RACHEL ZEFFIRA at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, May 2), doors 8:30 pm. $15.50. RT, SS, TF.
Rachel Zeffira's debut solo album has an aqueous sensibility. Despite its high degree of difficulty, The Deserters (Paper Bag), which the soprano wrote, produced and played nine instruments on, sounds effortless.
The journey toward dreamy baroque pop, however, hasn't always been so easy.
Growing up in BC's Kootenays, Zeffira was classically trained in oboe, violin, piano and voice. Living in a small town often meant travelling to the States for lessons.
On her 17th birthday she embarked on what was to be an even longer (and more permanent) trip, boarding a plane for London, England, to sing in a concert that would determine her admission to music school.
UK customs had a different idea.
"They kept asking me, ‘But why are you really here?' and it went on all day," says Zeffira.
Finally they put her on a plane to San Francisco, where she frantically sorted out her passport and tried to make it back to the UK.
"Even right before I got on the plane I was calling them and saying, ‘I can do the show even if I arrive 15 minutes before it starts.'" She eventually got to London, but they'd already found a new soprano.
In need of a plan B ("I had something really pathetic, like a couple hundred dollars"), Zeffira faked a resumé and supply-taught in London for a year. After that, she jumped on a train with her oboe and gained entry to Verona's Conservatory of Music.
"I've never planned anything," she says. "That way you can't be disappointed if it doesn't work out."
But aside from the original snafu, everything has. She eventually moved back to London and met Horrors frontman Faris Badwan, with whom she formed the alt-pop band Cat's Eyes. Badwan introduced her to newer music she'd overlooked while recording and performing opera.
"There was a whole period of guitar bands I missed out on. I hadn't even heard of My Bloody Valentine."
She includes a cover of MBV's To Here Knows When on her first solo effort, which she recently toured through Europe and now brings to North America. The Toronto show marks another first for her.
"I've always wanted to go and meant to go and planned to go," Zeffira says of her native country's largest city.
She'll have one afternoon free.