The Montreal music scene gets a boost with Katalogue

We spoke to KickDrum founder Josh Spencer about his new endeavour, aiming to promote and connect local bands and audiences.

A KickDrum Backyard show featuring Common Holly

When it comes to the local music scene, you’d be hard pressed to find many people more invested in promoting independent local artists than KickDrum founder Josh Spencer. Since 2015, Spencer has booked over 250 bands through KickDrum to play at more than 160 events, including the indie promoter’s flagship summertime outdoor series Backyard Sessions at Blanc de Blanc (248 Villeneuve W.) every Wednesday evening.

Besides booking shows and managing artists, Spencer put in a lengthy stint as a director at Concordia’s radio station CJLO, where he also hosted the local-focused show The Neighbourhood.

Through these endeavours, Spencer has amassed an extensive contact list of artists, bands and venues active in the Montreal scene. Not content to simply keep this valuable information to himself, Spencer is launching a brand-new online artist database called Katalogue, intended as a way to help local and touring artists, venues and audiences connect with each other more easily with an aim towards building stronger community ties, making more shows happen and cultivating excitement among audiences to “shop local” in their live show choices.

“The inspiration for Katalogue was that it should be really easy to find local music,” Spencer tells me during a chat about the project. “Even if you’re not completely cued into the Montreal music scene, people know that Montreal is a great music city, and it’s not only big acts — there’s live music happening all the time at all these underground venues, but it can be intimidating to find these bands and spaces. I want to bring all these awesome Montreal bands and put them into one place that makes it easy for people to listen locally.”

Spencer recruited tech-savvy friend and musician Bashu Naimi-Roy to build the website itself, and the pair will be adding new features continually to grow the project. To start, visitors to the site will find information and links to over 1,100 local artists in a searchable database including a “submit” feature and the ability to filter by genre, plus special Spotify playlists and videos produced by KickDrum in collaboration with local artists.

Year of Glad/Saxsyndrum’s Danji Anabasine, Saxsyndrum’s A.P. Bergeron and Josh Spencer

In addition to providing a valuable service to local audiences, Spencer envisions the site helping to facilitate touring and local bands to find other local bands to play with and connecting them to venues — plans for adding a venue directory with booking advice are already in the works.

“We’re trying to level the playing field so that even if you aren’t a super well-connected band with a large friend network to try to set something up, here’s a resource where you can find contact info and check out bands,” Spencer notes.

Getting local music into people’s ears is a goal naturally shared by musicians as well — several local artists are already lined up to collaborate with KickDrum to produce a series of artist-curated playlists that will be launched on Katalogue in the near future, with contributions from artists like Nick Schofield, Fleece, Raveen, Look Vibrant, Thanya Iyer and Common Holly. Content from KickDrum’s YouTube channel will be included as well, like the just-released video announcement of the project featuring R&B bandleader Paul Cargnello.

Spencer’s mission to support the local music scene doesn’t stop at artists — he’s also keen to ensure Montreal’s network of small venues stays healthy, especially in the wake of recent losses such as Cagibi’s venue space, le Divan Orange and underground venue Psychic City. With an eye on supporting independent small venues, KickDrum will be hosting the official launch party for Katalogue at Cagibi’s new Little Italy space with a 5 à 7 on June 12.

“Montreal is special because of Casa, not because of the Bell Centre,” Spencer says, “and we’re losing special spaces. Cagibi’s a very symbolic place to host the launch, because here’s this space where we lost the venue but they’re still here — we don’t want this to happen to other spaces and we need to support these venues. People want to support local art, so let’s give them a compelling message for why and make it easy!” ■

Katalogue launches with a kickoff party at le Cagibi (6596 St-Laurent) on Tuesday, June 12 from 5–7 p.m., free. Check out the Katalogue website here.