Novillero
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Novillero

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock

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All Music Guide: 4 & 1/2 stars out of 5

Novillero frontman Rod Slaughter moves past the mod minimalism of his previous band Duotang with Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives. Embracing power pop harmonies, sunshine pop horn arrangements, and Krautrock-inspired synths, this near-perfect debut is most firmly aligned with fellow Vancouver pop dynamos and Mint labelmates the New Pornographers, sharing their knack for whip-smart melodies and ingratiating choruses. Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives is a classicist pop record in every sense, recalling the halcyon days of AM radio -- virtually every song sounds like a forgotten hit from 1975, extolling virtues like buoyancy and grandeur as though they never went out of style.

- All Music Guide


Let me go ahead and create an abridged list of Novillero's influences before I get too far into the review. It'll save us time later. They sound like/are similar to/have been influenced by the following: XTC, Elvis Costello, Chicago, Teenage Fanclub, Billy Joel, the Beatles, the Who, etc. In an Arcade Fire Funeral-tinged moved, they even end their album with a female lead singer after 11 tracks of guy vocals.

So Aim Right for the Holes in their Lives must be horrendous, right? Billy Joel!? Chicago!!? Piano!!!? Horns!!!!? Sometimes bratty vocals!!!!!?
Actually the elements come together quite nicely. Maybe it's the socialism and health care system coupled with the frigid temperatures, but the Canadians (these guys and the New Pornographers are all the evidence you need, really) have been churning out the most refreshing pop music in the world.

Pop-rock music rarely weaves its namesake styles effectively. Pop music overrides rock music most often and turns it into a wimpy mush. Or bands are too concerned with rocking out and they forget the importance of hooks and wit. Novillero don't have that problem. The hooks are plentiful, the arrangements are varied, the melodies are memorable and immediate, and the horns are tastefully implemented.

Quite refreshingly, the lyrics are excellent. "Laissez-Faire System" could be the first song to make me nostalgic for Mr. McCann's high school Free Enterprise course and his Adam Smith lectures. Lead singer Rod Slaughter laments: "The laissez-faire system is not quite working out". Later he wittily poses no solution: "My ass is quite used to sitting on fences". In "The Hypothesist", the namesake character is misunderstood: "People would often call him paranoid / He'd say 'cautious is a better word'". Grant Johnson, who sings and wrote the lyrics for two tracks, is equally capable of throwing together some excellent phrases: "Knocked a pane of glass out of my front window / That broke against the ground two stories below / To return to sand again". Most rock stars probably don't even know that glass is made of sand. Aim closes with a duet in which Slaughter and guest female vocalist Keri McTighe discuss their broken relationship in terms of a car ride: "Restless in mind, static in form / Creating things we can hold onto / Despite some infractions I might have made / I care for you". Tragically, they don't want the ride to end because they know they'll be forced to confront their problem. Instead, they decide they should pull over so they never have to return home. It feels as if I'm analyzing a short story, and that's a compliment.

Even more refreshing than good lyrics is the fact that the music is good, too. The album opens with a quartet of nearly flawless songs showcasing the band's wide variety of sound-alikes. Aim moves from jittery rock-pop, to piano-based pop-rock (complete with a hushed chorus you can snap along to), to AM radio power pop, to straight ahead pop music with Chicago-style horn fills. The reason that the opening tracks are so amazing is the variety among the songs, in addition to the variety of the sounds within them. They are all pop-based, but the instrumentation within the songs' sections keeps the tunes continually surprising.

Outside of the first four songs, the title track is the most oddly appealing. When compared to the bulk of the album, it's less straightforward and less instantaneous, but its oddness is part of the allure. "Aptitude" is simply another excellent song. "Let's Pull Over Here" is the biggest departure for the band sonically, and one of its most beautiful songs. McTighe allows her gentle voice to carry the pain and heartbreak of the lyrics as the melody peaks softly with a confession/revelation.

With so many highlights, it remains difficult to criticize the more mediocre tracks because they would sound amazing on other releases when sandwiched between other mediocre tracks. An album rich with perfection can have a minor slip-up every once and a while. In this case, I suppose I can excuse those instances. - Pop Matters


I recognize that things change, Novillero lead singer states in their title track, A Little Tradition. And, the listener too recognizes that things change, or at least the style of music changes on this cd with every song. One minute I am convinced I am listen to Ben Folds or Ben Kweller, and then I swear it is the Beatles. Even at times, I think I am listening to Weezer or Aqualung. Norvillero’s versatility shines through making their sound A Little Tradition of their own.

Their flexibility in music makes it hard to decide on the type of music they intend to perform. Based in Winnipeg, Canada, Novillero is made up of Rod Slaughter (keyboards and vocals), Sean Stevens (guitars), Dave Berthiaume (drums and vocals), Rejean Ricard (bass) and Jack Jonasson (percussion, vocals, and synths).

Heavily influences by the Beatles and other UK bands, they explore the modern pop with intense instrumental use. Weighing in the talent of the percussionist, it’s easy to find the tambourine in the mist of most interludes. Many of the songs are pitched with off keys, and the minor notes make all the difference. Along with their strong harmonies, and variety of instruments, Norvillero’s has enough energy in their pop to make you want to bob your head and dance around, yet many other times, instinct says to prop up your feet, lay back your head into your hands and just listen.

My personal favorite is track 5, Plastic Flag. A little more mellow and relaxing to listen to at the end of the day, and I find myself nodding in agreement. “I know it’s hard, I barely know what’s right.” Other tracks that stood out most to me included Shadowboxing and Lost Possibilities. The variety of Novillero astounds me.

A Little Tradition gives 13 tracks, showing the strength and creativity of the five guys who give their all to this band. On numbers like Camaraderie or Bust, lyrics cry, “Make the most of frazzled times, the one who turn around and find one day their all boxed up…” It’s clear that Norvillo is making the most of frazzled times. Signed under the Mint Label, Novillero released their third album, A Little Tradition in September of 2008. Novillero’s first album, The Bridleford Follies, in 1999 when the band was first formed. They also released Aim Right for the Holes in their Lives in 2005. They are familiar with releasing music and touring. They are currently touring around Canada but are getting ready to kick of their tour to Germany in November.

Novillero’s, A Little Tradition, has the skills to break traditions and find their way to the charts. A Little Tradition is a peppy, poppy, punchy and punky sound that passes the test. In their own words from Life in Parentheses, “it feels like a lifetime of sitting waiting on the side line, it’s time to knock the brackets down and turn my life around,” which is what Novillero has done. It is their time to show the music industry what they are made of and top the charts.

- www.decentx.com


Novillero
Album Title: Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives
Release Date: May 3, 2005
Rating:
Genre: Rock

There seems to be this unspoken idea (maybe just in this scribe's head) that Novillero are a band that will be able to salvage Canadian rock'n'roll. Not indie rock'n'roll – the Arcade Fire have already done that – but the rock that Nickelback and Simple Plan have successful stuck a knife into. Full of swagger and fun, Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither does Novillero. “Laissez Faire System” opens the album, all vocal dubbing and oooooo-ing, and it just takes off from there. Most of Aim Right’s swagger can be directly attributed to Rob Slaughter’s vocals, keeping the album hyperactively swaying through all 12-tracks, but no more so than on “Abbey”.

Look beneath Slaughter’s voice and there’s bouncing piano adding its own colour, with a few trumpets thrown in for good measure. Comparisons to Hot Hot Heat put Novillero in the right vein, but the Winnipeg quartet should in no way be pigeonholed into the Gang of Four-revivalist so popular at the mo’. So go on with your rescue mission Novillero! Give Canadian rock its good name back. - Soul Shine Magazine


NOVILLERO
Aim Right For The
Holes In Their Lives
Mint Records

These Winnipeg mod-
lovers crank up the retro
pop hooks on their unstop-
pably jubilant second disc.

Seriously, anyone who resists this huge sounding rock 'n' roll party of a record probably has difficulty spelling
"fun." The quartet's brass-happy,jaunty piano-backed
gems are imbued with Motown romps ("The Hypothesist") and enough ooh-ooh harmonies for cease- less California dreamin' - it's almost questionable whether
these guys are really from the 'Peg.

And just when it seems as if they've exhausted their happiness, they throw in a righteously romantic classical piano solo over a crash
of guitars and cymbals (on"Insomnia") like a bunch of
power-pop Axl Roses.

Brian Wong
ChartMagazine - Chart Magazine


NOVILLERO
Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives
Mint Records

STYLE: In Mod we trust.

SOUNDS LIKE: Ben Folds before he wanted to be Joe Jackson — which is to say, Joe before he wanted to be
Gershwin.

POINTED COMMENTS: Former Duotang bassist Rod Slaughter and co. move from local label endearing to Vancouver indie Mint for this sophomore full-length.

Thankfully, the dozen-track Aim for the Holes in Their
Lives remains firmly rooted in the hooky, soulful Mod- pop that Slaughter has been dishing out for years. Knife- edged guitars, dancable beats, punchy horns and percolat-
ing keyboards are layered together into a colourful foundation for Slaughter’s arch lyrics and vocals straight from Top of the Pops. Which, come to think, is pretty much
where this irresistible disc sits on our hit parade.

STANDOUT: The Beatlesque Abbey is pretty hard to
top — but the insistently bouncy Hypothesist just might
do it.

ON THE WEB: www.novillero.net
4 stars
Winnipeg Sun - Winnipeg Sun



These power-pop- pin’ ’Peggers
have a history, or at least one album years ago on Endearing that was skewed more to the orch-pop
end of things. Distilled down to a base of bass, drums, guitar and—in an almost focal role—keys,
they haven’t shaken the rich fullness of that first disc. They’re only bringing it on with greater propulsion. Primary songwriter Rod Slaughter, who earned his purple heart with minimalist mod pairing Duotang, carries over his knack for
unshakable hooks and erudite, incisive lyrics. While recalling the finer moments in mod rock and Mersey beat, Novillero’s is very much of the
now. 8.5/10
Rupert Bottenberg
Montreal Mirror - Montreal Mirror


Novillero
November 2003
Pop Montreal Review

This cross-pollinating Winnipeg group has been pared down to a kick-ass quartet with strong new
material and shifty time signatures that never lose their pop core; it says something when their Small Faces cover is the weakest song. Ex-Duotang bassist/keyboardist Rod
Slaughter is electrifying, especially when he’s simultaneously hammering his keyboard and banging a tambourine off his head.

MB
Exclaim! - Exclaim! Magazine


Novillero have earned a reputation as Canada's leading devotees of U.K. mod-era pop, but their third album, A Little Tradition, demonstrates that they've been expanding their musical boundaries a bit. While A Little Tradition offers a hefty serving of smart, hooky pop just as you'd expect, there's a more eclectic approach at work here; along with keyed-up rockers like "Lost Possibilities" and "Stand Up for Our Side," and R&B-influenced numbers such as "Paco Rabanne" and the title track, Novillero have added some witty and tuneful meditations on contemporary culture (most notably "The Printed Word (Sucks for Inflection)" and "Prank Note") that demonstrate polish and imagination, and the moody "Far from Too Far" reveals a new willingness to downshift for effect. Keri Latimer's guest vocals on "Daydreams and Distractions" buffs off the hard edges of the music without blunting the punch, and the production by Cam Loeppky and Shawn Dealey is crisp and powerful, letting this band sound as sharp and clever as they deserve. Novillero have always been a pop group with the insistent attack of a crack rock band, and that hasn't changed on A Little Tradition; what has changed is the band's eager embrace of a wider range of the pop spectrum, and a welcome growth as songwriters that has given them the sort of material that demonstrates just how talented a band they are. Tuneful, intelligent, and well-crafted, A Little Tradition is Novillero's most impressive achievement to date. - All Music Guide


Winnipeg’s Rod Slaughter first started showing signs of brilliance back in his bass-and-drum two-piece Duotang. While that band made about as much of their dual-instrument format as anyone could, they quickly discovered the limitations of their limitations. Novillerro, Slaughter’s newest outfit, has put no such restriction on their sound, and the difference is immediately obvious. Keyboards, horns and other flourishes flesh out the arrangements, giving a full complement of textures to the band’s cleverly crafted rock.

On A Little Tradition, the band’s third full-length album and second on Mint Records, Novillero downplays their soul and Motown influences, opting for a more straightforward pop-rock influence. Traces of Mod rock and psychedelia do creep through — the mariachi instrumental “Paco Rabame” recalls Love, while the lovely dream-pop of “Daydreams & Distractions” with guest vocalist Keri Latimer from Nathan could be a female take on The Zombies. It’s more muscular than most Mint outfits manage, adding just enough garage edge to keep things from getting too polished. The breadth of arrangements and the sharpness of the songwriting show that restraint is far from the only approach — sometimes a little indulgence is in order.

- FFWD Weekly, Calgary


Discography

A Little Tradition - 2008 (Mint)

Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives - 2005 (Mint)

International Pop Exchange EP Novillero/Spearmint - 2004 (endearing)

Brindleford Follies - 2001 (endearing)

Photos

Bio

You got to be a certain kind of hardcore to purposely live in Winnipeg. The city has been the subject of a lot of friendly ribbing regarding its two "seasons"... life-threateningly freezing and biblically mosquito-ridden. Pushovers, cry-babies and the constitutionally challenged flee the town in droves. But some... the tough, the uncompromising, the unsettlingly visionary... they stay, and by staying they discover, like the Arctic explorers of yore, that adversity breeds strength, and that survival requires teamwork (or cannibalism). Novillero is comprised of just such people.

It all started as a lark, back in 1999, when former members Duotang and Transonic, as well as of some of Winnipeg's other most notorious bands, got together for a harmless little jam session. Some beer was consumed, some songs were sung and the next thing you know, Novillero was formed. Comprised of Rod Slaughter (keyboards and vocals), Sean Stevens (guitars), Dave Berthiaume (drums and vocals) Grant Johnson (bass and vocals) and Jack Jonasson (tambourine, percussion, vocals, synths), Novillero are a tight and versatile keyboard driven Mod-Pop combo whom you wouldn't mind bringing home to Mom… provided she has liberal ideas about dancing on the furniture and breaking the family heirlooms. Musically, they are a veritable paisley shirt of eclectic influences; some High Numbers era Who, some Forever Changes era Love, some soul of 70`s TSOP… all delivered with the ferocity and garage-on-fire style of the Small Faces.

Since their formation, Novillero has received more than their fair share of critical acclaim, both for their well-crafted, tuneful and fun full length albums; (Brindleford Follies and Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives), and for their energetic and engaging live performances. They have shared the stage with such acts as The New Pornographers and The Weakerthans… they knocked a significant number of people dead at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Jazz Festival and Brighton, UK’s The Great Escape… they were declared the Buzz Band of the 2006 NXNE Music Conference… and their TV credits include appearances on Monk and Eureka.

Sept 9th 2008 sees the release of Novillero's 3rd full length album (the 2nd on Mint Records), A Little Tradition. Recorded by Cam Loeppky and Shawn Dealey at Prairie Recording Co. Studios, A Little Tradition has Novillero expanding the borders of their dominion. While still having a strong Mod-Pop backbone, they have also continued their forays into lush Pop and have included, on this disk, several songs featuring the powerful, yet winsome, vocals of Nathan’s Keri Latimer. A Little Tradition is a Swiss army knife of an album, including tools for dancing, drinking, cogitating and just plain hanging out. Perfect for both a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon.

So, say what you will about Winnipeg. Winnipeggers can take it… they have Novillero and you don’t.