Sometimes, bad times help us remember better times.
It's a circuitous path to happiness, to be sure. But it's the one taken by Toronto pop-folk duo In the City on their new EP ‘MaryAnn’.
Although it was inspired by the untimely and unexpected death of singer Ashley Jane's mother last year, the songs choose to celebrate life rather than mourn loss.
"I was really grappling with the idea of grieving for someone you've lost and how you can get really swept up in the tragedy of it," explains Jane, who splits musical duties with multi-instrumentalist and studio whiz Timon Wientzek. “The storyteller in me wanted to reclaim the narrative of my mom’s death.”
Bold and ambitious, mature and dynamic, ‘MaryAnn’ heralds the next stage in the autonomous young duo's rapid evolution as songwriters with exceptional chemistry and a unique approach.
They found that groove when they found each other some four years ago. Singer-songwriter and former documentary producer Jane was with a non-profit that empowered kids through music. Composer Wientzek worked in the studio where they were recording. Their backgrounds were diverse — she grew up twirling in a backyard skating rink as Joni Mitchell, the Rankin Family, Fleetwood Mac and Shania Twain blasted from outdoor speakers housed in Tupperware to thwart squirrels; he absorbed the sounds of everyone from Bon Jovi and Limp Bizkit to Radiohead and even Backstreet Boys ("I really enjoyed the production and the harmonies," he swears). Ultimately, their differences proved to be great strengths.
"Musically speaking, I come from more of a rock background," Wientzek says. "Ashley is more from a singer-songwriter background. But somehow they mesh well together into something that works. We have the sensibility to write sensitive material, but not make it overly cheesy, overly pop."
They made that apparent on their 2016 EP Changing Tides. Assembled in Wientzek's home studio, its beautiful melodies, emotionally resonant narratives and soft cinematic sonics won over the Canadian film and TV industry. Their music has been showcased on CBC's Heartland, Kim’s Convenience and Workin’ Moms, along with CTV’s Saving Hope, commercials and award-winning independent films. This summer, they undertook a songwriting residency with the Slaight Family Music Lab at the Canadian Film Centre.
"It's been a weird thing," Jane says. "But I think it's just such an exciting time to be an artist, because you can kind of make your own rules... We do everything ourselves. We record ourselves, we produce the songs ourselves. It's the two of us in a room. There's so much autonomy we have with our sound and with the choices we make. And we're charting a course that feels unconventional — finding an online audience and doing things our way. Whatever road embraces us, we're going to run with it."