So I am perusing Amazon.ca, as I am wont to do daily, and Bif Naked's new album is out. There are billboards for it downtown, and she's become a staple of Canadian rawk. As Denise Sheppard puts it, "Before Gwen Stefani became a household name, before Amy Lee showcased her powerhouse lungs, Bif Naked proved unequivocally that alterna-rock women can tackle tough subjects bravely. She's dealt with everything from rape to abortion to abuse — all set to great, harder-edged music."
Esthero has her new album out, too. As Bif is from Vancouver, Esthero has own3rized the Toronto and New York scenes for some time. And Esthero has managed to do it with I think only one LP, working her magic on the streets, in clubs, and in the studios. But what I find is that, to me at least, Bif and Esthero represent their regions as icons. When I think Vancouver, I think Skull Skates (albeit with humble origins in Saskatchewan), Gob, Skinny Puppy, Greenpeace, Barry Pepper, The X-Files, rain, mountains, rainforest, hippies, the Chinese, and on. When I think of Toronto, plastic people, a sick cross between Los Angeles and New York comes to mind, and the subtlety of beautiful art galleries, their horrid new brand campaign ("Toronto Unlimited" blech), DJ culture, Sean Desmond, Chris Sheppard, lights, pizazz, the Toronto International Film Festival, CHUM and MuchMusic, Sam the Record Man, celebrity, et cetera. Esthero is slick, sexy, she epitomizes these things aesthetically and musically. In my eyes.
(And even though great bands like Death from Above 1979 are from Toronto, I don't normally associate their "brand" with the region.)
Japan and the U.S. may think of the older celebs (Bryan Adams, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, Jane Siberry) or the new pop youth exports (The Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morissette, Ryan Reynolds, Sum 41, et al.), within our borders I find that there are definitely regional stereotypes that could be utilised to really bolster municipal brands. I've seen American cities do it, and because of Hollywood there's a reason I have preconceived ideas of their cities — such as Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, and on.
In Canada, the only bands I can associate with Saskatchewan is Wide Mouth Mason, the only good thing Calgary has ever done for us is Big Rock beer and perhaps, musically, Tegan & Sara and I'm not sure if we can group k. d. lang in there cuz she was born in Consort, Alberta. The last thing to be exported from Edmonton on any major scale was SNFU and I suppose Nickelback. Winnipeg is an enigmatic hotbed of talent, always. With the provocative label G7 Welcoming Committee, the launching point for troublemakers such as The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Weakerthans, Clann Zú, warsawpack, Propagandhi, and also host to CDs of Noam Chomksy, Howard Zinn, and many more. Winnipeg was/is also the home of a shitload of other bands and, oddly, their art scene was featured in Wallpaper* about a year ago. That may or may not have had anything to do with the fact that Tyler Brûlé — the founder of Wallpaper* — was from Winnipeg. And of course Halifax has Sloan and Murderecords, Buck 65, and whatever else Maritimers do out there. Montréal is the coolest city in North America, so no need to further elucidite the genius of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Tiga, Amon Tobin, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, and blah…
I guess Big Sugar has some Alberta in them, too. The thing is that we really need to develop regional icons. Iconic figureheads that help identify city brands and establish Canada to Canadians locally and others abroad, act as spokespersons, are the equivalent of a band's lead singer to the media.
Now that I think about it, interestingly, with the sticker campaign just starting to get underway for my experimental Fell brand and Shaun registering felldot.org today, I should be able to create a strong, scholastic spokesmodel for both occult and design, but further, for Edmonton and the Prairies. I didn't get the grant from the Edmonton Arts Council for the proposed alternate reality game, but the involved model, Brandi's sister Danielle, says she's still willing to model for moi (pictured). I have Melanie, but she's wary of the occult and sticks to her light mysticism and art. Tara hates cameras, but I may be able to get her to join a collective effort. Who knows.