Published Apr 28, 2020Canadian artists have been spending a whole lot more time at home lately — and since we can't see them onstage right now, Exclaim! caught up with musicians from across the country to take a look at where they've been during isolation.
From small-town musicians with extensive outdoor properties to tiny home studios in the middle of big cities — and even a small houseboat in England — Canadian artists' quarantine locations are as diverse as the people living in them. Below, take a trip into the self-isolation spaces where your favourite bands have been spending all of their time as of late.
Lance Sampson has had an inspiring journey leading up to his debut album: after his troubled teenage years (culminating in a prison sentence), he began rapping under the name Lex, eventually transforming into the genre-agnostic Aquakultre and forming a four-piece band. The Halifax family man will drop the debut album Legacy on May 8, and he's spending the lead-up to the release honing his performance and production skills — if his daughter Gigi (pictured) lets him, that is. He says, "On the days it may seem hard, I remember how fortunate I am for family, friends and freedom."
Tyler Bancroft of Said the Whale
As a self-described "control freak," Said the Whale singer-guitarist Tyler Bancroft has understandably been grappling with some feelings of helplessness during the COVID-19 crisis. Following last year's Cascadia, he has been working on material for the follow-up in his Vancouver shed-turned-studio (pictured), with the loose goal of making a new album later in 2020. He also notes that it's "good to remember that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and this isn't a productivity contest. I think it's okay to just survive at the moment."
Winnipeg's Boniface specializes in maximalist synth-pop anthems full of intimate lyrical details. The months before to this winter's self-titled debut had been so busy that project mastermind Micah Visser hadn't had a chance to use their newly built home studio. "Now, I have nothing but time," they tell Exclaim! "Between bouts of anxiety, I've been really putting it through its paces, writing and recording a lot of new music." Within the cocoon-like vocal booth (pictured), they have found a creative safe harbour away from the stresses of the world outside.
New Pornographers/Frontperson member Kathryn Calder currently serves as the Artist in Residence with the City of Victoria. As part of her duties, she livestreamed a home show on YouTube earlier this month, and she's currently practicing tunes for a "covers night" on May 1. Meanwhile, she's been working on music in her well-equipped home studio (pictured). Her setup includes the piano she learned on as a child, plus some original artwork on the wall from Meghan Hildebrand. She says, "It's the artwork I used as the front and back cover for my second solo record, Bright and Vivid. Meghan painted it on an old door! If you look along the bottom edge, you can see where the hinges go."
Soul singer Tanika Charles made a splash with last year's sophomore LP The Gumption, earning a long list nomination for the Polaris Music Prize and getting a best-of-the-year nod here at Exclaim! She hasn't been creatively inspired during self-isolation, so Edmonton-bred singer has been at her home in Toronto, learning new languages and catching up on reading (pictured). She asks, "They say wash your hands and wear a mask, am I doing it right?"
Jonah Falco (Jade Hairpins, Fucked Up)
Known widely for kicking up a racket with crossover hardcore heroes Fucked Up, Jonah Falco (along with Fucked Up bandmate Mike Haliechuk) have ventured into freewheeling power pop and post-punk with their project Jade Hairpins. With the debut album Harmony Avenue set to land on May 29, Falco has been spending time in rather unusual surroundings: a historic narrowboat in London, UK's canal system. Electricity is limited (especially after the sun goes down and there's no more solar power), but he's still able to do some mixing for other artists. He tells Exclaim!, "I've recently picked up the trumpet again, which means so has everyone else moored nearby." He's pictured here in the engine room — "one of the two places I can stand without hitting my head."
Some Canadian artists have been able to keep making music in isolation, but it's not so easy for Montreal punks NOBRO, whose hellraising rock music is all about cranked amps and live interplay. That's not great timing for their mega-catchy new EP Sick Hustle; drummer Sarah Dion and keyboardist-percussionist Lisandre Bourdages, who share an apartment, point out, "We can't just roll out some drums and congas and jam in here!" That being said, guitarist Karolane Carbonneau has been mixing songs for friends (in between games of Call of Duty and Resident Evil), while singer-bassist Kathryn McCaughey has been grooming her cat and making dance tracks. "I've been writing music, but mostly dance-y pop hits to hit the club with," she says. "Sometimes you just have to dance away all the anxiety."
Pharis and Jason Romero
Juno-winning folk duo Pharis and Jason Romero are fairly used to isolation, given that they live in Horsefly, a small town in BC's remote Cariboo region. Aside from weekly supply runs to Williams Lake, an hour away, they estimate they haven't left the property within the past month. But they have plenty to keep them busy: homeschooling their two kids (ages four and six), running their J. Romero Banjos shop, and preparing to release the new album Bet on Love on May 15. They tell Exclaim!, "Gardening and food are powerful drivers for us; we've plotted our the root cellar that we'll build this summer, are thinking towards fishing and hunting and storing food. The greenhouse is warm and growing springtime greens, and we've been starting lots of seeds and expanding the gardens we have."
Edmonton's Wares were supposed to spend the year on the road in support of their impassioned new album, Survival. Instead singer-guitarist Cassia Hardy has been diving deep into her record collection (pictured). The new album finds the band venturing into sound design and synthesis — and with a suddenly clear schedule, Hardy has been honing her skills even further. She says, "Big shout out to Matthew Cardinal for being so encouraging and helpful in the DMs, definitely check out his solo music in addition to his work in nêhiyawak!"
Self-described "moccasin-gaze" artist Daniel Monkman is gearing up for his first album under the alias Zoon, which combines his love of shoegaze (as alluded to by the title Bleached Wavves) with his Ojibwe heritage. In the lead-up to the June 19 release, Monkman has been in Hamilton — where, luckily enough, he lives and records with Zoon drummer Andrew Mcleod, a.k.a. Sunsetter (pictured). "Now, with this time, I get to sit down and fully work through all of the ideas that I've written down throughout the years," he says. His ongoing isolation projects include a new collaboration with WHOOP-Szo's Adam Sturgeon.
Find out what other Canadian musicians have been up to under self-quarantine with our Isolation Nation feature.