Maybe you’ve heard them on the radio blending their pitch perfect voices to k-os’ Crabbuckit, or backing up Stuart McLean on his Vinyl Café.
To hear Canadian trio the Good Lovelies is like going back to those harmonious sirens of the Second World War, The Andrews Sisters.
But there’s so much more to this Ontario-based group, who have been ping-ponging across the country as of late, and just performed with McLean at a live taping of the Vinyl Café in Huntsville, Ont.
Susan Passmore, Kerri Ough (pronounced “oh”) and Caroline Brooks wanted to prove they were more than just pretty voices, hence their new album Burn the Plan.
For Passmore, who joins the Good Lovelies on their current cross-country tour, which stops at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Nov. 15, the new album is a vast departure from the women’s last record, 2011’s Let the Rain Fall.
It was that album which brought the group numerous comparisons to The Andrews Sisters.
“The Andrews Sisters are iconic and certainly are the best known of that genre during their time. Everybody knows at least one of their songs. It’s a compliment to be compared to them. It’s a cool comparison. There’s something appealing with tight, close harmonies,” said Passmore, on the phone from her current home in Victoria.
“(However,) with four years between records, we wanted to take a different shift towards our approach.
“For Let the Rain Fall, we had the Good Lovelies in mind. For (Burn the Plan), we were trying not to craft a Good Lovelies’ record. We picked out the 13 songs we wanted to do – and the three of us were writing out our stories into songs.”
The plan worked.
The Good Lovelies are up for Vocal Group of the Year and the album’s producer, Les Cooper (who has worked with Jill Barber), is up for producer of the year at this weekend’s Canadian Folk Music Awards in Edmonton.
“Les Cooper opened the door for us. He co-wrote the songs and was very involved,” said Passmore, adding the group will be on the road and therefore unable to attend the awards ceremony.
Besides playing a bunch of instruments, from guitar, banjo and mandolin, the Lovelies also used something called an omnichord on Burn the Plan. The instrument, which resembles an old box TV converter, is actually a digital autoharp.
“It has a few different features on it. You can pre-program it to have beats, then there are buttons for chords. It’s like a Nintendo for chords,” said Passmore, adding it makes a high bell sound based on whatever chord you play.
The instrument can be seen and heard on the band’s colourful video for single Waiting for You off Burn the Plan.
“Kerri was writing on the omnichord and then when we were together in preproduction, the song sort of happened in the studio. It was very organic,” said Passmore.
Organic is a good way to describe how the Lovelies came to be, well, the Good Lovelies.
From the town of Cobourg, east of Toronto on Lake Ontario, Passmore grew up just down the road from Ough, who is from Port Hope. They went to the same French immersion school and met around Grades 2/3.
“We knew each other, but because we were in different classes, we weren’t around each other as much. At the end of high school, when Kerri was in Grade 12, we were in some of the same classes and we were in jazz choir together,” said Passmore.
Passmore and Ough met Brooks five years later, in 2002, through mutual friends, and were each billed as solo performers when they played their first show together.
“It’s funny with our first show, there’s a poster out there somewhere that reads Sue P, Kerri O, and the Brooks Sisters,” said Passmore. “At that point we hadn’t tried singing together, but in 2006 we did, and it clicked. We felt it was meant to be, we were having so much fun. We got along so well, and those first road trips together were crazy.”
That early chemistry can be heard on the Lovelies’ 2011 album, Let the Rain Fall, which not only featured their original songs, but a lauded cover of k-os’ 2004 smash hit Crabbuckit.
“There are certain covers we just love doing and if that’s how someone learns about us, that’s fine,” said Passmore, adding Crabbuckit was a last minute addition to the record.
“We thought, let’s record it and see what happens. We haven’t been in touch with (k-os) and don’t know what he thought of it, but you’ll find lots of female jazz choirs and line dancing groups doing a version of the song. We’re hoping one day a line dance group will perform with us to the song.”
Besides their last two studio albums, and a live concert recording, the Good Lovelies have also released a Christmas album, 2009’s Under the Mistletoe.
“We may do another Christmas album in the future. We had fun doing our first Christmas album, except it was hot outside when we were recording it,” laughed Passmore.
Although the Good Lovelies won’t be performing any pre-seasonal jingles on this western part of their tour – they are saving those songs for their just announced Christmas tour in Ontario – they do have a wintry piece in mind.
“It is part of a five-song EP that will be released later this year. We performed the song with the Vinyl Café,” said Passmore.
As of press time, tickets for the Good Lovelies on-stage concert (where the audience is seated on stage with the band), Sunday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m., at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, were very limited. Contact the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469 for info. As the concert is licensed, no minors will be permitted.