By B. Simm
VANCOUVER — Julie McGeer is a multi-dimensional artist: a poet, singer, songwriter, guitarist, her roots in folk and indie pop; a visual artist using acrylic on canvas who also experiments with photography; dabbles in clown and theatre; now exploring singing jazz standards and improvising with voice and movement. When McGeer notes, “I seem to be in a very creative stage in my life,” clearly that’s case.
After taking time off to have a child and to work with troubled adolescents at an alternative school, McGeer teamed up with long-time friend, cellist Peggy Lee, to form The Sands and record a significant new album, Beast To Bone. The project came about when Lee was asked to write some music for American jazz artists, Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz. Lee then turned to McGeer for some lyrics and, “Kaboom! Like a volcano… We got on a bit of a roll and wrote a bunch of songs in a very short period. But it took us a while to figure what to do with the material.”
They approached musician-producer, Jesse Zubot, who did a magnificent job choreographing the space, separation and the rich tonal qualities of the instruments brought to the fore — shimmering cymbals; the cello and rich, textured strings resonant with amazing depth; the trumpet sometimes sombre, sometimes breathy and sweet.
Zubot is “Mr. Super Producer,” says McGeer. “He chose the band. He can take credit for imagining the configuration and also for the way the instruments were recorded and mixed and mastered. But it is the players themselves that came up with the individual parts, with the occasional prompting and direction from Jesse.”
Beast To Bone is extremely visual. Lots of big sprawling landscapes — the cello like gentle waves crashing and the wind rustling through leaves, the songs tell vivid stories — it’s performance art unfolding on a sound stage.
“That’s always there for Peggy, thus her [regular] band Film in Music; plus the improvisation with Jesse and JP Carter [trumpet]. Their whole world is texture and soundscape, so for me it was a fantastic fit. I am a storyteller and love to improvise in my own way with phrasing. I love drama, poetry and tension; intimacy and connection; juxtaposition: and the heart of the story is most important, the foundation… then you can go anywhere.”
The Sands release Beast To Bone at the China Cloud Feb. 6.BC, British Columbia, The China Cloud, The Sands