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Savour Edmonton’s Downtown Music Scene at Up+Downtown Fest

At Up+Downtown Music Festival (October 9 – 11), not only do music lovers get to savour Edmonton’s downtown scene as they hop between buildings-turned-music-venues throughout the evening, they also get an extensive taste of the city’s vibrant music scene. The fest features over 70 diverse local and international acts, including headliners post-punk Viet Cong, electro pop stars Humans, and psychedelic rockers EARTHLESS.

Language Arts is one of the cool bands you can catch, and they’ll also be releasing their latest album, Able Island, during the festival on October 9! They’ll be playing Freemasons Hall (10318-100 Ave.), starting at 9:10 pm. We chatted with singer Kristen Cudmore about the new album and her experiences in Edmonton:

WHERE: Where did the inspiration for your new album come from?
Kristen Cudmore: The inspiration came directly from home — Nova Scotia. More specifically, Sable Island, which is a small island off of the coast of NS, which is considered a part of the province. It is only inhabited by 5 people who either work for Parks Canada or are there for study or research, and it is also inhabited by about 400 or so wild horses who got there from surviving shipwrecks over the years. It seems to be a pretty magical place because it is not far from the coast of Halifax and appears both soft and wild. I have dreamt of going there for most of my life and maybe its appeal is that it resembles home, but it is also so reclusive and getting permission to visit is quite difficult. There’s a lot of mystery out at sea, especially for most Canadians because we’re all a mix of people who have travelled it to come here, as well as people who have been here for many generations. When writing the album, I would try to cocoon in my mind and picture my life and my story and the feelings I have today about life and what I thought it would be. Then I would try and imagine if the people who preceded me had the same kind of thoughts at the root and how we all got to where we are now and who we are now.

W: What has your experience of performing in Edmonton been like?
KC: We have had both wonderful experiences in Edmonton and some pretty dark ones too. Touring Canada can be tough and you can do everything to prepare, but sometimes it can be a labour of love. It can be long hard drives, not enough sleep, and it can affect your physical and mental health. That being said, I would only like to give light to our favourite time in Edmonton, which is why we’re so excited to come back for the Up+Downtown Festival.

We have made some very kindred friends in Edmonton through our experience there playing at Up+Downtown Festival last year. We absolutely adore the festival. It is so well run and curated, and it brings people out to all of the shows. The trip last year was a whirlwind 18-hour visit where we played two super fun shows as a duo at The Brixx and at CKUA. We had such a blast playing and meeting the beautiful people who came out as well as seeing the other bands. I think we had two hours of sleep in two days so it was all a blissful blur.

W: What are you excited about for performing at UP+DT Festival?
KC: We’re excited to come back and see our new pals and catch some bands. We’re excited to perform, this time, as a full band, which is a three piece, and we’re excited to share our energy with the audience because for us it’s all about the experience of connecting with new people through music and that is a powerful force!

W: How would you say the live experience of your music compares to listening to the recorded album?
KC: Both experiences are of their own. The record is full and lush. The production level is quite high. You wouldn’t know that it was mostly a DIY album if you heard it. We had the added bonus of featuring some of our pals on the record, like Tristan Henderson and Soren Nissen on bass, Karen Ng on sexy saxophones, and James McKie on sultry violins. BUT for the live experience we’re giving it our all. There’s only three of us: Joel on keys, synth bass and vocals, Neil on drums and vocals, and me on guitars and vocals. We’re all doing a juggling act while set up in a semi-circle where everyone is seen equally and the audience completes our circle. We pull energy from them to play our best. Some of it is improvised, like loops at the beginning or prolonging epic endings, all depending on “The Intensifier” (Neil) and if he wants to keep going. Joel and I both like to experiment with tones turning knobs on our instruments and petals and Neil prepares his drum kit with many different toys to make the sound unique. Neil is a monster to watch. Joel goes into a party trance, and I do a petal dance and channel the emotions I was feeling when I first wrote the songs and try and translate that to the audience as best I can. It’s energetic and all-inclusive. The audience is a very important part of our live show. Big or small, it doesn’t matter, we’re there to communicate with them through our music and it is my absolute favourite thing to do. When I am playing live, I know that I am genuinely doing what I am meant to be doing. It’s what I live for. I think Neil and Joel would say the exact same because at the end of the day the only thing it’s about is the music.

W: Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re in the city?
KC: We really love your water slides [at West Edmonton Mall] and go on them every chance we can! We also love Cool Keith. I hope he knows we’re coming! Mostly we’re looking forward to finding new places to eat, new venues to attend shows in, new bands to see, and new people to know!

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