The Real Shade (formerly "Shade") is a Toronto-based band led by singer/songwriter Jane Gowan. Their music has been described as "melodic," "catchy," "introspective," "smart," "witty," "genuine," and "raw." It could be filed under "casual vintage power pop". 


Jane is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Vancouver, now living in Toronto. She's the co-founder of the pop-rock group Spygirl, and has also played with Belinda Bruce, The Neins Circa, Fear of Drinking, and Little Wonder (fronted by Jon Wood of Flophouse Jr.). Other projects include: The Jane be Janes, The Auster Sisters, The Gutenbergs, Time Waits & the Eventually Brothers, The Montcrest Big Band, and The Jazz Generation.


The band was formed in 2007, soon after Jane moved to Toronto. Having bid farewell to over 20 years of creative partnerships on the West Coast, she now found herself musically adrift, and in many ways starting her career from scratch. Luckily, the move had landed her in the geographic heart of Canadian music. It seemed like a good place to start something new. So she bought an electric guitar on Craigslist, and put the word out that she was looking for bandmates.

Enter bassist and singer Mary Harmer (Weeping Tile). Jane and Mary were introduced by a mutual friend, and the two began rehearsing as a duo. They became musical sisters pretty quickly, and the songs started to take shape.

One night after seeing a Violet Archers show at the Cameron House, Mary introduced Jane to the V.A.'s drummer Cam Giroux (Oh Susanna, Sarah Harmer, etc.). Cam agreed to join the band that night, even before he'd heard their music. It became clear after few rehearsals that Cam was the perfect addition - his innate understanding of Jane's songwriting, plus the energy and humour he brought to the group, really took things up a notch. When Cam was on the road with other bands, Mary and Jane's good friend David Kitching subbed in. There was momentum. 

Enter musical Jedi, Tim Vesely (Rheostatics, The Violet Archers). One night Tim showed up at a gig, and liked the songs. So Jane got up the nerve to ask him if he'd consider recording some stuff, and he said "sure." Not long after, the first album Highway was recorded at The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Studio with Tim at the helm. Since then, Vesely has become an integral part of The Real Shade - playing drums, guitar and piano, in addition to his recording and producing efforts.

During the Highway sessions, Jane began to face up to the fact that her guitar style was pretty basic, better suited to steady rhythm rather than funky riffs and fancy licks - enter the lead guitarists! Johnny James came on board first, and brought some beautifully agile chops to the table. However, a change of careers caused Johnny to leave after a short time, and he was replaced by the soulful shredder and all-round rock 'n roll mastermind Gord Tough (Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Harmer). Jane now officially had her dream band.

When it came time to record Horizon Diaries, the multi-talented Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Rheostatics, Communism) was hired. The bed tracks were recorded by Don at his home studio (Rooster Studios). Aside from engineering the album, Don also played drums, cello and sang backup vocals. 

The Real Shade also has a Vancouver contingent that toured as Shade West in 2011. Past and present Shade "Westers" include guitarist Jon Wood (Flophouse Jr., Cam Penner), guitarist/singer Belinda Bruce, bassist Ryen Froggatt (Mazinaw, Rich Hope), and singer/songwriter Llynn Kellman


Singer/Songwriters: Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Gord Downie, Ronnie Lane, Tom Petty, Gillian Welch, Paul Weller, Bruce Springsteen, Beck Hansen, Elliott Smith.

Bands: The Velvet Underground, The Faces, The Pretenders, The Byrds, The Beatles, Calexico, The Violet Archers, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Los Lobos.


The new album Horizon Diaries is due out early Winter, 2018.


The Real Shade's music appears in the following TV series:

Portlandia: Season 3, Episode 5 "Squiggleman" | "Does it Matter", (One Last Show of Hearts)

Mind of a Chef: Season 1 Episode 14 "Sweet Spot" | "What I Mean" (Highway)

Nascar Race Hub: Episode 51  | "Tried Too Hard" (One Last Show of Hearts)

Min Hemlighet (Sweden): Episode 112 | "Peace of Mind" (One Last Show of Hearts)

Bem Vindos a Beirais (Portugal) |  "Peace of Mind" (One Last Show of Hearts)

Bez Komentarza (Poland) - song tbd




...there should be a home for bands that can so consistently craft smart, crisp pop songs and as long as Shade keeps writing records like One Last Show of Hearts, herohill will proudly yell from the rooftops hoping people to listen. 
– Bryan Acker, Herohill*


Through these seven songs, I get everything I could want—melodies which are good enough on their own but are made so much better by the harmonies—songs perfectly fitted to Gowan's perfect/imperfect voice.
– Frank Gutch Jr., Rock and Reprise


...a lovely warm tone and a bit of a vintage feel.
– Tiana Feng, Ride the Tempo


...unexpected hues and intricate instrumental weaves...a smart and witty playfulness
– Jim Di Gioia, Quick Before it Melts


…créative et accrocheuse…très bonnes chansons qui méritent une écoute attentive.
– 500 khz




This one’s a no-brainer – listen to Highway. 
– Canadian Musician Showcase


...Not one note on this compact 10-song, 36-minute record feels forced and that is very, very rare these days.
– Bryan Acker, Herohill *


Highway... is a gem. There is something very refreshing and unpretentious about the album and Gowan’s songwriting, as simple as it is, is outstanding in that simplicity. 
– Frank Gutch Jr., Segarini: Don't Believe a Word I Say


...a surprisingly strong, original effort...professional as hell.
–Todd Sikorski, Skope Magazine


Gowan's lyrics are genuine and real. The music is both polished and raw, as well-produced indie music ought to be.
–Chris Menezes, Suite 101.com




Catching Some Rays with Jane Gowan
Jimmy Rae, Skope Magazine, April, 2011


Nine Questions with Jane Gowan
Interview with Trevor Rogers, Nine Questions for Musicians (2011)

*The music blog Herohill closed for business in 2013, but we thank Bryan Acker and the team for all the years spent supporting Canadian music and bands.