Dress Black
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Dress Black

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Indie




"Dress Black at The Cameron House"

Celebrating the release of their brand new EP So Lovely, Toronto band Dress Black packed The Cameron House so much that not everyone was able to make it in. The funky alternative rockers blasted through an hour long set to great satisfaction of the crowd. Mixing in covers of I Can’t Feel My Face and the epic encore song of Hey Ya along with plenty of their own songs especially those featured on their latest release. You can check out their new album on Spotify or download it on iTunes. - Live In Limbo (Dakota Arsenault)

"Black Dress EP Review"

I knew about a minute into the recent release Black Dress by Dress Black that I was going to be a big fan. The four- piece comprised of Brendan James Johnson (guitar/vocals), Stephane Garneau-Monten (guitar/vocals), Colin Mercer (bass) and Justin Ross (drums) play fun, loose dance-based indie pop that can draw comparisons to Phoenix and Foster The People and to a lesser extent Franz Ferdinand.

The first thing that stuck out to me was the vocals. They are sung at a relatively high octave compared to most and they are a blast to listen to on a number of levels. I enjoyed the general style and how they were delivered but were the vocal melodies something my ears would enjoy? I can answer with a resounding yes. The lyrics are original as well, which in the end creates an impactful experience.

The first song “Money” gets the energy moving in the right direction. It starts with a bass line and a vocal melody that is downright infectious. A guitar line composed of root notes makes itself known and not before to long the band is in full swing. The general groove just makes you want to bust a move even if the guitar solo sounded like it belonged in a hard rock song. The end of the song is especially effective as the multiple members of the band sing, “whose gonna take my money at the end of the night.”

“Black Dress” in my opinion was the highlight of the three. They don't waste much time getting into a dance groove. The vocal melody is somehow more infectious than the one in the first song. I was also enjoying the clean lead guitar lines that really gave it that dance-y Phoenix type feel. Once the handclaps enter towards the end of the song it had my vote for most single-worthy song on the EP. “When You Gonna Love Me” is a solid song but vocally it didn't feel as strong as the other two. It mostly consisted of the band repeating the line “When you gonna love me” in different ways. That being said it’s still an enjoyable song and rocks out pretty hard.

This is the debut release for the band and it has very little missteps. I love the band’s energy and vibe. Keep your eyes on this one cause I sense better things to come. - No More Division (Ted Rogen)

"Dress Black Take the Stage"

As some of you already know, I love any excuse to catch Toronto's latest indie music live and in person. So when my friends Stephane and Brendan formed the band Dress Black last year and released their first EP in August 2014 I was eager to know when I could see them perform. I finally got the chance a couple weeks ago at The Gladstone Hotel where Dress Black played their very first live show.

After the gig, I sat down with Stephane and Brendan to chat about the band, the music, and the road from the studio to the stage.

Originally from opposite corners of the globe, Vancouver-born Brendan Johnson and New Zealander Stephane Garneau-Monten connected in Toronto over their shared passion for music and songwriting.

Dress Black got a spontaneous start last year when these two friends decided to start a collaboration. "We thought: 'Let's just write together and see what happens'," said Brendan.

"We didn't decide on any specific genre for the band," added Stephane, "We wrote our first song 'Money' and thought we'd struck a chord, no pun intended!"

Brendan and Stephane played their first track for friends and family in the music industry, and the positive feedback they received got them motivated to keep writing and produce their debut EP "Black Dress".

"We didn't know what to compare [our music] to," said Stephane. "But we wanted to keep going in that direction. We would start by presenting an idea, and if we enjoyed it and thought it was surprising we would decide to write it. We've developed a specific sound that way; it's music we like and think is catchy."

"Whatever hits us when we're writing the song is what we draw on," he continued. "It's not necessarily about being influenced by other bands as it is about being influenced by an era or style of music."

"There's some throwback from the 1950s/60s world," Brendan said. "The Beach Boys, Frankie Valens, Marvin Gaye, Motown... these are shades of what we sound like."

But Dress Black has also got plenty of contrasting contemporary influences that contribute to their unique sound. Brendan and Stephane both mention Daft Punk's latest album and bands like Foster the People as sources of inspiration.

"Stephane leans more toward eclectic, dissonant chord structures and I lean more toward a melodic, indie sound." Brendan continued. "When we started writing together we figured out each other's sound and met in the middle."

Brendan has been writing and producing music since he was 21, and has developed a strong songwriting philosophy over the years.

"We write music that we like, but we write it for other people," he said. "So you have to know what works for people and why they like certain songs. There's no reason why something can't be new, fresh, and indie, but also popular and easy to like. It's important to put feelings aside and think about why the elements of a song are there. Are they necessary? Are they pleasing to listeners? Is the whole song strengthened by each individual element? Sometimes you may have to cut your favourite part of the song, but then you'll end up replacing it with something better."

Although they released their first EP almost nine months ago, fans of Dress Black have had to wait until now for the chance to hear the band live. The boys have spent the winter perfecting their set with bassist Colin Mercer and drummer Justin Ross to make sure that when they decided take the stage their performance would be nothing short of amazing.

"We were originally scheduled to play our first show on June 16th, but then this show [at the Gladstone in May] came out of nowhere," said Stephane. "And nothing gets you more prepared for a show than a deadline."

"I'm a perfectionist," Brendan said, "And I was a little apprehensive because we only had two days notice, but at a certain point you just need to jump in."

With their first live appearance bumped up by several weeks and with just 48 hours to prepare, the boys of Dress Black really knocked it out of the park. The crowd was on their feet and dancing right from the start, and the end of their set had the audience begging for "ONE! MORE! SONG!". It looks like Brendan and Stephane will have to write a few more because their unique sound was an instant hit, and there aren't a lot of bands creative enough to successfully marry The Beach Boys with Daft Punk.

"The show went beyond our wildest expectations," said Brendan. "It was such a good vibe."

"It felt fantastic," added Stephane. "There's no better way to get our feet wet on the Toronto music scene." - The Cardinal Press (Nellwyn Lampert)

"Weekend Music Video Review"

Already off to a busy 2016, Dress Black is a Toronto-based indie act with a new music video of shoulder-bopping hilarity: “Weekend.”

Released just three months after Dress Black's last single release (“So Lovely”), “Weekend” is both more upbeat and visually quirkier than the band's last offering. The video opens with a static screen and chugging guitars, offering an uncertain mood. But then driving drums set the toe-tapping tone, and the lifeless static clears the way for a 2 x 2 picture frame-esque grid of the four band members, each playing out eccentric scenes that would surely make Wes Anderson smirk (attributed to the stellar direction of Alexz Johnson). The result is light-hearted sophistication, glided over by debonairly delivered vocals and encapsulated with a freeze frame reminiscent of Happy Days.

At a glance, “Weekend” is “War and Peace,” knitting, tie-dye boxers, and eating Froot Loops with chopsticks. At a more discerning look, it's a battle after a break-up. Where “So Lovely” was dark (quite literally) and serious, “Weekend” is light and mature; where “So Lovely” pondered unfaithfulness and isolation, “Weekend” seizes friendship and solidarity. It tells you to go “cold turkey,” and then, rightfully, does not supply said turkey.

Both tonally and thematically, “Weekend” is the bounce back from a darker time – it's putting up a fight after feeling weak, and seizing the weekend. - Big Easy Nights (Alex Lane)

"Dress Black with Rains over St. Ambrose at Adelaide Hall"

Playing in support of Paint, a Toronto band celebrating their newest album release, Dress Black was the featured opening act. The four-piece that specializes in funky soulful music that still rocks and is irresistible to dance to played a tight eight-song set at Adelaide Hall. The band is currently working on a new album that they promised would be out some time in the near future. The band currently only has one EP that comprises three songs and two singles all of which was played throughout the set. The three other songs played included Man on Wire (a song I hope is inspired by the great film of the same name) and Found Another both of which were fantastic to hear for the first time. The band made sure to promote their music video for Weekend, a hilarious clip that features the four members in split screen that have them somehow both separated but still very much connected. The fact that everyone rushed away from the bar to the floor as soon as they played, packing the venue is a sign that these guy’s are a can’t-miss act. They will be back in the city in December at The Horseshoe, in which I suspect will be another packed show. - Live In Limbo (Dakota Arsenault)


Dress Black EP - March 18, 2016

  • So Lovely
  • Weekend
  • Money
  • Black Dress
  • When You Gonna Love Me



Dress Black is a melodic, dance-driven, indie rock band based out of Toronto, ON. Made up of guitarist/vocalists Stephane Monten and Brendan Johnson, bassist Colin Mercer, and drummer Justin Ross. Raised on opposite sides of the globe, Auckland-born Monten and Vancouver-born Johnson connected in Toronto over a shared passion for music and songwriting. They began collaborating without a specific genre or style in mind; the only stipulation was to create a fresh, original sound that they loved.

Since the release of their debut EP in 2016 ~ http://www.liveinlimbo.com/2016/03/21/concert-reviews/dress-black-at-the-cameron-house.html ~ the band has been gaining a lot of momentum. They were nominated for "Best Indie" at the Toronto Independent Music Awards, 2016 and have toured extensively around Ontario and Quebec. Dress Black is now planning an American tour at the end of summer 2017.

Dress Black most recently released their music video "Weekend", directed by Alexz Johnson.


They are currently recording their debut full-length album with a release date set for June 2017.

Live In Limbo ~ "The fact that everyone rushed away from the bar to the floor as soon as they played, packing the venue is a sign that these guy’s are a can’t-miss act."

Big Easy Nights ~ "[Weekend]... is light-hearted sophistication, glided over by debonairly delivered vocals..."

No More Division ~ "I knew about a minute into the recent release Black Dress by Dress Black that I was going to be a big fan.... I love the bands energy and vibe."

Band Members