A vein of hard-won wisdom runs through the music of Che Aimee Dorval, giving her work an uncommon depth and passion. There’s an unflinching honesty to her songwriting that can be entrancing, disturbing and liberating – sometime simultaneously. Framing her words with swirling, evocative melodies, Che beckons listeners in and holds them close. Drawing upon her own experiences, she offers the hope of renewal and freedom in her songs.
As part of Casualties of Cool (her collaboration with the renowned Devin Townsend), Che has earned a growing international following. In September 2017, she will resume her solo career with Between the Walls and the Window, a haunting, finely-wrought album that features her most revealing songs to date.
Che’s latest work wraps her evocative vocals in distorted guitars and churning rhythms, bringing out the raw immediacy of her lyrics. “The new album marks a moment in my life where I know who I am both personally and musically,” she says. “Lyrics are important to me and I’ve found that instead of only talking about lost love and feelings of helplessness, I’ve started to comment on social issues that are important to me. These songs have something to say.”
Hard work, self-reflection and undeniable talent have helped Che to find her artistic voice. Growing up in Vancouver, BC, she took inspiration from artists as diverse as Nick Drake, Cocteau Twins, Alanis Morissette and Cat Power. She honed her skills played local club dates and busked around Europe before winning David Foster’s British Columbia Star Search competition in 2007. This led to an appearance at Foster’s yearly charity gala and the chance to write and record in L.A. with hitmakers Greg Wells (Rufus Wainright, Katy Perry) and Kara DioGuardi (Pink, Kelly Clarkson).
Rather than go the mainstream pop route, Che returned to Canada and released her first solo effort, Underachiever (2008). A short Eastern Canadian tour led to her settling in Toronto, where she became part of the local arts scene. Refreshed, she returned to her native Vancouver and caught the attention of legendary Rolling Stones producer/manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who offered her a contract and asked her to sing on his Rolling Stones Songbook Volume 2 album. Che’s rendition of “As Tears Go By” was declared “the coolest song in the world” by DJ Kid Leo on Sirius XM Radio.
By this time, Che had recorded with Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, DTP Project) for his album Ki, laying the groundwork for their teaming up as Casualties of Cool. “We stayed in touch and eventually he asked me to write a late-night dark country record with him,” she recalls. “It was the most positive recording experience I ever had and it inspired me to start writing my own songs again.”
Casualties of Cool released their eponymous debut album in 2014, followed up by a highly successful UK tour that included a performance at London’s Union Chapel. In its review of the concert, Metal Hammer wrote that “Che was born with the ability to melt hearts with a single syllable.” Che and Devin reassembled two years later for an appearance at Ramblin’ Man Fair in Kent and a music video/interview for the YouTube series Dunlap Sessions.
Working with Devin inspired Che to relaunch her solo career. She supported the 2015 release of her EP Volume One with a 12-date UK tour opening for folk artist Kim Churchill. It proved to be a demanding but ultimately rewarding experience: “I had never gone through something like that before…I was completely alone and was insecure about playing my own songs. But I find that the most jarring experiences are the best chances to grow and learn. That tour made me stronger and more confident about what I can do.”
This confidence carried into the writing and recording of Between the Walls and the Window, her second full-length project. As producer, Che tapped studio veteran Shawn F. Cole (Yukon Blonde, You Say Party! We Say Die!, The Painted Birds), known for his feel for biting pop/rock textures and moody atmospherics. On these sessions, Che’s sensitive, insinuating guitar touch is augmented by such A-list players as longtime Neko Case guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Darren Parris and drummer Daniel Ruiz. The result is a shifting, multi-layered sound that brings out the full scope and impact of Che’s compositions.
Meanwhile, Che has been co-writing with in-demand producer Bob Rock (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, The Tragically Hip, Michael Buble) on songs for an as-yet unnamed project. Like Casualties of Cool and her solo work, her music with Rock promises to be bold, edgy and artfully done.
The unfolding career of Che Aimee Dorval has been a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she’s collaborated with a formidable list of major talents and found her own identity as an artist. With the release of her new album this September, Che has made good on her early promise in ways even she couldn’t have expected.