A look at some of Breakout West’s best bands
Music | by Craig Silliphant
There’s often a sentiment that is felt in the music business in Canada — nothing matters outside of Toronto. The Western Canadian Music Alliance [WCMA] is an organization that actively combats that by supporting artists from all the provinces west of Manitoba. Their flagship event is called BreakOut West, created by the WCMA to promote and celebrate western Canadian music. It’s a four-day event that features a music conference, a music festival, and an awards gala to officially recognize western talent.
BreakOut West moves to a different city each year and this year the host city is Regina, from Oct. 13-16. You can find more information on their website (breakoutwest.ca), but I thought I’d give you a rundown of a few can’t miss artists. Of course, it’s a big festival with a daunting schedule, so there are many more acts than I have space to pump up, but this’ll get you started.
I was recently introduced to this amazing band from Regina, a tour de force of Latin music infused with contemporary influences. I had a chance to interview Andres Davalos from the band a while back and he told me the amazing story of how the band came about. After some harrowing situations, his family escaped to Canada from Chile after the dictator Pinochet’s military junta toppled the government in 1973. They took Chile with them on their exile to Canada, so Davalos and his bandmates grew up surrounded by culture and music of their parents’ homeland. Their latest album is called Madera, which means wood (or lumber) in Spanish, so their approach was to use more acoustic and wood-based instruments, all without losing the ability to make your butt bounce and sway. These guys put on a high-energy show, featuring a unique spin on an already fun genre of music. I can’t recommend them enough.
I’m not sure if there’s something in the water in Regina these days (well, something more than the obvious Regina water jokes would imply), but the music scene seems to have exploded in the last couple of years. Surf Dads are another band that are front and centre in that musical melee — so much so that they are probably playing around the rest of the world more than in the Queen City these days. To be clear, one of the band members is from LA, the other from Regina, so their genesis came about with the trading of iPhone demos. The garage-pop duo with the California sound have released a handful of EPs in the last year or two, and toured extensively. You can expect some epic reverb, sweaty jams, and blissed out melodies from this band.
You like things that pulse? Hailing from Winnipeg, the duo Ghost Twin will fill that aching hole you have inside you that demands you jam more synthwave into it. So. Much. Pulsing. And aside from throbbing bass and walls of synth arpeggios, Ghost Twin prattles around your haunted heart with dreamscape guitar lines and vocals like phantoms caught between netherworlds. They’re also somewhat known for their marriage of visuals to their live show, adding colour and texture to the atmosphere that permeates their music.
Calgary’s Double Fuzz probably get most compared to The White Stripes or The Black Keys, which is to say, they are a duo that plays guitar-based bluesy rock music. I loathe invoking those names in a situation like this because I find it pretty lazy. A musician works their heart out, writing and performing, just to get lumped into an easy category because of the limited imagination of some publicist or music writer. And I think that holds true with Double Fuzz — that paltry description doesn’t do them justice. In fact, some of their songs dance around the spectrum of influences like blues or rock. Listening to them, I hear the grunge of Soundgarden, the Texas bar blues of ZZ Top, and as in the case of their song Sugar Momma, some glam metal (specifically, Faster Pussycat). The cover of their latest album, CoCo, even looks like it could be a ZZ Top album cover. Most of these things speak of a wonderful sleaze, smothered in highway dirt and sprayed with stale beer.
Rosie and The Riveters
On the pretty far end of the spectrum from Double Fuzz, are the “four sassy dames” from Saskatoon. Taking their name from the recruiting poster turned feminist icon, The Riveters pop like eye candy in their bright 1940s vintage dresses, twirling and spinning on stage, while heavenly harmonies burst forth. Sometimes it’s folk music, sometimes gospel, and sometimes it’s the boogie woogie second coming of the Andrews Sisters, but it’s never boring. The name of their last album is ‘Good Clean Fun,’ which describes them pretty well. It’s also worth noting that The Riveters put their money where their cherry red lipstick is — 20 per cent of all their merch sales go to an organization called Kiva.org, which supports women’s projects around the world. Go get light-hearted, I dare ya!
Eliza Doyle plays a myriad of instruments, but her claim to fame in Saskatchewan is her mastery of the banjo, clawhammer-style. She’s played for years in groups, as a session musician, and as a solo artist, which she’s doing again now with the release of her new album, ‘It Ain’t What It Seems.’ It’s a journey through the heart of folk and bluegrass, taking the traditional sounds and teasing out some modern updates. Doyle’s strong, but frayed voice belts out tunes that can be at time beautiful and melodious and at times fit for a hoedown.
Named after a Chinese Food restaurant in Edmonton, Hot Panda formed in Alberta but now calls Vancouver home. Their latest album, ‘Bad Pop’ isn’t so bad after all. Sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes it’s bumpy, sometimes it’s melodic, and sometimes it’s a tidal wave of guitars coming down on your head. It could easily be lumped in with more accessible bands, but that would be a mistake — it’s more clever than the average pop/punk/whatever/bullshit band, reminding me of the first Hot Hot Heat or OK Go albums. Which is to say, poppy rock records that have more going on beneath the surface than you might notice at first listen. They’re not afraid to have fun though, and there’s a playful danciness that should come off like gangbusters live.