The History So far…

about_top_1In an era where music seems to be stuck in two extremes – either too reliant on technological assistance or too much of a tribute to days gone by that it becomes caricature – Windsor, Ontario’s James OL & The Villains shows that it is still possible to organically blend the music that moved so many previous generations into something that remains relevant and progressive.
Shedding gimmick and MTV aspiration, James OL & The Villains creates music at its purest level. As a voice of curiosity as well as alarm, as enjoyable to perform as it is to envelop. The spark is created in the songwriting of James Oltean-Lepp, whose early work created the foundation upon which the rest of the Villains would add their distinctive layers to create a sound that feels fireworks in Algonquin.
Since their inception, they have matured, both musically and personally, evolving a sound that tells different stories, but through a familiar narrative. The debut EP, The History of Sex (2008) first introduced the world to James OL’s words and music, as he quietly assembled the backing band that would become The Villains – guest performances by What Seas What Shores’ drummer Caleb Farrugia, additional guitar by Orphan Choir’s Boh Pidskalny and backing vocals by Andrea Stratton, all of whom became staple members of The Villains (although Stratton left the group in 2013). This new found electric energy was akin to the folk side of Neil Young colliding with the eclectic stomp of Crazy Horse, instigating a whole new level of creativity in James OL.
The result was 2010’s jam album, Live in the Colch!, recorded live in Colchester, Ontario, a small rural town just outside the concrete confines of Windsor. Adding bassist Kyle Lefaive and his brother, Steven Oltean-Lepp, on guitar, complimented the three hold over guests from his debut EP. Extended jams of live favourites showcased the synergetic chemistry that had embraced the five musicians, giving a taste of what a growing crowd across Canada was discovering. This band knew their craft. Simple songs on record could become 10-minute jams that never lost its groove or sincerity. They became Director’s Cut versions, adding in scenes and soundscapes that where clearly designed for those in the same room, not for those distanced by headphones or speakers. It uncovered other influences, such as the raw despair of Pavement, the lo-fi feedback of Dinosaur Jr., and the whiskey soak twang of The Sadies. Subsequent touring that took them from Windsor straight through Eastern Canada to Halifax, Nova Scotia, only tightened the band’s connection and resolve.
Their live shows resulted in sharing the stage with such diverse yet respected Canadian indie veterans as Elliott Brood, Daniel Romano, Rah Rah, By Divine Right, Brasstronaut, Rural Alberta Advantage, Wild Domestic, The Wooden Sky, Shotgun Jimmie, Jon McKeil, and Teenage Kicks. They played shows from Detroit’s Magic Stick to Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern, from Kingston’s Mansion to Gus’ Pub in Halifax, with stops in Montreal, Quebec City, Cape Breton, and many more, James OL and The Villains honed their sound in tight four wheeled quarters. They became familiar faces on the festival circuit, playing almost annually at Windsor’s prestigious Phog Phest (thrown by CBC Radio Searchlight Winner Phog Lounge, Voted Best Live Music Venue in Canada, 2009) and the inter-arts event Harvesting The FAM Festival, as well as other festivals such as Owen Sound’s Lupercalia Winter Art & Culture Festival and a showcase at the 2012 edition of North By Northeast (NXNE).
Following several years of touring, James OL withdrew from his community and re-inserted himself into travel, backpacking throughout Central America. His encounters with the places and people of Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica recharged his creative batteries, resulting in the material for 2013’s For The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched The Sky, once again released under his name only. The EP was released as the entire band put the finishing touches on 2014’s impending full length release, On The Bands of the Detroit River. With extensive touring planned following it’s release, it’s time the rest of the country discovered what a community of national neighbours have already encountered – the rural soul of James OL & The Villains.