The Gertrudes
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The Gertrudes

Band Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Playing Nice With The Gertrudes"
The New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene and Britain’s Reindeer Section are just the latest additions to a musical tradition with a long history—the supergroup. A supergroup—first seen in bands such as Cream and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young—is made up of musicians from other bands. Here in Kingston, The Gertrudes are set to become the city’s first local supergroup.

The band is made up of a number of well-known characters from Kingston’s music scene—piano man Jason Erb is usually known as the caterwauling, tambourine-waving frontman for Infotourist, along with drummer Ian Montgomery; bassist Josh Lyon is a former member of Toronto’s Entire Cities; singer Greg Tilson is the promoter behind Little Joe Management, and singer and banjo-player Annie Clifford has long been playing sweet and yelpy solo shows. All nine members, including trombone player Pim van Geffen, accordion player Owen Fernley, lead guitarist Matt Rogalsky and theremin player Chris Trimmer, have been seen on stage with the wild troop of open mic freak-folkies, the Backyard Sex Band.

The band’s combined experience is their best asset—from their obvious on-stage ease to their willingness to experiment creatively, nothing about this band suggests they formed this year. The Gertrudes came together after many of the musicians involved pooled their talent for the 24-hour Tidal Mass event in September. Their first public appearance as The Gertrudes was on a Wednesday night last fall at The Grad Club’s open mic night, and their first official gig was at Modern Fuel’s silent auction event in December.

The band’s genre is hard to nail down—their sound is entirely determined by the combination of instruments playing at any given moment. Their contribution to the Skeleton Park Music Festival compilation is a haunting, echoey ballad about distance and differences, called “Lonely Days.” Trimmer’s theremin, an electric instrument that plays notes based on the placement of the player’s hands relative to metal antennas (it is one of the few instruments that can be played without being touched), adds true sadness to a song already carrying tragedy in its lyrics.

“I wrote it when I first came to Kingston and I was extremely lonely,” Clifford said.

The band’s songs are written by Clifford and Tilson, though Tilson’s songs are new, while Clifford’s are songs written in the past, but never brought to fruition publicly.

“I actually haven’t written a song for years,” Clifford said. “As for Greg, he seems to turn out a new song every week or so, but every one is extremely good.”

The band’s name comes from a familial story that was shared between two of the bandmates. “You know what? This is funny,” Clifford said. “Greg’s grandma [who’s name was Gertrude] had a stroke the same day that Greg’s little sister was born, and somehow the spirit of Greg’s grandma ended up in Greg’s little sister. Which sounds weird, except that it turns out that Pim is named Wilhelm because he has a story with his grandfather having a heart attack on the day of Pim’s birth or right around there. Pim didn’t know it, but his grandfather was a trombone player and he didn’t know it until years and years later.

“Also, it’s a nice name.”

Though they’re a newer group, all nine members are passionate about both the band and the feeling of community they get from playing together. Although the Skeleton Park compilation was their first recording experience, they plan to record more extensively and continue playing gigs locally. In the meantime, you can still find The Gertrudes playing at The Grad Club’s beloved open mic most Wednesday nights.

The Gertrudes play at the Sleepless Goat at 91 Princess St. this Sunday night at 8 p.m. Admission is pay what you can. They play next Wednesday at the central branch of the Kingston Public Library at 6:30 p.m. The band also plays at open mic at the Grad Club at 162 Barrie St. on Wednesday nights.
- Queen's Journal

"A band's dreamy beginning; The Gertrudes boast nine players, including a theremin musician"

A band's dreamy beginning; The Gertrudes boast nine players, including a theremin musician

Annie Clifford dreamed of starting a band.

One night, while she slumbered, she saw her musical future.

"I had a vivid dream in which I saw The Gertrudes on stage at a bar in Halifax that I used to go to, which has since closed down," she said.

"In the morning, I told Greg [Tilson] about the dream, and he is a person who doesn't let a dream just be a dream, and so he called everyone."

In Clifford's dream, many of the musicians onstage were people she and Tilson had worked with at Tidal Mass, a 24-hour art event last September.

Those people now make up the 10-person band, The Gertrudes.

There's Tilson, Clifford, who sings and plays the banjo, pianist Jason Erb, drummer Ian Montgomery from Infotourist, bassist Josh Lyon, formerly of Entire Cities, Pim Van Giffen on trombone, Chris Trimmer on theremin, accordion player Owen Fernley and lead guitarist Matt Rogalsky.

All nine members have also played with the Backyard Sex Band, a rambling troupe of Kingston friends and musicians.

Lyon's experience with the 10-person band Entire Cities has made him well-aquainted with sharing the stage with many people. The bonus of a big band is the friendships that are formed through the music.

"I really enjoy the band-as-community sort of thing, and it's a very different dynamic from a standard four-piece rock band," he said.

"There's more featured solos, everybody's sort of finding out where you fit. When there's more people playing music, I find it more interesting because it relies on listening so much more - it's not just everybody making noise all the time.

"In The Gertrudes, there's a bunch of really careful listeners that got together it really actually works."

My first experience with The Gertrudes was on a Wednesday night at the Grad Club's open mic last fall; the only bill posted was the band's name scrawled on the bar's blackboard. Immediately, the band stood out from the others: Clifford sings with a breathy earnestness I'd never heard before and the whole band played with a rare and focused unity.

The band calls their music "nerdgrass" - a label that encompasses all the sounds The Gertrudes traverse: old-style country, bluegrass and indie folk.

The Grad Club's open mic night continues to be home for the Gertrudes, who uses it as an opportunity to gain onstage experience. "There's the open mic at the Grad Club that's sort of an additional practice to get up and try things out in front of people," Lyon said.

"Everyone else is also committed in a lot of other bands; everybody's committed to [The Gertrudes] but there's lots else going on. But the eagerness is there."

Tilson and Clifford share The Gertrude's songwriting, though Clifford admits that she hasn't written a new song in years. The band is arranging and playing her songs from a few years ago. She said she's amazed at Tilson's ability to produce songs regular - nearly one a week.

"They're all so good," she said.

"Partly because he, Greg, hasn't actually played all that much music in his life, and he writes these crazy songs with strange beats and crazy chords and strange rhythms and they work really well, which is really nice.

"I guess soon I won't have any songs written, and then I'll fade away, but we'll have his songs."

Tilson seems just as bewildered by the songs that he says "come to him."

"Songs seem to come out of bits of paper that I find in various pockets where I have written down random thoughts and ideas," he said.

Though she jokes about fading away, Clifford's own ability when it comes to mixing melody and lyric is proven with the band's first recording - a song called Lonely Days, recorded live at the Grad Club for the yet-to-be-released Skeleton Park Music Festival fundraising compilation. The tune can also be heard on the band's MySpace page.

The song, which Clifford said was written during solitary days when she'd first moved to Kingston, is a bluegrassy wander through sadness and separation. Clifford said the song was a perfect example of why she's happy to be sharing these songs with the band.

"It sounds a lot better now that The Gertrudes gave it all those layers. Back then it was just me," she said.

Those layers are due in large part to Trimmer's other-worldy sounding theremin. The theremin, invented in the 1920s, is one of the only instruments that's played without being touched. It makes notes based on the location of the player's hands in relativity to two metal antennae.

An unlikely instrument to be onstage next to a banjo and a squeezebox, Trimmer's addition may be what sets the band apart from other participants in the new folk revival. In many ways, the theremin is the perfect accompaniment to The Gertrudes' music: a curious meeting of new and old.

- The Kingston Whig Standard

"CBC's Bandwidth hosts The Gertrudes"

On March 4th 2008 CBC's Alan Neal hosted The Gertrudes, recorded at Kingston's Apple Crisp ( - Alan Neal (

"The Gertrudes give new meaning to big band"

The Gertrudes give new meaning to big band. The Kingston, ON-based nine-piece may not be a musical ensemble associated with jazz and swing arrangements, but they certainly can fill a stage with their ambient folk sounds.
The band is composed of singer-banjo player Annie Clifford, piano man Jason Erb, drummer Ian Montgomery, bassist Josh Lyon, singer and guitarist Greg Tilson, trombone player Pim Van Geffen, accordion player Owen Fernley, lead guitarist Matt Rogalsky and theremin player Chris Trimmer.
The Gertrudes certainly live up to their legendary name.
"My baby sister, Gertrude Riley May Tilson, was born on the same day my grandmother, Gertrude Mary Tilson, died, sort of," says Greg Tilson. "We are all convinced that Gertrude Riley May is the reincarnation of my grandmother, Gertrude (the song explains how we found out).
There are many Gertrudes in my live who I love; it seemed to fit."
The sweeping dance tune ode to the ladies named Gertrude who came into his life in their various forms is found on the ensemble's debut self-titled EP (Apple Crisp Records).
Recorded over the course of a single day live off the floor with sound engineer Rueben de Groot, the band's sole objective was to capture a moment in time. The EP was released this past May.
They are currently working with producer Chris Brown (Kate Fenner, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir), to create a track for the forthcoming Lake Ontario Waterkeepers compilation disc. Also included on that disc are Gord Downie, Sarah Harmer, Old Man Luedecke, The Sadies and Luther Wright. This fall, The Gertrudes will start work on their follow-up EP, possibly even a full-length disc, to be released next spring.
"I listen to a fair bit of those old Folkways recordings and I get a real kick out of those," says Clifford. "It's very sincere, the singing and playing on those albums - and a bit strange. There isn't the homogenization of sound that we've got going on now, which is a little draw back to the way we can hear music from all over, really fast."
Drawing on lavish inspiration from the limestone city and surrounding St. Lawrence River, The Gertrudes truly believe Kingston is the only place they could call home.
"We love Kingston," Clifford says, "I grew up here and spent a fair bit of time sneaking underage into bars with Josh, watching folks like the Inbreds, the Mahones and Weeping Tile. Several Gertrudes came to Kingston through Queen's, which has been a great university - we practice there in a huge room in the music department."
- By Shannon Web-Campbell
Penguin Eggs
Issue No. 40 Winter 2008 - Penguin Eggs (Winter Issue)

"Apple Crisp Delivers..."

t would be easy to separate the fantastic collection of artists Apple Crisp consolidated into their quick hitting compilation, but it would take away from everything that makes Apple Crisp so great. The Kingston based crew puts out records (Apple Crisp Records), runs a terrific concert series (their upcoming festival has bands like Bruce Peninsula and Timbre Timber holding fort and playing free shows), makes videos and puts out a magazine. Basically, they bombard you with art, in whatever medium you chose to digest it.

Their latest endeavor, a compilation mini-mag and cd gives a nice glance into Kingston's music community as past and present residents offer up a song for the CD, but it's the way they package the songs in a tidy little zine roughly the size of your standard CD cover that shows their creativity. It's packed with articles, interviews, and photos about the Kingston scene and kind of whets your appetite for the music you are about to get into. I mean, who doesn't want to read about how Mathias Kom learned to love the ukulele -while they listen to some great music?

Being relatively unfamiliar with the K-town scene (other than the fact Gord Downie and Sarah Harmer once called it home) – I know there are a lot of prisons and they host an annual bocce tournament that jumped the shark once herohill stopped entering it – I was surprised by how many artists grabbed me on first listen. Nich Worby – of Entire Cities fame – offers up the crunchy Tiny Ghosts, and Magic Jordan delivers another brash electro/indie epic, but it was the new discoveries that really made this comp special.

Christina Foster explodes out of the speakers with the bar room, anger-filled folktale, Me and Latoya. Rueben deGroot - a Vancouver ex-pat not only has one of the best EP titles I’ve heard in forever (The Winter of our Discotheque), but a rootsy style that is sure to turn heads. But for me, the album standout came courtesy of The Getrudes. Turn Out the Lights is simply captivating. Somehow mixing tropical vibes with banjo, squeezebox, alt-country and indie pop, their 2008 release is now high on my "How did I miss this band?" list. - Hero Hill, Halifax, NS

"Friends of Skeleton Park"

The Gertrudes are one of 22 bands featured on the compilation album, Friends of Skeleton Park, which also features Juno award winners, Sarah Harmer and Jenny Whiteley. - Now Magazine (Thursday April 24, 2008)


The Gertrudes (EP)
Apple Crisp Records 2008



Banjo picker, Annie Clifford, had a dream
about The Gertrudes. She told guitar
picker, Greg Tilson, about the dream and
he picked up the phone and called up all
The Gertrudes in her dream. The Gertrudes
then assembled themselves in the Kingston
School of Music, and made beautiful music together.
The rest, as they say, is history.

The Gertrudes recently released a music video for their song Blackbird and The Cedar which you can watch at: