Originally from Ontario, Vancouver-based, non-binary, indigenous blues rocker and lyricist Kandy Roar (aka Karly Palmer) released their debut single, “Blue Collar Classification,” over Vancouver Pride weekend.
A track dedicated to the working class, with a new message and an old sound, that works to break the stigma surrounding mental health and classism.
“Blue Collar Classification” is from their upcoming album Demon Blues, out this October, funded partly by FACTOR, the Government of Canada, and Canada’s private radio broadcasters.
The track features Kandy Roar’s signature raw, gritty vocals that aren’t overproduced. In place of perfectionism, you hear the truth and emotion tied to every word. Kandy Roar taps into a sharp, cutting, guttural sound that informs you their music is cathartic and personal. Featuring rich and full lead guitar by award-winning fingerstyle player Alex Flock, who electrifies each lick and rounds every corner with a sound you know like a long-lost friend. Harvey Paris (Salsahall Collective) adds an element of effervescence on keys and organ, dropping notes at the perfect moments to make you want to get up, dance, and hit repeat. Overall, “Blue Collar Classification” delivers nostalgic blues energy with a glam rock mood, the key ingredients of a Kandy Roar original.
Kandy Roar shares:
“I wrote Blue Collar Classification as a means to cope with my ever-racing mind, giving me a chance to express the fact that I feel uncertain with the foundation I was built on. I don’t know how I came up with the chorus. It all just came together one dark, cold November evening. I think my dad was helping from the other side. It all ties together with the trauma I face, my fear of rejection from a fickle society, and how the cycle repeats itself depending on where you are from, how you were raised, and your income level. If you are working class, lower class, or just scraping to get by, this song is for you.”
From the beginning of “Blue Collar Classification,” we’re treated to a lively jazz beat, which is joined by Kandy Roar’s pleasantly husky rock-style vocals.
The lyrics are simple yet complex. Throughout the track, we hear, “I’m so unstable,” and isn’t that something we all can relate to at one point or another, especially in the past few years?
Throughout the song, I was transfixed. Everything about the single captured my attention, and I couldn’t get enough. After listening to it a few times, I was singing along. After five more times, I was dancing around the room, though I should add, not well, but that’s not the point.
I think it’s quite obvious that I recommend this track to everyone, as it will likely appeal to fans of many genres and also relate to many listeners. Everything I look for in a song, and more!
I’m a mind-rotting heartbreaker, and I go by Kandy Roar.
Kandy Roar is a purely fictional fever dream and frontman of their own rock ‘n’ roll fantasy. We call ourselves a rockstar because we sing rock ‘n’ roll with a star-like quality. A lack of fame, fortune, and notoriety can’t really change our current delusion. Ahaha. Inspired by Marc Bolan, Mick Jagger, and Koko Taylor with an animated glam rock aesthetic and an unhealthy obsession with cults, Kandy Roar is doing things their way whether I like it or not.
I was born Karly Palmer from Thunder Bay, Ontario. I moved to Vancouver to pursue acting. Singing was something that came naturally when I was young. I grew up singing for everyone at weddings, parties, and karaoke competitions. My living room was my most frequented stage as a kid, and my Mom has always been my biggest fan and number one hype man.
During the pandemic, when acting started to dry up for me, I decided to create a dream role, a character that highlighted my best qualities on my best days and minimized my weaknesses. Singing became the only answer during my search for purpose. I got back into it in a very big way.
Working for years before the pandemic at Guilt and Company, a live music venue in Vancouver, really helped me connect with other artists in theblive music community. It also gave me a bird’s eye view of what artists are doing and what people like. How a good show flows. How to work the audience. It was really a 101 on performance and music. I noticed there was something missing, something special. When I’m on stage, it’s not about being the best singer and playing the best music – that’s subjective. For me being on stage is about expression and vulnerability. It’s about the stage performance. It’s about the movement, emotion, and staying in character from beginning to end. For me, a live show is like a play.
So I wrote this song after taking what has now become permanent leave from my job, as mentioned earlier. I had just done my first show as Kandy Roar and had applied for my first grant. I started to explore writing with more blues-style music. During the last couple of years, my depression and anxiety have flared up, as I’m sure it had for many. I was writing lyrics day and night. Any time I felt something difficult to navigate or had the need to get something personal off my chest, I’d just belt it out in an old-school blues progression. One day I’m just like, “I’m so unstable.” I laughed and thought, “Yeah, that’s funny.” During this time, my long-time partner and I were navigating extreme cabin fever due to the lack of social interaction. I was writing, and I was just thinking how I love this person and rely on them, but they’re only human, navigating their own minefield. We were in a place of alternating between who was having the “bad day.” I’d have a breakdown, and the next day he’d be on the verge. It felt like we were sharing one life preserver in the middle of the ocean.
With the chorus, it was an a-ha moment. I still don’t know how I came up with the phrase ‘blue collar classification.’ I heard some artists describe writing sessions where the words flow through them like they’re coming from someone or somewhere else. I credit my dad for that. He was ‘Blue Collar Classification,’ a huge inspiration to me, and an extreme creative stuck in a dead-end cycle of contracting. Where I’m from, it’s hard to leave and pursue something big. So many are stuck in the never-ending loop of working all week, then trying to forget it all on the weekend.
Metaphors and analogies help me express complex emotions and experiences. For me, a “crack in my foundation” was how I was able to describe my feelings around growing up with my own trauma. I was dealing with my own mental hygiene and, at the time, unbeknownst to me, adult ADHD. So I was struggling to feel grounded; I knew something was wrong I just wasn’t sure what. I was going through a major shift in my life. Everything was changing all at the same time. My foundation didn’t feel solid to me, but I don’t think it ever will, and that’s ok, right?
The last line that I wrote was months later, finalizing the track for the demo.
“They call me crazy, Daddy cool what about it?” It fit so perfectly into what I was trying to say overall. I took inspiration from the song ‘Daddy Cool’ by Boney M. I loved the juxtaposition of referencing a catchy cult disco track in this bluesy rock anthem.
Once the lyrics and top line were complete, I sent it over to Alex Flock, and we jumped into The Space Studios to cut a demo with Timmy Boom Bap. Alex pulls out this groovy composition, and it’s like, yeah! That’s it! That sounds wicked!
So I met Eduardo Cristo through my collaborator Alex Flock. I was looking for a sound engineer and a place to record because I couldn’t really afford a producer. I had no idea in what capacity he would be involved in the project at that meeting. I am very lucky we met. He and I share a similarity that made this process flow with such ease. I explained what I was going for. We listened to some T. Rex and a bit of Stones, and we talked about old music and the way it felt when you heard it. I really wanted this track and overall album to make the listener question the timeline in which this song was made. It’s very much akin to music the Black Keys are making. It’s like, is this new? He got it right away.
We recorded drums with Nick James and melody with Alex at HippoSonic, as an ensemble. It was amazing to be in a space where so many iconic artists have recorded. The staff and engineers there were so cool and really fun to work with. You can tell they love what they do and have created their own family.
JeanSe le Doujet jumped in on bass, and we tracked him in Eduardo’s home studio. He took like 40 minutes to record bass for all the five tracks he’s featured on. We were in this one-bedroom that Eduardo transformed into a full studio. He has amazing equipment to create a truly high-quality sound. I’m telling you, this guy eats, sleeps, and breathes music. He brought in Harvey Paris after the fact, and I am so glad he did; The blend of keys and organ really pulled the whole track together. The very top of the track has this organ, and it’s the first instrument you hear; it’s just like ‘boom!’ you know what you’re getting right off the bat.
We did more vocal tracking in his closet! Ahaha. Working with Eduardo has been incredible. His ear and imagination and understanding of my vision have made this experience so fun and experimental. I come in with some insane ideas, and his response is always, “yes, and!”
From the first rehearsal, I knew between the detailed work he put in and the ability to run the show. I couldn’t have possibly done this album and single without him or Alex Flock, my collaborator. From day one it was clear that I had gathered the right people for this project.
Demon Blues is set to release this fall. The release is going to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Kandy Roar’s first live performance with Alex Flock at Guilt and Company. Due to the subject matter and themes, I also think people will resonate with it. It’s to be a fully conceptual six-track album that explores class, mental illness, success, pure evil, a contrast of a higher, more holy power, and a journey through the darkness of the mind. The album was heavily inspired by Robert Johnson and his Faustian experience at the crossroads. I was just getting heavy into blues, so themes of selling your soul to the devil for fortune and fame kept revealing themselves in my work.
Alex and I worked together on them, and he wrote the chords for all the tracks. I play harmonica on some tracks, and featured are, as I mentioned earlier, JeanSe Le Doujet, Nick James, and Harvey Paris. There is this concept that we could sell our souls to the devil for success. In the end, it’s like, what is success? What are you really willing to sacrifice for it? Your soul? Or your mental health? The real question Demon Blues asks you is, are you dealing with the devil? Or is it really just yourself?
I will be playing a show on August 22nd at the 2nd Floor Gastown. It’ll be with Alex Flock and feature Harvey Paris. It will be two 75-minute sets, so there are two chances to catch us. Alongside our single, we will also be teasing tracks from ‘Demon Blues’ and playing songs from my artist-curated ‘Hot Summer Nights’ playlist on Spotify.
Tickets are available through The Water St. Cafe, as well as links are up on my website KandyRoar.com
Aside from other dates, we will be adding them shortly. We plan to do an album release party to promote ‘Demon Blues’ in October. So stay tuned for that! It will be epic.
See you there!
I’m Jenna, and I am the founder and editor of Canadian Beats. I have had a strong love for Canadian music, which started many years ago. I have a passion for promoting these talented Canadian bands and artists, and that’s how Canadian Beats came to be. I am so proud of what it has become over the last few years, with many talented music lovers and writers coming together to spread the word of Canada’s music.