JONASSON with Ten Year Drought at Rancho Relaxo (300 College), tonight (Thursday, July 10). $5. 416-920-0366. And at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), July 17, with Flux AD and Hush Hush . $5. 416-777-1777. Rating: NNNNN
moody, murky twang-meets - ambient-beat outfit Jonasson is yet another product of the artsy Guelph indie scene that's spawned local lights like the Constantines, Jimmy Guthrie, Royal City (hell, the entire Three Gut family) and King Cobb Steelie. But frontwoman and songwriter Liz Forsberg has more in common with Cat Power's killing-me-softly vocal anguish than with any of her fellow former Guelphites. Although, to be fair, Steelie star (and Forsberg's romantic partner) Michael Armstrong is a band member and adds a dollop of his band's head-bobbing rhythms to Forsberg's mournful wisps of alt-rock gee-tar.
While Jonasson (the mellifluous moniker is a tribute to Forsberg's paternal grandparents, who changed their surname after moving to a Swedish town with too many Jonassons) may be sonically sombre in tone, their live set-up is another story altogether.
Forsberg is a delightfully quirky anti-Chan Marshall onstage. At a recent NXNE gig, she offered rapt audience members homemade stick puppets.
Perhaps you can credit her dalliance with an entirely different over-the-top musical ensemble for the eccentric onstage energy.
"I've performed with the Hidden Cameras live once, and I sang with the choir on the record," beams Forsberg.
"I love their live show and how wild and huge and crazy it is, but I don't know how the naked dancers would work with my music."
Forsberg's ties to the gay folk church outfit go back to her days in Guelph, where she started her very first band, Leisure Guide - "It was pretty much a permanent basement band; I don't think we ever made it out of there!" - with original Camera Magali Meagher.
Now based in Toronto, Forsberg cut her teeth on punk and hardcore music, "but not the yelling stuff. The Guelph definition of punk was definitely not three-chord screamers," she says, pegging Godspeedish obscure avant-jazz-meets-punk-rockers Phleg Camp as her primary influence.
So while Jonasson's small-scale EP sounds fairly soothing, Forsberg urges audiences to expect full-on guitar noise from her live act and on their upcoming full-length, which they're slated to record in Guelph indie-rock treasure Andy Magoffin's House of Miracles at the end of the month.
While she's stoked about rocking out, Forsberg explains that Jonasson's newly plugged-in sound actually ended up complicating their recording plans.
"I originally thought we'd be able to make the record at home, but I just found out there's gonna be a baby born downstairs, which put a wrench in that scheme.
"For the first while, I didn't have a great guitar set-up, but I just got a new Gibson and a new amp, so it's gonna be pretty awesome. I've wanted to have a loud project, and I'm thinking this is it. It's a meeting between quiet and loud and pretty and ugly."