Ace of Wands
Ace of Wands – is a Gothic Dream Rock band from Toronto that I had a chance to interview after they sat for some portraits and played a wicked show at the Wolfe Island Hotel.
I have seen Ace of Wands (AOW) live now a few times and the way I like to describe them is as a mixture between Bowie, Queen and Rush.
AOW – describe themselves as being the soundtrack to your dreams. Not just any dreams though -they play behind your best dreams; the dreams where you think you can FLY, where you can do anything and go anywhere. Dreams where you feel FREE. It’s the soundtrack to the dreams you have when your mind is in turmoil, the nightmares, the anxious dreams of strangers, and vulnerable nakedness.
For me – their music is lush, intricate, complicated and unexpected. It’s textured. It’s filled with layers. You have to pay attention. An exciting female fronted band. A three piece. Tight. Expressive and Explosive. Really exciting on stage. They are into it. Being there. Playing music. Putting on a show and making music. They have, “ fully jumped in, it’s like we are swimming together in joy and rage and grief and hope and we can all breathe underwater”.
They describe themselves as PJ Harvey meets Kate Bush meets Black Sabbath.
Read the Full Interview:
Best Described As
PJ Harvey meets Kate Bush meets Black Sabbath
Five words that describe your band
Loving, Eccentric, Hilarious, Unexpected, Wanderers
Five words that describe your music
Furious, Tender, Honest, Expressive, Timebomb
Five words that describe your attitude
Courageous, Compassionate, Curious, Committed, Wild
Q. You describe yourself as a “Dream Rock” band. Can you please expand on what that means to the average person? Both musically and emotionally…
Ace of Wands’ music has always been hard for me to define. In the 15 years I’ve been playing music in bands, the music that comes out of me never seems to be genre-specific. It could be because I have so many varied musical influences, but I think it’s more that the music never has a goal to accomplish a certain thing or a certain sound. The purpose of my art is to express the feeling that’s inside me at any given moment.
But the music industry needs rigid categories, so when we are trying to talk about defining our band’s sound, the word ‘Dream’ seems to fit. But ‘Dream’ in the context of Ace of Wands is a literal dream. It’s the soundtrack to the dreams you have when your mind is in turmoil, the nightmares, the anxious dreams of strangers, and vulnerable nakedness. But it’s also the dreams you have when you can fly; when you can do anything and go anywhere. Dreams where you feel free.
And then, needing a bit more music-biz lingo, we landed on ‘Dream Rock’. This seemed like a logical step, because ‘Dream Pop’ felt too soft and fluttery to express the rage in our music. In the end, the final genre I’ve settled on is now ‘Gothic Dream Rock’ – which helps encompass the full picture I have of Ace of Wands’ darkness and light.
Q: I read that the band’s name derives from the name of a tarot card which “is the card of inspiration, new opportunities, growth, and sizzling romantic potential” according to a website I googled.. Is this correct, and if so can you please talk about the card, its meaning to you and how the band and how it relates back.
The story behind the band’s name is that I received a Tarot deck from a friend of mine as a gift very near the beginning of the band and the first card I pulled was the Ace of Wands. The card’s definition spoke directly to what I was trying to do with the music, and with my life at the time. My understanding of the card is that it is a “gift of fiery passion and enthusiasm. A hot flash of focussed intention, this card is about will and determination – creating (or destroying) something to bring about transformation.” When the band started my life was in complete upheaval and I was deep in a depression. The idea that there could be a spark to provide a transformational shift was really empowering to me, and I felt that the band could serve that purpose.
Q: How and when did the band form? How has the sound evolved?
The band formed in 2017, and I’d say the sound has become more and more focussed and energetic since then. When we began I think I was dipping my toe into some big ocean feeling. At the time the feelings I knew best were sadness and loneliness, so we waded around in there for a while. But now we’ve fully jumped in, it’s like we are swimming together in joy and rage and grief and hope and we can all breathe underwater.
Q: Please talk about your creative process, where you find inspiration and what drives you musically. What gets the creative juices flowing.
The creative process for Ace of Wands is really variable. Sometimes I can go through months of writer’s block, then 3 or 4 songs will come in quick succession. I have found my writer’s block is really driven by stress, and when I’m in a headspace of comparison. When I can get myself OFF social media and out of self-judgement, I can write better music
Q: It’s complicated music, how is it created? Does it come naturally – each part, or is it more organic?
It’s funny to me that you call it complicated because to me it’s incredibly simple. I never set out to make music that does a certain thing (except maybe when I really need to scream something), it just simply is. I generally write songs at home and make a demo version which I send to the band, then we come together and arrange it, and Anna and Jody write their own parts. We were never really a band that ‘jams’, so we all spend some time in isolation with each song and bring our own interpretation of it to the rehearsal space.
Q: Describe your live show?
I think of our live show like the pull of an undertow. It tugs on your feet till you are willing to move with it (and sometimes it can flip you right around). Usually, we tend to leave people a bit speechless, so I think that’s generally a good thing ha.
Q: I read in an interview that you did describe desire as not being one thing, but a complex and varied mixture of feelings and actions. Please talk about desire – the song and talk about desire – the feeling and emotion?
Our new album is called ‘Desiring’, but landing on that took a lot of teasing out. Part of the challenge of releasing this album was how the pandemic disjointed everything. Not only the music industry, but our own connection to each other as a band during this long period. We went from playing a two-week tour in the US (February-March 2020) to not seeing each other in person for months on end. The disconnect was hard, and it made trying to see our album as a cohesive piece of art really challenging. We had to record in short bursts, many months apart, wearing masks and keeping our distance. It was hard to be IN it, and I was longing for things to be different. That’s where Desiring really came from I think… Partly seeing this thread of wanting everything to be different, and also seeing how that was reflected in the music. ‘Desire’ always had a romantic tinge to it when I thought of it before. But the pandemic made me realize it could be a state of being, vibrating with anxiety that things aren’t ‘enough’.
Q: Recommend a book, movie, series, restaurant and out of the box activity to do or experience.
Take a canoe trip. One that gets you deep in the woods away from cell service. Where you portage through many lakes and rivers. Don’t kill yourself – wear the right shoes and bring good food and whiskey (if you are into that). Swim naked in the middle of the day. Make your fire every night and feel your body exhausted by the effort of only living. It’s the best feeling in the world to me! Outside of playing on a stage.
Q: What’s your favourite sandwich? Describe how to make if need be.
Probably a Rueben. I don’t even know where to get a good one these days, someone tell me!
Q: What makes a city great?
Just the stuff that makes it worth living in – like art, music, food. And like rent-geared-to-income housing, and social services that lift up the most vulnerable people.
Q: Place to play?
Hotel Wolfe Island is the only place we’ve played so far, but it’s a total gem.
Q: Any stories about Kingston?
I haven’t spent too much time in Kingston (I’ve got to!) so weirdly all of my memories of the place have taken place on Wolfe Island at music festivals. The one that stands out to me is being there for The Constantines back in the early 2000s. The show was wild, everyone was going mad. However, in the middle of the pit there was a guy who was definitely having some trouble – he was getting violent and it quickly became an issue of other people’s safety. Usually, a pit is a nice place to be, but this was scary. Anyway, it was such a little festival that there wasn’t really any ‘security’. So a few brave folks managed to wrestle this guy out of the pit (he came up holding a fistful of someone’s hair, torn out by the roots!), and get him out of there (hopefully to sober up or get some assistance). It was pretty terrifying, but also awesome that the community stepped up and helped make the show safe for everyone.