By Elizabeth Eaton
EDMONTON – Borscht is the fun-loving, psychedelic brain/heart-child of Maria Elena Martire, a student of Grant MacEwan who has been writing, performing and teaching music in Edmonton for over nine years. Her music is paradoxical; as Martire says, “it’s poppy, it’s catchy, and it’s about the darkest shit.”
Like many musicians, Martire uses music as a conduit to channel the most difficult circumstances in life – trauma, abuse and mental illness – into an experience that can be shared, and even celebrated, with friends. Musically, it’s rawly produced tragic-comedy-grunge-pop, best celebrated with confetti and candy.
“If I’m stuck in my head, stuck in my heartbreak and stuck in sorrow, I can’t really move easily away from it,” says Martire. “But even when everyone comes over to jam it helps me move past it. We’re technically performing songs all about stuff that’s hard to deal with in life, but we make it fun.”
Anyone who’s been to a Borscht show in the last year that features the seven-piece band backing Martire knows that Borscht is an experience, quite like a psychedelic trip. The lyrics often hit close to the heart. The performances are honest, relatable and self-aware while the vocals, costumes and theatrics put a spotlight on the reality of Martire’s inner world.
In the past year, Martire has recorded two albums to follow 2014’s Dazer: Frumpy Space Adventure and Dog’s Breakfast.
Frumpy Space Adventure includes songs that didn’t make it onto Dazer and features Martire playing all instruments, with the exception of violin. Dog’s Breakfast includes re-recorded songs from Dazer in addition to new music, all written by Martire. Both recordings approach Martire’s vision for Borscht differently, but Dog’s Breakfast especially represents a completion of her vision.
“I feel like we captured the energy of the performance in the recordings, so that’s very exciting,” she explains. “Performing solo, I can sing them and perform them beautifully. But with the seven-piece, it’s been a really special experience. It’s all the parts I want to do, together. Because I can’t divide myself into seven different Marias if I could. Dazer was part of the picture. Frumpy Space Adventure, it’s a full album, but it’s part of the picture. And then with the seven-piece, it is the full picture.”
Martire acknowledges that joy and laughter onstage is the most important thing for Borscht members. The message of “just have fun” gets across so clearly, precisely because Martire is onstage performing with her best friends.
Martire specifically chose members of the band that share her vision and love her songwriting.
“Always try. Just try,” says Martire.
“Cause I never thought I would be able to play as many instruments as I do now. And I never thought I would have the dream band that I have now. I never thought I’d play Sled [Island] before. I never thought my songwriting was good enough before. I never thought people would be interested in being in my band and loving my songwriting. And then I just tried. I would love to see more and more people trying and getting involved in the scene, but especially people that aren’t just dudes. Non-binary and trans folk, women, queer people and every kind of person.”
Borscht is playing Sled Island June 21 at Ship & Anchor (Calgary), an all-ages show on June 23 at McHugh House (Calgary). Borscht’s Double-Tape Release (with digital download) is at The Works Festival in Churchill Square on June 30 (Edmonton). Digital copies of the albums are available at https://borscht.bandcamp.com/borscht, McHugh House, Ship & Anchor, Sled Island, The Works Festival in Churchill Square