Flotilla’s latest album, “One Hundred Words for Water,” has been hailed by Exclaim! magazine as “one of the most original and engaging albums released by a new Canadian group recently”. In support of this album, Flotilla has toured internationally and played at festivals such as Wolfe Island Music Festival, NXNE, Evolve, Ladyfest, and Pitter Patter. They’ve also made New York City their second home in the past year, playing frequently in Mahattan and Brooklyn, including a showcase for Deli Magazine. “One Hundred Words for Water” was the 4th most-played independently released album of 2009 on Canadian community/campus radio (behind Rural Alberta Advantage, The Balconies, and In-Flight Safety).
Led by the pairing of Veronica Charnley, an intuitive melodist and guitarist, and Geof Holbrook, an Ivy-League-schooled contemporary classical composer, Flotilla makes for an unusual, genre-defying indie-rock outfit. The music has been compared to Kate Bush, Bell Orchestre, Portishead, and Joanna Newsom. Charnley's songs have been praised for their melodic inventiveness and vivid imagery -- the “half-stories” of the lyrics provoke and invite the listener to imagine their own scenarios. Geof Holbrook (who was a finalist in the CBC Evolution Competition) provides arrangements for harp, autoharp, horns, kalimba, organ, piano and electronics that have been hailed as complex and adventurous.
Flotilla has shared stages with Ohbijou,Think About Life, The Acorn, Ghost Bees, Jon-Rae and the River, Culture Reject, Glass Ghost and as well, quite proudly, with weirdo acts Deep Dark United and 101 Crustaceans. In March 2009, they held a residency at The Banff Centre where they worked on new material inspired by the Rocky Mountains. With new friends they made at the Centre (including a cora player) they put together a concert that was recorded and broadcast by CBC.
The band is currently working on their third record which will include arrangements for harp, horns, percussion, and clarinet.
About One Hundred Words for Water:
To make One Hundred Words for Water, Flotilla rented out Studio Loco, which is directly above much-loved Montreal venue Casa del Popolo, for three weeks. They arrived with half of the songs half-written; but access to long hours in the studio made possible a spontaneous, organic approach to completing them. Producer and engineer Robert-Eric Gaskell set up camp with the band, which proceeded to take advantage of whatever instruments were lying around (French horn, trombone, Fender rhodes, kalimba, autoharp, a honky-tonk piano and a spinet organ someone’s grandmother had left there). They practically lived off the sandwiches sold by Casa downstairs -- their favourite was called “Miel Madness”. The recording process, like the sandwich, was at once maddening and sweet as honey.
The resulting album is White-Album-esque in its diversity. Operatic, eccentric, contemplative, raucous, harmonious, abstract and heartfelt are all applicable adjectives. All this is on display at their live shows, where the band performs the album (and a lot of new material already), very often expanding the palette with guest musicians from a variety of backgrounds.
Veronica Charnley - guitar, vocals
Eveline Grégoire-Rousseau - harp
Geof Holbrook - keyboards, bass, electronics
Benoit Monière - drums
Disaster Poetry, 2006
Ladyfest Compilation, 2008
One Hundred Words For Water, 2009
One Hundred Words for Water: review
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"It's starting to look like the musical talent pool in Montreal is deeper than Lake Baikal. Even amo..."It's starting to look like the musical talent pool in Montreal is deeper than Lake Baikal. Even among a luminary, headlining-grabbing sea of indie rock stars Flotilla's One Hundred Words For Water stands out as one of the most original and engaging albums released by a new Canadian group recently. A more optimistic Portishead or what Torngat might sound like as a pop band? It's exceedingly difficult to find an apt comparison without feeling a vital dynamic descriptor has been shirked. Naming highlights is equally taxing while traversing the album's angelic soundscapes but the afterglow of the heavenly funk breakdown in "Charlie, I'm Through" is undeniable. Water is teeming with distinct melodies, sophisticated arrangements, subtly syncopated rhythms and perpetually evolving song structures, and Flotilla have a boat-load of tricks for keeping their art rock ship steady while sailing a course straight through musical wonderment and on to bliss." (Scott Gray)
OHWW review, The Hour
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If you're looking for something a little different to listen to, check out the not-so-standard Montr...If you're looking for something a little different to listen to, check out the not-so-standard Montreal pop outfit Flotilla. The boy-girl quartet has been laying out their wares for all to see for a number of years, for the most part below the radar of most ordinary folk. This is very likely to change with the attention their excellent debut album, One Hundred Words for Water, is going to garner. You may get drawn in by Veronica Charnley's affecting vocals, Geof Holbrook's musical mission (bass, piano, organ, autoharp, kalimba, etc.) or [Eveline-Grégoire Rousseau] concert harp, but the soul of their stirring songs will imprint themselves for a long while.
Second Stage: Flotilla
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Admittedly, Veronica Charnley of the band Flotilla has a vocal style that doesn't always appeal to m...Admittedly, Veronica Charnley of the band Flotilla has a vocal style that doesn't always appeal to me. It's a bit overwrought at times. But it works perfectly with the intricate orchestrations on the band's latest album, One Hundred Words for Water, creating a concoction that's hard to tear yourself away from. Charnley writes the songs for Flotilla, while multi-instrumentalist Geof Holbrook does the arrangements, which ultimately define the band.
Self-described as a "half-Anglo, half-Franco, boy-girl, boy-girl" band, based in Montreal, Flotilla offers an interesting alternative to today's indie-rock stereotypes. Just when you think you understand what a song is all about, it shifts and turns into something different. Their sound is hard to put your finger on, which is precisely what makes it so interesting. The band also features the beautiful harp work of Eveline-Gregoire Rousseau and the percussion of drummer Benoit Moniere. Geof Holbrook plays everything from guitars to Fender Rhodes and autoharp. Many of the cuts have the plodding, rhythmic drive of Broken Social Scene, with vocals that could at times even be mistaken for Leslie Feist. On other songs, the band explores a more wispy and ethereal style, with hard-hitting but minimalist beats, and Charnley chirping above it all in a way that can't escape comparison to Portishead.
Once I really dived into One Hundred Words for Water, I had a tough time choosing just one track to share. "Charlie I'm Through" is probably the catchiest song, but they cover so much ground on the album, you should really try to listen to the whole thing, or hear more at their MySpace page.
OHWW review, HeroHill
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Lately it seems that being a hot "indie" band from Montreal is as much of a curse as it is a blessin...Lately it seems that being a hot "indie" band from Montreal is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Obviously the scene has chops – 17 of the 40 Polaris long-listers call the area home – but the shine of being the next big thing from Montreal is now tossed out with the slightest hint of distaste. It’s kind of like being the next thing from Brooklyn. People acknowledge both as creative petri dishes and you can't discredit the impact both have on shaping new music, but unlike a few years ago, that praise is handed out reluctantly or with reservation.
So it will be interesting to see the response Flotilla receives for their second record, One Hundred Words for Water. The boy/girl, boy/girl band displays a creativity and a unique sonic palette that opts for subtlety over shock and surprisingly optimistic point of view instead of the melancholic gloom that seems to be the muse for indie bands of any substance.
The thing is, no matter how talented a band is, pitching a sound that includes folk, jazz, funk, atmospherics, minimal electronics and harp isn’t really an easy sell or one that can be described quickly. But as you listen to Flotilla, it's obvious their sound is very engaging. One Hundred Words for Water begs for countless listens, as the band switches moods, tone and feel but never losing that crucial cohesive feel. Whether it’s the syncopated rhythms of Old Mill or the grit of the minor toned opener, Song for Yannick, Veronica’s vocals bend and shift to mirror the textures the band creates. Even when the listen is refreshed by the spiked tempo of Clouds and the funky bridge of Charlie, I’m Through, she holds her own, acting as a front woman but never overpowering the music.
But it's the complexity of the arrangements that really show the band’s talent. Prelude and Epilogue blends harmonies, horns, twinkling keys and shimmering guitar that crescendo nicely before retreating. The moody Ghost in a Landscape gives off a slight Portishead vibe, but it's the down tempo transitions and whimisical harp that really grab me. Song for Yannick manages to control the schizophrenic transitions before they veer too far off course and even the relatively straight forward guitar, drums and Liz Powell-ish vocals that push A Thousand Jacobs feel fuller and more adventurous thanks to the harp that dances alongside the melody.
One Hundred Words For Water is not your standard indie rock record and in today's cookie cutter world, that's terrific. Flotilla shows that creative songs are still being written in the land of poutine and the status the region holds is still well deserved. Even better? Flotilla are heading to Halifax, and playing the @ The Paragon on July 22nd. I would wager it's going to be a great night of music, so you should all head out.
OHWW review, Venus Zine
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Flotilla has a swinging, classical pop vibe to their music, and the one constant factor throughout O...Flotilla has a swinging, classical pop vibe to their music, and the one constant factor throughout One Hundred Words for Water is the serene vocals of Veronica Charnley. The first three songs transport you back to the ‘40s, with a perfectly timed back beat thanks to drummer Benoit Monière. From “Prelude and Epilogue” into "A Thousand Jacobs," the textures of vocals and instruments create a relaxing ambiance.
Yet Flotilla's album returns to the 21st century with "Ghost in Landscape," where you hear Geof Holbrook's electronic rock mingling with a marvelously played harp at the hands of Eveline Grégoire-Rousseau. Couple that beautiful sound with heartfelt lyrics and you'll find Flotilla has created an album perfect for relaxing poolside. Truthfully, one would be hard pressed to find a record similar to One Hundred Words for Water elsewhere in their CD collection, so if you're looking for something one-of-a-kind, this is the album for you.
O Patro Vys, live review
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Nothing is better than when a band exceeds one's expectations. Flotilla has been much touted around ...Nothing is better than when a band exceeds one's expectations. Flotilla has been much touted around Exclaim and CBC... so my immediate response is always a one-eyebrow raised, "Impress me." That eyebrow dropped in less than two phrases of the first song performed, when they more than live up to the generous praise heaped on them. How lucky am I to catch them at this fairly intimate CD launch.
This sweet little local band is every inch bathed in that Montreal ethos that keeps on creating these amazing independent outfits. First off, they have the requisite atypical instrument, in this case, a concert harp. Second off, they seem to have that power mix of Franco-Anglo talent. Thirdly, they come off as mild mannered sorts whose "this is who we are" gentleness is disarming and charming. Fourthly, and most importantly, they make music you want to listen to again and again and again. Moody, surprising, and never pressing into discomfort as a means to evoke a wow! factor.
I liked their balance of softness and speed, the reflective and introspection of the lyrics, and just that lack of pretense and ego. Music that tends to be so sentiment driven or emotionally evocative is often a shade boring. However, this was NOT the case. NO NO NO NO NO. This band had me seduced and I walked out of this show a convert to the cause. Eyes out and ears up for Flotilla who seems to have stayed subsurface but will surely make big waves with their new album One Hundred Words for Water.
OHWW review, Citizen Dick
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Raise your hand if you like thought experiments. Cool, me too. Since you are still reading, I’ll t...Raise your hand if you like thought experiments.
Cool, me too.
Since you are still reading, I’ll take that as consent and keep going with this hook. Imagine we live in a more just and progressive society where anyone can marry anyone else, and Annie Clark and Laetitia Sadier have decided to come together in wedded bliss. Imagine they go on to raise a child together, a lovely daughter, and while she takes Clark’s voice, she eschews the American mommy’s penchant for the hyper-theatrical and pretension for the French mommy’s subtle cool and back-beat proclivities. That little girl, all grown up, would then become the frontwoman of a band of her own, one that would release a record very similar to today’s review subject, Flotilla’s One Hundred Words for Water.
OK – that’s a pretty terrible thought experiment – it violates all sorts of time and space assumptions and, even if it didn’t, is still a pretty ham-fisted hook for getting across my central points: that familiarity with the previous two references will immediately render
Flotilla’s new album accessible and that the band’s vocalist, Veronica Charnley, rightfully deserves to be mentioned in the same conversation as other indie rock luminaries like the ladies commanding the St Vincent and Stereolab operations.
(Side note: I once stood behind Sadier in line at the front desk of the Austin Motel waiting to check out. If I recall, she was buying postcards. I remember thinking about how tall she seemed onstage versus in person.)
As a group, Flotilla is both talented and wise. Each member is more than capable in handling their respective instrumental duties, and you get the vibe they really understand, as a collective, what their act is about. This is a band filled with particularly solid musicians that do a commendable job of comfortably enveloping their singer, who is the clear central focus of the album. The men and women who make up Flotilla know who they are and what they do and go with it – there is no discernible tension between front and back – there doesn’t even seem to be a front and back, but instead great music complementing great vocals.
One Hundred Words for Water starts off with a dark introduction courtesy of the album-opener, “Song for Yannick.” Listening to the lyrics, you wonder what wild beast the singer is referring to as it bides its time and rations its meals. A monster? A ghost? A kidnapping victim? Here’s a hint: the song is really about a kitty, a rather adorable one at that, but don’t let that knowledge interfere with your imagination.
In fact, imagination is the listener’s best friend when it comes to this album. In song after song, Flotilla provides a careful listener with half-complete outlines and sketches of alternative worlds and events, but still leaves plenty of room for interpretation and filling in the rest of the story. For example, “Ghost in a Landscape” reminds me of the dark side of memory, more specifically of the fear one can have of becoming a memory and no longer an active participant in a setting or aspect of life. This song is telling a story about something or, better still, someone, but who and why remain cloaked in mist. Perhaps it is a vague reference to a story about a funeral, or perhaps Alzheimer’s, or even losing a friend for a short while as they serve a stint at rehab. Regardless of the true backstory, the individual in question is gone, and seem to be suffering for it. Or take, as another example, “Ophelia.” While I love the way Charnley croons the phrase “couldn’t be bothered” on this track, even more compelling is the chance to imagine yet another back-story, in this case maybe a failed relationship that, had it not been for the flood the narrator discovers, would have been felt more immediately and painfully but, given the fact that the ground floor of the storyteller’s home was now underwater, she simply “couldn’t be bothered” to be heart-broken, at least not yet. Or, even more vivid, the rare idyllic visuals from an eco-dystopia that might accompany “Old Mill.” Finally, consider “Meet Me Outside,” which I could see as the soundtrack to a loneliness montage in the anti-climactic moment of an independent romantic comedy about a couple where one of the two find themselves in prison.
As wonderfully cryptic and provocative as these song half-tales are, they remain only a part, however important, of broader compositions. Each song on the album deserves to be reckoned with on its own, from the multi-dimensional “Song for Yannick” that first made me think of the aforementioned St Vincent comparison (with the rapid change with organ effects) and Stereolab (in the rushing epilogue, when the reenergizing powers of the subject affix themselves to the narrator’s romance) or the imposing anxiety of “Charlie, I’m Through” with its discordant pairing of perhaps the album’s most upbeat music with its most tense lyrics. It reminds you of those terrible moments in life when you remember that the only thing worse than an uncomfortable confrontation is when one of the participants takes an inappropriately happy tone during it. “Charlie, I’m Through” is the musical equivalent of this exprerience, with its danceable, almost Daft Punk-ian beats that, as you listen more carefully to the words, you probably shouldn’t want to feel like dancing to. Far less tense, but even more complex is “Clouds.” So much so, it strikes me as inappropriate to discuss “Clouds” as a singular entity – in reality, the nearly seven-minute epic is like four different songs, with the most divergent moments being the most technically astute, particularly in the middle period when a lovely interlude transitions into something akin to a techno-lite mini-symphony that is constantly evolving in speed and level, before fading out and being replaced by darling vocals and more mundane accompaniment.
There are so many things I love on this album. The brass effects “Prelude and Epilogue” with the driving guitars underneath, the culminating and overlapping one-woman round in “Charlie, I’m Through,” the cleavage separating the two halves of “Two Boys” with the first half seemingly describing breaking up and the second half as the attempts by the dumper to buck herself up (“they’ll be better off now …”), the breathy “ah ah ahs”and subtly melodious orchestral backing in “Clouds,” the fuzzed rock that begins and ends “Old Mill.” In fact, other than the entirety of “Meet Me Outside,” these moments in “Old Mill” are the ones I’d relish the most should an opportunity to see Flotilla live ever present itself. I could go on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: buy this album. You’ll love it, too.
Flotilla’s One Hundred Words for Water is currently available for purchase here. Although the band does not currently have announced any plans for extensive touring, our New York readers will have an opportunity to see them play in the city when they hit Fontana’s on November 3rd and The Delancey on November 23rd. (Special note to A&R types: these are a pair of shows you are gonna want to attend. Just sayin’.)
Apt 613 Review and Interview
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Flotilla is a band that is hard to classify. The same thing has been said about many bands, but with...Flotilla is a band that is hard to classify. The same thing has been said about many bands, but with this Montreal-based band, you can name any number of their musical influences (Bjork, Portishead, Deerhoof, Joanna Newsom), but none of them fully capture the unique sound that this band brings to the Canadian scene.
Their album One Hundred Words for Water was released in 2009 and quickly became the fourth most played indie album on Canadian community/campus radios that year. It’s not hard to see why. The album combines haunting female vocals with jazz chord progressions that manage to be complex yet still pop music catchy, producing a dream-like quality in their sound. Oh, and they have a harp. Yes, I said harp.
Clearly the originality of their style is partly due to their arranger/keyboardist/bassist,Geoffrey Holbrook, who is working on a doctorate at Columbia University in contemporary music composition. It probably also has to do with the fact that their vocalist and guitarist, Veronica Chamley grew up in Ottawa before moving to Montreal to study.
“People seem to understand the music, in Ottawa, more than other cities,” Chamley says. “I don’t know if it’s the fact that I was raised there, and there’s something Ottawa about me, but I just find the audiences are pretty intelligent and attentive.”
The band now spends its time between Montreal and New York City, and has recently returned from their Canadian east coast tour. To follow up on the success of their album, they will record a new EP this summer, which Chamley hints will attempt more ambitious arrangements, with horns, strings and clarinet.
Flotilla will be playing at the Raw Sugar Café as a two piece this Friday on July 30. Also playing that night will be Ottawa’s own Adam Saikaley and David Little G. Be sure to drop by and catch this special evening.
~ Gloria Song
OHWW review, Impressionable Youth
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Montreal's Flotilla sounds rich. Not rich in a mo-money-mo-problems way. But rich in the way people ...Montreal's Flotilla sounds rich. Not rich in a mo-money-mo-problems way. But rich in the way people speak about Belgium Chocolates or leather armchairs or engineered hardwood flooring. This is a whole new level of sophistication. Wine-swirling, candle-lighting, cheese-eating sophistication. You might as well invite some architects, archeologists, artists, writers and Frasier Crane over for a soiree and use this as your playlist.
I'm not saying that it's music for snobs. Far from it. It's definitely polished. It's also got distinctively pretty sound with elements of jazz, cabaret, folk, electronica and rock, held together with classical compositions and enheightened with Veronica Charnley's ethereal voice. It has an air of art school quirkiness to it, cultured but different.
It's an interesting mix and not something you come across everyday. It's also no wonder "Flotilla's One Hundred Words For Water stands out as one of the most original and engaging albums released by a new Canadian group recently" by Exclaim! magazine.
OHWW review, NXEW
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Montreal band Flotilla’s second full-length album, One Hundred Words for Water, is full of musical s...Montreal band Flotilla’s second full-length album, One Hundred Words for Water, is full of musical surprises of the best kind. Flotilla is hard to pin down, genre wise. Some tracks are solidly indie art-rock, but there’s a jazzy flavour underlying the whole album. Add a bit of cabaret, folk-rock elements, a dash of electronica, nonstandard time signatures, and occasional mid-song mood changes, and you’ve got Flotilla. Veronica Charnley’s vocals are the standout element, but the inclusion of harp lines throughout—a classical harpist is one of the band’s four regular members—also differentiate this band from others. Sonic surprises abound, but the intention is not to startle; rather, it is to delight. This beautiful, impressive album should find a place in the hearts of lovers of good music with a variety of musical tastes. ...
Artist to Watch in 2009
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... Montreal has spawned yet another tremendously talented group, but think more Bell Orchestre meet...... Montreal has spawned yet another tremendously talented group, but think more Bell Orchestre meets Portishead than Arcade Fire. Disaster Poetry (from 2006) was a promising collection of classically informed indie rock spiced up by harp and IDM-inspired live drumming. Previews from Flotilla’s upcoming sophomore album on MySpace are enticing enough that ship formation references should be taking a backseat to another gem in the Canadian smart-rock revolution in the digital public consciousness by 2009’s end.
Scott A. Gray
Disaster Poetry review, Wavelength
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Flotilla are a four-piece from Montreal who count among their group members a classically trained ha...Flotilla are a four-piece from Montreal who count among their group members a classically trained harp player, and a soprano who likewise seems to have spent a lot of time in conservatories. Add to this mix an accomplished composer who handles keyboard and bass duties, and Flotilla’s formal musical credentials are dauntingly impressive. Disaster Poetry, their debut, finds them applying their theory chops to a pop medium, and the results are teasingly encouraging. Singer Veronica Charnley’s vocals are as lilting and mellifluous as a songbird, with hints of a Joni Mitchell-style meter, tugging gently at her undulating tones. Leadoff track “Beneath The Snow” is a fine example of Flotilla at their most approachable and compelling: vivid imagery, fluid transitions and playfully scurrying harps conspire to craft an unique, addictive sound. While the record does not always consistently strike this gold, there is much promise in the meticulously arranged chamber pop of a group whose best work seems yet to come.
~ Pras Rajagopalan
Disaster Poetry review, Exclaim!
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The appeal of a genuinely innocent-sounding female vocal is an eternally enduring one, and Flotilla ...The appeal of a genuinely innocent-sounding female vocal is an eternally enduring one, and Flotilla singer/songwriter Veronica Charnley's lovely voice would be sweet enough to make the album even if the music sucked. Luckily, it doesn't -- the band feature members with legitimate musical training (including a classical harpist whose subtle touches add volumes to the songs' pop foundations), and the album's combination of humane introspection and sophisticated songwriting is a good one. Their more upbeat numbers are pretty and engaging, and their piano ballads are both intimate and hook-laden in a 70's singer-songwriter vein. Flotilla are at their best when they capitalise on their original ideas and retro influences -- their ventures into Death Cab For Cutie/Joan of Arc-ish soft post-rock, though good for what they are, sound poor compared to their more straightforward shining moments. This is their debut, however, and it's understandable that the band would want to steady their footing in the genres of today. Their unique flare is apparent even when constrained by contemporary form, and this shows a lot of promise.
~ Alex Molotkow
Disaster Poetry review
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Flotilla’s self-released album Disaster Poetry was one of the first CDs I picked up at the office th...Flotilla’s self-released album Disaster Poetry was one of the first CDs I picked up at the office this year, and I can’t think of a better start to 2008. Last year saw lots of great re-releases and some of its best albums were in thoroughly explored genres such as post-punk and shoegaze. Flotilla seems determined to change that, with their unexpected combination of math-rock, indie-pop and modern classical flourishes (provided by harpist Eveline Gregoire-Rousseau). Imagine Stereolab (circa Dots and Loops) as accompanied by Joanna Newsom, and you’ll get an idea of the sound. Flotilla eschews the stereotypes of Canadian indie-pop in favor of the simplicity of great musicianship, great lyricism and gorgeous melodies... Go to www.flotilla.ca and buy Disaster Poetry. The band deserves your money (not to mention a record deal), and it will be one of the best purchases you make all year. (****)
Flotilla's shows are a mix of up-tempo dancy numbers to slower, often inspirational pieces. We play anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half, and sometimes include extra instruments such as clarinet, percussion and flute.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.