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Common Holly takes an uncommon approach at Sled Island

By Jason Herring, June 23, 2017 —

Montreal singer-songwriter Common Holly will play her first Calgary show at this year’s Sled Island festival. The band is the project of Brigitte Naggar, who will bring her self-described “dark folk” to the recently reopened King Eddy hotel on June 24.

Naggar released her debut album, Playing House, last year. The album features subdued acoustic arrangements that thrive on emotional vulnerability with bursts of percussion and electric guitar packing an extra punch. Naggar says she wants her music to have a darker undercurrent than traditional folk.

“It think has some folk elements, in the sense that it’s singer-songwriter music, with guitar and voice. Often there’s some kind of narrative and storytelling and it’s very confessional,” she says. “But I do also think it has a bit of a dark rock edge to it. It pushes some more distorted boundaries and there’s a lot of dissonance. I like that kind of stuff.”

After releasing her first album, Naggar’s biggest challenge was crafting live compositions of her songs — often for solo shows — while staying true to the album arrangements. She uses guitar pedals to create droning backdrops and distorted melodies when playing live.

“The main thing was, once [the album] was out, sorting out the live show and figuring out how to interpret it appropriately and deliver it in a way that’s not disappointing or completely different,” Naggar says. “I do think live performances bring something different but it’s still respectful to the album.”

While sincerity is a defining quality of Naggar’s songwriting, she says that she tries not to take herself too seriously on every track.

“For example, there’s a song on [Playing House] called “Nothing,” and it’s quite sassy, but could also be taken as quite sincere,” she says. “It’s basically about me apologizing about consistently hurting someone, but in a way asking them to expect less of me. I think the self-deprecating thing is definitely in there as a strand of my music.”

A second Common Holly album is on the way, with recording scheduled for fall and a release slated for late winter. Naggar says she’s in the process of narrowing down songs for the album — some of which she’ll play at her Sled Island show.

“I’ll be performing a bunch of new stuff on Saturday. And I’m premiering my new beautiful white telecaster, so I think it should be a pretty good show,” she says. “I’m also playing before and after some pretty amazing acts in an incredible space.”

Naggar is sharing the bill with some indie heavyweights, opening for Montreal alt-rock icons Land of Talk and Half Waif, a side project of emo band Pinegrove.

Common Holly performs at 10:30 p.m. at the King Eddy. Pre-sale tickets for the show are sold out, but Sled Island passholders can access the show subject to capacity. Common Holly’s music is available on Bandcamp.

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