ARTS November 11th, 2013

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No drama, just harmony for Petty Victories

Music is in the genes for daughters of performing families

There’s nothing small about Colleen Dauncey’s and Zoe Sky Jordan’s musical side project, Petty Victories.

The two sit on the patio at the Black Camel in Rosedale, joking about Jordan’s return to eating meat after being a vegetarian.

Jordan flashes a cheeky grin.

“Weber’s converted me.”

But the meat of their story: it’s important to have a creative outlet where they can just be themselves.

Dauncey munches on a beef brisket sandwich, her eyes twinkling when she talks music, and the origins of the band’s name. She’s hard to miss with fuscia hair that pops against the green backdrop of Ramsden Park.

Petty Victories came from bandying about titles like the Orange Creamsicles and Trees.

“She’s got an imagination, this one, but none of them were right,” Dauncey says of her bandmate’s offerings. “(Jordan) said, Petty Victories, and I was, ‘That’s interesting. Where did that come from?’

“She was like, ‘You know, when something happens to someone and you can’t help but feel happy that something bad happened to someone, that’s a petty victory.”

Jordan adds she was “dealing with some boy drama at the time”.

That was 2009. The duo met up through mutual friend Dina Young, who is now an artist manager at Paper Bag Records, while Jordan was attending classes at the Harris Institute.

Both have music in their genes. Dauncey, 27, a musical theatre writer, is the daughter of Calgary Celtic scene denizens Jim and MaryLou Dauncey. Jordan, 23, is the daughter of well-known Rosedale musicians, Amy Sky and Marc Jordan. But a music career almost never happened for Zoe Sky Jordan.

“I grew up singing harmony around the campfire with them, or the living room — we didn’t have a fire in the living room — but it was totally a part of every activity, of every morning, of every bedtime,” Jordan says. “It was just what we did, but because of that I didn’t really want to do it.

“I didn’t want to compete with it. I didn’t really want to put myself out there and take something that was so a part of my identity and so precious, in a way, and try to do what my parents did.”

Once graduated from Forest Hill Collegiate, Jordan says, she had no other option but to choose music, thus registering for classes at the Harris Institute.

Dauncey and Jordan started backing each other up at shows, and realized they were united in their mutual appreciation of strong, Canadian female vocalists, which is apparent on the album Wait It Out they released a year ago.

“We started writing together with harmony in mind, and that kind of formed the sound,” Jordan reflects.

Some of their influences come from Canada’s strongest female artists: Tegan and Sara, Emily Haines, Rickie Lee Jones and Joni Mitchell.

“I would say Joni Mitchell, but I feel like that’s redundant if you’re a girl who sings singer-songwriter,” Jordan says. “How could you not pay some tribute to Joni Mitchell?”

After a pause she quickly affirms: “But yeah, Joni Mitchell.”

Oh, there’s dad’s influence too in her music.

“My dad’s melodies and my dad’s lyrics. I grew up hearing them, but he really informed me about lyric space, what you should leave in and what you should leave out and what should be assumed. He definitely formed many of my ideas about being minimal.”

The duo plays off each other’s strengths. While Jordan focuses on melodies and lyric, Dauncey is all about production.

“I listen to how something was recorded and what synth line they are playing and how that works with the bass line,” she says, biting into a sandwich. “Sometimes I don’t even know what the lyrics are, which is definitely something I learn when working with Zoe: her sensibility about lyrics.”

Now they are preparing to write music for another album. Jordan is back from a tour of the east coast with folk pop singer Jadea Kelly and guitarist Tom Juhas.

Much like Wait It Out the project will be used to reach out to other artists, whether musical or visual. They joined forces with Hockey Night in Canada montage creator Tim Thompson to create videos for each of their eight tracks from the album.

“We kind of want to use this record to be creative and collaborate with other people and meet other artists — visual artists, playwrights,” Jordan says.

Dauncey adds: “It’s a lot more of a flexible model instead of we’re in a band, we only play together. A lot of people do that but like Zoe said, we are so interested in collaborating with other people and that kind of lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself well to exploring new things.”

The only thing is, they’re causing a stir in Toronto’s rich music scene.

“There’s just a lot of people doing it,” Jordan says, with a laugh. “It’s hard to stand out because there are so many girls with synths and we’re just two of them.”