Orchestral-pop Sensations Ohbijou Return with New Album

Ohbijou's Casey Mecija photographed by Gesilayefa Azorbo

Ohbijou's Casey Mecija, photographed by Gesilayefa Azorbo

Toronto’s current indie-pop darlings, Ohbijou, recently wrapped up their third studio album ahead of their latest tour schedule. Cadence Canada had a chance to sneak-preview the album [here], entitled Metal Meets, and although it was somewhat of a departure from their previous two efforts, it was undeniably a stellar output from a group currently being hailed as the most important indie band in the city.

When Cadence caught up with lead vocalist and founding member Casey Mecija, it was at the historic St Lawrence Market – an apt location given Ohbijou’s longstanding love affair with Toronto. But one of the things we talked about was the absence of Toronto as a geographical muse in the new album.

“What was different was that I think that with this album, as a lyricist and as a writer, I was kind of looking at the world with more depth and complexity, you know,” Mecija said, speaking over the bustling sounds of the stores on the lower level of the St Lawrence Market.

“Because we had been travelling all around the globe and experiencing different cultures – and before that we were very much centralized in, like, Queen West, that music scene – being able to step out of it sort of offered a new perspective on life and on writing music, so I think that that is what sort of inspired the new direction.”

Another source of inspiration, Mecija says, came from the classes she was taking at school and certain books she was reading, which she found encouraged her to look at familiar things differently.

“I think there was a lot of focus on trying to write about emotions in a new language,” she said. “I was exposed to a lot of different things that inspired sort of a re-imagining of romance and romantic conventions for this album.”

This deviation from established musical tropes is evident lyrically in songs like the album’s title track, where the theme of relationships and love is undercut by a darker, slightly sinister tone: True one, we’ve only begun/I’ve gone to my room to consider you/Red heat sealing me/Know that I bleed blood/ Metal meets. This particular song, she says, was inspired by a verse novel entitled Autobiography of Red by Ann Carson.

“I was doing a writing residency on Toronto Island and was reading that book, and I was up there with my partner and just sort of writing. And phrases from that book just really stuck; that’s where that song came from.”

She also says the novel Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels and All That We Long For by fellow Torontonian Dionne Brand influenced her lyrical approach to the songwriting on the new album. However, that is not the only thing different about Ohjibou’s third album: When we began talking about the track “Iron and Ore,” Mecija’s face lit up and she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s my sister’s song!” It turns out that after two hit albums, Ohbijou is now branching into the territory of shared songwriting.

“Yeah, that’s something that’s new about the album, too, that my little sister Jennifer wrote a song and we arranged it and played it on the album,” Mecija said. “And our keyboardist, Ryan, wrote a song for the album also, so there are different writers for two of the songs on the album. And my sister wrote that song.”

At the moment things are incredibly busy for Ohbijou as they prepare for their September 30 album release.  On the day of the Cadence interview, the band had already spent hours the night before in Millbrook shooting the video for “Niagara,” the starting track off the new album.

“It was a really creative shoot so we’re excited about it,” Mecija said.

However, this was after having been up since 3:00 a.m. the day before, performing at CBC Metro Morning, and then dealing with a minor accident while driving out to shoot their first music video for the album.

“Today was a really long day. The hood of our van smashed into the windshield while we were driving,” Mecija explained. “We were like, we did this thing in the morning for the radio, and then we were driving to our video shoot, but then this thing happened to our van. So it’s been a long day, but full of all these different experiences! It just reminds me that life is so unusual, but exciting.”

The band can expect a lot more interesting experiences (hopefully none accident-related!) as their upcoming tour takes them from coast to coast across Canada, but the place Mecija is looking forward to the most is their Calgary stopover.

“Calgary is a really exciting spot for us because that’s where our cellist is from, so her mom always makes us delicious yoghurt chicken whenever we come! Seeing a mom, we kind of attach ourselves to her like she’s our mom, because, being separated from home and from family so long, it’s nice to see one mom, you know?”

Before that, however, the band will be kicking off their album launch at Trinity-St Paul’s Church at Bloor St. and Spadina Ave. in Toronto on September 30, where Ohbijou fans can get their hands on the new album – quite literally – as it is also available as a record printed on red vinyl. Fans might want to book early, since, as Ohbijou notes on their Twitter account, tickets are $10 more at the door, and based on the band’s renown, it wouldn’t be amiss to expect a large turnout at the event.

For Ohbijou though, their status in the indie scene and the critical praise they have received so far only spur them on to make better music.

“It feels like a really big honour to be looked [on] as a band that plays music that leaves an impact in some way,” Mecija said. “And I think, also, it’s like a motivation to always work hard, knowing that that’s being said about us.”

For more information on where the band will be playing next, check out their tour schedule here, and if you’re in the city, be sure to come by the launch party for Metal Meets on September 30 at Trinity-St Paul’s Church.