Pop Winds
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Pop Winds

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | INDIE

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | INDIE
Band Pop Avant-garde


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Pop Winds @ coconut grove

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pop Winds @ The Marquee Room Calgary

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Pop Winds @ Wunderbar

Edmontnon, Alberta, Canada

Edmontnon, Alberta, Canada

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



Like clockwork. With Pop Montreal comes the first of the season’s crap weather, and so the festival’s first full-on day was marred by a massive downpour. I was as happy as the expanding hole in my ceiling as I left the (relative) shelter of home to hit the Pop BBQ, which wasn’t much of a BBQ, having moved from the terrace of Pop’s HQ, Notman House, to Barfly, one of St. Laurent Blvd.’s tiniest, grubbiest dives. Barfly is ace, of course, but would I want to eat there?

The real attraction of the BBQ was of course the bands, namely local atmospheric dance-circle trio Technical Kidman, gritty-sweet Halifax rock ’n’ roll duo Cousins, and dead cool Brooklyn duo She Keeps Bees (The Kills meets The Duke Spirit?). Will Brooklyn ever quit? I suspect not.

Decisions, decisions. Recent Polaris Prize winners Karkwa played to what must’ve been a packed Club Soda, The Watson Twins and Laura Veirs laid down some estrogenius roots music in the sleek, intimate confines of O Patro Vys, and the Secret City/Upper Class Recordings showcase beckoned from Cabaret Juste Pour Rire. Instead, I sought out of a multi-sensory experience that suited the bleak weather.

Don’t judge Studio Off Inter-Arts by its incredibly awkward name, but by the content of its movie screens (and sound system). A series of short films played on multiple makeshift screens in the small gallery space, before the feature presentation: Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, directed by Benjamin Christensen in 1922. The film was the first of the Not So Silent Nights series, featuring cinematic oddities paired with live soundtracks, in this case by Montreal Nintendo Orkestar. Building from brooding ambience to roving aggression, with actual 8-bit video game consoles, the score worked beautifully with this bizarre Danish documentary, which depicts the broomstick-riding set in a slideshow of chilling medieval art and re-enactments of supposed rituals from the Middle Ages, featuring Satan’s twisted antics and an elaborate Black Mass.

Next up was a return to the Rialto, site of an Arbutus Records showcase. The local label has an impressive roster of local bands, including synthpop superstars Silly Kissers, who headlined this gig. But first up were Blue Hawaii, a duo that rides rich, psychedelic waves of sound topped with the big, beautiful voice of the duo’s female half, Raph–watch out, Björk ’n’ Régine! There were some unfortunate technical issues at the start, forcing Raph to scrap one of her FX pedals, but she and Agor worked through their nervousness (and asked the crowd to pogo during one of the delays, to relieve tension) and really gave ’er with their synths, drum machines and guitar. They ended their set by presenting a bouquet of flowers to label head Sebastian Cowan, a sweet touch.

Then Pop Winds took the stage and blew us away with crushing arpeggiated synths, e-beats, sax (yes, sax!) and sporadic vocals, which formed mountainous soundscapes that cross-bred experimental sounds and pop melodies and rhythms. Dressed for hipster housepainting in a baggy t-shirt/dress, the band’s kinda cute androgynous singer was upstaged by the scarf man. I’m not sure whether this guy plays an instrument on the band’s recordings and just has nothing to do on stage, or if he’s a full-time Bez (Happy Mondays’ useless member), but his sashaying and scarf-pulling were compelling nonetheless. There’s some serious talent here, folks, interpretive dance aside. (www.popmontreal.com)


Continuing the surge of experimental-pop from Montreal, Pop Winds excel in diverging colorful psychedelia and indie-rock to create a sound that is familiarly addictive, yet still relatively incomparable. On “Owl Eyes”, the trio’s vocals combine for multiple harmonies over squirts of brass and synth arpeggios, the wide variety of synths sliding and squirming all over their creative palette to create a sound that is more majestic electro-pop than 16-bit SNES tributes. It would be fairly easy to compare Pop Winds to Animal Collective’s more accessible works, recently “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes”, simply because they specialize in similar arsenals and are able to show their experimental chops while keeping it initially engaging. But it would be more justified to name The Helio Sequence instead, as Pop Winds certainly show more pop than psychedelia through song structures that are traditional and somewhat restrained, even if percussive and melodic elements travel with greater ambition than most pop groups.

An obvious appreciation for brass infusion into electronica is shown in both “Owl Eyes” and “Drowning in the Dark”, but unlike the pathetic abundance of unnecessary brass solos (which even the likes of Junior Boys are guilty of), these are additions that expand the initial composition into an even more worthwhile state. The three members of Pop Winds – Austin Milne, Devon Welsh, and Kyle Bennett – are adept at collaborations and certain mutual appreciations like this show their chemistry well, as they tread just the right line between automated-sounding electronica and completely organic pop music. The 8-bit drum machines or samples that are often used as percussion only work because the other arrangements are so impressive, with “Drowning in the Dark” taking on its own evolutionary form through glittery synth arpeggios and “Owl Eyes” seizing the concept of anthemic with a chorus bursting with exuberant yelps, brass, and synths. It can really get you going, like most tracks on the trio’s newest album on Arbutus Records, The Turquoise.

“Feel It” is most dependent on the brass, as it actually serves as the lead melody initially. This is of course not the case for long, as fluttering synths eventually align themselves perfectly with the trio’s vocals (which – as stereotypical as it sounds – does sound like a meshing of Panda Bear, Brandon Summers, and Fred Schneider). But as the trickle of synths quickly descend and ascend, the success and originality becomes apparent. The afro-pop vibe here is extremely noticeable as well, especially when the vocals cry out “No! no! no! no!” in a rhythmic combustion that could be likened to Paul Simon. Of course, since electronica aligns with afro-pop and indie-rock in the most seamless of ways, the comparisons will be a bit more contemporary than Mr. Simon, even though he remains an integral influence today with this emerging hybrid. Pop Winds is one of the few artists that enable this formula to sound fresh. The other artists are all brand names in indie-rock at this point, and if they keep it up I would not be surprised to see Pop Winds achieve the same status.

RIYL: The Helio Sequence, Menomena, Animal Collective, Rogue Wave, Annuals, Vampire Weekend, Ambulance LTD, Earlimart, Fruit Bats, Pinback, Stars of Track and Field, Matt Pond PA, Aqueduct, Minus the Bear, Local Natives, The American Analog Set, Viva Voce, Enon, The Rosebuds, Mellowdrone, Sea Wolf, Maritime, Band of Horses - Obscure Sound

That Montreal is home to many great contemporary musicians should come as no surprise to anybody with access to a functioning Internet connection over the last seven years. But the unfortunate side effect of housing a handful of show-stealing international exports is that your city’s smaller stars, stuck in a scene already oversaturated, tend to languish in comparative obscurity. A city can only support so many blog-stars and Best New Musics, after all. Which is maybe just as well, because you can hardly have a healthy local music community if it consists largely of bands as popular as, say, the Arcade Fire, whose hometown performances comprise a straight week of sold-out gigs that aren’t exactly close-knit. You still need bands who’ll feel at home at dive-bars and basements, bands you can get more excited about because nobody else really is. And in a city like Montreal, where being a local favorite and being an international celebrity are not always mutually exclusive, that thriving under-underground is especially crucial. There’s, thankfully, a pretty astounding, thriving under-underground: Black Feelings, Tonstartssbandht, Adam & the Amethysts, Duchess Says, Grand Trine, the Luyas—the list goes on, all woefully unrecognized and equally deserving of the praise and attention heaped on so many of the city’s other upstart outfits (though the Luyas did just get signed to Dead Oceans…).

If you’re going to support a living, breathing local scene just beneath the one everyone in the world seems to pay attention to, it helps to have a network of hardworking, handmade record labels forming bonds and promoting products. (Of course, hosting a world-class music festival like Pop Montreal, where the most anticipated nightly showcases are often very local-centric, doesn’t hurt either.) And of all the many dedicated collectives pouring God knows how much time and energy into putting new music out there for probably just friends and friends of friends to end up hearing, all the half-insane individuals hand-dubbing cassette releases at four in the morning or taping up posters in subzero weather, there’s really no better homegrown label than Arbutus Records—home to Grimes, Silly Kissers, Braids, Blue Hawaii, and, finally, Pop Winds. We’re talking about some of the most exciting bands not just in Montreal but in the entire country, together forming a roster of such ridiculously high calibre that, if you buy into a system where each great album released by a label lends an increasing degree of credibility to whatever that label releases in the future, Arbutus has built up enough good faith already to get them through at least the next decade of record releases on credit.

All of which is to say that listening to The Turquoise, debut LP of the Pop Winds and third only to Blue Hawaii’s Blooming Summer and Grimes’ Geidi Primes in the race for best Arbutus release of the year, should pretty much go without saying. They are in extremely good company and, faithful to the quality of their labelmates, they do not disappoint. A three piece band combining guitar, synths, and saxophone, Pop Winds seem at first to have much in common with Menomena, who work with a nearly identical set up. But The Turquoise employs many of the stylistic features of an album like Menomena’s Mines (2010) to very different ends. Where Mines came off as sharp-edged and deliberate in its exploitation of emotional and aesthetic highs and lows, The Turquoise sprawls out more vaguely, and, despite their name, Pop Winds don’t end up sounding much interested in pop music at all. Not that they’re abrasive or even especially difficult, but many of these songs—like the delirious, “My Girls”-citing “Owl Eyes,” which could only appropriately soundtrack a planetarium laser show—simply refrain from following through with what seem like pop ideas, opting instead to stretch those ideas out and explore their furthest reaches.

Neither, though, is this stuff especially “experimental”—it’s much too gorgeous to challenge or confront. Which turns out to be the most obvious connection between The Turquoise and an album it seems destined (or, depending on your view of things, doomed) to be compared to, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009), which also stood squarely in that space between experimental music, where the band sort of started, and straight-up pop music, where most people saw them heading. Both of these albums vaguely cite world music, Brian Wilson, girl groups, and so on, but with brass as a key element in all of its compositions, The Turquoise almost unavoidably nods in musical directions Animal Collective don’t. Plus on “Feel It” we get Bowie circa “Heroes,” although less obnoxiously than that LCD Soundsystem song that ripped it off more conspicuously. And on “Perennial,” the record’s weirdest track by a long-shot, there’s something of cLOUDDEAD in the way that nasally “you can look at the flower and become the flower” stretches out into the distance with an almost hypnotic fervor.

These influences congeal as well as one could hope, and so in the end The Turquoise manages to sound both convincingly original—they never veer too far into the realm of one influence to let it dominate the record—and, like most young bands with an intimidating record collection and a knack for musical history, sort of comfortingly familiar. One gets the sense that if The Turquoise itself isn’t a great album, though it is still a very good one, it indicates the possibility of a genuinely great album by Pop Winds in the future. Which makes them one of Montreal’s necessary underground stars—one of the bands you can get excited about because, at least right now, nobody else really is.

Rating: 79%
Combined Rating: 78% - cokemachineglow

To be honest, when I got the latest LP from Pop Winds, I assumed the Montreal based noisemakers were going to be a synthy pop outfit much along the same line as their label mates, The Silly Kissers.

Instead the MTL trio uses the loosest of pop structure and melodies to frame their noise filled, psych laced chaos. Opening with Met Some New Colors, the trio mixes sax, drum machines, distortion and surges to transform traces of Bowie/Gabriel inspired pop into fragmented noise collages. Over the next eight songs, they play with the same instruments and style but really end up with a diverse collection of crazy, world pop noise. As horrible as a description as that may be, tracks like Owl Eyes, use double vocals lines, bursts of sax and nice percussion in a way that might make you think the band took a detour to Sailsbury Hill but instead of screaming out “boom, boom, boom” they hit you with urban grit, melancholy and instability.

What makes this record work for me is how willing the trio is to push the limits of listener. Fools has the making of a solid pop song, but Pop Winds add a borderline distracting water-like sound effect that runs through the entire song, muddying up the sax and group vocals. Perennial takes an echo-filled turn into the darkness with a minimal programmed beat and oddly delivered spoken word that gradually starts spinning out of control in a surprisingly enjoyable way. Not every texture the trio explores is going to work for any listener, but their bold choices and interesting collages show the band is ready to take the risks needed to create something amazing. The glacial paced epic, The Turquoise, is yet another wrinkle the band seems comfortable exploring. Full of ear pleasing static and hollowed out group vocals the sax meanders around the slow moving build creating a warmth that washes over you for six minutes and directly contrast the crystal clear vocals and urgent, electro-tribal sing-along, Feel It.

I’m not guaranteeing you will fall in love Pop Winds – the darker electro club anthem Good Person for example fell short or me, even though the constant transformations they use throughout the song forced me to pay attention – but I will bet you are intrigued and challenged by the listen and will find songs to hold onto. Still not convinced? Well, download the whole thing for $free.99 and prove me wrong y’all. - Herohill

Cote de Voir: 4 étoiles
VOIR Recommande

Les mantras contemplatifs du jeune trio montréalais ont pris du galon depuis le EP Understory, lancé à l'automne. Sur ce premier album complet (et gratuit, via le arbutusrecords.com), les Pop Winds font encore appel au principe du motif répété, mais savent donner corps, mordant et couleur à leurs compositions. Owl Eyes, Fools et Perennial ont plus que d'imparables mélodies beachboysesques et un sax imprévisible à brandir, elles ont aussi un impact rock vaguement shoegaze, des basses fréquences bien lourdes, des couches d'électronique fourmillantes. Étonnant, minutieux et confortable, The Turquoise donne l'impression d'avoir été signé par Animal Collective enfermé dans une bibliothèque d'université, en train de travailler sur les plans d'un navire.

-Olivier Lalande - Voir

It’s a story familiar to many, one often told through sped-up generations. Cue to energetic young boys and girls looking to break from the shackles of both their high school years and straight-laced English-Canadian upbringing.

Their destination: this country’s city of sin, where the rules of living are sometimes lax, often raucous and rowdy, and where creation and art are central to a people’s psyche…Montréal. The case in point here is the nouveau jack trio The Pop Winds: Devon Welsh, Austin Milne, and Kyle Bennett.

Hailing from the pastures of somewhere, Ontario, their meeting of like music minds has a familiar ring to it. “Austin and I came to Montreal to study at McGill and met there. Kyle came to make music in an exciting place,” says Devon Welsh.

“The city has certainly been accommodating. It’s probably one of the most exciting places to make music in Canada. We’ve had people respond positively to our music here, and we’ve met a lot of musicians who we deeply respect.”

Said music must be heard, made with charm and guts and filtered through an off-kilter instrument lineup of guitar, saxophone, keyboards, and shivering three-part harmonies. “As long as sax can be tastefully incorporated into the sound that we want, we’re happy with it, but it’s not the focal point of our band by any means,” mentions Bennett.

Home is where your friends are
What they practice is what they preach – heartfelt pop that lends itself to the quiet, the loud, the weird, and the wild, at home within all mediums. The sounds they call their own first leaked out through their tiny Understory E.P., set afloat last year, and the waves will surely grow once the kids catch onto their first full length, The Turquoise.

Asked about the creation of the new record, the band remains cryptic. “In the fall we were making mostly green music, and then during the winter all of our songs came out blue; sometimes a sky blue, other times a darker, perhaps navy blue. However, after the songs were recorded the process filtered them all into turquoise: the color you see when you look at a blue gas stove flame through yellow sunglasses.”

The Pop Winds find themselves amidst a scene of changes, centered on a time, place, and thing. The time is now, the place is off-loft space Lab Synthese (R.I.P.), and the thing is the record label they call home, Arbutus. “We became associated through playing at Lab Synthese, which was the venue that Sebastian, Alex Cowan and others ran before they started Arbutus. We played our second show there as well as the release party for Understory. They were originally friends of friends and now they’re just friends,” says Milne.

Eager fans can grab the album now for free via download through the label’s website, while the physical version will come out in May.

“The other bands on Arbutus are all friends of ours: Sean Nicholas Savage, Grimes, Raph from Blue Hawaii and Andy from Tonstartssbandht.” Although not similar stylistically, the threads they share are community, passion, and originality.

The Pop Winds
May 19th
Casa del Popolo | 4873 Saint Laurent

-Steve Guimond - Nightlife Magazine


"Understory EP" - September 2009, Self-released
"The Turquoise" - April 2010, Arbutus Records



Pop Winds are both tense and free. Their music is driven by strong chordal movements on guitar and altered saxophone, the instruments filling the room with a beautiful, natural reverberation. But it is not loose music, rather they are focused deeply through distorted electronic samples: hypotonic drums and bouncy synths. All three members sing layered vocal harmonies, awash in delay, while lead vocalist Devon Welsh delivers a clear tenor - in a classic, pseudo-Elvis tone - which sits perfectly atop each song. "Feel It" clearly displays this amazing tone, as well as a sort of bleeding from the first-person, who has given up on a controlling desire. Joined by Kyle Bennet and Austin Milne, the trio formed in early 2009 in Montreal, Quebec.

Their first full-length, The Turquoise (Arbutus), was released in April 2010.