For Penny Stevens, there’s no better place to be in a band than Fredericton.
“We’re decidedly a Fredericton band,” she explained. “We’re not just here ‘cause we have nowhere else to go, but because we want to live and work here—and we feel the community is very strong and supportive, so we choose to stay.”
Stevens, a key contributor to the Fredericton arts scene, wears many hats: writing grants, putting on shows and connecting emerging artists to venues, to name a few. She is also a member of Motherhood, a local trio formed when she was a UNB student. The band members first met at coffee-houses put on by Renaissance College. Since graduating, they have become “a pillar of the music scene” for their unabashed devotion to their hometown.
“I’ve travelled a decent amount, but I always want to come back to Fredericton,” she said.
She describes her band’s sound as “all over the map.” “I guess a lot of people say that they don’t know how to describe their sound, but we really don’t,” she said with a laugh. “But people do call us ‘circus punk’ or ‘art punk’ a lot.”
According to Stevens, it doesn’t seem to matter much to the band’s audiences.
“Because there’s no larger hegemony of arts culture here, you can do what you want and people are just excited because it’s happening here. It doesn’t really matter if you want to do a weirdo electronic project or doom metal or performance art—people are excited it’s happening because it’s such a small place.
“Audience members are willing to take risks. We tour to a lot of big cities and audiences kinda just stand there with their arms folded, a little more standoffish— but then we come home to play Fredericton and everyone’s rocking out, so we always enjoy playing here.”
Because the band cares so much about their hometown crowd, they always ensure they share the bills with stellar acts.
“When we book our hometown shows, we always try to be really decisive about the bands we play with, and try to bring artists to town that are doing really interesting things. So we’ve tried to create an environment where, when we’re playing a hometown show, audience members can trust that the bands will be awesome and unique and powerful. We don’t just play with any ol’ band here.”
This, Stevens claims, can certainly be said about the bands Motherhood will share the Capital stage with next Tuesday, Oct. 17, for a “Pre-Pop show”—which will highlight artists performing at the Halifax Pop Explosion between the 18th and 21st.
One band Motherhood will play alongside is WHOOP-Szo from London, Ontario, whose music Stevens describes as “sludgy, oakey doom stuff that’s really heavy and intense.”
Like Motherhood, WHOOP-Szo also has a deep connection to Fredericton: they once did a month-long residency here, and each time they play, they try to stay for a few days to connect with local artists. The band’s lead singer is Indigenous, so a lot of his lyrics are “pretty directly related to Indigenous rights and activism in Canada.” The group does a lot of social activism throughout the country, too.
“They’re good people that we respect a lot,” Stevens says. “And they make really awesome music, too.”
Rounding out the lineup will be Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. “They’re… so crazy,” Stevens said with an admiring chuckle. “They play Japanese hair metal kinda stuff, really riffy, melodramatic and theatrical.”
The band is known to wear face paint and costumes during their shows, and often bring art installations they set up in the venue they’re playing. The group draws on “different tribal influences and traditional music,” reflecting the band’s diverse makeup: several members are from the Asian diaspora, others are Indigenous, and the group offers a strong female representation. Previously nominated for the Polaris Prize and having played all throughout the world, they will be making their eagerly anticipated Fredericton debut.
It is this line-up’s varied and eclectic nature that Stevens feels makes it an especially appealing show for UNB students to check out.
“There are a lot of minorities at UNB that don’t see themselves represented in the local community, but there will be quite a few females, quite a few ethnic minorities onstage on Tuesday…These are nationally-acclaimed—no, internationally-acclaimed artists—who will be on a very intimate stage for one night only. You probably won’t see another show like this for the rest of your time at UNB.”
Motherhood, WHOOP-Szo and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan will take over The Capital on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Doors open at 8:00 p.m and the show starts at 9:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit Thecapitalcomplex.com.