pamela under water
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pamela under water

Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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"Meet Ms. McInnis"

After more than a decade in bands, the Halifax singer-songwriter busts out on her own with a debut album. Johnston Farrow dives into Pamela and the Underwater.

After years of playing behind charismatic front men, Pamela McInnis decided it was her turn to take the lead. A talented songwriter in her own right, she raised the money to record an album and left her regular gigs in two established local bands behind.

The shadowy bass player in well-known Halifax acts the Museum Pieces and the Middleclass Pushovers, McInnis simply couldn't resist a chance in the spotlight. The shy musician admits the role is a little daunting.

"It's harder for me because I'm still getting used to knowing what it is I'm supposed to be doing," McInnis says over coffee at the Paper Chase. "With the other bands, things were always kind of done. Now I'm learning—I'm a student."

It's been a long time coming for Pamela and the Underwater, the debut release from a 12-year veteran of the Halifax rock scene. McInnis began playing music at a young age, dabbling in piano, trumpet and guitar as well as being a devoted fan of David Bowie, the Cure and classic '70s rock.

"It was always something I knew that I wanted to do," she says. "When I was a kid, before I even knew how to write words, I used to go into the bathroom and I used to write these songs that were just squiggles because my mom said that's where the best acoustics were."

McInnis originally performed as the solo act Lavender before she met the future Middleclass Pushovers in 2000. Soon after, through fellow Pushover Jonathan Andrews, she met singer-songwriter Tyler Messick of the Museum Pieces and quickly became a fan of his Grain Sales of 1840 release.

"I listened to his CD and I thought it was amazing," McInnis says. "I listened to it over and over on my headphones and I caught a couple of his shows. I was like, 'Dude, I know all the words to your songs. If you ever need anybody [to perform with you], I'll totally do it for you.' He took me up on it and it went from there."

Writing and recording with two bands left little time for her own artistic pursuits, although she continued to work on her songs whenever she could. Eventually, the desire to head a project became too strong to ignore. McInnis applied for a grant from the Nova Scotia Department of Culture and Tourism and headed to Audio Empire studios to record Pamela and the Underwater with Pierce Rogers and Michaela Sloan in March 2005.

"I've been solo for a long time, even when I was with other bands," she says. "The feeling of being able to build upon something that starts off as a solo thing is wonderful. I just wanted to be able to grow the songs into what I could hear in my head. By putting them on an album, it's putting them to bed."

Although she took a leave of absence from her previous groups, some ties remain. McInnis's album features several of her former bandmates as well as guest spots with musicians she's shared bills with. Messick joins her on two duets, Andrews plays guitar on a few tracks, Stephen Hughes appears on bass, drums and keyboards and heavy meadows drummer Benn Ross contributes. The disc also includes her take on several Museum Pieces and Middleclass Pushovers songs.

Citing "genre ADD," McInnis veers her layered melodies from dark gypsy-inspired tales (probable first single "Change Me") to waltz-time numbers (Messick duet "Dance with Me") and onto mid-tempo rockers ("Softer Sense"). Her years of experience come through with an accomplished set of songs that recall Stevie Nicks, early-'90s Sarah McLachlan and hints of Kate Bush.

"I just want to spread the word and introduce myself," McInnis says. "I've been playing in this town for years, just lurking below the surface. I'm kind of a shy person by nature, so I'm not really out there a lot, but I've definitely been involved for a long time. It's my time to be like, 'OK, let's do this now. I'm here.'"
by johnston farrow - the coast, thursday june 15

"halifax pop explosion"

Reviews: Pamela Under Water, Li'l Andy, The Divorcees

Submitted by Peter Gorman on 10.19.07 at 2:54pm.

Although I’m new to this particular writerly position,
I’m told that I’ve been designated the go-to-guy for,
uhhh, country. Yep. I’m not quite sure how this happened.
I imagine it may have been my not-entirely-successful
attempt at listing a handful of bands or musicians that
I like in an email to Dave Missio — in which I ultimately
threw up my hands, defeated, and brought to mind the
ever-articulate and supremely-talented (that’s inevitably
an understatement) Garth Hudson: “It’s all country music
— just depends which country you’re talkin’ about.” Alack.
What have I gotten myself into?

I really shouldn’t complain. I do, in fact, love a great
deal of music that would without a doubt fall under the
genre of country. It’s just that I cringe at some potential
assignments that I could foresee being thrown my way…

All these things aside, it was with little hesitation that
I made it to the Seahorse on Thursday for a night that looked
to be filled with, well, country. The first act of the night,
though — Pamela Under Water — was actually not at all of the
twangy variety. Seeing the heart-shaped bass sitting onstage,
this name that I’d heard about town of late finally clicked
— Pamela: previously of the Museum Pieces (now a positively
blistering two-piece). Got it. Whereas with that band she was
rarely the centre of attention, seeming content to generally
sort of fade into the wallpaper — aside from, of course, the
part where she steps up to the mic and sings “Jolene” — it was
refreshing to see her perform on her own.

Most refreshing was, undoubtedly, her voice. What. A. Voice.
Virtuosic, versatile… shit, what’s a word for smokey that starts
with V? Part PJ Harvey, part Ella Fitzgerald, she was strikingly
in control of her voice, and it’s surely her most valuable asset.
Some of the later songs did not quite pack the same punch as the
first few numbers, and once or twice the low-end overwhelmed
(she was looping bass melodies and vocal harmonies overtop of
prerecorded drums), her songs (once they got off the ground,
after a minute or so of laying the loops down) were consistently


Submitted by Trevs on 10.20.07 at 7:57pm.
i liked the museum pieces a lot better avec pamela. - music hpx, by Peter Gorman


middleclass pushovers-2003
museum pieces-philadelphia-2005
pamela & the underwater 2006
pamela under water....last night's lipstick -tba



pamela has been lurking just below the surface in halifax since 1995. she has been in several local halifax bands including the museum pieces and the middleclass pushovers. her love of music has been growing since she was a baby. now she has struck out on her own, having recorded pamela & the underwater in 2005-2006, she is currently recording her second album pamela under water...last nigt's lipstick, it should be releasesd in 2007. her influences varie as much as her own music does, from david bowie to radio head to the cure to portishead to the strokes to tom petty to leonard cohen, to robbie robertson. and the list goes on and on. known for her deep gutteral vocals, she is excited in new prospects in recording and layering sound into some sort of pop rock wading pool.