The Bicycle Gang recently had a chance to chat with JR Stanley, artist and lead in the band Queen Cities. Find out JR’s History, his tips for the Apocalypse, and who designed the Wonderland Arcade Sign! JR and Queen Cities will be performing this Saturday –January 30 at the German Club. Their new album “Electric Carousel” is slated to be released later next month, but you can listen to the title track here. Check out Queen Cities Facebook page for band info, and find information about JR’s work here.
BG: Why the name Queen Cities?
JR: From 1999 – 2004 I was the lead singer/guitarist of Regina’s To the Point where we put out five EPs and did a number of cross-Canada and western Canada tours. In 2005 I moved to Toronto and formed my next five-piece project called “Downsview” where I fronted the band as lead singer. It was interesting to play the stage without a guitar, and I could concentrate on singing. Downsview toured Ontario/Quebec and put out the EP “Into the Rabbit Hole”, and the members parted ways 5 years later. At that point I needed to take a break from band projects. I took some time to play solo acoustic shows and explore different genres of writing. Queen Cities isn’t limited to a set group of musicians but anyone who wants to be involved. Since I learned so much as an artist in Toronto and Regina (both having the nickname Queen City) I decided I wanted to put Queen City in the name. I asked a friend what she thought of “Queen City Stars” or “Queen City Voices”, she suggested simply “Queen Cities.”
BG: Tell us the “History” of JR Stanley?
JR: In five words: Wham!, arcades, sports, Green Day (or) Mary Poppins, Nintendo, piano, Michael Jackson.
BG: How does your art influence your music and vice versa?
JR: My paintings and cartoons don’t influence the music. It’s what I do when I’m taking a break from practicing guitar or piano. I almost always do visual art in silence. If anything, music influences the pixel art. The music in video games heavily influenced me. I didn’t really realize how much it influenced me until I was an adult looking back at all the amazing game sound tracks from NES and SNES.
The patience and pattern recognition needed to play an eight-bit game is great. It wasn’t about the eight-bit but about achieving, and dedicating yourself to a goal. You deserved mad props for finishing some of these games. One mistake could send you to the start of the game, not just the start of the level and using those controllers could send you running off a cliff. I’d press the button while frantically motioning my body and the controller over the gap. Throwing down my controller (as anyone does) I quit out of protest… But the next day- I would turn on that title screen music.
The cartridges worked instantly and the music writing was amazing. I realized most of the games I loved to play over and over had great music writing. They had catchy melodies, walking bass lines, and good rhythm. The music was written to repeat in a loop but never get boring. I remember playing a game to a certain level just so I could listen to the music while I cleaned my room. Specifically the map music to World 4 SMB3 and pretty much any Mega Man level music. My all time favourite I think is SNES Power Rangers sound track. Check it out. Thank you for reminding me. I’m putting that on in the back ground for the rest of this interview!
Playing through a level without dying was like playing through a song without screwing up. This took great mental-strength and determination: Knowing you’re going to fail. Trying again. Being okay with trying again. And getting to the end. Finishing an entire game is winning The Grey Cup. And finishing the game again without using “continues” is like winning The Grey Cup at home. And finishing a game without dying was like winning The Grey Cup at home, undefeated! When I was a kid I was a natural fan of sports and the Riders. I consider sport an art form as well.
BG: Tell us about “Electric Carousel”?
JR: I contacted Jason Pierce to produce Electric Carousel during his break from touring with Paramore and joining Our Lady Peace. We were lucky to get his friend Dave Baksh, aka “Brown Sound” formerly Sum 41 to take part in the recording process. A number of other singers and musicians are involved with the creating of Electric Carousel, such as other guest guitarists and vocal duets. Electric Carousel, the title track of the album, represents the comeback of the record player and vinyl into the mainstream; Electric Carousel the album is my comeback into the music scene after half a decade.
BG: Who would you ‘love’ to tour with?
JR: Foo Fighters come to mind first. I love Dave Grohls music. He writes both soft acoustic and heavy rock very well.
BG: What are you most proud of in life? And it can be anything!
JR: Two things: 1. The sign I made for Wonderland Arcade. It’s pretty much the coolest thing anyone has ever seen. And 2. The Music video for Electric Carousel. I did everything from directing, to set design, casting, and film crew. I couldn’t have done it without Loren Sancartier. She played bass in the video but also was a massive help filming the garage scenes with child actor Addison Born. Also my good friend Gar Wan Toy from A & C Games Toronto let us film the performance sequence in his video game store and helped set up the stage with arcades and lights. My friend Chihiro Nagamatsu played keys in the video – check her stuff out. If you’re ever in Toronto go to A & C Games.
BG: What would you prefer- money or fame?
JR: I hate crowds. I’ll take the money.
BG: If you could re-design/design one piece of art in our queen city, what would it be?
JR: I pitched the idea to open Wonderland Mini Golf where I would design video game themed golf courses. I already have the Sonic The Hedge Hog Course and Legend of Zelda course sketched out. We will need to start a Kick Starter to get it done. Stay tuned for that!
BG: Can someone be an artist and a musician?
JR: A musician is an artist. If you mean painter and musician, then No. Only I can do that.
BG: The Apocalypse is imminent – what would be the line-up of your final show?
JR: Colbie Caillat, Taylor Swift, Colin James, Collective Soul, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters.
BG: What is your favorite thing about Regina- People, Place or Feeling?
JR: Well all those three things kind of go hand in hand, but I’d start with place. Start at Stones Throw for a coffee & breakwich, then bike along Wascana to Water Fowl, down to Wonderland, then over to Italian Star Deli for grape pop & legendary deli-feta sandwich. If it’s not windy, take the trails to Optimist Park for baseball or frisbee… Or frisbee baseball. Winter time play my Super Mario levels I made on the Wii-U. User name KuriboARTS