JULIE DOIRON & THE WOODEN STARS with EVENING HYMNS and JOSE CON TRERAS at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Thursday (August 21), doors 8:30 pm. $13.50. HS, RT, SS, TF.
It was the serendipitous union of beloved ex-Eric's Trip singer/bassist Julie Doiron and Ottawa's Wooden Stars that led to a Juno win for best alternative album in 2000 (one of two Juno nominations for Doiron, and so far her only win).
Recorded in late 1998 and early 1999 (nearly the same time as Doiron's much quieter EP Will You Still Love Me?), Julie Doiron And The Wooden Stars (Jagjaguwar/Sappy) merges Doiron's fragile but strong voice and brutally confessional, sad songs with Wooden Stars' sensitive, jazz-inflected indie rock. It's a unique and beautiful album, but a strange one to win a Juno.
"I know," says Doiron on the phone from Sackville, NB, "but none of my records would make any sense winning Junos, if you think about it."
The fact that Jagjaguwar decided to reissue Julie Doiron And The Wooden Stars on vinyl last February, when there was no guarantee of the group's reuniting and touring, is testament to the album's enduring appeal.
The band initially got together in 1997 as tour support for Doiron's album Loneliest In The Morning. Seeing as Doiron had known Wooden Stars guitarist Michael Feuerstack since the two were teenagers, and her label, Sappy, had put out Wooden Stars' Mardi Gras, it seemed like a logical fit. Nevertheless, it surprised everyone how well it worked.
"When I got the message from Mike saying ‘The whole band wants to do it,' I thought, ‘Wow, that would sound really crazy,'" says Doiron. "I couldn't imagine the sound, but at the same time I was super-excited because I was such a huge fan of their band.
"The Wooden Stars were filling in the songs nicely, but they weren't re-writing them for me. It was really sparse but really musical," says Doiron about the initial 1997 tour.
But eventually, the group's sound evolved to the point where Doiron credits the band with "reworking" her tunes. "I remember Mike and Julien [Beillard] coming in with vocal parts for things like Dance Music, and I always thought everything they came up with was awesome," she says.
"We all agreed that we loved the way we sounded together, so that's why we decided to make the record - [we wanted to] archive that period of time."
The collaboration also left a mark on Doiron's guitar-playing. "Up until that point, I was just playing power chords and barely strumming," she says. "I wanted to be a better musician because they were so good, and it was inspiring for me - I started fingerpicking again, the way I had done in high school when I was playing classical."
Thursday's show at the Horseshoe may be a once-in-15-years opportunity to see them together again (though hopefully not). "If anyone's remotely interested and loved the album, I don't know that I would skip the show," says Doiron. "This is a pretty rare show. I'm going to be there."