And here we are, the last official day of 2017. Seems fitting to write a year-end wrap up entry before leaving for our next adventure.
2017 was a productive year for us. Productive is not a glamorous word. It's not a word that makes me giddy with excitement or kickstarts the mind to dream of new possibilities. Being productive is a slow grind. It's the tiny increments gained and boxes checked off one by one. It's only at the end of a productive cycle that we can stand back and marvel at the big picture with all the colours filled in and highlights added; and it's perhaps at this moment that productivity becomes a thing of beauty.
We put out a brand new album in October. It was a year and a half in the making, beginning in the summer of 2016 during our two-month stay on Vancouver Island. Most of the songs were written while we camped in the hay field at Birds Eye Cove Farm in Maple Bay.
Once we got back to Ontario that fall and settled into a new routine, we began work on fleshing out the new songs - adding arrangements and experimenting with new sounds. Once everything felt "complete" we knew it was time to book the studio.
We spent a few days at Catherine North Studio's in Hamilton, Ontario. Working with Adam Cannon (drummer extraordinaire) and Lauren Campbell (my extremely-talented sister) to create the bed tracks for the seven songs. The studio is housed in an old church and it was an amazing place to bring the album to life. Once we had the songs 90% in the can, we booked a day at The Woodshed Studio (home of Blue Rodeo) in Toronto and had Christine Bougie lay down some super-slick lap steel parts; and Albert Carrero adding some smokin' guitar licks. We are extremely lucky to have such uber-talented friends (hashtag blessed).
The following months were filled with mixing and mastering, taking photos and shooting the video for the single (hats off to Matthew Waring for his awesome skills behind the camera), creating the album artwork, booking the tour and finally putting everything together for what would become "Cheap Gin".
Once we sat back and listened to the album in its completed state it became quite evident that it was an audible snapshot of our journey across the country. Each song is filled with nuances of all the places we visited during our trek – from the deep south to the dusty desert, it was all there; and with each listen I was transported back to all my favourite places. It's funny that we never really noticed it until they were all together as a package.
At the same time during the recording and album production, we bought a house... in Alberta. It wasn't something that we had planned on and it all happened rather quickly. It's funny how being on the road and travelling, despite how much at-home we felt in the RV, still made us long for a place of our own (that was not on wheels). A place where we could return to after a long journey; where my second-favourite coffee mugs lived in cupboards and comfy couches sat waiting for tired bodies to lounge on. We tossed around the idea of moving west - either Saskatchewan or Alberta - where gas was cheaper, as were the houses and overall cost of living. We found a house on MLS (or whatever if goes by now) and as we looked at the pictures and googled the town, it seemed to check off all the boxes. So, we put in a conditional offer and once it was accepted Brad jumped on a plane and went to have a look. He flew into Edmonton on a Tuesday morning and was back in Toronto by midnight. The house was as good as we had hoped for and we signed on the line, closing date was the first of March. It wasn't until the first weekend of May that we both flew out and I saw our new house for the first time. It was a surreal moment, to say the least.
We made the plan to move west in September, while touring the new album across Canada at the same time. We left Ontario the week after Labour Day and got as far as Brandon, MB, when the wheels fell off. The RV motor essentially blew-up (not literally, but it was done. TOAST). We called CAA and the biggest tow truck I ever did see, hooked up old Winnie and pulled her into Brandon; where she would sit for almost 3 months (although, at the time we thought it would only be 2-3 weeks). Because we were moving, we had our van and so we left the RV and continued on to Alberta and then on to BC for a string of dates on the island. As we were making our way back from BC, the van started to show the early signs of a failing motor (not again!!!). We nursed it back home to Alberta and were forced to buy another van so we could get around to the rest of the shows we had to play until Christmas. We had no downtime in which we could be without a vehicle, so we picked up a cheap van from a lady in a nearby rural hamlet. The van needed new wheel barings and ball joints to pass the mild safety testing but funds were extremely low, hence our search for a "cheap" van... So Brad took it upon himself to carry out the repairs DIY-style. It was also during this time that we had our first extreme cold snap in Alberta (-20°C) for a week. But hats off to Brad (and our helpful, tool-baring neighbours), he fixed it all in our unheated garage, while suffering some frostbit I'm sure.
It wasn't until mid-November that we made the return 11-hr drive to Brandon to pick up our old girl - outfitted with a brand-new motor (to the tune of almost $8000... #fack) and brought her home. Up until that time, I never felt settled. Half of our stuff was still with the RV in Brandon and I was dreading that trip - but once we got back and Winnie was parked out front of the house, everything finally felt right. We get up every morning, open the curtains and throw a wave to the old girl. I'm sure our neighbours love that we take up 1/2 of the road now, lol.
So here I sit, in our new home in a rural village east of Edmonton, Alberta. The sun is finally streaming in through the window despite it being -800°C outside and am reflecting on our productive year of tiny increments that all compounded to lead us here. We play our final show of 2017 tonight - Happy New Year! - and on Tuesday we depart for our 2018 US tour (dates here). I cannot wait to get back on the road, to log the miles and dive head first into the warm southern sun.
Here's to a prosperous new year!
We'll see ya down the road,
Hey peeps, happy summer. How is it nearly August already? Wherever you are, I hope the lazy, hazy days have been treating you well. Things have been busy here at base camp. We're in the home stretch with the NEW RECORD! Set for release in early September and guys, I can't wait for you to hear it. We'll be sending out more info in the coming weeks with a pre-sale chock full of goodies.
We're also gearing up for another big tour. Heading West from Ontario in September, playing all the way out to Vancouver Island, then we'll head back to Alberta for a few months to spruce up the brand-new Winnie Brave world head quarters. Wait, what? #recordscratch We bought a house! It all happened rather quickly but it feels so good to finally have our own space once again (that's not on wheels). We'll be sharing photos and updates from the homestead later in the fall #renolife.
Early in the new year we're heading state-side to tour the new record to our southern friends - lookin' at you California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico! If you've got any suggestions for venues to play or places worth checking out - holler at us! We're also looking for folks who are interested in hosting us for a house concert while we pass through your area. Details here.
And, we've still got a buncha dates here in Ontario for the remainder of the summer - listed here. Would love to see ya!
Labels: #newrecord #tour #life
We left Quadra on Friday morning (for the second time), bound for mainland Vancouver. Two ferry rides later we arrived, it was mid-day and the sun was in full affect. Forty-plus degrees and bumper-to-bumper traffic was certainly taking its toll on all of us, including the Winnie. We were hot and we were tired but little did we know our day was going to get much worse.
By the time we pulled into the brewery parking lot, we were all over-heated and wishing we were anywhere but in the middle of the city. We cleaned ourselves up as best we could and went to work. The show went by quickly and was a lot of fun (the beer was top shelf too). Around 11pm we pulled out of the (still hot and muggy) parking lot and hit the highway for the city limits. Hank had been having a really rough time with the heat and by the time we got to the rest area near Abbotsford we knew something was frighteningly wrong. His breathing was very laboured and he was in panic-mode. A phone call was made and back to the suburbs we went, to an all-night emergency vet clinic. X-rays showed a near complete block of his windpipe and pending failure of his lungs. The stress of his extreme panting had made his throat swell shut and he was not far from death. The vet team sedated him and hooked him up to a breathing machine, the only thing that could save him at that point. He remained sedated and intubated all night while we tried to sleep in parking lot hoping he would survive the night. At 7am he was tentatively taken of the breathing tube so that we could transport him to another vet for surgery to remove the swollen tissue. He was prepped for surgery around noon and by 4pm he was ready to be picked up from recovery. He was conscious, calm and breathing amazingly clear – in fact he had never sounded so good. We spent the next few hours in the shaded parking lot of the vet clinic listening to the final Hip concert on CBC, trying to collect our thoughts and re-group. The only plan was to wait for the heat of the day and rush hour traffic to pass before we set out on the move again. With the help of some amazing people, we all survived one of the most stressful 24hrs of our lives.
Over the next few days we made our way across the beautiful interior and arrived in Nelson. I loved Nelson – what a great town! We spent two nights at a provincial park on the shores of Lake Kootenay and it was exactly what we needed. It was sunny and warm and the beach was dog-friendly; so there we sat with our chairs in the water, beer in hand while Hank and Winnie attempted to drink the lake dry. We played a show at The Royal and the place was hopin’. It was such a great night and the perfect way to cap off our time in Nelson. We pulled out of town after the gig to gain some distance for the following nights show in Banff (just over 500kms away – which translates to roughly 8hrs of drive time for us).
And then we were in Alberta…
Banff was crazy busy, despite my impression that this was a winter spot. We made the drive through the downtown, past all the high-profile shops and waded through the sea of Asian tour groups. Our destination was the Fairmont Banff Springs (the castle hotel) where we were spending the next three evenings playing in the lobby bar. We were overwhelmed with the concern of trying to find a place to hide the Winnie, out of the sight of the high-end guests that shuffled about the gorgeous hotel property. We were left with only one option, to tuck away in the trees down near the tennis courts and overflow parking. Our three nights of shows flew by, despite the weather being cold and wet – which made for some chipper sleeping conditions in the RV. All in all we had a great time.
We arrived in central Alberta with a few days to explore before a show in Edmonton. We enjoyed a brief run-in with Alberta Parks Enforcement after an amazing boondock at Big Hill Springs park and had a great visit with some family in the Cochrane area. September 1st we played our first show in Edmonton and spent the night at the local Walmart. The next day we had a fortuitous visit to the famed West Edmonton Mall. The mall itself was impressively large and filled with every kind of store one could imagine – including a skating rink and water park, complete with a massive wave pool – right inside the mall… crazy. We got our exercise for the day after one solid lap and decided that was enough retail therapy to last us for quite a while. Trying to find the exit was another adventure all in itself, but it wasn’t long before we were outside in the brisk Edmonton air. As we turned the last corner of the building and spotted the RV we noticed two long-haired dudes hanging about, having a good look at ol’Winnie. We stopped for a moment and stayed at a distance as to not interrupt their inspection. Finally we decided to approach, as we could see Winnie (the dog) starting to get a little suspicious of these peering strangers.
Dans: Is this yours?
Brad: Indeed it is.
Dans: Wow man, that’s awesome. I just bought one of these…
Brad: Indeed it is.
Dans: Wow man, that’s awesome. I just bought one of these…
And so it began, a conversation that would last nearly 30 minutes in the parking lot of the mall. It’s crazy how many folks we’ve met and befriended all because of a shared fondness of the quirky 1970’s Winnebagos.
We finally parted ways with an agreement that we may see each other later that evening at our show at the Needle Vinyl Tavern. The gig went extremely well – what an awesome place! As planned, our new friends sat in the audience and cheered us on. We sat for drinks after the show and had a great time chatting and learning more about each other. After drinks we stopped in at a ‘world famous’ donair spot that smelled so bad of onion that we were all crying while eating. In the parking lot after gorging ourselves, Dans extended the invitation to camp on his property out near Stony Plain. Naturally we took him up and caravanned out past the city limits.
The next few days were spent enjoying the company and hospitality of our new friends, while doing some minor repairs and cleanup on the Winnie. There was also a great deal of conversation happening about what the next few weeks would bring. On the heels of Hank’s near-death emergency and our ever-shrinking savings we began to consider all options. With very heavy hearts but clarity in our minds we decided to cut the final three weeks of the tour, playing our last show in Edmonton on September 3rd. We would head back east from there.
The trek took us four days and we returned to Ontario just in time to surprise Amy’s mom for her birthday. We immediately got settled and put the wheels in motion for the recording of our next album! The plan is to work, write, record and gig until late summer when we will release our newest musical creation and hit the road again.
We'll see you soon!
We left Duncan last Thursday morning after playing our last show at Bird's Eye Cove Farm and headed North to the town of Ladysmith to get some leaf spring work done on the Winnie. We dropped it off at the shop and walked down to the marina, where we sat for hours watching the kayakers glide around the bay – slow dancing with the sailboats as they gently rocked on their anchored lines. By mid-afternoon we got the call from the spring shop that the work was done and we were good to go.
The next stop that afternoon was to another shop to get our brakes checked and hopefully install new shoes on the rear. When we got to the shop we were told they wouldn’t have time to get to it until tomorrow (Friday). We considered our options, knowing that we had to be up in Courtenay the next evening for a show, but also knew that the brakes needed some work before we head out on the long drive. So we camped out near the marina for the evening and dropped the Winnie off at 8am the next morning. We headed back to the marina (free wifi, shaded picnic tables and a small cafe – not the worst place to have to kill time) and waited for the call.
By the end of the work day (4:30pm) it was clear we weren’t going anywhere. The shop didn’t complete the work and they are not open on Saturdays – so, we were stranded until Monday. We still had access to the RV as it was parked in the lot at the shop, and we could use it/sleep in it. Brad called Charlie (the owner of Roy’s Pub in Courteney) to explain the situation and cancel that evenings show. But this is where things turned around – Charlie was sending his shuttle van driver to pick us up (and the dogs) and bring us to Courtenay (1.5 hrs drive) and was going to put us up for the night in his travel trailer after the show, then bring us back to Ladysmith the next day. I completely taken aback by his generosity and outward offerings to help us out. So we arrived at the pub, got set up and played our first set. At the break, we were chatting with Charlie who introduced us to Diane and Garry - a lovely couple who happened to have an empty vacation rental two blocks away from the pub and were offering to let us use it for the evening – wow! We met Diane outside the carriage house at the end of the night, she showed us around and less than an hour later we were sound asleep in the big bed.
The next morning we decided it would be best to rent a car for the rest of the weekend so we could continue on with the shows. Diane graciously drove us to the rental place where our GMC Savanna cargo van awaited. We loaded up the van and headed out to Lake Cowichan for that evenings show – which was tons of fun. We ended up camping out at the lake in the van (which was interesting and odd, but not something I hope to do again #vanlife). The next day we hung out at the lake until mid-afternoon, then loaded up and headed to Victoria for our last show of the weekend.
We left Victoria on Sunday evening after the show and headed back to Ladysmith to sleep in our own bed (in the parking lot of the shop). Monday morning arrived quickly as we awoke to the sounds of the large bay doors being rolled open and the chatter of the mechanics. We gulped down cup of coffee, packed up the dogs in the van and headed out to the park for the day. By 7pm we were finally on the highway headed back to Courtenay to drop off the van, and around 10pm we pulled the Winnie into a rest stop and shut it down for the night.
Tuesday morning rolled out at a leisurely pace – coffee, breakfast, a 10-second tidy and then we carried on. We were headed back to Campbell River - back to the ferry terminal for Quadra Island. Our original plan for these few days was to head to upstate Washington from Victoria, and poke around until we were due back to Vancouver for Friday’s show – but since we had to be back in Courtenay and after the busy/stressful weekend, a trip back to Quadra seemed like the perfect remedy.
So here we are – parked in Troy’s laneway, looking around at all that is now familiar. Last evening we hiked out to the cliffs overlooking the ocean, illuminated by the full moon reflecting a perfect copy onto the surface of the water. My whole body exhaled and I felt like I was home.
In no time flat, you staked a claim on my heart and I was a goner...
Four amazing days of hard R’s and long A’s, strange conversations around a midnight bonfire, and one incredibly crazy water taxi ride. All because of one serendipitous meeting in Midland last November.
Tuesday afternoon we left Duncan and made the 4-hour trek up-island to Campbell River – a stunningly picturesque town where the brilliant blue seascape meets snowcapped mountains in the distance. We strolled around the bustling downtown before making our way to the ferry terminal where we would catch the boat for Quadra Island. The ferry ride was no more than 20 minutes and we were soon bombing around the twisty island roads. Following a recommendation, we made a stop at the Rebecca Spit Provincial Park, where we found a great ocean-front spot to park the Winnie and make some dinner, all while taking in the incredible vistas.
After dinner and a round of throwing stones at driftwood logs, we made our way to Joyce Road where a man named Bruce would be expecting us.
Bruce: “So you know Troy?”
Brad: “Not really, no.”
Bruce: “So you know Kyle then?”
Brad: “No, not really”
Bruce: “… “
Bruce: “Ok… Well, let me show you around.”
And just like that we found a place to park the Winnie, hooked up some hydro and joined Bruce and Barb in their beautiful cabin for drinks and stories. We explained how we met Troy last November at a show back in Ontario and that when we arrived in BC we exchanged emails and now here we were. Troy was back in Campbell River for the evening (which we didn’t know until were already on the island) and would be returning the next day.
The next afternoon we took a hike down to the lighthouse and walked along the rocky beach. And that’s when I felt it – the lump in my chest. The feeling I get when I am somewhere I never want to leave. I had it mildly in New Mexico but this was a bigger pull and it came on quick. When we got back to El Rancho Lamont we freshened up and joined Bruce and Barb for cocktails and were soon joined Troy. Conversations flowed, the evening grew on and it wasn’t long before we were packing it in.
The following day we planned to head to the beach for some SUPing but the crazy wind kiboshed that. We hung out, drank beers and made plans for the evening. After dinner the three of us headed out to April Point to catch the water taxi over to Painters Lodge (across the channel) and get our drink on. The taxi over was a little choppy but nothing compared to the return voyage – see video below.
She’s a big boat, eh bye!
After returning to the island we headed to the local Inn/Pub and caught some live music, then trekked over to the Legion for a quadrathon of athletics in the form of extreme ping-pong, darts, foosball and air hockey. We closed the place down and found ourselves back at Casa Troy’s for an epic Ween listening party before calling it a night – an adventure packed and glorious one at that.
Saturday evening we headed back down to the Pub for open mic night (minus one didgeridoo). Brad and I awaited our turn and by the time we took the stage the place was hoppin’. We stayed and watched a few more acts before heading out to a party that everyone kept insisting we should go to. We parked the car at the end of a very dark road and walked the driveway past the house towards the barn where there was a Dj dropping some serious beats. However, when we stepped inside, we quickly realized there was no one else there – just the DJ and a bunch of brightly coloured lights. We made our way back up the driveway and came upon an empty bonfire, so we plopped ourselves down and started into the linguistic breakdown of the West coast accent. Folks slowly started joining us and it wasn’t long before we had a full group around the fire. Somebody pulled out a guitar, songs were sung, and I swear to god I wondered if they were filming an “Experience BC” commercial - aside from the guy who wore a corduroy blazer without a shirt underneath (Creepy Cole as he would later be referred to as). And just as quick as the group swelled, we picked our time and made our discreet exit – it was almost 2 am. The stars above the island are incredible - the expansive sky is littered with them, and when we arrived back at T’s we stood on the deck while side two of Rumours played and just looked up. It was officially my birthday and I was officially in love with this place.
And then it was Sunday. Sometime mid-morning I looked out the front window and spotted an enormous bubble floating in the breeze, then another one, followed by another one. There was T with a crazy bubble-making, string-and-stick assembly (not the least bit Forrest Gumpy) creating these beautiful mammoth bubbles. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, it was a thousand times awesome. So there we sat in our folding chairs (completely sober), watching these techicoloured orbs floating in the breeze – only on Quadra.
After the bubbles, we packed up the SUPs and made our way to the beach. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the bay was calm. Brad and T paddled out and I was more than happy to perch my chair in the shallow water and take in the views.
We got back to the house just before 6pm and quickly got ourselves organized for our departure on the 7pm ferry back to Campbell River (and back to real life). I could feel the lump my throat, the one that comes up when I’m about to cry - the thought of leaving was breakin' my heart. But alas, we said our goodbyes, boarded the boat and were back on the TransCan heading southbound.
I remember the first time I heard about Tofino. Brad and I were watching an episode of the Rick Mercer Report and he was on location in the tiny town learning to surf. I remember it looked wild beautiful and of nothing I've ever seen before.
When we started planning our BC tour dates, the only must-visit town on my list was Tofino and as luck would have it, we booked two shows there.
We left Duncan last Thursday around mid-day and made a stop in Port Alberni to visit Brad's Uncle Dave. Dave has a pretty cool job – he is on the flight crew of the famed Martin Mars Water Bomber. Being family and all, we got a first class tour of the plane, which is otherwise closed to the public.
We covertly slept that night in one of the trailhead parking lots just outside of town. Friday we took to exploring the town (which isn't very big and didn't take long). We poked around in all the little shops, drank some coffee and ate the biggest 'old fashioned plain' doughnut I've ever seen. We also hit up the local brewery and enthusiastically drank our way through their entire lineup (resulting in a nap in the parking lot before we headed back out to the beach – the benefits of traveling with your own bed).
The next day we played a show at the Tofino Public Market, held in the centre of town at the park. The crowd was a fair size and just before we took to the stage, Anne the market manager casually mentioned that Sarah McLachlan was strolling around - and then she pointed her out to me (gah!). My hands instantly began to sweat, my heart rate quickened and I was nervous. Afterall, this was the woman who single-handedly spawned my entire musical path (... after I attended a Lilith Fair concert when I was 15 years old I immediately signed up for a guitar class and the rest is history). I couldn't believe she was like 'right there'. I couldn't bring myself to approach her, or even covertly stand behind her while getting Brad to take a photo (he urged, but I just couldn't, lame-o me).
We played two sets, which flew by, sold a bunch of cds and left the market feeling pretty damn good. We had a second show that night in Port Alberni, back across the two-hour road from hell. What seemed like four hours later we pulled into the parking lot of Char's Landing – an old church turned performance hall/public house. We played to a wonderful group of folks and passed out pretty much right after the show.
The next morning we stocked up on groceries and headed back out to Tofino (clearly we're suckers for punishment). We had a show that night (Sunday) at Jamie's Rainforest Inn. The folks at the Inn were super awesome, supplying us with tasty beverages during the show and an amazing meal at the end. Then they handed over a room key - BONUS! When we opened the door to our room we cracked up laughing. The room consisted of four sets of bunk beds and two bathrooms with sinks and toilets only - no shower (the only thing were were looking for, since we were going to sleep in the RV anyway). We stood outside the room for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do, before heading to the front desk to inquire. While making our way to the front desk we passed by a door that indicated there were shower facilities inside, so we tried our keycard and it unlocked. There were found eight stalls of clean and fresh showers (much like at an RV park). Having a roomy, stand-up shower with unlimited hot water was the best perk of the night.
The next morning we sat in the parking lot of the Inn, drank our coffee and mentally prepared for the drive back across our favourite highway.