Carolyn Mark Dani Nash Band’s night at the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington) Monday (October 1) at 10 p.m. 416-850-4579
Carolyn Mark, Victoria's terribly terrific hostess and funny Canadian alt-country veteran, has just arrived home from a 13-hour drive after a string of dates in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer, Alberta, when I call her to discuss her new solo album, The Queen Of Vancouver Island.
"If you're from out here, it's 14 hours just to start the tour," she says. "I wish someone would open up a wicked venue in Kamloops - that would solve all of our problems." Though Mark's most recent solo album before Queen was 2007's Nothing Is Free, in 2009 she collaborated with NQ Arbuckle on Let's Just Stay Here and Tolan McNeil on The Sound Of The Tone.
For The Queen Of Vancouver Island, Mark brought in new New Best Friends(including Terri Upton on bass, Joel Fernandes on guitar, Juli Steemson on drums)and older New Best Friends (McNeil, Paul Rigby, Paul Pigat), and ended up recording in four locations in three different towns.
Her band has morphed recently,but Mark says she's been "adding more people, not so much getting rid of anybody." For this Ontario mini-tour - a stop at Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill followed by a gig with the Dani Nash Band at the Dakota - it'll just be Mark and bassist (and Mark's boyfriend) "Sexy Dennis" (aka Dennis Siemens).
What were you thinking about when you wrote the title track, The Queen Of Vancouver Island?
[Someone] was taking my picture and I started playing it so I'd have something to do while she took my picture. I sort of wanted it to be like a TV show that doesn't exist, like the opening credits.
Do you set about to be funny when you write, or is it just something that happens?
I think I probably can't help it. I've tried to not ... but then, I feel like I must serve the comedy gods at all times. I know it might be jarring for some people, but I really can't help it. But then the people that do get it, that's great.
Do you listen to funny people?
Well, we had a rental car on our last tour, me and Dennis [Siemens] and we listened to the Raw Dog Comedy channel for like 13 hours a day. I think it began to have an effect. Some of it's not very good.
I kind of can't stand comedy radio sometimes.
Well, it's better than the music. It's true.
When I first listened to this album, I thought you were getting really cynical and now I'm not so sure about that. What are you happy about these days and what are you frustrated with?
Well, that song Nobody('s Perfect) was funny because Dennis, that plays bass with me, became my boyfriend, which is great. Now when I sing that song it's funny; when I was singing it when I didn't think there was going to be anybody, it was a bit much, people would be kind of creeped out by it. But now I can sing it, because it's funny.
There seems to be, it's hard to believe, but less money for everything. I'm trying to figure out how to take the van and the band and the shows are ... I don't know how people do it.
So the business is frustrating?
Well, yeah. It's not my favourite part of it at all. I'm not a salesman.
Do you remember your first show ever?
It was the Vinaigrettes, we formed a band, four girls, and we played at Cafe Noir, it was a coffee house at UVic and we played four songs. I was terrified.
And then we practiced downtown and we heard this window open and the guy was like, "Hey!" And we thought he was going to tell us to shut up but he was like, "Do you want to play my friend's party on Friday night?" so that was our first proper gig. It was 1990.
So you've been doing this for 22 years.
No, let's say five.
At the end of the album you have two back-to-back songs sort of about whores. Is the music business analogous to that for you?
I don't really consider myself to be a part of the music business. I feel like I'm under it or over it, I don't know. I don't think we have any effect on each other. There's a freedom in that.
Why did you decide to cover that Elvis song, Flaming Star?
I love that song. It's kind of melancholy and shimmery. And I don't know, my ex-boyfriend pointed out how great of a song it was and I agreed. I used to play it with Paul Rigby, just the two of us, and we really liked it. I just like everything about that song - Laura Freeman with her high singing, she totally made it; there was one of those Beatle basses, the Hofner, and I was like "oh no" but then everyone started playing and it sounded great. What do I know?
On tour, when we got sick of dirty comedy we'd switch to the Elvis channel. And it's all Elvis all the time. It's always at Graceland, it's always sunny, Elvis is always just about to go on stage, it's kind of great. It's a very tiny world.