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- Posted on Jun 19th 2010 12:15PM by Dave Jaffer
Any band that derives its name from cult 1979 film 'The Warriors' will probably end up doing pretty well in certain places, sight unseen. But when people start hearing St. John's, Newfoundland's Gramercy Riffs, they might forget all about the reference.
Gramercy Riffs don't make tough music. They're not leather jacket-wearing purveyors of sharp, angular tones meant to injure. Rather they make what's been referred to as heartbreak pop, and last night's set at Bread and Circus showed they're very, very good at it. Vocalists Mara Pellerin (Korg) and Lee Hanlon (guitar) give and take and interchange effortlessly, and both can flat-out sing, separating them from a bevy of Friday bands whose vocalists took pride in their atonality.
Pellerin's voice cut through the room like a flaming sword. Its pitch, tone and texture could have stopped a stampeding herd of buffalo. 'Dreaming', a simple, well-paced pop rock number tinged with sadness and a country vibe, was one of the highlights of the evening. So, too, was Hanlon's turn on 'Come Home Darlin,' where he was helped by a harmonizing Pellerin.
A group of friends from St. John's who've known each other since childhood, Gramercy Riffs' strength is undoubtedly found in how -- gasp -- they actually know how to sing and play. And there's a reason for that.
"I study music at school, and I did a bunch of years of voice," Pellerin, a French horn player who's currently doing a Master's in Music at the University of Montreal, told Spinner after their set. "It's kind of hilarious. The boys always get mad at me for writing songs in C sharp. They're like 'come on!' because I don't play guitar."
In all, it was quite a night for the Riffs. "It's our first festival," Pellerin said, before correcting herself. "Well, we played Wreckhouse Jazz Festival at home, which is funny because we're not a jazz band."
Nor are they a band obsessed with 'The Warriors' (unless you count Hanlon). As Pellerin tells it, their name was arrived at quite hurriedly. "We had, like, a list of band names and we were all fighting about it. And then we had our first show and we needed to make a poster, so that's what ended up on the poster and it stuck."