Oh, bijou!

Sweet and sassy sisters come back to town

Casey Mecija and her sister Jennifer make up the heart of Ohbijou, a family-like musical collective based in Toronto.
Casey Mecija and her sister Jennifer make up the heart of Ohbijou, a family-like musical collective based in Toronto.

Ohbijou—you know, the band with the funny name—released the album Swift Feet For Troubling Times in 2006 to much critical praise. They went on tour, played sold out shows and sold over 5,000 copies of their independent release. But all of that was almost three years ago. So, the question on many fans’ lips is, “When will Ohbijou release a new album?”

Fortunately, frontwoman Casey Mecija has an answer, a title and a timeline.

“Our new album will be out in March 2009 sometime,” she said.

“Our first album was a little bit more quieter. This one is a little bit more louder, it’s also a little more happy and lifted. It’s called Beacons.”

So there you have it. Fans will have to wait a few more months. But let’s give them a break—it’s no easy feat touring, recording and selling records without the help of a record label.

“We’re all working. We maintain full time and part time jobs. I work at MuchMusic as a production assistant. I got to meet Pink the other day,” Mecija said with a laugh.

MuchMusic seems like the last place a member of a beloved independent band would work, but for Mecija it’s another opportunity to learn about the music industry.

“There are so many ways in which the two industries are similar and so many ways that they are different. They are detailed and motivated by entirely different forces. But that’s cool. I get to see how Pink’s musical machine works and how it would never work for us.” Certainly, Mecija’s own experience and approach to music is a bit of a different story than the MuchMusic rotation stars she works with.

Mecija began to play live shows as a solo act, but when she realized playing solo was too lonesome she invited her sister Jennifer Mecija to sing back-up vocals and to play violin and organ. It wasn’t long before this twosome grew to a much larger “family” as Casey Mecija lovingly refers to the rest of the collective. This family includes Ryan Carly on keys and percussion, Jamie Bunton on drums and horns, Heather Kirby on bass to and banjo and Anissa Hart on cello. Perhaps it’s her humble Brantford roots or maybe it’s her “family,” but Mecija said she doesn’t see herself signing to a label anytime soon.

“There is a temptation to sign. It is hard to function as a band without a label. But we’ve done it. It’s nice to know that we can function like a well oiled machine,” Mecija said.

“We enjoy the independence. At some point we might get a label and maybe we won’t.” With or without a label, Ohbijou are doing just fine. Last spring, the group was selected to partake in the first ever ‘indie residency’ at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta.

“We went to Banff last March. It’s this amazing arts centre. They were launching the ‘indie residency,’” Mecija said. “We were there for two weeks and we had two producers. We were held up in a cottage together. It was great. We were excited about recording in different spaces.”

The rest of the album was recorded in various basements and houses, spaces the band is used to working in. Ohbjiou is careful not to get stuck in a musical rut though, and along with recording in new spaces the band also enjoys collaborating with other musicians: The Acorn, Kids on TV and Kingston’s own Nich Worby, to name just a few.

“It’s important because you get stuck in your own way of making music,” Mecija said.

“Collaborating is a good way of getting more creative, finding new ways of making music.” The band’s spirit of sharing isn’t restricted to just music. Mecija, along with James Bunton, helped to release a compilation called Friends of Bellwood. “Bellwoods” is the moniker given to the set of houses in which two of the band members live. Bellwoods’ basement has been host to dozens of other musicians aside from the Ohbijou members. Defined as a “digital diary of the house,” Friends of Bellwoods has made over $10,500 with all of the proceeds going to the Daily Bread Food Bank of Toronto.

If any of these anecdotes have made you fall in love with Ohbijou a little bit more and you also happen to have room for six in your home, they would love to stay with you.

A polite plea follows under the heading “Accommodations” on the band’s website: “We are preparing to go on tour in the next couple weeks and perhaps we’ll be stopping in your neighborhood...if you have any recommendations as to where to stay or even have space in your home to house 6 polite and ever grateful musicians then please feel free to message us. We love meeting new people and would deeply appreciate any leads.”

“It isn’t something we do all the time. We’ve never been to the States before and don’t really know where to stay. Being a band, we need to save money because we don’t have any,” Mejica said, quickly adding, “We also do really love meeting new people.”

Ohbijou play with The Acorn at the Grad Club Oct. 4.

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