Sixth Degree Of Madison Violet
By Keith Sharp
There’s a 6th degree of Kevin Bacon element about people from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia who jokingly believe they are all somehow related to each other. So when Zoebliss musician Brenley MacEachern met Lisa MacIsaac at a social event at the Green Room in Toronto in 1999 and happened to mention her band were looking for a fiddle player, it hardly came as a surprising MacEachern was conversing with one of those `fiddle playing MacIsaacs’ whose brother happened to be the colourful Ashley MacIsaac.
Further conversation revealed MacEachern and MacIsaac’s fathers actually went to high school in Cape Breton together and that MacIsaac knew a lot of MacEachern’s immediate family even though they had never met personally until that fateful evening.
MacIsaac subsequently accepted MacEachern’s offer to join her in Zoebliss and when the band imploded later that year, they struck out on their own, developing both a musical and personal relationship. Fifteen years later, the duo have now developed Madison Violet into a four-piece EDM group with a new record, ‘Year Of The Horse’ due for release early in the new year on their new record company, Ultra.
“My background is more 80’s-90’s pop music whilst Lisa has that traditional Celtic background so that made for some interesting collaborations”, explained MacEachern prior to Madison Violet performing at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace venue. “Our first self-titled indie release (2002) was more in the trip-hop style of Zoebliss but our next two releases; `Worry The Jury’ (2004) and `Caravan’ (2006) were kind of rootsy-folk efforts which reflected our live performance. This traditional style was further developed during a two-record stint at True North Records which produced `No Fool For Trying’ (2009) and `The Good In Goodbye’ (2011), efforts which warranted a 2010 Juno nomination for ‘No Fool For Trying’ in the Roots Tradition Album category and a win at the 10th annual Independent Music Awards in the folk-singer-songwriter category for “The Ransom” and “Small Change” as well as winning the 2010 John Lennon Songwriting contest for “The Ransom”..
Using the mobility of their two-person, sometimes three people, lineup to their advantage, Madison Violet have toured Europe, Australia and North America extensively. “If we wanted to play, say Australia, we’d just send a bunch of media kits out to the festival organizers and hope for a positive response,” noted MacEachern. “So we’d get one or two positive responses and then we’d announce we were going over there anyway, so other organizers would say, `okay, then come and play our festival’. So we’d go over there to play 15 dates and end up touring there for like three months.
Realizing that the band makes more money touring than recording, Madison Violet had always taken their time between projects and it’s not a surprise to MacEachern that a major European tour threw a spanner into the works in their plans to record their latest release.
“You have to plan European tours like a year in advance and Lisa and I knew our new record wouldn’t be finished in time but the promoters over there were insistent we have a new record to promote,” explained the Montreal native. “We tried to push the tour back but they (the promoters) wouldn’t hear of it yet they also didn’t want us to hold up the record release, so we rushed out a version of `The Year Of The Horse’ for them, planning to polish up a North American version for early 2016.”
Such a decision has allowed Madison Violet to release one single “These Ships” and road test the new material before putting the finishing touches to their latest release which MacEachern describes as a definitive move into a more EDM dance-pop direction.
“At the end of the day, it all centres on the song itself,” noted MacEachern. “Once Lisa and I have the basics of the song, we can go in any direction we want when it comes to the production. At one point, it made sense for us to focus more on a folk/roots direction because there was only the two of us performing. But now we can expand to having four members in the group so it just makes sense for us to update our sound and go for a more EDM-dance vibe.”
Considering Canada has a history of producing creative duets from Ian and Sylvia Tyson, The Raes, The MacGarrigle Sisters through to Tegan And Sara and more recently a plethora of hot new duets which also include Dear Rogue, The Dears, Autumn Hill, Whitehorse and Scarlett Jane, MacEachern is enthused by all the new talent that’s been breaking through of late. “Whether it’s rock, pop, folk or dance, there’s a lot of great talent out there and it’s encouraging to see new bands progressing because believe me, it’s tough out there and Lisa and I have been working at it for over 15 years”.
One casualty has been their personal relationship which dissolved about six years ago, even though they are both still committed to the band. “It turns out we were more in love with the band than we were with each other,” mused MacEachern who confirms both she and Lisa are now in relationships with other partners. “Yes it was tough, and we could have easily split up and gone our separate ways but our commitment to the band is still strong.”