Even at the age of 14, Kate Kurdyak knew exactly what she wanted. Spying 604 Records chief Jonathan Simkin at a Vancouver Marianas Trench concert, she buttonholed him at the gig and introduced herself as someone he should sign to his record label.
Simkin must have been impressed by Kurdyak’s chutzpah. He not only signed her to his record label but also allowed her to assemble a support group that featured younger sister, Lauren and good friend Kaitlyn Hanson-Boucher and even agreed to personally manage the trio, initially called The Katherines.
Now, re-named Vox Rea and with a new track titled “Dose Me Up” from a forthcoming album release, Kurdyak is on the phone from Vancouver to explain the band’s evolution and their attempts to maintain their sanity during the current CO-VID 19 pandemic.
So how did she make that initial overture to Simkin? “I had done some research on local record companies and when I attended that Marianas Trench concert, I picked him out of the crowd and I introduced himself to me,” explained Kurdyak. “He told me he liked my voice and when I played him my first song “Heart On The Table” he said “Let’s do a record” and things quickly snowballed from there.”
“The first album I release (2017) `To Bring You My Heart’ was initially supposed to be a solo album but then we formed a band as we started to perform the material live,” Kurdyak noted. “The writing sessions for that album were hugely experimental, it was just me writing with a whole bunch of different producers (Hensley Workman, Steve Bays, Ryan Stewart, Colin Janz, Kevvy Mental). It was okay but we never really settled on a specific identity.”
That debut album featured a number of songs, specifically, “Cherry Lips”, “Primitive” and “Ultra Violet” which charted well on the likes of Spotify (over one million streams), Pop All Day, Hot Hits Canada and New Music Friday and even receiving exposure on popular television shows like Orphan Black, The Order and Reboot.
But as the trio started work on a second album, the first time they wrote together, they realized that they embraced a collaborative spirit that sounded totally different. So a name change was called for. “Vox is Latin for voice and Rea can mean anything you want it to be,” laughed Kurdyak. “ Men’s Rea means guilty with intent but we’ve heard many other interpretations of that name. Our response is that it’s up to you what it means.”
The release of “Dose Me Up”, the first track of the upcoming project indicates a clear evolution of the band’s creative process. “It’s radically different, we want to keep moving forward and not look back but be a little kinder to my teenage self and not be embarrassed by that initial record,” Kurdyak explained. “That first album allowed me to try on all of these hats and figure out who we are.”
Written on her grandmother’s piano in the family home, Kurdyak explained that they had just lost their grandmother,” I guess we were still in mourning, at the time my sister Lauren and I wrote it. We were in our childhood home and people who used to be there weren’t there anymore, it caused a strange disconnect. The song is about feeling nostalgic and emotional, about grieving for the loss of that time.”
Considering that Kurdyak is the band’s lead vocalist, pianist, guitarist and bass player, her sister Lauren contributes vocals and piano and Hanson-Boucher adds vocals and percussion, Vox Rea emits a unique atmospheric sound which is totally atypical of current trends. They do have a group of support musicians and will soon add a fourth member when multi-instrumentalist Mitchell Schamberg joins the group (he is currently stranded in Portland due to the virus).
Saying she is influenced by Montreal artist Charlotte Cardin (“she creates music that we love”), Kate is aware that Vox Rea is not trying to follow any particular pop structure. “That is why picking singles is so struggling. “We don’t write songs with the intent of them being singles. Our songs are more of a mood and a sound. They don’t follow any specific formula.”
As for being restricted by the current pandemic, Kate notes there has been a silver lining in trying to create things that they’ve never done before. “We’ve now been inspired to make stop motion videos (yes that is sister Lauren on the single cover and in the video, diving into the river courtesy of a GoPro camera) but we really wish we could be out playing and promoting the new record. We could do one of those live stream events but you can’t recreate the energy of a live audience.”