ZWERG
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ZWERG

Miramichi, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 1996 | INDIE | AFM

Miramichi, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 1996
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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Music

Press


"East Coast Music - Music Review: ZWERG Whims 'N' Words [August 29, 2012]"

Bob Mersereau
August 29, 2012
"It's the innocence and happiness that's infectious here, as it is about [ZWERG] in person. Plus, there's no denying he can write a killer melody." --Bob Mersereau (East Coast Music, CBC.ca)
- CBC.ca (New Brunswick - Provincial)


"Passion Exposed with Josh MaGee [February 9, 2013]"

"Eldon began to play and I began to shoot.  Very soon it was clear that this composer and his talent quite easily distracted me from my job at hand.  As his music drew me, in I found my self shooting between listening, and focusing, no pun intended, on the emotion in the songs and capturing at the apex of his bridges."--Josh MaGee (Photographer-Biographer) - Josh MaGee (Moncton)


"MarcAndrew.ca - Celebrity Playlist: ZWERG's Playlist [July 6, 2011]"

"ZWERG continues to wear his heart on one sleeve, his soul on the other, with his passion showing rough and raw around the edges." --Marc Andrew (MarcAndrew.ca) - MarcAndrew.ca (Montreal)


"Music Nerd Chronicles [August 2, 2012]"

Ken Kelly
August 2, 2012
"Whims and Words is an original album concept from one of New Brunswick’s arguably under-appreciated talents." --Ken Kelly (MusicNerd.ca) - Here Magazine (Moncton)


"CBC Podcast - Take Liberty [January 31, 2012]"

Jeff Liberty
January 31, 2012
"One of the most unique albums in recent East Coast music history. It's so wonderful to hear an artist creating unpretentious pop, music that's easy to listen to. The album has a very refined sound that feels bright, warm and optimistic; effervescent, as the songs weave playfully in and out." --Jeff Liberty (CBC Radio's "Take Liberty") - CBC Radio (St. John)


"NB Film Co-op Newsletter [August 31, 2012]"

NB Film Co-op Newsletter
August 31, 2012 - NB Film Co-op (Fredericton)


"ZWERG Whims 'N' Words [August 31, 2012]"

August 31, 2012
"Canadian Eldon Thiele is the star of one-man band ZWERG. The singer-songwriter has been performing since he was three years old, and as ZWERG has released numerous critically acclaimed albums and videos, and has toured the continent." --Get Out Weekly - Get Out Magazine (New York)


"Chanter Son Coin de Pays - ZWERG Whims 'N' Words [September 26, 2012]"

Ce piano man originaire du Nouveau-Brunswick a non seulement le physique de l’emploi, mais du talent à revendre. Avec son quatrième opus intitulé Whims ‘N’ Words, Eldon Thiele, alias ZWERG, présente un album accompli en hommage à son coin de pays. Et avec 17 titres et de multiples photos (sublimes) du musicien, prises dans diverses provinces ma-ritimes, on ne peut accuser l’auteur-compositeur-interprète de 34 ans d’être peu généreux envers son public.--Julie Vaillancourt (Fugues Magazine) - Fugues Magazine (Montreal)


"Next Gay Music Review: ZWERG [January 20, 2013]"

"Thiele's [songs] are great examples of what experienced indie artists can come up with when they dive into their projects with confidence and vision. His is an exploration and experimentation with melody that defies pinning to any specific billboard. (Is he folk? Is he pop? Dance? Balladeer? All of the above, I'd say.) His lush, well-layered arrangements easily mesh with his clever, tight rhymes…Thiele's lyrics as poetry could stand well on their own…" --Randall Perry (FABmagazine.com) - FAB Magazine (Toronto)


"To Myopic Mutts [Moncton Times & Transcript, January 7, 1999]"

To Myopic Mutts ->
This Moncton band's indie release may not be the future of rock, but its definitely cutting edge. With their cunningly inventive use of high-brow piano and straight-jacket verbalized pun-and-rhyme lyrics, Zwerg needn't be concerned about competition because they are in a field of their own.

Depending on your medication, the Lewis Carroll cum I Am a Walrus-inspired tale telling is top notch, curdled as it is with grunts, growls and groans, which although they may become a tad predictable mid-way, make for a fascinating collection. Bolstering this is the varied instrumental bits, as becautiful piano pieces as they come. Though it's quite obvious Betts is striving to reach a surrealist level with his combo of talented key-plunking and knack for turning a worth phrase, what really makes To Myopic Mutts work is the schizophrenic feeling to it all, you can read the lyrics, ignore the music and have a great laugh, or you can ignore the lyrics and enjoy some fine arranging. Whether or not this makes waves in Moncton isn't of concern. That it is available and offered presently without corporate backing, is.
-- Greg Perry, Times & Transcript, 1998 - Gregg Perry [Moncton, NB]


"Played Wits [The Ryersonian, February 28, 2001]"

Played Wits ->
In an industry overun by cookie-cutter pop-rock and one-hit wonders, Played Wits has Zwerg's Jason Betts in the catbird seat with a collection of eclectic stylings anything but mainstream. The signature piano arrangements and smooth vocals of the Moncton, New Brunswick native's first two releases are back on Played Wits, but this time accompanied by percussion and computer sequences blipping and whirring or zipping like shooting stars in and out of songs.

The synth on Played Wits is sometimes heavy, but broken up enough between songs so as not to overwhelm the listener who vowed never to experience 80s-style synth at an intoxicating level again.

Betts' lyrics, with mythological ("The Lamia") and fantasy ("Rooty Toot-Shoot") references interspersed, are curiously abstract, making one wonder, "Just what was he whinking about when he put that down?". Then again, part of the intrigue of Played Wits is deciding what the lyrics mean. Ah well, it's all relative, anyway. A standout track is "Just as I am", a traditional 19th centruy piece on which Betts' vocals and piano show up clear and pronounced. Played Wits is that hard-to-come-by kind of music that just may give you what you've been missing.
-- Laura Pearce, Ryersonian, February 28, 2001 - Laura Pearce [Ryerson University, Toronto, ON]


"ZWERG 'Played Wits' (Waspy Mic Mac) [Chart Magazine, April 2001]"

Jason Betts displays the kind of uncanny Canadian talent that only gets airplay on late-night CBC radio and campus stations. This is a shame because the Moncton pianist creates alluring pop tunes under the name Zwerg. His latest release, Played Wits, is equal parts quirky new wave and virtuosic piano-pop, riding extended song structures that never sound tired. Betts's neurotic vocal delivery and lyrical profundity bring to mind The The's Matt Johnson, placing him in very fine company. In all, Played Wits is true iconoclastic pop that bridges the gap between the fringe and the mainstream. (Contact: zwerg@nbnet.nb.ca)
-- DK
CCCC
-- Darrin Keene; Chart, Canada's Music Magazine; April, 2001 - Darrin Keene [Toronto, ON -National]


"Pop: Gonzales, SoCalled, Zwerg [Midnight Poutine, October 3, 2005]"

October 03, 2005

The street outside the Mile End Cultural Centre, aka the Green Room and Main Hall, seemed like a good place to be last night. Up in the Main Hall, the Dr. Noh show was at least an hour behind schedule, and Quadraceptor was on the stage. I could only take him in small doses, although I couldn't help but be impressed - there are only so many huge black dudes in samurai armour who stomp around the stage making shrieking sounds. Meanwhile, one floor below, Zwerg had taken the stage, pancake makeup, waxed chest, pierced nipples, and all. By remaining mainly on the street, I was able to glimpse occasional bits of both shows without being too heavily traumatized.

Anyway, Zwerg. I was standing near the stage (and the door, which was crucial), with Pop Mtl. folks Dounia and Dan Seligman, plus Josh Dolgin (aka SoCalled) and Torq from Stars and his girlfriend. Yeah, check me name-dropping. Everyone but Dan and Dounia had a perplexed expression on their face, due to Zwerg. It's really not something that translates to words very well, and I actually pondered purchasing his DVD to prove what I saw. But then I didn't. So, here goes.

He is, apparently, from Moncton, N.B. He's got streaked, frosted blonde glam hair of the variety that you see in posters in the windows of hair salons that should be avoided. Piercing eyes, a well-sculpted face, and a repertoire of hilarious looks/facial poses straight out of Zoolander. Said looks are produced at various points throughout his songs; he looked down at his Yamaha keyboard (something recent and expensive, it looked like), uttered some lyric, and then looked back up with one of the several different looks, which instantly caused pretty much everyone in the audience to snicker. Holy fuck, man, it was hilarious and creepy. His songs have about 800 different melodies in them, and sound vaguely like the kind of music that weird salesguy from the piano section of a music store would know how to play.

Before leaving, Seligman noted to me that tonight's Gonzales/SoCalled show (and this is basically the only reason I put those names in the title) is supposed to be semi-formal. This strikes me as another one of Seligman's nutty schemes, part of some secret plan of his, the intentions of which wil become apparent later. But maybe I'll wear a suit.

Then Josh Dolgin and I got out of there, finally. We had divised a condition in which if Zwerg did something weird in the current song, we had to stay for the next one, and that forced us to stay for quite some time. In fact, I think we eventually just abandoned that plan. Walking west along St. Viateur, we discussed whether Zwerg was serious or whether it was some Neil-Hamburger-esque deliberate badness. We came to no conclusions. Josh seemed a bit worried about his show tonight. He kept asking me if I knew anyone who could play an oud. I think that's what he said, anyway. But Josh always seems kind of worried. If he wasn't worried, I would be.


--------------------------------------------- - Posted by John in Fashion, Music. popmontreal.com


"ZWERG Sepsis [Chart Magazine, May 1998]"

Imagine my surprise when the death metal that I thought I was getting (the look, the titles) turned out to be a unique and harrowing night-time ride of another nature. Zwerg is the domain of one Jason Betts from Moncton, who turns in an intensely homespun performance of barbed, extra tiny piano ditties that sound like Tori Amos, The Inbreds and Smashing Pumpkins, with nods to Syd Barrett and Nick Drake. Very out-there, but quite a thought-provoking trip into frailty. Oh yeah, it's seven tracks totalling fifteen minutes, even though two hours seem to float by. Kinda creepy, really. Contact: 64 Oakmoor Terrace, Moncton NB E1G 1T5. --MP - Martin Popoff [Toronto, ON -National]


"Check Out '98 - the year in new music [Watch Magazine, Winter Issue '99]"

...A close second to Rufus on the bizzaro front was Moncton's Zwerg (aka Jason Betts). Where Wainwright is best described as Elton John with contemporary relevance and WITHOUT cheese, Zwerg is the first solo pianist to deserve to be compared to the incomparable Tori Amos. He's a prolific little bugger, too, having coughed up an EP and a full length in the space of 9 months (more info: rolene@nbnet.nb.ca) - Austin CLarke [Toronto, ON -National]


"ZWERG Played Wits [EXCLAIM Magazine, December, 2000]"

While I'm sure many people assume everyone in Moncton must listen to Sonic Youth and play distorted indie-rock, Zwerg proves that there is a lot more going on. Zwerg is the project of a certain Eldon Thiele, aka Jason Betts. On his first full-length album, 'To Myopic Mutts', he enlisted the help of fellow citizen Rick White, of the Eric's Trip/Elevator lineage. Instead of rocking out, this album honed in on his skills as a singer and songwriter, with most of the sound attributed to Betts and his piano. Things take a sharp right turn with 'Played Wits', which features a heavy presence from synthesisers, effects and electronics. If that weren't enough, his smooth voice reminds me of 80's pop star Nick Kershaw. The album's ten tracks are all solid efforts and clock in at longer than average times, which allows Betts the room to explore all the sounds he has in his head. While the goofy programmed nature of this record will be hard for many to swallow, at least it's not predictable. (Waspy Mic Mac, 64 Oakmoor Terrace, Moncton, NB E1G 1T5)
--Rob Bolton - Rob Bolton [National]


"Zwerg, Sepsis, **** [The Coast, March 19-26, 1998]"

Originality goes a long way. Luckily, that's not all Jason Betts has to go on. Betts is Zwerg--piano and vocals and writer of all songs. He's thrown in Rick White for bass, guitar, percussion and sounds but Zwerg is really Betts. Sepsis is seven tunes founded in Betts' chilling classical piano and severe voice (one that makes you cringe when you listen to it, though not because it's bad, because it must hurt to sing that way, you think). Listening to Sepsis gives you the feeling that Betts has given you an unadulterated glimpse into himself. There's no translation on this disc, no easing of the songs into listenable form and no striving. The music simply is. And that is a very enjoyable thing.
--Lezlie Lowe - Lezlie Lowe [Halifax, NS -Atlantic Canada]


"Blood runs thicker than musical taste -Siblings record very different discs [The New Brunswick Reader, June 23, 2001]"

The two faces pictured on the albums by Zwerg and Jessica Betts couldn't seem farther apart. Moncton's Zwerg, with his spiky green, blue and yellow hair offers up some advanced electronica, while Jessica's self-titled disc is gospel. The link? They're brother and sister. Zwerg, aka Jason Betts has been making keyboard-based programmed music for several years under a few different names, what he accurately describes as "psycho-delic." What I like about it is his cross-generation style; his keyboardistry is based in '80s synth-pop, his mood more in tune with modern techno-philosophers such as Badly Drawn Boy, the lyrics actally meaning something. What he avoids is programming and hi-tech simply for the sake of it, refusing to belong to any electronica genre just because it's cool. The song remains important, and the musical tools are simply what's available to your average one-man band these days.
How does a gospel singer come out of the same family? No surprise it's a musical one. Dad is one John Betts, whose career has included stints as the educator behind Moncton's school music program, and a city councillor. Jessica's strength is her voice, a soaring enjoyable gospel sound, very modern. She's a bit of a belter, not unlike many of the young women crowding the airwaves, except she's not guilty of oversinging the songs. She just sings them strongly. Her tunes have a pop side, a bit of rhythm and blues. And, as befits such a musical family, she's also writing her own, the praiseful power ballad 'Nailed Sorrow'. And who arranged it and played all the instruments? One Jason Betts.
Jason is currently recording his fourth CD, but it's his acting that's really catching fire. He just finished a role in the Daniel Baldwin movie 'Irish Eyes', that's being shot in Saint John, and this Sunday, he's moving to Montreal for his next job. He has a principal role in a new TV show called 'University' that's being shot there.
As for Jessica, she also had two cuts on a compilation CD 'In Jesus Name We Play' which was launched in Charlottetown during the ECMAs. And she'll perform a full-length concert on July 1, 6 p.m. at Camp Wildwood.

--Bob Mersereau is a Fredericton-based freelance writer. He can be reached a kitts@nbnet.nb.ca - Bob Mersereau [Fredericton, NB -Provincial]


"Moncton native takes listeners on a spiritual journey [Here Magazine, September 13-19, 2007]"

Zwerg set to release new CD. By Ashley Bursey

At first glance, he looks more like a male model than a psychedelic pop artist, but Jason Betts assures me that’s exactly what he is…and that the kitschy medieval-style photo art from his newest album – under the name Zwerg – was just an “extravagant rock” look – kind of like his tunes.
“(My music) is just kind of an amalgam of all the styles of music that I like. I’d love to say that it’s really accessible to all people, but a lot of people kind of turn their head and go, ‘huh?’ when they hear it,” he says. “So it’s kind of avant-garde and more European than North American.
“It’s not as digestible, I don’t think, as modern pop radio music, but it’s a fusion of a lot of genres that people like – dream pop, classical, rock influences, a lot of electronic elements, too. It’s kind of a hodgepodge.”
This CD, Into the 4th Dimension, is what Betts calls a bit of a spiritual journey, fusing ambient with alternative and easy-on-the-ears crooning.
“’Into the 4th dimension’ is my term for the spirit world. I just kind of came to the point – we’re all aging, and as we do, it seems more and more people in our lives are passing away,” he explains. “All of a sudden it seemed like more and more people in my life were dying, and I was out on my own in Toronto, and I just felt this need to explore or come to terms with religion, (specifically) the very strict Christian religion I was brought up in.
Christian, and highly artistic; his father was a music teacher and his mother taught art in Moncton. Betts went to Moncton High; it’s where he got the World of Warcraft-esque getups featured on his Myspace page.
And music, he says, was always something he sort of fell into. I ask him if he’s a prodigy. For a moment he pauses, speechless for the first time, then: “Um…yeah. I’ve been called that,” he says, slowly. “I never saw myself as a prodigy, because, like I say, music was just a part of life.”
He remembers going into the Moncton Music Festival expecting to take first prize as a kid…and then the tougher years in Toronto, working to make it as an actor or an artist, when “you’d walk in (to an audition) and there are like 50 other guys with better resumes and who are better looking. It’s so competitive.”
But after six years in the T-dot, Betts is back in his native Moncton. The CD has been a compilation of the past few years spent as a sort of starving artist in Toronto, saving the cash to buy his own studio equipment, experimenting with music and religion and all sorts of different career paths.
Being back in Atlantic Canada, he says, is like experiencing an entity all to itself.
“I never realized what kind of identity we have as Atlantic Provincial Canadians until I got [to Ontario] and people would, of course, always call New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. They’d ask, ‘wow, what’s it like there? Is it igloos, fishing shacks and stuff?’
With his typical candor, he adds: “And I would play it up: ‘Let me put it this way: one time a partridge flew into our sliding glass door and we ate it.’ The vegans didn’t like me after that.”
He’s always been that kid, the curious, fun-loving guy – and it shows in his music.
“I remember the smell of the 8-track machine, the plastic, it was the most exciting smell in the world,” he says, excited. “You know when you get a smell memory? They take you back to a time in your life you forgot about? I ran around the house listening to the BeeGees in nothing but my training pants with big ol’ 70’s headphones, eating Cheese Nips.”
Zwerg’s newest album, Into the 4th Dimension, will have its official CD release at the Paramount Lounge in Moncton on September 13. Check out www.myspace.com/zwergband for more details. -h


- Ashley Bursey [Fredericton/Moncton, NB -Provincial]


Discography

-WHIMS 'N' WORDS (2012)
-PACKAGE UP MY SOUL ep (2010)
-INTO THE 4TH DIMENSION (2007)
-TO STAND, KNEEL dvd single (2005)
-PLAYED WITS (2000)
-TO MYOPIC MUTTS (1998)
-SEPSIS ep (1997)

Photos

Bio

Eleven-time Music New Brunswick Award nominee Eldon Thiele (ZWERG) began singing onstage at the age of 3, and began studying piano at age 5 under the watchful guidance of his music teacher father John Betts.  He later attended the prestigious Notre Dame D’Acadie music school, going on to win numerous 1st place awards at The Greater Moncton Music Festival.  Much of Thiele’s childhood was spent touring with his family’s singing group The Betts Family. 

At age 18, Thiele conceived his one-man band ZWERG, which has released 9 CDs to-date, as well as a DVD music video/single which aired on several times on MuchMoreMusic.  His first two releases, Sepsis & To Myopic Mutts, were featured extensively on national radio shows Radiosonic & Brave New Waves, and were well-received by college radio. His more recent releases continue to receive airplay on CBC radio, among other stations in Canada and the U.S.

ZWERG has shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Jessica Rhaye, Matt Mays and El Torpedo, Wintersleep, Paper Beat Scissors, Coyote, Dennis Ellsworth, Jon Mullane, Mike Biggar, and April Wine's Jim Henman.  He has played numerous acclaimed music festivals such as Pop Montreal, The East Coast Music Awards, and Music New Brunswick Week. ZWERG performs as a solo act, and also showcases with his live band consisting of Dan and Mike Bourgeois (The Melanie Morgan Band/Chris Cummings/George Belliveau), Danny Roy (The Melanie Morgan Band), and Robin Anne Ettles (Roch Voisine/Sol/Shaun LeBlanc).

Contact: eldonthiele@yahoo.com