Formerly Known As Pardons: The WL Interview

Purveyor of: An explosion in Tranzac’s front room

File next to: Clarinet Panic Deluxx, GUH, Josh Cole Quartet

Playing: Wavelength Monthly Music Series, Saturday May 26, 2018 @ Bike Pirates. (All Ages!) Get your tickets here!

Formerly Known as Pardons is a free-improv supergroup consisting of Karen Ng, Josh Cole, and Blake Howard — who can be found keeping busy as members of big-name touring bands as well as non-stop workers in the local creative music scene. Wavelength’s Joe Strutt talked to Karen Ng about the band’s brief, mayfly-like lifespan and other curiosities.

Is Casper the Friendly Ghost really the ghost of Richie Rich? Similarly, did Formerly Known as Pardons undergo some sort of tragicomic transformation? What happened to Pardons?

Hahah! I love how you interpreted the band name. If you must know, the band name can be found on the window of a law office in Guelph. Jonny Dovercourt was standing in front of it when he asked Josh Cole and I what we were called. No tragicomic transformation was involved, just something that will exist for a moment and maybe never again.

This Wavelength show is taking place in a DIY bike shop — what are some other of the more unusual places you’ve played?

I am a huge fan of watching shows in unusual places, though playing in them usually means a bit of a sacrifice in acoustics. One that comes to mind is a warehouse party in Allston, Mass., I played when on tour with Clarinet Panic. The sound sucked, but literally everything else about that night was so amazing that I still look back really fondly on that show. Last year there were a couple of weird spots I played with Andy Shauf, one being on a hillside in Italy, and at Pickathon in Portland in a field where the stage was like a crazy makeshift tree… thing. One time I also got to watch some of my favourite improvisers play in a cave that used to be a pirate prison under one of the canals in Amsterdam, I suppose that’s pretty weird.

This is also an all-ages show… did you manage to see any cool shows like this in your formative years?

I wish I could say I was cool when I was a teenager, but I was listening to what a pretty average suburban kid would be listening to (so music that wasn’t really that cool hahah). But I remember going to the Rockit a lot or the Kathedral to see friends play. The experience was more of a thing than the music, and I was grateful for the chance to do that. Happy that venues and promoters are trying to make more of an effort to make that possible, since it’s easier now more than ever to stay home and be comfy rather than go out and make a bit of a mess just to see what happens

What are some cool things (musicians, shows, festivals) going on in Toronto (or elsewhere) right now?

I’ve now been home for almost six months from being away for the majority of a year. The more I travel, the more I really love Toronto and realize how amazing and special the people here are. It’s really unique, I haven’t found it anywhere else. There’s music being made here that is really beautiful and has helped pull me out of a pretty low period in my life. So the people here and the music they make is what keeps me in this city for sure. There are also lots of festivals coming up in and outside of Toronto: one of which I help organize called TONE (we’re super stoked to be working with you Joe, the Music Gallery, and Wavelength for a few of those shows!), but also Electric Eclectics, Strangewaves, SappyFest in Sackville. There’s lots going on so it’s hard to sift through everything and find what you’re going to like, but isn’t that true about everything now? Really worth it though when you finally find something cool.

Speaking of cool things happening in Toronto, word on the street is that you’re escaping the city for a bit. What’s up with that?

Hahahah right, kind of a funny thing since I was just gushing about the city. I am spending the summer in Brooklyn on an OAC Residency Grant. It’s like a self-imposed period of time to be alone in a city I don’t know so that I can focus on music for myself and delve into a community that I used to see as intimidating (when in fact they’re not at all). I have trouble focusing, I get distracted really easily by life things or doing things for others. I really recognized that a couple years ago so this residency is to ensure I spend time on myself too. But like every time I leave this city for any amount of time, the intention is always to come back. Toronto is home for me, I can’t really imagine it being anywhere else.