Ottawa’s PepTides Find Strength In Diversity

Photo by Valerie Keeler

If you ask The PepTides’ keyboardist Scottie Irving what he feels has made the Ottawa-based group a force to be reckoned with over the last number of years, it is the band’s distinct lack of a de facto leader.

Just don’t believe the lack of a bandleader infers the nine-member group lacks direction.

“I think we’re evidence that harmony works,” Irving says. “The nine of us come from such varied ethnic backgrounds including English and French, black and white and in between, Ukrainian, Mexican, Guyanese, Cree, Acadian, Armenian and Scottish. We’ve got nine distinct personalities in the group, and have found the top-down leadership style doesn’t necessarily work for us.”

The five vocalists and four instrumentalists that make up The PepTides draw on influences including funk, electronic and disco, and have been described as sounding like “the B52’s crossed with The Manhattan Transfer and backed by Arcade Fire.”

The band has become somewhat renowned for its live performances, which feature soaring vocal harmonies, theatrical choreography, as well as colourful visuals. Lyrically, The PepTides’ songs juxtapose upbeat music with lyrics that comment on far-reaching themes like love, hate, revenge, sex, religion, and war. It’s not all doom and gloom in the group’s world, however: they also happen to tackle lighter fare such as getting ready for dates with their songs.

Somewhat ironically, the pop-infused PepTides of the present day are a vastly different group than that which member Claude Marquis founded 10 years ago.

“The PepTides originally began as a studio project in 2007 as a folk and acoustic-oriented act. The group’s sound morphed over time, and in 2010, the band released For Those Who Hate Human Interaction, and that’s where things started to get interesting,” Irving says.

The album, a concept record based on 25 things the group believed rang true for much of the population when it came to interacting with others, garnered a surprising amount of critical acclaim, given its original soft release.

The Ottawa Citizen proclaimed the album its record of the year. Show offers for performances prestigious city festivals soon followed. There was only one hitch: there was no band to put on stage.

“Nine of us originally came together explicitly for the purpose of playing the jazz festival show. That was supposed to be it,” Irving recalls. “But we ended up enjoying playing together so much, we decided to keep things moving forward.”

In 2013, The PepTides garnered national attention when the late Stuart McLean, host of CBC’s Vinyl Café, enlisted the group to create the soundtrack to Revenge of the Vinyl Café, a collection of songs curated by CBC Radio listeners. The group performed selections from the album live during the 20th anniversary recording of the show. A year later, the band released the full-length effort Love Question Mark.

The PepTides come to Moncton next Wednesday night in support of their self-titled EP, a collection of material that Irving says the group has re-worked to more closely resemble and represent the band as they are best appreciated – live.

“It was during a nine-day stopover in Toronto at the SummerWorks festival that we had so much time on our hands, we took a look back at the band’s studio output to date and realized that the way we performed some of the older material live wasn’t necessarily being properly represented on album,” Irving says. “The EP is our attempt to put the energy and enthusiasm of our live show into something people can bring home with them at the end of the night.”

What: The PepTides
When: Wednesday June 14, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton