Young rockers clear the way for an unplugged future
The sun is shining on Roncesvalles Ave. On the sidewalk there are new mothers with SUV-sized strollers sipping fair-trade organic dark-roast, there are old Polish men drinking Tyskie on a patio having a friendly, albeit heated, argument. Two dogs tied outside the hardware store wrestle for dominance while a friendly pan-handler wishes passers-by a nice day. The air smells of woodsy Kolbassa mixed with fresh-baked cupcakes. The busses pass by cyclists dinging their dingers. On this rare day in Toronto, there is no construction in Ronces Village, and consequently everybody who stops to listen can hear neighborhood duo, The Clearing, singing and strumming from their impeccably-located third story patio. Joining them up on their cozy perch overlooking their block, it is immediately evident that the songs they are lazily singing were born here, in the sunshine, at home.
On this patio, singer/guitarist, Stephan LaCasse and guitarist/singer Eric Boucher come across as warm, enthusiastic and charmingly naive, like kids at play. Choruses are punctuated with big smiles and bridge-solos end with knowing nods, while endings fade-out either with arena-rock endings or die with a quiet strum and a reserved bluesy hum. It’s easy to get the feeling that this level of comfort and ease would be the same if they were playing for a packed bar, an outdoors folk-festival or a tiny coffee shop. This is a far cry from the hard-rock background that brought The Clearing together. LaCasse and Boucher met as singers in touring rock bands (Latefallen and Jar) in 2008. Both bands clicked and toured Canada together for months at a time. During down times, the two frontmen would take a break from the high-volume, red-bull and Jager-fueled punk/metal scene by chilling out with the acoustic guitars, writing heartfelt campfire sing-alongs and introspective blues-folk ditties.
After touring, the two friends continued with their project, focusing more and more on The Clearing as their main endeavor. Before long, they were playing shows at nearly every live venue in Toronto, and soon were playing their brand of acousti-pop throughout southern Ontario. Eventually, The Clearing teamed up with London, ON producer Matt Grady and recorded the 5 Song EP, ‘Comfort In A Sound’ at EMac Studios.
The title track “Another Singer” is a slow, thoughtful reflection on being an artist in a big city. Halfway through the song, layered violins (courtesy of symphony sweetheart Mary-Elizabeth Brown) fade in and add some sophistication to a richly lyrical song. That same violin raises neck-hairs on the second song “I’ll Wait”, a lump-in-the-throat song about love on hold. The disk takes on a countryish twang on the third track, “Ghostown”, which is about going back to your home-town to discover that it just ain’t home no more (Boucher is originally from Bathurst, NB, while LaCasse grew up in Vernon, BC). They end off the EP with two slightly more upbeat songs about love and its complications; “Casanova”, about a long-time unconsummated love/friendship, and “Seconds At A Time”, about a charmingly dangerous party-girl.
So far the record “Comfort In A Sound” has been earning praise among The Clearing’s peers, while the two musicians continue to write and perform. In addition to soft-rocking-out at traditional live music venues, the duo have been using their two-guitars-and-four-feet approach to being musicians, busking at random corners, playing all-night cover gigs at suburban irish pubs, or just breaking out the acoustics at a house party at 4am. To The Clearing, it’s all a part of their refreshing, new approach to their craft; and besides, they are still rockers.