C/O McMaster University Concert Band
The McMaster University Concert Band looks forward to bringing the band together in person as COVID restrictions ease
Under the School of the Arts, the McMaster University Concert Band offers students the opportunity to practice music in an ensemble setting, engage with the Hamilton community through performances and meet other students interested in music while doing so.
No matter which discipline or program you belong to, all McMaster University students are welcome to audition for the band.
Students can choose to join the concert band as a course for credit if they would like. Regardless of whether students are receiving credit or not, all players complete the same band activities.
Typically, the MCB gathers together for rehearsals once a week and holds three regular performances. Additional performances and engagements with the community also occur throughout the year.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensemble conducted all rehearsals and performances online in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Speaking to last year’s experience, President of the MCB, Duncan McCallum, said that although doing everything online was not an ideal experience, the band was able to learn a lot from the challenges they overcame.
“It was a much more collaborative process. We were all trying to figure it out together so that was I think rewarding and certainly something new that was cool to experience,” said McCallum.
Doing everything online taught the band that there are benefits to working in smaller groups and that virtual participation opens up opportunities for more guest speakers or musicians to engage with the band.
Now, for the 2021-2022 academic year, McMaster has announced that students are welcome to come back to campus. However, many COVID-19 protocols are still in place. If the band wishes to incorporate in-person components within their rehearsals, they must adhere to the protocols.
Thus, McCallum said that exact plans for how the school year will play out are still undetermined. For now, meetings will be conducted virtually.
McCallum explained that having to consider the different instrumental needs of the band introduces an added level of difficulty for meeting in person. Different mask procedures would also have to be adapted to accommodate the players.
In addition, social distancing poses another barrier for the band. Students have to remain six feet apart. In a typical year, the band is comprised of about 70 students, so finding enough space for the band to meet would be difficult.
Despite all these challenges, McCallum looks forward to bringing the band together in person.
“There’s a lot of barriers to [meeting] in-person, but I think everyone’s so eager to do so that we’re just going to jump on it any chance we get, [even if] that means playing outside in a parking lot [or] being spaced out in the bleachers of the concert hall so that we’re all far away [enough] from each other,” said McCallum.
Wendy Tang, vice-president of the MCB, said that on top of practicing music, building a community is also an essential part of the band’s culture.
“Apart from rehearsals, as execs we also ran a lot of events so students can also feel that community because honestly, a big part of our concert band aside from it being a band is also the community that we’ve built,” said Tang.
Having events where students can socialize and get to know each other is something that the executives of the band aim to do every year.
McCallum also emphasized that despite still having to do things online, learning from experiences from the previous year greatly benefits the new year.
“[Not just the band, but] a lot of classes and clubs, they [also] felt like they adapted because they had to, not because [it was] the best circumstance. This year, we want to make it the most rewarding experience we can with whatever is thrown at us, whether that means being online for part of the semester or being in-person as much as we can,” said McCallum.
By: Natalie Clark
Since graduating from McMaster in 2008, the Arkells have become one of Hamilton’s greatest accomplishments. “You write what you know,” mentions lead singer of the Arkells, Max Kerman, who accredits not only Hamilton, but McMaster, to the inspiration behind many of the band’s greatest hits.
“You write material based on your own life experiences; you’re trying to tell a story about a person, a friend, or someone you admire,” said Kerman.
The multiple Juno-award winning band’s career began in Hamilton where Kerman met the other members of the band. Their band name was even inspired by one of Westdale’s own street name; Arkell Street. Their first gig was played at the annual Battle of the Bands at McMaster in spring of their first year and a few of their songs feature campus landmarks such as the Brandon Hall residence in “Where U Goin”.
The Arkell’s music video sets and album titles have included places beyond campus including Cheapies Records, Jackson Square and even a Hamilton Street Railway bus.
McMaster and Hamilton are clearly places that the band admire. For Kerman, the buildings we spend long hours studying in, the neighbourhoods we settle into and the downtown spots we find excitement in paint the setting of his coming of age story, despite winding up there for other reasons.
“I went to McMaster because my high school girlfriend who was older than me was already there in the year ahead of me… I wanted to go to a school that wasn’t near my parents’ house, and McMaster took me in,” said Kerman.
Kerman went on to graduate as a political science major and describes his passion for politics as stemming from his family.
“My mom is a high school teacher and my dad is a social worker, which are two very community-based jobs…because I had this in my house growing up, it makes you think about how you are a part of a bigger thing,” explained Kerman.
He described political science as constantly asking questions about how we understand and figure things out together and how we coexist in this world. His education informed the way he sees the world and Kerman often translates this passion for politics into the band’s lyrics.
The Arkells have had more than a few hits with political messaging including “Knocking at the Door” which is inspired by The Women’s March on Washington and their most recent single, “People’s Champ”, is a protest against American President Donald Trump.
The Arkells are making their way across Canada and the United States this February to tour their new album Rally Cry. Their most local show will take place at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Feb. 16 with special guests Lord Huron.
“Getting the chance to play our new material is something we are most looking forward to, and when we were working on the songs in the studio, we were really thinking about how these songs would come off live,” mentioned Kerman.
The tour comes after their record-breaking show, The Rally, this past June at the Tim Horton’s Field. In true Arkells fashion, where better to have their biggest performance to date than in their hometown? As the Arkells continue to thrive, it’s exciting to see where their momentum will take them next.
This past weekend, K-pop superstars BTS landed in Hamilton for three sold-out stadium concerts. Nestled among the three multi-million dollar performances was Magic Shop: A Celebration of BTS and the Magic of Self-Love, a group art exhibition at the Factory Media Centre.
The exhibit was dedicated to BTS fan art and ran from Sept. 21 to Sept. 23. It featured media artwork created by local artists who love the boy band. The event also featured two workshops, one focusing on zine-making and the other on hybrid animation.
Hamilton 3D artist, Charlit Floriano, wanted to have an exhibit as soon as she heard that BTS was coming to play in the city. She became a fan a little over a year ago when a friend of hers sent her one of the band’s music videos. Instantly in love, Floriano became an avid consumer of the plethora of content that the group puts out.
BTS keeps its fans hooked with a constant stream of tweets and music. In the last year alone they have released three albums and countless music videos. The visually stunning videos have made art a key part of the BTS experience.
“I think the visuals do a really good of connecting everything. [I]t drew me in…[T]hat first video I watched, it was like the sets… the costumes, the makeup, all of it just blew me away as an artist,” Floriano explained.
The band’s aesthetics have inspired their army of fans to create their own art, Floriano among them. In the past she has made 3D models of the band members and for the exhibit she has created a virtual reality experience.
Floriano sees the creation of BTS fan art as narrative work. It serves as a way for fans to develop the band members’ characters as they are inspired by the real and idol personas that the group shares online.
She and the other artists that took part in the exhibition were also drawn to the themes present in the band’s music and style.
“[I]n the West the way that [the band] deal[s] with masculine beauty is really different… [I]t's kind of more soft and feminine so it feels androgynous to us. And then the whole theme of loving yourself and just focusing more on… your career. It's not so romance-driven but it's also about friendship and owning yourself,” she said.
These themes are part of what has made BTS so special to so many people. It is the reason why they have enough support to sell out the FirstOntario Centre for three nights and fill Jackson Square’s roof with 10,000 fans waiting for merchandise and a chance to take a picture with holograms of band members. Their fans are beyond passionate and creative.
Unfortunately, Floriano reports there is stigma associated with being a BTS fan, perhaps because they are a pop group or because they cater to younger audiences. Floriano doesn’t want those who love BTS to feel as if that their love is invalid or misplaced.
“[I]t's okay to like things because they're pretty or because it makes you happy…I also want[ed] to give a venue to the people I knew who are really into them and who are artists too…[BTS] is something I like drawing and it can be art [placed] in a gallery,” explained Floriano.
The art exhibit and concerts served as a way for the Hamilton BTS army to come together. By meeting people who love BTS and art, Floriano hopes people have been inspired to make their own BTS-inspired pieces. She believes that fan art is a gateway to real art.
By: Vanessa Polojac
Born Ruffians welcomes back original drummer Steve Hamelin to create their most personal album to date, all while reuniting a life-long group of friends.
Uncle, Duke and the Chief is a homage to their biggest fans; their fathers.
The 15-year industry veterans include Luke Lalonde (vocals and guitar), Mitch DeRosier (bass guitar) and Steve Hamelin (drums), but their history in music stretches farther than their own careers.
Growing up with their musician fathers, the three band members were encouraged to develop a passion for music at an early age.
“Our fathers have been extremely encouraging of our musical careers. At the beginning of our career, Luke’s dad used to drive us to all of our shows. All three of our dads tried to break into the music industry while in their 20s, now they live vicariously through us. We are extremely lucky to have such supportive fathers,” said Hamelin.
Lalonde’s father was a part of a Canadian rock band called Wireless in late 1970s.
With knowledge in the Canadian music industry he influenced Born Ruffians to relocate from Midland, Ontario and move to Toronto when they were just teenagers to pursue their dreams of becoming an internationally famous musical act. Shortly after, they got signed onto English record label Wrap Records.
"Now, I see that I need the band in my life. It's like a first love and I can't let go of it."
In 2008, they released their first studio album Red, Yellow & Blue, which got international recognition.
Their record label linked them to many famous bands such as Franz Ferdinand and a cameo on the popular British television show, Skins.
They performed and toured alongside Tokyo Police Club. From 2010, they became a well-known Canadian name. Singles such as “Oh Cecilia” became staples in Canadian radio and Born Ruffians became a band in high demand.
They were eventually signed to their current label, Paper Bag Records.
“Being a part of this band on and off for this many years has given me so many amazing experiences as well as life-long friends,” explained Hamelin.
“We are always around each other’s family. We call Luke’s dad ‘uncle’, Mitch’s dad ‘Duke’ and my dad’s nickname is ‘The Chief’.”
The trio has gone through many of one another’s life changes together over the last 15 years. But being a part of a band for so long, Hamelin decided he needed a break.
He took a four-year recess to return to university. He finished his bachelor’s degree, which was put on hold during the early years of Born Ruffians.
“For some years, I just felt dissatisfied with the direction that my life and the band was going in. That’s when I decided to re-enroll and finish my degree. Now, I see that I need the band in my life. It’s like a first love and I can’t let go of it,” explained Hamelin.
Differing from past records, Uncle, Duke and the Chief is lyrically more personal, emotional and reflective.
The passing of David Bowie, who was a big musical inspiration for the band, sparked the beginning stages of the record. The album deals with death, aging, life, motivation and ambition, themes that are very personal, but can connect universally.
“This record was a three-part process and took us over a year to create. We wanted the record to bring us back to our roots as a trio and in my opinion this album is our strongest record to-date,” said Hamelin
In 2018, the band plans to tour Uncle, Duke and the Chief nationally. Born Ruffians will be kicking off their tour at Mills Hardware right here in Hamilton on March 9.
It’s always a pleasure to hear the passion in a person’s voice when describing something they love. It’s even better when a group expresses that same passion. This is exactly the case with Goodnight Sunrise, a Toronto band currently on a tour of Eastern Canada to promote their new record, Deal With It.
I got to catch up with the members of GNSR recently during the drive between two of their shows. Their enthusiasm for music was infectious even when running on little sleep and not nearly enough coffee.
Interestingly, neither David Kochberg nor Vanessa Vakharia, the band’s guitarist/vocalist and keytarist/vocalist, respectively, came to music at a young age. “My parents made me take piano lessons against my will,” Kochberg explained.
Paul Weaver, the band’s drummer, however, got an earlier start. “I got into rock and roll because of my mom. My mom was super badass and she used to buy me cool records. And my parents used to truck me around to like, Pearl Jam concerts,” he said.
Vakharia had a similar experience to Kochberg growing up. “But when I was in high school I got really into becoming Britney Spears and I tried out for Canadian Idol three times in a row, stood in line for 10 hours and got rejected after the first note… I really wanted to be a pop star,” she explained.
She added that one night she confronted a band playing at a bar. “I was like, you guys would be so much better with female harmonies…and then they asked me to come jam with them the next day.” That became the first band Vakharia was part of. “We found David on Craigslist and we were in this other band for a few years and then we started Goodnight Sunrise.”
The creation of the band’s songs is a group effort. “Usually what happens is either David or I will come up with a chunk of a song, like a riff or a melody…and we’ll bring it to the other person,” Vakharia explained. “Then we’ll bring it to our bassist or [Paul] and they’ll really put the meat of the song together… but it’s mostly me and David writing the lyrics.”
Goodnight Sunrise’s genre is difficult to pin down as it combines its members’ varied musical interests. Kochberg is a fan of classic rock, while Weaver has been influenced by Alice in Chains and 90s grunge, along with his classical jazz training. “I love rock, but really I grew up listening to pop and house music,” Vakharia said.
Despite their differences in musical inspiration and preference, Kochberg, Vakharia and Weaver all agree on their favourite performance as a band. They played the first day of Turtle Music Fest in Parry Sound this summer, and while their performance went well, Vakharia explained that things took an unexpected turn.
“After we played, everything went to shit. The festival got cancelled,” including the sets of the two headlining bands, I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace.
“So on Sunday at 3 p.m., we were still in town [with] all these people in Parry Sound who wanted to party…We ended up providing the gear for I Mother Earth so they could play a show at the local bar and the agreement was that since we brought all the gear, we would get to open for them.”
The crowd was appreciative and enthusiastic.
“No one was too cool to dance that night,” she said.
How did three high school band geeks end up opening for Theory of a Deadman? McMaster band Daydrunk’s origin story is one of auspicious coincidences and last minute frenzies. Jordan Hallin, a fourth-year philosophy student, who plays guitar and vocals, is also the resident story-spinner. Last winter he happened upon an MSU “Last Band Standing” poster and thought, “This is something I’ve always wanted to do, so why not throw this crazy thing together?”
With just days before the Feb. 1 deadline, Hallin recruited his acquaintance Marty Vandenberk, a third-year sociology student. The group needed a third member because the competition prioritized larger bands. Luckily Marty’s housemate, Rhett Amin, a bass player, was just next door. They called out, “Hey Rhett, you’re gonna be in a band with us,” and he obliged. The first time they practiced together was while recording their audition.
Amin’s bass is a defining part of Daydrunk’s sound. The bass often takes on elements of the melody and as Hallin said, “Rhett does things on the bass that consistently surprise me.” The early rush of success for the band has had a large influence, explained Amin. He said, “We have way more shows than we have practices, we have to listen to each other.” This unity exists offstage as well; said Hallin, “We’re the best of friends.”
Their opportunity to open for Theory of a Deadman came about in much the same way as the band got together. Hallin discovered the Whiskey Rocks contest three days before it closed, and sprang into action. Vandenberk said, “Jordan came to our house one day and said, we’re going to do this. Jordan always comes to us with these crazy ideas, and our first reaction is ‘you want to do what?’”
They filmed their music video in just one day, and Amin and Hallin spent six hours editing their footage. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on anything,” Hallin said.
Ironically, the Whiskey Rocks contest, run by the LCBO, would not allow them to use the name Daydrunk, because they said that it promotes irresponsible drinking. Their fans on Facebook suggested switching the name to Dray drunk, which was viagra alternative accepted by the contest coordinators.
That wasn’t the only snag they ran into. Going from coffeehouse nights at Mac’s Bridges Cafe to the London Music Hall was a big change, but the band took their mistakes, such as hitting microphones, as learning opportunities. “We got to experience things going wrong and everything turning out all fine,” said Vandenberk. The band also shared their appreciation for the friends and family that came out to support them. “What they really don’t understand,” explained Hallin, “is how much it means and how much it helps us.”
Daydrunk was overjoyed by the success of their set. Hallin, who was still wearing his performer’s wristband during our interview, describes the experience as “unbelievable.” “We’ve had the experience of playing on a sound system that can deafen small children, how often can you do that?” said Vandenberk. Theory of a Deadman, who was once their childhood hero, came up to them afterwards and congratulated them on their performance.
They plan to build off this success by putting out more music in the next two months, and hope to release a full album by next summer. Daydrunk also has ideas for a benefit concert for the music program Vandenberk worked for in high school. Hallin said he hopes his shows “always have a cause…using your music to spread music to more people, what’s the downside?”
Myles Chats With Montreal's Newest Noisemakers: The Breezes
Montreal’s The Breezes are not only defined by their geography, but by an irreverent dose of humour, unpredictable at any instant.
Consisting of Matt Oppenheimer, Daniel Leznoff, James Benjamin and Adam Feingold, the electro-pop foursome possess tunes and talent of adroit jest, as evident in their viral, sing-a-long anthem “Count to Eleven.” However, as guitarist Dan Leznoff explains to ANDY, their roots are everything. “Seriously, Montreal made us. We’ve seen every band. Living here, the culture just breathes into you, covers you like a film of dust you don’t notice.”
Questioned further as to what gives Quebecois artist’s their certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ over Western Canadian cotemporaries, he didn’t hesitate to lay it down, proud and precise. ”Montreal is significantly cheaper than Vancouver and Toronto. It attracts artists who want to focus deeply on their craft without having to worry about rent and food. When you are really dedicated to learning about your art you come to Montreal and then you move on hopefully. It nurtures growth more than other cities.”
While the band’s sound derives from a dance floor zeitgeist of neon vibes and skinny ties, The Breezes undoubtedly know how to craft tasty hooks that balance the digital divide between today’s Top 40 and indie-chill. Indeed, adopting inspiration from all facets is integral to their tone – channeling the spirit of everyone from the late Owen Hart and Evel Knievel to Guns N' Roses and Ice-T, “boyhood heroes” as he calls them.
As for songwriting styles, Dan makes no bones about it: it’s about camaraderie and analogies. “A songwriter is just like an athlete, after a while he stops thinking about what he does and just does it. All you can do is live your art, study and listen a lot. Being in a band is all about building together. Competition is a force that helps the building process but one that can obviously destroy everything. Its all about figuring out how much space to give and how much to take.”
Aided by an escalating profile, the band exudes confidence, rather than evince egotism – something blithely reflected in the strength of their music and the successful manner by which they are managed.
The Internet can be a pitiless pool of blog-o-sphere build-up. For The Breezes, life’s too short to worry – embracing technology, but also swaying to their own sails. “Aint no taint to the paint. The Internet has leveled the playing field and opened the door for people all the way from Xanadu to Atlantis to Shangri La to know about you instantaneously, no matter where you’re from. We download music, shop at record stores, listen to the radio, go to clubs and the library to find music. Digital streaming and blog stuff have changed surprisingly little. A song is still a living, breathing thing that you hear with your ears and feel with your soul. ”
Online, songs can sustain longevity. However, to succeed professionally, a group lives or dies by their ability to perform live. From a recording studio to stage milieu, Dan explained the difference between both in typical Breezes fashion. “Our live show is much more free and loose, like a virgin in Tijuana on Spring Break. The record is like her audio engineer twin sister, who views Spring Break as extra study time to nitpick and dissect sonic mysteries.”
Anticipating label approval, and a subsequent debut LP within months, the band are currently on tour, turning people onto their EP of bedroom psychedelia entitled “Update My High.”
The future looks bright, as Dan concludes, with good times ahead “In two years hopefully we won’t see The Breezes, hopefully people will see us. The party is starting very soon…”
If that’s the case, count me in.
The Breezes will be performing in Toronto on March. 24 at Wrongbar