The sophomore album from Vancouver-based indie artist Andrea Superstein has been described as a ‘quirky, arty, pop-jazz tour-de-force’. She performs on Nov. 12th at Fratters Speakeasy.
Her gorgeous voice and engaging style shine through that much more on her latest effort What Goes On which draws on her colourful background in musical theatre, her training as a jazz vocalist (check out the sleek, sultry tones of disc opener I Want to Be Evil), and her love of 90s trip hops acts like Portishead and Morcheeba.
Other highlights on the disc include the moody elegance of Just One Time (featuring a chorus sung by the Juno-winning Good Lovelies) and the terrifically-crafted, old-time sensibilities of the shimmering classic After You’ve Gone.
Superstein – known to her contemporaries as ‘Super’ – is influenced by the music scenes of both the east and west coasts.
Surprisingly, she didn’t grow up in a musical household.
“I grew up in a house where we listened to talk radio,” she explained during a recent chat from her home in Vancouver. “But I discovered my voice from very early on – like in elementary school.
“My first band was probably in Grade 2 or Grade 3,” she laughs. “My friend and I wrote some little songs – we were called the Black Knights.”
She always enjoyed singing in school productions over the years, and choirs. Later on, she became increasingly involved in musical theatre. “I spent a lot of time doing that, and eventually did a theatre degree at McGill University.
“So I’ve always been interested in the arts, and I worked also as a singer/songwriter when I was in university. So it was just me and my guitar – I’d perform original tunes in bars and coffee houses, that kind of thing.”
She would leave music and the arts for a time, however, venturing to overseas humanitarian and international development projects such as teaching music at a school in Ghana, for example. “I was always drawn to this notion of wanting to contribute,” she explained. “I had done a lot of travelling, and that kind of opened my eyes to things.”
But after a while, she knew in her heart it was time to explore her creative side once again.
“After a couple of years away from creativity, I was really missing it.”
So she moved to Vancouver to work on a graduate degree in drama education. “From there, I started getting involved in the musical scene in Vancouver as well,” she said, adding that she also attended jazz camp for grown-ups and something was sparked inside.
“There was maybe 100 or so students there, and all of the great Vancouver jazz musicians were there teaching. So my first introduction to the jazz scene was with all of these amazing talented people all in one confined space! I got to know a lot of them closely much faster than I would have by just being in the city. I also fell in love with the music and with the community,” she said.
She debuted at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2010 and released a debut CD of jazz standards that same year.
“I had applied to the jazz festival thinking there was no chance they would give me a gig, and they did,” she recalled. “It really gave me the encouragement to keep working and moving forward. I feel like over the past five years, that I’ve really explored music, jazz standards, and that I’ve really tried to find a way to carve out my own voice in the sense of what my music sounds like, or what distinguishes it from other jazz vocalists. That’s been a really, really cool process.”
Now, with the release of What Goes On, Superstein’s arty, indie eclectic style is captured on record in all of its colour, joy and diversity.
“I really wanted something that sort of sat on the fence between a jazz record and an indie record,” she said. “I think that really speaks to who I am. I listen to so many different kinds of music and I’m influenced by so many different kinds of music, so I felt that that direction was the most honest.
“I still wanted to keep it based it in a jazz philosophy, too.”
She also credits producer Les Cooper with taking things in a fresh direction as well. “He brought the record so much further forward than I could ever have done on my own, and that’s why I really enjoyed working with him.
“So we got together with some other musicians in Toronto and we hashed out all of the arrangements,” she said.
“It was a really cool process, because I had always sort of done it on my own. But it was really nice to collaborate,” she added. “And lucky for me, I was collaborating with some very amazing musicians who also happened to be wonderful people.”