Marlon Chaplin made his mark on Canadian Music Week with two shows (at Supermarket and the delightfully atmospheric new home of The Hideout). Playing on the back of new singles “Fossils” and “Annabelle + Someone” and backed by a full band for both shows, CMW rounded out a busy year of touring and promoting his debut EP Wanderer By Trade.
Wanderer by Trade offers a variety of stripped-back sounds in the strong vein of our beloved folk-country music that is key to Canadian tradition, an important musical form that travels well from coast to coast (and beyond). Built on those riffs are clear vocals full of feeling reminiscent of early Jack White / The White Stripes (“Skeleton Key”, “Carmeline”) while lead track “In Stars” has cinematic qualities that ring of excitement.
Chaplin’s energetic show of lively rock music reflects an exciting year of growth and evolution for the Toronto artist, as he’s moved from his folk-rock roots established on Wanderer by Trade toward the new songs that expand his sound in a more eclectic direction, which is broadened further with a full band. The live music is exciting, more textured, and ranges into psychedelic sounds and entertaining solos. The current show (which can be seen again on May 4th at The Dakota Tavern) turns up the heat on the EP’s softer songs, making room for transitions into set pieces.
On the CMW stage, Chaplin’s music was complemented nicely by the addition of Sintja (of The Naïve) on backing vocals, keys & percussion rounding out the full band’s sound. The added energy & spontaneous feeling of the terrific live show (Illiya Vee on bass, Stefan Hegerat on drums) is a plus to an already strong group of songs.
We had a chance to speak to Marlon amid the CMW blitz about his earliest musical listening experiences and influences, asked nosy questions about his own music collection and TV viewing habits, and learned more about what the artist does off stage and what makes him tick.
How was your CMW experience?
It was a wonderful whirlwind.
What was the first LP/tape/CD you bought with your own money?
I want to say it was Quadrophenia by The Who on CD. Whether or not it was my money or my dad’s I can’t recall, but I remember that as being a momentous occasion. I went to a Catholic elementary school and walking into that used record store, picking out that specific album, marveling at the artwork and bringing it home to play over and over again felt more religious than anything I ever experienced at St. Victor.
Why do you live where you do?
I’m in the Roncesvalles Village. It feels a little like it’s on the outskirts of the heaving chest of the inner city, and I like that. There’s still a pulse to it but there’s a bit more of a community, not as transient. When I moved here almost five years ago from just above Dundas Square, it felt like Toronto’s best-kept secret.
Who or what inspired you to take up music?
There used to be a Sunday rockabilly matinee at the Brunswick House, formerly on Bloor St. that my parents would take me to when I was a kid. It was in the vein of what the Dakota does with their Bluegrass Brunch, and a band called Melody Ranch hosted it. I remember being mesmerized by the drums, so one day I got out the Tupperware and built myself a kit. Those Sundays would have to be the embryonic conception of my interest in playing music.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
My grandfather, who I grew up with. I’d serve him lamb, mashed potatoes with gravy and attempt Yorkshire pudding. Anything but rice, which according to him he’d had enough of in Burma during WWII.
Favourite TV shows/streaming shows?
I’m a complete and utter Seinfeld fanatic. To me, nothing has ever topped that show. Competing for a close second place would be The Office UK and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The only currently running show I can think of that I’ve streamed is BoJack Horseman. That’s a good one.
What are you reading?
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
What is something that is always in your travel bag?
My passport, I really hope.
Thank you, Marlon!
Toronto-area fans can next find Marlon Chaplin (with band) on May 4th at The Dakota Tavern in support of the Eli and the Straw Man Toronto album release. Look out for tour dates to be announced in the near future.
More information on Marlon Chaplin can be found here.
Words by Jacqueline Howell. Photos by Dave MacIntyre