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Long Live the Accordion

On a typical, misty Vancouver day, just hours before her packed show at The Railway Club, I met with Ingrid Gatin at Daniel, Le Chocolat Belge on South Granville.


Vancouver Weekly:  I just have to say that I am a really big fan. Where are you finding that you are fitting in with the contemporary market?

Ingrid Gatin: Well… I think that it depends – if it’s a live show, or if it’s your recorded stuff, you know? When you’re touring, you have to really find your own place, so you try out a bar, you try out different folk music places, and then you find somewhere that kind of works – and sometimes it’s unexpected. Like you’ll have this bar that normally has, like, really rowdy music, but they are music lovers and you just, you know, make it work.

Vancouver Weekly: You have such a strong, pure, voice, and a lot of music that is on the scene right now seems to really focus more on the craft of the beat and really being kind of clever with it – you’re finding there’s still an audience for that classic kind of sound?

IG: Oh yeah, for sure. I guess I’ve been pretty rooted in the folk music scene, and that’s kind of an interesting thing because I play more, kind of “pop” music in a general sense, but, I find that my instrumentation and the folks I like to hang out with are more in the folk scene, so those genres get kind of mixed. The folk music scene is a place I find a lot of support, even though my music leans to the more contemporary.

Vancouver Weekly: And you’re finding a lot of support for the accordion?

IG: Yeah – well, especially in Vancouver! The Accordion Noir Festival is putting on this show [March 5 at The Railway Club]. There’s a festival here in September fully based on accordion bands, so two of the bands I am playing with tonight play with accordions – myself, and I play with Twin Voices, who I’m touring with.

Vancouver Weekly: How long have you been playing the accordion for?

IG: about six or seven years now. I wanted to pick it up to start busking…  I was looking for something to busk with! I was spending a bit of time living in France and I really liked going on the streets and seeing people busk, and I was like “That’s fun! I’d like to do that…”

Vancouver Weekly:  I’m so glad you said that, because from the first time I listened to 1000 Lives, it made me think of, like, Can Can girls hanging around in the club after it closes, sultring around…  It really has that kind of sexy feel to it. But actually, you recorded the album partially in a church, right? How did that come about?

IG: Well, basically, we wanted an awesome sounding piano and so we found a church. It can’t be beat, the acoustics of a church and Howard [Bilerman], the man who recorded the album, who is…

Vancouver Weekly:  Kind of a big deal…

IG:  (laughs) Yeah, kind of a big deal. A genius. Just awesome… He just has all the right mics and knows exactly what to do to capture that kind of sound. He knows the space, so we recorded almost all the vocals and piano in that space. We did some of the piano tracks in his recording studio in Montreal as well.

Vancouver Weekly: So, aside from the Accordion Noir Festival, do you get out to Vancouver a lot?

IG:  Um, yeah, every six months to a year. I have lots of friends and some family here – a cousin I’m really close with. I love to go to Bon’s, I love, love to eat sushi, so I usually eat sushi once a day here, if not more, and it’s all just so delicious. And I love going to the aquarium as well. It just really blows my mind, it’s so nice here, and it’s great to have friends to visit here.

Vancouver Weekly: As opposed to Winnipeg? What’s the scene like there?

IG:  It’s a great place for music and I think, in terms of what we’re speaking about here, for contemporary music, and creating a scene there, it’s a good place in some ways because it’s very supportive. But I find that the music there is very “folk” and “roots”…

Vancouver Weekly:  Now, do you mean that in a “positive” way, or a “hard to break out of” way?

IG: It’s just the genre. It’s prairies, they want to support the music of…  the prairies. There are so many cool bands there, but I find… I’ve been living in Montreal for the last year and I find I’m surrounded by way more music that I’m really inspired by. I’m always like “What? You mean this is happening in this little tiny bar here, on, like, a Monday night that I just happened to see here…” It’s just really good. It’s a way bigger place, so there’s, like, full Kenyan Music Festivals and stuff (laughs…). Winnipeg is really cool… um…  (trails off) It’s good. I’m definitely not complaining because Winnipeg has been really good to me. It’s just…  kind of more limited than Montreal… I’m really into splitting my time because I do love the prairies so much. I’m really into travelling – I’ve always been and I love space and nature, a lot, but I also love being in the city; I’m always busy, running around the place, making music with a ton of people… I’m really into art.

Vancouver Weekly: You did a residency – at a gallery on the east coast – what was that like?

IG:  Oh, it was awesome. Sackville’s a cool little place.

Vancouver Weekly: And do you think Vancouver needs to have more of that kind of super supportive arts environment?

IG:  I’m not really sure that I’ve spent enough time here to really know…  You know, it can be such a spontaneous thing – the right band comes along playing the right kind of music in the right king of spaces, and for whatever reason, people are into it and the scene is kind of created around them and their following. It is such a moveable, unpredictable thing…

Vancouver Weekly: And when you were growing up, what kind of music was influencing you?

IG: Well, so I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan and the only radio was country and the CBC station; CD players were just being created. I remember being really into pop music, but not having that much access to it. Ace of Base was my first favourite band – I actually still kind of love them!  My parents listened to a lot of great music, though – they are music lovers – actually, my whole family plays instruments and it was a great environment to grow up in.  Lots of Joni Mitchell in the house.

Vancouver Weekly: And now, what are you most looking forward to singing at your live performances?

IG: Well, I have been really into “Broken Tambourine”, that track I play with Twin Voices’ one and only band member Laura Beach. She does looping, violin and voice and stuff. She plays the violin on that track. It’s fun.

Vancouver Weekly: And so, big takeaway – when I walk away here and, like, tweet “I met Ingrid this afternoon”,  what do you hope that I have to say about you?  “She was…”

IG:  I don’t know…  She was cool, engaging, a sweetheart…  Personally, it’s about connecting with people. You know, I try to have less pretention in this industry because I find that it can really ruin you. I know a lot of people who have fallen into that lie that it’s about Being Something – and for me, I just want to be focused on the music, the art, what I’m passionate about and what I care about. If I’m not doing that then…  (trails off)

VW:  Any last words, secret hopes for 1000 Lives?

IG: You know, I think it sounds really good. People have been really happy with it and supportive of it, really seem to enjoy it.  It’s really nice and encouraging. I’m happy. Everyone is pumped… Howard’s pumped.


Gatin’s show at The Railway Club was effortless, yet approachable, perfection. Her smooth lyrics lilted alongside the busy chatter and soared above the low lights of the understated venue. Accompanying herself first with the Roland FP-4, and then with an accordion (that has come a long way from busking on the streets of Winnipeg), the notable restraint and mastery of her own lyricism and musicality that is showcased on 1000 Lives translated perfectly to the stage.

Actually, I need to correct a note from the album review – what I had assumed was a snare drum throughout the tunes is actually Gatin running her fingernails up and down the textured, metal front piece of the accordion, a technique that had the man next to me remarking appreciatively about how well she handled her instrument (wink).

As promised, Laura Beach accompanied her with violin and gorgeous harmonies for her final songs, including “Slow Dancing”  and “Broken Tambourine”  to close out the night.

Ingrid Gatin is currently touring Canada, promoting the release of her second album, 1000 Lives. Tour dates, music bites and info can be found here, or follow Ingrid on Twitter at @ingridgatin.