Language Arts – The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Classically informed punchy art-pop.

File next to: Xenia Rubinos, NV.

Playing: Del Bel album release w/ Language Arts, Saturday April 29 @ Longboat Hall (Great Hall basement). Get tickets here!

Language Arts is a constantly evolving project of Kristen Cudmore’s that has taken flight from Halifax to Vancouver to Toronto. The band writes bright, sparkly melodies that intermingle with lead singer Kristen Cudmore’s vocals, bringing forth a refreshing array of sounds. Their most recent EP, Able Island (2015) is a deep and personal record inspired by their home of Nova Scotia. Fast forward to 2017 in Toronto and the band is currently working on some exciting new material with the addition of a new member, with their mascot, Sprout, cheering them on. A lot has happened in the year since we last spoke with them. Wavelength’s Rebecca Hong caught up with Language Arts before their April 29 show with Del Bel and Saxyndrum.

Your music bends genres -from art pop to electronica to indie pop. Being trained with a classical and jazz background, how did you come to reach this aesthetic?  

It was never decided upon, I just always listened to music that I liked and wrote music that I wanted to hear. Some of it I have out-grown and some of it has staying-power but I have never been one to listen to or play “safe” music. It turns out the people I play with (Neil MacIntosh, Matt Fong and Jesse Bellon) all come from the same school of thought. I exposed myself to nuanced work and that is normal by my standards but not normal to the average Joe or Joanne 🙂

Your lyrics are these clever, truthful observations on different aspects of life, from relationships to loneliness. What is your songwriting process like?

My songwriting is like a therapy session. I hunker down for however much time I’ve got and explore my inner chatter while playing. My gear is usually strewn all over the apartment like a kid’s toys room, but the gadgets only come out when I am home alone. I usually obsess over a hook or an idea and loop a whole symphony of sound around it on my sampler and then chant lyrics through it relentlessly like a witch stirring her cauldron. It’s really creepy! …Then I build the sections around it and figure out how to best support each part. This is where my music geek skills come in to play with counterpoint, harmonies, counter melodies and dynamics being utilized to build the piece to something cohesive to bring to the band. While everyone’s out being a human, I am posted up thinking of a Flight of the Conchords line, “No one cares, no one sympathizes, I just stay home and play synthesizers.” …and guitar. That’s me. A music hermit!

Able Island was inspired by your hometown in Nova Scotia. Now living in Toronto, what do you enjoy about each place?

Geez, I miss home. I will find any excuse to visit and celebrate it. I have a bumper sticker on my car. Photos of sea maps fixed on the wall of my apartment. I go back at least once, if not twice a year to see my ever-growing and every impressive nephews, parents, sisters and best friends. I make sure I reference it in at least every possible conversation. This pride would devastate my teenage-self, who wanted to jump ship and find a big city where I could watch rock shows and be anywhere but there, but as I have grown, it has been calling me back. It’s so fresh and friendly. A mixture of beautiful and trashy all at once, depending on how you think of the stereotypical Nova Scotian, ie: Trailer Park Boys. (PS: I don’t watch it and find it entirely far fetched but it can be funny if in the right mood, as a passerby. I also have never played a VLT!) There’s no space for fancy there, unless you want to get made fun of. It’s wondrous in it’s history and the sea is strong and mysterious. My family has earned their keep from the land, through Apple farming and the business developing of selling apple varieties locally and abroad. Most people there are hardworking. They have strong manners and are polite in their etiquette and consideration for the other. The communities are integrated as well. For example, when I was back, a few months ago, I saw my Grade 5 teacher in a waiting room for an appointment. She remembered me and my mom; all of the specifics of my life and what I was like as a 9 and 10 year old girl. I am 34 now! -That’s pretty darn impressive. 

I like Toronto but I am not always a city person. Things get too loud and hard for me to process here, but that is very likely my brain injury talking. I like to go to shows and events where I can learn. There is plenty of that here. It seems like there is so little time here, though. We’re all rushing around and plowing through, it seems. Or maybe it is just me. I have made some incredible friendships here, though, those are the things that keep me here and keep me sane. It’s a dynamic city for any artist, though tough to afford but worth it if you can make it work. 

Your last EP, Able Island, came out in October 2015, and I’ve read on Facebook you might have some new material in the works. Anything to look forward to?

Oh I am so excited about our future! We have some very interesting work to share but we won’t be able to reveal it until we get it all in the can. I can’t wait for that. I think we’re headed in a very neat direction musically and we’re working together with such ease. We have been a band since 2005 from Halifax to Vancouver to here in Toronto. I used to hustle Language Arts manically but since my accident, I have had no choice to sit back and let the cards land how they will. That approach is much more natural and makes the whole experience way more fun. I have written some vulnerable songs lyrically from my hospital bed, which are set to music that completely juxtaposes its subject. I really love how the songs have turned out and how easily they came to me and meshed with the group. 

As far as an immediate future, Neil and I have welcomed a new member, Matthew Fong to our band. We have had a serious music crush on him for a while, so when we checked the yes box, to our ‘Will you join?’ ballot, we squealed! We are also thrilled that Jesse Bellon will be joining us on bass for this upcoming show and hopefully others to come. I feel like I am playing among superstars and I don’t know how I got to deserve this. I am so happy that they are as into the songs, the music, the project and the hang, as much as I am! 

This isn’t even related to your music, but I’ve looked at your band’s Instagram, and your dog Sprout is really, really cute. Can you tell us more about her, and will she be present at the show?

Sprout is like a mascot for us, in a way. She has toured across the country with us (not every time) and is a legitimate therapy dog and accompanies me most places. I call her a stabilizer. We’re kind of a packaged deal, Sprout and I. She was present for all of our recordings so if you listen closely you can hear her breathing on each record.  I may see how she feels about coming to the show -sometimes we’re a little too loud for her. She has told me in the past, that she prefers when we play outdoor music festivals. Her favourite show was when we played at River and Sky Festival because she got to swim in the river after. If she comes out, I’ll see to it that you get to meet her! 

Pup Rock @sonicboom

A post shared by Language Arts (@languageartsmusic) on

You’re playing a stacked show on April 29th at The Great Hall with Del Bel and Saxsyndum. What can we expect?

Expect to hear Able Island revitalized and maaaaybe one new tune! You will hear synthesizers being played on guitars. You will hear bombastic drumming. You will hear bass locking in tightly with the grooves. You will hear an array of sweeping or staccato vocals telling you my secrets. You will hear stream of consciousness banter which will probably embarrass me/us after the fact. You will see us having the time of our lives and maybe even some projections on our white canvass bodies of Nova Scotia’s photo archives AND Neils’ mom’s rug hooking of the sea, in kaleidoscopic motion.  

 Lastly, what is your favourite thing about spring? 

ME? All of the baby animals! If I were to guess, I would say that Matthew would say the same thing. 

Neil would probably say, being able to see daylight because in the winter, his schedule doesn’t allow him to see much daytime. Knowing Jesse, he would probably either say smelling the flowers or eating the flowers!