By Mary Angela White
April 15, 2014
Logan Richard was the first band member to arrive, ready to play despite just arriving after a 17-hour bus trip from Ottawa.
He scanned the Old Belle River church, just east of Belfast. Sitting there was a crowd of about a dozen or so – family, friends, and one reporter.
He shrugged. Ripped Paper would rock this little white church anyway with its bluesy sound featuring some old rockin’ tunes.
The band includes Richard on lead guitar and vocals, Stephan LeClair on bass, Connor Nabuurs on drums and Tanuj Fernando at the keyboard.
All of that smudges one important detail. The four are 14 years old, in Grade 9 and only started playing together a year ago.
Their story rings familiar with other musicians.
“We started at our mother’s knee,” said Carol Carson of the group Riley’s Lane during ECMA’s music week held in Charlottetown in early April.
“Our parents both loved music,” said her sister, Betty Calogoure. “They didn’t sing very much but they loved to hear it, all the time.”
They recalled how their parents played everything from Irish music to Roger Miller to Neil Diamond.
“They loved musicals. Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Gilbert and Sullivan,” said Carson. “Our very first performance was pretending to be the Partridge Family and perform in front of the other kids.”
Patti Larson, the third member of Riley’s Lane, recalls picking up her dad’s guitar.
“I started learning to play guitar on my father’s giant guitar when I was just a teeney-tiney little girl and my fingers couldn’t reach the strings.”
Justin Simard, a transplanted N.S. musician who is very familiar at P.E.I. venues, said music surrounded him as a kid, too.
“My mom sang a lot when I was a kid. My grandfather sang, my aunts were always practicing and my dad sang.”
He remembers car trips when he was a kid and they would sing along with musicals like Cats.
“It was the eighties.”
His musical partner, Todd MacLean, has memories of his siblings playing piano.
“I really wanted to take piano lessons when I was about seven,” he said. “From there I played saxophone in junior high and in high school, Grade 10, I started playing guitar and then I got into band.”
It’s a familiar track for many young talents and the next natural step is performance.
The January concert in Belle River was on a bitterly cold night when the snow crunched under your boots and your breath steamed the air.
The church setting was intimate. The dark-stained rafters have reflected a lot of music. But not like this.
Wendy Jones has turned the Old Belle River church into her private home. But she loves opening it up to local musical talent as encouragement and experience.
Ripped Paper started its show with an original blues piece called I’m Not Lying followed by some Hendrix Red House. Jimi’s tune gave lead guitarist Richard a chance to flex his fingers and his vocals, then it was into some well-aged Santana Black Magic Woman.
Many P.E.I. musicians are not locked into a single musical style.
Buba’s Lounge on Queen Street in Charlottetown was one of many venues during the ECMA’s music week. They showcased solos, duets and groups, offering music from country to pop, musicals to originals compositions as they worked towards a goal of 150 hours of continuous music.
Simard and MacLean took the stage mid-afternoon on April 3. They performed Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, with Simard’s vocals starting slow and melancholy, then MacLean’s piano picking up the pace for the chorus.
Simard’s true falsetto demonstrated his range in Over the Rainbow as the audience swayed and hummed.
The Cheer’s Theme was greeted to hoots and cheers and spontaneous audience participation, then the bar quieted for Thank You for Being a Friend with MacLean’s upbeat piano accompaniment. The duo’s experience showed in their comfort with their music as they switched songs as easily as instruments, took their turns as lead vocalists and welcomed the response of the audience.
For a beginning band like Ripped Paper, being tied into a single sound is no sin. When young talent can use old lyrics to make the type of music that gets toes to tap and bodies to move, well that’s just how it all starts.
Logan Richard plays acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica and vocals. He grew up with music, and his parents and older brother are all talented. He started playing the guitar at age 10.
Oh yeah, his cousin is well-known Island musician and songwriter Tim Chaisson.
“It’s kind of in my blood,” Richard said.
Richard and his aunt, Donna Richard, wrote the band’s next selection, Young Man’s Blues, about being 13 and too young to drive or date.
“We try to write more tunes but it’s difficult at this young of an age,” said Nabuurs. “We haven’t gone through a whole lot yet.”
Riley’s Lane, one of the groups that played at Buba’s Lounge, consists of two songwriters, Carson and Larsen.
“The stuff I write is mainly country so it doesn’t fit with our dynamic,” Larsen said. “But the stuff Carol writes is perfect for us.”
Their music is folk and one of Carson’s songs is simply titled Prince Edward Island.
The song lyrics attribute melodies to the woodland paths and harmony to the cities and towns.
“There’s music in your soul,” says the chorus.
But folk music can take a slightly different turn as it did in David Nicholson’s songs performed at Buba’s Lounge.
Your Birthday is Over was followed by I’d Rather Sleep Along Tonight and his set finished with You Can Still Ruin My Day. His music shows his wry humour and his take on life.
Nicholson is a familiar musical talent seen at clubs and kitchen parties all over the Island. He’s originally from Australia and started writing in his 20s when he first arrived on P.E.I.
“Before that it was just awful poetry and I didn’t bother putting music to it,” he said.
The Beatles, Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones were huge inspirations and those groups wrote music that was hard to live up to, he said.
“Then the 80s punk movement got me thinking and I said I can express myself at least that well,” Nicholson said.
Ripped Paper has recorded a demo of three original songs Today, I’m Not Lying and Someone To Lean On.
Sharon Richard is Logan’s mother and one of the parents and other family members attending the concert in Belle River.
So do they play the typical pop music of a Boy Band? Wrong question. Sharon was very definite.
“They are NOT a boy band. They play old soul music like Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King,” she said.
“They don’t play mainstream pop,” said Sharon. “And because they are so young and play the style of music they play that’s why they’re unique.”
Richards, LeClair and Nabuurs have been friends since elementary school in Stratford, when their trio was part of Stop Rock ‘N Roll.
“We went together and did a song in the talent show. I didn’t sing yet,” said Logan.
“We played Wipe Out, kind of that surfin’ song,” said Nabuurs. “That was back in Grade 6.”
They met Fernando in Grade 7 when they were all in the same class.
“He came over to jam one day at my house,” said Nabuurs. “From then we asked him to play at our first gig ever, official gig, the QEH telethon.”
Sometimes, musical acts ease towards their creation as happened with Simard and MacLean. The two men met through their partners, who worked together.
“Our significant others are really good friends, from way back in the day. We all started hanging out,” said MacLean. “It just kind of gravitated.”
About four years ago, on a quiet Sunday night, MacLean had a piano gig at the Globe. It was hot and Simard wanted a cold drink on the patio and he was listening to MacLean’s music.
“And I said, I know that song”, said Simard. “At some point I said to Todd, can I sing a song with you sometime just for exposure?’”
It ended up being three or four songs and by the end of the summer the bar asked Simard if he would come back with MacLean the next summer.
“I love getting paid to sing,” Simard said. “It’s my favourite.”
With only family in the audience for Ripped Paper’s performance that winter’s night in January, getting paid was not an important factor.
Sharon’s concern was how tired the boys were. They had just returned from a class trip to Ottawa, spending 17 hours on a bus.
But the boys set up their equipment and joked around as they began warming up.
“I slept on the bus,” Logan said.
Their concert continued as Walkin’ Blues gave LeClair a chance to shine with the deep tones of his bass setting off Logan’s harmonica and vocals.
LeClair’s dad, Chris LeClair, started in a band when he was just a bit older than Stephan. He is now in the band Muddy Buddy.
“He played gigs when I was growing up, too. So I learned a lot of stuff from him,” LeClair said.
The music moved on to Pride and Joy from Stevie Ray Vaughn and then some Bill Withers with Ain’t No Sunshine.
The aged rafters of the old church reflected back the sound of the smooth keyboard work of Fernando.
He came to Stratford by way of Charlottetown, Toronto and Sri Lanka. His piano skills are Royal Conservatory approved.
“Not the kind of rock or anything like that. They introduced me to most of that music,” Fernando said.
The evening drew to an early close with The Weight by The Band, Rocket to the Moon by Colin James and a final medley courtesy of Chameleon.
Nabuurs’ drum solo came at the end of the evening, but his presence was apparent in each selection.
“I have a lot of influence from my brother Patrick, who plays upright and electric bass. He introduced me to a lot of different stuff, like the Beatles and all the old stuff, and a lot of jazz and things like that,” Nabuurs said.
Nabuur’s uncle, Frank Nabuurs, is a band teacher. His great uncle is Bernard Houlahan in the band Hal An Tow. His grandfather plays guitar and sings. And his parents, Ted and Colleen, both sing.
As for current music, Logan and Nabuurs really like Cold Play, but LeClair likes such a variety of music he can’t pick a favourite. Stevie Ray Vaughn is Logan’s favourite guitar player.
The P.E.I. music community has been very supportive of Ripped Paper, from Jones opening her home to the public to the blues jam sessions on Saturdays at The Factory.
Riley’s Lane has seen community support increase since their first gig, the opening of the Confederation Bridge in 1997.
“There are so many more venues to play at, and younger bands need that,” said Carson.
But it depends on the type of music they’re playing, too.
“My nephews are headliners in a slash band and they find it really difficult.,” said Larsen. “They did a tour off-island just a couple of weeks ago because there’s not really a lot of events for them.”
“But this place is such a tiny little micro chasm of amazing artistic talent…and people are willing to explore it and share it with others. It’s just amazing.”
Encouragement takes many forms from saying the right things to helping acts get gigs and getting them up on stage to showing up at performances.
And Ripped Paper continued to rack up experience when they placed second in Q-93’s Battle of the Bands over March break and then were winners in the ECMA’s Soundwaves Battle of the Bands in April.
That win scored them studio time with 2013 ECMA Stompin’ Tom winner Jon Matthews at The Sound Mill and a Godin guitar, a Canadian award-winning instrument, as well as a ECMA 2014 gift basket.
And lessons are learned at every gig, every kitchen party, every bonfire.
For Ripped Paper, performing a concert that night in January for such a small audience was experience.
This night’s lesson was also about handling their first interview. Plus, Jones recorded two of their songs for You Tube exposure.
And it’s support for them to see family in the audience.
“My family says it’s great to watch them play,” said Sharon. “But they say it’s even better to watch me watching them.”
And then the show was over.
As the lights went down in the Old Belle River Church and the music faded into the ancient walls, Jones made us all tea.