Wednesday, 16 November 2022

We have a gig! Combine at Lana Lou's Dec 1st


 After several years off the stage we are now booked to perform as the opener for The Aleatonics album release party December 1st at Lana Lou's
 

Isabelle and I are rehearsing for our first show on stage in many years. Joining us is our long time friend Daniel Clement on guitar. We shall be debuting a few brand new songs and of course our latest single "Crazy Story." 

Speaking of Crazy Story, it's a pleasure to announce it has crossed 11 thousand plays on Spotify. The song has been added to a few popular playlists and it seems to be our most popular track to date. We are happy about that! 

Our next single Rushes Over Me is about to be mastered and we need to figure out some kind of video for it next. 

Many things happening right now and it's all feeling fun again!


Thanks for reading, and hope you can make it down to Lana Lou's on Thursday December 1st!

Monday, 10 October 2022

Another single coming

 2022 has been a prolific year for us, I think the reality of Isabelle's recent health issue has really put us in the mindset to focus in on what counts. And it seems that music is essential to both of us! 

At the start of 2021 I took over the former studio of Ryan Dahle in the East Van Song City building. I spent all my free time last year in the studio working on ideas. We have now been choosing from those songs and finalizing them. We Are Not Alone was the first one we finished because that one was almost the last song we wrote.  Crazy Story was the last song we wrote and it came together almost instantly, however it did take me months to figure out a part and learn how to tune a piano!

The next song we're putting out is titled Rushes Over Me and is another from the group of songs we started last year. I pursued a series of trip hop type experiments and really invested into that darker groovy sound. Rushes Over Me started from a field recording of the air conditioning units and traffic noise from Powell Street.I based the vibe off that and wrote a super dub style track over top of it.

Next we listened together and Isabelle immediately came up with a vocal line. I didn't understand what she had done at first and was confused by her choices. However in light of several great moments in our past I decided to not change her idea but figure out what wasn't working over mine. An illuminating moment and certainly the moment of big change in the song. The chorus arrived with a major chord change. Very cool. Can't wait to play it for you.

We are working on it now and I think have it close to done. Just reviewing the mix and pondering percussion. Out in November. 

Thanks for reading and listening!

Mark


p.s. thanks to our new listeners on Spotify, welcome if you're reading this for the first time!

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Crazy Story - Earshot Song of the Day

 We are really happy that our song "Crazy Story" was chosen as song of the day for the Earshot Distribution System.

 


We hope all of Canada starts listening to this one soon! 

Thanks Earshot!


Monday, 12 September 2022

Official video release; Crazy Story

We are proud to announce our latest single "Crazy Story," official release date is Sept 14th, 2022

Label: Boutique Empire, catalog number BE22052

The video below was filmed mostly at the Boutique Empire studio here in East Vancouver. There are a few segments that were videod around Vancouver, including a moment of live performance that was captured at the Isabelle Dunlop Clothing store on Main Street this spring.  Thanks to Seam McFarland for his camera work on that.  The rest of the clip features a heavily kaleidoscopic looking piano, the old Baldwin upright I inherited from my dearly departed and always missed friend Todd Simko. That piano took up a big part of the personality of this song and though it is quite a tricky thing to get or keep in tune it is very inspiring!


Have a look and please let us know what you think of the song and video. We have been submitting our new singles to radio so if you have the will please try requesting it at a local station that might play such music.



Monday, 5 September 2022

New Artwork! Crazy Story

 Our dear friend, the always brilliant and affable Robert Edmonds, has created this artwork for our new single "Crazy Story".


Crazy Story - Combine the Victorious - Robert Edmonds artwork

The artwork was inspired from a random top-of-her-head thought that Isabelle dropped in the middle of telling us a funny story while we sat in front of Cascade in the sunshine having a pint. Rob caught it and came up with this. I can't wait to print t-shirts.


Thank you once again Rob Edmonds!! We love it!

The single drops on Sept 14th 2022.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

New single - Crazy Story


Crazy Story
is one of the last songs that Isabelle and I wrote together over the winter. In 2021 we created an album's worth of material which we are this year putting together to release one song at a time. Our Love Is Stronger than some Crazy Story is probably the best collaboration the two of us have done since we began writing together in 2006! 

 

In the Autumn of 2021 I was determined to create either a new song or at least a new loop everytime I went into the studio without a client. I had been studio maintenance and fixing things one afternoon and hadn't really done any creative work that day. However I had been listening to random songs on Spotify while I was cleaning up and I got inspired by the vibe of one song. Rather than simply copy it - which is of course illegal - I challenged myself to create something that felt similar but wasn't actually the same. It all started with a kick drum pattern honestly.  From there the beat came together pretty effortlessly and then a sort of skank guitar part was added with a descending line.  I doubled that with a keyboard part and an acoustic and it felt pretty good. Next I just grabbed my bass and played this looping bassline over and over until I found something that locked in. It's a bit different for me as it never really changes but it does suggest chord changes without actually laying them out directly.  I saved the session and went away for a gig with my folk band Headlong Hearts up in Powell River that weekend.


When we next came into the studio the following Monday I mentioned that I had a new idea to Isabelle and she said she too had something: a little voice memo she'd made on the weekend. I opened the song up and just copy and pasted my loop several times so she'd have something to sing over. I couldn't believe how well the two ideas went together as Isabelle had not heard my idea at all yet her vocal line fit perfectly with it! I was incredibly excited at the two ideas fitting together. 



The last piece of the puzzle turned out to be my piano part. I have a small upright piano in the studio that I inherited from my friend Todd Simko after his death. It's a quirky little Baldwin piano, and sadly it had fallen out of tune quite badly over the decade from being moved several times.  It became a project for me to learn how to tune and I boldly made the decision to bring it up to A440 tuning (which it hadn't been for well over 15 years at least!). This proved a very challenging decision as I truly didn't know how to tune a piano and even though I could get it close in the evening by the morning the entire thing had drifted out again! I kept this up for nearly three months, each time getting different parts of the piano closer to being in tune but sadly never locking it up.  I did however discover that I was learning how to properly tune a piano by this time and took advantage of the time in front of the keyboard to figure out some nice piano lines.  I think it was around late June that I recorded something that didn't make me jump out of my skin from tuning issues!  The sound on the record is from back in July when I spent an afternoon doing takes and asking Isabelle's opinion of various lines. I'm rather proud of what we came to put together, probably the first time I've performed a piano part for the full length of a song! 

The lyrics seem to have come from life itself as Isabelle had been diagnosed with breast cancer this winter. "Our love is stronger than some crazy story" just seemed so significant in light of her situation and her vocals are probably the best I've ever heard her sing.  And what makes things even better is that in August she has successfully passed through chemotherapy and surgery and is well on her way back to full strength! She is indeed stronger than some crazy story! 

This song lines up with several other down tempo tracks that we recorded over the past year. I think it will be an important part of our repertoire for years to come and serve as a beautiful introduction to Combine the Victorious for a lot of new listeners.  Please let us know what you think when you give it a listen!


Monday, 20 June 2022

July 8th - We Are Not Alone (New Single)

 

Isabelle and I are very excited to release our next single. We Are Not Alone was initially inspired from a day spent on the water whale watching last September as part of a birthday present for Isabelle! While we where out there the magnitude of the animals in the water, and the sheer vastness of the ocean all around us and the seemingly infinite horizon really made an impression on me. Perhaps this was due to spending so much time inside over the past couple covid years. 

As our ferry returned from Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver slowly began to appear as a tiny dot on the shoreline I was hit again with the scale of the world and how self absorbed I had been over the past decades. All my life was contained in a dot on the horizon and seemed so huge while we were there. Yet the moment we left the city the whole world began to filter into my consciousness. After getting back that weekend Isabelle and I went into the studio and We Are Not Alone was born. 

Peter Gabriel has been a big personal favourite of mine from his first solo album (I wasn't as big a Genesis fan as I was of his solo output). A few summer's back I rediscovered his records and was really re-impressed with the moods and style of those first three. I think the most obvious inspiration on our song is the big low single-note piano bass with its heavy chorus effect. That helped set the tone and stateliness of the song. As with many of our songs I programmed a drum part to run the length of the tune. However as soon as the arrangement took shape I knew I had to get my pal Leigh Grant to drum on it.


Leigh and I go back to Pure days together and he's been kind enough to play on several Combine songs over the years. He brought his trusty Gretsch kit into the Boutique Empire studio and we spent a very efficient day tracking on We Are Not Alone and another song which shall soon see the light of day. 


 

Replacing the programmed drums with Leigh's drumming was quite the energy shift but I will add that Chad "Felix" Taylor's trumpet really sealed the deal! Felix came in one night back in February and we had a blast building up a horn section for the outro of the song.  He was replacing some rather dodgy horn samples I had put in to give the direction and as this is the very first time we've added live brass to a song I am overwhelmed by the energy his playing added. Certainly something I will want to do again!


In a funny side note I did also squeeze in the same brass section sample that I'd played on Pure "Spiritual Pollution" back in 1992.  It was a bit hit or miss that the Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler would still boot up (and it didn't manage to read a couple of the first syquest drives I tried) but the venerable floppy disk came through in the end. Maybe it's silly but I think there might be some magic to those sounds and I'm glad that sound made it onto the song. (I believe they were the absolute final bit of recording for the single).  

We Are Not Alone was mixed right here at the Boutique Empire studio and wonderfully mastered by this space's former occupant Ryan Dahle over at his new studio on Mayne Island. His analog approach really shined up the song and I'm very pleased with his work. 

If you've made it this far into the post then perhaps you can do us one more thing. Below are pre-save links for the single. If you use one of the streaming sites below please click thru and pre-save the song into your library. It apparently helps greatly with the algorithm and enhances out chances of being offered for more popular playlists. Plus it ensures you get to hear our new track!  

Thanks for reading and hope you like the song and video on July 8th!

Applemusic

Spotify

Amazon

 



Friday, 8 April 2022

Paros - an anthology

 We are very pleased to announce that we have a new album about to drop!  

Paros is a collection of remixes, remasters, and new tracks (including Façon Fashion, the song made popular on the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things) being released on Thorvald Records, April 29th.

The anthology is curated and directed by Thorvald Record label chief, record producer and impresario Stefan Sigerson.  We have collaborated for over a decade on songs, dating back to our Crumbling Hearts ep, where he co-produced and co-wrote several tracks. His support over the years has always been uplifting and inspiring, so it's exciting to launch this package out to the world with his new label's guidance and assistance! 

A wonderful surprise from this venture has been the connection with graphic artist Steven R Gilmore. (famous for branding Nettwerk Records, Steven was the graphic artist on the 1988 After All album, as well as the debut Pure album Pureafunalia.)   He has created a luscious cover for the album, and we are pleased to add that he has designed the digital booklet as well! Isabelle and I think the cover makes our music sound better! (Thank you Steven!).  


Release date for all streaming sites is April 29th 2022. 



Monday, 14 February 2022

New Video - Love Ballad

 

 

Love Ballad (Official Video) 

 

We are quite pleased to present out new video, Love Ballad filmed on location at Isabelle's shop, the Isabelle Dunlop Clothing Store. The video is a literal depiction of a day in the life of Combine the Victorious' singer and independent clothing designer Isabelle Dunlop featuring Carmel Amit as the loyal customer! 


Video produced by Boutique Empire

Directed and Edited by HENNING

Camera operators: Mark R Henning, Isabelle Dunlop

 

Isabelle Dunlop Clothing Store

4158 Main Street, Vancouver BC


Sunday, 13 February 2022

Love Ballad / Thunder double A-Side release

 

Love Ballad / Thunder 

double A-side


Our first release partnered with Thorvald Records


Artwork by Stephen R Gilmore


Produced by Henning at Boutique Empire Studio

Recorded at Boutique Empire and Hipposonic Studios


Listen on 

Spotify

Apple Music

Tidal

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Thunder - behind the lyrics



Hello! Isabelle here. Just wanted to share a little bit about our song Thunder from the lyrical perspective. 

The lyrics for Thunder were born from an idea sparked at my studio at the shop, the hum of the sewing machine plain to hear in the backdrop of my original voice memo.


“I’m feeling you, it’s coming through like thunder”


I've often found that as I sew or iron away my mind can drift off into analyzing conversations and moments that have been caught in my head. Last summer we were in the process of moving from our home of 24 years and I realize that I was kind of saying goodbye to that place. It had always been such a safe, protective and creative space. It was like losing a friend.






The same as with friendship there is an ebb and flow as we need it and it’s okay when things change, in fact it’s completely natural. As we walk away from an old home I feel no pain because I believe in the new adventure and all that it holds.


The cool thing is that I played the nugget of a voice memo to Mark, he immediately ran downstairs in the old house and played the rest of the music to accompany it! Everything happened without effort and  so naturally.



Change can be scary but with an open mind and trust it can also be quite lovely.
Cheers!


Isabelle 

 

listen to Thunder on spotify

 

Thunder by Combine the Victorious 

 

I'm feeling you, it's coming through like thunder

like thunder

I'm feeling you, it's coming through like thunder


I may be small but my soul runs deeper

When finding the joy can't dismiss these emotions

process the words, energy's given

 

I'm feeling you, it's coming through like thunder

like thunder


I may be small but my soul runs deeper

When finding the joy can't dismiss these emotions

process the words, energy's given

You're pushing my buttons

all is forgiven

 

As I walk away I feel no pain because I believe in you. 


Lyrics: Isabelle Dunlop

Music: Mark Henning, Isabelle Dunlop, Johanna Sö

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

New Single - Thunder

 We have been writing away these past 18 months or so, trying not to let the time escape us during this Covid 19 era.  Back in the summer of 2020 Combine ran into our friend Rob Darch, who gifted us an anniversary present of a recording weekend at Hipposonic studios. Hipposonic is located in the exact studio space that was once Little Mountain Sound  (world famous for records by Metallica, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith... Pure and countless other massive hits).  Isabelle and I had started several new songs but weren't too sure which were the ones we wanted to record so I made the decision to go for broke and record as much as possible over that August weekend.

We loaded up with 6 songs, ranging from the very moody track we are releasing this week (Thunder) to some dance numbers and a couple out-right rockers which have kinda fallen behind.  It was a fun session with two different drummers, a violinist, a trumpet player and everyone from my folkband Farmteam coming in to sing backing vocals on an unreleased song called Canada (maybe we'll hear more about that song someday). We blasted through everything as quickly as possible but I knew we weren't going to capture complete records on that weekend. 

Going back home I had a harddrive filled with tracks and some inclination of how things should go. A couple songs just didn't seem to grab me on further work and one has morphed into a dance track called Bold Universe. We also tracked the live drums for the song Love Ballad. Three others are in the undecided pile for now and may or may not make their way to completion. 

   Of all the songs we recorded on that session Thunder has been the most clear cut on how to proceed. The song was created from a simple voice memo that Isabelle made one afternoon. She shared it with me and it hit immediately. I listened once and then went downstairs to the piano and a song fell out of my hands. An accending chordal change section appeared without effort and suddenly we were both quite excited by the sound. It seemed very lovely and melancholic but with an underlying strength. 


Back in that Auguest weekend at Hipposonic we had Jonas Fairley play drums to a basic demo arrangement I'd made at home. I confess on the weekend I loved what Jonas played but after developing the song to its final stage the drums we tracked were too epic and seemed almost prog-rock rather than the down tempo vibe the song evolved into. More about that later.  I then overdubbed a Yamaha C7 grand piano onto the new bed tracks.



That same weekend we asked violinist Johanna Sö to come in a play a lead part in the outro of Thunder. She came in, set up, quickly got a sound and her headphones set up and we tracked it in two takes (she's very talented with excellent ears!), with maybe another pass to catch the little pizzicato part in the return to the A section. 

Once we had that, Dan Blake dropped by that evening a put some electric guitar on the song. It's a gorgeous part that reminded me a tiny bit of something Cockteau Twins might have done. I love  how it lifts the B sections when it comes in. Very lovely and shiny sounding.  


And then we were gone from Hipposonic and back to the home studio, for one last month: Isabelle and I had to move last year from the house we'd lived in for 25 years! An era ended and this new one has begun. I lost my studio at the house and thankfully found space in the Song City building in East Vancouver where we've been recording this past year. 

Once we got the studio set up again we turned our focus first to the Love Ballad. I was determined to get that completed by Valentines day (it seemed significant) but once that was done we began forging new songs. I reviewed the work we had already started and Thunder came up sounding really good. We decided we should complete it so we'd have at least one other new song under our belt. Co-incidentally I was also working on Johanna Sö's debut album at the time so I became very familiar with her playing!

I think it was late spring when I felt Thunder needed some changes. We'd begun writing a pile of new material and the prog rock vibe was quite dissimilar to where we were headed. The drums stood out as the obvious culprit so I asked Dan Walker to come in and try doing something more controlled and quieter. After much work we found what we were looking for and the song was really taking on its final shape. 

With the tighter drums the grand piano sounded too excessive so I did an old trick of side chaining a noise gate to trigger off a drum machine just playing on the three beat. Add in some cool dub delays (Thank you Lee Scratch Perry for your teachings - R.I.P.) and things were sounding very ambient and cool.  Pretty much everything was in place except for the mix, and so we mixed it.

I guess in the 21st century music needs to have a visual element to connect with an audience so we then took to the Pacific Spirit Forest up near the endowment lands of UBC and managed to film on a day that didn't rain! It is such a lovely part of the world and we are lucky to have such natural beauty so close to where we live. The little cameos from violinist Johanna were filmed in southern Quebec (where she and her fiance live now) and I struggled to make them seem congruous with the lush greens of our west coast forest but it all seems to work together. We are making music that spans North America!

 


Please check out the track and let us know what you think. It would be brilliant if you shared it or added it to a playlist as well, Everything helps!

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

Mark and Isabelle

Combine the Victorious


Monday, 15 February 2021

The Love Ballad

      At the beginning of 2021 I took over Ryan Dahle's studio in the Song City building here in Vancouver. As one of the tasks I set for myself Isabelle and I recorded the following song, "The Love Ballad". We had collaborated and written this song for another person to sing back in 2018 but that fell through so the song just kinda sat on a hard drive for the past years. Then, while we were in Hipposonic Studio this past summer (thanks again for the great session Rob Darch!) Isabelle suggested we try tracking drums and other instruments on the demo. In the fast paced session we blasted through 6 songs (including the ballad) and then took everything home to discover what we'd captured. 

After much reflection I decided the version we'd recorded was not the version I wanted to present to the world. Nothing wrong with any of the parts we'd tracks individually but the song didn't sound like our own yet. So over the xmas season Isabelle and I rehearsed it with just a piano to get the lyric into our heads and arrange the  song more to our liking. Then in January we started to create a new version from scratch, abandoning all the recording we'd done up to that point. 

I had the idea that we needed to minimize the arrangement so I started us with just a very simple pad sound that outlined the chord changes and we started tracking Isabelle's vocals on top of that. Then a few subtle beats started to appear and we sat back to ensure we enjoyed where we were headed. That basic core still holds the song together, as it is the opening sound and runs through out the mix. 

 However once I had digested the song for where it was at I could hear new ideas and parts and began adding, carefully, additional instruments. One of the first things we did was to add in a simple but distant sounding beat. There is a 2 track reel to reel in the studio so I printed a version through that machine to give it a more unique timbre. That done we started adding bass, but with each layer there was a moment when we'd consider if it was truly necessary and added to the whole production. 

I am a decent bassist and solid keyboard player but guitar has always been a challenge for me. However, having a studio to play with I knew I had to try something so set about adding an Andy Summers like part to the second verse and bridge and suddenly the whole song sounded fresh again. It was a personal achievement to find the part and sound of the guitar for the ballad. 

From there I could hear the build up in the mix wasn't happening with enough impact so I went back to the summer demo and reviewed the drum part that Jonas Fairly had done for us. Even though we'd tracked that version at 68 bpm and our new version was 69 I figured we could make it line up with some simple time compression: and it did! Layering in Jonas's drums over the looped pattern I had already placed into the song gave everything the punch and dynamics I was looking for. 

 As the mix was getting closer I could hear where we needed to sweeten up the vocals a bit so we tracked some double and triple vocals to the choruses to really widen and warm up the mix. Isabelle did a brilliant job nailing her parts and I spent more than a day going over my harmonies until I lined myself up with her and made the chorus parts stand out. It took several shots at it to get it right but we are both super pleased with how it's all turned out. 

Please have a listen to the ballad. We are very proud of it and would love to have the whole world hear it one day! 

 

Mark (and Isabelle)