Ohbijou Swift Feet for Troubling Times

Ohbijou Swift Feet for Troubling Times
Dig beneath the surface of the flourishing music scene in Toronto and you’re as likely to find emigrants from Brantford and Oshawa as you are to find homegrown Torontonians. Ohbijou’s debut record can be read as an allegory of the small-towner as she ventures forth into the big, bad city: the "vampire teeth” that await her in foreboding nursery-rhyme, "The Woods”; her ability to captivate hungry wolves with song just like "St. Francis”; grisly imaginings of her demise on the streets of Parkdale in "To Rest In Peace On Righteous Tides.” The melancholy fixations of songwriter Casey Mecija, who began Ohbijou as a bedroom project while still in high school in Brantford, contrast starkly with the undeniable prettiness of the music; delicate sounds of ukulele and banjo set against a backdrop of strings and bells and the harmonies of her sister Jenny. Backed by a full band that includes cellist Anissa Hart, drummer/trumpet player Jamie Bunton and We’re Marching On’s Ryan Carley on keyboards, Ohbijou’s striking but spare orchestral arrangements set them noticeably apart from other recent arrivals.

What was the musical environment at home like?
Casey Mecija: My older sister — there are three sisters in the family — was a classically trained pianist, and that’s what motivated my parents to put us in music lessons. I wasn’t as driven as my parents would have liked.

Though based in Toronto, you maintain a connection to Brantford.
Jenny Mecija: Casey and I can’t even visit the house we grew up in because we get really emotional — they tore down the trees my dad planted. It’s nice having the Ford Plant there because it gives us reason to go back. Casey: Brantford is a weird relic because I grew up with a lot of the people who are still there. Seeing how they shaped the community in a way that I would have loved is inspiring: I credit Tim Ford and the Ford Plant volunteers for keeping that city bustling.

Do you see the influence of Brantford elsewhere?
Casey: There are imprints of the city in different places: Toronto, Guelph and elsewhere. Everyone who is a musician now kind of blossomed outside Brantford. Jenny: Randy Lee — who plays in the Bicycles — was from our Suzuki "family.” Now he’ll ask us to play strings in the Bicycles and I’m like, "But I looked up to you when I was younger!” (Independent)