple in the Canadian independent music scene. It was also an opportunity to work with producer Colin Linden, as well as musicians who have done work with such music leg- ends as Tom Waits, The Band and Johnny Cash. Zdan lights up and describes the sessions as a “joy.”
“Colin invited a few of his good friends to come in and play and engineer. This made for a great at- mosphere. We entered in on some long-time friendships,” says Zdan.
“This approach did differ ex- tremely from our previous efforts. Now, we didnʼt go into it with a sound in mind, but we did have the approach in mind. We knew the arrangements and instrumentation for the songs and we knew it was strong. We wanted to build it from there, not strip it all down and build it up again.”
Twilight Hotel is embarking on a cross-Canada tour to promote the release of Highway Prayer at the end of January. Touring and recording together has not had a negative impact on their relation- ship. In fact, Zdan says, itʼs just the opposite.
“Touring has made our relation- ship stronger,” asserts Zdan. “But in any situation there are compromises to be made. This is both what we want with our life so it makes it easy.”
What is not genuine and enjoy- able about a couple that make folk music together? Itʼs almost a setting for a fairy tale. Zdan describes the genre as “honest,” “unpretentious” and as just simply “highly acces- sible music.” She also admits that the music does get intertwined with their relationship, but adds that itʼs a good thing.
“Our relationship has everything to do with the music we make and vice versa. It is all connected and we love playing together,” says Zdan. “There is some kind of invisible communication that happens when we play.”
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If you like your roots dark, the Winnipeg duo Twilight Hotel belong in your speakers. Brandy Zdan an...If you like your roots dark, the Winnipeg duo Twilight Hotel belong in your speakers. Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury shade Highway Prayer with dark hues, both lyrically and musically. The title track, sung duskily by Zdan, describes a lonely road trip. The country-tinged No Place for a Woman is about life in the mines, where "there's no beauty here, down here it's always night." Sometimes I Get a Little Lonely's title is self-explanatory, Zdan giving the song a real blues feel. The Ballad of Salvador and Isabelle tells a heartbreaking tale of two immigrants to America who encounter a world of trouble.
As the pair sing in the lovely ballad Sand in Your Eyes, "sorrow and heartache make better songs than love."
That's not to say the record has no joy. The opening Viva la Vinyl, a tribute to the grand old art of analog recording, is an earthy, rockabilly shuffle. If It Won't Kill You, featuring great dobro work by producer Colin Linden, sounds like something you'd hear in a rollicking New Orleans bar, with Quanbury jumping up into falsetto to nail a vocal line. And you can't slumber to Slumber Queen -- it's got dancefloor written all over it. Iowalta Morningside also rocks, but here Twilight Hotel's dark roots once again peek through, as Zdan and Quanbury sing about a murder.
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For an album that bounds out of the gate with Viva la Vinyl, a rockabilly/ scat tribute to analog mu...For an album that bounds out of the gate with Viva la Vinyl, a rockabilly/ scat tribute to analog music, Highway Prayer turns pretty dark pretty fast. By the mid-way point, we've met a female miner who packs a screwdriver in her boot as protection against male co-workers, watched crows lunching on road kill, and seen a Mexican brother and sister destroyed after jumping the border in search of a better life.
"Sorrow and heartache make better songs than love," as Winnipeg's Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury, a.k.a. Twilight Hotel, sing in Sand In Your Eyes. Smart musicians both, they wrap their predominantly bleak lyrics and fine harmonies in an engaging mix that ranges from blues to classic country.
Their accompanists include the late Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band) on organ and producer Colin Linden on guitar, dobro and bass. Graciously, Twilight Hotel turns the last track over to Bell and Linden for a sweet instrumental duet.
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"We've been on this road for some time now. Our hearts are leading us now. Our hearts, and the tires..."We've been on this road for some time now. Our hearts are leading us now. Our hearts, and the tires, are leading us now.'' - from "Highway Prayer" by Twilight Hotel
Brandy Zdan switches from wail to whammy deep in the Canadian twang zone, firing love notes a la vibrato into the appreciative blue eyes of blonde-on-blonde Dave Quanbury, who tosses them back from his hand-made, hand-me-down, cigar-box plugged-in acoustic guitar in a Rock Noir tennis match. It's L-O-V-E alright!
Twilight Hotel is the hottest couple to join musical voices in years. The aptly titled band of two presents dark, road songs that sizzle on and seduce off stage. Two guitars or a guitar accompanied by accordion, two rich vocals, two composer-lyricists: Twilight Hotel fills a whole band's bill with only two members.
"We don't want to be any bigger," says Dave. "We get one of two comments after the show, 'You guys have a really big sound' and 'I heard a bass and a drum.' That's really cool. The audience members are filling in the blanks in the theatre of the mind."
Their songs may feature a character, like the miner in "No Place for A Woman": "I got a knife in my lunch pail/A screwdriver in my boot/To keep those union boys at bay/When I come walking in sight"; the jilted lover in "Sometimes I Get So Lonely"; and the immigrant couple Salvador and Isabelle. "When I got hooked on songwriting," muses Quanbury, "I was more into artists who spoke through song more than they spoke through soundscape. Tom Waits has got a whole universe in his songs. He's picturing this world and you can almost feel what the weather's like." Zdan adds, "Theater of the mind is something we think of when we write songs. We're trying to create a song, something the audience member can imagine."
Their music is intentional story songs and emotive sketches, lyrically striking the bass chords of human needs. Dave credits his mother, a visual artist and a professional storyteller, for his strong lyrics. Today he uses crossword puzzles to sharpen lyrical skills. For Brandy, vinyl immersion was her school of Rock, heavy into Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Now she spends time listening backwards, rediscovering artists such as Rosetta Tharpe. Dave cites French-Canadian Daniel Lanois as an influence, following the producer's career with favorite artists such as U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris. When the producer began releasing as a solo artist, Dave kept listening. Brandy agrees, "Strength of the melody and all the instruments in Lanois' arrangements serve the song. And that's something really important to remember in producing a record. It's probably some of our favorite stuff."
Twilight Hotel got serious in 2006, releasing Bethune, which was nominated Best Americana Album at the American Independent Music Awards in 2007. The band likes the live recording techniques of the past. "You hear this fabulous playing and it's just icing on the cake that they did it all together, all in one shot. Nowadays, with a lot of records, I find it hard to connect with whether I would actually like that person," says Dave. "It's pretty easy to dress up a song, record those vocal takes until it's perfect, but when you listen to those records and it's one microphone you know those folks were on their game."
Their second album, Highway Prayer, was released January 28. "We played what we do, live, those instruments," recalls Brandy. "Colin Linden, Prayer's producer, calls the important part of the song the DNA of the song - and if that's there you can color that with other instruments and you won't lose the song. So we went in there, recorded the record in six days, playing live, no headphones, playing in the same room - we had great energy, great vibe, it was a lot of fun! That's what it should be," she grins at the memory.
The album's opener, the Rockabilly song "Viva La Vinyl," conveys that genre's fun, danceable feel and comes in optional, separate vinyl. But the repertoire quickly rolls into different directions, inspired by life on the road and places. The song "Highway Prayer" was conceived on Interstate 35, which has prayer groups available along the road. Dave says, "It started out being an observation about I-35's threatening billboards. It's not like 'Hey, God is Love.' It's 'Hell is Real, Prepare to Meet thy Maker.' It blows my mind, it's reverse psychology for me. The last thing I want to do is go to church because they're threatening me. So it started out being an observation about what is our spirituality and what are the places we think are sacred. We had just been to Sun Studio [in Memphis] the day we started writing that."
Brandy and Dave are both from Winnipeg, Canada, but six years ago met at a festival some 400 miles away. Says Dave, "I'd been visiting a friend, Jefferson Bishop, who owns a record shop and he told me I ought to meet Brandy - I'd seen her gig, so when I saw her walking around I went up and said, 'Hi.'" Brandy remembers, "We had a conversation about Jefferson and how he sells lots of vinyl, which we both love. It was a nice night. We stayed up very late, playing songs for each other. Our musical partnership and personal partnership happened at the same time." The couple continues to collect vinyl, with over 90% of the collection pre-1950, and the partnership has accelerated, becoming engaged on Valentine's Day 2008.
Dave Quanbury started playing piano at age three and cites Scott Joplin's ragtime as an early influence. While he also plays pedal steel and trumpet, and Brandy plays flute, saxophone, and piano, but those sounds are not yet part of Twilight Hotel. Brandy, aka Granola-on-Fire, was strongly influenced by Joni Mitchell and Neil Young; and Dave played in Rock bands, as well as in an acoustic Latin band. "When I met Dave I developed more of an edge to my guitar playing. I really wanted to be a good player as well as a good singer. There are a lot of women in music that aren't really competent on guitar and it makes me angry. Just because you have a good voice, well, you should be able to know your instrument. I think that's really important," says Brandy, leaning forward with flashing eyes. She's a wonder to watch.
Colin Linden saw some of that determination in the studio while making Highway Prayer. "They came in well prepared, which makes a big difference, focused, and open to new ideas. Good attitudes, too." Linden produces in Nashville, as well as in Canada and was at the Folk Alliance with his Roots Rock band Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, as well as conducting an electric guitar workshop. Why did he accept the project? "I thought they had a great deal of charisma in their singing together. I liked their songs. They like the same stuff I do, though they're a different generation. Working with them was fun," he concludes. Linden brought in guest musicians, including the late Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band), Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits), and Dave Roe (Johnny Cash).
Nominated for the Emerging Artist Award, the band played the Folk Alliance Awards show a few weeks ago in Memphis. Attending their third FA conference, they were there for typical reasons: to see old friends and make new ones, and for visibility, but with close friends in the city, the roots capital is becoming a second home. While Dave cruised Memphis musical landmarks, Brandy waited for a media phone call discussing the character of the city with a local waitress. "We found that when you compare the two it's a lot like Winnipeg: they both have racial tension, empty buildings and a muddy river. But Winnipeg doesn't have corrupt politics."
Touring 200 nights a year is both inspiration and challenge. Brandy's favorite gig was in New York's Madison Square Park. The small-towners played outside on a fall Saturday afternoon for 200 people. "That one was fabulous! Amazing! Everybody was so nice to deal with. They even gave us a parking spot for the whole day! That was a dream." Dave remembers opening for the Subdudes in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "It was really great to meet them, they've been at this a long time. We could see their team and it was a glimpse into the kind of operation we hope to have one day, with a guitar tech, a monitor guy, a truck with a driver! And when you play to a big audience that is there because they love the music, you rise to the occasion. I'd love to play with those guys again. They were really nice to us."
Heading for the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan for a novel house concert tour, Twilight Hotel will then wend through Chicago, playing Richard Warren's show on WMFT, then on to Kerrville as part of a Texas tour. They find a different reception in the states for their music. "Americans embrace us as something new and exciting. They'll come up to us and ask us to go on the radio. But in Canada, they're watching from the sides to see if we do well. It's a more conservative market. Folk music means Gordon Lightfoot." Brandy nods, "We don't fit in a genre box and they want us to fit. We're in the Twilight Hotel box."
With its shady surround sounding, heart-pumping performance, and solid commitment to art, Twilight Hotel is a band of note. The young couple has room to grow musically and every intention of doing so. Like many bands, they want to travel, record, and build an enthusiastic audience. They are online at www.twilighthotel.ca and have a MySpace page. They've thought about their career over the long haul and Dave articulates their goal, "To continue to create music that inspires us. I say that because there are a lot of musicians who build a career for themselves, but perpetuate their career by doing what their fans want. It's rolling, it's paying the bills, but inside it's drying up and they're dying artistically. I don't think it's worth it. It feels like prostitution when you use what you're created for the wrong reasons, past its expiration date. So we want to keep that creative spark alive." Brandi adds, "If we can go to bed every day knowing we're creating music that's inspiring us, then, we can go to bed happy." My own day ends happily with another song to savor from Twilight Hotel.
Deborah Douglas Wilbrink, former English teacher and active songwriter, freelances from her home in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a contributing editor at FolkWax. You may contact Deborah at email@example.com.
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"Twilight Hotel, a most winning pair. Dave and Brandy are not only musically talented and engaging, ..."Twilight Hotel, a most winning pair. Dave and Brandy are not only musically talented and engaging, but they are innovative, fresh and original. They somehow manage to blend a Parisian cabaret sound, vintage rock, country and their original style into one cohesive, highly entertaining sound. I doubt they'll be playing small clubs much longer."
-Rich Warren WFMT Chicago
1-4 45 min. sets
|Jun 9, 2014 Monday||12:00 PM||Please visit http://www.myspace.com/twilighthotel||For full show listing..., MB, CA|