PLEIADES keeps things fresh

By Laura Bardsley

The Alberta College of Art and Design is not only a purveyor of fantastic artists and their creations, it also brings like-minded people together in a creative, supportive environment and then helps them reach their full potential. PLEIADES is a perfect example of this phenomenon, although many others can empathize with Nyssa Brown and Joleen Toner’s experience creating a musical conglomeration. The duo spent almost every day for three years together in a studio, and the result is the vocally inspired music of PLEIADES.

“It actually started as a project for school,” explains Toner. “We got into High Performance Rodeo because of [it].” Brown finishes Toner’s thought, adding, “Then we took it to Stage Festival and realized we quite enjoyed doing it, that it was very organic for us to do.”

The pair seems to be perfectly in tune — they finish each other’s sentences, greet people in unison and generally have good times together. Their final piece for their undergraduate degrees in media arts and digital technologies was a PLEIADES performance, but under a different name. Primarily vocally based, the two plan to add Toner’s newly acquired drum machine and synthesizer to the equation, along with some bass. But really, it is all about feeling.

“We want you to feel it in your chest,” says Toner.

“You’ll feel it as much as you can hear it,” Brown adds. They feel accuracy takes a back seat to the performance. As Brown explains, PLEIADES never really plays the same song twice.

“But that’s the inspiration,” says Toner. “We were inspired by Sun Araw, and that’s what we take from it. I have those albums and I’ve seen him live twice. You only recognize a song through a melody or bass line.”

Brown continues, “I think that’s what triggers people’s familiarity with it — it has the ability to change and be different. It’s definitely visually cued [as well].”

In an age where routine and repetition dominate, where a band will play at a music festival one week and play the same set the next week, this is a refreshing attitude to have. For their show at Sled Island Music and Arts Festival in Calgary on June 21, they’ll be playing with other acts drastically different from their musical style, including the headliners The Evaporators. For this debut, the ladies have something special planned.

“We’re definitely planning on costumes,” says Toner. “Also visuals, projections . . . [and] I really want to talk to Nardwuar!”

Although they are open to the possibility of adding more members in the future, the pair feels uneasy about the idea. As Brown explains, a third member might just be a third wheel.

“We don’t really have parts,” she continues, shrugging. “I start up this drum loop and we’re looping vocals and we know what we’re doing, but I wouldn’t know what to tell someone else to do. It’s very intuitive . . . throwing someone else into the equation would change the dynamic.”

PLEIADES, however, is not the only type of music Brown and Toner are interested in. Instead it seems to be just a glimpse into what the pair is capable of.

With their fluid approach to live performances, their upcoming show will literally be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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