BLAZING A TRAIL – Ottawa’s Silvergun & Spleen plays Red Deer College Sept. 14.

Band brings ‘undulating yet refined’ rock to City

Ottawa-based Silvergun & Spleen play RDC this weekend

Wielding a powerful, rock-edged punch, an Ottawa-based band with local roots is set to play Red Deer College. Silvergun & Spleen performs at the Far Side Lounge Sept. 14.

The group was formed in 2006 by vocalist/guitarist Marie-Eve ‘Merv’ Mallet, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Veronique ‘Vern’ Mallet and drummer John ‘El Conquistador’ Lenherr.

These days, the band is marking the release of their latest disc Semi Truck.

Merv said that in contrast to 2011’s Through My Skeleton, Semi Truck features a bolder step towards an upbeat feel. “As we grow as artists, our perceptions change. Ultimately, the way we express ourselves changes too, so Semi Truck is happier music.” They pull from influences including Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, the Tragically Hip and the Matthew Good Band and meld them with more recent sources of inspiration from groups such as the Foo Fighters and Metric.

So far, the feedback to the new tunes has been fantastic.

“There’s an amazing energy coming back from the fans,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

The new record’s lyrics also find Silvergun & Spleen delving deeper into personal territory, from lead single Crack to An Eye For An Eye, Too Late and a re-imagining of Kiss And Tell from Through My Skeleton. “We really enjoy the studio – second to the stage, it’s our favourite,” she said. “We would like to spend as much time in the studio as possible, because there is so much experimenting you can do. We really like to take our time and try everything.”

Looking back at the band’s history, it all started with a passion to make music which was sparked at an early age. Marie Eve insisted on belting out the lyrics to a 1988 Mitsou hit (Bye Bye Mon Cowboy) at an Mother’s day lip-sync show in St. Simon, New Brunswick. “I remember being on stage. I remember how it felt.”

A knack for songwriting surfaced early on. She penned her first tune at the age of 12. As the years went on, she participated in many contests and talent shows but opted for another career path, enrolling at the Red Deer College to major in sciences in hopes of becoming a clinical psychologist.

At the time, getting an education seemed like the right thing to do – particularly with her mother being a teacher and all.

But her love for music didn’t fade. Marie Eve kept writing songs and learning guitar anyways and couldn’t let go of the idea of playing music and performing.

When her family announced they were moving back east, she dropped out of the program and moved to Ottawa. She continued to participate in shows and talent contests such as Star Académie 2005 (Francophone version of Canadian Idol) where she was among the 50 finalists.

Meanwhile, for Veronique, music was always a mainstay. Whether it was her dad’s collection of records or Merv’s, Veronique was eager to learn all she could. And while some kids played house, Vernonique and her sister played band.

Then she landed her first guitar. She began learning cover tunes of Nirvana and Radiohead and, like her sister soon began writing her own songs.

John Lennher knew he’d found his calling at Rimbey Junior High School’s air band competition. Drums were what it was pretty much all about. He formed a garage band with some friends and a bass player, and Lennher and one of the guitarists later decided to form a band. Selecting a guitarist and a bassist they called the project Famous Unknown.

He later moved to Ottawa where he would have easy access to cultural hubs Montreal and Toronto. He linked up with the sisters, and a demo was recorded in 2008. “It was something we always dreamt about and while you’re generally taught to believe that your dreams never happen, we’ve put everything we have into this. It’s the only thing that makes us happy.

“We’re a group of best friends, and we get to experience all of these cool things together.”

Meanwhile, it’s simply a delight to be back on the prairies. “When we saw the Alberta sign, we were super excited. Just being here is amazing.”

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