Breakout Toronto Bands: L-CON
Breakout Toronto Bands features local artists that we think you should give a listen to.
Who is she?
Lisa Conway's voice is both big and shy and thank goodness she brought it with her when she moved to Toronto from Quick, B.C. And since that time she's utilized it in so many projects it's unlikely you haven't heard it. As a music student, performer, writer and really, anything else one does with music, her output has been diverse and driven by experimentation and a lust for the new. It's also very good.
To put aside the flowery text a moment, I'll let her give you the rundown. "When I first moved to Toronto, I was in a band / girl duo called Miss Scarlet and a band called Mandibles (the project of Jordan Howard of the Skeletones Four). The Owle Bird was born out of an interest in combining songwriting with structured improvisations and writing on an instrument I did not know how to play (piano). Chrome and the Ice Queen is mostly a studio project and themed writing exercise (all of the songs are about Twin Peaks), but we play shows occasionally. I also co-write and sing with Del Bel. I've been performing in a variety of forms for a long time, but only recently decided to place these musical pursuits / experiments under the umbrella L CON."
The titular "solo" act of a collaborator by habit, Conway tackles an enormously ambitious idea with the Ballads Project, which is a six song album written, arranged, orchestrated and co-produced by Conway incorporating twenty musicians. Additionally, each song is accompanied by a music video. It's a refreshing testament to good old fashioned production value and musicianship in this time of the digital music revolution. But don't worry, it's still a DIY project at heart, just one by a very capable person incorporating a wealth of resources.
The only problem was how to fit the band in a car.
"I knew the album would never be possible to perform live, so I had to come up with a practical way to play the material," Conway explains. "I love experimenting with strings and voices, and 're-imagined' a set for an opening slot at the Horseshoe. The response was extremely positive, and Daps suggested recording and releasing these versions of the songs to accompany the original album."
And so we are given the Ballads Reimagined. Whereas the ballads gave the impression of a time past, the Ballads Reimagined places itself firmly in the future. Folk science fiction if you like. Essentially it's an experiment given a life of its own, like a professor gone nutty or a "flubber" type scenario. And like those two references, it's quite good.
She sounds like...
"I have always been a sucker for ballads, and was listening to an enormous amount of Scott Walker and Lee Hazlewood and Dionne Warwick. I liked the expressiveness and drama in the singing itself, but was also studying orchestration, and became really fascinated with the elaborate arrangements and instrumentation."
Conway has a very distinct style, drawing out words until they strain with a confident wavering. This subtle powerhouse of a throat box works wonderfully with the lush instrumentation of the Ballads Project and the sparse space doo-wop of the Ballads Reimagined.
These are both wonderful records to put on a sunday afternoon when you don't have much to do. There's a dreamy quality to them that makes the songs immersive to the point of distraction. I wouldn't recommend listening to it while driving or as background noise while working because whenever I get a few songs in I blink and realize I've been looking out the window for the last 10 minutes.
Hear her/ see her