Monday, December 22, 2008

Sex With Strangers on the Radio!

Merry Christmas everyone, hope the season is treating you well!

Sex With Strangers "The Modern Seduction" has been sneaking onto the Canadian airwaves all over our great nation.

Currently they are:

#1 Electronic album on The X 92.5FM Edmonton Top Ten Electronic Chart
#6 on CKMS-100.3FM University of Waterloo Charts
#12 on CIUT 85.9FM Toronto Charts
#12 on CFBX 92.5FM Kamloops charts.

If you're in the neighbourhood please tune in and make a request to any of there or you local stations.

In other SWS news the gentlemen have already begun writing material for the follow up to the Modern Seduction. Both Magnus and Hatch are keen to keep the energy going with six new songs already sketched out for the next album.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Robert Edmonds: Plastered On The Street

Robert Edmonds: Plastered On The Street

Review: "Disagreements"

Combine the Victorious has received their first review of the "Disagreements" ep in the Dec 2-17th issue of The Skinny Magazine.

EP Review
Combine the Victorious
Disagreements EP (Boutique Empire)
by Nathan Pike

Isabelle Dunlop and Mark Henning, partners in both music and life, bring you a second collection of Combine the Victorious songs, this time in the form of an EP titled Disagreements. While a bit of a departure from their previous effort, they carry on with what they're good at and that is celebrating their art through a melting pot of emotive and sometimes gothic sounding music that is awash in keyboard manipulation and sonic textures that give it a well-polished sound.

Disagreements opens strongly with "Charmer", a dark instrumental pretending it came straight from the mid-80's UK pop songbook, complete with echo effect and sinister sounding bass line. From there we are taken through a collection of keyboard and vocal driven pop songs that are easy to digest and memorable in the best senses. Favourites include "Back In Style" which sounds a bit like Mother Mother with its vocal harmonizing and sanguine quality as well as closing track "Please", a big, guitar-laden rocker that rumbles in the chest and shows that much love and effort has gone into the recording of this latest outpouring of songs.

This may not be the EP of the year but it's still really good music that is worth a listen, and certainly earns a place in the 'regular rotation' pile of this kid's record colleciton.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

About a Girl - the story of a theme song

In the summer of 2007 we, as in Combine the Victorious, were one of two bands with a song being considered for the theme to a new television series called "About a Girl." It was pretty cool. The music supervisor told us that she'd pitched over 300 other songs first to the two networks before they found our song "Blue Kitchen." We never knew heard the other song that was under consideration, but feel lucky to have landed the spot!

The only hitch was we had to condense a three minute song down to 15 seconds!

Obviously only the essence was required, so we chose to try and fit an entire chorus into the intro sequence. The song had been recorded at 115bpm originally and in the course of working on it we'd decided to speed it up to 117bpm. That was the cut that the producers were listening to. Their idea was to have a very rapid intro sequence with quick cuts of each of the characters flashing rapidly on the screen while Blue Kitchen played. Seemed easy except we couldn't even get to the end of the chorus before time was out, never mind have an intro or outro. We're talking 15 seconds here right?

So we tried speeding it up. All the way to 130 bpm, which I have to say sounded pretty shit. I mailed the production supervisor three or four different cuts at various speeds until we agreed upon 126bpm. Still quite a leap, but the song maintained some semblance to the original. Next came agreeing on the mix.

Rumour has it that everyone signed off on the 126 bpm version, liked the intro and outro hits and were generally happy... until the following Monday morning when a new co-producer heard the theme song for the first time and queried, "Is there any reason why they're singing about a Blue Kitchen in the middle of the chorus?" Fair enough really, except that the title of the song was actually Blue Kitchen so we were a bit wary of changing it. However I suggested we could alter the lyric from "here in blue kitchen today" to "here in our kitchen today." I mean, I didn't really have to be in a BLUE kitchen if it meant losing the deal. Right?

So we re-sang the sped up chorus and tried to insert "everything's alright, everything's okay, everyone if here in our kitchen today." After all the months working on the song it was like pulling a tumor out of my brain to not sing the original lyric over and over again. Took me almost two bloody hours. Then it was Isabelle's turn. I forewarned her that if may be quite a challenge to sing the altered words, but she came in, did three or four takes and was done: no problem at all. And I even used one of the early takes for her double. Frustrating.

We sent that version off and felt pretty good about our work-around. However, this one was met by a "can we have one without the word 'kitchen" in it at all?" Hmph.... that was a hard one to even try. There was more than one never sent e-mail composed that afternoon, however I was ever so lucky as to receive a very clever idea from Manny Pereira, the production supervisor. He has obvious musical ability because he made the observation, "isn't the music in the section right before the chorus kinda the same thing? Couldn't we use those lyrics over the chorus music?" It was the perfect solution. In fact it improved the whole thing dramatically.

Now the lyrics went:

"we're coming to your floor,
knocking on your door,
always room for more.
everything's alright..."

(this isn't the actual opening credit, just an audio clip of the opening edit - I wanted to only load the song but it wouldn't let me -had to make it a video! you'll get the idea.)

...seemed rather fitting for a tv theme song. I started laughing as I mixed it down because it seemed so stupidly perfect. I was imagining "Friends" or something, it was really quite sweet. They were in fact very happy with that and we started the paper work. (Thanks again to Sarah Webster down at SL Feldman's for doing all that for us, it's impossible to express how much my eyes glaze over when presented with a contract or form of any kind! Mille Grazie!)

Everything was cool at that point, but next came a phone call about getting music for the ending as well. This was one of those good news/bad news things. The good part was that we'd get a whole 30 seconds for the outro! The lame part was they had no more money in the budget. But, of course we had to do it, reimbursement or not.

The outro piece was a lot simpler, only took one shot at it. Since we'd already agreed upon a tempo I started with that and threw everything I could into those 30 seconds, even a snare drum ba dum-dum at the finale. Isabelle sings lead in this part this part, which is kinda cute: I sing the intro and she sings outro. Personally I much prefer the ending credit version, there's more time, so we could fit all the parts in and have it hold much truer to the album version. Only regret not sending them a louder version, as it always seems a bit low on the televison, especially following a commercial!

After all that malarky we sat back and and awaited the debut of the series. It came out way earlier in the States. It was funny to discuss the show with people who'd viewed most of the season before we'd even seen a commercial for it! About a Girl started in October down south but we didn't get it in Canada until March! By that point we'd seen a clip of it via my brother-in-law's netcam pointed at his tv, but it was a lot cooler to sit down and wait to hear our song appear on the television for the first time. We were both cheersing each other quite a bit that night!! Plus the adventure hasn't stopped yet. We noticed that after the first season aired on E-Channel the series was picked up by Showcase for it's autumn programming. That made us smile a bit too.

So from being the very first song that Isabelle and I wrote together, in our basement, with no greater thought than "what the hell let's try it", Blue Kitchen has now been heard around North America. We've met many cool people on our myspace due to the song, and have had a ton of exposure (though admittedly you need to be an extremely fast reader to catch the name in real time as if flashes on the screen)! And this was the same song that I personally thought was too simplistic to put on our album. Isabelle always defended, probably because it was her first song, but also because she really liked it! Pretty good beginners luck!

If you'd like a copy for your iPod you can find it by clicking on the album artwork below:

Thank you for reading this. Cheers,

Mark Henning

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

iTunes Music Store

Well it appears that the process of getting songs up on the iTunes music store has become more streamlined. In the past there was a very random period of time that passed between submitting your music to be "processed" for the store, it may have taken 4 weeks but the first Combine the Victorious album took over eight. Never knew why. However as of 2008, all three Boutique Empire releases have appeared in under four weeks, and this last one, the Disagreements ep from Combine, even appeared online on the day we requested. Fantastic stuff.

You can sample all three BE releases on iTunes, myspace,, and the CBC new music Canada site as well. Please follow the links below if you're curious to hear what we've been up to.

Combine the Victorious - Disagreements (be08003)

Guilty About Girls - ep1 (be08002)

Sex With Strangers - The Modern Seduction (be08001)

Friday, November 21, 2008

News, Releases, Shows & Videos

November 25th, 2008 is the date of Combine the Victorious's next release. The Disagreements ep. Please check it out on iTunes.

In other news, Sex With Strangers is in the planning stages of shooting their first video and Guilty About Girls is nearing completion of their second ep which has the working title of: VRGN aNGL MTRL luv. Four new songs "inspired" by the one and only Madonna.

November was good for all the Boutique Empire bands, many shows, all of them quite good and participating in the new indie festival here in Vancouver: Nearly Famous Music Festival.

New music is around the corner for everyone. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Combine the Victorious is set to release their second collection of songs, an ep titled Disagreements.  Seven songs all centered around the past 18 months in the lives of Combine's main players, Isabelle Dunlop and Mark R Henning.  The songs and subject matter are darker than on their first album, The World Over, reflecting the realities of life in Vancouver.  The lyrics speak of betrayal, disillusionment and greed but ultimately offer a resolve and hope, something always at the base of what Combine offers.  

For the first time the duo has co-written a song with their friends Ingrid Schroeder and Barry Flynn, the result of which is their new song Please.  Videos have been storyboarded for the song Back In Style, and they are working on a concept for Please as well

Joining the two on record and stage are Todd Simko (former guitarist with Pure) and Kevin Jones (The February March) as well as featured appearances from Ingrid Schroeder and Barry Flynn. 

The ep consists of seven tracks:
1. Charmer
2. Decay
3. Fat Kids Big Cars
4. Back In Style
5. Where Are You
6. Segue - Please
7. Please

Disagreements will become available on iTunes and other music sites on November 25th.  Please refer to the band's website for other information regarding the songs and release.  Song may be previewed now on

Thank you for reading.  BE

Mission Statement

First post on this site.  

Hello.  We're just getting started but we've had a good first half year so far.  Born on a concept and a  verbal agreement, Boutique Empire came into being in the spring of 2008.  Essentially we are an artist's collective from Vancouver, Canada.   In July we set The Modern Seduction loose on the world with all the robot rock and concept album futuristic fury that Sex With Strangers could imagine.    In October Guilty About Girls put out their first ep, understatedly titled EP1.  And now on November 25th Combine the Victorious is set to release their second collection of songs: Disagreements.

Boutique Empire is a group of Vancouver artists that have agreed to wear the label on our releases and support each other through obvious things like performing on each other's albums, or producing the recordings, or creating the artwork for the albums, or co-ordinating events that overlap with all our creative offerings.  Currently the group consists of three bands, a graphic artist and a fashion designer: Combine the Victorious, Sex With Strangers, Guilty About Girls, Robert Edmonds, and Isabelle Dunlop.  Ex-members of the band Pure are integral to the group as Mark R Henning, Jordy Birch and Todd Simko are all involved with most of the projects in one form or other.  

Art openings, fashion shows, mixed media events and of course concerts are all part of the Boutique Empire vision.  Hopefully in the future both video and cinema may be included as well.   Anything that inspires.

Please check out our various websites for updates or latest events.

All our artist are available for listening on please tune in for a listen.  

Thank you for reading this, hope to start posting here regularly.  Cheers!!