By Maddy Cristall
VANCOUVER – The ever impressive Pugs and Crows have just released their fourth album, UNCLE. The Vancouver based indie-jazz band never cease to create innovative and genre bending music. They blend together modern jazz, art folk and avant garde stylings. The combination is these otherwise underexplored genres accumulated brilliantly. This is only possible because each member of the band is objectivity talented and have excelled at the instruments they play. Pugs and Crows have been making music for 10 years, have toured across the world and earned themselves a Juno award for best instrumental album in 2013. Now they have joined forces with hypnotic singer-songwriter Marin Patenaude and elevated their already highly evolved music to another level.
The band’s frontman Cole Schmidt explains, “The album took three years to make, when my uncle, who gave a lot, got hit with fourth stage esophageal cancer and died four months later. Around the same time, many close friends and bandmates were starting to have kids. A few others also came and went along the way.” It is deeply apparent that this music comes from a highly emotional place, it plucks every little delicate string inside of you. Patenaude adds a visceral element to the band’s otherwise mostly instrumental approach. Schmidt says, “Marin and I have been playing music together for as long as the Pugs and Crows have been going. This batch of music felt a little extra vulnerable and required someone that wouldn’t allow too much ego to get in the way. Just like the others in the band, I have a lot of trust for all the choices she makes musically.” Patenaude does to Pugs and Crows what Beth Gibbins does to Portishead, she breathes life into the music.
UNCLE was recorded at Afterlife Studios by John Raham. Cole Schmidt also produced the album alongside Chris Gestrin.
“The recording process for this album was totally different for us. Rather than write parts, rehearse for months, and play lots of live shows before recording the music live off the floor, we went into the studio very underprepared,” Schmidt says. “Instead we spent time improvising on each section at length, before editing it down like a film.”
The handiwork on the album is impressive, every single moment feels important. When asked if it’s difficult to make jazz music in 2018, Cole responds, “Probably not much more difficult than being in a grindcore band in 2018. Maybe more old people, and less pitbulls with jazz.” They make complicated music and it pays off. Their choice to collaborate with Patenaude was another strong choice for the band. Uncle is an extraordinary album that doesn’t take any shortcuts, it takes you down a scenic walk through a place you’ve never seen before.
UNCLE is now available on all streaming platforms