Kevin Drew doesn’t mince words when discussing his love of film.

“I’m such a lover of cinema,” declares the co-founder of Toronto alt band Broken Social Scene (BSS) and owner of the Arts & Crafts record label. “All I wanted to do is be a director – and then I started out in an instrumental band to make soundtracks. A couple of guys told me to start singing  and then I went off on this journey [with BSS.]”

The Movie Man, Trailer

Select the image to play the Vimeo video of the trailer for The Movie Man

So, it’s really no surprise that when the opportunity came to score the Matt Finlin documentary The Movie Man – which profiles Keith Stata, a Kinmount, Ontario, entrepreneur who built his own, unique, six-screen cineplex 40 years ago called Highland Cinemas, on his farm – Drew welcomed it with open arms.

And he discovered Stata is quite the character. “He adopts cats,” says Drew. “He looks after about 40 cats. So you’re watching this movie, and suddenly he starts talking about his love for cats, and how he has about 40 cats on his property. He takes in strays and lost cats, and you just think to yourself, ‘Oh my God! Who is this person?’”

Despite Kinmount’s relatively small population of 500, Stata managed to make a go of it for 40 years, supported by the nearby communities of  Minden Hills, Trent Lakes, and the City of the Kawartha Lakes. Finlin’s film documents the fragile status of Stata’s business once the pandemic hits.

Drew says he initially met director Finlin when the latter invited Broken Social Scene to participate in a telethon he was arranging on behalf of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and his wife Jill, benefitting research to combat EB (epidermolysis bullosa, a group of  genetic disorders that makes the skin tear, blister, and erode from even minor abrasions).

“I sort of said, ‘Why do you want us in the show?,’” Drew says with a laugh. “And he just spoke to the appeal of the band, and the idea of trying to be hopeful amongst everything that’s around you, and community, and all this… so that’s how Matt and I met.

The Movie Man, Keith Stata

The Movie Man: Keith Stata

“And we started talking a lot, and started to bond, and talked about both of our mothers who were unwell at the time. And we spoke of our love of cinema, and I got to know more and more about what he was doing, and what he was producing. He told me he had made this doc.”

After watching a cut of The Movie Man (which was co-executive-produced by Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson), Drew was asked by Finlin to score the film, as he wasn’t happy with the original music.

“When I watched that film,” says Drew, “I felt that melancholy aspect of not only watching this man and the 30 years of his love of cinema, and creating this crazy theatre for people to come to, but I also saw what was speaking to the times of right now;  how the analog world of appreciating things had depleted, and even with the [actors’ and screenwriters’] strikes that are going on out there, I just thought it was brilliant.”

He agreed to provide the score, and called in Do Make Say Think‘sOhad Benchetrit to lend him a helping hand. “He’s a producer I’ve worked with throughout my career,  and I told him I’m doing a favour for a friend of mine, but because it’s a really beautiful film,” says Drew. “I wanted to use harmoniums and pianos – just make it very analog,  with, of course, the drones that everyone can rely on. I’ve been droning since I was eight: ambient music, and just texture and tones, have been something that has been in my life since I was a little kid.

“And I’ve seen it just take off viciously in the cinema and television,” he continues. “It makes me happy, hanging on notes and spacing out is a beautiful way to display emotion. And melancholy is the simplest form of music; you know, writing sad songs is very, very easy. Writing happy, upbeat pop songs I think is extremely difficult.

“So, when Matt told me, ‘Look, I just need to tap into a little bit of the sadness around it,’ I thought ‘OK, let’s go,’” says Drew.  “I sent him some stuff. He liked it. Once a director tells you that they like what you’re doing,  you do more. So, I started to create more themes. It was very lovely. It was very organic and simple.”

Going from “a kids’ record” to Aging

Kevin Drew insists that his fourth solo album, the eight-song Aging (out Sept. 22, 2023, in physical format, and Nov. 3, 2023,  digitally), started out as a totally different type of record before things took a twist: namely, the loss of good pals like Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie – and recently, Drew’s own mother.

“I started it out as a kids’ record,” says Drew. “But there’s always people who are ill… people that we lost… And as you get older, you find yourself starting to circle around what really matters, and [living] through the pain of watching your parents get older. My mom, unfortunately, just started to become unwell. It was a five-year process, and I lost her a month ago.”

He also said he felt very connected to Finlin and his mission. “Fortunately, it wasn’t a difficult film to score without cues,” says Drew. “Normally, it can’t be done, but there’s a way where you can say, ‘Okay, I’m looking for this theme,’ and Matt was very descriptive in how he wanted this film to go, so… I’m not saying it was easy to make music , but there was a connection that was easy to tap into to get a result for him, and he was very happy with it.”

Drew created and delivered the film’s music very quickly. “I don’t like to spend a lot of time anymore,” he says. “I think you cannot sell, or put a price on, intuition.  You cannot sell, or put a price on, first instincts.  And we’re at a time where you have so many chances and shots, and you can change, and add to it, and do so many things that, as an old guy, I’ve taken away from that.

“So, people who work with me on videos, soundtracks, or producing, or writing with them, they know that I want to do it quickly. I don’t like the idea of pouring in your whole life and identity into a project, because I’ve done it.  I’m out of that era.”

À boire deboutte is a collection of 11 songs written and recorded over a period of six weeks, at Studio B-12 in Valcourt, a town in Québec’s Eastern Townships. “Six weeks!” exclaims Éloi Painchaud, the ex-Okoumé member, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. “In and of itself, it’s any musician’s dream to have that much time to try all kinds of things and find the right word to say it.”


This follow-up to the band’s two previous albums, Live au Pas Perdus and Gin à l’eau salée, reconfirms the five Acadians’ passion for smiley, happy folk songs so often found in that corner of the continent.

“After five years as a band, we felt like sharpening our pencils, and having fun with words as much as with sounds,” says Painchaud. “The songs on Gin à l’eau salée that had the biggest impact on the audience were the ones we wrote ourselves. “Good Lord” was incredibly well received, so we just told ourselves, ‘Let’s dive in.’

“It’s fertile ground for me,” Painchaud continues. “I’ve spent the last 25 years as a producer, being a mirror for the artists I work with, and trying to illuminate their musical colours. I’ve become more measured, and I like giving others more space.”

Is he surprised by Salebarbes’ success? “No doubt,” he says. “Our audience is as important as we are. They’re the ones who take our band’s festive energy and return it just as powerfully. We’re like a community. Our crowds are vocal, vibrant, and dancing. What completely charmed us were the videos of enthusiasts line-dancing to ‘Good Lord.’ They even came up with their own choreography!”

There are two ex-Okoumé guys in the band: brothers Éloi and Jonathan, who were quite successful in the ’90s. “Jo and I have always had this writing discipline since our teens,” says Éloi. “We like to sit down in front of a piece of paper. We like the game of writing songs. I know how Jo thinks and vice versa. Just like hockey, we always come together on the rink. Everyone in the band contributes, and has an equal chance to score points,” he goes on.

Salebarbe, A boire deboutte

Select the image to play the Salebarbe YouTube video of À boire deboutte

“Salebarbes’ writing is like a mosaic,” says Painchaud. “We tip our hats to our friends in Louisiana and Acadie, and there’s a lot of humour in our songs, as well as a lot of friendship in this band. The glue that binds us together is the unbelievable amount of fun we have.”

Salebarbes’ website offers lyrics to the songs on all three albums, an added value that helps visitors understand the Acadian expressions and accents used, and the folklore associated with them. Take, for example, “Stirer la roux.” Éloi explains, “In any human relationship, if you let things stick to the bottom, it’ll get bitter. Take care of the people you love. In Louisiana, they say, ‘le roux.’ It’s the basis of many dishes, and it’s made with butter, flour, onions, and garlic. Stirer la roux means scraping the bottom of the pan.”

Band member Georges Belliveau is from Memramcook, as is his fellow Salebarber Menoncle Jason. “He’s got an accent as thick as a brick,” says Painchaud. “Jean-François has his Caraquet accent.”

“Up until I was fifteen, I had a very big Îles-de-la-Madeleine accent,” says Éloi, the son of Alcide Painchaud, who was a founding member and the leader of the Madelinois band Suroît – whose Bruce Daigrepont-written song “Disco fait dodo” is one that Salesbarbes often plays live.

Jean-François Breau, the one with the highest profile of the group, is perfectly happy as a member of Salebarbes. “He’s a pillar of the band,” Painchaud admits, “because he’s so enthusiastic, generous, and communicative in everything we do; he’s like a golden retriever who runs after all the balls that are thrown, with the same level of enthusiasm!”

The band just started touring the new album. “It’s a show you experience from both sides of the stage,” says Painchaud. “It’s a connection that’s almost a celebration. It’s jubilant; I don’t have a better word to describe it.”

At Montréal’s MTelus on Oct. 5, 2023



After two decades of playing in various bands, including Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago, and Our Native Daughters, Allison Russell’s 2021 debut solo album Outside Child was a breakthrough success, garnering universal acclaim for Russell’s grace and grit in writing about child abuse.

With Outside Child, Russell earned three Grammy nominations; a 2022 Americana Award; two International Folk Music Awards; a 2022 JUNO Award (she’s the first Black artist to win a Contemporary Roots Album of the Year in JUNO history); three Canadian Folk Music Awards; and two UK Americana Music Awards. She’s performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Ellen, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, CBS Saturday Morning, Austin City Limits, and The Kelly Clarkson Show.

In addition, Russell has made her Grand Ole Opry debut, appeared at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and performed at the 2022 Grammys Premiere Ceremony. She was also part of the “Joni Jam” Joni Mitchell performances at the 2023 Newport Folk Festival and at The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington. Now, she’s back with The Returner, released Sept. 8, 2023, the second album of an intended trilogy.

Allison Russell, Returner

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the Allison Russell song “The Returner”

Whereas Outside Child was about stopping the cycle of abuse, The Returner is about reclaiming the present despite one’s troubles. “It’s about being re-embodied,” Russell says. “It’s about embracing this human experience that we are all living right now, in the here and now, and understanding that our joy and celebration is also a powerful force against systems of oppression.”

The Returner is indeed a joyful celebration, consciously made through circle work – labour based on equality and power-sharing between participants. “I want people to know that this is very much circle work,” Russell says, “It took circle work to create this record. Every single woman on the record contributed above and beyond. There’s no such thing as a side player in this project or on this record, or when we’re playing live. We are always working in circle, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.”

The record features Russell’s “Rainbow Coalition” band of all-female musicians, and includes special guests Wendy & Lisa, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, and Hozier. Russell took great joy in stepping into the role of co-producer along with Dim Star (the nom de plume of Russell’s real-life partner J.T Nero and Drew Lindsay), all of whom co-wrote the album’s ten tracks.

Russell says, “I really wrote these songs for the circle of women who could bring them to life. I knew they would be able to elevate the music. I knew what everyone was capable of vocally. I knew I wanted to do a lot of call-and-response and choral work on this record, to sonically reinforce that feeling of one-on-one. You know, we’re in this together.”

That feeling of togetherness is evident in the opening song, the warm and uplifting “Springtime.” It begins with Russell, joined by a chorus of jubilant voices, saying goodbye to the metaphorical darkness in favour of the transcendent light. In the title song, Russell bids farewell to her tragic past as she triumphantly sings about returning to her true nature.

“Our joy and celebration is also a powerful force against systems of oppression”

If ever there was an anthem for those sitting (or dancing) through their emotional pain, “Stay Right Here” is it. It’s a euphoric disco-esque dance number with an undeniable groove, and lyrics that speak to the power of resisting the temptation to dissociate. Says Russell, “It’s choosing every day to stay present, to stay here, to not need this siren song of oblivion and self-hatred, and not caving into the sort of brainwashing of hateful, toxic hierarchies and ideologies that have been pushed on all of us during various parts of our lives.”

Maybe I’m swimming in happiness
But it’s an ocean of tears in my mind
All that my body can never forget
Why do good things make me cry?
Oooh, they make me wanna fly on back
Through that Hole in the sky

One of Russell’s favourite moments occurred during the writing of “All Without Within.” “Drew [Lindsay] had sent me this wonderful kind of rhythmic track, and it just got me,” she says. “It just sort of opened the gates to the subconscious, and I was able to step into the slipstream, so to speak.” On a long walk with her dog in Shelby Bottoms, a nature reserve in Nashville, Russell wrote the lyrics “I love the smell of rain on dead leaves / Your arms ‘round me when I’m angry,” in response to the scenery around her. “It felt like that walk really became a part of the song, the lyric, and the rhythm,” she says. “We ended up making adjustments to the rhythmic approach based on what I wrote on that walk.”

In the haunting “Snakelife,” Russell sings about survivor’s joy, and overcoming her desire to shed her Black skin. She sings of owning her identity and wearing her scars and bruises like “Botswana jewels.”

Where Russell once escaped her trauma in a dreamland of her imagination, she now writes songs that strive to create a better world for herself and others. After all, she has a nine-year-old to consider. “My prime motivator these days is my daughter,” she says. “Things that I would accept for myself, I can’t accept for her.” The central message of The Returner is that resilience is worth celebrating. But Russell is not content to reap the rewards of healing just for herself. Rather, she wants us all to come along for the ride. As she says, “We are all returners.”

I used to dream but now I write
I wield my words like spindles bright
To weave a world where every child
Is safe and loved
Is safe and loved
Is safe and loved
And Black is beautiful and good