Meet our February Artist of the Month: Wares! For those who know Alberta music, especially Edmonton music, you've most likely heard of Wares, Cassia Hardy's musical project that doesn't define itself to one genre.
I sat down with Cassia before she performed with her other band, Power Buddies, last weekend. We talked about how she got into music, her experiences in various Canadian music scenes and what her plans are for 2016.
Wares will be opening for Feel Alright on Friday, February 5 at The Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club. Make sure to go and check them out!
Going back, how did you initially get into playing music?
I’ve been musical almost for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough that my parents got me into lessons for piano, voice, guitar and acting as well. I started playing piano at 7 or 8 and kept it in my life from there. It’s been a very important part of my life.
When did you decide you wanted to do music more professionally?
I had this childhood dream, you know how kids are just so sure of stuff, that I knew I was going to be this rockstar and that morphed into a teenage rebellion thing. So, really, all that means is all my life I knew I wanted to be an artist so this is just the shape it happens to take right now.
What’s the music scene in Edmonton like?
It’s wonderful. Remarkably different from Calgary. Calgary is a lot darker, more post-punk influence. Edmonton, where I hang out, there’s a lot of pop music like Faith Healer, Diamond Mind, everybody who used to be on the Old Ugly label that was prominent two or three years back in Edmonton has gone on to really great things. There’s also a punk scene that’s been more or less around in all of Alberta since the ‘80s, that’s still very much present. It’s very diverse. I always say to people, “I’m a big fan of Alberta music”.
Were you involved in the Edmonton music scene growing up at all?
Not really. I volunteered at Folk Fest for a number of years. My parents had done that and I fell into it. When Wunderbar opened in 2010, coincidentally the same year I turned 18, it was a pretty easy fit. I remember drunkenly stumbling in there one night and being like, “I’m going to spend a lot of time here. This is a nice bar unlike the rest of Whyte Ave.” and it completely changed my life.
You explained the Calgary and Edmonton scenes but you just recently toured the west coast. How do you believe the scenes there vary from ours?
It’s really hard to book shows in the interior for rock and indie acts. Folk people do really well. It’s a tough shoot until Vancouver and then Vancouver’s amazing. As with the Island. Not a lot of people are able to make it out to the Island because of the ferry fees. When you’re on a shoe string budget touring, you could potentially make money out there but, if you don’t, you stand to lose quite a bit of money so it’s hard. The west coast, people are generally more relaxed maybe it’s the more sunlight. There’s a lot more of a pronounced skater culture because there’s more concrete around that stays in good repair as opposed to Edmonton which is covered in snow eight months of the year. It’s a different world.
What are some similarities?
Vancouver and Calgary both love skateboarding a whole lot, is one thing I’ve gathered. Calgary has that really sweet park just outside of downtown. Vancouver has a really defined sound, I would say, just a lot of slacker pacific northwest rock that came out two or three years back. The similarity here is that we’re all Canadian and we’re all making loud pop music. It’s hard to compare, I don’t know how much in common they all have but it’s a shared love of art, I would say.
Do you find it harder to further your musical career and grow your audience due to our lack of all-ages venues?
There’s a really healthy crowd that’s over 18. I’d like to play more all-ages shows if they were available. There’s really nothing like that in Edmonton. Things are starting but it’s really a creative absence. What’s it like in Calgary?
We have Tubby Dogs, Sloth Records and the National Music Centre which will be Studio Bell when it opens.
See, Tubby Dog is great though. It is all-ages and the shows are really accessible. Edmonton has nothing like that. I would call that a pretty healthy all-ages scene. Edmonton, I’m just not connected to it. There’s a couple, I think it’s more prominently hardcore. Vancouver, I know there very much is one as well. It’s not really something I worry too much about but I wonder sometimes if you’re not doing much investment in your community of future artists. That’s something that’s on my mind sometimes.
Do you find that Canadian music scenes are a welcoming place for women and LGBTQ individuals?
It has very much been for me and I’m really fortunate when it comes to that.
I’m facilitating a panel for Not Enough Fest in Edmonton about how to start a band and that’s one of the questions we’re facing, is how do you break into this seemingly male-dominated world? There are no straight answers, the one thing I’ve found is make sure you’re doing the best you can and you’re not taking shit from anyone because, if nothing else, you need to stand by your morals and make the best art you can. That’s all you’ve got at the end of the day. I certainly think it’s better than it was. I’m really proud to be affiliated with Not Enough Fest in Edmonton, it’s a really positive step towards shaping our culture and making sure when people see their heroes on stage or maybe just their friends, it’s everybody, everybody who’s capable.
What do you have planned for 2016?
This year I’m putting out a new 7” single and I’m going on a cross-country tour to promote it. I’m sure my other group, Power Buddies, has something in the works as well. Mostly what I want is to get out there, see the country. I haven’t been east of our little prairie home so it’d be nice to see what the Maritimes are all about.