Darkness turns to light: White Poppy ends hiatus, set to play first-ever Levitation Vancouver

Following the exhibition, Dorval co-led a workshop presented by all-ages non-profit SafeAmp. The session invited anyone with an instrument, of any skill-level, to learn how to make music. Although initially uncomfortable with the prospect of public speaking, she enjoyed the challenge: “… it was cool because you realize it’s not about you, and there’s people there that want to learn something, and we [the artists] kind of quickly changed the situation from being the two of us instructing people to it being more like, ‘What do you guys think?’ and making it more of a group conversation.” Instructors and students mixed, which made for a hands-on experience for all: “A lot of it was based around the loop pedal, so we had the instruments set up, and we were doing this thing at one point where someone would play a bass line, and people were super shy about it, and we [were] like, ‘Come on!’ Just give them the guitar, and then they put a guitar line over the bass, and then we just put a bunch of effects on the vocals. It just got pretty trippy!”

Along with Europe, Dorval also traveled to Nova Scotia in 2014 to play OBEY Convention, Halifax’s premier experimental arts festival, now entering its eighth year. “I really like that festival in particular because I think it’s a good model … They do quality over quantity, which is like the opposite of a lot of festivals,… There was no real hierarchy, everything was equal, the bands were of equal importance, and you could check everything out, like nothing was happening at the same time.”

Levitation has yet to release its schedule, but Dorval is excited, with or without potential overlaps: “When I saw the line-up for [APF] this year, I was like, ‘I really want to go to that!’ But that’s just not really possible to go down there. So it was cool to hear that there was going to be one happening here.” Asked if she aims to rally together a band in time for Levitation, she chided herself with a laugh: “I need to get my ass in gear,… but yeah, that is the plan.”

Putting together a band and figuring out how to re-arrange her songs into a more encompassing sound may be Dorval’s most crucial prep-work for Levitation. Being some of the most ethereal, introspective music on the bill, composed for (and primarily in) intimate settings, poses a challenge to presenting her music in a physically vaster environment or over the noise of large crowds: “I think that was one of the things that occurred to me over the last year of playing completely alone and just playing in certain venues where … the sound was small as a solo performer. And definitely thinking about playing at a festival or something, it feels intimidating to be a solo performer. But yeah, sort of wanting to make things bigger sounding, I guess.”

Whatever form White Poppy takes at Levitation, the experience is sure to be transcendent, a welcome return for long-time fans and a sublime surprise for new ears.

Levitation Vancouver runs June 5th-7th at the Malkin Bowl and multiple venues along Main Street. Festival passes are available online now.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu