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Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Festival Review"

“Ottawa’s Poorfolk is a four-man time travel band that takes us back, waaaay back, to the indie rock of the late '90s when dueling, noodling guitars and choruses sung in unison held sway. Recalling Pinback at their best, it’s a gentle, rolling ride.” - Pop Montreal

"Our Burning Street Album Review"

Fire Drills Review

Poorfolk continues the onslaught of music we have recently received from Canada that has made us just adore the land up north. The groups sophomore record Our Burning Street has superb hooks, charming backing vocals and an early eighties college record vibe to it that we can't get out of our head. Poorfolk have already had exposure on the indie scene by sharing the stage with The Dears, Of Montreal and Matt Pond PA, while still remaining relatively unknown outside the Canadain border but based on the strength of Our Burning Street and given the right airplay (hello WOXY), Poorfolk could easily earn a larger audience!

- thefirenotefiredrills.blogspot.com

"Our Burning Street Album Review"

"Our Burning Street suggests that Poorfolk have it in them to conquer rock radio across North America."

- Iheartmusic.net

"Poorfolk - NXNE Showcase Review 2007"

Toronto ON June 7 to 9
By Stuart Green

Having shed most of the baggage of his former band the Marato, vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Pearce redefines his acoustic solo project into a quartet that rocks harder live than on record. The gentle acoustic underpinnings of the self-titled CD are replaced with dual electric guitar chatter that raises the volume and the attitude. Sounding like a bastard offspring of Rheostatics and the Futureheads, Poorfolk deliver an interesting and brave interpretation of pop music with rich vocal harmonies sprinkled on top. Pleasant and inventive.
- Exclaim!

"Poorfolk's Whale-to-wail tale"

Fateema Sayani , Citizen Special
Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's subtitled the Making Music With Your Friends Tour because that's what White Whale Records is all about. The three-year-old Vancouver label doesn't have a unifying sound or location. While six acts fit under the larger umbrella of bookish, literate rock -- including Ottawa's densely wordy guitar-rockers Poorfolk -- the label's newest acquisition, Culture Reject, is a left-field loop-based solo act out of Toronto.

The showcase stops in Ottawa tomorrow, midway through a month-long tour with dates in five provinces.

Ryder Havdale, who plays in the band Mohawk Lodge, started the label while living in Montreal. That's where he met Poorfolk's Jonathan Pearce. Poorfolk (named after the Dostoyevsky story) was then a solo outlet for Pearce's observations and sense of word play ("I can never make out, poetics of the new crowd"). Havdale said he was starting a label, and asked Pearce to be on it. From those simple beginnings, White Whale was born. Poorfolk released a self-titled album on the label in 2004. Recorded at Little Bullhorn studios, the album is full of cathartic, daydreamy guitar rock.

Fast track to 2007 and Pearce, who was studying journalism at Concordia, transplanted to Ottawa, where he works as a CPAC producer. His solo act has swelled to a four piece, which includes David Clark (who played in '90s scene stealers the Mystic Zealots) on guitar, Matt Godin on drums and Scott Freeman on bass. (Freeman missed the Citizen's photo shoot. He's on tour with Mohawk Lodge).

The sound has changed with the band's input. Sensitive-dude ramblings have given way to louder rock, says Pearce. "The acoustic guitar just wasn't cutting it anymore. I switched to electric and it's totally different. It's not intimate. It's very in your face. We play really loud and get really sweaty."

Label guy Havdale says the new Poorfolk sound is "like Superchunk meets Bruce Springsteen." For his part, Pearce says, "the lyrics are still wussy, but the songs are way better now. When I was doing this solo, the songs weren't as developed, but sometimes when things take four times as long in the studio, I just want to go back to the Stalin days," he laughs, and in echoes of the White Whale ethos, says, "In the end it's better making music with your friends."

- Ottawa Citizen

"Wandering minstrels return"


Brunch is over, our conversation exhausted. The members of local band Poorfolk are working out the bill and preparing to venture out into the cold on this sunny December Sunday.

But before they do, vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Pearce has a quick question for our intrepid reporter.

"So," he says with a grin, "who are you voting for?"

It's a question calculated to come across as simultaneously welcoming and confrontational.

And it can be adapted to serve a third purpose: That of an introduction to the world of Poorfolk, a band whose intelligent, finely crafted songs can both challenge and soothe the listener.

Songwriter Pearce's musical world is a pretty, melodic, decidedly post-rock one -- all complex time-signatures, stop-start arrangements and open tunings.

Tightly wound tension

Lyrically, meanwhile, the songs of Poorfolk's self-titled 2004 debut album immerse us in tightly wound tension -- we awaken in the cause of battle against despots and crave neutral ground, our leader defiantly asserting "I won't back down" even as he questions whether he is wasting our time.

But if march into battle we must, we can at least find peace in the acoustic-based beauty of our wandering Poorfolk minstrels.

So which side are Pearce, bassist Scott Freeman, guitarist Angus McLachlin and vocalist Savannah Baskin on? That's for the audience to decide.

During our hour together, it has become apparent only that the brunch-mates will support anyone in favour of providing more rehearsal spaces locally.

"You have to book months in advance," Pearce claims. "It took us three or four months just to find a place here."

"Kids in this town probably can't even form bands if they don't have a basement to play in," Freeman adds. "In Montreal, you can always get an hour somewhere."

And if rehearsal time is proportional to recognition, it's difficult to argue with Montreal's track record.

Though, one suspects, the recent influx of bands into the former home of the Expos may be putting that taken-for-granted reality to the test.

If so, it's no longer an issue for Poorfolk, a Montreal-based band that earlier this year upped stakes and took the commercially questionable initiative to move en masse to Capital City.

Well, not quite en masse. Drummer/bassist/guitarist David Maurakis, Pearce's sole bandmate at the time of the making of Poorfolk's album, chose to remain in Montreal, the better to devote more time to his band Animal Town.

The remaining relocated quartet subsequently added drummer Matt Godin to the lineup to complete the five-piece picture.

But lest the notion of leaving a musical hotbed sound absurd, it should be noted that each Poorfolk member is in fact an Ottawa native.

Montreal, place of individual members' post-secondary studies, was but a temporary stop on a path that led the band homeward.

The path to Poorfolk, meanwhile, began in the unlikely setting of South Korea, where Pearce taught for nine months following the demise of his former band, the popular math-rock quartet Marato. Writing songs on acoustic guitar, Pearce began to piece together a more folk-oriented project.

'A collaborative thing'

Those songs form the bulk of the Poorfolk album, an album Pearce and Maurakis recorded in Ottawa at Dave Draves' Little Bullhorn studio, with Jarrett Bartlett at the controls. After the album, came the band.

"The basic elements of the songs are there," Pearce says of the CD, "but it's becoming much more of a collaborative thing. We're more of a band now."

A band that anticipates touring and recording a second CD in 2006.

"We want to remind people that we're around," Pearce says of the band's show with the still-Montreal-based Gentlemen's Club Friday.

"We were a bit disorganized when we did the first album."

Thankfully, Pearce had a hidden agenda.
- Ottawa Sun

"The New Folk: Ex-Montrealers Poor Folk think of a stylish entrance"

By Chris Whibbs

Because of the shit hot Montreal scene that's hogging all the press and headphones everywhere, a raised eyebrow is bound to occur when someone decides to ditch that locale to find their new home in Ottawa.
Jonathan Pearce, lead singer-songwriter of Poor Folk, indeed made that move recently, but is lovingly optimistic about the change. "Ottawa definitely has some great things going on, but on a much smaller scale," he says. "In Montreal, it's really easy to find things like rehearsal spaces because there are lots of great old industrial spaces that are ideal. In Ottawa, rehearsal spaces and studios seem to be much more of a basement operation."

Pearce quickly adds, "It's just a bit of a change of pace, but I think it's just what we all needed."

Mixing an acoustic indie style with Pearce's strong voice, Poor Folk are closest in sound to an energetic Snailhouse, and, as seen at this year's NXNE festival in Toronto, they can tear it up live when need be.

Pearce is excited to go beyond this year's debut album. "I would say the [new] album is definitely a lot more acoustic and quiet. But, since I'm playing a lot more electric guitar these days, the live versions of the songs are definitely a lot more rock than they are on the album, but I think it suits the live show."

Looking to make their mark on Ottawa's live scene, Poor Folk, tongue firmly in cheek, will at least be easy to spot. "We have a new drummer, and in addition to being a great drummer he's also a body man, so we're hoping to get him to paint a girl with a crossbow onto the side of the van." Welcome, indeed.


- Ottawa Xpress

"Our Burning Street - Album Review"

Our Burning Street
White Whale

Long before the Wolf Parades and Arcade Fires of this country gave us a reason to brag, Canadian music went through an earlier period of homegrown excitement. In the ’90s, bands like Eric’s Trip and Wooden Stars made few inroads into the world’s consciousness, but they did give aspiring musicians inspiration to ply their trade north of the border. Poorfolk’s driving indie rock recalls an era when music files were exchanged via cherished, single-copy mixtapes and every three-minute masterpiece was seen as a potential flag-bearer for this country’s newly vibrant music scene. The songs on Our Burning Street have all the urgency and earnest appeal of a band with something to prove, but are delivered with the assuredness of old hands who have absorbed the lessons of the past and know how to deliver the goods. Michael Lawson, ­National Post

- National Post

"Incendiary Post-College Rock"

Incendiary post-college rock
MARY CHRISTA O'KEEFE / marychrista@vueweekly.com

The evocative phrase that tops the abstracted streetscape on the cover of Poorfolk’s sophomore record captures the tension and beauty in the music within. The fires of destruction and passion are both elucidated on the 10 tracks Our Burning Street contains, songs echoing the recent transitions still reverberating with songwriter Jonathan Pearce, and his reckonings with the intensely perilous world around us, locked in the throes of combat, the powerful, predatory and falsely pious wielding their natures, impulses and dogma to the dismay and misfortune of the rest of us.

“Our Burning Street was one of phrases we were throwing around, and the title of the painting on the cover,” Pearce explains. “It ties into the overarching themes in the album, which goes between the personal and what’s going on in world.”

The two are linked for Pearce more than for most. The self-confessed “political junkie” is based in Ottawa and works for CPAC, with a front-row seat for national and international politics. A song on the new record, “Killer On The Loose” was inspired by the Bush Administration.

Pearce recounts a close encounter: “Bush came to town and I covered it for CPAC. I was 25 feet away from the most hated and powerful man on earth—it was totally surreal! I felt like I should yell out, say something, but I would’ve lost my job and I love what I do.

“I resigned myself to the fact I sold myself out a little bit,” Pearce concludes regretfully.

Nuanced struggles of dawning maturity underscore the record, which examines the varying calamities of friends and a failing relationship that would’ve solidified the musician’s existence to a “white picket fence, nine-to-five life” and strangled Pearce’s dearest need—self-expression through music. It splays his worries and hopes against the grander landscape of international events, troubling his conscience and compounding his own questing for a righteous life. One song by bandmate Scott Freeman follows a similar trajectory, “a post-apocalyptic scenario, but he’s also singing about a woman,” chuckles Pearce.
These plagues, large and small, are pinned to densely woven rhythms and melodies, chugging bright guitars and Pearce’s aching vocals. It’s all drawn from college rock—the kind of smart, political and philosophical but also self-searching music coming out of university towns in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it’s grown up, more capable and broadly influenced, informed by a destabilized world, and stinging from the higher-stakes victories and defeats of adulthood. Poorfolk is the first volley of an updated genre: incendiary post-college rock. V

- Vue Weekly (Edmonton)

"Our Burning Street Album Review"

Wow. What happened to Poorfolk? Gone are the bedroom melodies that Jonathan Pearce crafted and in their place are the songs of a confident, supremely tight, Canadian bar band. Before you dismiss the notion as something beneath you, take one listen to the opening track - Biometric Test - before passing judgment. Shimmering guitar tones, crashing drums and a shout sing chorus explode from the speakers with an 80's DC edge and remarkably Pearce, Godin, Clark, and Freeman manage to keep the amps and energy up for the rest of Our Burning Street.

On the lead single - Demons - they channel the intimate start and big build that Joel Plaskett has mastered, but the quartet that now calls Ottawa home is more comfortable revisiting the unashamed guitar work of the 90's; avoiding the temptation to make the songs more complex than they need to be. There are no superfluous layers or 30 second wasted solos, as they seem happy to let Pearce's politically charged words grab the spotlight. Instead of talking loud and saying nothing, Pearce is able to get his message across without pontificating and the dynamite axe work just helps move the message along.

Poorfolk proves that sometimes a great hook, some backing vocals and drums fills are all that you need to make a record enjoyable. Tracks like Crashing Down the Stairs or the group sing-along Stupid as a Tank are certainly highlights, but the consistency of Our Burning Street is the real show stopper.

Unless you are above throwing on a record and being able to listen without waiting for hundreds of instruments or intricate electro currents to clutter up the mix, I'm not sure how you can find fault with Poorfolk - a name that might be funny when they start getting the radio play this record demands. - HeroHill.com


Poorfolk - Our Burning Street
Released September 16, 2008
White Whale Records

Poorfolk - self-titled full length
released Nov.30th '04
White Whale Records



'Cannot fall into the familiar.' Perhaps this phrase, like none other on Poorfolk’s upcoming sophomore release best describes the sonic trudge forward of this Montreal-cum-Ottawa quartet.

If Poorfolk's first album was a work of classic bedroom rock, these new recordings showcase a different sound entirely: singer-guitarist Jonathan Pearce’s personal/political lyrics are still recognizable, but are now bolstered by a muscular rhythm section, frantic, dueling guitar interplay and gang-chanting choruses. So...what happened to that guy-and-a-four-track bedroom rock from the first record? Where did this sweaty indie-rock rave-up come from?

For Poorfolk it happened back on familiar ground. While 5,000 bands were busy crowding into Montreal’s shit-hot hipster clubs, Jonathan Pearce and Scott Freeman got out and back to their sleepy hometown of Ottawa, a place they once swore over a steely-eyed blood-brother stare they’d never return.

Whereas the first Poorfolk offering was written solely by Pearce in a lo-fi four-track setting, these new songs came together on home turf with the addition of new members Matt Godin and Dave Clark. Perhaps it was the capital city’s underlying rigidity or maybe just a harkening back to the local indie scene that the members cut their teeth on – but the music on Poorfolk’s forthcoming release is the result.

The music has definite echoes of the nineties indie rock the guys grew up on (Superchunk, Eric's Trip) but increasingly the influences track back further...to the early eighties college scene and 'Reckoning'-era R.E.M. in particular.

Recorded at Ottawa’s Legendary Little Bullhorn Productions by Jarrett Bartlett and Dave Draves and mastered by Harris Newman in Montreal.

Poorfolk has shared the stage with: The Dears, Of Montreal, Aaron Booth, Gentlemen Reg, Matt Pond PA, Greg Macpherson, Plants and Animals among others.

A cross-country tour followed the release of the 'Our Burning Street' and band is looking to take the show on the road again in 2009.