Belleisle
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Belleisle

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"Ships at Night Label Life"

Ships at Night
By Michael Barclay

Date of Birth: 2005
Releases to date: 7
Biggest seller: The Field Register Tire & Caster
Upcoming releases: Orillia Opry, Plants and Animals, Belleisle
Online: www.shipsatnight.com

Conventional wisdom has it that an artist should keep a comfortable distance from their record label. For the community that rallies around Montreal’s Ships at Night label, that’s impossible. The couple at the core of the flagship band — Jeannot Boudreau and Rebecca Silverberg of the Field Register — run the label; two other members of that band run the recording studio where every release has been hatched, and the liner notes for each record feature a suspiciously similar cast of characters.

“I’ve read interviews with labels where they say, ‘Don’t work with your friends,’” says Boudreau. “Sometimes that applies, but we’ve been really lucky. We’ve got a really solid network of people who do really good work, and I think that’s important.”

Folk If Necessary, But Not Necessarily
Though the Field Register’s shoegazey indie pop launched the label, it’s the rootsy Timber that has set the label’s tone. “Musically, we didn’t plan on being an alternative or indie folk label, which I guess is what we’ve become,” says Boudreau. “We release one record at a time. We don’t have a specific mandate. We’re just huge music fans. There are certain demos that we get where we’ll say that it won’t fit with the rest, but I don’t think we’ll limit ourselves to continuing on the indie folk philosophy. It’s not the only thing we’re interested in.”

The Label That Plays Together…
Timber guitarist Warren Spicer is also a driving force in the post-rock acoustic band Plants and Animals, and produces the rest of the Ships At Night roster. “We owe a lot to his production style,” says Boudreau. “It’s all on analog tape, and as much as possible is straight-up live recording. Warren plays guitar on all the records as well, and adds a lot of magic.” Spicer’s Timber band-mate David Macleod is responsible for the label’s finest hour — his 2006 solo album Strange Biology — and also moonlights on bass in the Field Register. Finally, Timber bassist and vocalist Katie Moore is one of Montreal’s MVPs; her impending solo debut has been the talk of the town for months now.

Vanity is No Fair
The birth of Ships at Night was technically in 2003, when the transplanted Monctonians in the Field Register slapped the name on their debut CD, The Eastern Shore. “We were planning on it being a real label, but that only happened after the second release, which was Timber,” says Boudreau. “A lot of people release their own band on their own label. When you put out other people’s music, you’re responsible for more than your own stuff.” Expanding the roster also helped with a key factor: distribution, which is now handled by Sonic Unyon. “It’s hard to call yourself a label without distribution,” says Boudreau, “and releasing other people’s records without distribution would have been difficult.”

In the Neighbourhood
Most of the Ships at Night roster — many of whom are transplanted Maritimers — have congregated in the same Montreal neighbourhood that hosts their recording studio and their preferred graphic designers. Says Boudreau, “We’re not a very big label, so when it comes to bigger issues, it’s nice to go across the street and talk to the artist in person, instead of dealing with email all the time. You learn to appreciate the people a lot more, when you can just hang out and play music and go to shows with your friends. For now [the label is] about our immediate community, but we have thought about releasing music by people in other cities. We’re not closed to that idea.” - Exclaim!


"Musical darning and yarning"

From Brendan Murphy's Column, 'Seven Night Stand'

On Saturday night at L'Escogriffe, Malcolm Bauld and Belleisle. Bauld is the former frontman of The Frenetics, while Belleisle is the project of The Field Register's Rebecca Silverberg. I've got nothing witty to add because Ghost Whisperer just came on and my writing staff are occupied with seeing if they can spot a scene that doesn't revolve around Jennifer Love Hewitt's cleavage. - Hour Magazine


"Finger Lickin' Scratchin'"

By Brendan Murphy

One of Montreal's most interesting young indie-rock labels, Ships at Night, has a showcase of its bands happening June 12-14. I contacted the label's Jeannot Boudreau to help come up with the pithy genre summations that everyone hates. It all starts on Sunday as Timber ("folky") play with Mohawk Lodge and Castle Project at Green Room, then it ignores its hangover and cranks it up again with The Field Register ("droney, shoe-gazey") and Summerland at L'Hemisphere Gauche. At this point, the showcase wakes up in some stranger's futon, steals a roach from their ashtray, and happily walk-of-shames its way over to see Plants And Animals ("experimental, jazz") play with Torngat and White Noise Ensemble at Le Divan Orange. Boudreau to mentions the eagerly anticipated first release from Ships at Night's newest band, Belleisle, which is the project of his label and life partner Rebecca Silverberg. - Ottawa Xpress


"New Years, or Not"

By Risa Dickens

Ah New Years. Ahh the whole season, actually, leaves me short on words. I like to get cozy with my new books (Wikinomics, thanks family!) and surface as little as possible following the ethically confusing gift bonanza, but meanwhile the New Year hollars for attention and despite my steely R n’ R resolve, parts of my brain start making plans and intentions. If you’re hoping to hide out from the Ahhh… looking for some human sweetness tonight in Montreal, rather then some hella-hoopla Monday, I recommend Cagibi where this eve a band called Belleilse will be performing with Pete Galub on the bill. I haven’t seen Belleisle, but I’ve seen Tasha Cyr from the band do her solo thing a few times and found it bewitching, she silenced the room and held our hearts gently with her own strumming hands while she sadly, singing told us that she still believes in peace and love. Me too Tash, me too. The rest of the band includes folk who bring us Ships at Night, so a quality musical experience is pretty much assured. - Indyish


"Longstanding"

The good people at Ships at Night Records are putting out quality release after quality release. First and foremost, they exposed us to Plants & Animals, as well as terrific acts like Orillia Opry and Percy Farm. The quirky pop they delivered consistently overachieved and helped make the small Montreal label one worthy of our attention.

Well, next on their release schedule (Aug. 12th/08) is the debut record from Belleisle. On the surface, Longstanding, might seem to be another solid mix of folk and sunshine, but when you sit down and soak it the songs you notice the edges creep into the shadows and the girls have a darker side that is brought out by the band and supporting players.

Tasha Cyr and Rebecca Silverberg started out as friends, trading songs long before they started writing together. Over time they developed a song writing rapport and used that to start a band. While that might sound like everyone you know, when it came time to add other members, their songs had already evolved into a single sound, but one that could morph with each new perspective that was added. Guitar (I Love You), starts as a simple folk track that probably was born on a couch or back porch. It's not much more than Tasha's voice and guitar, but the underlying organ and drum flourishes her band mates add take the polish off the song without stripping away the intimacy. It's that urban city grit that surfaces (throughout all the songs really) that makes this record work.

There is no denying that both girls have terrific pipes and can write ear pleasing melodies (Talks a Lot shows Rebecca taking the lead equally well), but both prefer to muddy up the mix to add a sense of reality to the songs. Whether it's Kess Dekker's (who also recorded this recorded and Plants & Animals latest and greatest) feedback filled guitar or Ben Lemieux's distorted bass, the bands always seems to add a bit of gruff muscle that prevent the songs from becoming all too perfect folk. Lots of women have the voice and syrupy sweet guitar sounds, but good records need more than good voices.

Sure, songs like Flowers and Coffee, Coasting and Winter Under Covers might be those weightless, summer tracks we all love, but it's pretty obvious that Belleisle isn't living a fairytale existence. The brutal honesty of the slinky Better Than Reality changes the vibe of the record, and even Waking Up Slowly breaks the lazy stretches of the morning sun with a quick snap of the electric. The notes on Geography crash like waves on a stormy coastline; a perfect wash of textures and fuzz that hides the power of the song and lets the clarity of simple piano line pierce through and grab your ear.

Thirteen songs might seem like a bold number for a acoustic driven debut, but Bellisle is more than up to the task. In fact, the album closer - Trying - is one of the most adventurous and engaging on the album. The melodica, tapped percussion and trumpet that shape the song fit together perfectly and make it impossible to not fall in love with the song. Longstanding is a record that is destined to be left on repeat, as the mood of the songs seem to move perfectly alongside yours, no matter what that mood may be. - Herohill


Discography

Longstanding- LP - Release date August 12, 2008

Photos

Bio

For over a year now, with the tenderness of raising a small child, Belleisle plays together. They are growing up and learning how to dance. In Belleisle you may find a deep sense of longing and paranoia. You may also discover the danger in comforts. The undercurrent and its steady rush of affection encourage human risk through expression. Belleisle explores a genre of musical sweetness that, at times, incorporates a heavier and darker sense of style. All in all, maintaining a sort of falling apart that becomes part of their charm.

The story goes…Rebecca Silverberg met Tasha Cyr in Montreal in the summer of 2006. They started playing songs for one another as a way to entertain themselves but soon decided to combine friendship and songwriting efforts to start a new band under the name ‘Belleisle’. Initially, they played shows as a duo. Silverberg and Cyr, who is from Montreal, spent time learning how to add a piece of each other to each song. They focused on vocal harmonies, keyboard (primarily organ, piano and Rhodes) and guitar inter-melodies, and the odd guitar solo.
Jeannot Boudreau (drums) and Ben Lemieux (bass) both joined ‘Belleisle’ in the spring of 2007. Boudreau also drums in 'Orillia Opry' and 'Magnetic Hill'. Silverberg and Boudreau, both from Moncton/Shediac New Brunswick, also play in a band called ‘The Field Register’.
'Belleisle' held about 5 practices as a full band before stepping into ‘The Treatment Room’ studio to start working on an album. The idea was to record an album on tape, with the spontaneity of a new band, to document a certain time and space. Fine-tuning, structuring and arranging as they went. All the while trying to record live as much as possible. The initial 10 straight days in the studio in May 2007 set the foundations for most of the songs, all written by Silverberg and Cyr. David Tkach from ‘Giant Sons’, a Winnipeg based band, replaced Ben Lemieux on bass in the summer of 2007. The album was completed in February 2008, co-produced, engineered and mixed by Kees Dekker who also recorded ‘Parc Avenue’ by ‘Plants and Animals’.
Together, Boudreau and Silverberg founded Ships at Night Records in 2003, which has since released albums by Plants and Animals, Timber (The New Gentleman’s Shuffle), The Field Register, Orillia Opry, David Macleod, and Percy Farm. Belleisle is proud to take its place in the Ships at Night roster.