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"Introducing Our Hearts To The World": Cupid's Heart Debut EP 'Atrium'

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

By Will Yannacoulias

Photos by Scott Roos

I've spent the better part of the last year cheering from the sidelines for Prince Albert duo Cupid's Heart. Guitarist & vocalist Emma Jean's dusky voice, heavy riffing and deft songwriting caught my attention several years ago with her previous alt-rock project Rymestone. When I learned that Emma Jean had resurfaced in Regina playing open mics with cellist Stacey Dunn I was intrigued, assuming stereotypically that guitar and cello could only come together in some ponderous contemplative acoustic singer/songwriter project. I could not have been more wrong, as the pair hit Saskatchewan stages with a set of high energy, upbeat originals, songs rooted in overdriven guitar rock but with cello and electronic drums stamping a unique signature on their sound. After catching three of the almost fifty shows they've played I was absolutely convinced; Cupid's Heart's balance of lunchpail punk and art school cool delivered just what was missing from my playlists.

July 14th saw Cupid's Heart share their much-anticipated debut EP Atrium, which landed on streaming services just as they took the stage at the Ness Creek Music Festival. "Atrium has a double meaning" Emma Jean shared, hinting at the layered songs to follow. "It can mean a chamber of the heart or a room full of light. I thought it was a nice name for our first EP where we were introducing our hearts to the world." Previous singles "Juliet" and "Safe" are joined on the four song effort by "Peace" and "Tiny Boat", a pair of equally engaging songs that would easily stand as singles in their own right. Emma Jean's Pat Benatar-meets-Siouxie voice and clever, effortless storytelling style navigate the listener through themes of love, attraction and the dynamics of new relationships. Dunn, despite being a newcomer to songwriting and a band dynamic, demonstrates an innate sense of how to use her unorthodox instrument in a rock and roll context. Sometimes the rhythm section, sometimes carrying the lead melody, moving from airy, pretty runs to white-knuckle growling lines, Dunn's cello keeps pace step for step with the guitar riffs, cutting through the mix and painting in the empty spaces like most bass players only dream of.

The four tracks on Atrium are only a sample of the original songs Cupid's Heart has written, a selection and ommission process which was very intentional. "We had four as a number in our head that we wanted to try and work with" Emma Jean explained. "After playing through our songs a while, the ones we felt had the best energy and response were those four. For a debut, a taste of what we're all about, we felt like this was a good spread of the themes we deal with and the energy we like to create; a welcome to our music as well as a meditation on relationships." Dunn hinted that part of their process is matching songs by themes either musically or lyrically, which may inform the track listing of future releases, saying "we felt that these were the songs we wanted to share with the world. I feel like these four pair well, when we were grouping songs together they worked well together as an EP."

Atrium was recorded in Regina at SoulSound Studion with well known producer Orion Paradis. SoulSound and Paradis have a reputation for doing lush, layered song arrangements with artists like Megan Nash and Bears in Hazenmore, so I had to know why this stripped down snarly two piece punk project chose him specifically. Cupid's Heart's rigorous touring schedule has fostered an identity and energy as a live act and SoulSound's live-take studio was a huge appeal for the band, Emma Jean explained. "I dig the off-the-floor recording style, and the ability when working with someone as experienced as Orion to work quickly and make adjustments quickly. We come in, do a few takes, choose the best one, and go." Dunn also cited Paradis's experience as a calming factor her first time in a studio environment, so much so that she considers him as a collaborator as much as a producer. "It was my first time recording in a studio and I felt immediately comfortable" she recalled. "I felt like it was almost a jam session, he brought his own energy and was a close part of the process."

With the singles, the touring, the festival appearances and now the new EP, following the trajectory of Cupid's Heart in 2023 has been exciting for those of us who enjoy seeing bold experimental art flourish. "It's exciting for us as well, and as we go we have a drive to keep the momentum" Emma Jean shared. "We're in the moment and we want to keep building on that. keep stoking that fire and see how far it can go". Atrium is available on all streaming services as well as a limited number of physical copies on compact disc. See Cupid's Heart's next performance when they start the party Saturday August 5th at Moosefest in Bellevue SK.

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