Interview with Ben VanBuskirk of Canadian Band: Blackout Orchestra

canadian music, Interviews
Photo credit: Portraits By Shak (Instagram: @portraitsbyshak)

By Monica Ng

This is the second music interview that I give credit to @sara_sunshine_meredith (IG) for the band intro – the first one being Toronto’s Hideout Legacy. Sara’s a music lover and always discovering new music like myself. I get so excited every time I come across music that “clicks” for me. It’s like receiving the rarest, most precious gift because music is so enjoyable and can tap into emotions that you never knew existed (or have buried). Music can also heal your soul and take you on a spiritual journey. It’s like drummer Adrian Morris of Neon Dreams – I was blown away when I heard him play drums for the first time in concert. I never knew that drums could make those sounds. And same with Stuck on Planet Earth’s Adam Bianchi’s guitar playing…the music coming from his guitar awakens parts of me that I never knew existed.   

I say it all the time and I’ll say it again now – I’m so proud of Toronto’s local and Canadian musicians! 

New single “It’s Fine” releases August 1, 2021!

Contact 

IG: @blackoutorchestra 

Facebook: Blackout Orchestra 

linktr.ee/BlackoutOrchestra 

Blackout Orchestra’s music 

I Will Want You When We are Ghosts (Album) – March 2021: Siren Song, Fine Lines, Bijou, Nowhere Near the Looking Glass, Apartment Window, Stargazing, A Thousand Times, Wanderlust, Dreamers Often Lie and Nothing but Blue Skies. 

About 

Ben VanBuskirk is the singer, songwriter, guitar player and producer behind Toronto’s Blackout Orchestra (“Blackout”). With self-described “Lo-fi art-alt-post-pop-rock for long walks, dark nights of the soul, and underwear dancing in your bedroom” music, tied up beautifully into a solid 10-track album, Blackout masterfully gives the listener a glimpse into the darkness and light that exists within us. As the world slowly emerges from the ashes of the COVID pandemic, Blackout has recently had its first live performance and continues to make its mark on the world stage. 

Photo credit: Portraits By Shak (Instagram: @portraitsbyshak)

Interview

Me: From what I gathered about you online and through your posts, you were battling with alcoholism and serious mental health issues including depression and anxiety, and basically hit rock bottom after your relationship ended.  Often dark emotions inspire creativity. I find the same thing for my creative writing – I write my best stuff when my emotions are going haywire. Can you tell us the story of how you got to where you are today? 

Ben:  I suffer from depression and general anxiety disorder – it’s always just kind of been in the background, but I found a lot of ways to avoid dealing with it directly – drinking, romanticizing it – but eventually I was drinking to be social and to calm my thoughts, or writing about this overwhelming sense of dread. “The tortured artist” idea and all that – all kind of fell away. I was drinking to excess every day, I was broke because I was spending all my money on alcohol and junk food because I was too hungover and exhausted to even do groceries. I had nothing really left in me to fight for. When my last relationship ended – and she was dealing with a lot of the same issues, but they manifested very differently – I looked around and I really had nothing left in my life that I felt good about or proud of.

I was really lucky because a couple of friends saw where I was at and staged a sort-of intervention. They helped me clean my apartment, put together a budget, suggested some ideas to exercise as I was in really poor shape,  forced me to really think about what my ideal life would look like – and they put down some ground rules to help me drink less – “only on weekends” was the plan. But that first weekend came around and I had started to have a little bit of a sense of control over my life back, so I thought “why not push it, not drink this weekend either, and maybe go back to it the weekend after, once I’ve cemented some of these better habits” . But I never did have another drink. I was surprised at how much better I felt just with some of these steps.

I still suffer from anxiety and depression, and some days are harder than others, but being sober and really back in tune with my emotions and with a sense of hope and purpose, I don’t get to the point of feeling hopeless anymore. When I have a bad day it’s more like “oh, this again. Well, push through it – you know it comes and goes.”

Me: Thanks for sharing your story. Luckily you have good friends who weren’t afraid to confront you. Mental health is such an important issue that if left unchecked can destroy people. Whenever I think of mental health, I think of Frank Kadillac of Neon Dreams [read my interview to find out why] and musician AARYS. In my interview with AARYS she talks about her personal struggle with anxiety. She is an advocate for mental health awareness. It’s inspiring how you turned darkness into light through the power of your music. Do you have any advice to help those struggling with mental health issues and alcoholism? 

Ben: I only know what’s helped me. Being sober helps me regulate my emotions and keep perspective, so that’s been important. Exercise really helps me get out a lot of the nervous energy that comes with anxiety – so I can actually fall asleep at night instead of having to be at the brink of collapse to get there. And writing, just sort of unconsciously and letting what comes out happen, has been a really good way to process and think about what I’m feeling and deal with a difficult situation in a way that’s safe – and at the end I often have a song, so something productive has come out of it. Really that’s one of the keys – taking the negative things you’ve gone through and reframing them into something positive. You don’t have to make art to do it either – just consciously taking a hard situation and thinking “Whether or not the trade off was worth it, aside what did I learn from this situation? What has it made me wiser about, more careful about, what can I take from this to improve future situations?” And most importantly reach out – I’d likely be dead if it weren’t for those friends I mentioned earlier.

Me: I can appreciate what you went through, as I’ve had my own dark days. I’m really glad that you’ve found a way to channel your emotions and reach for the light. It’s obvious from your talent that you didn’t just become a musician as you were finding your way. When did you first get into music and other than guitar, what instruments do you play? 

Ben: I was a film score nerd as a kid – Aliens, Star Trek, Jurassic Park – I’d buy the CDs and play them on repeat and try to pick out the melodies on the little Yamaha keyboard my family had. When I was 12 or so, I discovered alt rock through my sister – she had introduced me to Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana and Moist. She ran away briefly as teenagers tend to do, and when she got back, I’d co-opted all her CDs and tapes. I still have most of them! From there it was just a matter of time until I managed to make a deal with my dad to save up half the cost of a cheap guitar and he’d pay for the other half.

It’s funny because I’m not “great” at any instrument. I play enough guitar to play the rhythm parts of most songs. I really enjoy playing bass, which I kind of picked up by default. I pluck around on the piano, mandolin, give me an instrument and I’ll find a way to do something with it, but in a really naive and unpolished way. I don’t think of myself as a musician really. More like a songwriter who just plays instruments sometimes in order to write a song. 

Me: I don’t think that you can convince me that you’re not really a musician! Your music says otherwise. Going back to your “rocky” relationship, I saw on one of your posts that you and Morgan have made your way back to each other and are now engaged. Congratulations!  How do you feel at this stage in your relationship and when is the big day?! 

Ben: It’s wonderful! She’s not the person that the album refers to – Morgan is someone I’ve known for 14 years or so. We’ve been together on and off, but always at the wrong times in our lives. This time we reconnected and it just lined up – I was getting my life together and so was she. We’re non-monogamous, which wasn’t my “default” relationship setting – but it’s turned out to be the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had. I’m very much an introvert who needs time alone, and she’s very extroverted – so we have an incredibly happy “home” life but also the space we need from each other to feel fulfilled in our own lives as well. No date set yet – it’s gonna be a small affair, probably late next summer or early next fall. We’re working it out as we speak!

Me: Very exciting for you both! Morgan is a talented musician as well. I love the arrangement of your stripped-down version of “Siren Song” with you on guitar and Morgan playing the violin. I also love her backup vocals in “A Thousand Times”, they add an unexpected depth to the song.  What is it like for you to collaborate with her musically and what are your plans going forward?  

Ben: What’s great about Morgan is that though there is some overlap, we generally have very different musical tastes. She’s a real “singer” – and also likes a lot of pop music, bluegrass, and folk. I’m more into sad bastard music, and loud rock and also hip hop and electronic music. So I’ll write with my own frame of references and then ask her to add to it – and it’s always something that I never would have thought of on my own. Whatever she adds is ten times better than what I would have thought of on my own, because if I think “this is a very Smashing Pumpkins sort of melody” I’d automatically write harmony in that style. But she doesn’t listen to that at all, so she’ll sing something that makes it more unique.

On the record she’s only on a couple of songs – she wasn’t able to be around at the time I was recording it, save for some of the early demos – so it’s largely a “solo” album. But she’s on most of the new songs we’ve been recording. And live, at least so far, it’s mostly been us as a duo. So it’s been really fun to strip the songs down to the acoustic format and hear what happens with the harmonies. That’s part of why we released the acoustic version of “Siren Song” – I loved the way it sounded when we were doing it live and wanted that version to be out there too. 

Me: Collaborations are nice – everyone shares their unique perspective. On the topic of unique – band names are getting more unique. In my last interview, I tried to decipher Toronto’s Phantom Atlantic’s name. They said it “came about from one of our long winded philosophical conversations that we love having, but beyond that we kind of like to leave it as a blank slate for people.”  What’s the story behind your name? 

Ben: I wish I had a good story for you on this one, but we literally just went online to a band name generator until we came across something we both liked. We could have been “Twilight Algebra” or something! 

What’s funny is – much later we found out there used to be an indie punk band from Australia called “The Blackout Orchestra”. I assume they went to the same band name generator page. 

Me: Well, the “1-2-3” promo would have been good for Twilight Algebra! That’s a story in itself lol. A good one after all…

It sounds like most of your album was produced during the pandemic. I read that some parts of your songs were created with the help of your cell phone. How is that even possible?! Can you describe the creative process behind your new album? 

Ben: The whole genesis of the project was in lockdown. I was writing some songs and had just got a new phone – not a fancy new iPhone or anything, a BlackBerry Key2 – and there were some basic recording apps. I’m a luddite so I didn’t have a computer or even internet at home for a long time. Anyway, it was really fun to play with for some rough demos at first. But as I got to know the ins and outs of it I found ways to work around some of the limitations. So I have a lot of decent gear – microphones, midi controllers, and the like – but it’s all running into my phone instead of a laptop. It probably makes the process ten times harder than it needs to be, but it also means I can record just about anywhere, anytime. And having a lot of limitations kind of forces you to get more creative. 

Me: Yes, limitations…reminds me of the old days. When I was growing up, my sisters and I didn’t have much in terms of toys. Instead we put together performances with our stuffed animals and wrote silly books. Creativity is always there, we just need to be open to it.

It’s rare these days for musicians to release 10 songs on a track – mostly they release EPs and singles. I mentioned in one of my social media posts that generally I don’t buy full albums. Normally, I’ll pick and choose my favourite songs, but I love your songs and have purchased the entire album. Did you have a consolidated theme in mind before you started writing and producing your songs? 

Ben: Thank you so much for picking up the album! I’m definitely an album guy. I like to listen to a record from beginning to end and really experience it, and I definitely write with that in mind. Our album – it’s not a “story” in the narrative sense, you can’t necessarily read the lyrics like a book or anything – but it starts at a relationship ending and takes you through the process of hitting rock bottom and climbing back up to being okay. And musically I was very conscious of the ebb and flow, where the energy picks up and where it gives you space to breath. The songs should work on their own but they’re definitely parts of the larger whole.

Me: I’ll take another listen with that in mind. I’m passively listening to your album as I’m putting together this interview. It helps me to connect better and feel the vibe. I don’t really know you, but instantly liked you more because we share a love for the band Moist and another musician who we are both currently on the fence about. On that note, here is my usual get-to-know-you-better question: who are your top 3 favourite musicians? 

Ben:  That’s the biggest question! Thank you for giving me a limit otherwise I’d just be naming bands I love for pages and pages! I can’t give a “top 3” because it all depends on my mood. But 3 of the many that come to mind at this moment are:

Radiohead. I love how they’ve never repeated themselves – they always just make whatever type of music they’re interested in at that time, and they also make really immersive albums that flow beautifully from beginning to end. 

The Cure. What I love about The Cure is that they can make the most sad, dirge-y music to mope to. Or the most joyful silly pop songs. Or the most visceral, angry songs. Sometimes all on the same record. If you throw “The Figurehead” on after “The Lovecats” – they’re completely different genres, but it always sounds like The Cure somehow. That’s sort of my goal, I think. 

Phoebe Bridgers. Phoebe writes the most heart-wrenching emotional lyrics, but she also has a wickedly funny sense of humour. Some people tag her as “depressing” but I actually find, even at her saddest, her music is really life affirming and makes me smile. Also, seeing her talk in interviews – she just always comes across as 100% authentic. Like, there’s no “persona” there, no rock star BS – she’s just her. It reminds me in a weird way of when I got into Nirvana – Kurt always came across that same way, and also had that sad but funny thing with his lyrics. They don’t sound anything alike but I definitely feel there’s some connection there.

Me: My younger sister was a huge Radiohead fan. Though I like their music I never really got into them. So true about The Cure…Friday I’m in Love…

You mentioned in a recent post that you’re working on new music…do tell us more! 

Ben: Yeah! We have a one-off single coming out called “It’s Fine” – first as an exclusive single through QuickFix Recordings out of the UK as part of their monthly singles club on August 1st. That comes with a bunch of bonus content like remixes and whatnot. It’ll come out on streaming services a little while later, but without the bonus stuff. It’s definitely a guitar pop song, sort of like a Pumpkins or Limblifter kind of feel. That’s coming out on its own because I really like it but it doesn’t fit at all with the next album, mood wise, so this was a good opportunity to have it come out there but not be tied to a larger narrative.

The next record – I’m just finishing up the last couple of songs for it – is, well, weird. This is gonna sound super pretentious but mood wise I’m going for that feeling of being between asleep and awake, when you’re having a really haunting dream, and that feeling is still lingering in your brain but fading and it’s also a brand new day with all these possibilities. And that’s reflected in the subject matter – which is a continuation from where “Ghosts” left off. Like – “Ok, I got through the hard stuff. I’m okay now, and things are good, but it’s not like everything is magically fine now.” So what do your days feel like when you’ve gotten through the worst of it but still have ups and downs? And when you’re between “big” moments in your life, like break ups and deaths and great loves. What do those “in between” days feel like? 

Originally I thought it was going to be very raw and acoustic – and that’s in there, but I was also listening to a lot of Nas and Black Star so some of the songs became very beat oriented. And I was also listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen, so there’s some darkness. And a lot of Bjork, whose orchestral arrangements I love. So it’s become a weird mish-mash of things that I love. It’s going to sound very different than what we’ve released so far. But like I said about The Cure earlier, you’re definitely still going to be able to tell that it’s us.

Me: I’m definitely interested to see how you pull off your next album. You guys are really on a roll. I look forward to new music. It’s been great chatting with you.  You’re so nice and down-to-earth. I hope everyone has a chance to check out your music and discover a little part of themselves while listening. 

Everyone – that’s a hint to listen to Blackout Orchestra’s music! Support musicians however you can – stream, buy tracks/merch/tickets…it doesn’t matter how you do it. We all need music in our lives. 

Ben, is there anything else you wish to share? 

Ben: I just want to thank you for all the support you’ve been giving us, and for your thoughtful questions. You’ve been a joy to speak with!

—End—

Here are some videos of my fav songs

Interview with Canadian band: Phantom Atlantic

canadian music, Interviews
Photo Credit: Kelsi Gayda, 400 LUX Club

By Monica Ng

It’s my lucky day – I get to interview not 1, 2 or 3 – but FOUR handsome and very talented musicians forming one band called Phantom Atlantic. I’m constantly blown away by the high caliber of Canadian music and so proud of all my local Torontonian bands, including this one.

What a find! I must thank my favourite band, Stuck on Planet Earth, for recommending Phantom Atlantic in one of their IG stories.

Contact

IG: @phantomatlantic

FB: Phantom Atlantic

www.phantomatlantic.com

About 

This four-piece band is made up of Kyle Brunet (lead singer/guitar), Ryan Stam (guitar/keys/backing vocals), Jeff Burling (bass) and Ken Grisé (drums/backing vocals). Its members, from different areas of Ontario joined in Toronto with a common desire to create music. This self-defined “cinematic alt rock band” has been part of Toronto’s music scene since 2017 and is now rocking the world with their latest EP, Your View of a Former Me.

Phantom Atlantic
Photo Credit: Kelsi Gayda, 400 LUX Club

Their Music

Your View of a Former Me (EP) -2021:  No Way to Live, Start from Nothing, Chrysalis (Interlude), Man Like You and Heart out of Heaven.

Lessons (single) – 2018

Beneath your Moment (single) – 2018

Interview

Me: How’s it going guys? Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedules for this interview – especially since you guys have day jobs as well. Congratulations on the release of “Your View of a Former Me” EP!  Honestly, I love everything about you guys – your style, music and videos. I can’t get enough of your songs, Start from Nothing, Heart out of Heaven and Beneath your Moment. Kyle, damn…your vocals are…absolutely beautiful. You can sing to me any day. How are you guys feeling after the release of your album and how long did it take you to put it together?

PA: Thank you so much! It’s feeling really good to know that ‘Your View of a Former Me’ is out there in the wild, and even better seeing how well it’s being received by fans, old and new.  In hindsight it probably took us too long to make the thing, just over 9 months, but it was at a point where we all felt a strong desire to step up our songwriting. We actually finished production on it just before the pandemic and at the time we were beginning to plan what the release would look like.  Well, when the masters arrived, the lockdown hit the same week and instead of releasing it we decided to hit the pause button and regroup for a minute…so here we are! 

Me: I can appreciate that choosing a unique, yet descriptive band name would be difficult.  What’s the story behind Phantom Atlantic and can you briefly describe what “cinematic alt rock” is?

PA: Haha, difficult is an understatement.  I think we have an Evernote file somewhere with over 300 names on it, some of them pretty ridiculous.  Phantom Atlantic came about from one of our long winded philosophical conversations that we love having, but beyond that we kind of like to leave it as a blank slate for people.  As for the cinematic angle, we come from a film background so movies are big sources of inspiration for us in a bunch of different ways. In our songwriting specifically, we’re really drawn to blending more traditional alt rock elements with the ambient textures, atmospheres and soundscapes you’d find in a lot of modern film scores. Some people would correctly call that a post-rock influence, but since that term is often associated with instrumental bands and we’re not that, we like to go with “cinematic alt rock.”

Me: Interesting about your name – I like it…a blank slate for one’s imagination. But somehow, I feel compelled to take a stab at it… Atlantic makes sense because in Ontario we are closer to the Atlantic Ocean than the Pacific Ocean. Phantom – maybe it represents the shadow (dark side) hanging over each of us that comes and goes silently throughout our lives. But as much as we may hate our “phantom”, we need to learn to deal with it because it’s really just an extension of ourselves. On another note, I love the dramatic effects that you guys use in your videos – like the floating doors and fire in your video for “Beneath Your Moment”.

I read a write up about you guys on the 94.9 The Rock website. Is it true that there’s a hidden neuroscientist in the group? That caught my interest lol. Apparently, you guys come from diverse backgrounds but came together for the love of music. What is the story behind how you guys hooked up?

PA: You read correctly, our drummer Ken…well Dr. Ken now, recently completed his PhD and we’re super proud of him. The guy works crazy hard all while holding down a beat.  As for how we all met, it’s kind of a chain reaction. Kyle and Ryan are childhood buddies who have been writing together since high school, Kyle and Jeff met in college, and Jeff and Ken have actually played in 2 bands together previous to Phantom Atlantic.  A couple years after school, Kyle and Ryan were finally putting a band together that needed a bass player, so Jeff literally left his old band and dragged Ken along with him shortly after.

Me: Very impressive Dr. Ken! And nice to learn about how you guys connected.

I love the beautiful summary of the underlying theme of your album on your website: “It’s a sharp, precise, and volatile five-track collection that ends in step with its beginnings: understanding and accepting the futility of stasis, and the inevitability of perpetual change. These two truths are earned over the course of Your View of a Former Me, a project and a title that chart a crooked path towards repair and salvation that never quite ends.” 

I can really relate to your songs and your IG motto “Say what you feel, mean what you do.” As I get older, I tend to express exactly what I feel and say what’s on my mind. I admit that sometimes this gets me into trouble!  What is another valuable piece of advice about life or music that you can pass onto others?

Kyle: Try your hardest every day to give an earnest effort toward being 100% true to yourself and those around you. Even when you’re not exactly sure on everything about yourself. Pro tip: you never are.

Ryan: This may sound nihilistic, but all of the systems of belief that are forced upon us to tell us how to act, how to think, and how to structure our lives are constructs that have no inherent basis in the natural world. So fuck what everybody says; find your passion and chase it relentlessly. At least then, if things don’t go your way, you can take comfort in the fact that you were always true to yourself. If you try to change to satisfy someone else, and still don’t succeed, the failure will hit doubly hard.

Jeff:  I love it, the world can use more straight talking troublemakers such as yourself!  Some of my best friends are the kind of people who say exactly what’s on their mind, and whether it’s right or wrong it almost always leads to wonderful conversation and a greater sense of mutual understanding.   But to answer your question, I guess if I had to offer some form of life advice all I would say is that whether you’ve come to realize this yet or not, there is something deep within you, a place that your mind wanders to more often than not, with a sense of longing.  It is only with the recognition of this deep rooted sense of self that a path towards a life filled with meaning and purpose can emerge.  So live free.  Do you.

Ken: I can philosophically ramble on forever in this light. Instead, I’ll just suggest a philosophy anyone can check out and explore for themselves: Absurdism. My unqualified synopsis of absurdism is that you have complete agency to decide for yourself what is important in life, because there is no inherent meaning or purpose (though I find we have a pervasive tendency to grasp at, or be proselytized to adopt, a prescribed purpose). For some it’s a scary idea, for me it is wonderfully liberating and is a perspective I find works wonders for my mental health.

Me: You guys are deep! I love it. My dad’s life-changing stroke almost 8 years ago made me realize that life is too short. Everything you guys mention resonates with me.  I’ve been living life with no regrets and live like every day is my last. We do have control over our lives and like Ryan says, we should not change ourselves to satisfy others – we will only have regrets.

Back to music, I have no musical talent. Sadly, I can’t sing or play instruments, but I can definitely appreciate amazing music like yours. When and how did you get hit with the “music bug” and what inspires you musically?

Kyle: I don’t really feel like there was an actual decision to pursue music. I know I’ve always wanted to create. I just remember incessantly writing and using this 4-track cassette recorder to make my little demos. Many things interest me, but it was fairly obvious around the end of high school that all I’d accomplished was working on writing music. The verdict felt obvious after that revelation. Music it is!

Jeff: I grew up in a small northern Ontario town where the only exposure to new music came from my slightly older, very much cooler cousins from Sudbury.  They played in a metal band appropriately called Temper! and always had to show me what was inspiring them at the time.  For me, they were the original influencers and I owe everything, from my appreciation for music, to pursuing a life of creativity and expression to them.  These days, my tastes span genres but I am still very much a “metal-head” at heart on the lookout for musicians pushing the envelope in composition and production. 

Ken: I had one of those families where music was just a big part of life. We always had a piano, but I think when I was about 5 or so, my parents gave me a toy keyboard piano that I loved just fumbling around on. After that gateway, I ended up taking piano lessons from my aunt for a short while. My grandpa was really into big band music and I remember telling him after piano, sax was on my instrument to-learn list (that hasn’t happened… yet!). My parents actually played in a folk band when I was young and for a while, instead of hiring a babysitter, they would bring me and my younger brother along to hang out at their shows. However, it wasn’t until I was about 13 that I went beyond a dabbler and started on the path to really becoming a musician. Some friends and I – sitting around in our small town coming up with ideas to entertain ourselves – decided we should start a band by picking up instruments that none of us even owned yet. I called dibs on the drums and that was that.

Me: Thanks for sharing your musical journeys. I’m a bit nutty when it comes to finding ways to make the world a better place. The world needs more happy people. I always say that smiles, compliments and love are free to give, so give freely. During this pandemic so much has happened to the world and so many lives have changed. Fill in the blank: We can change the world if we ____________________.

Kyle: We can change the world if we enter some hellish symbiotic human singularity where differences of opinion can no longer be tolerated by the almighty veracious optimization machine. Or just don’t be a dick.

Ryan: We can change the world if we have the humility to accept what we don’t know and the desire to learn.

Jeff:  Ah man, that’s a tough one.  I’d say we can change the world if we just realized that the deadline we’ve all placed on our dreams isn’t actually real. 

Ken: We can change the world if we combine empathy and objectivity to design a society that enables everyone to achieve a healthy minimum quality of life. And realize that it only takes an idea to change things — we all have the power to generate ideas, so we all have the power to change things.

Me: Love it! Man, where were you guys when I needed help writing my university papers? I’ve got to ask my usual interview “get to know you” question. I know it’s hard, but I’m going to force you to narrow it down – who are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Kyle: Ruthless question! There’s a thousand. Here’s 3… Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, Beethoven.

Ryan: I’m gonna go the band route here. Radiohead and Coldplay are the staples that will never leave my top three. The two Jonny’s (Greenwood from Radiohead and Buckland from Coldplay) are the biggest influences on my guitar style. The third slot constantly rotates but for the last few years, I’ve been really into another British alt rock band called Nothing but Thieves, so I’ll give it to them for now.

Jeff: Definitely Misha Mansoor (a.k.a. Bulb) of Periphery who basically ushered in an entire era of DIY producers/musicians/entrepreneurs.  There’s Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders whose debut album still blows my mind to this day.  And I guess I’ll throw in a childhood favourite, from the band 311, their super creative and always tasteful bass player P-Nut.  Beat that thing!  (for those in the know…)

Ken: I’m going to cop out of this one as hard as I can. But I will say, in retrospect I think I spent too much of my youth only really deeply appreciating a very limited scope of music, so these days, I spend much more time exploring the vastness of music via podcasts like Song Exploder and NPR’s All Songs Considered — who also produce the Tiny Desk Concert series — all wonderful sources of musical diversity and discovery.

Me: I’ll take a listen to your favs. I haven’t heard of most of them. LOL, sorry for limiting you, Kyle.

I posted on social media that you guys instantly became part of my top 3 fav bands. Then I posted again after I realized that I only had 2 fav bands (Moist and Stuck on Planet Earth) – turns out that a spot had been saved for you guys to take. It amazes me how much music exists out there. The music industry, like many others is very competitive. Do you guys have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Kyle: Massive persistence and focus. Go all in. Listen to everyone but don’t listen to anyone. 

Ryan: Passion beats perfection, any day. 

Jeff:  Advice salad here we go:

  1. Don’t let all the virtuosos on Youtube and Instagram discourage you from becoming the best you can be.
  2. Remember that great music can be found everywhere along the range of stupid simple to seemingly impossible. 
  3. The first draft is always shit.  Don’t let it discourage you because…
  4. Every hit song ever was once a first draft.

Ken: Be mindful of the reality of taking a passion and making it a profession. At the core, it is about passion and expression. Yet, the actualization requires understanding that music functions like many other industries (but can actually be even more mystifying). If you acknowledge that, it makes it easier to recognize and overcome certain barriers and help you progress towards your goals. e.g.  Who you know matters. Don’t know anyone? Network. Familiar advice for anyone in any industry.

Me: Great advice guys! Jeff, that’s a yummy salad 🙂 I had a blast putting together this interview. You guys are so awesome. I’ll see you in concert real soon.

Everyone, it costs nothing to give this amazing band a follow on their social media accounts. And don’t forget to support Canadian and local musicians. Buy or stream their music on whatever platform(s) you are on and buy tickets to live concerts when the world is back up and running. Guys, is there anything else you would like to share before we wrap things up?

PA: Honestly this has been fantastic, we covered a lot of ground here! Thanks so much for your support Monica, and we can’t wait to get back out there and do what we do best.  Cheers!

—End—

Check out their videos:

No Way to Live

Start from Nothing

Interview with Jordan Waraksa of Milwaukee’s band: SONOf

Interviews, Music
SONOf
Photo credit: SONOf

By Monica Ng

It’s a new world. Following someone on Instagram isn’t tacky or weird (unless of course, it’s weird). In fact, it’s a great way for people to connect with others locally and across the globe – and for musicians, it represents free promo and a chance to grow their audience. Had SONOf not followed me, I probably wouldn’t have known about their music.  I love it when musicians post their video clips on social media. You get a chance to sample a variety of music just by clicking – it’s like someone bringing a wine taste-testing right to your door. That would be awesome. Did I just start a new trend?!

Contact

www.sonof.us

IG: @sonof.music

FB: sonof sonof

About

From Milwaukee, USA, Jordan Waraksa, Nick Waraksa, Chuck Lawton and Benjamin Schaefer are the guys behind SONOf.  Their project was created out of their desire to explore and experiment with electronic music this past decade, as they shifted away from acoustic music. Their self-titled EP was born during the COVID pandemic.

Their Music

SONOf EP (2021) – Stoaway, Ligh+ and bTT.

Brume (2020) – Single

Interview

Me: Jordan, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview.  Congratulations, on the release of SONOf’s new EP!  I love the artistic touch that you guys put into everything, including your song titles (example, use of “+” instead of a “t” at the end of light). In my opinion, you guys have mastered your craft and created a successful project that’s unique and has an intangible transformative power. When I listen to “Ligh+”, I’m floating in an alternate universe where I feel this darkness and uncertainty about myself, but compelled to stay and explore that side of me.

There’s not a lot about you guys online.  Can you share how your project came alive, how you chose your name and what your name represents?

Jordan:  My brother Nick, from little on, has always been into getting the newest toys.  At some point in 2019, a synthesizer was brought to a rehearsal for our other project “The Vitrolum Republic”.   Coming from a childhood of classical music and a band of acoustic instrumentation, it was thrilling to step into a totally different area of sound exploration for our song writing. We all started to get new electronic gear, pushing each other further down the path of pedals, amps, and synths.  I knew nothing other than how to plug them in.  I believe the best creativity comes from limited tools, and an openness to try and fail.  We got to a point during the last days of Dec. 2019 where we converted Benjamin’s house to a recording studio and made 6 demo tracks over the course of a long weekend.  Something poured out of us, that we didn’t know was always there.  Something unique and exciting had been captured.  We slowly edited the tracks and then they sat on the shelf for a few months while we all were busy with our other personal projects (film making, photography, woodworking).  Then the world changed in March 2020.  We were just about to go into tech week / dress rehearsals for a live performance with the Milwaukee Ballet.  Everything was cancelled, so we moved all our gear back to our separate homes for what was the start of lockdown.  We each set up a home studio to keep the momentum alive.

I had just gotten back from Mexico City incredibly inspired by the architecture and artists I met.  My wife Cora speaks fluent Spanish and we came up with a name together.   I thought about what the four of us had in common.  We are all sons – sons of fathers, sons of mothers, sons of… In the Spanish dialect “son” translates to “THEY ARE” and also means “SOUND”.  SONOf seemed to be so specific to us, but also endlessly relatable to everyone.

Me: I’m glad you guys were able to keep the momentum going for your music and I would have never guessed about the origin of your band name – very nice. I mentioned to you that it’s hard to search for SONOf on music platforms and YouTube. What’s the best way for people to find your music?

Jordan:  Well, we’re just getting started. Hopefully the more clicks we get, the easier it will be to find us. 

Please visit:

SPOTIFY:    https://open.spotify.com/artist/7Kc9aE77DbUdlPiRhcqOdP?si=04Dh0sbDRTG7AU4NvimUzQ&dl_branch=1

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBXIewbimhdV1yP1wvumHzQ

Website:      https://www.sonof.us

BANDCAMP:   https://sonof-music.bandcamp.com/album/sonof

Me:  According to your website, your music genre is FolkTronica. I’ve heard of folk and electronica but can’t quite grasp the combination.  Because I’m very curious, I have been trying to dissect electronic music lately.  I asked you if your music is completely electronic, but you explained that you “start with recording acoustic instruments, but often put them through pedals and effects to explore the sound.”  You mentioned that your previous project “The Vitrolum Republic” was completely acoustic instrumentation. How are you guys finding the journey of changing music styles?

Jordan:  It’s a fun exploration to have one foot in both worlds – really trying to see what can be found through the blend.  The genre of one’s music is a hot topic.  Choosing the wrong labels could mean never finding your true audience for your music.  So, I think there may be a better genre, but it doesn’t exist on platforms these days.

Me: I agree that some music is hard to label. For you guys, maybe “TranscendingTronica” because your music is surreal. I am amazed that musicians all over the world have learned to adapt to the COVID pandemic way of life and have either learned to produce music on their own or produce music remotely by exchanging electronic files.  On your website, I read that you guys “created this EP entirely bypassing digital files between [your] homes during the 2020 quarantine”.  What other challenges have you encountered during this pandemic with respect to your music?

Jordan:  Well, being in the same room at the same time has been a part of our music for a long time.  To completely throw out that factor, opened up a world of creativity through the time in which it took to add parts and try ideas – you could take 8 mins or 8 days. It was like an ancient game I did while in art school called “exquisite corpse”, where each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.

Me: I can totally see how your game analogy works – a creative exercise in itself. You guys were obviously busy putting together your EP during quarantine. What are your plans post-pandemic?

Jordan:  Planning to release a full album in 2022.  We are currently finishing the shooting and production of music films for our self-titled EP. Check out the videos on our YouTube page, we’re super proud of the caliber of filmmaking on these!

Me: Your videos are incredible. I like to loop the video for Ligh+. You and Nick are actually the second set of sibling musicians that I have interviewed. Twins, Alex and Thomas Arthur of Toronto’s Hideout Legacy are the other ones. Working with a sibling is such a rare and special thing. I don’t think that I could work with my sisters. What’s it like for you guys to work together?

Jordan:  We know each other’s tendencies.  When at our best, we push each other beyond those points to make something better, but also make music for each other.  We have different styles, but we understand where each of us is coming from. I think it makes the collaboration dynamic. 

Me:  So great that you guys can push each other and appreciate your differences. You’re super nice and you can sing and play instruments. It never surprises me that musicians are multi-talented, because playing instruments is a left and right brain thing.

Now, I’m going to confess that I’m a sucker for beautifully crafted wood furniture. Your wood sculpting and furniture making skills are beyond impressive. I need to buy one of your stunning pieces.  I’ll wait until the CAD-USD conversion rate is good lol. You mentioned in our chat that you and Nick are classically trained musicians.  In one of your posts, I saw that you play violin. Do you play any other instruments?  And do you have other hobbies/interests that occupy your time?

Jordan: Haha! I’d love to make you something.  I play a lot of instruments besides violin, just happy I started with the hardest one when I was a kid.  I am a sculptor, and make wood furniture for a living for my company FIDDLEHAMMER.

Pictured above: Bellaphone and bench.

Me: Violin is a challenging instrument – it’s quite a feat to master it. Someone told me that parents of novice violinists and drummers have it the worst and I can appreciate why!

Here’s my usual “get to know you” interview question – if you had to pick three – who would you say are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Jordan:  I think I’d like to name 30, but here goes:

Thom Yorke

George Harrison

Jeff Buckley

Me: I’ve heard of Thom Yorke, but had no idea that he is the leading man of Radiohead until I took a listen to his music. I’ll have to take a listen to the others. One thing that I don’t understand with electronic music…are you able to structure a live performance?

Jordan:  Yes, we are hoping to perform live in the near future.  There is a bit of tech involved, but it will be wonderful to perform all at once together.  We hope to really connect with those who find themselves in our music. 

Me: Well, I think everyone is anxious for this crazy pandemic to end and to be able to enjoy live concerts again. Jordan, thanks again for your time and enthusiasm. It’s been great getting to know you and learning more about SONOf. Everyone – if you haven’t already, give this fantastic band a listen. And don’t forget to show your support by buying, streaming, sharing their music, and buying merch and show tickets. This applies to all musicians. Remember, no musicians = silent world. And to you furniture lovers out there – you can own a beautiful piece of timeless wooden furniture by Fiddlehammer.

Before we wrap things up, is there anything else you’d like to share?

Jordan:  Thank You!

We do all of the work ourselves. We haven’t outsourced a single thing outside our quartet.  The recording, mastering, photography, filming, editing…our vision has potency.  It comes from the heart.  Much love to all who read this, thank you for listening to our music!

—End—

Video for SONOf’s “Ligh+”

What happens when you have a bad dream?

Life

This post is dedicated to Sean Bellaviti, whose brief interaction with me has unlocked a spiritually energetic part of me (if this properly summarizes how I feel into words) that I’ve lost touch with over the years.

Written by Monica Ng

Don’t know about you, but when I have a bad dream I write about it. This post started as an IG post, but I quickly realized that it deserved a full write-up.

I had a crappy night’s sleep, but finally fell into a deep dream state (the type that leaves you with sheet imprints on your body) at about 6:30am this morning. I woke from a bad dream about my parents. I was transported back in time with my parents in Montreal Chinatown. My parents were both wheeling themselves in their wheelchairs along the central area. Suddenly my mom went a bit crazy and somehow managed to flip my dad onto her lap and he was screaming in pain. I know this wouldn’t be possible in real life, but my imagination can be pretty vivid. Anyway, I woke up frazzled and 30 minutes behind schedule. Appropriately so, it was a gloomy, rainy Monday morning.

What is the meaning of life?

Now…what thoughts did this bad dream trigger for me? I started to ask myself the deep philosophical question: What is the meaning of life? Have you ever asked yourself this question?! The meaning can be similar in concept to “what is happiness?” and “what is a good quality of life?” There’s a spectrum. These things don’t mean the same to everyone. For example, relating to quality of life – my mom is happy to sit and watch TV all day long even though her health has taken a toll because of it, while my dad yearns to have conversations with family and friends.

Back to the meaning of life…

I think that it’s a personal quest – a mission to find one’s place in context of ones community, the society or the world. To me, accepting a monotonous life is like accepting death. We have so much potential as humans to learn and experience life – everything from learning about ourselves; learning from and about others; and constantly finding new things to learn. Our brains are incredible until the time that disease hits or death. Thing is, despite what some people think, diseases like dementia are preventable (click link to Alzheimer Society’s website to read more) or at the very least, can be slowed down.

What’s the bottom line?

Find your thirst for life. Learn more. Learn everything you can before it’s too late.

While this post may seem a bit random – there are so many thoughts running through my mind. I’m trying to encourage you to keep going on your quest to find meaning in life. Small things count too – so don’t discount those. Don’t compare yourself to others, because you are not them. Feel good about YOU and do things for YOU.

For those who follow me on IG/FB, you would know that I write often about how nature, music and people inspire me. Often, I’ll dedicate posts to people who have made an impact or sparked some sort of change in my life. This time, I dedicate this post to Sean – a hobbyist birdwatcher I met on a trail. We shared a brief conversation about birds, wildlife and my website TheLazyHikers.com (which I told him was created out of my passion for nature and the outdoors). We connected on IG. After checking out his IG profile and website, I was impressed that he was not only a great source of info about birds – he is also an outdoors guy, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ryerson specializing in Ethnomusicology, a super-talented pianist, band member of the Sean Bellaviti Trio (playing jazz, etc.), and the author of “Musica Tipica: Cumbia and the Rise of Musical Nationalism in Panama“.

Upon the release of Jacqueline Loor‘s beautiful Spanish song “Nunca Te Olvidare” back in May 2021, I started my trip down memory lane back to my times in Cuba. I’ve always been fascinated by the Spanish language, the people and way of life on the Caribbean Islands (Cuba being one of my favourite places). Through the introduction by Sean to Panamanian Murga and his fascination of the Panamanian history, culture and music – I’m delving deeper into my memories of carefree times, my love of music and my desire to keep learning.

Bottom, bottom line: Time flies too quickly – much like the butterfly (pictured above) who flew away after posing for a few shots. Observing my parents’ “quality of life” is a constant reminder to me that life’s too short. Grab life while you can.

***

3 Simple Ways to Eat Well

Fitness and health

BIO 


Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND

Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist and Hypnotherapist

Photo Credit: Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND

Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND has practiced naturopathic medicine and acupuncture for the last fifteen years and is available for Telemedicine (video conference or by phone) appointments in Ontario. She focuses on diet and exercise – the foundation of health, to help people reach their health goals. She became a Certified Coach with FASTer Way to Fat Loss®, to help people make lasting lifestyle changes with the program’s signature six-week new client experience.

Sign up for Natdoctor News to receive monthly health tips and updates: www.natdoctor.com

Sign up for your FREE Clean Eating Guide here

3 Simple Ways to Eat Well

Written by Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND

It may sound shocking, but fast food doesn’t have to be expensive or unhealthy.

As a mother of two children and a naturopathic doctor, I understand that life is busier than ever and people often don’t have time to take care of themselves. But that doesn’t mean that it’s hard to eat a balanced meal. Of course, you can sign up for some healthy meal guides or meal delivery kits, but they can get expensive. So what can you do? Whether you live alone or you are in charge of meal planning for a household, here are three simple tips to make healthy food fast.

When you eat balanced and healthy meals, you should notice better digestion, improved sleep, more energy, better skin, less pain and the list goes on. If you eat clean for a month, but don’t notice any improvement in your health, then you should seek help from a health practitioner or naturopathic doctor. You may have underlying nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalance or other conditions that need medical supervision.

Tip #1

Divide your plate.

1/2 leafy veggies

1/4 starchy veggies or grains

1/4 protein rich legumes and beans

Top with nuts, seeds and cold pressed oil. Eat fruit in between meals. With this strategy, there’s no need to weigh food or count calories. The proportion of food is what makes this a balanced meal.

Tip #2

Season your food.

Use herbs, spices, lemon and lime to season your food. You can also add coconut or soy aminos for extra flavour.

Tip #3

Eat a whole food diet and eat enough.

When you eat a colourful rainbow of food, you will get a variety of vitamins and minerals. These are called micronutrients. Usually, people crave sugary and fatty foods because they don’t get enough nutrients or calories. I’ve seen so many people who claim to eat healthy during the day and then can’t stop their cravings at night. When you fill up on nutrients, you will notice that you won’t crave the extra junk.

***

Note from Monica Ng (website creator): Dr. Cheng-Kai-On, ND is my naturopathic doctor. I got a lot of helpful information from her during my consults, so I reached out to her to write an article for my site.

It’s important to stay on top of your own health and find out the best ways to maintain your body and improve your health naturally. For myself, life is extremely busy and I spend a lot of time hiking and biking. I need lots of energy to keep going. Where possible, I use natural products and stay away from chemicals. I try to eat whole foods (i.e. food that is in its original form such as vegetables) vs. packaged/processed foods and avoid food containing ingredients that I can’t pronounce. Take some time to read food labels – you might be surprised at how many additives there are.

Since I’m vegan and there is a massive movement towards eating a plant-based diet (perhaps for health, environmental reasons and ending animal cruelty), I asked Dr. Cheng-Kai-On, ND, to write this article keeping a plant-based diet in mind.

Interview with Alex and Dan of Canadian Band: Hideout Legacy

canadian music, Interviews
Hideout Legacy band
Photo Credit: Andrea Hunter Photography
www.andreahunter.ca/

By Monica Ng

Out of hiding 

Now that I’ve discovered Hideout Legacy‘s music – they’re no longer “in hiding” from me! I saw Sara’s (IG: @sara_sunshine_meredith) band recommendation so checked out their music. I began following Sara on IG because of our mutual love for Toronto’s very own Stuck on Planet Earth as well as our love of nature and the outdoors.  I’m a sucker for Canadian music and psyched to promote and support our musicians. I’ve been a music lover since I was 7 and admit that I have high expectations when it comes to my music. When I first come across a new artist and start listening to their music, I’m afraid to be disappointed. It’s like when I’m discovering new trails – some surpass my expectations, while others leave me feeling empty. I find that interviews are easy for me to put together when I’m interested in the musician and their music – so needless to say, these guys are amazing! I absolutely love Canadian enthusiasm, passion and spirit. All the musicians that I’ve interviewed are super-friendly, wonderful and incredibly talented.  

Contact 

IG: @hideoutlegacy

Facebook: Hideout Legacy

www.hideoutlegacy.com 

About 

From my very own city, Toronto, Hideout Legacy is made up of Thomas Arthur (vocals/keyboard), Dan Morson (guitar) and Alex Arthur (drums/backup vocals). I can pretty much guarantee you that they’re the only “twin brothers and their best friend” trio that you’ll ever come across. This self-described “modern alt-rock” band re-invented itself during COVID times and created a new name for itself – pushing full steam ahead in the music scene with new singles releases and an upcoming EP this September.  

Hideout Legacy band
Photo Credit: David McDonald Photography
www.davidmcdphotos.zenfolio.com

Their Music 

Drive Me Wild (single) – 2021 

Anthem (Walk off the Earth – cover) – 2021

Game Changer Remix (single) – 2021

Game Changer (single) – 2021 

Interview 

Me: I really appreciate you guys taking the time to participate in this interview. Your latest release, “Drive Me Wild” has been on repeat for the last week or so – in my car, at work (I feel sorry for my colleague lol), rollerblading, biking, hiking, cleaning… you name it. It’s a great song. Very wild! 

On the topic of wild – these COVID times are crazy. What were you guys doing right before the COVID shutdowns?  And what’s going on now? 

Alex/Dan: First of all, we’re honoured, thanks for having us!

We were in the midst of recording our EP right before the lockdown and used the opportunity to record and make more music, re-write and re-record. “Drive Me Wild” was very much a baby of that longer recording time. We started with a heavy rock sound, reworked the song multiple times to get the current modern, alternative version and even made an R&B one as well that will be released June 15th.  Right now we are focused on publicity – in getting the music out there as well as releasing the singles and EP.  We are excited for what’s around the corner with restrictions being lifted so we can play some shows.

Me: I think everyone’s anxious for the restrictions to be lifted. I have it all planned out – post-COVID, I’m going to continue my exploration of Ontario’s trails at distant locations, go to live concerts and chill out with friends over a meal and drinks inside a restaurant.  

What are the first 3 things that you’ll do after the pandemic is over? 

Alex: Live Music (see as many live shows as possible), have a huge party, and definitely looking forward to going out on a Friday and Saturday.

Dan: Go to a concert, eat out, have a big party with all my friends.

Me: It sounds like we’re pretty much on the same page with our plans! Alex – when did you first pick up a set of drumsticks? And do you play any other instruments?  

Alex: I first picked up a set of sticks for our first venture into rock, when was 19. I started with guitar and added bass and drums at the same time. I’ve always loved playing multiple instruments but am loving the kit. The kit is the only instrument where you can become one with the music and close your eyes, it’s so much by feel. 

Me: That’s amazing that you’re able to find your space. I’ve always loved the sound of the drums. Dan, when did you pick up your first guitar? And do you play other instruments?  

Dan: I started playing guitar just before high school when my dad introduced me to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  I rented a guitar for a month and absolutely loved it – playing relentlessly until I had to return it.  I loved it so much I wanted to buy one but I had a tendency to start/stop a lot of hobbies so didn’t continue playing.  After returning the guitar rental I continued to think about playing for many months after until I realized I was serious about learning to play, at which point I bought my first acoustic. I played trumpet through most of high school in the jazz and orchestral bands however guitar became more and more a priority as time went on.

Me: Thanks for sharing guys. I enjoy hearing stories about how musicians get started. Everyone has such a different story. And Dan, I totally get it about start/stop with hobbies – I’m the same way. I mentioned that “Drive Me Wild” reminds me of “Frost” by Rare Monk, so I was instantly hooked on your song. Who writes your songs? And where do you guys get your musical inspiration from? 

Alex/Dan: We all collaborate together on all the songs in one area or another – we all come in with different ideas and choose one we all like and run with it. Ultimately each member has equal share in the final music we decide on, which makes the creative process both challenging and very rewarding, as we ultimately end up with a song we are very proud of.

Me: Very nice, and it’s great that everyone has their input. I’m impressed that you guys work together so well. I read that you were formerly known as “Total Runout” and re-invented your band while renaming it “Hideout Legacy“.  I’m sad to hear about the Hideout (and so many other venues) that closed down because of the pandemic. Can you share your journey including how you chose your current name? 

Alex/Dan: We felt that Total Runout was a name we had outgrown and as a result of the pandemic we had grown a lot personally and as a band so we felt a change was appropriate.  The name felt right as we had played at the Hideout multiple times – having it become our home away from home and really a place for us to express our rock attitude. Also, the pairing with the word legacy gave it some extra meaning, reminds us of great legacy loves and the emotions we love writing about. 

Me: It’s definitely an original name, and was a bit hard for me to remember initially, but I get it. Your website shows that you’re ready to launch “5 singles, 4 remixes, videos and an EP”. That’s pretty exciting! Can you give a hint as to what we can expect in terms of theme, style, vibe, etc.? 

Alex/Dan: The style is keeping in the same modern/alternative vein with a few variations – the songs came together with a feel but didn’t have a specific theme in mind. The EP has a variety of flavours.

Me: Looking forward to new music. On a separate note, I love that you guys are fans of Stuck on Planet Earth too. Here’s a “get to know you” question that I ask everyone I interview: Who are your top 3 favourite musicians? 

Alex:  Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr (Royal Blood), Muse (package deal) – that’s how I squeeze in 5 to 3. I feel like I’m missing so many here – I have infinite respect for so many musicians.

Dan: Josh Homme (QOTSA), Mike Kerr (Royal Blood), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin).

Me: I haven’t heard of most of them, but will definitely check them out. Life has so many demands and stresses. I’m a bit of a stress-eater, but I try to manage my stress by blasting my music, exercising and surrounding myself with nature. Fill in the blank. “When I’m feeling stressed, I… ______.” 

Alex: Definitely playing and listening to music, working out, and burying myself in stuff to do. 

Dan: I workout, go for a drive, watch my favourite concerts on YouTube.  Music in the car when I’m driving home from work is great and actually tends to remove all my stress by the time I get home.

Me: Music is definitely a stress reliever. When I blast my music – it becomes part of me and I think of nothing else – much like meditation. Alex, you’re the second twin that I’ve “met” recently. I’m working on an interview with musician, Jacqueline Loor and she’s a twin too.  What’s it like being in a band with your brother and your best friend?  And just for fun, here’s a similar question that I asked Jacqueline – what’s the funniest swap that you’ve ever done? 

Alex: It’s wicked, the chemistry and the foundation we have is something that you can’t find – we have a connection from doing so many things in life together. The funniest swap we’ve done…I have to admit we’ve never tried to confuse people because so many people can’t tell us apart in the first place, we’re just relieved when they actually can. I keep on getting compliments for my lead singing while only playing the drums, which I find pretty funny.

Me: LOL, I can’t imagine being a twin! Amazing the chemistry you have – that’s something rare. What kind of challenges did you guys deal with getting into the music industry? And what suggestions do you have for others who are considering a career as a musician? 

Alex: Definitely make sure you are in it for the lifestyle, love both the process and the work, and have an end goal. Having a solid cash flow to propel an amazing team is also essential because it takes money to get that initial push.

Dan: The biggest challenge is standing out and getting your music heard.  There are many bands and songs out there which people may associate with another artist so being able to come off as truly creative and musically unique amongst many other great artists is the main challenge.  I would recommend people establish what their goals are for being a musician because there are a lot of ways to approach a career but ultimately, if it is your dream to become a musician the end goal needs to be clear.

Me: Thanks for the great insight and tips. It’s been great chatting with you guys and getting to know you. I look forward to your new tracks and live concerts. You’ll definitely see me grooving in the crowd! Everyone, show some love to this fantastic band. ATTENTION TORONTONIANS – Hideout Legacy is our very own local band. Don’t forget to buy tickets to their concerts when things open up again. 

Is there anything else that you guys wish to share? 

Alex: Music has been such a blessing for me and a comfort during all the times of my life. Listening to a live band together is one of the most magical things and I’ll appreciate it that much more once COVID is over! 

Dan: Just want everyone to support live music, venues which were affected as a result of COVID and support the ongoing vaccination effort so we can all return to normal life as soon as possible.

—End—

Here are a couple of their awesome videos:

Birth of www.TheLazyHikers.com

Posts

Birth of TheLazyHikers.com

Welcome to my new website!

As you may be aware, I decided to merge the content of my personal blog site YoThisIsLife.com into a site about hiking and life. Ideas for my new site stemmed from my blog “Discovering my backyard: Ontario” – my reviews of Ontario’s parks, conservation areas, trails, etc. The more time I spend on the trails, the more I want to share my passion with others. Nature has always been there for me and has given me so much inspiration for my writing and life. It’s given me the peace that I seek and the adventures that I crave.

I know some people are afraid to hit the trails because they don’t know where to start – which is exactly why I created this site and my Hiking 101 posts. If I can get just one person to discover their love for nature, my job is done. But being a dreamer that I am, the more people the better!

Thank you for being part of my journey. I’ll see you soon on the trails.

Monica

Monica's shadow on cedar
Monica Ng

Follow me on Instagram for my latest adventures

The Sheep, the Goose and the Water Bottle

Posts

The Sheep, the Goose and the Water Bottle

BIO 


Annette Ng

Photo credit: Annette Ng

Ph

P

When I moved to Calgary, Alberta, over fifteen years ago, I finally felt at home.  The mountains captivate me and are the backdrop to my adventures.  It is through hiking and snowshoeing that I find both my Zen and sense of wonder.  My goal as an Apprentice Interpretive Hiking Guide is to create a fun, meaningful experience, while sharing an appreciation of the outdoors with others. Although still in the germinating phase, I co-founded Show Me the Rockies Hikes and Tours Ltd. – a company focused on inspiring others to connect with nature through guided theme-based hikes.

Annette Ng in the mountains

Choosing between clothing made with natural fibers vs. synthetic materials

Written by Annette Ng

mountains

What to wear?

One question I often get from novice hikers is what type of clothing to wear. There is really only one consensus- no cotton. In the mountain or woods, it is one of the worst performing fabrics. It holds water, takes a long time to dry, and feels cold when wet. Other fabrics that have similar properties to cotton are rayon, viscose, lyocell, modal, bamboo and silk, so avoid these as well.

If not cotton, what fabrics should you wear for hiking? They basically fall into two categories: natural materials and synthetics.

Natural materials include wool and down. Wool, often merino (a finer type of wool), is typically used in base layers (wicking layer), mid layers (insulating layer) and socks. Down is normally found in mid layer jackets. There are other natural fibers that perform similarly, such as milkweed, but since they are not

as readily available, I won’t discuss them further.

Synthetics include materials such as polyester and acrylic. They also include synthetic insulating fleece in addition to patented insulation such as PrimaLoft®, Thinsulate™ and Polartec®. Outer layers, those that protect us from rain and wind, are typically synthetic, so let’s focus the discussion on base layers and mid layers.

Wool, down and synthetics, all have good breathing properties, transporting moisture away from the body, so this is generally not the deciding factor. For me, I want the most practical, cost effective solution.

How fast does the fabric dry? How does it feel and perform when wet?

In situations where you’re caught in the rain or sweaty from exertion, I really appreciate that synthetic material dries much faster than wool.

Down jackets are another natural option. My experience with down is that it is not comfortable for active use. On a typical hike, the body tends to overheat in down, even in winter weather. It is better suited for low level activity or for the extreme cold of mountaineering. It also clumps when wet – which reduces its insulating properties. To counteract this, some down products are treated with a water repellent coating. However, a synthetic insulation will still insulate better and dry faster when wet.

What about cost?

Wool and down are generally more expensive than synthetics. For the novice, the cost of accumulating gear

can add up, so synthetics are a great option. Technological advancement in synthetics has come a long way. They are more durable than wool and will last as long as down, making them a good investment.

What about the environmental impact?

Since synthetics are petroleum based products, those concerned about their carbon footprint may feel conflicted. It’s important to remember that all production comes at a cost to the environment, even if it is natural. Many synthetic manufacturers use post-consumer recycled content (water bottles) to reduce their environmental impact. Look for Bluesign® fabrics, a system of responsible, sustainable manufacturing. 

There are also special wash bags, such as Guppyfriend™, that filter out some of the microfibers that loosen during the wash that would otherwise end up in the water system.

Comparison Chart

comparison chart natural vs. synthetic

Faux Favourites

Please note that I’m not sponsored by any of the following companies, but below are some of my favourite synthetic items. This is just an illustration of some of the products that exist on the market. Click on the items below to take you to the general product page on the company’s website.
MH Microchill
UA running top
top
jacket
tshirt
mittens

The Takeaway

For hiking, due to their cost effectiveness, faster drying properties and better performance for active use, I recommend synthetics over natural materials such as down or wool. Other hikers may prefer wool for its odor resistance or down for its superior warmth. All fabrics have their pros and cons and will perform better depending on the conditions. Fortunately for vegans, options are numerous.

I always tell novices that athletic clothing will initially suffice, as many already own some. As their hiking journey progresses, they can add more items as required. The importance is to avoid cotton, be prepared with layers and enjoy the journey!

Top 10 Fitness Tips

Fitness and health, Posts

BIO 


Maz Alinejad

Photo Credit: Anytime Fitness/Maz Alinejad

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Maz Alinejad, is a co-owner of Anytime Fitness (Richmond Hill) at Yonge & Elgin Mills. Growing up, Maz was an athlete who loved football, baseball, bodybuilding and anything sports related. He also trained and coached martial arts for over twenty years. Even after obtaining his Bachelor degree in Aerospace Engineering and working in the field for over a decade, Maz’s appetite for health, fitness and learning about the complexities of the human body, led him to open his own fitness facility. He’s committed to teaching and guiding others to achieve their fitness goals and living a healthy and active lifestyle.

Maz Alinejad fitness coach

Top 10 fitness tips

Written by Maz Alinejad

1

Set realistic goals.

While it’s great to have a goal that motivates you, you also need to measure it against the level of sacrifice it takes to achieve that goal.

First figure out what you’re trying to achieve – fat loss, leaner look, build a lot of muscle, improve your health, compete in a sport, just being more active, etc., then decide what you’re willing to change from your normal routine to achieve the objective. Any change that you want to make in life will require your daily habits to align, so it’s important to evaluate which habits you’re willing to take on and what you’re not willing to give up. Finally, adjust and reassess your goals based on the comforts you’re willing to sacrifice and the amount of routine you’re willing to change. Don’t let this step scare you. The great news is that most health and fitness goals that don’t involve high level competition, can be achieved in about 3-5 hours per week if you stay consistent.

2

Find an activity that you enjoy.

If you don’t like running, try swimming or cycling. If you don’t like exercising by yourself, try joining a group fitness class, running club or team sport. There are endless ways to keep active.

3

Prioritize nutrition.

As the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to follow a strict diet at all times, but you should be following the basic concepts of nutrition to make sure you’re getting the right amount of micro and macro nutrients needed to nourish your body and achieve your goal.

4

Your goal, nutrition and activity of choice should be compatible.

Going back to the first point, if your goal is to gain a bunch of muscle but you don’t enjoy lifting weights and eating lots of protein, I have some bad news… you’ll have to either learn to love those things or alter your goal. Similarly, if you dream of running a marathon but don’t like the feeling of getting winded during a run, then either the dream has to change or you need to push past that dreaded feeling.

5

Make time for exercise.

We live in a modern world of comfort and many of us work in front of a computer. The pandemic has exasperated the problem even more. We don’t move enough and delicious foods are both cheap and easy to purchase. Getting some level of exercise has become as much a necessity in modern life as brushing your teeth or showering. This is why finding an activity that you enjoy is so important. And if you can’t find something that you like, then treat exercise like you would a visit to the dentist or doctor – not your favourite thing to do, but something that needs to get done.

6

Rest, recovery and stress management.

Whenever you start an exercise program, you must allow your body the appropriate time to recover and repair itself. The amount of rest required will vary depending on the intensity of your exercise and state of your health. While a daily walk may not require a tremendous amount of recovery time, a two hour boxing class or heavy leg workout probably would. And when it comes to stress management, it’s a large enough topic that deserves its own top ten list, but many people find exercise to be beneficial towards helping them calm their nerves. On the flip side, a very stressful life can make it difficult to prioritize health, which causes a vicious cycle with lack of self-care, leading to poorer health which in turn increases stress levels and dissatisfaction even further. Balance your physical health with emotional needs.

7

Have a learning mindset and be curious.

Fitness and nutrition are still relatively new sciences and new discoveries are being made all the time. Be willing to learn, seek out coaches who study and keep up with the latest science. Don’t be afraid to try out a new activity or an expert suggestion.

8

Importance of a social support system.

If you’re lucky, you have family or friends who are into fitness and healthy living. But for many, this support system may come in the form of gym buddies, online training groups or a sports team. This doesn’t mean that you’re replacing your friends and family – instead you’re finding a group with similar interests who can help you achieve your goals. We are social creatures that adhere to standards of the tribe. Find your fitness tribe!

9

Perfection is the enemy of progress.

Doing something is better than nothing. You don’t have to be perfect. Becoming more fit is not an all or nothing contest. I would rather have a client be consistent 70% of the time over the course of two years, instead of a client who goes all out for eight weeks and gets burnt out taking too many changes at one time.

10

Track and review your progress.

One thing that I always emphasize to our coaches is the importance of objective measurables when assessing clients. This is especially important if your goal is to change something about your body. Objective measurements help you see your progress and can be very motivating to track over time. We look at ourselves every day in the mirror and get used to all the little changes that are happening. This is why people don’t realize when they are getting out of shape until reality smacks them in the face in the form of an off-hand comment or a doctor’s warning, or not fitting into any of their clothes. Most know more about the state of their cars and details of their home insurance than they do about their body. Our memories are fallible, so take advantage of all the information, apps and journals available to keep track of your health. Alternatively, you can join a gym or program that is focused on the success of their clients and keeps track of measurables for you.

Hiking 101: What Should I Pack for a Day Hike?

Hiking 101, Posts

Hiking 101: What Should I Pack for a Day Hike?

The thing is – once you invest in a few essential items, you don’t have to think about it anymore. I keep the essentials in my pack and just add what I need for the day. If you don’t hike often, between hikes you can keep the first-aid kit in your car glove compartment for emergencies. I actually keep an extra one in my car because you never know when you’ll need to treat a wound or maybe you’re stranded on the road and need an emergency blanket to keep warm while you wait for help.

If you’re hiking with others, I recommend that each person carry their own first-aid kit because even if you’re hiking together, you might get separated. When I was hiking The Crack at Killarney Provincial Park, I had a major fall that luckily wasn’t as bad as it could have been. With a few surface scratches – I quickly grabbed my kit and treated my wounds right on the spot and continued along the trail.

As I mentioned in my confessions – I hate carrying things, so what I have in my pack is minimal.

Here’s what I keep in my backpack at all times:

1) 3-litre waterproof bag (Seems odd to have this? Read why I won’t leave home without it below)

2) Emergency Bivvy and blanket

3) Compass

4) Whistle

5) Matches

6) Flint for sparking a fire in the absence of matches. Plus matches may not light if wet, defective or if it’s too windy outside.

7) First-Aid kit with adhesive bandages (i.e. Band-Aids), polysporin, alcohol pads, stick-free gauze pads, adhesive tape, tweezers, single-use eye drops, small scissors and hand sanitizer). Tip: I personally don’t like store-bought first-aid kits. They aren’t cheap and often the quality of the items are bad – for example bandages that don’t stick and tweezers that don’t pinch together. I think that you’re really just paying for the bag it comes in. I bought my own pouch which happened to have First Aid written on it (you can use any pouch) and bought my own supplies. A water resistant or waterproof bag is best.

8) Gloves. Even if it’s not cold outside, gloves are great if you need to grab onto trees/rocks for support. Often trees and rocks are coated with moss/algae/lichen – which I personally would rather not touch with my bare hands. The surfaces may contain bacteria as well. When I was at the mini falls at Niagara Glen Nature Reserve I put on my gloves. I saw that others were disgusted by touching the wet slimy rocks while I was perfectly content.

9) Snack bars. I keep extra in my pack in case I get hungry or need a boost of energy on the trail.

Before I head out I’ll add:

1) Portable charger. Your phone battery can drain quickly if it’s cold outside and/or used for taking videos and photos.

2) One-litre bottle filled with water – my personal choice is the Nalgene brand because their bottles are made with heavy-duty plastic (I can pile stuff on top of it and it won’t get crushed), they don’t leak and have a handle (great for being able to hook it onto the outside of my pack if there’s no more room inside).

3) Coconut water for extra hydration.

4) Fruit/lunch/extra snacks

5) Extra clothing such as a rain poncho and accessories such as a hat, as applicable.

6) Trail maps, if needed.

What I’ll be adding:

1) Kinesio tape – great portable support in the case of a sprained ankle. I bought a foam sprain board, but it’s just not practical to carry it around.

2) Swiss Army knife. Haven’t decided on one yet.

What I keep in my car:

1) Phone charger

2) Extra bottle(s) filled with water

3) Full change of clothes

4) Extra pair of shoes

5) Life jacket (if there’s ever a chance that I might be near water). Rental jackets are usually slimy and nasty in my opinion. I’d much rather have my own where possible.

Monica's shadow on cedar
Monica Ng

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What’s in my pack

what to pack

Why I won’t leave home without my 3-litre waterproof bag

When I was at Point Pelee National Park, they were selling these bags for $20 each at the canoe rental place. I debated if I should buy one but decided against it. It was a sunny day, but suddenly dark storm clouds rolled in while I was in my canoe and the rain started to fall in sheets. I started to panic that my cell phone and car remote would die. I was far from home and my car cannot be started without the remote (there’s no key – genius eh?). There was no visibility, the strong currents were pushing me in the opposite direction and the canoe was filling up with water. Though I was already drenched with water, I put my phone and car remote in my underwear to try to save them. It’s funny the things that you’re thankful for in critical situations – in this case I was happy that the cards in my wallet were plastic and that Canada changed its bills from paper to plastic. Eventually, the storm died down and I found my way back to shore. After that day, I vowed to buy and keep this small portable waterproof bag with me at all times. Whenever it’s raining, I put my valuables inside then put the bag into my backpack. I also use my bag whenever I’m kayaking or around water.

Fast forward to a drier day…

When I went to Elora Gorge, I thought that the river tubing season was over (because the website showed that it was done) so I wasn’t prepared to go tubing. When I saw people floating in tubes in the river, it was obvious that the season was extended. Spontaneously, I decided to go tubing in the Grand River. I grabbed my life jacket (which as I mentioned above – that I keep in my car) and grabbed my waterproof bag. I put my wallet, keys and cell phone inside the bag, sealed it and clipped it onto my life jacket clasp…and coasting down the river is where I went. Ok, so you wonder – didn’t my clothes get all wet? Yes, I was soaked and shivering but smiling knowing that I had a full change of clothes in my car. Being comfortable in nature is number one. Always plan ahead. Going back to my special waterproof bag – without it my river tubing adventure would not have been possible. It’s not really possible to carry a backpack on a tube. That day, there was a lady that dropped her car key into the river. She had to call a tow truck. Lucky for her, she lived only 45 minutes away.