Award winning band, Pugs and Crows creates new instrumental music that distills elements of indie rock, creative music, and classical forms into a distinct statement that’s both recognizably West Coast and startlingly original.
Showcasing the 10 year long collaboration between an ensemble of individually accomplished and highly sought after players, Pugs and Crows has emerged as one of Vancouver’s most prominent instrumental bands, earning a rabid following of fans from all corners. Their third release, Everyone Knows Everyone, snagged a 2016 West Coast Music Award for Best Instrumental Album, adding to momentum that has been building since their 2013 JUNO win and this year’s nomination to the 2016 Polaris Prize Longer List. Praised for their “music of great strength and beauty” by The Georgia Straight, and as “rejuvenating, visceral and absolutely stunning” by the CBC, Pugs and Crows continues to bring new fans into the West Coast’s rich tradition of creative instrumental music.
Everyone Knows Everyone is a double album that features a collaboration with long-time friend, West Coast guitar legend Tony Wilson, as well as a guest appearance by vocalist Debra-Jean Creelman (Mother Mother, Frazey Ford). Creelman and Wilson seamlessly insert themselves into material which alternates sonic ferocity with a sense of sweet melancholy that’s vintage Pugs and Crows. Luscious textures rove across each other, swell and refine into united riffs which showcase both the band’s time-honed tightness, and their ability to make rigorous, complex music feel easy and close to the heart. Propelled by the entire band, the erratic rhythmic figures breath with beautiful, rock n’ roll simplicity, rounding off improvised sections with avant-garde ear candy that’s hard to resist. The improvisations are where the expressivity and musicianship of the individual players really shine, through explorations that tease the edges of Cole Schmidt’s compositions with adventurous soloing and detailed textural additions, often augmented by producer Chris Gestrin’s audio wizardry. The result of all this is something that Henning Bolte of Jazzism (Netherlands) puts most succinctly: This album sounds like good music should sound. Grounded, great consistency, entrancing beauty, elevating.”
Cat Toren is a pianist and a composer with several releases under her own name. She has studied classical music at the Royal Conservatory of Music and holds a Bachelor of Jazz Studies from Capilano College. She has been a valued participant at the Banff Centre for the Arts Big Band Workshop and Jazz and Creative Music Workshop (funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Denis Jackson Endowment Fund). Her instructors have included Lisa Miller, Ross Taggart, Aaron Goldberg and Sophia Rosoff, to name a few. She is featured often on international radio programs and podcasts, most notably CBC radio’s Hot Air and New York's WBGO. She has performed in North America and Europe, including the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and resides in Brooklyn, NY. Cat will begin a Masters of Music Composition at the State University of New York at Purchase College in the fall of 2015.
For upwards of 18 years, Juno Award-winning musician, Meredith Bates has been pursuing a career as a freelance violinist and violist, experienced in a wide variety of musical genres, from classical to jazz, and encompassing many folk idioms. Meredith has performed and recorded extensively with a number of celebrated ensembles, including Pugs and Crows, The Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, Ford Pier's Strength of Materials, C.R. Avery and the Legal Tender String Quartet, Crowman, Laila Biali, Sean Cronin’s Very Good, Ayelet Gottlieb, ElkHorn, Gentle Party, Hymns of the Moon, and Dixie’s Death Pool. Meredith has also worked in the past with musicians such as Buck 65, Rod Stewart, Matt Mayes, Annie Lou, 4=4, Joseph Blood, The Vancouver Island Symphony, Ron Samworth, Dyad, Mark Berube, The Fugitives, Rodney Decroo, Rae Spoon, and Ivan Coyote, to name just a few. Meredith has toured Canada and Europe extensively, recorded on over 100 albums, attended the Banff Centre for the Arts' Jazz and Creative Music Workshop twice, studied with notable violinists in NYC, Boston, Halifax, and Vancouver, and has performed at most major Canadian music festivals. Meredith is a passionate music teacher, with certificates in both Orff-Schulwerk and The Suzuki Method, and an avid arts presenter. A talented improvisor and collaborator at heart, she relishes any opportunity to join forces with other like-minded artists.
Cole Schmidt, is an active participant in Vancouver's creative music scene. As a composer, Cole spends the majority of his time writing and recording with 2013 Juno Award winners Pugs and Crows and the newly formed group Sick Boss. He can also be heard alongside other local artists such as Debra-Jean Creelman, Copilots, Karen Foster and John Paton's Soft Morning City. In 2013, he received the Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award for Emerging Artist in Music. Cole has toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, including a 5 week tour with Drip Audio's DarkBlueWorld in Eastern Europe and Russia and participating in the Vilnius Jazz Festival.
Russell has been a committed advocate of creative music in Vancouver for the past fifteen years. His work as a bassist and composer has appeared on Drip Audio releases with the Tony Wilson 6tet, the Aeroplane Trio and Dixie's Death Pool. Favourable reviews and articles about his work have appeared in The Wire, Downbeat, The Globe and Mail and MOJO Magazine. He continues to perform regularly at many of Canada's major jazz and folk music festivals and he has done live recordings for the CBC's Canada Live and the Signal. Film credits include The Corporation and theatre credits include the Jessie Award winning Other Freds (Only Animal).
Ben Brown is a Vancouver, BC based musician, composer and teacher. Recent highlights include a 6-month solo tour of Europe where Brown collaborated with Musicians/Dancers and studied privately with master Percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie. As a Drummer, Brown has worked with musicians such as Wilbert De Joode, K-OS, Jill Barber and Dancers Katie Duck, Su-Feh Lee and Justine Chambers. In April 2013 he received a Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album of the year with the group, Pugs and Crows. Brown is the founder of Music And Movement Mondays (MAMM), Vancouver's weekly collaborative series between live musicians and dancers. As a composer, his works for dance and film have been featured at festivals in Toronto, Mexico and Vancouver.
Vancouver’s Coastal Jazz and Blues hails him as “unquestionably one of the most original guitar stylists on the Canadian scene”. Down Beat Magazine entitles him as “…a talismanic West Coast figure.” Tony Wilson has studied with many acclaimed jazz musicians including Dave Holland, John Abercrombie, Kevin Eubanks and Steve Coleman and has shared the stage with well know international artists such as William Parker, Gerry Hemingway, Han Bennink, Toby Delius, Benoit Delbecq & Eric Boeren. As a composer, he has been commissioned by Standing Wave, Joe Trio, the Little Chamber Music Society, New Orchestra Workshop and the Hard Rubber Orchestra. He has released six CDs under his own name for the Drip Audio recording label. Favourable reviews of his work have appeared in Downbeat, the Wire, Exclaim and Signal to Noise among other publications.