Dream-pop of Calgary’s Summer Bruises a soothing sonic salve

A start to a story that doesn’t usually end well.

In fact, it’s usually followed by a missing person’s report and possibly a cross-Canada manhunt and standoff in a motel on the outskirts of town.

A Kijiji ad: “ ‘A lone, 30-some-odd-year female just looking to make some music,’ strangers on the Internet.”

Elyse Szabo laughs.

“I had a lot of responses, an overwhelming amount, more than I would have ever thought,” she says. “I was expecting, maybe, five, and I got around 50 …

“I just threw that shot in the dark out there and Aaron was one of the people who responded.”

That “Aaron” being long-time member of Calgary’s music scene Aaron Smelski, who’s played in a number of local acts including legends Hot Little Rocket and, more recently, High Parade.

An easy — and it should be noted — safe pick to start a musical relationship with.

“He just had such a gentle approach … He was just not very pushy, and didn’t seem to have an ego, but also clearly had plenty of experience playing music.”

When the pair finally met, her suspicions were confirmed. Smelski also brought along drummer Craig Clorey, and, when they hooked up for their first practise at local jam space, the ominously named Slaughterhouse, he also showed up with bassist Jesse McWilliams — yet another seasoned veteran.

Szabo, a self-taught, relative newcomer says she originally “felt like the baby” in the band. This despite the fact she’d picked up her father’s “way-too-big” guitar as a child, and began writing songs at the age of 10. 

“They were really embarrassing, super angsty songs written by a 10 year old.”

What followed was a short stint in Edmonton’s Nature Of as well as some solo work, “home recordings that you can find on the Internet if you know how.” She laughs. “And I’m definitely not going to lead you to them …

“Honestly, I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a musician, I just wanted to write songs, I just did it for myself.”

It took time away from music and some lonesome work in northern Alberta with her partner, to realize she needed to connect again with music, connect again with people.

You can hear and feel that connection with the band’s assured debut Light to Waste, which was released late last month.

Recorded with noted local knob-twiddler Lorrie Matheson, it’s a cool, shimmering, pool of dream-pop prettiness recalling acts such as Slowdive, Low, Beach House and nouveau shoegazers such Wolf Alice.

Purposefully vague lyrically — certainly “not embarrassing or super angsty” — the album is a pretty bold opening statement.

The four-piece bring life to Szabo and Smelski’s songs comfortably, confidently, with her voice a shining star in the aural universe they’ve created from scratch in the past two years — with more soon to come.

Naturally, Szabo deflects any personal, singular responsibility for the wonderful coming out and the sound that Summer Bruises creates so perfectly.

“Honestly the only reason it has come together the way it has is because of the people that I’m with. None of this would have been achievable without how smoothly and organically we communicate and read each other,” she says. “I consider them some of my best friends. 

“I didn’t see that coming from a Kijiji ad.”

She continues. “We were all looking for the same thing at the same time,” she says simply. “Just magically.”

So, a happy ending that should also be the beginning of something pretty special.

Summer Bruises release Light to Waste May 27 with a show at The Palomino.