Louise Burns
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Louise Burns

Vancouver, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | INDIE | AFM

Vancouver, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2006
Solo Alternative Pop

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Jun
18
Louise Burns @ Stanley Park

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

May
20
Louise Burns @ Biltmore Cabaret

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Apr
08
Louise Burns @ Sugar Nightclub

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Music

Press


Fun fact: Louise Burns was featured in NYLON 10 years ago. At the time, her band Lillix were perhaps best known for being signed to Madonna's Maverick record label. Needless to say, a lot has changed for the musician since then. "In my Lillix stage, that was all about compromising," recalls Burns, adding, "From that time in my life I've become quite stubborn and for the most part I just want to play good songs with good bands and have it not feel like a business."

It hardly sounds like one anymore--the Vancouver-based musician struck out on her own, with her second solo album, The Midnight Mass, coming out today. Material Girl pop, it's not, but the melodies find inspiration in the synth-addled dark-pop groups of the '80s. "My favorite band is The Cure, and I wanted to embrace that," she notes. "I decided to tap into the influences that I have but didn't [reference] in the first record. It was very purist, but this time a lot of soundtrack music influenced me--like Twin Peaks. I wanted to create more of an atmospheric record that's easier to escape into in your head."

The end result is an effortlessly moody collection of tracks that flaunt Burns' pop bona fides even while she delivers lines like, "Every pretty rose is waiting to die." It's not just the seminal goth-rockers who seem to have left their mark on Burns; "He's My Woman" has a country twang to it, while on tracks like "Don't Like Sunny Days" there are references to '60s girl groups and Wall of Sound albums, only seen through a haze of David Lynchian fog. If it sounds a bit like another band we know and love--the Raveonettes--it might have something to do with the fact that Burns had the duo's Sune Rose Wagner co-produce, alongside Colin Stewart. Also on board to help her in the studio? Ladyhawke's Darcy Hancock, Cat Power's Gregg Foreman, and Brasstronaut's Brenna Saul all lent a musical hand.

The end result is something that, 10 years into a career, seems to be a long time coming for Burns (who also plays in the band Gold & Youth). "I've been making records for a long time, so this was about having a bit more of an experimental time in the studio," she says. "I don't see a whole lot of parallels between then and now--other than me playing music! And back then, I hoped that I'd still be doing it." - Nylon


Louise Burns is a pop music vet. She hates when I call her this, but it’s true and I don't care. Since her teenage years playing in Lillix (signed to Madonna’s label Maverick) to her bass playing in multiple projects (including the Blue Violets and Gold & Youth) to her promising solo career, the woman is pretty much un-fuckwithable.

Two years ago, Burns released her debut solo LP Mellow Drama through Light Organ Records. Now she's got a follow-up calledThe Midnight Mass which officially drops on July 9. The Midnight Mass channels Burns original inspirations. Think Siouxsie meets Kate Bush with a punch of Depeche Mode. Burns worked closely with Colin Stewart (who also records Destroyer, Black Mountain) and the Ravonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner to edge out a more mature, 80s synth driven sound. She's also got a buttload of musicians on the record, including Cat Power’s Gregg Foreman and Ladyhawk’s Darcy Hancock on guitars, as well as Sandy from the Dum Dum Girls on drums. The first single “Emeralds Shatter” is beautiful. We needn't say more. Check it out. - Noisey


At all of 25, Louise Burns feels a bit like a music-industry veteran, complete with the baggage of jaded bitterness. Granted, it's been a decade since Lillix, the girl band she co-founded in Cranbrook, B.C., signed a deal with Madonna's Maverick Records and moved to Los Angeles. The deal eventually blew up along with the record company - and so did the band (which still exists, but with some different members, and last year put out a new CD, Tigerlily).

Now, Burns has hit the road with her first solo album. To say Mellow Drama is a departure from Burns's Lillix days would be a bit like saying Madonna is well-known in the music industry. There's no hint of teenybopper in this nostalgia-steeped record (which includes 11 original tracks and a cover of Leonard Cohen's The Gypsy's Wife). In mid-June, the record made the Polaris Prize long list, calming Burns's fears, to some extent, of being dismissed out of hand because of her past.

"I'm not used to being received in a serious way, because with Lillix, we were a teen pop band and how serious can you take that?" Burns said recently over coffee in Vancouver, where she lives. "We worked our butts off and we did our best, but still it was teen pop music."

Mellow Drama came very much out of Burns's experiences with Lillix - which in the space of an hour-long conversation, she described as frustrating, disheartening and brutal. "It left a sour taste in my mouth. I was a very angry teenager about it. In my early 20s, I was really lost. What the hell just happened? But I was lucky enough to channel that to music."

Burns was in Grade 7 when she was invited by Tasha-Ray Evin to play bass in a band she was starting with her sister. The girls started writing - with Hanson and the Beatles as their inspirations. Taking a cue from the Beatles, they dressed for their first gig - at a community centre - in business suits they bought at the mall.

"It's really funny in retrospect," says Burns, "because the older I get, the younger I was."

Eventually, the band was offered a record contract in Cranbook. Burns's father sought the opinion of an entertainment lawyer. He happened to choose Jonathan Simkin, who would later start up 604 Records. Simkin offered some advice, and asked for a demo.

"I put it on and by song No. 4, I was like holy [cow]" says Simkin, who still manages Burns. "I called one of the parents and said, 'Come on, honestly, did the girls write it?' And they were like, 'Every note and every lyric.' And I said, 'If that's true, I am interested.'"

Simkin invited the band to Vancouver, recorded a new demo, and shopped it around. Maverick asked for a showcase, then offered a deal on the spot. The girls moved to L.A., sharing an apartment - while their parents rotated as chaperones.

Early on, the band was called to a Maverick office, ostensibly to meet a potential producer. But when they arrived, there was Madonna.

"She's like 'hey girls,'" says Burns. "I think we were so young and naive that we weren't nervous." The band played an acoustic set for their superstar boss (who ultimately split with the company she co-founded) and she left the room singing their songs. "She was a very cool lady … and was really nice to us, which I guess is kind of uncommon."

But it wasn't long before things began to sour. The band had to work with "hot" producers not of their choosing; the music-making overshadowed by the drive to score a hit record, says Burns. "Ultimately, it was just a rushed, stressful process that did not end in art. It ended in mediocrity."

In the push for publicity, the girls were made to wear schoolgirl uniforms for their first promotional shoot, and to dress like punk rockers for another. "I just remember sitting there wearing a tie thinking this is the worst moment of my life," says Burns. "I'm 16 years old and I can predict how this is going to be perceived."

Two of the girls were sent to weight-loss camp.

"They wanted us to be the band that made them money; that's all they cared about," says Burns. "And we just felt really betrayed."

Once the record, Falling Uphill, was out, there were nasty reviews. "I think one of the most frustrating things was people not believing that we wrote our songs," says Burns. "We were called manufactured. They said that we were Avril [Lavigne]wannabes. … All that honest hard work we put into it was just dismissed completely."

While on tour in 2006 with their second album, Inside the Hollow, the band was dropped by the label (which was itself crumbling) and that's when Burns decided to leave.

Back in Vancouver, she immersed herself into the rock and punk scenes. "It was scary at first, because I thought 'oh God; people are going to look at me and say why's that idiot from Lillix hanging out here at this punk show?'"

But Burns quickly became a sought-after musician, playing with several bands and rediscovering her love for music. With the financial security of her Lillix earnings, she began university, took on some day jobs and finally, two years ago, started writing what would become Mellow Drama, released this year on Simkin's new indie label Light Organ Records.

Musically, it's an ode to girl bands of the 1950s and 60s. Lyrically, a major theme is the dark side of being a teen pop sensation.

"A lot of the record's about self-doubt: I can't do this, I'll never do this, I'm going to be working a job I hate forever and I'll always be living in the past," says Burns. "I think that fear drove me to make the record more than anything. I didn't want to be a has-been. I didn't want to be somebody who was living in the glory days of my youth." - The Globe and Mail


Check out the new video from Louise Burns, whose influences include The Smiths, the Shangri Las, and Patsy Cline, who she’s often compared to. The song, “Drop Names Not Bombs,” hails from her latest album, Mellow Drama, on which she plays the lion’s share of the instruments.

“We liked the idea of doing a ‘fun’ video, as in getting our friends drunk and doing karaoke, but also tapping into a darker side, where something feels a bit off, kind of like the little girl in Poltergeist watching static on her TV,” Burns explains. “In our case, there’s a poltergeist in the karaoke video in the form of me! Ha! The contrast between brightness and creepiness unintentionally reflects the song as well, which sounds like a happy pop jam but was actually written from a pretty dark place.” - American Songwriter


Besides being a sort of jack-of-all-trades when it comes to musicianship, Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Louise Burns knows a lot about astronomy.

“I’m a big fan of space,” says the former Lillix bassist and singer in an interview at an Oak Street deli. “It’s one of my things.”

Burns gushes over the late astronomer Carl Sagan’s ’80s television program Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, alluding to the “Symphony of Science”, a series of YouTube videos featuring the Contact author.

“Somebody took episodes of this [Cosmos] and they Auto-Tuned clips and made it a song. It is so ridiculous!” she says, before noting that Sagan might have been an inspiration if she’d chosen a different career.

“If I were to be a scientist, I would be that [an astronomer],” the songstress reveals.

Luckily for fans of the 25-year-old folk-pop artist, Burns stayed on the path of music, releasing her solo debut, Mellow Drama, in April on Light Organ Records.

The 12-track disc is a dreamy, revivalist album with pop sensibilities. While sometimes teetering on the edge of country, the record ultimately shows Burns to be a master of classic pop songwriting, with numbers like “What Do You Wanna Do” evoking pioneering rock ’n’ roller Buddy Holly.

While the songs are filled with relatively upbeat tempos, especially on the hand-clap-and-tambourine-heavy “Chinook (Sing From the Valley of Doubt)” and “Drop Names Not Bombs”, Burns argues that Mellow Drama really isn’t a cheerful album, and not just because it’s also influenced by mopey postpunkers like the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

“The lyrics themselves are not happy lyrics,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever written a happy song. I just don’t find it inspiring, you know?”

Burns has been writing songs for 15 years; amazingly, she started performing at age 9.

“Mellow Drama is sort of a comment on how the lyrics are almost borderline profoundly earnest because they’re pretty much directly from experience. I wanted to use it [the title] as a disclaimer and not take it too crazy-serious,” she says.

But personal experience isn’t the only thing driving the disc’s emotional songs. Burns admits that over-the-top sad tales have always resonated with her.

“Some of the lyrics are fictional. I’m a big fan of old country-music story lines—like Patsy Cline’s ”˜Walkin’ After Midnight’. I enjoy that romantic, sad story line that it has. Like Roy Orbison was always singing about being lonely—and I love that. Some of the songs are about self-doubt, about not ever thinking I could actually do a record and release it because I felt a little defeated by the Lillix experience. I was overcoming that.”

For those who blinked and missed its, Lillix was of course the early 2000s, Cranbrook-spawned girl group that was supposed to blow up bigger than Avril Lavigne. Despite fawning coverage in magazines like Blender, and a deal with Maverick Records, things didn’t exactly turn out as the suits at the majors planned.

Burns’s switch from grrrl-group bassist to solo artist wasn’t totally without anguish, especially when Lillix was dropped from Maverick in 2006. But turning singer-songwriter seemed a natural evolution.

“It’s just what I listen to, you know?” the songstress says of her departure from power pop. “I never listened to the stuff we did in Lillix. I didn’t listen to Top-40 radio, I wasn’t a fan of Avril Lavigne. I don’t like that music at all. I think that once I got to the age where I discovered all the bands that became definitive of who I was as an artist—like the Cure, or Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Velvet Underground, and of course the whole Neil Young world and Joni Mitchell—that was kind of what I listened to and where it’s a reflection of: my influences.

“I think pop music, in a Top-40 sense, makes me really miserable, so I had to escape that for a while,” she notes.

That’s not to say Burns doesn’t miss playing in a band. Fresh from her West Coast tour with the five-piece Red Cedar as her backing group, the singer beams when talking about her supporting musicians.

“I have a lot of admiration for bands and the dynamic that they create, because I’ve been in bands my whole life, and being a solo artist, it’s a lot harder to create that. I’m actually really lucky to be using Red Cedar right now, because they are such a good band. They’re amazing. The sound they make on-stage is very thought-out, and you can tell they’ve been a band forever. That’s really admirable to me,” she says.

With or without Red Cedar, Burns definitely has plans for the future.

“I’m going to be releasing a few 7-inches from this record, the B-sides,” she says. “I’m writing my second record right now. I don’t know—we’ll see what happens. I’m not too sure what it’s going to sound like yet, but I’m definitely thinking about it already,” she says, noting that she hopes to have the album written by the end of this year.

There is no question that Burns is on a roll, musically. The only surprise here is that the self-proclaimed astronomy geek has said virtually nothing about plans to secure Mellow Drama its own laser show at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. Yet. - Straight


Here’s a prediction: Louise Burns is going to get a lot of comparisons to Zooey Deschanel. Not only do the two look fairly similar, but the the Vancouver singer-songwriter writes charming retro pop songs that have a faint whiff of She & Him. But while Deschanel’s songs often feel like pastiche, “What Do You Wanna Do” sounds less blatantly anachronistic. The lovelorn lyrics and sprightly melodies sound like they could have been pulled out of a ’50s girl group song, but the gritty guitars and dissonant bridge push this one into darker terrain.

Go to Exclaim! to see the video and read my article about Burns’ upcoming album, Mellow Drama.
- Chipped Hip


Drop Names, Not Bombs

Louise Burns, from Mellow Drama (Ruby Blue Music, streaming here)
No need to blame the boomer generation for mythifying the sixties and early seventies. Louise Burns is a 24-year-old West Coast singer with a huge voice and a jones for the music of the Vietnam War era, artfully renewed in this big-booted original tune that one can easily imagine issuing from the throat of Stevie Nicks.

Published Monday, Jan. 10, 2011 4:30PM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011 5:15PM EST
- The Globe and Mail


Last fall Louise Burns played Vancouver storytelling night Raincity Chronicles. I remember being really drawn to her sweet vocals and careful delivery as she performed this song with just an acoustic guitar.

I recall thinking of the songs of the 50’s and how the sweet vocals, though often innocent and simple, got the point across is a delightful way, regardless of the subject matter.

Discovering this song, now complete with hand claps and tambourine, and great sounding snare, really just makes me happy. It's a bit of the Buddy Holly-era with a current twist.

- CBC Radio 3


Monday, January 17th, 2011

You heard it here first! Or second. Or third. Obviously, the point is that Vancouver’s Louise Burns is destined for endless praise when Mellow Drama drops in April.
Undoubtedly, after falling in love with her first single (“What Do You Wanna Do”) it would be easy to lump Burns in with retro country popsters like Zooey Deschanel and Jenny Lewis, but Mellow Drama holds much darker secrets. Burns may be obsessed with 50's/60's pop, and this sparkling melody (especially with that surf guitar chiming in so perfectly) could have been a radio smash for any girl group in those eras, but when you get the chance to hear Burns experiment with more dreamy textures, you realize her music is more substance than cute, nostalgic charm.
- Hero Hill


When Exclaim! spoke with Light Organ Records founder Jonathan Simkin late last year, he promised that the newly minted label would begin rolling out new releases in early 2011. Sure enough, the Vancouver-based indie imprint has announced that Louise Burns's Mellow Drama will drop on April 5.

This is the debut solo album from Burns, who is a former member of the Juno-nominated pop rock outfit Lillix, as well as the Blue Violets. As for what inspired her latest musical direction, Burns said in a press release, "I'm really obsessed with '50s and '60s pop music and rock'n'roll -- that's my favourite thing in the world."

The LP contains 12 tracks, of which 11 are originals, plus a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Gypsy Wife," with the whole thing promising to be "shoegazey" and "Mazzy Star-esque."

You can get an advance taste by downloading the single "What Do You Wanna Do" here. At the bottom of the page, you can also see a star-dazzled music video for the track.

The album cover is above and the tracklist is below. Vancouver fans can catch Burns live on February 1 at the Railway Club, where she will be joined by her backing band the Moonshiners.

Mellow Drama:

1. "Chinook (Sing from the Valley of Doubt)"
2. "Burning Bridges"
3. "Teen Angst"
4. "What Do You Wanna Do"
5. "Drop Names Not Bombs"
6. "Island Vacation"
7. "Sea Song"
8. "Clean"
9. "Paper Cup"
10. "Street Walking"
11. "Gypsy's Wife"
12. "Ocean Grey"

By Brock Thiessen


- Exclaim!


On 2011’s The Midnight Mass, Vancouver singer-songwriter Louise Burns wove strands of indie rock, country, and goth-pop into a dark tangle of melancholy that one critic described as music for “young mopes.” “It wasn’t written for him, but I thought ‘young mopes’ was perfect,” Burns says. “That’s me and my friends, old souls with teenage hearts.”
Young Mopes is the title of her new album, which arrives in February. But if anything, Young Mopes is less mopey and more lively than ever. Featuring a new backing band including Ladyhawk’s Darcy Hancock and Ryan Peters and produced by Burns herself, the album’s 10 songs thread the needle between darkness and light, evoking the hazy twilight world between waking and dreaming. That atmosphere is heavily apparent on lead single “Storms” and its accompanying music video. Directed by Exquisite Corps, the filmmaking team of Justin Gradin and Ben Jacques, the clip is a dream-world odyssey that shows Burns traversing a dollhouse full of floating sharks and man-eating armchairs.

If all that doesn’t pique your interest, Burns also sings on one track on the upcoming Japandroids album, so she’s officially Brian King- and Dave Prowse-approved. Watch the “Storms” video below. - Stereogum


Louise Burns last released a full-length record with 2013's The Midnight Mass, but that will change early next year. The Vancouver-based singer-songwriter will deliver the follow-up with a new album titled Young Mopes, due out on February 3 through Light Organ Records.

The record takes its name from a description out of a Globe and Mail review, but despite the title, the new music isn't all doom and gloom. Backed by Ladyhawk's Darcy Hancock and Ryan Peters, the nine new Burns-produced songs are as lively as anything else she's released.

A fresh sampling of the new stuff arrives with a video for "Storms." It follows the previously shared single "Pharaoh" and has been paired with visuals courtesy of Justin Gradin and Ben Jacques' filmmaking project Beautiful Corps.

Check out the full tracklisting for the upcoming album below, then hit play to watch the brand new video for "Storm" [via Stereogum].

Young Mopes:

1. Who's The Madman
2. Pharaoh
3. Storms
4. Moonlight Shadow
5. Hysteria
6. Dig
7. Strange Weather
8. Young Mopes
9. Downtown Lights (Blue Nile Cover) - Exclaim!


Discography

Pharaoh, 2016 (7" Vinyl, digital)

Midnight Mass, 2013 ( 12" vinyl, digital and CD)

Mellow Drama (12" vinyl, digital and CD) 

Release date: April 5th, 2011

Singles from "Mellow Drama"
- What Do You Wanna Do
- Drop Names Not Bombs

Singles (7" vinyl and digital)
Release date: Feb 1st, 2011

Photos

Bio


  • Louise Burns is already a 20-year vet of the music industry and she's barely 30 years old. She witnessed the heady last gasp of the majors in the late-’90s (Burns co-founded pop band Lillix at 11 and signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records at 15), and was front and centre for Canada’s indie renaissance. Now Burns is an in-demand collaborator (Gold & Youth), high-profile hired gun, an acclaimed solo musician (2011’s Mellow Drama, long listed for the Polaris Music Prize, and 2013’s Midnight Mass), and multi-instrumentalist whose celebrated songwriting is equal parts grit and gloss. She's toured extensively, playing throughout Japan, China, Europe, and North America and is an engaged, dynamic artist, whose interests cannot be contained by hours in a day. Burns is also a freelance contributor and host on CBC’s Radio 3, and a journalist whose writing appears on CBC Music, the Talkhouse and Westender. Burns is currently working on her third solo album with co-producer Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, Black Mountain) and Damian Taylor (Bjork, Braids, Austra) due out in early 2016.

    - Andrea Warner
  • Awards

Band Members