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Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Band Rock Folk


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"Inspired by Motown"

They took their name from a Leamington theatre group, but that's not all Sunparlour Players got from the regions of Essex County and southern Michigan.

"There is an endless supply of stories from this area," said songwriter Andrew Penner, who grew up in the shadow of south Essex greenhouses. "It never seems to run dry."

Sunparlour Players perform tonight along with The Sadies at Capitol Theatre.

Part of the inspiration for their third and latest album, Us Little Devils, came from our American neighbours. The title, said Penner, is a reference to a Detroit urban legend called the Nain Rouge.

"It's this little troll-like creature, all red and devilish, that is seen whenever something bad or strange is about to happen."

The Nain Rouge, which is French for red dwarf, had its origins in Normandy, France. U.S. Gen. William Hull reported seeing a "dwarf attack" before British and native forces overran Fort Detroit in 1812.

Not that Us Little Devils is bad or strange. Far from it. The album is the most assured, yet, from Sunparlour Players, which features Penner on guitars, vocals and vibes; Dennis Van Dine on bass, clarinet and keyboards; and Michael "Rosie" Rosenthal on percussion.

All three of their albums are built on a foundation of folk, rock and bluegrass. The band's name is a tribute to Penner's hometown of Leamington - the Sun Parlour Players is an amateur theatre company whose origins go back to the 1950s.

The band's first album, Hymns for the Happy, had references to Detroit and south Essex, while Wave North, the second, drew on the experiences of migrant farm workers near Penner's family home.

Us Little Devils is less directly tied to this region in place and time. But inevitably, Penner said, his youth is reflected in the songs.

"It's everywhere in the stories on this record," he said.

The project Penner and his wife, writer Erin Brandenburg, are currently working on will be drawn from the folklore of Boblo Island, off Amherstburg. Boblo is a stage work with music for which Penner is writing songs and Brandenburg is collaborating on a script with Toronto's The Theatre Centre.

Penner hopes to have it ready by next summer during the bicentennial of The War of 1812.

Penner spent this past summer on the stage at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as part of the cast of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Most of the new album, he said, was written before the play opened. But some of Steinbeck's themes probably found their way into the lyrics.

"I'm sure it seeped in," he said. "Things like questioning faith, migrant workers, the idea of the search, the need to move on."

Musically, Us Little Devils is a departure in its use of synthesizers and a variety of other instruments, yet it shares the spareness of the first two albums.

"I'm a big fan of using only what's necessary," said Penner. "If an effect or an instrument doesn't earn its place in a song, if it doesn't contribute somehow, it's gone." - Windsor Star


With each new Sunparlour Players album, it gets harder to describe them as a folk band. Lots of acoustic instruments and storytelling songs can still be heard on their newest disc, Us Little Devils (Outside), but also unexpected punk and electronic music influences.

That was a result of letting things happen naturally, explains frontman Andrew Penner, rather than a deliberate attempt to confound critics.

“Obviously we’re not a punk or electronic band, but everyone listens to everything now, right?” Penner asks from his Toronto home. “The only conscious decision we made with this album was to not think about genres.”

To help them achieve that free-wheeling sound, they enlisted producer Chris Stringer, who’s built a name for himself through his critically acclaimed work with bands like Timber Timbre and Ohbijou.

“His name just kept coming up, along with a couple of other names. Within five minutes of meeting him, we knew it would be him. Personality-wise, we really clicked. He has this huge love of everything from old-time music to full-on metal.”

Us Little Devils is the first Sunparlour Players album to feature only the three core members – Penner, Michael “Rosie” Rosenthal and Dennis Van Dine – though there are plenty of overdubs to keep it lush. That makes things tricky live, but Penner insists the chaos that comes with being a band of multi-instrumentalists keeps them on their toes and in the moment.

“We all have drums in front of us onstage. Rosie is the drummer, but he often plays drums with his feet, glockenspiel with one hand and sometimes accordion or bass guitar. The same with Dennis.

“[Multi-tasking] helps us recreate the album and allows for more textures, but with it comes a huge potential for failure and things breaking down. Over time we’ve become deliberate about it – it’s almost a version of self-sabotage. But that’s the fun part. You don’t want to make it too easy for yourself.”
- NOW Magazine

"Sunparlour Players gig a theatrical experience"

Watching The Sunparlour Players play live is a study in multitasking.
Dennis Van Dines usually plays bass but, an instant later, is playing keys and singing, while Michael “Rosie” Rosenthal, the band’s primary drummer, is cranking out a tune on the accordion and vibes while the band’s singer and songwriter Andrew Penner, can also be found playing the banjo, piano, bass pedals and glockenspiel.
“Someone once counted 16 instruments in our show,” Penner says. “We’re not a circus act, we’re not playing all these instruments because it creates a buzz. We do it because these are the tools we created the music with.”
“I love that kind of theatre,” he adds. “Watching a folk singer alone can be a little dull if you don’t connect with the music. It’s beautiful to watch someone like Gillian Welch play. It’s a theatrical experience. But not everyone is Gillian Welch. You have to kill it live if you want the audience to come back.”
While the past four years have seen the Toronto trio dazzling audiences with their folk rock, the band stretched their sonic palette and their ability to juggle instrumentation with their third album, 2011’s Us Little Devils.
Producer Chris Stringer (Rush, Ohbijou, Timber Timbre) helped Sunparlour Players bridge the gap between folk, punk, electro and gospel.
“The music’s harder than anything else we’ve ever done, though I wouldn’t call it a rock record. The songs on the album are more light than dark.”
But it’s mostly about the joy of playing. Penner, who grew up in in the sunbelt of Leamington, Ont., sang in church choirs until he was 17, but never realized how much he would miss the experience until he moved to Toronto and created the Sunparlour Players.
“I love singing with other people,” he says. “When you sing in a large choir, you can feel this enormous power coming out of all these voices at you. It was like watching the fans at Tiger stadium doing the wave. It can be overwhelming at times.” - Ottawa Sun

"For The Record - Sunparlour Players"

Not new to the music scene, Sunparlour Players (Andrew Penner, Michael “Rosie” Rosenthal, and Dennis Van Dine) are back again with their third album “Us Little Devils”. Allowing themselves to keep the floodgates of creativity open, the band rented out a 100-year-old schoolhouse to continuously write. They explored their constant curiosity and experimented with what they were listening to, to fed the writing process. Their first single “Runner” is a song inspired by life and how you don’t always have to know where you’re going and how sometimes getting lost is ok.

Growing up across from Detroit in the small town of Leamington, Andrew Penner the lead vocals of Sunparlour Players, seems to have allowed growing up across from an ‘hybrid iconic American town’ to feed some of the fire behind this album.

“Go down to the basement,

Near the old furnace

Go beside it

Take the boards off

There’s a tunnel that goes on forever”

Taken from an experience as a youngsters, Penner came a cross a furnace in an old house lived in by a friend, where upon further inspection was part of the bootlegging that took place in Detroit.

Refreshing to listen to music that gets your soul stirring that isn’t about love or heartache, the Players are about using experience and leaving the audience in a better state then when they came and feeling like the time they spent was well invested.

The combination of their small town roots, growing up singing in a Mennonite choir while living across from Detroit where the music scene has always been edgy and versatile, the well-rounded Penner continues to build on his experience for inspiration. “Once a year I want to see something that changes the way I see everything” which in my opinion, is a stellar tool for continuing to create fresh new music.

Never thinking of competition as just that the Sunparlour Players, who come from a musically diverse and rich province are a multi instrumental band that tie in train whistles, xylophones and banjos (to name a few) with the classic drum, bass, guitar combo. They strive to experiment with sound and realize that you have to boil it all down to the essentials to keep it simple at the same time. The key is to be confident in the sound, and I don’t think these talented guys are anything short of that.

I personally cannot get their flowing lyrics and catchy tunes out of my head and am amped to experience for myself the real thing. Playing at the Palomino Saturday March 31st, the Sunparlour Players are worth the invested time to allow for the music to speak to heart and not your head. - Calgary Fashion

"Players pack quirky folk charm"

Andrew Penner is a farm boy turned travelling musician, the leader of a sharply dressed band with old fashioned charm.

His group, the Toronto-based three piece Sunparlour Players, brings along canned preserves on tour to sell as merch, performs a high-energy style of music that takes its cues from folk and possesses a nostalgic feel with a hint of mystery.

They’ve earned fans in Saskatchewan throughout their last five years touring as a band, and were well received at the Ness Creek music festival in 2010. They return to Amigos Friday, supporting fellow Ontarians The Wooden Sky. It’s part of a short West Coast tour for the band, which sees them fitting recording into their time off on the road.

Even when they’re not scheduled to perform, the band likes to make stops in Saskatoon to visit their favourite hotel in Canada.

“We just love hanging at the Senator,” Penner said on the phone from his Toronto home. The group first stayed there while touring with Elliott Brood. “We’ve always made a point of stopping there every time we go through. Even if it’s a drive day, we’ll just hang out and have some drinks in the bar downstairs.”

This time, the Sunparlour Players are touring behind their latest record Us Little Devils, released last fall. Seeds for the new record were planted while Penner spent time working at the Stratford Festival in Ontario in a performance of The Grapes of Wrath. While there, he rented a 100-year-old schoolhouse in the countryside, set up a studio and brought the band in to dream up the new record.

“It’s a little closer to our live sound,” Penner said. “With this record we wanted to pare it down to the three of us and everything we could play.”

The group also features Michael (Rosie) Rosenthal and Dennis Van Dine, who joined the band during the recording of the debut Hymns for the Happy. The three musicians play an odd assortment of instruments, often all at the same time.

“I’m playing bass pedals with my feet and sometimes drums with another other foot and then guitars with my hands and then singing and Rosie’s playing bass with one hand, glockenspiel with another and drums with his feet and singing,” Penner said. While the end result is intriguing for the audience, the band sometimes comes off as a sound technician’s nightmare.

“They ask us questions like, ‘are you sure you want to do it this way?’” Penner said.

The band is also known for their habit of bringing homemade preserves to sell at shows, and this tour is no exception. Penner makes them himself, sometimes 30 or 40 cases in one shot. He grew up farming in the “sunparlour” of Canada, 25 minutes away from the Windsor, Ont./Detroit border.

“I grew up canning and stuff on the farm anyways. It felt like a really good extension of the band,” he said.

Read more: - The Star Phoenix


THE SUNPARLOUR PLAYERS 'Alive At The Tranzac' EP (independent) Rating: NNNN "A two-man outfit who eerily resemble Garth Hudson and Rick Danko of the Band circa Music From Big Pink, with a sound that's not totally dissimilar, the Sunparlour Players hark back to the good ol' days. Andrew Penner sounds a little like the guy from the Arcade Fire, but musically theirs is a folksy, rootsy blend that embraces a little blues and gospel for good measure. It's a little like Iron & Wine or Will Oldham, but played with such authenticity, I doubt that Penner and Mark Schachowskoy have even heard of those artists. That may be why their music seems way beyond anything else in the same realm. NNNN," Brent Raynor, NOW DECEMBER 15 - 21, 2005, VOL. 25 NO. 16 - NOW Magazine, DECEMBER 15 - 21, 2005, VOL. 25 NO. 16

"Tired Brothers"

August 15, 2006
Tired Brothers
Sunparlour Players - "Pacifist's Anthem"

(before was a sample from their live ep, this is now a sample from their full-length, to convince you it's worth it)

All of Sunparlour Players' songs are set in the same place, at the same time. Specifically, no time and no place. Descriptively, a place made out of pink sunsets, pale blue dawns, waist-high whispy fields, light breezes. Houses in which only old people live, but families come to sleep. In the days they are working, helping to raise the sun, stir the lakes, guard the trees, turn the ground into food. In this song, we're near a ditch near a field, now we're in a ditch, and I hear a voice, yes, it's leaning back. [Buy Hymns for the Happy] -

"Parlour Play"

Parlour play
Leamington duo see future in the past

The fact that a lot of non-traditional bands working outside of the old-time music realm are using banjo these days means it doesn't seem like such a weird anomaly. Yet it's still a bit unusual to see the Sunparlour Players' Andrew Penner plucking away at one over the thumping beats provided by his childhood pal Mark Schachowskoy against the backdrop of a 21st-century metropolis.

Like many young musicians clawing the banjo today, Penner grew up slashing away at a guitar in heavy rock bands and would've laughed off any suggestion that he'd eventually not only grow to love the hardcore country music he used to hate hearing his parents listen to at home but also end up performing it with great enthusiasm.

It sure beats shining shoes at the Royal York, which is what Penner does as his day job.

"Growing up on a tomato farm outside of Leamington, Ontario," recalls Penner, "my dad liked to play country and bluegrass stuff especially the Stanley Brothers and I couldn't stand the sound of the banjo as a kid. But a couple of years ago I found this old Sears-catalogue banjo in the basement of my wife's mother's house that had probably been collecting dust since the late 60s.

"So I picked it up and tuned it, and the sound was strangely appealing. It's like all that music my father had been playing at home had seeped into my skin and became a part of me, because I really enjoy it now.

"And people who come to our shows seem to appreciate the sound of the banjo in what we do. Maybe that's because we tend not to use it in a traditional way, like old-time music groups would. I like to think that the music we're making as the Sunparlour Players has a modern twist to it."

The songs on their new self-released disc, Hymns For The Happy, certainly come in odd shapes and roll with an off-kilter chug that suggests a contemporary inspiration, but their lyrics about creeks, bells, rivers and robbers could've been written at any time since Confederation, involving simple constructs and no references to modern life, let alone sex or drugs.

"That never really occurred to me," chuckles Penner after a long pause. "It definitely wasn't part of our concept for the album to leave out any mention of modern living, but now that I think about the songs on Hymns For The Happy, I guess you're right.

"When Mark and I started discussing what we wanted to do, we already had two songs written that were both about where we're from. It just seemed natural to come up with a few more with that same idea for an album. I guess living in a big city like Toronto caused us both to think about the rural experiences of our childhood in Mennonite families."

Suddenly the mystery of the Sunparlour Players is solved. The fact that both Penner and Schachowskoy grew up in Mennonite households definitely helps explain the earthy slant of their subject matter, and songs like Pacifist's Anthem make a lot more sense. But Penner is quick to point out that he did enjoy the benefits of electricity and zippers.

"My parents were about as progressive as you could get and still be considered part of the Mennonite community, which is pretty big in the Leamington area. We had all the modern appliances, including a turntable, unlike some families who didn't use electricity or others who paint their car bumpers black because they feel the chrome is too ostentatious.

"We actually just played our first show for a Mennonite audience at the Leamington Marina, and our opening act was a local Mennonite choir in which my mom and Mark's dad are members. That was so cool! About 300 people showed up for the Sunday afternoon concert, and while I can't say for sure if everyone in the place was a Mennonite, it looked like everybody had a good time."
SUNPARLOUR PLAYERS with the BARMITZVAH BROTHERS and ANDY MAGOFFIN at the Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick), Wednesday (October 4). $5. 416-923-8127.

NOW | SEPTEMBER 28 - OCTOBER 4, 2006 | VOL. 26 NO. 4
- Now Magazine, Sept 28, 2006

"Sunparlour Players"

June 25, 2007
Sunparlour Players

The 'sunparlour' is an area of southern Ontario that is renowned for it's farming and tomato production and this is where Andrew Penner, the main force behind the Sunparlour Players is from, Leamington, Ontario, the 'Tomato Capital of Canada'. In fact, Penner grew up on a Mennonite tomato farm outside the small city of Leamington. This is where he befriended Mark Schachowskoy, the other original Sunparlour Player, when they were both five years old. Life pulled them apart as they grew older, as it often does, but they met up again in Toronto in 2005 and began to play music together once more. The years apart had matured their respective tastes and the music now, although it still bore the energy of the hard rock they admired, seemed to be springing from the soulful energy of the soil of their hometown and the migrant workers who worked the land each harvest. A year after forming the Sunparlour Players the duo self-released their debut album, Hymns for The Happy, in the summer of 2006 through their website and iTunes, a record that stomped and wailed, that crackled with resonator guitar, dual kick drums, plucky banjo, and Penner's unrestrained vocals. Throw in tent revival shouts, New Orleans horns, and heart felt lyrics and this is truly a record, and band, that deserves a second chance at life and at re-release. And that very record will finally get a proper label release this fall when award winning Toronto indie Baudelaire Records issues a remastered version that will feature a beefed up sound according to Penner:

"I'm recording some stuff. One entire track is being replaced with a stronger version, cause I feel like we didn't get it the first time round. And lots of other little things are being added. All subtle changes that I think are really neat and important. Nicer vocals, better banjo sounds, heavier drums, bigger bass. Basically, beefing up the sound of the album. Then I'm re-mixing the album at the House of Miracles (London, Ontario) again, and re-mastering the whole thing."

Penner is an interesting character. He writes music for theatre, works as a part-time shoe shiner, and is now working on some songs for the upcoming film "This Beautiful City". And 'he' was what turned my head a little over a week ago after I walked in on Penner and his new band mates, Dennis Van Dine and Michael 'Rosie' Rosenthal (original Sunparlour Player, Mark Schachowskoy, left the band about six months ago) at the El Mocambo where I had gone to see The Veils. What luck! What luck that The Veils touring partners, The Comas, had van trouble and didn't make it. What luck that I arrived early enough to hear this trio. I have to admit, at first I didn't pay much attention, but it's hard to ignore the sheer force and energy of Penner's music and the man himself. Penner puts all his soul into the songs when he's performing, and this is what tells me these guys should catch, you can hear that energy and soul on the recorded output as well. But at the time I said to the lucky person along with me to witness the performance, "I bet these are the kind of guys that grab you by the throat (and heart) live, but fall flat on record." Wrong. The recorded songs come very close to capturing the energy and fury of a Sunparlour Players live show. Here's a sample from the original self-release of Hymns For The Happy, a record that, as previously stated, will see it's label release on Toronto indie Baudelaire Records this fall:

"Live - Sunparlour Players"

Live: The Sunparlour Players

It's Saturday night and it's as silent inside the TRANZAC as it is in Roy Thompson Hall's auditorium. The Sunparlour Players begin their set with a slow, haunting song that not only enhances the silence, but also somehow suits the oddness of the proscenium stage with its red and champagne-coloured velvet curtains. The trio sits, frontman Andrew Penner flanked by Dennis Van Dine and Michael "Rosie" Rosenthal, swapping instruments between songs.

Not only do these guys trade instruments, often each of them plays two at a time. And not the usual suspects, but drums and glockenspiel; guitar and jingle bells strapped to a boot; and – hardest of all to comprehend – bass guitar and keyboards: at the same time, each one-handed. And to top it all off, these combinations can be exchanged at any point in a song.

This richness of instrumentation is what makes these guys astounding to watch. Penner switches from moans to growls to screams in a flash, while Rosenthal adds "shouting" to the mix. Red-faced and sweating, these two pour themselves into the music, wringing every drop of sound from their instruments while Van Dine looks young, hip and composed, pale in the lights of the stage, his suit, unlike those of Penner and Rosenthal, looks crisp, belying the fact that his playing is as frenetic as the others'. In fact, The Sunparlour Players' music is so manic that, at Sneaky Dee's two weeks later, Penner says, "I'm gonna stop it there 'cause shit's breaking." Sneak's, in all its grungy glory, is where Penner sits, once again center stage, however, this time without his bandmates. Despite being alone, Penner starts this set aggressively and puts the crowd, eager for a night of citygrass courtesy of The United Steel Workers of Montreal, under his spell.

Although the instruments are limited, Penner still manages to play the guitar, jingle bells (still attached to his left boot) on "If the Creeks Don't Rise," banjo, cowbell, bass drum and organ pedal board. He too has mastered the art of playing guitar one-handed while playing another instrument — in this case the cow bell. Rocking the cow bell and guitar on "John Had a Bell and a Whistle" revs the already excited audience up another gear. There's foot stomping, clapping and shouts of encouragement, driving The Sunparlour Players (Uno) to even greater paroxysms of mania.

In the end a sweaty, but exuberant Penner leaves the audience primed for the main event. What more could you ask of one man?
- Soundproof Magazine

"Hymns for the Happy"

Leamington's Sunparlour Players rain down some golden rays

By: Chris Whibbs
August 23rd, 2007

If the name Sunparlour Players sounds a little theatrical, it's intentional. "The music lends itself to the theatricality of the live show due to the storytelling or narrative perspective," explains Andrew Penner, the lead singer, guitarist, banjoist and organ pedalist of this Leamington threesome.

And a good story is what Penner is all about. Take the band's debut, Hymns for the Happy, which is due to be re-released by Baudelaire Records on September 25. As Penner says, "The overall theme of the album is one of fables and turning the area you grew up in into this magical place, or creating your own history. Or something that can be related to other people in a more interesting way."

One of the ways Sunparlour Players succeeds on the new record is the band's intense creativity. This is heard in juxtapositions between the rawkus stomp and yowls found on John Had a Bell and a Whistle and the elegiac orchestrations and vocals of If the Creeks Don't Rise. The Players seem to be constantly evolving as their history comes from equal parts old country and old punk. "I really like different sounds, like where you can hear a pin drop, but I also like getting nailed in the face with a song," Penner admits about his fondness for varied music.

As for the band's name, Penner took inspiration from his hometown, which has the nickname of Sun Parlour of Ontario due to the greater humidity and fabulous growing of its tomato crops. For Penner, though, he says he's been in love with the
name for a long time, but admits that when he was just starting off, playing solo, he didn't have the balls to call himself "players." Glad he finally found some friends.

Sunparlour Players
w/ Jane Vain, Entire Cities, The Rural Alberta Advantage
Thursday, August 23, at 8 p.m., $10
Black Sheep Inn - Ottawa (X)press

"SummerWorks @ The Theatre Centre"

Sunparlour Players
Saturday, August 16, 2008
By: Budd R. Phly

Closing the night and the festival were the Sunparlour Players -- and they were well worth the week-long wait. Drawing the biggest crowd of the week, the group was nothing short of spectacular. Andrew Penner's vocals came straight from the gut to our ears, soaring above the pounding kick drums that lined the front of the stage. The Players didn't even get to the second song before beads of sweat dripped down their faces.

Once again, sound problems gave the band trouble. They only got halfway through "If the Creeks Don't Rise" before they realized that Penner's steel guitar had cut out. Still, I couldn't have imagined a better way to cap off the festival. The song "Bless This City" was the perfect tribute to Toronto and its artistic community. All the while, the Players' homemade preserves lay on the table at the side for purchase after the show. - Soundproof

"Indie Rock Served Up With Basil Jelly"

What's the small farm-town equivalent of a garage band? A barn band, say Andrew Penner and Mark Schachowskoy. And they played in plenty of barns growing up in Leamington, Ont., in the tomato growing area near the Windsor-Detroit broder, popularily referred to as the Sun Parlour. "We recorded that one song with a drill in it, " says Schachowskoy, "or a saw. It got in by accident and it worked so we left it." "I remember our buddy was working on his T-bird or something in the back," Penner jokes.

A decade after laying down that track, The Wrath of Andy, in a friend's barn, the pair, who met in Sunday school when they were five, live in Toronto. They've formed the Sunparlour Players, a band inspired by the likes of the Carter Family - and Van Halen. If that scares you off, think of a two man Arcade Fire with more banjo. Their mutual love of heavy rock shows up only once in a while, and mostly in how hard and fast they can play their instruments.
A real do-it-yourself band, the Sunparlour Players released their debut CD, Hymns For THe Happy, this past summer in local record stores, on iTunes and through their website ( They've toured Ontario and Montreal and plan to hit other provinces and the U.S. in the new year. And indie labels are showing interest. But for now, they guys will be keeping their day jobs, which afford each of them another kind of renown-Schashowskoy's a genetic scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children, and Penner's a part-time show shiner near Union Station. (In fact, he's rumoured to be Brian Mulroney's Toronto shoe shiner of choice.)

Many things set the Sunparlour Players apart from their peers, but the most striking is how they hearken back to a simpler time and place by translating their Mennonite religious upbrining into music that resonates with even the most modern urbanite. Penner started up by immersing himself in 20's and '30's blues, country and jazz -"when rock was starting to swirl," he says, "before it came together in the 50's." Lyrically, he turned to his roots. "I was looking back at where we grew up, making folklore out of a place that you love. I could have never done that if was still in the area. I had to be completely separated."

The CD has very specific references to tomato farming (which Penner's father does), with nods to Leamington's large population of Mexican labourers (they keep working hard, to send a little money back homw / In Mexico is where their family seeds are sown / But now the Sun Parlour is where they call their home). And many of the songs refer to the pair's Mennonite religion and community, including Pacifist's Anthem (I don't fight, I don't steal / I might believe in things that you don't think are real) and Dyin' Today (I just don't feel like prayin' today / My knees are sore and my church is a bore). That's more God than you'll hear on most indie rock albums, but the Sunparlour Players inject a healthy amount of skepticism, questioning faith and feelings of nostalgia. "Sometimes it comes out very positive," says Penner, 28. "But it's not a completely glowing look back."

Penner and Schachowskoy dress the part of strict, traditional Mennonites while on stage - dark suits, porkpie hats and Band-era beards. But both grew up in modern households. "My dad was a jeweller," says Schashowskoy, 29. "That's the furthest thing from traditional Mennonites." Penner's parents kept up with the times, too. "My dad's got an armada of tractors on his farm," he says. "It's not horses plowing the field and stuff." And Penner's dad had pretty secular music tastes. Besides Bod Dylan, Neil Young and the Stanley Brothers, he liked Abba, Cher and the hip-hop group the Fugees.
("They cuss a lot, though," he told his son.)

Even at a small club in Toronto, a Sunparlour Players live show can feel like a high-energy revival-tent experience. There's the two-man cacophony - Penner plays banjo, guitar, organ pedal, straps bells to his left shoe and stomps on a suitcase, while Schashowskoy plays a drum kit, the bass, a glockenspiel and accordian, often all in one song. And both can get carried away, joyously shouting the lyrics till their red-faced. Then they'll take a break and raffle off preserves they've prepared themselves. Penner's hot mustard is a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Schachowskoy's preserves are wierder, he admits. "I make fancy ones, like a red onion basil jelly-it's definitely not handed down from grandparents." But still it adds a welcome, old-timey tough to their rock 'n' roll. - Macleans Magazine - Nov 27/06

"Many Flavours of Jam"

Many flavours of jam


As long as the creeks don't rise, the Sunparlour Players perform every Wednesday night at the Tranzac. They're not your average blues-rock duo -- they're not your average anything.

The bearded singer-guitarist presents as a young Garth Hudson, in an old dark suit with no shoes (so as to better manipulate an organ pedal board). He sings about family, farm work and not wanting to die, and he exerts himself to a sweaty shade of purple-red as he howls. He is 28-year-old Andrew Penner; he is polite; he is Mennonite; and during the day he shines shoes beneath the Royal York Hotel.

Penner uses another foot to stomp a bass-drum pedal, as does his partner, a darker, angular fellow who plays percussion, a Rickenbacker bass and a xylophone -- at times, simultaneously. He wears red Converse sneakers with an old pinstriped suit and a porkpie hat. He is 29-year-old Mark Schachowskoy; he is polite; he is Mennonite; and a genetic scientist by trade.

The pair gets up to all sorts of things, mixing up drone blues and straight-line new-wave rhythms. Some of it sounds like a hillbilly version of U2 -- as if the Irish band were stranded in a mountain cave, and Bono devoured the Edge and half the rhythm section to survive.

Penner, whether on banjo or a resonator steel guitar, is a generous performer. There is a gospel-revival-tent energy in the small pub-like front room. (It's a mixed crowd of university students and older music fans).

It's getting near 11 p.m., so time for a set break, which gives everybody a chance to breath regularly again. A hat is passed for the Players, and there's also a sweepstakes for a prize of homemade jam (red onion and basil) and mustard (Ukrainian). A Mennonite upbringing instilled a pride for preserving foods, according to Penner, the son of an Essex County farmer.

"We started raffling them off because we thought it'd be fun to have something to sell at shows beside our EP," he says, referring to the duo's five-song CD Alive at the Tranzac. And also, "We don't have any T-shirts yet."

The two men have known each other most of their lives, since the age of 5 when they were Sunday-school chums in the Ontario township of Mersea, down Windsor way. They took separate paths after high school, but recently hooked up again in Toronto. They'd played in different groups over the years (hard rock and metal bands), but have found a rural, primal groove as a duo.

"We just tried to see how big we could get with two people," Penner explains. "Whenever you have several instruments that you play at the same time, it makes you simplify what you're playing."

In May, the band expects to release its first full-length album (Hymns for the Happy). Until then, they'll play at the Tranzac, where they draw full rooms of fans attracted to huge, honest music performed full bore.

"With a lot of the songs we play, you need to go to a place," says Penner. "You can't go halfway with it.

"I guess what we're trying to do is just grab people by throat, and say 'Come on along with us for a little while. It's going to be fun, and we think you're going to be happy when you're done with us.' "

The Sunparlour Players play the Tranzac every Wednesday, 10 p.m., through April. Pay what you will. 292 Brunswick Ave., 416-923-8137.

Globe and Mail, Friday March 17, 2006 - Globe and Mail

"Rockin' the Sunparlour"

Hymns For The Happy, the debut album from the Sunparlour Players, is now available at Soundscapes, Sam The Record Man, Criminal Record and online.

"AC/DC guest-starring on Little House on the Prairie" -- one way a clever fan described local two-man band The Sunparlour Players, is strangely apt.
By incorporating anomalies like the banjo, glockenspiel, percussion and an organ pedal into their performances, lead singer Andrew Penner and childhood friend Mark Schachowskoy keep things fresh and interesting while paying homage to the past.
"I think initially when we started our heads were at different places musically," says Schachowskoy, who listened to modern alternative music while Penner preferred country, folk and blues. "So I think when we came together we made this really weird modern but old sounding thing."
The duo's ability as multi-instrumentalists also add to the intense style. "The point of it all is just to play it simple, but kind of full out," says Penner, who can be seen ringing his shoe bell and strumming his guitar all while belting out lyrics.
"We had such good chemistry as the two of us, cause we're best friends, that to add another person would have been really complicated," explains Schachowskoy.
Hymns For the Happy, their recently released, independent debut, is a successful experiment that merges contemporary folk rock with lyrics about farming, creeks, sins and other topics reminiscent of the musicians' upbringings.
Sex, drugs and even heartbreak references are absent.
"I think it's more about just personalizing what's coming out instead of romanticizing some idea that we're not really participating in," explains Schachowskoy.
That separation from modern life is known as the sunparlour, an area in Leamington, Ont., which is where the two grew up in Mennonite households.
Penner, who writes all the lyrics, credits his father's eclectic musical taste as inspiration.
"When I was little my dad would be listening to The Fugees in his tractor while he'd be working, then it'd be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Cher – all over the place."
The duo, now living in Toronto, say though they're not exactly practicing, they still hold certain beliefs from their past. "We grew up in Mennonite homes; our parents are still Mennonites," says Schachowskoy. "I find it hard to separate it from myself. It's kind of just part of who I am."
Ann-Marie Colacino/Metro Toronto
November 13, 2006 - Metro News


US LITTLE DEVILS (LP) Outside Music (2011)
WAVE NORTH (LP) Outside Music (2009)
HYMNS FOR THE HAPPY (LP) Outside Music (2007)
THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY Soundtrack (LP) - Nonsuch (2008) - 2 tracks, "Bless This City" "We Want Whats Right"



The multi-instrumental duo Sunparlour Players (Andrew Penner and Michael “Rosie” Rosenthal) have been captivating audiences for 4 years with their incredible live performances. They've released 2 critically acclaimed albums, "Hymns For The Happy" (2007 - Baudelaire) and "Wave North" (2009 - Outside Music). Their 3rd and latest album, "Us Little Devils" (Outside Music) is without a doubt their most diverse and strongest effort to date.
"Us Little Devils" sees the band continuing to expand their sound, embracing both electronic and pop influences. Recorded between an old schoolhouse in Stratford and the Lincoln County Social Club Studio in Toronto, it is also their first recording that features just the core members. “We wanted to capture the energy of us in a room with no distractions”, says Penner. To help achieve this raw and direct sound, the band brought on Chris Stringer (Timbre Timber, Ohbijou, Rush) to produce. Stringer found a bridge between folk, punk, electro, and gospel that sees the band stretching out from the confines of folk and rock. The songs are joyful and challenging, playful and surprising. The new album “has colours of what we are, but it’s also us looking out into new directions” muses Penner. This music brings you to the edge of breakdown and bliss.
Extensive touring over the past few years, including gigs with Mumford & Sons, Blue Rodeo, Wooden Sky, Rural Alberta Advantage, Elliott Brood and Plants & Animals, as well as their own headlining schedule of shows in barns, backyards, theatres, and clubs have won the band fans, converts and accolades across the country. On stage, Sunparlour Players take their fans through a roller coaster of emotion and energy, thunderous stomping one moment and delicate strumming the next, always backed by the band’s boundless energy. This is a lot of noise for just 2 guys. "Us Little Devils" is the at home version of the Sunparlour Players show. Enjoy the ride.