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Erika Werry
artist's statement: Erika Werry
Posted 4th April 2013, the Tinderbox

The Alphabet is a band name I came up with not too long ago, after Kate joined; I'd been toying with the idea of an all-girl band, and was going to call it Alpha Betties, but then I couldn't find any girl within my circle of acquaintances who could come even remotely close to the playing of Mike Hopkins, who has been playing with me for many years, at one point on bass, and we've toured a lot as a guitar duet. He truly is a musical genius, and composes music for his other projects, The Spanish Waiter and The Formula, all-original classical / Latin and afro funk awesomeness. The Alphabet is a band name to suit the songs I write, because the lyrics are very playful, taking stabs at double meanings, and just generally very wordy songs, at times. We've gone out on the road a bit as a full band, playing in Pittsburgh and Montreal, and Peterborough, and Sudbury... the cut-down road band features the incredible Josh Cavan on bass, a fellow Humber alumni of Kate's, who we called in to play organ on the album. He's a great bass player, and fun to watch too! He plays left-handed, like Jimi Hendrix, which lends a nice symmetry on stage with the guitar necks.

Mike Tuyp (guitar) and Tim Alchin (drums) are also key members of the Alphabet - Kate is busy in other projects, and we all work at jobs other than the band, so it's important to have this rotating Alphabet. And it keeps the live shows interesting, too, for our fans. You never know what you're gonna get, but it'll be good. Like chocolates. Tim Alchin is a drummer I met a couple years back when he played in The Bon, a fantastic garage punk band fronted by Craig Daniels. So I guess long answer short, you could say this particular ensemble's been together almost two years.

The current lineup is different from older versions of the band namely in the form of Kate MacLean, who altered the course of my life, no joke really, by offering to drum with me after an opening solo set I played for a band she was a part of. This was in the summer of 2011. The timing was curious, because although I fell in love with her drumming and singing on the spot, I already had a great drummer in the Erika Werry band. But Marshall Bureau had been getting busy, and literally on the day following Kate's offer, called to say he couldn't play any of my upcoming dates. So.... what could've been a huge downer turned into something great! For the record however, Marshall Bureau and Ryan Fairhead together inspired me to take my music a little more seriously, and if it weren't for the incredibly talented Mr Fairhead, whose production is to thank for the rave four NNNN review we received in Toronto's NOW magazine, I doubt I'd be answering these questions for you today.

As for the other band members, Wes Neal has been playing with me since 2005; we call him the velvet glove on the double bass, he's so smooth and good, and very photogenic to boot. His playing is a key element in my 2006 release Time on our Hands, a really beautiful album if I do say so (featuring a slew of guest star players, including Christine Bougie, Bryden Baird and James Robinson of New Country Rehab).

This latest album, Think yer so Smart, was the first time I'd been invited into a REAL pro studio to record my own stuff (I've been in to sing for others', and believe me when I say the studio is my favorite place to be). Tim Vesely, of the great Canadian band The Rheostatics, is the house engineer at Toronto's Woodshed studio where Blue Rodeo records, and he's also a friend and fan of mine, so when I ran into him at a Christmas party in 2011, he suggested I come by to "record a tune or two". When I showed up at the studio with my full Alphabet and 15 songs to lay down, he was an excellent sport about it, and eventually even offered to mix the album for us! The result is a really great, very live-sounding album.

I discovered Ian Blurton relatively recently, as lead singer and guitarist of the band C'mon. I first heard them at Carvalho's NXNE bbq in the summer of 2011 (which we are invited to play at this year!), and then I caught his band Change of Heart's reunion show at the Horseshoe, and was completely blown away by his guitar playing and melodies, and just overall everything. I was smitten by the notion of working on my "punk" tune with Ian, and he was cool enough to make it happen. We spent two days together in his studio down by the waterfront, and turned the Woodshed recording of "What" into the first track on Think yer so Smart; it had to go either first or last, being quite different from the rest of the work. I'd definitely love to do more recording with Ian Blurton, and have a bunch of new songs, all ready to go!

We shot a cool video for the Woodshed version of "What", directed by Keith Urquhart on the hottest day last summer; check it out at Youtube!

The Woodshed experience was a trigger that set off a series of lovely events; I'd connected with Joao Carvalho about getting our tracks mastered at his place, and that lead to an invitation to spend an entire day in the A studio at Revolution Recording, the new highest end studio in town (I've heard some people say it's the best recording studio in the world). It was GORGEOUS! We have pictures. We recorded 3 live demos on this day, with Tim Alchin on drums, Mike Tuyp on bass and Mike Hopkins on guitar; yet another configuration of the Alphabet. We released these tracks online at bandcamp, but will re-record them for our next project (working title: Cruisin for a Bruisin).

I have friends who own amazing-sounding venues in Toronto, such as The Piston, where we had our record release show with opening sets by Tim Vesely and Joao Carvalho's band, Lost and Profound. Just being in the right places can sometimes lead to really cool opportunities, for instance I opened for Richie Havens at Hugh's Room, thanks to a fun game of pool at the Intersteer with Todd Bruder, who used to book Hugh's. He just mentioned something like "I need to find someone to open for Richie Havens"...and you can bet I was all over that, ha. Havens was a sweetheart too; he listened to my set, and after the gig we chatted a bit. He seemed a genuinely happy soul, doing what he wanted in life, playing music. I enjoy talking about how I opened for the guy who opened for Woodstock, may he rest in peace.

I think like anywhere, if you stay in the same place for too long you get put into a category. People come and hear you once, and judge you. And certain places just won't give you a gig; Toronto is a cliquey place, but overall I think it's a great town. I love that I was born here, and my first babysitter was Chinese, while my mom studied at U of T. She came to collect me one day after her class, and the babysitter had fed me solid food, so my first food was Chinese! I don't even know what it was, exactly!

Erika Werry Nothing Clearer Comes
NOW August 18-25, 2005 VOL 24 NO 51 By BRENT RAYNOR
NOW RATING: NNNN

Nothing Clearer ComesSome singers have the ability to reach your soul with only one sung syllable, and for that instant you swear you understand all of their hopes and fears, while your own become increasingly clear for what feels like the first time.

Now, Erika Werry has me re-evaluating my priorities. This is a largely mellow, acoustic set with lazy-day guitar solos, some beautifully morose trumpet flourishes and world-weary lyrics that leave no doubt whatsoever that Werry is a pretty deep gal with a wisdom of relationship matters that could easily land her a daytime talk show slot should this singing thing not pan out.


Liveblogging to Erika Werry's new album "Think Yer So Smart"

by Doc Pickles, April 4th 2013

Think Yer So SmartMy first listen of THINK YER SO SMART by Erika Werry & the Alphabet, which was just released last week: I'm hearing Cheap Trick, the stuff of angst... also a steady, world-weary clarity, wistful and nostalgic.

In "Matchless" I'm smelling old tobacco and worn out bar tables, and what a tight ending. These songs are about Erika's relations with people, not entirely autobiographical but definitely in tune with her feelings.

"Fishing for Fish" is uptempo, but sparse. There's a comfortable strain here, and she drifts up to the high note into a tidy Bob Dylan harmonica. "Early Wine" is getting prettier and prettier, and ends just soon enough to leave me feeling hollow and sad. "Neil" has a nice handclap, handclaps are so hard to nail, and there's a breakdown at the end that made me hope the song would continue.

"In Between" is a cowpoke 2 step! This one shimmers and pops. Erika's voice has been constantly steady throughout the album. This is definitely the highway song but again it has that restraint that's so often missing. It's hard to sound vulnerable without sounding tentative, but this song is cheekily emotionally mature. The vocals are totally growing on me, they push their way through all of these songs. Another tight ending.

On "Marguerite" the drums are recorded simply and sound great. Erika's starting to get a bit experimental but the song is still confident and relaxed, like a Sandro Perri in the urban country.

I was expecting "Uh Oh" to be a cutesy radio song, but instead it reminds me of a Jenny Toomey introspective. This is the candidate for the song that gets stuck in my head tonight. No drums for the first minute or so, highlighting the vulnerability in the song. This one has a nice slow build to it, a totally satisfying example of a good Erika Werry song. I'd like to hear this one in a sad dark bar. Dammit I wish it had more of a cryptic title, but that's just because this song is great. She's really relaxed but reaching for something out of her reach here, and it works. I feel terribly sad and nostalgic now.

"Shirley" is a storytelling song, and the spacey arrangement really works here, this is the sort of music that has everything to do with a landlubber looking out over the sea. I really like the songs on this album with minimalist drums. Another tight ending, lots of nice endings. Overall a satisfying first listen. If you like the sads. Which I do.

Wavelength Toronto
Erika Werry & the Alphabet upcoming CD launch: Think yer so Smart
APRIL 1, 2013

Toronto Singer/songwriter Erika Werry recently gave me a shout about her upcoming Think yer so Smart CD release, recorded by her band Erika Werry and the Alphabet and featuring co-producer Ian Blurton on guitar. While I won't be able to make it to the April 4 release this week, I was able to give it a listen so I could tell y'all about it.

An eclectic 14 tracks, Think yer so Smart is an energetic and soulful mix of folk, roots and alt country, with a bit of punk thrown in. The CD opens with punk rock rant "What" (the video will be premiering at the CD launch on Thursday), an anti-anthem for posers, tools and jackassery, changing gears in the next track with the bluesy country ballad "Matchless," a hint of gospel flavour with its organ arrangement. "Neil" has a kicky pop sensibility, with playful guitar licks and a story of love from afar. Later tracks are poetic, lyrics painting a picture in the introspective "Uh Oh," and in the wistful memories and haunting harmonies of "Shirley."

The songs on Think yer so Smart move and breathe, with Werry exhaling each story with all the ache, heart and soul-searching of life - some with a driving beat, others comfy and slow - like sitting by a campfire, wrapped in a blanket. Check it out on the Erika Werry and the Alphabet Bandcamp page. You can also find them on the CBC Music site.

The launch for Think yer so Smart is Thursday, April 4 at The Piston (937 Bloor St. West - near Ossington) - doors open at 9 p.m. Opening acts include Tim Vesley (who also co-produced Think yer so Smart), and Lost and Profound. Erika Werry & the Alphabet will also be premiering their music video of "What" (the opening track on the CD). Tickets can be purchased at the door only: $15 with CD or $8 without.

Some cool trivia: Think yer so Smart was recorded at the Woodshed (Blue Rodeo's studio) and the video for "What" was shot in Toronto last summer at Trinity Bellwoods Park on one of the most scorching hot days of the season.

life with more cowbell
Penguin Eggs Summer Issue #34
Mary Beth Carty

"I dig Erika's grainy alto, her in-and-out-of-pespective songs, delivered with expression. An observant poet, a cliche distorter, a fearless traveller, a band leader - Miss Werry is all of the above, and a competent guitar strummer to boot. One might liken her to a female Al Tuck. Arrangements incorporate brass, pedal steel, stand-up bass, and violin. "Songwriter" is a rather comical song about - you guessed it, being a songwriter - she takes us from the bedroom to the stage..."


Jake Chisholm

Time On Our Hands"Erika Werry's music jumps off her through the speakers and into you in a way that makes you wonder why it took you until now to hear about this fresh new Canadian talent. The music is honest, original, and uplifting"


Toronto's EYE Weekly Nov 16 2006

...."Time on our Hands, the second release from local musician Erika Werry, is consistently impressive... [her] singing voice is quite lovely - a kind of perfectly imperfect semi-croak..."


Sean Ridgeley
St John's Telegram and Scope weekly, NFLD

....Erika's "pleasantly hypnotic vocals and charming simplicity ring true... something to experience live"


NOW Toronto Aug 18 2005

"...beautifully morose trumpet flourishes..." rated NNNN


Toronto Eye Weekly Nov 2006

"quite lovely - a kind of perfectly imperfect semi-croak"


CIUT Radio Director Ron Burd

"Erika Werry's songwriting, performance and personality mesh perfectly, both live and on cd."


Kevin Quain

"Without fuss, hype or fanfare, Erika Werry has made one of the years' best records - That voice! Those songs! That band! *That's* what I'm talkin' about. I played the hell out of this record last summer. Still do. Sometimes I even sing along. You gotta problem with that?"


Noah Zacharin
"A lyricist & melody maker, an endearing presence, and that voice - something strong but still the water and the wind get through. And the sunlight. And the sadness."
PWYC: Erika Werry & the Alphabet, Alex Merrick & Dylan, Alex Goyetche

...Closing it out we have Erika Werry and the Alphabet! A few months back I met the delightful Erika Werry at a Doc Pickles show and this show came in motion. Erika is a terrific singer/songwriter with a great backing band who will be playing the Rancho for the first time. You can link to her CBC Radio 3 page from the link provided above to her homepage. The night will run early ish and she'll be on around 11:15. So you won't be too utterly wrecked for work on Weds morning.

Where: Rancho Relaxo (300 College)

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