Gramercy Riffs
Gig Seeker Pro

Gramercy Riffs

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Band Pop Rock


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



"Best New Band 2008"

Self-declared heartbreak and nostalgia pop group the Gramercy Riffs have been breaking hearts and playing to big houses since early 2008. Y’know how sometimes, something is good right away? Like, you meet someone and fall in love, and there’s no adjustment period, no awkwardness? That’s what happened with these peeps: right first time. Their sweet indie guitar, Strokes-y rhythms, and fun tag-team singing makes them music to dance to while crying for the joy of it all; of great bands, and friends, and love, and how rarely it all comes together like you thought it would, and how great it is when it does. - Andreae Prozesky (The Scope)

"Separation can't make Gramercy Riffs drift apart"

Separation can't make Gramercy Riffs drift apart

Special to The Telegram

Distance has a way of destroying relationships. It tears people apart physically and emotionally and leaves a mark on its victims. Unless you’re the Gramercy Riffs, it seems.

Winners of the 2008 Best of St. John’s award for Best New Band, the five members of the recently formed townie-pop ensemble have spent more time apart in the year they’ve been a band than they have together.

But they’re all in town for the summer and preparing to continue gathering keen ears for the newfangled legacy they began constructing this time last year.

The five young veterans of the St. John’s indie music scene — Lee Hanlon, Mara Pellerin, Daniel Banoub, Adrian Collins and Jamie March — may all be in their 20s, but they’ve just put forth a gripping medley of new tunes on their sophomoric “Make Yourself Warm” EP that hints at a maturity beyond their time and falsifies any preconceptions of what a band under a year old might sound like.

“I’d love to do a tour. I don’t know when, but it’ll happen,” Pellerin says during a recent interview with The Telegram, smiling at the thought of someday taking the band’s music on the road.

Seated next to her is Hanlon, Riffs co-founder, vocalist, lead guitarist, co-songwriter, Maddox Cove native and Pellerin’s boyfriend.

The couple have played in several local rock bands, including the Nordic Beat, Texas Chainsaw and The Late Greats, but feel they’re a part of something bigger and better than anything before.

“I played in other bands, but I always wanted to start my own band because I had ideas of my own,” explains Hanlon, sporting a pair of black thick-framed glasses and a Black Horse in hand. “After eight or nine years playing, I worked up the courage … so this is my first band, me and Mara both.”

The two share the majority of the songwriting duties, a task they humbly decline as being strictly their own, but which they admit is intensified by their part-time long-distance relationship.

Having returned from completing a semester of university in Germany last year, Hanlon now spends his time working and playing music in St. John’s, while Pellerin is off working on her master’s in performance and music at the University of Montréal.

“We had always been kind of writing songs,” Pellerin explains, referring to the pre-Riffs period. “We’d always be like, ‘We should write songs … or we can watch a movie,’” she laughs.

Hanlon says while he was in Germany the two exchanged the songs they had written via the Internet.

“Then I came home and we started the band in April and played our first show June 6 at CBTG’s,” he adds.

During the summer of 2008, the band played about a dozen shows and generated enough of a buzz that Hey Rosetta! asked them to open two shows last December while Pellerin was home for the holidays.

Each time she returns to St. John’s, it seems their sought-after status continues to rise.

They opened twice for death country trio Elliott BROOD last month at The Rock House and The Ship, playing to a packed house the first night.

“There were like 200 or 300 people watching us do an opening set … which is an awesome way to start off a summer,” says Hanlon.

Banoub, who plays bass in the band and also has a hand in at least a half-dozen other bands around town, says he feels “serious” about The Riffs’ potential.

He plans to attend York University in Toronto this fall to work toward a master’s in anthropology, but says he won’t give up his spot in the band.

“When I heard Lee and Mara were starting (The Riffs) I just said, ‘I don’t care what I play — I can play rhythm, tambourine, something — I just need to be in the band,” he remembers with a laugh.

Hanlon says he also plans to move to Toronto in September to find work, meaning more than half the band’s members will reside in two of Canada’s biggest independent music markets.

“We’ll play our hearts out over the summer as we did last year,” says Collins, forecasting the coming months in St. John’s. “We’ll get ready for Christmas to get (some shows) together again, and if we can play shows in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa in the meantime, in between … who knows where it’ll go from there.”

As they promote the new EP, they also eagerly plan to begin work on their first full-length record and say they already have local musician Mark Bragg and engineer Don Ellis on board to produce and mix the album, respectively.

With friends The Pathological Lovers and The Kettle Black, visiting from Ottawa, The Riffs will continue to celebrate the release of “Make Yourself Warm” at The Ship Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

- Justin Brake - The Telegram

"The 2010 Atlantis Music Prize ends in a tie"

Though half of them now in live in Toronto and half of them live in Montreal, they are 100 per cent Newfoundland and Labrador. With It’s Heartbreak, they have managed to put together one of the most widely acclaimed local albums of the year. The heartbreak pop of their debut album It’s Heartbreak has been getting all kinds of love from music critics, and they most recently beat Stars (Stars!) to land in eighth spot in Broken Speaker’s annual top ten albums of the year. - Elling Lien - The Scope

"Best of 2010: Canadian Albums 6-10"

8 Gramercy Riffs – It’s Heartbreak
“They have that perfect blend of female and male vocal taking turns on songs, great soft guitars covered in atmospheric synths and keys. Something that will stir up your emotions quickly and make you want to dance or bob along.” Over this past fall as I’ve listened to It’s Heartbreak, I’ve found that I’ve cycled through the entire album 2 or 3 times in one sitting not realizing it. It truly is one of those can’t-put-it-down type of albums.

Favourites: Little One, Call Me, The Freezedown - The Broken Speaker

"Gramercy Riffs - It's Heartbreak"

There's a formula to this album that the band won't be able to employ next time. First, singers Mara Pellerin and Lee Hanlon crafted this while separated by the Atlantic (Pellerin in St. John's, Hanlon in Germany) via the handy internet postal service. Second, once Hanlon came back, they added Adrian Collins, Daniel Banoub and Jamie March, and soon the five-piece packed up and relocated to Toronto, ON. They're starting to garner a name, based on the fact that they make infectious, keyboard-based melodies with boy-girl vocals; Pellerin and Hanlon switch up songs of love and loss of love or understanding departure. The band emerge from these lyrical depths and establish a new beginning. Now, they'll hit that fork in the road of what to do next, and we will all wait and see. - Exclaim


I've always found something thrilling about hearing bands I've listened to for some time coming into their own and just nailing their sound down perfectly. It's hard to properly put the feeling into words; it's sort of pride, I guess, but it's pride mixed in with something more -- something like excitement, at hearing musicians and artists I respect taking a giant step forward and sounding like they've figured everything out. I had the feeling when I first heard Rah Rah's Going Steady, for example, and when I first heard Young Galaxy's Invisible Republic, and and my first time hearing Deep River from Entire Cities.

It's a feeling that came up again and again when I listened to It's Heartbreak, the debut full-length from Gramercy Riffs. Admittedly, it's a little different in their case; the first time I heard them I'd already been told by a trusted friend that they were great, so it's not as if they came out of nowhere to blow me away. Moreover, It's Heartbreak isn't an example of a band taking their game to a whole new level so much as it's an example of a band showing that they were capable of sustaining their brilliance over the course of a whole album, not just a few songs.

Setting aside all the vagueness, the fact is that Gramercy Riffs have fully realized every bit of their potential on their first full-length. In part, they've done so with the same mix of modern and retro sensibilities that served them so well on both You've Been Kind and Make Yourself Warm. As songs like "The Freezedown", "Seventeen" and "Come Home Darlin'" show, the band is perfectly at ease with mixing together all sorts of styles and ideas; crooned vocals sit alongside baroque-pop glockenspiels, while danceable, '50s-esque rock'n'roll riffs get laid down next to blaring horns. Any of those tracks would've fit right in on their EPs, and it's no surprise they work just as well here.

At the same time, though, there are even more elements in play here than there were on the band's earlier outings. "Dreaming", for example, has ample echoes of '80s ballads (this song, in particular), while "Tonight's Your Night" shows that the band is perfectly capable of stretching out their croon-y moments to the length of a full song. Similarly, on "Little One", the band shows that they've figured out how to incorporate a twangy side into their ever-expanding repertoire.

In lesser hands, this constant adding of new sounds and influences could've been a disaster -- after all, there's only so much you can do in one song before it all starts clashing together. In this case, however...well, It's Heartbreak is proof that if those limits do exist, they certainly don't apply to Gramercy Riffs. They really are a remarkable band, and if their debut full-length is any indication, they're just getting started.

Want to win It's Heartbreak? Thanks to Gramercy Riffs, i(heart)music has a copy to give away. To enter to win, just e-mail me your name and mailing address by next Monday, and I'll randomly pick a winner! -

"Halifax Pop Explosion 2010 Day Four"

And to wrap it all up, Gramercy Riffs. Now I had thought that, hailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland, that they’d have a flotilla of fans out to support them but as it turns out, they now call Toronto and Montreal home and this was, apparently, their first time playing Halifax. Needless to say, the big, rowdy throw-down I expected didn’t quite happen but considering how… boisterous their appearance at NXNE got and how it didn’t quite feature the band at their best, maybe that was a good thing. Because though this performance was a few degrees more subdued than that one, it was also less ramshackle and put the focus on the band’s proper strengths – namely their two excellent frontpersons in Mara Pellerin and Lee Hanlon (even though Pellerin’s vocals were poorly mixed for much of the show). Their different yet complimentary deliveries elevate Gramercy Riffs and their debut It’s Heartbreak above many others who’d seek to make adjectiveless pop-rock. A performance level somewhere between this one and the NXNE one would have been ideal, but still a good time and a good wrap to the fest. - Chromewaves

"Gramercy Riffs’ Bonavista Social Club Turns the El Mocambo into a Newfoundland Showcase"

If you check out their Facebook, Gramercy Riffs label genre of music as “heartbreak/nostalgia pop” and I assure you that once you hear the lyrics coming from the voices of Lee Hanlon (vocals, guitar) and Mara Pellerin (vocals, keys), this will make complete sense to you. Rounding out the rest of the band are Daniel Banoub (bass), Jamie March (drums) and filling in for Adrian Collins on this night was Jimmy Rose on guitar, who played the previous set with Jetset Motel.

There is maturity and passion in the vocals of Lee and Mara that command the stage, but they also bring freshness that makes you want to smile. Gramercy Riffs are infectious and adorable. In fact, if you looked around at the crowd at the El Mocambo, most people couldn’t help but tap their feet and some were even dancing along, which can be attributed to their danceable drumbeats. However, their sound is not confined to catchy pop, as they played a song for their friends in St. John’s that has an almost bluesy sound. What is clear when seeing Gramercy Riffs on stage is that they are having fun and the vibe that comes along with a Gramercy Riffs show is certainly something to be experienced.

The group also has a great story about the formation of the band. It started with Mara and Lee writing songs together over the Internet while Lee was studying in Germany and Mara was home in St. John’s. When Lee returned to St. John’s, Gramercy Riffs were born. Although the band now calls Toronto home, this 5-piece brings a refreshing east coast dream-pop sound that is worth checking out live. Hey Gramercy Riffs, I think I might have walked away with a bit of a crush on you. -

"Interview: The Best Part Of Breaking Up Is Listening To Gramercy Riffs"

Usually, childhood friends rebel and form a band in their parent’s garage as they grow up in a small town. That’s how the story goes, right? Well, for Gramercy Riffs, their story is a bit different.

Mara Pellerin (vocals, keys), Lee Hanlon (vocals, guitar), Daniel Banoub (bass), Adrian Collins (guitar), Jamie March (drums) all call St. John’s Newfoundland home, but as they’ve matured into young adults, they’ve found themselves spread out all over the map. Kind of hard to start a band when some of the members are in a different country, isn’t it? Perhaps due to their undying love affair with music, the five band members managed to overcome the obstacles, and at times the Pacific Ocean, to make fresh and exciting music together. They prove no matter where you rest your head, you can always play from the heart. For a band whose lyrics are heartbreaking and somber, there’s something very romantic I find about their sound.

On this Friday night, Gramercy Riffs and two other bands from out east, All Day Driver and Jetset Motel, were a part of an event at the El Mocambo, called appropriately called The Bonavista Social Club. Bonavista being a community in NL. All Day Driver played a stripped down, somewhat acoustic session. Rajiv Thavanathan (bass, vocals) and Brett Caswell (piano, vocals) were M.I.A. Mara filled in with the keys and french horn which she played so beautifully. I’m secretly hoping she fills in more often. Jetset Motel graced everyone with their alternative country flare, and for a second there, I thought I was hanging out at the Dakota Tavern.
- Sticky Magazine

"The Gramercy Riffs: Concert Review – El Mocambo August 27th 2010"

Exploding with buzz after this years NXNE festival, Newfoundland five piece The Gramercy Riffs stopped in at the El Mocambo last Friday and if you were there, it was most likely the best show you’ve seen all month.

Flying in with the ever-so-successful vocal duality that’s trending around the world and music lovers continue to swooning over, The Riffs spun the Elmo silly with their enlightened array of east coast charm, so rich in youth culture and lighthearted hues of pop folk range that not a soul was still.

Opening their set with “Dreaming” the band weaved through a suspended percussive wheel of melodies and with a new found channel of leading acoustic guitar and the accent of sprawling choruses in the likes of “Hold My Hand” The Gramercy Riffs catalogue is a refreshment to afterschool naps and rural midnight gatherings. - Pinkmafia

"Catchy Riffs"

I really don't know why I never listened to The Gramercy Riffs before now. I know I've said this about other bands, but it's particularly true in this case. After all, I'm friends with some of the band's biggest boosters, one of whom has been telling me for months on end that I absolutely had to listen to them, even going so far as to send me a copy of their debut EP, You've Been Kind.

I'm only just getting around to listening to it now (I should note that, in the meantime, the Riffs have released a follow-up EP, Make Yourself Warm), and I can say that I suddenly understand why their fans are so enthusiastic: the band is awesome.

In fact, not only are they awesome, they do a perfect job of describing their sound when they call themselves "Heartbreak/Nostalgia Pop" on their Facebook page. The band comes off as at once both modern and retro, mixing together all kinds of sounds from the past in a way that sounds totally forward looking. Example #1A: "The Freezedown", wherein the band manages to cram '50s-sounding rock'n'roll, '60s spy movie riffs and Unicorns/Islands-y pop into one glorious, four-minute song. The other three songs are just as good, with the band showing impressive vocal talent and, appropriately, an ear for catchy riffs. It all makes for an incredibly strong debut, and it makes me extremely eager to hear exactly what Gramercy Riffs do next. - i(heart) music

"Gramercy Riffs"

I'm a sucker for a good pop song so what chance did I have when the Gramercy Riffs came along?

None. Absolutely none. I'm hooked.

The Gramercy Riffs are making some wonderful, romantically-tinged, wanna sing-along pop songs that are destined to find a place in the playlists of listeners far and wide. The songs, especially those of separation and longing, have an immediate accessibility and a palpable authenticity -- perhaps owing to the sheer geography involved in the endeavour. Separation has always been a factor for the GR -- their first songs evolved over emails when band member Lee Hanlon was completing his degree in Germany and Mara Pellerin his band mate (and significant other was in St. John’s. Shortly after Hanlon returned Pellerin left to study music at a conservatory in Montreal. Somewhere in between they met up with the rest of the band, started playing shows and set about recording their music. To date they've released two eps but have begun recording their debut full-length album titled Young Heart, which will be produced by Mark Bragg. It will mark the band's first national release. - Product of Newfoundland - Robert Hiscock

"Heartbreak never sounded so good"

The Gramercy Riffs find themselves staring adversity in the face - but they thrive on it.

Lee Hanlon, Mara Pellerin, Daniel Banoub, Adrian "AC" Collins and Jamie March are members of the St. John's indie band that exploded onto the local music scene almost two years ago.

Their self-proclaimed "heartbreak pop" style of music was met with the warm embrace of local concertgoers, enough of them that the band was instantaneously furnished with its own fan base.

Since then three band members - Hanlon, Pellerin and Banoub - have relocated to the mainland to pursue master's degrees and make room for their band in bigger music markets.

"It's a weird state to find ourselves in, but at the same time there's a huge problem for bands getting off the island," Pellerin explains over a coffee at a cafe in downtown St. John's. "So having some people on the mainland already kind of offsets that and gives us new possibilities."

Pellerin, Collins and March share some laughs as they await the arrival of Hanlon and Banoub, who fly in to St. John's this week to celebrate the release of the band's first full-length album, "It's Heartbreak."

On Friday, they will host a CD release show at The Rock House with special guests Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds and Mark Bragg.

March chirps in on the band's success combatting separation anxiety.

"I played in other bands years ago, going (to Toronto), so ... I always try to have low expectations because I've been disappointed before. But with this band, for some reason we're lucky."

Some might call it luck, others patient planning. But the Riffs have already made their Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto debuts, including two stints at legendary Toronto club El Mocambo, and are slated to perform at North America's Mecca of indie festivals North by Northeast in June.

They seem to be doing things right.

"Our band situation is weird, but external forces play such a huge role in what we do," Pellerin says. "We just embrace them and make goals for ourselves," she says, explaining how the band members make the most of their circumstantial time together.

Most of the songs on "It's Heartbreak" were written across the miles, March explains. Hanlon and Pellerin were a couple when the band formed and they began collaborating on songs while Hanlon attended school in Germany.

Their relationship has since ended, but they're still "best friends," Pellerin says.

"We call each other every day ... it's very natural," she explains. "I don't know if it's healthy or just completely freakish, but I think it's OK."

The relationship theme seems evident in most songs, but that's just the "heartbreak pop" guise, Collins says.

"All the bitter ones were written by Daniel," he jokes.

The band's greatest fortune came when Bragg suggested he produce the record.

"He was a real motor behind the whole process," Pellerin says.

"He brought energy and direction to the record," March adds.

As for getting the record out to as many ears as possible, Pellerin has her own plan: "I want to send a package to Joel Plaskett with little heart stickers all over it," she laughs.

The "It's Heartbreak" CD release show takes place Friday at The Rock House. The show is 19+. For more information, visit - Justin Brake - The Telegram

"Gramercy Riffs return with a new disc"

It takes a village to make a record in St. John’s, and all hands were on deck for this band’s first full-length release.
Sisters, friends from music school, friends from other bands, sound guy friends, and of course, the album’s producer Mark Bragg.
“You’d do it for them as well, so, that’s what’s nice about it,” guitarist Adrian Collins says of the help the band received.
It’s Heartbreak was recorded in several sessions, the largest chunk last August.
Collins and Mara Pellerin, vocalist and keyboardist, praise Bragg’s musical intuition and expertise, and credit him with keeping the band energized throughout the process. At one point, as they were exhausted while recording the drums and bass on “Call Me” on a sweltering day in St. Philip’s, Bragg had just the cure.
“It was really hot and we were wilting,” Pellerin says. “And he was like ‘all right that’s it, stop everything, c’mon.’ We went out of the house, went down to the rocks and jumped into the ocean.”
“It made everyone loose again,” says Collins.
Gentle reverb, rolling horns, and subtle touches like glockenspiel heighten the drama of these heartfelt, warm pop songs, with singer-guitarist Lee Hanlon and Pellerin trading vocals throughout the album.
“We spent a lot of time working out every little detail in every single one of the songs,” says Collins.
The influence of classic pop and the best of Canadian indie rock, such as Joel Plaskett, pervade the 11-song album, which includes material from the band’s two previously released EPs.
“It’s a culmination of the last two years. It puts it all into a nice, neat package,” says Pellerin.
It’s an appropriate sentiment about an album resulting from a set up that’s anything but tidy. Though they’re all from the St. John’s area, Collins is the only band member still living here. Bass player Daniel Banoub and Hanlon live in Toronto, with drummer Jamie March on the way, and Pellerin lives in Montreal.
The band started as a songwriting project for her and Hanlon, and some of their other friends came on board to form the band in 2008.
They write by trading tracks online, and jam whenever they’re home, which seems to correspond with university schedules and holidays. There are perks, however, of this type of set up — “aside from its obvious, terrible obstacles,” Pellerin says, laughing.
For one, Collins explains, they don’t get stuck in the trap of playing shows every weekend.
In fact, the last time they played was in February in Ottawa. They are playing a showcase at NXNE in June and will be applying to play other festivals on the mainland.
“Getting to make this record, it’s the start of something,” Pellerin says.
Gramercy Riffs’ album It’s Heartbreak will be released Friday, May 21 at The Rock House with Matt Hornell and the Diamond Minds and Mark Bragg (solo). - Kerri Breen - The Scope

"Gramercy Riffs: Keep Yourself Warm (2009) EP Review"

If anyone ever told you there was no such thing as great pop music in this city, they're lying. Case in point, the Gramercy Riffs charming new five-track EP Make Yourself Warm. Although this quintet has only been playing shows since last June, they've managed to score tons of acclaim, open for Elliott Brood, and befriend the dude that played Chewbacca. Not to mention the fact that this is their second EP in the past year, the first being a download-only called You've Been Kind. Make Yourself Warm is a yummy five course meal that tastes of city summer nights, “young hearts that collide,” and long distance love.

Make Yourself Warm has the best ingredients for what the band describes as “heartbreak/ nostalgia pop”- darned catchy songs about “Silent Walls and Siren Calls,” written by real-life love birds, adding to the songs' authenticity. The album itself has gone a long distance, having been constructed in several parts of the country, recorded by Matthew Finateri on Long's Hill, mixed by Jon Hynes in Toronto, and mastered by Steve Lily in Montreal. The Riffs picked a good title for this fulfilling album that makes one feel all warm and fuzzy about being in love.

Although I enjoyed everything about Make Yourself Warm, my favourite part of this EP are Mara Pellerin's songbird vocals on “Little One.” Reminiscent of indie queens like Jenny Lewis or Cat Power, Pellerin's emotive voice sparkles on this track as she sings “Love is nothing but a painful attempt to keep warm.” Pellerin also plays keys and horn on the album, and is joined on vocals by boyfriend and co-songwriter Lee Hanlon, as well as Adrian Collins, who both play guitar. The talent is rounded out by Daniel Banoub on bass and Jamie March on drums (March also designed the cute penguin-adored album artwork).

There are so many reasons to check out this album: The Gramercy Riffs are a talented, musically experienced gang, who write and play lovely, danceable pop songs about ambitious, twenty-something romance. They have already made at least one friend in a high place (man, that Chewbacca guy is like seven feet tall!). I can certainly list more but, but I don't want the appetizer to ruin the entree. Serve with a glass of red wine (or Black Horse, your choice) and bon appetit! - Kirsten Joy (The Current)

"Gramercy Riffs"

Long distance relationships, even though they’re painful, can actually have their fair share of joyful moments. The feeling you get when you receive a letter or care package from the one you love is so sad, so sweet a feeling that it makes you want to die inside.
That feeling is at the heart of the heartbreak/nostalgia pop band The Gramercy Riffs.

In fall of 2007, Lee Hanlon and Mara Pellerin waved goodbye… for a while. Hanlon went away to Germany for school, where he studied German and International Business, and Pellerin stayed behind in St. John’s.

“We had been meaning to start a band together and wrote stuff over the past two years,” says Hanlon. “(But) we had to get lonely before we got started.”

Both wrote a handful of songs independently and sent them back and forth to each other. Hanlon returned at Christmas five months later, and in January they recruited Adrian Collins, Daniel Banoub, and Jamie March to fill out the band and work out the tunes.

“We started playing in June and had one fun summer,” Hanlon says.
Some select quotes from the wall of their Facebook page:
“You couldn’t have captured St. John’s early 21st century summer more perfectly…” “You are all the ‘bee’s knees.’ I am in love with your music….” and “You guys are like unicorns slaying dragons.”
As the summer draws to a close, so too passes your chance to catch these folks live, since now it’s Pellerin’s turn to head out of town to school.

On the brighter side, it will likely inspire more material.

Ah, it’s a double-edged sword. - Elling Lien (The Scope)

"St. John's Scenester"

you couldn't've captured st john's early 21st century summer more perfectly. when i'm old and nostalgic (i already am the latter) i'll play this thing for my kid(s)...:this is what life was like when i was young, when we had trees!!! - Steve Woodworth

"Gramercy Riffs Come Out and Play at NXNE"

At every sprawling festival like NXNE, you stumble upon that one band. You know the one. The one you'd never heard of before, who you see almost by accident and then rave about endlessly to your friends like you discovered fire. For a lot of people at NXNE, that band is Gramercy Riffs.

Any band that derives its name from cult 1979 film 'The Warriors' will probably end up doing pretty well in certain places, sight unseen. But when people start hearing St. John's, Newfoundland's Gramercy Riffs, they might forget all about the reference.

Gramercy Riffs don't make tough music. They're not leather jacket-wearing purveyors of sharp, angular tones meant to injure. Rather they make what's been referred to as heartbreak pop, and last night's set at Bread and Circus showed they're very, very good at it. Vocalists Mara Pellerin (Korg) and Lee Hanlon (guitar) give and take and interchange effortlessly, and both can flat-out sing, separating them from a bevy of Friday bands whose vocalists took pride in their atonality.

Pellerin's voice cut through the room like a flaming sword. Its pitch, tone and texture could have stopped a stampeding herd of buffalo. 'Dreaming', a simple, well-paced pop rock number tinged with sadness and a country vibe, was one of the highlights of the evening. So, too, was Hanlon's turn on 'Come Home Darlin,' where he was helped by a harmonizing Pellerin.

A group of friends from St. John's who've known each other since childhood, Gramercy Riffs' strength is undoubtedly found in how -- gasp -- they actually know how to sing and play. And there's a reason for that.

"I study music at school, and I did a bunch of years of voice," Pellerin, a French horn player who's currently doing a Master's in Music at the University of Montreal, told Spinner after their set. "It's kind of hilarious. The boys always get mad at me for writing songs in C sharp. They're like 'come on!' because I don't play guitar."

In all, it was quite a night for the Riffs. "It's our first festival," Pellerin said, before correcting herself. "Well, we played Wreckhouse Jazz Festival at home, which is funny because we're not a jazz band."

Nor are they a band obsessed with 'The Warriors' (unless you count Hanlon). As Pellerin tells it, their name was arrived at quite hurriedly. "We had, like, a list of band names and we were all fighting about it. And then we had our first show and we needed to make a poster, so that's what ended up on the poster and it stuck." - Spinner

"NXNE Day Two 2010"

And then it was back to where the night began – Bread & Circus – though by this time of night it was quite full of NXNE-ers. The draw were Gramercy Riffs, in all the way from Newfoundland. Though their debut It’s Heartbreak didn’t make the Polaris Prize long list, it did garner enough positive chatter amongst jurors to warrant a look- and listen-see. And yeah, the pop-rock from the band ably fronted by Lee Hanlon and Mara Pellerin is eminently likeable and catchy, even when it’s delivered in as much of a state of inebriation as the band seemed to be. Straight ahead and built on big melodies and choruses with just enough frills and flourishes to catch the ear, Gramercy Riffs are still relatively unknown outside of The Rock but seem well on their way to rectifying that. Spinner also caught the show and talked to the band afterwards. - Chromewaves


Gramercy Riffs - It's Heartbreak LP (2010)
1. Oh Linda! (3:22)
2. Silent Walls and Siren Calls (4:21)
3. Hold My Hand (3:45)
4. Little One (4:14)
5. Ambulance (3:34)
6. The Freezedown (4:16)
7. Dreaming (3:45)
8. Tonight's Your Night (3:34)
9. Call Me (3:21)
10. Come Home Darlin' (4:53)
11. Seventeen (5:33)

Gramercy Riffs - Make Yourself Warm EP (2009)

1. Silent Walls and Siren Calls (4:48)
2. One By One (5:12)
3. Young Hearts (3:45)
4. Little One (4:18)
5. Tonight's Your Night (4:52)

Gramercy Riffs - You've Been Kind EP (2008)

1. Oh, Linda! (3:29)
2. The Freezedown (4:07)
3. Ambulance (3:43)
4. Come Home Darlin' (5:14)



Toronto-based GRAMERCY RIFFS have been making waves nationally since relocating from their hometown of St. John's in early 2010. Their critically acclaimed debut album "IT'S HEARTBREAK" found itself onto several best-of-the-year lists and the EARSHOT national college charts as well as garnering play on CBC and commercial radio. STICKY MAGAZINE raves "you have no idea how many times I had this entire album on repeat" and iheartmusic writes "they really are a remarkable band, and if their debut full-length is any indication, they're just getting started" while BROKEN SPEAKER exclaims "It truly is one of those can’t-put-it-down type of albums."

The band has been winning fans across the country with a killer live show including buzzworthy appearances at Toronto's NXNE, POP MONTREAL and the HALIFAX POP EXPLOSION. Buying Shots for Bands says "there is maturity and passion in the vocals of Lee and Mara that command the stage" and Shattered Vinyl asserts "[their] solid arrangements, dual vocals and genuine energy make for a good time."

The end of the year saw the Riffs headline over-capacity hometown shows, and win the ATLANTIS MUSIC PRIZE for Best Newfoundland Album in 2010.

Following their sold-out, coast-to-coast Canadian tour supporting Polaris nominees HEY ROSETTA!, Gramercy Riffs will be spending the summer months touring in Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario, and making appearances on the Canadian festival circuit.


"Their different yet complimentary deliveries elevate Gramercy Riffs and their debut It’s Heartbreak above many others who’d seek to make adjectiveless pop-rock." - Chromewaves

"Flying in with the ever-so-successful vocal duality that’s trending around the world and music lovers continue to swooning over, The Riffs spun the Elmo silly with their enlightened array of east coast charm, so rich in youth culture and lighthearted hues of pop folk range that not a soul was still" - Kay Lazer, Pinkmafia.

"... anthemic indie rock build-ups led by vocalist Mara Pellerin that denote true Canadiana potential" - Erik Leijon, Montreal Mirror.

"At every sprawling festival like NXNE, you stumble upon that one band. You know the one. The one you'd never heard of before, who you see almost by accident and then rave about endlessly to your friends like you discovered fire. For a lot of people at NXNE, that band is Gramercy Riffs" - Dave Jaffer, Spinner.

"They're starting to garner a name, based on the fact that they make infectious, keyboard-based melodies with boy-girl vocals; Pellerin and Hanlon switch up songs of love and loss of love or understanding departure. " - Jessica Lewis, Exclaim!