Interview: Civil Wray

Civil Wray

if you don’t recognize the name Civil Wray, that’s perhaps understandable – for now, anyway.  Andrea de Boer might be better known to you as blueVenus, the previous moniker under which she worked as a musician.  Now, with a new name and a new musical direction, she’s embarking on a different adventure altogether.

Her new album, a self-titled project of seven songs, features Andrea’s fabulous voice in an intoxicating mix of soul, blues, rock, Latin rhythms, and even a bit of jazz.  Produced by Chris Stringer, the album allows her to reflect on meaning – the meaning of others walking along the same path of life, the meaning of experiences along the way, and the resulting learnings from that stew of understanding.

My only complaint about this album is that it ends after seven songs… terrific singing, first-rate playing (from musicians such as Champagne James Robertson, Robbie Grunwald, and Joshua Van Tassel, not to mention Andrea herself), and great songs all combine for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.  Chances are excellent that you won’t want it to end once you’ve heard it either…

Andrea was kind enough to take the time to talk to us about her new album.

How challenging have you found it to transition from one musical identity to another, and did you have a particular reason that Civil Wray fits this music and blueVenus does not?

Transitioning my musical identity from blueVenus to Civil Wray felt easy because it was the right time to do so.  I still perform a few blueVenus tunes because I like them… I’m the world’s best blueVenus cover band!

If you had to define the biggest difference in your new music, what would you say it is?

The biggest difference would be my voice.  I feel like I’ve matured musically as a performer and songwriter.

You assembled a pretty stellar crew of musicians for this album (Champagne James Robertson, Robbie Grunwald, Joshua Van Tassel, Chris Stringer as producer) – how did this recording experience compare with your previous ones?

Chris Stringer gets all the credit for putting together the studio band! In earlier blueVenus recordings we’d capture bass and drums live and record separately the vocals, guitars and piano etc., for the Civil Wray album we played live off the floor.  I added my violin parts and background vocals and a few other instruments parts were added.  Both methods work well but live off the floor you really have to be on your game.

“Fie” has a lot of the Latin influences for which you’ve been known, both as blueVenus and now Civil Wray, and the video (which I’ll be linking below this question in the article FYI) is a full-out dance extravaganza.  How did you as the artist decide how to portray your song visually?

I made a video for a single version of “Numb” where it was just me and the camera. So with “Fie” I thought I don’t want the video to be just me. For me, “Fie” is a call to dance your blues and frustrations away… I wanted dancers to interpret the music. I contacted photographer/director Ivan Otis because he took the photo for the Civil Wray Album cover as well as many publicity shots.  I wanted to keep the same visual energy and we were was so fortunate to have one of Canada’s top dancers Esie Mensah come aboard as well as Percy Anane-Dwumfour, Daniel Gomez and Kaela Faloon who were amazing!

I keep coming back to the song “Talk About Lies,” which to me sounds like some of the classic rock anthems I’ve always loved… those sorts of slow burners that turn into really fiery pieces.  What were some of your influences in writing this song?  (And indeed all the songs on this project?)

Thank you! I wrote that song a few years ago but didn’t bring it out to be recorded because it didn’t suit the project I was working on at the time.  When I wrote “Talk About Lies”, I was going through something metaphysical.  I wasn’t listening to anything that sounded like that song.  I think it just bubbled up with my influences. Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin, The Who (live at Leeds), Led Zeppelin would have informed this song.  John Coltrane (A Love Supreme, Giant Steps), Sun Ra (Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy), Bulgarian choir music, Latcho Drom, Kate Bush, Beatles, Mercedes Sosa, Virginia Rodrigues,  etc. influenced the album as a whole in that they made records that I still go back to.

You have a number of tour dates lined up, including the album launch on 29 September at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto… what can fans expect?  Mostly the new material or might you pull out some blueVenus as well?

For this round of tour dates I’ll be touring as a duo with guitarist Jessica Stuart and possibly a trio with an acoustic bass.  We just returned to Toronto from a whirlwind back to back tour in the Maritimes (East Coast Canada) including the Halifax HUFF Festival and had a blast!  It’s fun to hang out after show with other musicians like Les Deuxluxes and the Dave Sampson Band.

For the Toronto Album launch, Frank Moyo (fusion of funk/soul/jazz and alternative rock) will be opening and I’ll be playing with a full band.  My fans should come with an open mind—so we can all fly!

~ L

Visit Civil Wray’s website.

Preorder the album now. (release date: 29 September)

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