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Mother Tongues

Neighbourhood Watch

Explore Toronto with Charise & Lukas of Mother Tongues, a Canadian psych-rock duo whose debut album ‘Love In A Vicious Way’ lands July 21st. 


C: A famous cultural hub in downtown Toronto. Lukas and I met in a garage-turned-DIY-venue literal steps from the apartment we were roommates in, at the edge of the iconic neighbourhood. We both currently work in the market, in shops that mean a lot to their communities. 


Once described as an airport terminal that travellers from all over the world would come through again and again. It is home to a lot of people. Owner Pouria Lotfi has created a very special space; humble and inclusive, warm and generous. Located at the top of Augusta Ave, the local hangout at the top of Kensington Market is mostly a coffee shop during the day that later switches into a night-time bar scene, housing a carefully curated menu of local craft beer, wine, and over 150 gins. The shop also serves as a gallery space, hosting a rotation of featured local artists by the month. Their controversial No Laptop Rule [after 6pm on weekdays and 2pm on weekends] exists to promote a more social environment and less of a grind culture. There is a hidden back patio sheltered by cherry and apple trees where during the warm seasons, you hear live music of mostly Middle Eastern, jazz and blues, and world fusion music. In 2020 when all of the venues were shut down, Mother Tongues played one of the city’s first in-person shows of the year out there under the apple tree, sparking lots of excitement around live music again. The laid-back work culture at Pamenar has kept its staff and regulars happy and loyal. Pouria is a supportive and accommodating boss who has supported my artistic work (and touring schedule!) for the last six years. I’m proud to be a part of the Pam fam and to call it one of my homes.   


Arguably the best slice in Toronto.  


L: Paul’s has been around for over 20 years, and I’ve worked there for the last 7. It’s a main artery for the local scene here. The front wall is plastered with show posters, we never take them down (every now and then it hits its breaking point and if you’re lucky you can catch the moment it collapses). The shop specializes in vintage and used gear, we have a lot of amazing treasures come through. Currently, behind the counter there’s a Yamaha CS80 formerly owned by the Italian prog rock group Goblin).   A lot of touring bands roll through the shop. One time Franz Ferdinand came in while I was working. Alex Kapranos and I chatted over a glitchy old omnichord; he was an absolute sweetheart and gave me a few guest spots for their show. Char was having a rough day at work, so I told her she was getting in a cab and that I had a surprise for her. She had no idea until we were in the venue who we were seeing! She's a big fan so she was stoked and the look on her face was pretty priceless. It really felt like a pivotal moment when I started working here. I was sitting in Christie Pits (a local park) one morning noodling on my guitar, when I ran into Paul and his dog Arrow. They were walking to the shop and I live in the same area, so I tagged along. While we weaved through the park and side streets leading back to the market we had this great conversation that was very existential. At the end of the walk, Paul offered me a job. I’ve been so grateful for this space. We rehearse in the basement, and I’ve met so many key figures in my life here who have shaped the sound of our band and records. It’s truly given us so much. 


L: A Chinatown staple, I’ve been visiting this spot my whole life. My family would eat Dim Sum on the top level at a place called Sky Dragon. They had this really great pet store downstairs (It has since relocated down the street to the China Town Mall) where we’d buy bootleg DVDs here when that was still a thing. You can get these really sweet Feiyue kung fu shoes in the basement. We shot some clips here for our “Worm Day” video. 


A killer Banh mi sandwich for under $10, really serving the people of Toronto.  


Legendary late night Chinese restaurant. We end up here often after shows. My cousin once threw a show here and pulled a live lobster out of the fish tank.  


An awesome arcade and bar that also throws some pretty fun DJ nights. They let us shoot our video for “Only You” on their DDR machine, which are really hard to find these days.  


Two venues we’ve played a lot on Dundas St. Usually a pretty good show happening here. 


A shop that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and education. 


A long standing health food store in the heart of the market. 


Great smaller cap venue with good eats and pool tables on the upper level. Also very good pizza across the street at Bitondo’s.  


Great bar with a nice patio. Our drummer Nick works here, ask him to make you a Martini.

Juan Francisco Sanchez 1.jpg
Words by Mother Tongues
Main photograph by Feng
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