This week Ottawa hosts the Junos for the first time since 2003. Xtra’s Shannon Webb-Campbell chats with two gay Canadians up for the country’s top musical prize.
Toronto’s Dinah Thorpe has asked designer Susan Harris to dress her for a strut down the Juno red carpet. Her album, 12, is nominated for Recording Package of the Year.
“I think it is an interesting time to be nominated in the album art category,” says Thorpe. “While many music industry people are forecasting the downfall of the album, there is a simultaneous resurgence in album culture, and in appreciation for records, tapes and CDs — music that takes up space.”
Thorpe’s album artwork is a queer take on a 1950s pin-up calendar. Designed and photographed by Jayme Spinks, the artwork is both a nod and a middle finger to the calendar girl.
“It plays with time and gender and explores the issues of being on display, something that haunts a lot of performing musicians, including me,” Thorpe says. “Jayme’s last-minute stroke of genius was to design the CD so it looks like the hankie in my pocket. So, if you take home the album, you can not only look at me, you can get in my pants.”
Spinks and Thorpe met on the basketball court, where Spinks is a foot shorter than the statuesque songwriter. They collaborated on the design with Thorpe’s partner, Zoe Newman, with imaging by Paul Jerinkitsch and printing by Standard Form.
“Dinah’s sound and content is a bit of a mashup,” Spinks says. “So with a 1950s pin-up calendar as a starting point, I tweaked imagery to better suit her style — provocative pose in one-piece overalls instead of tiny cutoffs, washing her bicycle instead of a hotrod. Playing with gender and stereotypes was a fun challenge and suited her music and personality quite well.”
It’s no surprise Diamond Rings is nominated for New Artist of the Year. Even Le Tigre’s original riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna believes Diamond Rings is “life-affirming, inspirational.”
John O’Regan, who performs under the alias Diamond Rings, is as sparkly as his name suggests.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to be recognized for my efforts, but at the end of the day, I’d rather be writing and performing for my fans than polishing my trophies,” O’Regan says.
Past New Artist recipients include Meaghan Smith, Drake, Lights, Serena Ryder, Feist, Michael Bublé and Avril Lavigne. This year Diamond Rings is up against Alyssa Reid, Dan Mangan, JRDN and Lindi Ortega.
“It’s called a surprise,” says O’Regan of his Juno outfit.
O’Regan has come a long way from a suburban blue-collar upbringing in Oshawa. He’s gained a reputation as an experimental artist and become a poster-boy for queer art rock.
“My sexuality is one facet of the totality of my being,” he says, noting that groups such as Talking Heads and Devo inspire him. “My art always aims to express that totality.”