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Arkells, The Elwins, Sam Roberts, Born Ruffians pay tribute to By Divine Right with new covers album

By: Staff –


Arkells, The Elwins, Sam Roberts, Jim Guthrie, Shotgun Jimmie, Born Ruffians, and more are among the artists paying tribute to By Divine Right’s 25-year legacy on a new compilation called I Want Light.

Indie88 premiered the Arkells cover of “Stella Ocean Heart” today. Listen to the track HERE.

“The first BDR song I heard was ‘Powersuit’ from Good Morning Beautiful. Musically it was on par with Revolver era Beatles stuff, and the voice was soulful, rich, and completely unique,” says Max Kerman of Arkells. “From there I discovered the rest of BDR’s material, and was blown away with how much quality lived in the songwriting and production. Jose [Contreras]’s work speaks for itself – it’s heartfelt, funny, rocking, and sweet all at the same time. He’s such a pro. For anyone who’s ever listened to BDR or seen him live, knows José is a musical treasure to behold.”

Curated by Dylan Hudecki (The Dill), and James Mejia (Hand Drawn Dracula/Mejia Design), I Want Light, is available as a free digital download on February 12th. The 22-track compilation was mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel and features cover artwork by Contreras’ son, Meesha Moon Contreras.

I Want Light Track-Listing
01. Jim Guthrie – “I Love Everybody”
02. Arkells – “Stella Heart Ocean”
03. Sam Roberts – “Medicine”
04. The Meligrove Band – “Nothing A-Go- Go”
05. Shotgun Jimmie – “Little You”
06. Golden Dogs – “Kick This Bummer”
07. The Elwins – “Come For A Ride”
08. Lavender Orange – “Bigfoot”
09. The Shake Me Bake Me’s – “Bellyflop”
10. Andrew Roderiguez & the Good Bad Kids feat. Lily Frost – “LDSC & 5 Bucks”
11. Jessie Stein w/ David Moore & Fjóla Evans – “I Want Light”
12. Tim Vesley – “Shine so Shine”
13. Jeremy Fisher & Furnaceface – “Soft Machine”
14. San Sebastien – “I Love A Girl”
15. Born Ruffians – “The Slap”
16. Dearly Beloved + Eamon McGrath – “Rock High”
17. Ryan Granville Martin – “I Will Hook You Up”
18. Stew Heyduk – “San Fransisco”
19. Thom Gill – “Wheels Slow”
20. Hopeful Monster – “Complicated”
21. The Très Bien Ensemble – “Hugger of Trees”
22. The Dill – “Listen to my Angels”

Read the I Want Light foreword as written by Exclaim’s James Keast:

“It will be more us, and at the same time, wider.” 

That’s how By Divine Right’s Jose Contreras described the band’s next move in March 1995 for a cover story in Exclaim! Magazine. It’s a philosophy that has dominated the indie rock outfit’s approach since Contreras first put that name on a self-recorded cassette in 1989, and through seven albums, almost as many labels, and dozens of band-mates, By Divine Right have proven to be more Jose, and at the same time, wider.

By Divine Right haven’t always moved easily through the music landscape. When they hit their stride in the mid-1990s, they were swept up in the first Canadian indie rock boom — on the heels of Toronto acts like Change of Heart signing to major labels, and scenes like Halifax’s pop explosion vaulting Sloan, Thrush Hermit and jale into the global spotlight — By Divine Right were ripe to be plucked from the independent farm system, and were, by Nettwerk, for 1997’s All Hail Discordia and 1999’s Bless This Mess.

To call By Divine Right the Velvet Underground of Canada is silly and absurd, but a truth spoken about the latter might equally apply to the former — many, many fans of By Divine Right have gone on to form bands. (Of course, many of those bands — from Broken Social Scene to Meligrove Band and Rock Plaza Central — also include one-time members of By Divine Right.)

In By Divine Right — and specifically in the form of front-man Jose Contreras — fans found a kindred spirit, one who channelled all the power of expression, love of music and desire for connection and community through the shared experience of music. Whether it’s watching Contreras rip into a guitar solo dear to my old man heart, like “Fat Favour” from 1996 EP Some, or if “Little You,” an absurdly charming slice of pop from last year’s Organized Accidents, BDR are a vaccine against cynicism.

Not every By Divine Right song was a hit, but almost all of them are tapped into the mysterious pleasure centers that strike at the heart of music lovers. Jose Contreras is endowed with the blessing/curse of the pop gene. It’s not on Jose that the hit factory was devastated by music industry layoffs before one of his hundreds of pop sparks burst into worldwide flame. But it also meant he’s never quite found solid footing in the shifting sands of indie rock culture, nor enjoyed the luscious fruits of success so many peers — myself included — have predicted would come.

In the last decade, old guard music nerds could have brought Jose down with constant talk of woulda-couldas and next big thing laments. But instead, Jose Contreras is the spiritual tide that has lifted so many young Canadian music boats. To know Jose is to know a love of life, of music, of expression and of community. He wouldn’t dare mention that Polaris Music Prize founder Steve Jordan signed the band to their first record deal with Kinetic in 1995. He’s not interested in flouting former bandmates like Leslie Feist, Brendan Canning’s Broken Social Scene or Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt. More than he wants to write an infectious hook, he wants to be an infectious human — for music, community, love and enthusiasm. Do yourself a big fat favour and enjoy the legacy of one of Canada’s great, unsung treasures.



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