Published Oct 16, 2019Sometimes it only takes a "pocket of songs" and a little bit of trust for a project to get off the ground. For Emilee Sorrey, the Cape Breton, NS-raised, Charlottetown, P.E.I.-residing musician and bandleader for the group performing under her last name, the idea of forming a band to play her bedroom-pop pieces took some encouragement.
It was when Emilee Sorrey took a few songs to Colin Buchanan, of East Coast institution Paper Lions, that Sorrey went from a mere surname to a band and sound all their own. "I had done all the bed tracks myself on Garageband and was just recording the vocals," Sorrey tells Exclaim! "It was [Buchanan] that planted the idea that it could be more than a solo project. Not only would he be willing to contribute creatively and play the songs live, but he also had a good idea of a group we could get together." The result was 2015's Thick as Thieves, an immersive dream-pop EP that brought Sorrey attention far from their beloved home of Charlottetown.
Now, with a sonic backbone of acclaimed East Coast musicians — including Bruce Rooney (of Coyote), Luke Pound (drummer for Dylan Menzie), and Andrew Murray — Sorrey are introducing their debut full-length In Full Bloom. A lush collection of synth-pop hooks and heartfelt lyrics, Emilee Sorrey attributes the "uplifting themes and sounds" of the new release to the group of contributors she brought on board.
"Bedroom pop often does get a little introspective," she explains, "but when you bring other bandmates in and they start contributing creatively, you have to allow the topics to open up a bit and lean into what they're leaning into." This openness is evident on tracks like the titular "In Bloom," which features the uplifting line "in time you'll have a garden to breathe in."
The optimism of In Full Bloom stems from acceptance of the past — especially of past relationships. Sorrey dubs it a "personal journey from start to finish," in which each song serves as a time capsule for a particular moment in her life. The moment of moving on from a romantic relationship is evident in "Talking to Them," for instance, and "Signs" examines the serendipity of new bonds.
In addition to inspiring a new, forward-facing sound, Sorrey is proud of the sonic flourishes of her musical collaborators on this album. Montreal-based musician (and former Sorrey member) Willow Bell (aka Whaleskin) played keys on a couple of tracks, including "Fast Chunk," one of the dreamiest and punchiest cuts on In Full Bloom. "If you listen to the album front to back," Sorrey notes, "you could notice the depth of those keys and the wackiness of them — that is totally a Willow flair."
Extending beyond her collaborators on In Full Bloom, Sorrey has been able to grow thanks to one iconic Canadian band in particular: Tokyo Police Club. When the group were planning an East coast tour in support of 2018's TPC, they contacted Sorrey personally and asked the band to join them on the road.
"It was really cool that they chose an East coast band," Sorrey says, especially the fact that "they looked to the smallest of the East coast provinces and brought us along for the whole run." The connections between them have blossomed further, since Tokyo Police Club drummer Greg Alsop moved to Charlottetown and started a regular songwriter's meet-up. "You share what you've been writing — it's a bit of a critique group," Sorrey explains. "It's blossoming into a great friendship based on songwriting and music."
The interconnectedness fostered by these meet-ups is a staple of the East coast, according to Sorrey, but she also worries that the coast gets pigeonholed for its "trad and folk" music alone. "If you take a step back, there is a burgeoning pop scene and a huge DIY scene in every province." Her group is clear evidence that the coast can foster indie pop as much as it can a fiddle group.
When asked how she is celebrating the release of In Full Bloom, Sorrey is immediately excited. "We're going to have a big party with a giant sheet cake," she says, made up to look like the magnificently floral album cover, which the band will enjoy after playing a local show. It's a fitting centrepiece for a project — and an album — that is sweet, celebratory and at its best when people come together.
In Full Bloom is out October 18 on Garment District Records.