On Stage: Canadian band with Chester County connection makes Philadelphia debut tonight

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Common Deer

If Common Deer, a Canadian indie rock band from Ontario, wanted to add a fitting cover song to its repertoire, it could choose a song that was an international hit long before any of the band members were born.

That song would be Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” which topped the charts in 1979.

Common Deer, which headlines a show on April 18 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com), formed while still at college, centered around the harmonies of Graham McLaughlin (guitar, violin) and Sheila Hart (keyboards), with Sheila’s brother Adam Hart (guitar, cello, synths), and brothers Liam Farrell (drums) and Connor Farrell (bass).

“We formed with the five of us in late 2014,” said Sheila Hart, during a phone interview Tuesday. “The band has a few previous incarnations. Adam, Liam and Graham are the core. Connor and I joined later.”

The all-Canadian band may have its roots in Ontario but it also has a strong Chester County connection.

“Both of the Farrell brothers lived in West Chester for a while when they were younger,” said Hart. “Connor was a student at Stetson Middle School. Liam also went to Stetson and then went to Henderson for two years of high school.

“After that, they and their family moved back to Guelph. But, they still have good memories of places like Fairman’s skate shop, the Mad Platter and Taylor’s Music.”

Back in Canada, they made the connections that led to being part of Common Deer.

Common Deer began in 2013 with McLaughlin, drummer Liam Farrell and multi-instrumentalist Adam Hart, who met while backing up a folk singer in Guelph, the Ontario city where most of them were attending university. Liam brought in his brother Connor to solidify the rhythm section, while Adam called on his sister, Sheila, to harmonize with Graham and add her own keyboards, lead vocals and her own songs.

“We were gigging around Toronto for almost two years,” said McLaughlin. “We had 15 songs we had written together. We whittled it down to five and made ‘I,’ our first EP.

“That EP represents the early days. It was a long process that lasted throughout 2017. We released the EP independently in 2017. We had Laurence Currie as the producer.”

Hart said, “It was an incredible experience. Laurence had recorded a lot of bands we liked – bands that had a big sound. So, our manager suggested him. He knew Laurence would be a producer and a trainer.”

According to Currie, one of Canada’s top-rated producer, “As a producer, you are totally responsible for whatever you are hired to ‘produce’ –a song, LP, or EP — and all that entails. On any given session you may have to be an arranger, accountant, manager, psychiatrist, musician, sociologist, engineer, promoter, agent, etc…

“You end up wearing a lot of hats. The main ‘jobs’ tend to be — work on the song arrangements, hire the studios, hire engineers, hire session players, hire technical crews, pick the songs, quality control, make sure the record is made on time and on budget, along with keeping both the artists’ and the record companies’ vision of the record intact.”

Common Deer’s new EP, simply titled “II,” came together much more quickly.

“The second EP was written in a shorter period of time,” said McLaughlin. “We were more comfortable in a sonic place. We recorded ‘II’ in the early part of 2017. We cut it in Toronto and Brooklyn.

Most of the songs were recorded in Toronto with Gus Van Go (Arkells, Whitehorse) over two weeks and effectively balanced the energy of the band’s live shows with electronic percussion, layered strings, and an increased synth presence.

“We switched to Gus Van Go because we knew the work he did,” said McLaughlin. “We listened to a bunch of new artists and his name kept coming up. This record has more punchy sound.

“Our music has evolved from the first EP to the new one. ‘II’ is funkier and has a lot more synths. Lyrically, we’re getting more honest. We’re more vulnerable with the writing.”

Now, Common Deer is in the middle of its first tour of the United States – and its first visit to Philadelphia.

“This will be our first time to play Philly and we’re really looking forward to it,” said McLaughlin. “We’re all excited – especially Connor and Liam.”

Video link for Common Deer – https://youtu.be/S6oM9ICxMZ0.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Lizdelise and Cold Weather Company as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

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