Clara Venice opening for the Barenaked Ladies, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Jan. 17, 2014.
The first time singer/songwriter Clara Venice laid eyes on a theremin she knew she had to have one.
"I first saw the Theremin with this band and as soon as I saw it I knew that I could play it but I had no idea what it was," she says.
The next day Venice wandered down to the Moog store in Toronto and asked the staff if she could try one.
"I remember all the guys started laughing at me because this is the most unintuitive instrument ever," she says.
"They put me in the middle of the store and I had to play it in front of people in the store."
To the entire store's disbelief, Venice was able to play a scale.
"They were shocked," she says. "They gave it to me for a discount and I carried it home."
Russian inventor Léon Theremin invented the theremin in the early 1900s. The instrument is controlled by the musician without any physical contact and has been used in a variety of musical contexts. Composers Miklós Rózsa and Bernard Herrmann used the theremin in several film scores and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones used the instrument on the group's 1967 albums Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request.
"It sounds different and I think it is an amazing instrument that is very versatile, but people aren't necessarily aware of it," Venice says. "There was a time when it was used in pop music but it hasn't been for a long time and I'm hoping to bring it back."
In October Venice released her debut EP, Love Riddle, which includes sounds from her theremin. The self-described space-pop singer says the songs have a romantic vibe.
"It's a little love story of people meeting and then something horrible happening and then them coming back together," she says. "There is a happy ending because I'm a romantic at heart."
Instead of releasing physical copies Venice came up with a creative idea to distribute and sell Love Riddle.
"I didn't want to make a CD so I had this idea to make a USB key that would contain the album that you could wear. It would be something that you would want to buy as opposed to something that you have to buy and never look at again," Venice says. "I think that at this point people are really craving a tangible relationship with music now (rather than) something invisible that you download."
Love Riddle can be worn as a necklace, key chain, dog tag, earring, and comes in multiple colours.
"I wanted to do something new and different that really hasn't been done and to inspire people or challenge people to see that there are different approaches," she says. "It's kind of cool because people will be walking around wearing my album."
Venice began singing from around the time she could talk. At the age of four she was playing the violin and at nine she was writing songs.
The Torontonian describes her music as a unique style of pop which uses an array of instruments including the theremin, electric violin, guitar, ukulele, Omnichord and glockenspiel.
Love Riddle was coproduced by Venice and Kevin Hearn who has worked with artists such as Barenaked Ladies, Rheostatics, and Lou Reed but had never produced anyone prior to Venice.
"I ended up learning how to produce as well and that was the only way that I could actually realize my vision, which I did," Venice says.
The Ontario native explains that she wanted to find a coproducer who could take her work to the next level.
"I had to find somebody that I could work with and could understand what I had already accomplished and didn't necessarily want to change what I had already done but add to it and elevate it."
Venice began recording music in studios at the age of 14 and says she encountered various issues because of her gender.
"I had a hard time recording and I think there is a thing about being a girl in the music business. As a female singer, I think there are certain stereotypes that aren't true. One of them is that you should sing when you're told to sing and you don't really get input on the rest of the production and that didn't really work for me because I always had an idea of what I wanted to do," she says.
"There aren't very many female producers and that is a fact - I don't really understand what it is about production that excludes women but for whatever reason there is," she adds.
When it comes to her live performances, Venice incorporates a unique mix of fashion to express herself with costumes inspired by everything from 21st century burlesque to Tokyo street fashion.
"I'm an artist right? I just want to express myself in every way that I possibly can. One of those ways is music and one of those ways is getting dressed up," she says. "I want to wear things that make me feel like whatever character I am that day. I feel like we all have those things inside us. The notion of identity is not necessarily static."
Venice has collaborated with Scarygirl creator Nathan Jurevicius and visual artist Ken Ogawa.
"Nathan is an amazing guy. I met him a year ago and I've always wanted to work with him but I had never met him before," she says. "He came to a show that I did here in Toronto and when he saw me play he wanted to work with me, which is funny."
The pop singer says she has no problem with people who doubt her musical talents because of her unique costume designs.
"I perform as a solo artist with some of the hardest instruments to play and it is something that takes a lot of practice and at this point I welcome people that reject me," Venice says. "I enjoy it when people reject me because it makes me more effective when I can actually perform and do what I do. When people have lower expectations because of how I look, that's fine with me."
For more information visit claravenice.com or follow @ClaraVenice on Twitter.