Going with Partner’s flow

Josée Caron and Lucy Niles return to Halifax with more riffs, more jokes and more awards.

click to enlarge Niles and Caron front a good band, a really good band. - COLIN MEDLEY
Niles and Caron front a good band, a really good band.

Partner w/No, It's Fine., Century Egg
Thursday, June 21, 8pm
The Seahorse Tavern, 2037 Gottingen Street
$17.50 adv/$25 door

About two-thirds of the way into In Search of Lost Time, the long-awaited debut album from Windsor, ON-via-Sackville, NB rock band Partner, a voice solemnly offers a proclamation about the state of music and its listeners: "The world needs a good band right now, a really good band," it says, suggesting a sort of mission statement for Partner. "One that is going to excite people again. Like KISS."

Hook, line and sinker. That sound bite is one of a handful of skits that co-frontpeople Lucy Niles and Josée Caron sprinkled throughout the record, moments of levity that add shape and context to the music that they make. In seconds, what might have otherwise felt like a self-serious assessment of the music industry becomes a way to poke fun at the band's own story.

"It's a fun way to give the record some context, because the context is hilarious," says Caron. Like almost everything Partner does, the joke is fully intentional without feeling over-thought or contrived. Adds Niles: "Now everyone's like 'It's so weird that you have skits,' or 'I hate the skits,' but we just thought it was funny and cool.'

Of course, there is a grain of truth in that skit. Partner is a really good band. Caron and Niles do excite people, and are often cast as a bit of a throwback—more '90s than '70s, but still trading in the large riffs and sing-along choruses that can transport you to feelings of youth and nostalgia. But they're not KISS, and they're not here to single-handedly save the music industry.

Niles and Caron just want to make good records, share them with the world, and have a little fun at the same time—an energy they'll bring to the Seahorse for a show with No, It's Fine. and Century Egg this week.

Still, the connections between Partner's music and the past are difficult to fully escape. The album's title even references the novel of the same name by Marcel Proust, whose description of experiencing a throwback while eating a tea-soaked cake continues to influence how we understand sensations like deja vu, nostalgia and sense-induced memory. In a way, listening to Partner can offer a similar experience of sense-memory: If you grew up listening to rock music and scribbling lyrics in notebooks, its music can offer a pretty undeniable and totally involuntary connection to those sorts of experiences.

But Partner is more than just an exercise in nostalgia. For one, Caron and Niles are unabashedly gay and centre their experiences of queerness in their songwriting.

Take the song "Play the Field," which immediately follows the KISS punchline on the record and won the band the $10,000 SOCAN Songwriting Prize last week. Amid towering riffs and powerful drums, the song traces a story of a young queer crush through stolen change-room glances and confessed insecurities. "There's not a thing I won't do to hang out with you," the climax of the song's chorus, is sung like the most important secret in the world.

"A lot of our other songs come from an adult queer perspective, but 'Play the Field' is kind of about being a gay virgin," says Niles. "Queerness is usually understood in a sexualized context, so it's kind of cool to have a non-sexual queer song."

"The songs kind of sounds like the time that we're thinking about," says Caron. "Part of Partner, part of the energy of that first creative push that we had was embracing that and not trying to work around it. Realizing the power of going with the flow of who you are is really where our power comes from." 

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