Axis of Conversation
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Axis of Conversation

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE
Band Pop Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Remarkable Tale of Axis of Conversation"

So, imagine you’re in a band. Things are going pretty alright. Then, your drummer joins another band that loves to tour — or another three bands that love to tour. Or your violinist moves a few hours south and has to rehearse with you via Skype. Or maybe you start recording your second full-length, only to have the producer/engineer quit, selling all of his equipment to boot. Or one or your members — or three of your members — has a young baby, which naturally reduces the amount of available free time for rehearsing.

Or what if all of these things happened to your band? Well, then you’re probably a member of Axis of Conversation, a Calgary-based orchestral-pop band who are dealing with no shortage of challenges, but keep moving forward anyway. At the end of the day, the music is good enough not to quit on it. Just to really send that point home, Axis of Conversation are coming to Toronto this month for NXNE, where they’ll play at Bread and Circus on June 18. We got some insight from band member on Chris dela Torre on how kids make it both harder and better, why they keep playing together, and who they want to check out at the festival.

Q: You’re dealing with a lot of challenges that most bands don’t have — why do you keep it going despite the difficulties?

A: We’re definitely at a point in our lives where we’re asking ourselves what it means to play in this band. There are certainly days where it feels like the universe does NOT want us to play together. Still, when it comes to the songs on the record we’re in the process of making, I’ve never felt stronger about anything I’ve done. It’s The Album Of Our (still relatively short) Lives, haha.

Q: Your record is in the works and you lost your producer/engineer — are there any plans for what comes next there?
A: Everything’s still in the air as far as that goes. We’ve been tossing around the names of some other producers, a few of which are pretty well-known. But out of respect for everyone involved (including the producer/engineer who quit on us), I can’t name any names at this point.

Q: How has being a parent affected your work in music, in terms of your ability to rehearse and tour? Has it affected the songwriting process at all?
A: It has made everything harder. EVERYTHING. As it stands, half of the band are parents and there will soon be six kids between us (Shelly’s third child is due this summer), which means there are as many kids as there are bandmembers. This means we all have to work much harder to get together and rehearse (let alone tour), and there’s far less time to lock myself away and write a song. It also doesn’t help that Shelly (our violinist) moved three hours away from Calgary and we have to share Matt (our drummer) with a handful of other bands that LOVE to tour. That said, all six of us are still very excited to be here, and are fighting very hard to keep this band alive. We all see something in this music that we aren’t hearing in the music we listen to, something that holds enough meaning for us to keep making it.

As far as the songwriting process goes, I’m fascinated by the experience of parenthood and how it has affected my wife and I. On one hand, becoming a parent is the most mundane of human experiences – there’s obviously nothing groundbreaking about procreation. But you can’t prepare yourself for how it will change you. It’s also hard to believe how much you can love someone. Having a family tends to dwarf everything else in your life in terms of its importance. There was certainly time when I thought I would never say something like that. A few songs on our new album address these things directly.

Q: How is the music scene in Calgary?
A: It’s great to be part of an unproven scene. I’m sure that many people can name at least Calgary band that’s “made it”, but no one has been able to pin down or pigeonhole the sound of the city, and I don’t think anyone ever will. It’s always changing.

Q: Which challenges have you found in touring a country as enormous as Canada? Do you have any strategies for making it work?
A: I have nothing but utmost respect for bands that can live in their van for 10 months of the year. But that’s not our fate. Aside from one-off shows in other cities here and there, we haven’t spent a long time on the road since summer ’09. When it comes time to tour our next record, I imagine we’ll take the Carlos Santana approach: a week or two on the road, followed by a week or two off. It’s going to take some skillful planning, but I think it’s the only way it’s gonna work for us.

Q: You’ve played quite a few festivals — do you have a favourite?
A: No favourites, really. Each has its own charm. I love the wall-to-wall, multi-venue approach of Sled Island and NXNE. It’s an amazing feeling to have a downtown core literally engulfed in live music. But I’ll never forget when we played the Calgary Folk Music Festival last summer. I love it’s family-friendly, eco-loving approach, and the weather on Prince’s Island was incredible. Plus, I met St. Vincent backstage and made very nervous smalltalk with her. Oh man.

Q: What’s your favourite city in Canada to play in?
A: So far, it’s got to be Lethbridge Alberta. We’ve played there a million times and have never EVER had a bad crowd there.

Q: So, with everything in your way, why DID you decide to come to Toronto for NXNE?
A: For the money. That’s a joke, obviously. (For more serious answers, please see questions 1 and 3).

Q: What are you hoping for for your NXNE showcase? Do you come in with any expectations?
A: We seriously were not expecting to be accepted this year. We had the good fortune of playing NXNE ’09 and had an amazing time. My only expectation is that we have as much fun as we did last time. It’s really a huge honour for us to be invited back.

Q: And finally, which other bands are you excited to see while you’re in Toronto?
A: Digable Planets! Even if they play terribly, this will fulfill a 20-year-old dream for me. The Pharcyde will take me back too. Otherwise, I’m very excited to see fellow Calgarians like Samantha Savage-Smith and Chad VanGaalen. It’ll be great to see people on the other side of the country get excited for something that comes out of my hometown. - Two Way Monologues

"Axis of Conversation"

It isn't easy to put raw, heartfelt, broken-hearted vocals into a moving, vital union with sophisticated architectures of string arrangements, found sounds and electronic wizardry; still less is it easy to deliver the whole as a pyrotechnic and cohesive pop package in live performance. But, Axis of Conversation, an experimental sextet who have been steadily building their reputation for several years as one of Calgary's strongest bands, makes it all look easy.

A band that takes clear joy in performing - and in performing with each other - their pleasure in the music is infectious, and ensures that experimental flights of fancy are always fresh and always in the truest sense of the word, never deteriorating into mere exercise or cerebral posturing. They deliver their songs as ethereal, frenetic, controlled whirls of sound and energy, walking a tightrope of tension between wistful neo-Romantic sensibility and ballsy dance-funk swagger with aplomb worth of a veteran act. - Calgary Folk Music Festival Guide 2010

"Axis of Conversation play psychedelic multi-influenced pop"

Around 11 p.m., a good sized crowd started to gather at the Slice. Jan. 15 for an exciting set from Axis of Conversation. By the

time I arrived, laid back open act Raleigh were winding down their mellow set of cello, keyboard, guitar and drum powered pop music.

Axis of Conversation began in the same vein as Raleigh drummer Matt Doherty took a quick breather before beginning his set with Axis of Conversation.

They played an interesting and innovative set filled with screeching feedback, some sweet strings solos from cellist Cheryl Bergen and violinist Shelly Groves.

As well, vocalist Chris delaTorre sang some sweet/ chaotic indie pop vocals and added some innovative e-bow guitar lines as well as plenty of bleeps and bloops and unusual synth sounds from his Kaoss pad while Eric Astor added jazzy basslines.

They showed a variety of influences from gypsy music to classical, with a lot of indie rock and pop thrown in between.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
- L.A. Beat

"Panda and Rat: AxiCon Loves Them Both"

March 7, 2008
Jesse Locke
Calgary Sun

Why are some animals seen as our four-legged friends, while others are considered vermin?
This is the question posed by Calgary’s Axis of Conversation, with their new live project The Panda And The Rat.
The experimental pop group, which recently swelled to a six-piece with the addition of cello player Cheryl Bergen, has always paid close attention to unusual details. With front man Chris dela Torre’s dreamy vocals, rapping and kaos pad manipulating, Shelly Groves' violin stylings, the glockenspiel skills of Gerry Dacanay, bassist Eric Estor’s bouncing flow and drummer Matt Doherty’s driving hip-hop beats, their sound is undoubtedly unique.
Nonetheless, AxiCon has never attempted anything as ambitious as this half-hour set, which they performed yesterday at Broken City and will play tonight at The Liberty Lounge.
The Panda And The Rat is largely instrumental, includes samples from Portuguese television shows (among other found sounds) and is set to archived film footage from biology class education reels. Chris elaborates on the concept behind the project.
"The title The Panda And The Rat comes from a conversation I was having with my wife about how some members of the animal kingdom are revered and treasured and ’cuddly’, while others are vilified. But really, they’re all killers. Pandas kill bamboo, rats carry diseases, so why should one be more loved?
"I guess if anything, it’s about human nature more than anything else and not just the instinct of wanting to stay alive," he continues. "It’s also about how we prioritize things subconsciously, the panda and the rat example being the primary one. Even if human beings don’t think about those kinds of things all the time, those ideas are just arranged for us. So this is taking a look at those ideas, and asking why they are the way they are."
After being approached by the organizers of RAMP (a monthly experimental music event at Broken City) to create something out of the ordinary, the members of Axis Of Conversation spent five weeks writing and perfecting the set. But despite their determination, it didn’t come together right off the bat.
"For a while it was like driving with the lights off, just kind of hoping that you turn off at the right spot," says Estor.
"Eventually, it started making sense though, and just with the last couple of practices actually I figured out where the changes are and started to have a feel for it."
Bergen’s cello playing is another relatively new element to the band that they seem extremely excited about.
"One of the biggest parts of the sound of Axis of Conversation, when you take away Chris’ songwriting, the samples and the loops, is all of the emotion behind the songs," says Doherty. "For me, that usually comes from the strings."
"I played cello for 13 years, and then took seven years off and now I’ve been playing for half a year again," adds Bergen.
"I’m an orchestra, chamber music, play-with-an-accompanist kind of gal, so the freedom of expression is way higher here."
As the founding member of AxiCon, dela Torre has been performing his songs in constantly evolving incarnations for several years and is as equally enthusiastic about the band as he’s always been.
"The most exciting part of it for me is that I don’t know where it’s going to go anymore, it’s sort of out of my control in a sense," he says.
"With The Panda And The Rat especially, I’ve been figuring out how we sound again. When I go back and listen to the first EP, which was really only a year and a half ago, it’s miles away from where we are now.
"We’ve yet to really scratch the surface on what the six of us can do, and it excites me that we could be at this for 10 years and never reach the bottom of our barrel." - Calgary Sun

"Axis of Conversation in 'Vue Weekly'"

January 17, 2008
Alyssa Noel
Vue Weekly

Remember the good old days when rent cheques had three digits, Feist’s “1234” wasn’t perverted by incessant iPod commercials, and indie pop bands clearly indicated their genre by choosing lupine-inspired names?
Now in place of Wolf Parade, We Are Wolves and Sea Wolf – who, clearly, wear plaid button-up shirts and have an affinity for keyboards – are bands like Axis of Conversation.
Frankly, I had the group pegged as either nu metal or cock rock and prepared to cringe as I put its debut disc Delusions of Safety into my CD player.
But as the opening beats of “Readymade Heart Attack” chugged out of the speakers, visions of androgynous haircuts and shirt-tie combinations began to dance through my head: this was a wolf in Chad Kroeger clothing.
Lead singer Chris dela Torre laughs when I point this out because, if nothing else, he hopes to use the band to champion the pop music cause. “[Our purpose is] to sort of prove we can carve our own niche in pop,” he says on the line from his home in Calgary. “Be it through the sounds of electronic blips or violins. Pop to me is exciting. It’s an exciting genre because it’s always changing.”
Changing, at least, for his band – the group is consistently praised by local media for its experimental nature. From a glockenspiel to a kaoss pad, the members go to great lengths to get the perfect sound without going overboard. “I think [experimental] is a word that’s synonymous with new life,” he states. “It’s flattering that people would think of us that way. I would just hope that it never gets to the point where people expect some sort of stupid audio gimmick with us. It can be easy to focus on the string section or the relationship between the electronic and the strings, but it’s all about writing good music.”
Until recently dela Torre was the sole crafter of the band’s songs. Axis of Conversation was originally a solo effort. He enjoyed writing on his own, but when he climbed on stage to perform he realized something was missing. So he enlisted the help of bassist Eric Estor and keyboardist Gerry Dacanay, both friends since high school, and then added drummer Matthew Doherty and classically trained violinist Shelly Groves. During our conversation he also announced that the band will officially be adding Cheryl Bergen, a cellist, to its swelling ranks.
The music is well-suited for a six-piece group, but the chemistry wasn’t instant. “We’d sit there and be weird,” dela Torre says, recalling the band’s first practices with a laugh. “We’d make sure we’d bring beer with us. We got really plastered those first two rehearsals.”
The band headed into the studio after just a few short weeks of practice. The slightly awkward atmosphere was compounded by a major personal tragedy for dela Torre, but against all odds the group ended up with a finished album that the musicians are proud to peddle.
“The week before we started recording my dad died,” dela Torre recalls. “There was so much happening in my personal life there was nothing I wanted more than to make a really good record … Given the fact that I hadn’t worked with most of my band before, I was really nervous. By some miracle it went really well.”
The result is a solid collection of pop gems that range from the classically-puncutuated, yet somehow danceable “Autumn in Julliard” to the haunting and slightly eerie instrumental track, “L’Axis de la Conversation.”
Dela Torre says the next album will likely sound more like the latter. “Pretty much everything we’ve written since Delusions has been more difficult to penetrate,” he says. “A bit darker, weirder. It will be harder to sell.”
That might be rue, but he needs to have more faith that indie fans are smart enough to embrace challenging music – and, more importantly, not judge a band by its name. - Vue Weekly, Edmonton - Vue Weekly

"Calgarians' summer pastime: sledding; Four days of film, art and music"

Sat Jul 4 2009
Page: WP7
Section: Weekend Post
Byline: Jessica Demello
Column: City Life
Source: Weekend Post

Calgary has learned to love sledding in the summer, thanks to a three-year-old festi val of film, art and music known as Sled Island. Over four days in June, the festival attracted hipsters, artists and cultural giants (such as British rocker Colin Newman, Sled Island's guest curator) to the city centre.

Two hundred and fifty bands were on the program, playing in venues as varied as the tiny stage in Plaza Cinema, where, after the set, the red velvet curtains parted to reveal a rarely seen documentary on glitter rock, to the altar of Central United Church, to the basement of The Palomino.

Noteworthy acts included a soulful, folksy-pop performance by JJ Shiplett, the aggressive rock band Cripple Creek Fairies and the utterly captivating electro-acoustic sounds of rising stars Axis of Conversation.
- The National Post

"REVIEW: 'All We Make Is Enemies'"

Published July 16, 2009 by Nathan Atnikov in CD Reviews

Axis of Conversation has been building up steam for a few years now as one of Calgary’s best emerging acts. Every publication in the city, including this one, tapped them as early as 2006 to be one of the city’s true up-and-comers, and their new 7-inch, All We Make Is Enemies, won’t change that general consensus.

Enemies is a quick snippet of what the band does best. Side A, the title track, is a three-minute burst of sound that recalls anything and everything from The Talking Heads to The Strokes. Lead singer Chris dela Torre’s hushed, high-pitched voice is the perfect complement to the frantic energy that swirls around him, singing conspiratorially, “We did it all for the failure of love.” Side B is a clever remix of one of the band’s earlier songs, “The Pull.” Originally a quiet acoustic piece, Morgan Greenwood’s remix inserts a fractured electronic beat and some spacey strings that lend the song a brand new personality.

Enemies is a notch in the belt of another promising local band and Axis of Conversation have proven themselves worthy of the early attention. - FFWD Weekly

"Happy To Embrace The Unusual"

July 20, 2007
Jesse Locke
The Calgary Sun

They're fans of Fraggle Rock, self-described "weird Asians" and possessors for the last few months of a very pregnant violin player.
In other words, Axis Of Conversation are one of the most interesting acts in town.
The Calgary five-piece started out as the solo project of front man Chris dela Torre, but have since transformed into a fully cohesive experimental pop group.
Last year, Axi-Con released the EP There's Hope For You Yet (Just Kidding) and they have now completed their debut full-length Delusions of Safety.
The CD, recorded by producer/engineer Reuben Ghose (The Dudes, White Room), is set for a fall release.
"The EP was a real conscious effort to not sound like a band, because the last thing I wanted back then was to be in one," explains dela Torre.
"But this one is just about finding our feet as a collective, and to show our more melodic side along with the more experimental stuff."
He explains that his inspiration is coming from a classic source.
"I really like Phil Spector, and just the idea of getting the fullest sound out of whatever you have in your rehearsal space or studio," he says. "We seem to be moving towards a lot of darker stuff again, more minor key stuff, heavy but grooveable. Matt Doherty, our drummer, has really been encouraging us to improvise more as well.
"This record is more melodic than the EP was, but our even newer stuff is moving in the opposite direction - music that's harder to penetrate right away. We strive to cover as much ground as possible while still being at least halfway listenable."
Violinist/vocalist Shelly Groves recently gave birth to a daughter, but for the few months proceeding, was performing onstage with a surprisingly big belly.
"She's such a trouper, it's ridiculous," dela Torre laughs.
"Shelly played the Sled Island show when she was literally days away from popping. She couldn't even play her violin because her stomach was so big."
"This kid is going to be the Doogie Howser of music, between Shelly and her husband Tynan, who's a great jazz player. I just hope she still has some hearing, she's been around really loud music basically since conception."
AxiCon play tonight at Broken City, where they will be previewing songs from Delusions Of Safety, along with even newer material. The show is also a benefit for a biography on the experimental poet bpNichol.
"The other members of the band are all big fans of Fraggle Rock, and he was a writer on that," dela Torre says. "That's our connection to bpNichol. I don't know too much about the other bands or the poets on the bill, but we're always just happy to do something a bit unusual."
- The Calgary Sun

"The Talk Of The Town"

September 14, 2007
From the first notes of Axis of Conversation's debut full-length, Delusions of Safety, the Calgary group stakes out its territory in the realm of intoxicating literate art-pop with razor-sharp focus. Consider it bedroom Radiohead - lead vocalist Chris dela Torre's diatribes on the futility of modern life sit comfortably next to the patron-sainthood diptychs of Thom Yorke and Morrisey, skittering beats and fluttering guitars swirling in stereo.
The acoustic centrepiece "The Pull" excels at that sweater-set intellectual ballad thing The Dears' Gang of Losers failed so miserably at, while "Don't Be Alarmed (There's a Carcass)" sets a tale of death to intoxicating melody, and "Stop The Car" flirts with latter-day Beatles chord structures. Shelley Groves' vivid violin impressions weave through "They Can See Your Ghost" and punctuate the keyboard symphony of the aptly named "Autumn in Juilliard," a hilarious indictment of campus life that laps at Belle & Sebastian's rose-coloured memories with a somewhat more accurate portrayal of the inanities of the post-secondary world.
Delusions of Safety is the type of record that jumps out from left field, every moment so considered, layered and orchestrated that it's hard to fully pin down after just the first few listens. Radiohead may have waited until its third full-length to pull out the majestic manifesto of OK Computer, but Axis of Conversation has created a work equally self-actualized its first time out, and it's an introduction well worth making.
- Mark Hamilton
- Swerve (Calgary Herald)

"Translating The Language of Music"

September 2007
Axis of Conversation challenge the norms of the abnormal, experiment with what you previously thought of as experimental, and innovate the very concept of innovation. How? Interesting and diverse instrumentation by five qualified, passionate musicians (including a full-time, classically-trained violinist), a Kaoss pad loaded with speech samples and electronica, and the unusual lyrical focuses of front man Chris dela Torre are just a few starting points. AxiCon are now set to release their first full-length album Delusions of Safety, which was mixed by Reuben Ghose. The multi-award winning Toronto soundman has worked with everyone from Chantal Kreviazuk to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to Death Cab for Cutie, and is now hyping up this up and coming act. I picked the band's collective brain about their debut.
BeatRoute: Chris, are you responsible for the cohesive vision that informs Axis' music, or are all the band members involved with conceptualizing the songs?
Chris dela Torre: In reference to Delusions of Safety, most of these songs were written before the band I guess, so I had a pretty substantial hand in shaping the songs. That said, since the five of us got together, Matt's really encouraged us to improvise more, and to write collectively, which is what we're all trying to do. As someone who's used to writing alone, it's a big challenge for me to write with everyone else. It's something I think we're all excited to work on. The next record, who knows where it's gonna go.
BR: What inspires you to be experimental?
CdT: When I was growing up, the word 'pop' was synonymous with homogenized, radio, formulaic music, but I truly don't feel that way anymore. Axis is unabashedly a pop band in that we believe anyone can get into it, it's melodic. If this band has any sort of mission for me, it's to prove that pop can be innovative, it can be experimental. I don't want to make music where you can tell that thought is given about what genre it is or how long it is. It just has to feel right, you know? I don't think of Axis' music as experimental or progressive or the opposite of those things either, it just sort of is what it is. What comes out is what it is.
BR: Reuben Ghose has worked with some truly awesome acts, and I see he's won quite a few awards. How was your experience of recording with him?
Eric Estor: I've recorded before, and it was a lot more structured this time. He gave good direction.
Gerry Dacanay: Reuben has a really keen ear. It was really comfortable, I think everyone relaxed.
Matt Doherty: It was also like he knew what he wanted. It was a unique experience to have an engineer that would not just say "I don't like how the tone of this sounds," but to actually let you know that hey, maybe you should lean more into it, lay back a little bit, play it with a little more oomph. Too often you have an engineer who's like, "Well how did that feel for you guys? It sounded fine in here." Reuben knew what level of performance he wanted to capture, and if we couldn't capture that there was no compromise. It just got dropped.
Shelly Groves: It was a lot of work in some respects and it was a lot of long hours in the studio. I have a lot of respect for Reuben and I think he was the bomb for us, but what i loved the most was the excitement while we were editing.
BR: Without having to give details about what was going on, do you feel the tumultuous times the band was going through when you recorded affected the way you played together on Delusions of Safety?
CdT: I think so. Lyrically all of the songs were more or less written already, but there was just lots of stuff going on. My dad died the week that we were supposed to start recording, and Shelly was about three months pregnant then. It's just funny how you can write a song and you don't really understand what you were trying to say until three years later. Like Readymadeheartattack. I really thought it meant one thing, but while I was singing it I got it. I got what I was trying to say.
BR: Are you looking for label support? Is there a tour int he works to support the album?
CdT: We're not immediately looking for label support. We're pretty self-sufficient. I think we'll take the year to find out how self-sufficient we are after that. And there are plans for a tour. We'll try to do the prairies and the west within the year, and then maybe next year the rest of Canada.
-Laurie Fuhr - BeatRoute Magazine

"Revolutionary Axis"

September 27, 2007
From experimenting with answering machine messages to enlisting the efforts of a classically trained violinist, Calgary's Axis of Conversation (AxiCon) are unafraid to push the boundaries of their music. They are now making the jump from jamming in a spare room to a full-length album with Delusions of Safety. Lusciously layered, with a sound that is alternately melodic and experimental, the album is a pastiche of musical influences, but for the five diversely talented musicians that make up AxiCon, the project was about more than just making music.
"We almost feel like we are getting away with murder," says ringleader Chris dela Torre. "We are all so busy, we all have established jobs, so the fact that the five of us are bothering to do this still is funny to me. We all care about the band so much. None of us need it financially, but in some other kind of way we need this band."
When recording for Delusions of Safety began, the band was being bombarded with doses of reality - the death of a family member, a car accident and the pregnancy of their violinist Shelly Groves. Still, the gravity of those situations was something dela Torre says helped bring what was essentially a band of strangers closer together.
"At the time our band got together, we didn't even really know each other," he explains. "The five of us were still not at a point where we could sit comfortably in a room together and not be awkward. I think that says a lot in terms of how all of us love this music and how we believe in what we are doing."
The now tight-knit group of accomplished musicians consists of dela Torre on lead vocals, Gerry Dacanay on the kaoss pad and guitar, Groves on violin, Eric Estor on bass and Matt Doherty on drums. With musical influences ranging from classical to jazz and hip hop, the variables available to experiment with were endless. Dela Torre, who wrote most of the lyrics, says that the tight timeline of the band's recording process was the best remedy for sorting out their musical schizophrenia.
"It is really a combination of thinking things out for years and having only nine days in the studio," dela Torre explains. "Somewhere in there is just sort of a jumbled mix of over-thought ideas and ideas that were given no thought."
All that experimentation and musical diversity could have turned the album into a confusing mess. Enter award-winning mixer Reuben Ghose, who has worked with such talents as Death Cab for Cutie, Chantal Kreviazuk and Kevin Drew. Ghose was the voice of reason during recording, and dela Torre admits having him in the studio was a necessity.
"He is so honest," dela Torre says. "If it sucks he will tell you it sucks. You need that when you are making a record."
While the band's goals of increased touring and writing together as a group occasionally make things seem more like a chore, Axis is still a labour of love. Ultimately, the group agrees that the project is about far more than pleasing an audience.
"I really leaned on this project," he says. "I really came to depend on it, and I still do depend on it for a certain sense of perspective and to keep my feet on the ground. I think for us it just sort of gets us through. You know, regardless of whether or not anyone is listening or anyone is coming to our shows. I think I will always be doing this."
-Danielle Suchet, FFWD Weekly
- FFWD Weekly

"REVIEW: 'Delusions of Safety'"

October 11, 2007
Axis of Conversation shines with artistic and innovative virtuosity on their debut album, Delusions of Safety. Containing 8 mystifying tracks filled with passionate vocals, intriguing lyrics, dreamy strings, and spooky distorted sound effects, the record will leave you in a bizarre state of day-dreaminess. Axis of Conversation is a Calgary-based quintet: Chris dela Torre takes on the role of lead singer/guitar combo, Gerry Dacanay on keys, Eric Estor on bass, classically trained Shelly Groves on violin, and Matthew Doherty on drums. The use of other musical gadgets such as toy keys, a Kaoss Pad, and a glockenspiel are also employed by our multifaceted musicians.
"They Can See Your Ghost," "Don't Be Alarmed (there's a carcass)," "Autumn In Juilliard," and "Christian Science" offer catchy melodies. "Stop The Car," "The Pull," and "Readymade Heart Attack" produce a heartfelt dramatic atmosphere, whereas "L'Axis de la Conversation" gives out unbeatable synthesized effects.
With love, ghosts, and indecision as their main influences, Axis of Conversation is filed under experimental, indie, pop-electro, and alternative, but what you will hear is beyond all albels. It is a true creation of musical individuality impossible to find elsewhere on the music scene.
-The Reflector
- The Reflector

"Juno Awards"

Juno Awards
Global Rhythm Magazine
May 2008

By Althea Legaspi

JunoFest featured up-and-coming Canadian artists at venues throughout Calgary over the weekend. On Friday at Ironwood Grill a trio of women-fronted groups made a lasting impression. Autorickshaw was fronted by Indian vocalist Suba Sankaran, whose jazzy intonations floated harmoniously above Indian-flavored funky rhythms. Oh Susanna's acoustic set featured noir country, while Little Miss Higgins rounded out the evening with their brand of lively blues-tinged country.

On Saturday several Juno nominees mingled with fans at the open-to-the-public Juno Fan Fare event and night two of JunoFest brought a mixed bag of talent. We checked out local outfit Eve Hell and the Razors. While their performance drew rockabilly scenesters, the band mirrored the crowd: more cool to look at than engaging. Axis of Conversation was much more intriguing. Its experimental forays were as much fun to witness as the band seemed to have performing. Fusing sweeping violins with electronic beats one minute, and making noise with childhood toys and glockenspiel the next, it was an engrossing set. Equally impressive was Ontario's Most Serene Republic, whose infectious hooks were matched with a dark indie rock sway.
- Global Rhythm Magazine

"Calgary Folk Festival: The NINJA Generation"


Filed under: Calgary Folk Music Festival, Axis of Conversation, Honeybear, Ox

"This is about early 90s hip-hop," says Chris dela Torre of Axis of Conversation. "Which is kind of like what the Beatles were to my dad."

This certainly made sense for Calgary’s imaginative collective, a band that showcased a refreshing disregard for genre during a workshop mysteriously titled The Ninja Generation Sunday afternoon.

The workshop featured two of the city’s more intriguing young performers in Axis of Conversation and Honeybear. The folk-rock outfit Ox also joined in for the festivities, but they are not officially from Calgary (actually, they aren’t even unofficially from Calgary. They’re from Sudbury.)

Honeybear, a.k.a. Aaron Meyers, showed a similar penchant for genre-hopping, alternating between fragile folk songs that he played on his ukulele and more experimental sounds that were more Jandek than Beck.

Like any number of young indie acts, the DNA of both these Calgary acts seem to be made up of competing strains. A six-piece act, Axis mixes strings, beats and a strong knack for orchestral and guitar pop. Meyers, blessed with a haunting voice, adds various found sounds and distortion to his deceptively simple songs.

Both were good not only at playing their own songs, but also for adding some bursts of noise and discord into the songs of their workshop mates.

Meyers, huddled in the corner with his ukulele, various electronics and what looked like some sort of flute, weirded up a number of Ox’s more straight-forward folkie offerings.

Still, when it came to close the workshop the crew decided on a ramshackle jam on Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere. You can’t totally take the folk out of the folk festival. - The Calgary Herald

"Tune In to Axis of Conversation"

Jul 23rd, 2010 | By Zoey Duncan | Category: Arts

From Rocky Ridge to Chaparral, Coral Springs to Cougar Ridge and all that’s in between, there’s at least one thing all Calgarians have in common: we all have to grow up eventually.
For local experimental indie pop sextet Axis of Conversation, marriages, babies and nine to fiving it on a daily basis has certainly changed how the band operates. Axis was planning on laying low during 2010 to craft a new album — the first full album since 2007’s Delusions of Safety — and rebuilding their repertoire without playing too many shows.
“We’ve grown so much since our last record,” says Chris dela Torre, vocalist, guitarist and Kaoss pad jockey. “I think we’re all still trying to find our feet and what the hell we’re doing with our lives.”
“Most of us, we’re just a lot more sane than we were 5 years ago, which works against you in rock music, you know,” he says. “You need to have some blarney in you to like stay out all night and drive forever and ever and ever and make no money. A lot of us have pretty good careers and we have kids and we’re functioning on the day to day in normal nine to five hours so then when it comes time for us to play shows, its just this weird sort of netherworld we’re not used to anymore.”
Speaking of a weird sort of netherworld, Axis was founded in 2005 following the break-up of Sheldon Overboard, an all-Filipino grunge band that dela Torre and bassist Eric Estor were part of.
“We’d have skinheads throw coasters at us and heckle us all the time,” dela Torre recalls. “We were pretty good though!”
After playing with sample-based music on his own for awhile, dela Torre realized that he’d need to recruit other musicians if he wanted to continue creating songs or start playing shows. He teamed up with Estor, then added Gerry Dacanay (keys), Shelly Groves (violin), Matt Doherty (drums) and Cheryl Bergen (cello).
The band has been growing up together since 2007, playing countless shows including festival gigs during Sled Island, NXNE in Toronto and the Vancouver Jazz Festival. This summer’s performances at the Calgary Folk Music Festival are giving some band members a bit of anxiety.
“I’m anxious. I don’t feel badly about it though,” dela Torre says. “I don’t feel nervous like I was nervous for one of the first shows we played, (which) was at the Jack Singer. It was like the most awful, awful experience.
“Part of the reason is because they treat you so well. They put you up in this nice green room, which does nothing for your nerves when you’re brand new at this stuff. Like ,I’m sitting up there thinking, ‘Oh my God, Elton John was probably in this room!’ So yeah, that was terrible.”
At the Folk Fest, Axis will share a stage with other performers: sometimes trading off songs, but other times jamming together to make new music.
“I’m nervous!” says Estor, though it’s a feeling tinged with some excited anticipation. “I’m uneasy about it. I’m not a jammer — ‘let’s jam!’ Uh oh. I’m a bass player, I need structure.”

“The jamming, I think frightens a lot of us,” says Bergen, who plays her cello in a quartet outside the band. “Especially those of us who were in orchestras and stuff because we never jam. It was like you need to memorize everything and then you need to go and you need to play it really, really well and if you make a mistake, play a wrong note, then you’re screwed.”
But despite the nervous energy, the band is both flattered and impressed that they were asked to play in the highly reputed festival.
Dela Torre was in a comic book shop in Vancouver when he got a call asking if the band could play.
“I sat down on all these expensive comics,” he says, laughing. “But it was huge. I still can’t believe it, its crazy!”
Axis of Conversation build songs with rich string arrangements, gently grinding guitar and electronic beats provided by the Kaoss pad. Dela Torre’s mellifluous voice is laid smoothly over top, sharing faintly echoing lyrics about love and the suburbs.
Dela Torre’s lyrics about the suburbs (“where culture goes to die!” he sings in They Can See Your Ghost. “You know this inner-city living can be such a chore, but you’re friends don’t come over ‘cuz your neighbourhood is such a bore,” he sings in the similarly themed Ladders and Snakes) are more contemplative than uncompromising.
In fact, “In a lot of ways I sort of regret writing those songs,” he says now. “I think a lot of people and people I know and love live in the ‘burbs think that I’m this total inner-city snob now.
“I think when I wrote those… I think I was just trying to make sense of a place and how that affects they way you live and the way you treat other people.”
Bergen, who recently moved to a suburban neighbourhood with husband Estor laughs as she takes no responsibility for dela Torre’s lyrics, but acknowledges she struggling with indentifying herself as a suburbanite.
“I’m trying really hard not to lose who we are, despite where we live, but its difficult,” she says. “It’s almost like — I’m trying to be different from our neighbours, but I’m not a suburbanite, I’m trying.”
“Chris and I used to live in the Evergreen,” says Estor. “We were full-out suburbanites and we would run in the forest!”
“What fascinates me most about it,” dela Torre says, “it’s sort of all in your head. People have these preconceived ideas of what it means to live in the inner city and what it means to live out of the inner city but its sort of all BS in the end.”
Whether you’re on the Island running between stages or sitting at your computer in the suburbs, tune into Axis of Conversation. And check out their website to download the brand new track, Memorial Hall. - The Reflector


The House of Stay Together -[due September 2013]
Isa, Take Off Your Coat - digital single [2012]
Memorial Hall - limited edition online download [summer 2010]
All We Make Is Enemies - 7" mini-EP [2009 (tour) / 2010 (retail)]
Delusions of Safety - CD [2007]
There's Hope for You Yet (Just Kidding) - CD/EP [2006]



Axis of Conversation is breakbeats and backwards guitars. It's strings, samples and stolen noises. It's a group of men and women you'd never otherwise expect to see on a stage together.

Falling somewhere between Brahms, The Books, Bahamas and Broken Social Scene, it would be a terrible understatement to call Axis of Conversation 'difficult to pigeonhole'.

Onstage, you'll see samplers, weird keyboards and guitar cable spaghetti. You'll see a cello and a violin as old as your grandparents. You'll see more Filipino men than you've ever seen on a bar stage. And once the drummer kicks in, you won't be the least bit surprised to learn he also serves in several established rock bands, including The Dudes and HighKicks.

To the delight of Canadian music-lovers and to the detriment of each other, the members of Axis of Conversation have spent a fair bit of time in oversized vans together. They've shared stages and crumpled handbills with St. Vincent, Stars, Hey Rosetta!, Dan Mangan, Thrice, Snailhouse and Arkells. They've played NXNE, Vancouver Jazz Festival, Calgary Folk Music Festival and Sled Island.

However, they spent 2011 and 2012 away from the oversized vans, opting instead to have some kids and get married (to each other, in the case of the bassist and the cellist). They also spent the last two years very carefully recording the best album they've ever made. It will be released in September 2013.