Square Root of Margaret screams in library-voices
Completely incognito — Four-fifths of Ontario’s Square Root of Margaret find the perfect way to avoid unwelcome attention
The party house. Every old neighbourhood has one. Skateboard ramp ascending the front porch, flags instead of curtains, anatomically correct garden gnomes strutting their stuff in an overgrown yard. For the southern Ontario town of Chatham, a.k.a. The Maple City, that particular residence was known as The Briscotech. Its requisite resident house band — Square Root of Margaret.
“There was lots of LSD going on at the time,” explains keyboardist Jason 33 1/3. “The guys chose the band’s name by going into a room in The Briscotech that was known as the library. They began randomly opening books and pointing to words. The idea was to find a combination of words with no linear meaning. You could call it a surrealist statement. Other names that came up were Big Daddy Carnie and the Thumbsaws, and Bloated Policewoman.”
Thankfully that one didn’t stick. Collaborating and creating infectiously good music in a non-linear fashion, Jason and guitarist Po Kadot, along with the house’s namesake rhythm guitarist Joshua Brisco, bassist Easy Reissner and drummer Todd Clark, have amassed an impressive body of work since the band’s inception. From their mind-bending early Outer Space(s) and Casual Man-Slayer EPs to their more recent LPs, Levitation Days and Cloud Nine Revisited, Margaret have displayed an uncanny knack for combining harmony and whimsy. Self-proclaimed “soldiers of misfortune,” the group has weathered an unfortunate era marked by venue closures, studio fires and a record label that crumbled, taking one of their best releases, the brilliant yet ill-fated Endless Rotation, with it.
“The history of this band goes back to the beginning of time,” explains Jason, a two-year veteran of the long running troupe. “Po Kadot started the band as an instrumental trio back in high school. I know the term ‘musical genius’ gets bandied about a lot, but he honestly is one. He can literally pick up any instrument and moments later he’s working on a melody. We recorded one of our early songs, “Crisis in Space,” within 10 to 15 minutes of Po picking up an autoharp for the first time. Funnily enough, our guitarist, Joshua, lived in The Briscotech, too, and taught himself to play his instrument by listening to (the band) jamming out in his basement. One day he just came downstairs and asked to join.”
Rotating on an axis of unbridled musical talent and unexpectedly auspicious coincidences, Square Root of Margaret continue to pursue the ideal of creating genuinely unique and enjoyable music that is at the same time deeply personal and widely accessible.
“We exist in our own world, one we have created out of cultural necessity. The Briscotech is gone, but our new residence, The House of Bleen, continues to be a communal existence, ” Jason elaborates.
“For a while there, Square Root of Margaret had stopped playing live and focused on making music. It wasn’t long before Po had accumulated over 100 songs. We selected 13 to make up the new album Teragram Photeur. Having our own recording and rehearsal space in-house has influenced the sound and feel of our albums. An interesting pattern developed where Po would wake up, go downstairs and record music inspired by his dreams. We consider ourselves thoughtful individuals and we believe that, within reason, we can do anything. As long as we have warmth, food and shelter and it doesn’t hurt anyone, we intend to customize our existence to suit our needs and perceptions. We like to mix and match concepts in our songs; they’re whimsical, abstract and only limited by our imaginations.”
Published September 6, 2007 by Christine Leonard