• By: Keith Whittier

Westfest Preview: When Life Gives You Lemons Make Some Lemon Cash!

Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series is back! We'll provide a unique look at some of your favourite events.
We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on
the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. 

Your city! Your festivals!
Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

Photos courtesy of Lemon Cash

I get what you’re thinking. Lemon Cash, it sounds like something a group of friends make on a hot day from pouring some juicy sweet goodness right? Ah but these two brothers and their boyhood Barrhaven buds took inspiration from their lemonade stand and went on to form an indie rock band, one who's not looking to chill you out. Their goal? Bring the heat to one of the planet’s coldest capitals!

How? Well, let's talk about their toss it all into the blender and hit purify kinda' sound. They call it Groove Pop.

A Lemon Cash show is like dropping a quarter into an old jukebox, closing your eyes and hitting a button at random. Like a box of chocolate, folks, or a late night Trump tweet, you just never know what you’re going to get! The reason behind these karma karma karma chameleon’esq ch-ch-ch-changes is that everyone in the band brings something musically unique to the party. It’s like they each got invitations to a different bash but still managed to all show up at the same place.

The brothers Papineau (Leader singer, guitarist and keyboard player Cory and Jeff bopping out pulse pounding beats on the drums) bring the Nashville country style coated with the soothing sunset syrupy BeeGees or Eagles harmony. Yeah, it’s a peaceful, easy feeling.

Zack Robillard on base grew up listening to the super sounds of the 70’s with a sprinkling of classic 60’s rock.

Guitarist number two, Stefano Provenzano, not only has a kick ass name that would score ya’ huge points on Words With Friends but he grooves to indie pop and hip hop while the band’s third guitarist Jeff Armstrong encases it all in with some alt rock.

Oh yeah, and all of them sing!

Wondering what all of that has to sound like? Wonder no more as Lemon Cash takes the stage to slice through these weekend clouds with some sunshine for the soul songs on a Sunday night.

Ottawa Life got to tell the band before they bring the sizzle to Westfest how the name Lemon Cash just…

…evokes either thirst quenching lemonade stands or yellow money, both not bad images, really. What’s in the band name for ya’?

Jeff: Thanks! The band name dates back to our singer and drummer’s childhood. Growing up – (like most kids in the 90's) they had a lemonade stand and when each day was finished, they would count their money, their "lemon cash". So when it came time to pick a band name, our drummer, Jeff (JJ), immediately volunteered ‘Lemon Cash’ as a possible name.

Can you tell me a bit about the roots of the band and how you all got together?

Jeff: The current outfit of the band took a little while to come together, but the present lineup at the moment has been together now for 2 years. The two Jeff's were acquaintances from local gatherings and had talked about jamming someday but they somehow never connected. One day Jeff A (guitarist) walked into the Barley Mow where a young man was belting out "somebody that I used to know" by Gotye and asked "who is that guy singing?” He was listening to JJ’s brother, Cory. So the next day he reached out to JJ and said "hey I think I'd like to take you up on that offer to jam and do you anyone who can sing?"

Unsurprisingly JJ said "yes my brother is a terrific singer". That marked the official start of the band. Next we needed another guitarist. Luckily another local band named "Madison and Fifth" had just disbanded and Stefano Provenzano was looking to join a new outfit. We sent him an offer to join and we were very fortunate that he accepted. But we all know a band isn't a band without a bassist. This was definitely the hardest spot to fill, so when you find a good one, you best hold onto them. We had posted an ad on Kijiji and for 3 months we didn't find anyone that fit our sound. Fortunately, in the 3rd month, we found Zack from Fitzroy Harbour. Not only did he look the part, he could play and was willing to make the 45 min drive to practice, so we immediately saw the dedication. And there you have it – the roots of Lemon Cash.

Now, you started out as a cover band, right? What were some of your more well received covers and what went into choosing those particular cuts?

Cory: Yes, we did. Thinking back on the list of covers that we used to do, there is definitely one that stood out as a big crowd pleaser and that was “Twist & Shout” by The Beatles. That song never failed to get people out of their seats and dancing no matter who made up the crowd. It was always a hot request when we played. 

How did you evolve out of the cover band stage into creating originals?

Cory: This evolution happened organically. We always talked about potentially writing our own songs, but never really dedicated any of our practices to writing until one day we got together, warming up as usual, when Jeff started playing this little riff he had come up with. JJ started playing along on the drums and I started singing a melody of words made up on the spot that made no sense, but it sounded pretty damn good! We finished writing the entire song in that one practice session and were pleased with the final product. That’s when we decided there’s definitely more to this band than just playing covers.  

So, you come with the uniqueness of having everyone in the band able to sing. How do you find your different styles work to further your abilities?

Zack: I think what makes us ‘Lemon Cash’ is that every member contributes their unique style and abilities to our sound, and that kind of open-mindedness stems from our love for music in general.  We learn a lot from each other and find common ground in our passion when we create music as a group.  Everyone has a ‘voice’ in the creative process and I think we work really well together which helps to improve ourselves as musicians.

You cull from a pretty big range of influences from 60s/70s rock, Eagles like harmonies and even the BeeGees. So, how would you explain your style of music?

Stef: That’s kind of a funny question. Like you mention, we look up to so many influences and we each come from different backgrounds, which has resulted in a sound we like to call “Groove Pop”. Somehow most of our songs have a feel-good vibe with groovy guitar licks but half of the time it’s not even intentional, it just turns out that way.

As relative newcomers, how have you found coming up in the Ottawa music scene?

JJ: Ottawa could be a tough city to gain recognition from industry or label representatives. The music scene isn’t as strong here as it is in other cities. However, we love playing in Ottawa. We’ve played some amazing venues and collaborated with some super talented Ottawa bands. Even though it could be a challenge coming up in the Ottawa music scene, we take one step at a time and don’t take any opportunities that are given to us for granted. This city really does deserve some credit when it comes to talent because there is lots here in Ottawa.

Your website makes a pretty bold claim, that Lemon Cash is the “cold capital’s hottest band”. How do you heat this town up?

JJ: We have five guys who have an incredible passion for music and who make the best music we can. We constantly hear feedback from our fans about the excitement and entertainment we bring to our shows. We move around on stage, Cory engages the audience with his charismatic antics, Jeff brings a soulful yet intense play style, and Stef, Zack & JJ all feed off each other’s incredible energy. The train never stops at a Lemon Cash show!

We also want to add that our family and friends are incredibly supportive and are a huge reason as to why we heat this town up. They don’t miss a show and they help immensely by screaming down the house. We’re so blessed that we are able to write music that affects them the way we want it to. We could never do it without their love & support, and for that reason we are so grateful! WE LOVE YOU GUYS!

Last year you released your first EP. What were some of the discussions that went into what the first release would be like before you went into the studio?

Zack: We went into recording with our thoughts of achieving a similar sound to various bands (Kings of Leon, Young the Giant, the 1975; to name a few) who were a huge influence on us over the years.  However, we wanted to be different at the same time.  We wanted to keep that Rock edge but have a strong melodious 80s vibe for people to sing and dance to.

As a band who works so well live, how did you find working together in the studio?

JJ: Oh it’s always a blast in the studio! We always look forward to going up to Mississauga to see our Producer and great friend James Robertson (produced our EP) when we’re ready to record new material. James has a very simple process when it comes to recording, which allows us to get comfortable and let our creativity shine through. In the end, we always leave Mississauga very satisfied with what we’ve just recorded and we always get really excited from the day we get back ‘til the time James sends us the first mix of our song(s) to listen to.

It really seems like every track on that EP could be a cut for radio. There’s a lot of energy in those seven tracks. With other tracks in your repertoire, how did you decide what stayed and what went?

JJ: That’s awesome, we’re glad to hear that you think so! As a band we really want to write songs that could very much be heard on radio. A huge goal for us is to get into a steady rotation on at least 1 radio station, and if we end up being played on more, that’s even better! Our basic mind set when we write music centers around how the crowd will react. We create this high-energy vibe because we want people to move and dance. The greatest high comes from seeing people respond to our music the way we envisioned when creating it. With all of our influences blending together we try to keep the songs that have some significance with the music you hear today. Music continually changes and we try to keep that in mind when writing. That doesn`t mean that our sound will constantly change, we try to keep our roots, but we also try to experiment a little and add things that will catch the listeners ear.

It’s been a year since that dropped. What’s changed for Lemon Cash?

JJ: We can`t believe that it`s already been a year! A lot has happened with the band over the course of that year. We were granted a lot of exposure opportunities and we played many shows that allowed us to reach out to new listeners. It is a great feeling when people you`ve never met before write to us or come up to us and rave about our sound. As a band, we cherish those moments the most. We like to think we`ve changed in a positive way. We`ve gained a lot of experience in our live performance; became a lot more comfortable on stage and in front of a crowd and just grown as musicians in general. The beauty of being a musician is that you are never perfect, you continue to improve yourself with so many different aspects. We hope that we will continue to grow together and that our opportunities will continue to grow as well.

So, you’re about to headline WestFest. How did it feel to be asked to close arguably the biggest community festival in town of local music?

Cory: We’re extremely honoured to have been given this unbelievable opportunity. We had an early evening Sunday slot to play last year, but unfortunately the day was canceled due to lightning, so for Elaina to not only give us another slot this year, but to give us a headlining slot is just incredible and shows what a sweetheart she really is.

Can you lay on me anything you have planned for the show?

Cory: Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what we have planned, because I don’t want to give it away, but I will tell you that we will be doing something we’ve never done before in previous shows.

Looking ahead, where do you see Lemon Cash going next?

Cory: The main goal we want to achieve with Lemon Cash is to be able to quit our day jobs and earn a living playing music. We already knew this, but we really experienced firsthand, these past couple years, that it’s very difficult to make this dream a reality, so we’re just going to continue to write, record and release new music as well as play as many shows as we can to get the Lemon Cash name out there.