NXNE 2013 Preview: O&AL

By Anna Piszczkiewicz Photos via Olenka and the Autumn Lovers

Olenka and the Autumn Lovers play their own brand of classic folk music: a skillful blend of North American country twang and Eastern European balladry, set to lyrics that are rich with personal reflection and social commentary. Their sound is a beautiful melancholy.

The London, Ontario-based band was formed by singer/songwriter Olenka Krakus, who has been releasing records and touring cross-country since early 2008. The band’s newest releases include: a 7-song EP entitled “Hard Times” and their first vinyl release, a 3-song 7-inch entitled “It’s Alright,” which they’ll be bringing to their Toronto gigs for the first time.

The band’s official NXNE showcase is Thursday, June 13th @ midnight @ The Great Hall (playing the with Coeur De Pirate (11pm), and Del Bel (1am) – free with NXNE pass/wristband or $20 at the door.

Earlier that same day, Olenka and the Autumn Lovers will play a stripped-down, acoustic showcase at Trinity Bellwoods Park: Thursday, June 13th @ 4pm for the Young Lions/Live in Bellwoods series – free outdoor show

We caught up with frontwoman Olenka Krakus over email on the band’s latest goings-on.

You’ve played NXNE previously. What brings you back to the festival?

We weren’t a part of the festival last year, and we don’t play Toronto all that often, so it seemed conveniently fitting to join in again this year. Plus when we attend a festival like NXNE, we usually get a chance to catch up with musician-friends from all over the country, which is always fun.

You’ll be bringing along copies of your first ever 7inch titled “It’s Alright”. Why did you want to release a vinyl record?

I’ve worked in record stores for many many years, so I have a rather large collection of my own. It’s a format that I’ve always enjoyed both for aesthetic and acoustic reasons, and I thought it was high-time for us to produce something on vinyl ourselves. Although it’s an expensive undertaking, I find that a lot of fans really appreciate being able to pick up a record; the tangible, physical quality of the medium is something that I feel music lovers are drawn to. And we got to release our music on blue vinyl! It’s really pretty.

VIDEO: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers “It’s Alright”

The songs on the 7inch and your latest EP “Hard Times” were recorded at the Sugar Shack. Can you tell me more about the studio and why you chose to record there?

The Sugar Shack is my bandmate’s (Simon Larochette) studio. Andy Magoffin, a well-known engineer who was based in London for many years, operated his House Of Miracles studio out of the space (he’s recorded many well-known Canadian bands at the space including the Constantines, Great Lake Swimmers, By Divine Right, Hidden Cameras, etc.).

When Andy relocated his studio to Cambridge, Simon was fortunate enough to take over the space and set up his own studio there. We actually recorded our 2010 album And Now We Sing in the same space with Andy when it was still the House Of Miracles. Once Simon moved in, we started practising there, and it just seemed natural for us to continue working in it, especially with Simon who was intimately familiar with the songs & what we were trying to achieve.

You’re singing, literally, about Hard Times (the recent so-called economic downturn, among other things) on your latest record. Is it therapeutic for you to perform the material in front of an audience?

It depends on the nature of the show. Some of our louder bar shows are more about communicating emotions than lyrics and ideas because of the volume of the shows and social nature of the setting. In those instances, I can sometimes let go and get caught up in the performance. But I find the quieter shows, whether in theatres or galleries or in people’s homes, to be more restorative, possibly because of the intimacy of the settings. When I can actually communicate the ideas I’m discussing in my lyrics, and I can tell that the audience has connected with those ideas, I feel gratified.

Will you be performing any new material in Toronto?

Yes! We’ll be performing a few new songs that we’re getting ready for our next album. It’ll be the first time that we’ll be performing them in Toronto, and I’m pretty sure that one of them we’ve never played live before, so we may be a little more jittery than usual.

You’ll be playing a showcase and an acoustic set in Trinity Bellwoods Park during NXNE. The latter seems like a perfect venue for your tunes.

Outdoor shows are an interesting experience. They certainly have a built-in sense of fun, especially the Bellwoods showcases, which feel like a picnic or a hangout at the park. And the intimacy of the settings can help create an ambience that works well with our music. But they’re challenging to play, especially when the show is acoustic. A lot of our music is quiet, so trying to deliver a loud-enough performance with unamplified instruments and stripped down sets can be difficult. We usually just try to encourage the audience to cuddle-up close to us and get comfortable with sitting in each others’ laps.

VIDEO: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Lark” Live in Bellwoods NXNE 2011 Picnic

VIDEO: “Motel Blues” by Olenka & the Autumn Lovers NXNE 2011

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