Heartbreak never sounded so good

Justin Brake
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The Gramercy Riffs launch latest recording

The Gramercy Riffs find themselves staring adversity in the face - but they thrive on it.

Lee Hanlon, Mara Pellerin, Daniel Banoub, Adrian "AC" Collins and Jamie March are members of the St. John's indie band that exploded onto the local music scene almost two years ago.

Their self-proclaimed "heartbreak pop" style of music was met with the warm embrace of local concertgoers, enough of them that the band was instantaneously furnished with its own fan base.

The Gramercy Riffs will celebrate the release of "It's Heartbreak" Friday at The Rock House on George Street. - Submitted photo

The Gramercy Riffs find themselves staring adversity in the face - but they thrive on it.

Lee Hanlon, Mara Pellerin, Daniel Banoub, Adrian "AC" Collins and Jamie March are members of the St. John's indie band that exploded onto the local music scene almost two years ago.

Their self-proclaimed "heartbreak pop" style of music was met with the warm embrace of local concertgoers, enough of them that the band was instantaneously furnished with its own fan base.

Since then three band members - Hanlon, Pellerin and Banoub - have relocated to the mainland to pursue master's degrees and make room for their band in bigger music markets.

"It's a weird state to find ourselves in, but at the same time there's a huge problem for bands getting off the island," Pellerin explains over a coffee at a cafe in downtown St. John's. "So having some people on the mainland already kind of offsets that and gives us new possibilities."

Pellerin, Collins and March share some laughs as they await the arrival of Hanlon and Banoub, who fly in to St. John's this week to celebrate the release of the band's first full-length album, "It's Heartbreak."

On Friday, they will host a CD release show at The Rock House with special guests Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds and Mark Bragg.

March chirps in on the band's success combatting separation anxiety.

"I played in other bands years ago, going (to Toronto), so ... I always try to have low expectations because I've been disappointed before. But with this band, for some reason we're lucky."

Some might call it luck, others patient planning. But the Riffs have already made their Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto debuts, including two stints at legendary Toronto club El Mocambo, and are slated to perform at North America's Mecca of indie festivals North by Northeast in June.

They seem to be doing things right.

"Our band situation is weird, but external forces play such a huge role in what we do," Pellerin says. "We just embrace them and make goals for ourselves," she says, explaining how the band members make the most of their circumstantial time together.

Most of the songs on "It's Heartbreak" were written across the miles, March explains. Hanlon and Pellerin were a couple when the band formed and they began collaborating on songs while Hanlon attended school in Germany.

Their relationship has since ended, but they're still "best friends," Pellerin says.

"We call each other every day ... it's very natural," she explains. "I don't know if it's healthy or just completely freakish, but I think it's OK."

The relationship theme seems evident in most songs, but that's just the "heartbreak pop" guise, Collins says.

"All the bitter ones were written by Daniel," he jokes.

The band's greatest fortune came when Bragg suggested he produce the record.

"He was a real motor behind the whole process," Pellerin says.

"He brought energy and direction to the record," March adds.

As for getting the record out to as many ears as possible, Pellerin has her own plan: "I want to send a package to Joel Plaskett with little heart stickers all over it," she laughs.

The "It's Heartbreak" CD release show takes place Friday at The Rock House. The show is 19+. For more information, visit

Organizations: The Rock House

Geographic location: St. John's, Toronto, Montreal Ottawa North America Germany

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