the Blue Raincoats
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the Blue Raincoats


Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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"Chartattack Album review"

It's all about the electric guitar on Blue Raincoats' debut disc. Keri Steele's (Hush Hush front woman) new project mixes Sarah Slean-y horns and a jazz beat on "Childhood" with a surprisingly fitting guitar outro, while on opener "Middleman," the suggested edginess of the building guitar works alongside Steele's distorted vocals. Her vocals are still 100 per cent singer-songwriter, rock flourishes or no, and her songs feel at home when surrounded by the soft beauty of piano, strings and horns. -

"Now magazine album review"

When Keri Steele and Nina Martinez of Hush Hush started working out tunes for a third album, they probably didn't think it would spawn a new group. And they were probably surprised at how good the results were, since they seem like modest types. From the opener, Middleman – a brittle, shrill vocal delivery over a propulsive, shambling guitar line – right on down to the delicately ethereal closer, Wasting Time, it's clear the two are on to something bigger than the term "side project" would suggest. The songs are intricately orchestrated but never over the top, retaining urgency and bite, yet with some surprisingly solid rhythms and super-catchy melodies.

- Brent Raynor

" album review"

Full of heartbreak and throaty vocals, The Blue Raincoat’s self-titled debut is simply beautiful. It’s an easy listen and one that takes you out of your head, into a music-induced stupor.

Keri Steele of Hush Hush sings and plays guitar with melancholy soul, drawing the listener deeper and deeper into the album. By the time the last track ends, it feels as if you’ve been covered in a thick, cozy woollen blanket on a rainy day. There is something deeply satisfying and comforting about the sadness and intimacy she evokes with her voice.

What begins as a pretty voice backed by moody guitar takes on a haunting quality that builds throughout the disc into a full, cohesive sound. The album flows with intensity from beginning to end.
- Jessica Padykula

"The Coast, album review"

Blue Raincoats' self-titled record brings Steele to the forefront for a collection of serene, gripping, dreamy pop. "Shocked" is an instantly likable melody with the makings of a radio hit. The single, like the entire album, is perfect to listen to on a rainy day. It follows a simple verse-chorus-verse format, but Steele's soulful, melancholic voice is put together with sincere lyrics that find a balance that keeps the song from being overdramatic. The lead track, the edgy "Middleman," features grungy, distorted electric guitar overlapped with horns, for a sound that is somewhere between where Shirley Manson ends and Emily Haines begins. - The Coast

"Silhouette album review"

“The Blue Raincoats deliver delicate vocals over an alt-rockish background in their first self-titled album. Xylophones in the chorus (of Middleman) could give the Arcade Fire’s Regine a run for her money. The sincerity and bareness of Nice Holidays and Wasting Time ring a bell to a pre-Let It Die Feist. Like an onion, more and more layers are revealed as the album progresses. A harsh rock beginning develops into a singer/songwriter feel. Overall, the Blue Raincoats have a sound that’s easily accessible without dripping with the smell of over-processed trash. Heck, there’s even a honky-tonkin’ Nancy Sinatra cover. What more could you ask for?” - McMaster University

"Gauntlet album review"

“The Blue Raincoats mastermind Keri Steele seems to be using the project as her audition for the Canadian spotlight. The melodies are consistently strong, the arrangements are varied, and Steele's voice has a hushed strength able to compliment this type of music perfectly. One listen to "Childhood" or album opener "Middleman makes it clear Steele would sit comfortably in Canada's upper echelon of indie-pop women, alongside Feist and Emily Haines.” - University of Calgary

"View magazine album review"

This is an interesting record. At times ’80s–drenched revivalist indie and at other moments simplistic herbivore folk or rowdy garage–rock, the Blue Raincoats’ debut confers a little bit of everything. Still, one overlying influence encompasses the entire listen; their dedication to creating plaintive, pellucid pop. Vocalist and principle songwriter Keri Steele (of Hush Hush fame) sounds like a youthful Liz Phair engrossed in a Cat Power marathon, and guitarist/bassist Nina Martinez, along with a slew of guest performers, lay down enough variety for Steele to lose herself in, creating a more introspective listen than most female–fronted stylistic menageries flooding the mainstream as of late. This is aggressively eclectic, yet soft–spoken and undeniably vibrant stuff. Trust me, it makes sense and works perfectly. - Shain Shapiro

"Ottawa Citizen interview"

Keri Steele has finally learned to cut out the crap. Her band journey began in the early '90s with Imaginary Heaven, a group that tried, with some success, to riff off Loreena McKennitt's booming Celtic-New-Age vocal experiments.
Eventually Steele joined Hush Hush, a slick pop-rock act that was heavy on production. Turns out she didn't need the studio help. When the Vankleek Hill-born singer and band mate Nina Martinez set out to record a new album, they realized the stripped-down approach could say more with less.
The other Hush Hushers went their separate ways and Martinez and Steele became the Blue Raincoats. Their new self-titled album shows Steele's full range. She can wail, weep and wonder with the flick of her tongue. Effects are still there, but producer Thomas Ryder Payne (ex of Joydrop and a super-instrumentalist who plays piano, electric and acoustic guitars, accordion, drums and bass and sang backing vocals on the album) understands nuance.
"The style for Hush Hush was already set," Steele says. "Vocal-wise, I wasn't able to cut through the sound. With Blue Raincoats, it's stripped, so it's easier for the subtleties to come across. From there, we started exploring different time signatures, but we kept the instrumentation simple and not too layered."
Still, the Ottawa performance will feature a full cast: Payne on keys and backing vocals; Sarah McElcheran (trumpet), Martinez (bass) and Josh Hicks (drums) with Steele coming through clearly.
"I really want to do vocals that are interesting," Steele says, citing Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser's beautiful elastic gobbledygook and Metric's Emily Haines (who "manifests attitude in her voice" with ease). "They're people who are really offering something."
- Fateema Sayani

"Ottawa Sun interview"

It is difficult, listening to a line like "I've been sober all my childhood," which is part of the chorus to the song Childhood from the eponymous release by Toronto's the Blue Raincoats, without smiling and thinking of some of the great tongue-in-cheek references to alcohol found in vintage country music.
Yet on first glance the music made by the duo of Keri Steele and Nina Martinez bears little resemblance to country music, and it is only once you strip the songs to their essence, to their tumbleweed vision-inducing guitar lines, that the roots shine through.
"We'll be writing songs, and Nina (who handles guitar and bass duties) will say 'you know, that's a country song,' " laughs vocalist/guitarist Steele.
"I grew up listening to country music and it seems that my love of singers like Patsy Cline runs deeply through my subconscious."
It seems fitting that Steele should mention Cline, for like that doomed goddess of song, Steele is in possession of one marvelous instrument.
Even down the phone line, her voice is a mixture of crystal clarity and a kind of honeyed laziness. And it seems like country is not the only genre running through the musical veins of Steele, as the first outfit she was involved with was the popular folk/ambient Vankleek Hill group Imaginary Heaven.
'Valuable experience'
"Oh God, that seems like a long time ago, so far removed from now," recalls Steele. "Imaginary Heaven were sort of tied into the Loreena McKennitt school of music, with some Celtic influences, kind of mellow and with lots of harmony.
"It was a really valuable experience in terms of learning about songwriting, which led to branching out and moving to Toronto."
Part of Steele's Toronto branching was the forming of an all-girl group called Hush Hush. Drawing rave reviews as a lush mixture of ethereal and indie rock, the experience of recording Hush Hush's two releases, Last One Left and Fake, nonetheless left Steele with the nagging feeling that there was an explored musical avenue calling her name.
"Hush Hush really started as more of a songwriting project than anything else," Steele offers. "But it always seemed like something that never took shape, never really had enough direction."
Perfect outlet
While working together for new Hush Hush material, Steele and Martinez were playing their guitars, slowly realizing that what was taking shape between them was something altogether separate from what had been happening in Hush Hush.
And as the Blue Raincoats were born, Steele could feel herself moving closer to finding the perfect outlet for her creativity.
"In working on this material, we explored the mellow side of a song, and the edgier side of a song and then tried to make the sides collide," enthuses Steele.
"And I became very interested in the recording aspect of things. Our producer, Thomas Ryder Payne, helped us shape the songs, and would suggest things like the effects used on my voice on the opening track Middleman, making things more sonically rich. Forming the Blue Raincoats seem like a definite choice, and everything seems to have the focus I've been looking for."
For the Ottawa performance, which is a belated record-release party, the core duo of Steele and Martinez will be joined by some of the musicians who helped flesh out the sound of their debut recording.
And after having mostly done performances in smaller group formats, the chance to up the sonic ante is something Steele is really looking forward to.
"The sonics is really what it is about for us," Steele agrees. "The chance to do things from interesting perspectives, and for that it will be good to have a band with us. And you can be sure there are going to be some killer guitar licks, from girls!"
- Stephen Flood

"Ottawa Xpress interview"

When Kerri Steele and Nina Martinez, the driving force behind Toronto's artful trip-pop merchants Hush Hush, settled down last year to start writing material for a new record, the duo had few goals short of simply "presenting some new ideas to see what would stick."
Nevertheless, what emerged naturally from the informal living room sessions took them by surprise. The new songs, written quickly, were stripped down and rough around the edges, lending a newfound spark and urgency to the work. Thus was born the Blue Raincoats.
"There just wasn't really a clear focus with my other band," Steele says over the phone from Toronto, reflecting on the slow disintegration of Hush Hush. "It just wasn't meant to be, and it was mostly my fault, because I didn't know where to take it."
This time around, Steele was determined to take it back to the source. Her voice now purrs, prowls and pounces in sweet seductive fashion, front and centre.
"It was something I hadn't really done before, but I'm glad I did," she says with pride. "It kind of frames things better, and it was necessary to have that point to work around, with guitar textures. When you're not really sure what to focus on, everything feels like a fight. And this felt nothing like a fight."
But old habits die hard, particularly in the studio, as Steele admits she sometimes found it "difficult to walk away from a simple song." Thus, she subsequently decided to "add some layers and players." Produced by multi-instrumentalist Thomas Ryder Payne (ex-Joydrop), the rich, dramatic 12-track set - featuring sharp turns by a host of friends, including Josh Hicks (drums), Sarah McElcheran (trumpet), Jenna Steele (guitar) and Michael Dilauro (bass) - finds a sweet spot between intimacy and combustible fury, its often ethereal, soft-chiming cerebral romanticism giving way to fits of sheer brute force that rock below the belt.
"I really felt like I had more invested in this record than any other before. I was much closer to the songs. These were much more from the gut, from the pit of the stomach type songs."
- Steve Baylin


The Blue Raincoats - The Blue Raincoats (Sept. 05)


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Blue Raincoats is the new creative outlet for Keri Steele of Hush Hush. One guitar, one amazing voice. It all started in a living room in downtown Toronto with Steele and Hush Hush bassist Nina Martinez playing guitars and writing new songs for a projected third Hush Hush album. Steele soon realized that they were creating something new, something more stripped down than the band and with a greater emphasis on her voice. “After spending many years working in a band setting, it was time for me to branch out and work more independently with a different musical template; more open and vulnerable, and working with Nina offered that possibility.” Reinvention is a word that may be overused, but is definitely not a cliché when applied to singer/songwriter Keri Steele. As a teenager in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, she was a founding member of ambient folk group Imaginary Heaven. After recording three albums with that line-up, Steele felt the need to stretch artistically and explore more contemporary forms of music. Forming Hush Hush enabled her to combine an identifiable band sound with the flexibility of working with a variety of musicians. Both Hush Hush albums, Cinematheque and Fake, were critically acclaimed and charted at Canadian college radio. The Blue Raincoats debut album was produced by Thomas Ryder Payne (ex-Joydrop) and features guest performances by Michael “Mez” Dilauro (Beautiful 2000), Josh Hicks (Wild Strawberries/K-OS) and Sarah McElcheran (Damhnait Doyle/Sarah Slean). As well as some great original songs ranging from the garage-band-with-horns of Backfire to the acoustic thoughtfulness of Nice Holidays, the album includes a bare bones version of the Nancy Sinatra classic “How Does That Grab You, Darling?” “There was really no question in my mind whether or not to record these songs, but I was very nervous when we began the process. I’m so proud of this music and I really wanted to capture the simplicity and rawness of our live shows while enhancing the songs with more instruments and layers. It was a very emotional process for me – more so than any other recording experience I’ve had. I’m more attached to the music and this is both a good and bad thing when recording it. But at the end of it all I feel we have an honest, dynamic and candid album and I’m very happy about that.” The Blue Raincoats self-titled debut album is set for release in Canada on September 27th through Popguru Sound & Vision and distributed by Outside Music.