Toronto musicians to watch in 2017: weird edition

New sounds coming soon from Phèdre, Eyeballs, Castle If and more

“Weird” is less a qualifier of a band’s sound and more a way to describe bands that don’t fit anywhere else. Here are six artists looking to shape how weird Toronto sounds in 2017.


Eyeballs were everywhere in 2016, releasing their debut record, Bad Art, and playing countless shows (a regular highlight of my live music coverage for NOW). There’s a raw energy to the poppy noise the duo makes that recalls Toronto groups from a decade ago, like the Sick Lipstick. According to the band, they’ve “added a new full-time member – a singer/dancer/synth player named Koko” and are taking a break from performing to record and work on music videos. A new single and mixtape arrive soon to tide us over until the spring.




While 2016 belonged to Hooded Fang and their third album, Venus On Edge, Fang’s April Aliermo and Daniel Lee helped usher in 2017 at the Silver Dollar with their other project, Phèdre, kicking off what’s looking like a big year for them. They have two records on the way: Eterna, a mostly live instrumental album that Lee says sounds like “weird, thrashy, psychedelic punk,” while Aliermo describes Bongga Bongga: Forever Phèdre as much more electronic and beat-driven, like their live sets of late. “Bongga” is Filipino for “over the top, all out,” says Aliermo. In other words, expect Phèdre to not hold anything back this year.

Hooded Fang play the Silver Dollar on January 27 and Phedre play the Wavelength Music Festival at the Garrison on February 19.


Castle If

Canada’s electronic music history is steeped in weirdness, and that’s where Castle If’s Jess Forrest thrives. This year, she’ll release her long-awaited sci-fi concept record, Sector 03, informed by William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World On A Wire and her time working at a sketchy bar. The release of another record, Plant Material, will coincide with Castle If’s show at the Music Gallery on April 7. It follows in the footsteps of Canadian electronic pioneer Mort Garson’s Plantasia, a 1976 album of loungey exotica made specifically for plants. “I just thought, “Man, this hasn’t been done for 40 years,” Forrest says with a laugh. “I gotta do it!”

At the Music Gallery on April 7 as a part of the Emergents series.

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Freeer Records

If 2016 was any indication, Dave Evans’s post-Soupcans life will continue to be busier than ever. Since establishing Toronto/Montreal label Freeer Records with long-time friend/collaborator André Thériault, he’s released his and Thériault’s solo material and the debut by former Cellphone noisemaker and New York transplant EZB. The label has signed Hamilton’s Sour Pussy and plans on releasing more from Evans and Thériault. “[And we’re] freeereleasing some weird old cassettes that have been lying around,” says Evans, “specifically a collection of Canadian New Age music I’ve been squatting on.” Also expect guest-curated YouTube playlists, audiobooks and “music-less” videos. 



Retired don’t plan on losing the momentum they built with the release of their Crimes Against Jazz album last fall. Bassist Adam M. Hanrahan says they’ll spend the year performing in support of the record and defiling the jazz scene in the city, with some festival dates thrown in, too. The band features members of Zwarun (formerly Connoisseurs of Porn) and Body of Waste, two projects also set to release material this year.



Freaky, experimental Luge are about to follow up their 2015 debut, Sex Cop, with an EP that’ll find them in dancier and happier territory, says the band’s vocalist and guitarist, Kaiva Gotham and Tobias Hart. They’ve also added two new members, Cam Fraser and Stu Mein of Sly Why: Kid. “[We’re] constantly writing, playing and experimenting, with the goal of making something unique and fresh.”

At the Baby G on January 21 w/ Worst Gift, Hot Garbage and Life In Vacuum. See listing. | @therewasnosound

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