By Liam Prost
EDMONTON – The name North of Here is half a joke. Stationed in Edmonton, Alberta, there really isn’t that much in the northerly direction besides Slave Lake, Wood Buffalo Park, Those oil sands things, and that big ice mass we call the Northwest Territories. Rather, North of Here is a way of passing something off you don’t know. “Where is it?” “North of Here, probably.” For the sea-folk three piece however, this does them something of a disservice, because they are not something to be easily dismissed.
The group formed from their high school band program around a shared love of music, in Sherwood Park, Alberta, a suburb of Edmonton. It’s a bit of a bedroom community, where middle class Edmontonians go to raise families. Although suburban, it’s a space that’s “not devoid of the arts… [it’s] just a different environment,” bassist Luke Jansen tells BeatRoute from the band’s rehearsal space, as they clean up leaking water from a recent rainstorm. “we had to home-grow a little bit,” Mandolin player Ian St Arnaud attests. The group were fortunate enough to start out musically in a relatively supportive environment. St Arnaud had a friend with a mandolin, so he borrowed it to take to a music class and the band wrote a song around it. After hearing it, their music teacher offered them encouragement and opportunities, “more than we asked for,” St Arnaud jokes.
This was around 2012 when folk music was surging back into the mainstream, and when the group picked up some folk instruments “things made sense” Jansen describes. But despite their acoustic music, the band never developed a traditionalist attitude. “Because we didn’t grow up in the kind of community where you are handed an instrument at a young age and taught to play the songs of your people, you don’t learn the structures that are ingrained in folk music,” drummer Will Holowaychuk argues, “we didn’t grow up with the standards.” Thus the band never developed the revivalist bent that encourages an investment in the moves and turns of traditionalist music. Instead the band takes thoughtful, geographically centred lyrics and puts them on top of rhythmic mandolin and guitar soundscapes.
BeatRoute is proud to premiere ‘Without Windows,’ a meditative new single from the band. Luke Jansen wrote the lyrics for the song after coming back from a trip. “When you come back from being away for a bit you are maybe a little more reflective, ”he attests, the songs is about “capturing a feeling at the time.” Having recently amicably lost a member, the band is becoming more comfortable with being a three piece, with drummer Will Holowaychuk contributing to the track melodically as well as rhythmically, which brought a new dimension to the song-writing process. The song is “a lot about growth” both in the sound and the song-writing, and the band is allowing themselves to write songs with an open-endedness to them, arguing that “if [the band] are still trying to figure out what it is… you are going to get so much more out of performing it for an audience.” The band recorded the single with Leeroy Stagger at his Lethbridge Rebeltone Ranch, a studio the band describes as “the coolest clubhouse in all of western Canada.”
Two of the three members of the band have now migrated into Edmonton, where there are a few more places to play and are preparing for a busy summer of festivals, including Edmonton, Canmore, and Winnipeg Folk Fest. The band is starting to demo some material for a full-length album, and they anticipate hitting the studio for a 2018 release.
BeatRoute is proud to premiere the new 7’’ single by North of Here, ‘Without Windows,’ available to stream on beatroute.ca. Catch them June 22 at Little Brick (Edmonton).North of Here, Without Windows