Claire Jenkins Avec Band
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Claire Jenkins Avec Band

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"Music Feature: Tim Perlich"

Claire sailing!

T.O. songstress unleashes her inner pirate


From the homemade paper pirate hat Claire Jenkins has been rocking on stage lately - she's also wearing it on the sleeve of her enchanting new Crow's Nest/Nid De Pie CD - it would seem that the Montreal-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter has either got a serious buccaneer fetish or she's never gotten over a childhood fascination with role-playing games.

Jenkins's delightfully dramatic delivery suggests the latter, but it's really her foley-inspired approach to setting the mood for each narrative that betrays the indie theatre experience conspicuously absent from the biographical material she's sending to the press.

Not that co-starring in Hannah Moscovitch's award-winning play Essay under the direction of Michael Rubenfeld – a critics' fave at SummerWorks in 2005 – is anything to be embarrassed about. But it's understandable that with a debut recording to launch, Jenkins is trying to downplay the whole thespian thing, at least when speaking to music journalists angling for an easy laugh.

And who wants to deal with questions like "Were you looking for a line of work that pays even less than acting?" or "Getting too big for the Rhubarb Festival?"

"This is actually my first-ever music interview," confides Jenkins with a laugh, "and right before we began I told myself the one thing I wasn't going to discuss was my work in theatre. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly where you start – d'uh!

"It was about six years ago, right after graduating from George Brown College where I studied acting, that I began playing guitar and writing some songs. In theatre, you're restricted to expressing yourself through other people's words, so suddenly being able to say exactly what I wanted made music a very attractive proposition.

"And I've found there are aspects of my theatre experience that I can apply to a musical context. It all comes down to listening to the other players while working together in the moment to build something beautiful."

Although Jenkins is a novice when it comes to making records, she understands the value of seasoned support and assembled an excellent cast to help hammer Crow's Nest into ship shape, including Undesirables guitarist Sean Cotton, drummer Brad Hart, bassist Joe Phillips, keyboardist Tom Howell and Treasa Levasseur on accordion and marimba.

Overseeing the single-day recording blitz, during which all the album's 12 songs were recorded in sequence sans overdubs, was producer/mixer Don Kerr, who added his own uniquely twisted tweaks to create an intriguing audio vérité document of the "low-budget epic," a home recording in the truest sense of the term.

"We took over Don's entire place, putting the drums, electric guitar and bass in the living room, and the marimba, piano, cello and acoustic guitar in the dining room, with a plexiglass partition in between so we could see each other. We ran cables through the heating vent to the studio set-up in the basement.

"To make the sea sounds, we filled the laundry sink with water and stirred it with a paddle. Whatever outlandish idea I had, Don was eager to try it out. We got some bells, rang them and then recorded them being dropped in the water. We hit on something cool by slowing the track down an octave and playing it backwards, which we used on the song For The Neighbours.

"There were also wind sounds, creaking doors, feet walking – it was all done to create an atmosphere outside of what we were doing with the music.

"It was an unusal way to record – some people might say crazy – but we were able to take advantage of this amazing energy that came out of our extended conversation with instruments."

Article and online interview: - NOW MAGAZINE, Sept 6, 2007

"The Anti-Hit List: John Sakamoto"

"Five and Twenty"

As captured in all its glory by local producer/musician/nurturer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Hidden Cameras, Rheostatics), this aching confession is one of those organic recordings that sounds so honest and unvarnished, you almost blush at being privy to such intimate thoughts. Guaranteed to make even the sunniest afternoon feel like the dead of night. (For those in or near Toronto, Jenkins' CD launch takes place Monday at the Supermarket in Kensington Market.)

(From Crow's Nest/Nid de Pie,

Podcast: - THE TORONTO STAR - Sept 8, 2007

"Review of Launch: Andy Frank"

Claire Jenkins Avec Band Crow’s Nest / Nie de Pie CD release

by Andy Frank

Maybe it’s the quiver. The gentle, unteachable, untameable quiver in Claire Jenkins’ splendid voice, a vibrato that harkens associations with Natalie Merchant and Edith Piaf.

Or maybe it’s the eyes. In the small jam-packed back room of the Supermarket in Kensington, Jenkins introduces her visage through a round hole (created to resemble a ship’s porthole) cut out from a loosely strung pair of white sheets that act as the tiny stage’s curtain. As she sings the evening’s opening number, her eyes playfully dance back and forth along perfect, smiling cheekbones. Long before the curtains are ripped down to reveal the full band, Jenkins has fully disarmed the audience.
Or maybe it’s the delightful low-budget cabaret. Jenkins’ theatre background is amply evident throughout the concert. Props such as homemade-paper-sailor’s-hats, a paper telescope, a miniature ship, its passengers, boxing gloves, flaming stick people, every song is presented with a loving, personal, seasoned theatrical touch.

Or maybe it’s the seamless bilingualism, which Jenkins comes about as honestly as one possibly can — Jenkins is the daughter of an Anglophone father, Francophone mother, and was raised in Montréal. When she breaks into French, as she does three or four times on this night, the room’s ambiance appears to adjust accordingly. This ain’t no Queen Street kitch.

Or maybe it’s the band. And what a band. Joe Phillips on double bass, Tom Howell on violin and piano, Brad Hart on percussion, Sean Cotton on guitar, and the accomplished producer of the new CD, Don Kerr, on cello. This is the big leagues of the Toronto indy world, players that can mount a stage with anyone, anywhere. Perhaps the most crucial shipmate, however, is the remarkable Treasa Levasseur, who plays an accordion that transports the listener right into a musical bistro where French must be sung, she also plays a huge variety of other instruments and lends an equally formidable bilingual voice to support Jenkins.

Or maybe it’s the CD, Crow’s Nest / Nie de Pie. Recorded with the same band “live off the floor” in sequence, in one day (Dec 19, 2006), with over a dozen instruments, tricky bilingual harmony vocals, no overdubs, and only a touch of post-recording effects. How well must one know the material going into the session? How skilled, confident, and secure must the players be, in themselves, and in each other? Well when this kind of collaboration works, it’s magic, and as it says on the CD sleeve, File Under Low Budget Epic.

Half-way through the show, Claire Jenkins christens her miniature boat with a half-bottle of bubbly, but she’s no dummy — she doesn’t actually break the bottle. Instead, she takes a big swig, and we all laugh with her as it dribbles out of her nose.


A well deserved toast and a successful launch indeed.

Link to online article: - THE LIVE MUSIC REPORT - Sept 10, 2007


Crow's Nest/ Nid de Pie - Sans Label - Sept. 10, 2007

Currently receiving radio play on:
CBC Radio 1 and 2 (regional and national)
CKUA (including Feature)
CIUT (including Feature)



The Album: Crow's Nest/ Nid de Pie

Like nothing and everything you have heard before, Claire Jenkins Avec Band with producer Don Kerr bring you their fantastic, fantastical album Crow’s Nest/ Nid de Pie.
This low budget epic was recorded on December 19th, 2006 in sequence and with no overdubs. M. Don Kerr’s living room and dining room became the upper extension of Rooster Studios. Cables were passed up through the heating vents. With twenty-three microphones in place, vision, and a genuine adoration for cracking each other up, the album was recorded.
Special effects were recorded on March 7th 2007. This included: rocking chairs, boxing gloves, bells plunged in water and the hydrophone, a Don Kerr invention.

Les Chansons

The songs were arranged by Caire Jenkins Avec Band with Don Kerr. All songs were composed and written by Claire Jenkins except for: Strange Weather by Tom Waits/ Kathleen Brennan. It appears with permission on the album in a French translation by Claire.

The Live Show

Their home base is in Kensington Market Toronto at the pretty and magical back room of Supermarket. They have played there every month for over a year. October will be their last monthly as it is time for them to remove their training wheels and traipse around. The paper hats, gold dust, and fire are just the beginning.


Claire Jenkins Avec Band et réalisateur Don Kerr (connu pour son travail avec Ron Sexsmith) viens de lancer leur premier album : Crow’s Nest/ Nid de Pie.
Née à Montréal d’une mère francophone et d’un père anglophone Claire compose ses chansons dans les deux langes. Elle a fait ses études en théâtre et continue travailler comme comédienne. En spectacle Claire crée un show qui et entre le théâtre et la musique. Inspire des grands chanteurs Barbara et Brel elle vit ses chansons. Et pour nous mettre en appétit, elle utilisent de la poudre d’or, des chapeaux de papier et des cordes et des voiles.