Stella Ella Ola: Toronto's Hottest Up and Coming Band

Stella Ella Ola: Toronto’s Hottest Up and Coming Band

“Everybody’s got a camera, a really nice camera…” – Stella Ella Ola

By. Kevin Priddle

If you’ve had your ear to the ground lately around Toronto then you’ve already heard rumblings about one of the newest bands on the block, Stella Ella Ola. If not, you soon will.

Earlier this spring the quartet (three guys, a girl, and lo-fi esq grooves) released a four-song EP, produced by Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright, which launched a flurry of buzz and anticipation for their debut gig May 26 at Cinecycle. The EP clocks in at just under 10 minutes, but it’s bursting at the seams with raw, fun, 50’s-throwback-garage-rock that makes you want to get up and dance yourself clean.

No Philistines was lucky enough to make it down to catch the band’s second performance on June 14 at The Velvet Underground. The show was part of the annual Toronto North By Northeast festival and there were a ton of other fabulously talented bands sharing the bill (Sweet Mack, Always, and Halifax-based Cousins all killed it), but the crowd came for Stella Ella Ola that night… and the band delivered.

The four members started off the night with a quick swig of liquor, and then dove into a tight, energetic set that stayed true to the EP and then cranked it a notch further. There was that one song where they couldn’t seem to all quite start together, but the band laughed it off and charmed the crowd… that and no one probably noticed anyway with one member bouncing around stage shirtless (I won’t tell you which one yet).

The band has roots that lead back to Hollerado through brother’s Nick and Jack Boyd, and to Atom Division byway of drummer Vince Rice, but you might not have heard much about guitarist/singer/band-artiste extraordinaire Anne Douris before.

We recently caught up with Anne and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, what Stella Ella Ola is all about, and how the band would defeat a horde of culture-sucking zombies.

How would you describe your sound? If a bunch of your favourite bands got together, made some bad decisions and Stella Ella Ola was the resulting love child of their musical orgy… who would those influencers be?
To name a few – The Kinks, Violent Femmes, The B52’s… Man, just think about how amazing that orgy would be! I should coordinate orgies for a living!

Although I think our sound varies a little bit from each song to the next, “garage-pop” might be the best word for it. We like short, fast songs that are a bit rough around the edges.

How did the sophomore show at Velvet Underground go and how was the debut at Cinecycle at the end of May?
We had a ball playing the Velvet. We were pumped to be on such a rad NXNE bill – The Sweet Mack, Always (we are big fans) and Cousins put on a fantastic show. Jake’s been half-naked at both of them, so that must say something about how much fun we’ve been having.

The band consists of the Boyd brothers from Hollerado and Vince Rice of Atom Division… Who is the mysterious Anne Douris and what do you bring to the table?
I’ve got no secrets. I grew up in the wild, I’m 100 years old, my favourite food is beef jerky.

In the past few years I’ve been playing in a few outfits around Toronto under a couple different monikers. Anne Crawley, Gileads, a brief stint in Beekeeper’s Society. Last Halloween Nix, Jake and I played in fake band called “GUTS”. I play guitar and keys, I sing stuff, I write songs, and draw things.

Can you tell me about how all the band members met, how the New Years Eve formation came about, and where the name comes from?
Well the Boyd’s have been best buds from day one (When Jake was born). Vince has traveled far and wide with them on their tours. They all went to China together, those lucky ducks. I met everybody just over a year ago at a bowling alley, where I think Nick and I tied for last.

As for New Years, we were sitting at my kitchen table and Vince was like “Let’s start a band that only plays songs under 2:43” and we were all like “Yeah dude. Yeah.” I came up with the name. Turns out clapping games are a “girl thing”. Not that there’s anything wrong with “Bloody Knuckles”, but it just sounds so metal.

What’s it like being the only girl in a band of rowdy boys?
I resent the fact that I can’t take off my shirt like Jake does. Then again, I’ve been having so much meat and beer (boy food) that I’m getting a bit of a gut*, so it’s probably for the best. But really it’s a blast. BBQ’s all the time.

*I’m not getting a gut.

Rumour has it two band members may or may not be involved in a romantic relationship, is there a John/Yoko or Jack/Meg White element going on here and how’s that come out in the music?
It’s true! Vince and Jake are inseparable – but it’s more of a Stevie/Lindsey thing.

But no, you’re right. It seems like couples in bands get a bad rap sometimes. Your brain goes to John/Yoko and that’s a pretty unappealing image – but then, Plastic Ono Band was actually pretty rad. And then there’s Arcade Fire, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth… Hey, these are some of my favourite bands!

At the end of the day Nix and I are just best friends who are lucky enough to get to play music all the time together. We want to tell the same sorts of stories – sometimes they’re about each other, which is kinda fun. But other times they’re about sex changes and being cryogenically frozen, which is even more fun.

Stella Ella Ola is getting some great buzz around the city – CBC 3 even named your debut a ‘Top -Five Must See Show’ in Canada that weekend – what kind of reactions have your heard from fans/other bands and how’s it make you feel?
We really appreciate the attention we’ve been getting and the sweet things people have been saying. It feels darn good. Personally, starting to read music blogs is a new thing for me, and it’s been amazing to realize how much fantastic content is out there. The internet is a magical wonderland for music lovers. Thanks internet!

Also, other bands are a great resource. We’re lucky enough to have a lot of friends who are musicians – who love to give us advice – which we love to take. Thanks friends!

How do band members balance their time between SEO and other creative projects?
It’s a lot of work but we all love to be busy. Shared calendars are pretty key. Also, coffee.

Tell me a secret no one knows about the band.
Jake and Nick both sleep with their eyes open and it is the worst.

What’s next for Stella Ella Ola ?
Well we’ve been back in the studio recording some new tracks for another release this summer. We’ve got some more shows lined up around Ontario (Canada Day Weekend in Ottawa, for one!)† More BBQ’s, pizzas and cheap beers. I think we’ll probably go to the beach.

We are, a philistine is a smug, boorish person, who abhors culture and is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes… In the not so distant future an apocalyptic outbreak of philistine zombies has taken over our fair city. How does Stella Ella Ola defeat this horrible army and return awesomeness to Toronto?
A flame-thrower that shoots LCD vapor and 10 million Futurama DVD box sets should do it!

† Editor’s Note: We conducted this interview back in June after Stella Ella Ola’s show at the Velvet Underground, but before was ready to launch. The band has gone on to play successful gigs in Ottawa and St. Catherines since then. You can catch them in Toronto again this week on Thursday July 26 at The Silver Dollar .

You can download Stella Ella Ola’s EP for free here and you can watch the band’s BRAND NEW video here.