Half a decade ago, Katie Biever was writing melodies and singing and touring with Jakalope, a Vancouver band that found reasonable success in Canada. All good things come to an end, though, and in 2007, Biever left the band, Jakalope found a new front woman, and the songwriter disappeared to her bedroom to write, record and rediscover herself. The result, a solo debut entitled High Standards, is as different from Jakalope’s sound as one can get. Biever has traded her industrial anthems for an acoustic guitar, folk-pop melodies and simplistic, stripped-down vocal work. In addition, Biever has rechristened herself Katie Rox to match the revamped musical direction.
“The album itself centres a lot around being independent,” says Biever. “That wasn’t a conscious decision, but it’s there, as not all of those songs were written after my departure from [Jakalope]. To me, the theme here is simplicity, something stripped down and sincere. It felt like I was putting myself, and my heart, on a platter.” Recorded at home last fall, High Standards is a simple, folksy affair free from the intricate production techniques, overdubbing and meticulous tracking prominent in Jakalope’s recorded work. Instead, Biever lets silence play as much of a role as sound. It creates a whimsical, relaxed listen, one more akin to Nova Scotia’s Ruth Minnikin than anything involving Jakalope mastermind and industrial legend Dave Ogilvie.
“It was a truly intimate experience,” explains Rox, “as it was recorded in my closet, using GarageBand, from mid-September to December 2007. It was a personal goal of mine to record it on my own. I wanted to push myself creatively. I put the pressure on myself to deliver something solid. I didn’t have anyone to rely on to fill in the blanks. It was rewarding, but I faced a lot of challenges. It’s not easy doing it on your own, especially when you are used to the technologies of a recording studio. There were times when I seriously considered calling in some favours, but I made the deal with myself to do it this way for this album, so I stuck with that.”
Biever is releasing the album independently (note the theme here), and touring solo in support of it, a choice that will only help her songs. Mixing in too much instrumentation would muddy the waters, as it Biever’s enchanting vocals that provide the musical clarity.
“I didn’t mess too much with the original versions of the songs that I wrote, nor did I think too much about it,” she explains. “It is not a calculated record, not in any sense, but it’s an emotional record. Essentially, this is a collection of songs that I feel good about sharing — a way of reintroducing myself.
“It is true that what I am doing now is a complete 180 from what I was doing in Jakalope,” she continutes. “I wrote the lyrics and melodies on the Jakalope material, but that music was darker and more complex in rhythms [and] electronics. I worked as a songwriter to keep that essence and to complement the instrumentation while always adding my own flavour. What I am doing now, it's lighter and more simplistic, and everything — the performance, lyrics and attitude towards these songs — reflects that as well.”
With a fresh outlook and a guitar in hand, Rox will cross Canada alongside Vancouver roots rockers The Matinee out West and Leslie Pike out East, and she could not be more excited. “I feel I opened a window,” she says, “and life is out there for the taking.”