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The best kept secret in music



July, 2003

nero has been tearing up the roads in Canada for a few years now, touring heavily from coast to coast. They have accumulated a dedicated fan base with their unique sound. This month they are descending into the U.S., with seven dates scheduled in July and early August for New York State and Massachusetts.

The nero set-up is deceptively minimalist. They are an instrumental trio consisting of guitar, bass and drums. Their sound is much bigger than the sum of its parts, however. Technical chops and versatility give this band the ability to move hyper-dimensionally through various idioms of hard rock, jazz, and electronica. The result is a synthesis of danceable styles that takes the listener's head on a journey while keeping the feet firmly in motion.

Founded five years ago, nero originally featured guitarist David Lauzon and drummer Jay McConnery along with a bass player and female vocalist. As they evolved, they shed the female lead and went purely instrumental, simultaneously beginning a denser, deeper improvisational sound. Last September they switched bass players, welcoming P.E.I. native Chris Buote. All three in the current lineup are self-taught, having taken only occasional lessons.

I met with McConnery and Lauzon on Queen St. in Toronto before their gig at North By NorthEast, a local rock festival with little or no jammy content ."I'm not sure exactly what we're doing at this festival," laughs Lauzon. "I was talking to another band, and they were saying, ‘yeah, this festival is a great way for bands to meet each other to do exchanges, you know, play in each other's markets, etc.' But we don't need to do that. Our fans know when and where we're going to play."

nero has benefited overwhelmingly from the Canadian Internet communities of and . The need for separate Canadian boards is a function of that pesky border, and the fact that most American jam bands don't tour on the north side of it. As a result Canadian heads have taken matters into their own hands, throwing their own prodigal sons and daughters up as jam icons. Bands like nero, Grand Theft Bus, and Hiway Freeker number among the bands whose news and tour dates proliferate on these boards. Participants generously share tour information, rides, and places to stay. The bands themselves are all overwhelmingly supportive of each other, often touring together and performing "seamless sets" in which the musicians switch up one by one. One such collaborative jam took place on June 22 between nero and the Montreal-based Freeker. It was an interesting mix, particularly because the two bands' songs have such divergent styles.

nero's compositional process typically begins with Lauzon working on his own, developing melodies and riffs with his guitar, occasionally with the assistance of computer technology. "I used to write with my electric guitar, and then play around with the sounds on my computer using software like SoundForge," he says. "However recently I've been carrying around an acoustic guitar instead and using that. It has brought a new dimension to the process, allowed me to see the music in a new way."

Lauzon then brings his inspirations to the band to build upon and arrange. "It's definitely a democratic process, with all three of us arranging and composing together," says McConnery.

Listening to nero you can hear how triangulation affects their sound. At many points two of them are engaging in a partnership while the third adds fills or texture. Lauzon and Buote will engage in an intricate call and response between guitar and bass, with McConnery laying down a foundation on the drums. Elsewhere, McConnery and Buote will build a groove with an insistent, irresistible funk while Lauzon either plays harmonic arpeggios or loops spacey, spare effects with his guitar.

The looping guitar effects contribute to the sense of a trance-like groove, locked down by Mc Connery's dexterous bounce and Buote's compelling bass lines. The ultimate effect is hypnotic and psychedelic, evoking electronica as often as driving, fast, blues-based rock.

"We grew up with that music," says Lauzon, referring to the raves and dance parties that proliferated in Canada throughout the nineties. "So it's not surprising that it shows up as an influence."

Lauzon's finger work is blisteringly fast. His improvisational talent and sustained tone are raw, pure and unassailable; Hendrix comes to mind at times. He has the onstage quality embodied by many jam guitarists, which is to say corduroy long-haired comfort; he seems as calm and as unaware of the audience as he would be in his own living room. As he jams, his facial expressions change in tandem with the flow of his guitar. In contrast, Buote has a kinetic quality. Short haired and visor-clad, he sways back and forth spastically as he thwoks his bass, with one foot occasionally leaving the ground as he leans back. He brings a visual, palpable energy to the mix. McConnery emanates a happy quality from behind the drums, often smiling and closing his eyes as he lays down a solid, rapid-fire beat.

Perfecting the exchange of signals between band members is an ongoing process. "We're getting better at it all the time," says McConnery. Is there any one member that sometimes doesn't hear, that might be a bit stubborn or clued out as to the other two's cues? "Dave [Lauzon]," says McConnery with a grin. "He goes out there sometimes and it's hard to bring him back."

It's the end of their hour-long, one o'clock set at the North by Northeast. It's been a good set but not long enough for nero to really stretch out. Lauzon addresses the audience, which is comprised of a hybrid of nero loyalists and black-clad, emo-loving festival attendees. "Thanks for letting us pretend we're part of the music industry for a night," he says sardonically, flashing a shy grin as the band begins to pack up.

nero is touring in Canada over the next couple of weeks, and then beginning a short U.S. tour in late July with Grand Theft Bus, which will include dates in Boston and New York City. Their tour dates can be found on their website . Look for an upcoming release from nero later this year.
- Kate Holloway


October/November 2002<p>
nero (Ottawa, Canada) is a trio that fuses jazz, improvisational rock and electronica. Since its inception four years ago it has steadily made a name for itself playing clubs and festivals throughout Canada (they've also played some U.S. gigs.) <p>David Lauzon is a guitarist with vision - he wrings some eerie and unusual tones from his guitar, sometimes flowing and melodic, other times sonic onslaughts, while the rhythm section lays down hypnotic, ever-changing grooves. The band has an interesting studio album available called is it morning, that's well worth investigating.<p> - Mick Skidmore


Club Abstract, Kitchener ON - 02/07/02<p>
Still recovering from this one, a Thursday night double bill at Club Abstract in Kitchener. Made the short trip down from Guelph and the trip was well worth it. The venue itself was a bit of a cavernous monstrosity (as cold as a coffin when we first got there) with weird sculptures and raised vignettes cropping out of the walls and ceiling. Got down early enough for the Llama King to set up his taping gear and get a few hauls in us. Both bands were still soundchecking so we were treated to an impromptu but incomplete Peaches en Regalia. Considering nero is a trio (guitar, drums, bass) Peaches was flawlessly executed. Apparently this came out in entirety the next day, their Friday night gig at the Comfort Zone, to glowing praise.<p>

After much milling about and the crowd trickling in (bringing with them much needed body warmth) nero took the stage. In their first set they opened with Holetown Charlie which I always think is 401 Theme because it sounds sort of like a good car trip on the 401. Although apparently this logic is flawed as first off the tune is Holetown and second 401 is named after the street address of the boys last residence in Ottawa. Regardless Holetown has a great feel to it and it was exhaustively mined for hidden nuggets. Holetown segued into Oregano Mice and again the psychedelia was in full tilt. Any concerns that this band is in any way limited by the fact that they are a trio without a vocalist had wholly subsided. As they veered in and out of the composure of their standards it was clear that this is the drawing of the three.<p>

After Mice I'm pretty certain the boys took a pause to introduce themselves and the next number Wata Bug, which was again flawlessly executed. After jamming this out to great length I believe the members of Jomomma began taking the stage (it may have been that they also played Flurmy in that first set). The addition of a second drummer/percussionist and keys highlighted this collaboration to a tee. Gradually all the members of both bands were on stage which made for a real treat. This would happen again and again as Jomomma and nero traded up throughout the night. Some visual and aural highlights included seeing nero and jomo's bassists laying it down nose to nose while the drummers launched into beats side by side.<p>

As the night progressed the bands must have switched up at least three or four times and far too much took place to relate back (the tapes of this one will have to be heard). When last I tried to keep track nero was going into their second set and all they had planned was their own Chocolate Monkey Machine and perhaps a Jeff Beck tune - I'm fairly certain that at least the former was played. Regardless while this night was really made magical by the range and sincerity of nero's playing the moments of brilliance often came when some or all of Jomomma were on the stage. As mentioned the dualing bass and drums was a high point - with the drums hitting just right and in sync like the Miami Vice soundtrack. Also of note was the interplay between Dave Lauzon (nero) and John Kent (Jomomma) on lead guitars, yet despite John's forcefulness it was always Dave who stood out and gelled the large ensemble like a lightning rod.<p>

In terms of special mentions jomo's Johnner Goldsmith was playing highly fused and energetic all night, likely due to the mutual excitement of playing with another drummer. Also Geoff Hilhorst's key work was superlative all night, an excellent counter point to the lead work of nero's Lauzon. I came away with a palpable sense of excitement at what nero is capable of as a trio but the real tale of the tape came in the car ride home as our car mates decompressed: "the music just came from him effortlessly from the first note...(with Llama chiming in) and for a short trip down from Kitchener that is damn worth it." Despite his baby face looks Dave Lauzon seems to have won everyone over. - Luke Bowden

"Ottawa Xpress"

The first track on nero's Volume I, Part I begins with a guitar riff that would have guitar god Jimi Hendrix grinning from ear to ear. Track two slips into a mellow groove reminiscent of Steely Dan. But fear not, because while nero is heavily influenced by heroes of the past, this is in no way a classic rock act.<p>

"We are basically a jam band that gets together and plays all the time, and because of this everything we hear and like gets thrown into the mix," explains guitarist Dave Lauzon. "So our music ranges from Pink Floyd to Frank Zappa via hillbilly and electronic music like Orbital and The Chemical Brothers.<p>

While operating as a trio, nero uses a synthesizer to help flesh out the band's wildly diverse interests. Yet, true to its goal of being a strictly live sounding band, the synthesizer acts as a sampler to reconfigure the sounds coming from the players themselves. - unknown

"Short Press Quotes"

"This is one of those bands that should be on everyone's must see list..."<p>
-Revolving Door<p>

"In short, nero's debut effort (‘is it morning?') is one of the most auspicious works to emerge from a local studio. Also, anybody who has seen them will instantly realize these three kids have the potential to hit the top echelon of the music business."<p>
-Ottawa Xpress<p>

"nero are like nothing you've heard or felt and guarantee a unique musical landscape to navigate."<p>
-The Echo<p>

"When one goes to a nero show they are not only guaranteed an incredible live music experience that lasts well over two hours, but also a date with the dance floor...<p>
-Revolving Door<p>

"nero's neo-psychedelic sound is an energetic fusion of diverse styles and daring improvisation."<p><p>

"...if you haven't yet seen nero, do yourself a big favour and check them out!!!"<p><p>

"Easily the hardest-working band in the city, if not the country."<p>
-Chart Attack<p>

"Technical chops and versatility give this band the ability to move
hyper-dimensionally through various idioms of hard rock, jazz, and electronica. The result is a synthesis of danceable styles that takes the listener's head on a journey while keeping the feet firmly in motion...The ultimate effect is hypnotic and psychedelic, evoking electronica as often as
driving, fast, blues-based rock."<p><p>

- various

"Revolving Door"

April 26th, 2003
nero : Tequila Lounge - Toronto, ON<p>

This was a great weekend for jam music in Toronto. Not only did NLE give us The Jimmy Swift Band on Friday night at the El Mocambo, but also Ottawa's finest, nero, were penciled in on a balmy Saturday night to give Canada's largest city two sets of their instrumental wizardry for the first time since Christmas. nero is an interesting band. Relying on instrumentation to strike a chord with their listeners, the band cleanly renders off crisp musical transitions, while coupling them with over-powering climaxes and a few stage antics to top it all off. Along with that, they get better every time I see them, and this night was no different.<p>

Taking the stage just after 11PM, the trio ripped through a peak-and-valley filled Whispy Mountain Wonder, a entrancing new original that has yet to be named and Darius, the semi-new tune that is quickly becoming the hardcore contingent's favourite. Led by PEIPunk's hypnotic bass line and the steady drumming of Jay McConnery, guitarist Dave Lauzon creates a progressive rock feel that uses the funky bass line as a guide to take the audience on a mind-altering trip through rock, trance, funk and progressive jazz-fusion. One of the best tunes the band has written to date, Darius is a perfect example of how the trio has grown since PEIPunk's addition on bass just eight months ago. Clocking in at around twenty minutes to end the first set, Darius' insanity foreshadowed the rest of the night as the party continued well into the wee hours of the morning.<p>

The second set was dominated by one of the best Lemondust's I have ever heard. The rock tune that encompasses Calypso rhythms was mind-blowing, clocking in at over twenty-five minutes and complete with a Centragnome sandwiched in between. Another new tune, the complex Downside Up also appeared in a set that was filled with energy that blew the windows off the oddly shaped Tequila Lounge.<p>

At around 2:15AM, I had to leave so as I was exiting, I circled the venue with sight and noticed one massive collective smile on the faces of the appreciative crowd at the Tequila Lounge. This is one of those bands that should be on everyone's must see list, because every day you go without hearing nero is another day without experiencing the fire and energy that bursts out the instruments of the three young lads from Ottawa. As these guys continue to invade cities all around Southern Ontario, it is only a matter of time before you may have to stand outside in the cold to see nero, because the venue will be too packed to get into.
- Shain Shapiro

"The Ottawa Citizen"

December 26, 2003


The tireless Ottawa trio has become a fixture of the jam scene both in Canada and the U.S.  The band has mastered the art of laying down groovy riffs and juggling seamless sets thanks to a punishing touring schedule that featured more than 160 shows and four cross-Canada tours in 2002.

This year's tour of duty was not quite so hectic.  Guitarist Dave Lauzon, drummer Jay McConnery and bass-player/P.E.I. native/relative newcomer to the band Chris Buote still toured extensively in 2003.  Their approach, however, was more focused.  They played Ontario.  They played the Maritimes.  They played the U.S.

In fact, they had some very memorable shows in the U.S., including performing in a New York City club to an audience that included Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and Dave Matthews, playing the legendary moe.down in Turin, New York, and then opening for moe. for a few shows during a recent tour.

"We had a lot more important shows this year, for sure," Lauzon says.

He says landing U.S. booking agent Tom Baggott was one of nero's key accomplishments in 2003.  Baggott worked with Phish in the early days, and has helped promote a chunky spread of American jambands, including the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9.

Lauzon says nero's appearance at moe.down was his "No. 1 favourite show" of 2003, although the New York gig (nero's third in the city) was also unforgettable.  "It was cool to meet Trey.  It turned into a crazy night," he says.  "The word got out on the street (that Anastasio was at the club) and it was like jam-packed...You'd think hippie Jesus was coming to town or something."

The band also played NorthbyNortheast, an annual music industry shmoozefest in Toronto.  The festival is a buzzing hive of bands performing showcases for record label talent scouts, and hyperactive networking: Basically, all the things that mean nothing to nero.

"I'm not exactly sure why we were there," Lauzon admits.  "We don't really need to network or exchange gigs with anybody because we're already touring constantly."

The gig helped to remind the musicians of what they want.  And what they don't want.  For nero, landing a U.S. booking agent was more important than a record deal.  "We're a working band," Lauzon says.  "Our thing is touring and playing to people who are into live music.  I realize that the other side of the industry is more tied into fashion, style or selling the band to a record company.  That was a lot of peoples' focus.  ‘Gotta get that record deal.  Gotta get that record deal.'  We don't even think about that."

Lauzon and nero know what they want.  As a result, this year they'll be spending New Year's Eve in their hometown within the cozy confines of Café Dekcuf, where they first started as a band (back when it was the Whipping Post) and where they can be assured of putting on a good party.

"We know that anyone who's there is going to be focused on the party and not there just ‘cause they have nothing else to do."

An excellent New Year's Eve philosophy. - Wes Smiderle


Zedonk - 2004
SoOn - 2003
is it morning? - 2001


Feeling a bit camera shy


nero is an instrumental trio that has spent several years developing their progressive, aggressive, riff-oriented improvising style, and many miles building their incredibly dedicated fanbase. In the hundreds of shows they have played since they started seriously touring two years ago, nero has won over thousands of fans throughout North America and played with a lot of great bands like moe., Jazz Mandolin Project, Particle, The Slip and others, and appeared at several festivals and showcases including moe.down IV, Evolve, NorthByNortheast, and many more.

Maintaining a rigorous touring schedule has brought the band a lot of media attention including a two-page feature in Relix (Feb/March 2004), a cover story in Revolving Door (Nov. 2003), New Groove Of The Month on (July 2003), and countless newspaper articles from coast to coast. This media attention coupled with a huge online presence and an audience actively involved in trading live shows has given nero a reputation as one of the bands to watch in 2004. With a new studio album slated for spring release and partnership with The Booking Agency (Tim Reynolds/Cyro Baptista), nero is a band that will seen and heard widely this year.