Not many classical musicians make the leap from the concerto and grand concert hall to the 3-minute, 3-chord pop song and touring sweaty bar stages in one-street-light-towns. The ones that do are often a bit sheepish about it, as if they’ve somehow betrayed Beethoven by romancing the synthesizer. We all know (or imagine) just how gossipy those conservatory frenemies are.
Brandi Sidoryk can speak to the experience a little bit better than most. Wanting to strike out in the indie pop scene, but having finished a masters in opera at the University of Toronto, she created the band Sidney York, an anagram of her last name. She says, “I wanted to do something more my own and the indie pop world seemed like a great place for that. I used the name Sidney York because I wanted to keep it secret from the opera world. The name “Sidney York” defines that period of living a double life.”
As it turns out, Sidoryk found a compatriot in Krista Wodelet, who joined Sidney York 2 1/2 years ago. “She comes from a similar background as an orchestra bassoonist,” Sidoryk explains. “We were happy to keep this indie pop side of our lives a secret because she needed to as well.”
The two of them both attended the music school at the University of Toronto at the same time, but never crossed paths. Their eventual meeting was fated by the stars, or skies perhaps. Sidoryk worked as a flight attendant and was working alongside Wodelet’s sister. “I mentioned to her sister that I was looking for a bassoonist, and it turns out that [Krista] was one.”
Initially the two were living in different cities, Sidoryk in Calgary and Wodelet in Toronto and they collaborated via iphone. “The flight attendant thing helped, because we could meet in person,” Sidoryk explains. “We did our writing primarily by sending each other little snippets of songs back and forth using Garagae Band for iphone. It was a unique way to write.”
Now they live together in Calgary. “It’s easier to write,” Sidoryk says. The record is collaborative in the sense that both Wodelet and Sidoryk wrote their own songs on the record with insight from the other. “One of us always brining an idea to the table and then we add to it,” says Sidoryk.
Eventually, when Sidoryk and Wodelet came out about their indie rock project, they found more support than they expected. “We find we a lot of people in the classical music world who know what we do and are completely accepting of what we do in the indie world,” Sidoryk says. Wodelet still manages to play in a few orchestras in Canada, but touring with Sidney York makes it hard to do productions. “I keep practicing as an opera singer,” Sidoryk says. “You don’t kick those habits.”
Sidney York is currently in the process of releasing its first album: <3s. Yes, that’s the text symbol “Hearts.” Not only is the name quite clever, but the method of release is creative. Even though the album is fully complete, every two months, the band is releasing a two-track installment. “We wanted to do things a different way,” explains Sidoryk. “We wanted to release it in stages so people are continually getting music and have something to look forward to.” Furthermore, the installments are available in both digitally and on vinyl.
“We intentionally wanted to pair songs together,” says Sidoryk. “The volumes are self sustained units.”
The January release is the most synthy-electronic pairing of songs from the record. “They’re fun and upbeat and that’s how we wanted to introduce Syndey York with these fun upbeat songs,” says Sidoryk. “They kind of hint at what’s to come. Hearts has a bridge that’s a hard rock-out in the middle of what is initially a synthy song. It kind of hints in what’s to come in the later volumes.” As for the March volume, the songs are paired because they address the volatility and danger of being in love.
As for touring, Sidney York is on the move. Wodelet and Sidoryk bring along three other musicians to fill in the band. “We get some weird reactions to the instruments. We have a French horn and bassoon on stage. The bassoon gets run through guitar pedals and produces sounds that are unlike a bassoon. Sometimes people don’t recognize what it is,” says Sidoryk. “Sometimes people say, ‘I love that trumpet on stage.’ We’re happy and excited to educate people about these instruments that are common in our world, but for people who just listen to rock or indie music, they’re unfamiliar and don’t know what they are. It’s exciting to be able to introduce these instruments as staples in music.”
Sidney York plays with The Hydrothermal Vents at Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent) on Feburary 19. 9:30 p.m. $8/10