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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

us and others release debut album in a charitable fashion

Here's the interview I did for Cadence Magazine last week with Greame from Us and Others. Below is the teaser video now posted on Youtube.

When I got word that I was going to do an interview with lead man of Us and Others, Graeme Cornies, I was nervous. I didn’t know what I was in for. Who was this guy? I hadn’t really heard about him or the band. All I had to play with for interview prep was a press release and tracks on the band’s website and Myspace page. However, when I got into the detective mode interviewers get into when researching a subject, I started to be more familiar with Graeme’s work. I just didn’t know it.

“I made my first record when I was about 17, summer job money”, Cornies relayed to me over the phone.

“I went to music school and studied both here (Toronto) and in Trinidad for a little while and then I got my first gig writing when I was 23 and I’ve been writing full time ever since.”

Cornies resume includes writing for TV show and movies including Naked Science, Stoked, A Babysitter’s Vampire, Turbo Dogs and was even part of the soundtrack of the prime time hits, CSI: LA and Entourage; not to mention a Gemini nomination as well.

“That stuff was cool”, Cornies shared about working with the two major TV successes. “Those tracks were all written for other things but I have a publisher that I have been working with for a long time and when I was getting into writing, he was trying to push my earlier bands and he actually submitted the tracks.” Cornies hinted his working relationship with the shows as, “It’s like we need a dance track for this one scene. Give me all the dance tracks you’ve written in the last year So I’ll send them stuff and then they’ll be like, I love that one.” Cornies laughs. “You don’t always win those draws”. But, he adds, “It’s always great to get those types of shows. They look great on a reel.”

As of late, Cornies has been trying to hype his new band Us and Others which is a musical collaboration made up of some of Toronto’s finest studio and performing musicians including Ferg Hyde (Bass/Vocals), Martyn Skrzypczyk (Lead Guitar), James Taylor (Keys), Bartek Kozminski (Drums) and Joel Stouffer (multi-instrumentalist).

“I started inviting friends to come in on different sessions and the idea just grew,” He says about the creation of the band.

“All these players are people I worked on recordings with. From those sessions I drew players and from former bands I played in. Anyone whose musical voice I thought could really add something to that particular track I just called in.” He related. “That’s how the name Us and Others came about, but when we tried to make it live, a whole solid line-up started to form.”

Since then, the newly formed collection has finished and is about to release their debut album, Patchwork.

“Patchwork was that sense of fixing the holes. I think that’s partly what the songs viewed for me, fixing the situation. Patch the holes over the time. It was like being a quilt of a bunch of musicians lending their time and experience to a project. It happened over a three year period, so it was one of those things where it was like, whenever we can all come together we can do this thing. It was a patchwork moment.”

While checking out the bands Myspace, I couldn’t help but notice the paintings that adorned the page –including the album cover for the album. I had to ask. “I love the work of this one artist named Heather Haynes” Cornies reveals, “She just took a year long trip around the world with her family. She sold her house and they moved their kids up to the cottage. They’re a real neat couple. She’s a painter. Her husband is a musician as well.” He includes, “I got a painting a week before she went on this crazy experience, and that’s the album cover.”

While the group has their album release party on Friday January 28th at Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo, the group is donating all monies collected to Serving Charity. “There’s a guy who runs the El Mocambo and he actually bought it a few years ago with the intention of making it a charitable organization. He put a soup kitchen in the basement and he goes out almost nightly to feed the homeless.” Cornies informed me. “It takes a certain type of person to do that. I was just taken by talking to him about booking the show. It got me thinking. The only thing that I actually know for certain that I can do is music.” He chuckles. “And if I can do that to the benefit of a cause I believe in to help someone else, it would be more meaningful than the hundred bucks we would spend on beer between the five us a the end of the night”.

While doing double duty working on Us and Other’s debut album and working on commercials, I had to ask him: “what was the creative difference between doing a track for yourself and the band and doing a track for a TV show or movie?”

“They’re totally different worlds for me.” He exclaimed. “With TV and film, I’m writing to serve a scene. On all the shows I work on that are scripted, there’s a real intention in the script to convey certain motivations and I’m trying to support whatever they’re saying without detracting from it because if you’re too heavy handed musically you can start shifting the viewers attention on to the music which isn’t what you want.” He hints. “You just want to enhance the scene”. However, “When I’m writing for Us and Others it’s strictly me. It’s my own briefing.” Cornies tips. “That’s part of the reason why I really wanted to do Us and Others as a project because it’s me without a briefing. The direction is all me left to my own devices again.”