By Sean Orr
CALGARY – Sometimes there are gems buried in the bedrock underneath your feet…. Like when you discover that a waitress at your work is an incredible singer-songwriter. Larissa Tandy is a gem, a hard cobalt blue crystal, raw and unpolished. From Vancouver via Melbourne, Tandy released the uncompromising and gritty debut LP The Grip on April 28 and she’s holding on tight.
It’s hard not to instantly draw a comparison to fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, but that would be a disservice to the complexities and nuances in Tandy’s music. At times moody and baroque, at others raucous and rugged, The Grip is a vivid document of her struggles over an 18-month period.
“To say these songs came out of a difficult time is an understatement. When I wasn’t in and out of hospital, I was in and out of a lawyer’s office. I was fighting for my health, and fighting to keep my home, and everyone I loved was dying in horrible ways.”
Perhaps a more apt musical comparison could be found in Canadiana; the album is reminiscent of works by Carolyn Mark, Sarah Harmer, and Kathleen Edwards with it’s shuffling drums, slow guitar, and melancholic vocals. It’s singer-songwriter style music, with a touch of country, roots, soul, and indie all wrapped up in one. Unsurprising then that the latter two Canadian musicians have a very literal connection to Tandy in the form of a musician and producer Jim Bryson, who recorded The Grip. Bryson also recorded Harmer and Edwards, as well as occasionally performing with them.
“When my paperwork for Canada came through, I was halfway through making a record. I arrived here with bits of nine songs and not sure what to do with them, and I was worrying about it, worried about making music at all really. Maybe the Australianness in my music would be too foreign and too weird in this context,” recalls Barnett.
“I dived into Canadian records, found a bunch I loved, and tried to work out who was involved. Jim’s name came up a few times, and then I found out he’d worked with someone I know back in Australia. I e-mailed him, he rang me, and we decided to make a record together. Now I love him like a brother.”
Despite a difficult time adjusting to her new homeland, it appears things are starting to work out for Tandy. Vancouver is infamous for being a hard city to meet people, but that seems to be changing. Tandy expands,
“It’s been a bit lonely, and hard to break into socially, but I feel like it’s slowly starting to work out. I’ve met some incredible people here.”
And working out it is, as the CBC recognized her in their “Songs you need to Hear” feature. Her momentum continues to gather, and in 2017 she makes the move to Music City Nashville as the recipient of the prestigious Nashville Songwriter Residency.
It appears this is one gem that is currently being unearthed.
Tandy performs May 9 at The Slice (Lethbridge), May 11 at The Needle Vinyl (Edmonton), May 14th at the Drift (Saskatoon), and May 16th at the Capital Club (Saskatoon).Capital Club, Larissa Tandy, the Drift, The Needle Vinyl, The Slice