BOW VALLEY - Northern Quarter are a four-piece ensemble featuring Dave Crewe on drums, backing vocals and samples, Wendy Crewe on bass, Carlos Nadeau on guitar and Kerry Hunter on guitar and lead vocals.
Early versions of the band started out doing covers, but the current lineup – which has been together for two years – has gradually been introducing more original material into their sets. The accumulation of those songs led to the release of their first EP, Cold Dark Night, in 2018.
A new, as yet untitled EP, is in the works. Dave Crewe has started laying down the base tracks in his small home studio.
“After the first EP we had probably one original song knocking around that we should have recorded and didn’t,” Crewe said. “And then based on that we had a bit of a flurry of writing.”
Any band trying to get exposure for their music faces the challenge of deciding the best method for getting the work out to the public. Digital releases are now common, and CDs are handy to have available for sale at gigs. Reaching back to the glory days of Rock & Roll Crewe is contemplating pressing some vinyl.
“Vinyl’s a bit of an indulgence,” Crewe said, noting that choice would be more awkward to manage in bars and pubs. An EP CD practically fits in your pocket.
“The other thing I’m wondering about is making it an LP and having all of that first EP on one side, and then the new stuff on the other side. But like I said we haven’t discussed it yet, it’s just things flying around my head and things I’d like to do.”
As for the music, the band’s influences are broad, and their style reflects that.
“In terms of genre we’d have to call ourselves indy-pop,” Crewe said, after contemplating the question for a moment, “but you really have to twist my arm to say that.
“Styles vary with the covers. We like a lot of different types of music, so there’s a lot of different types of music in the cover set. From what we’ve written, though, some of its definitely folk rock, some of its definitely pop, some of its firmly indy-pop.”
That ever evolving musical identity has led to a YYC Music Award nomination. The 4th Annual Gala is set for the Palace Theatre in Calgary on Sunday, Sept. 22.
“We’re nominated in a new category,” Crewe said, “that is called The Contemporary Inspirational Recording of the Year. The entire EP has been nominated for that category, alongside four other interesting and diverse artists. There’s no genre connections between these five artists at all, so it’s really, really interesting to be amongst these people.”
The band is also getting some exposure in unusual places. One of their tracks will feature in an upcoming virtual reality video game from BitCutter Studios, and they were chosen as one of the up-and-coming acts on the new Alberta music talent search TV show, The Moment. The episode will air in the winter of 2020.
On Sept. 6, Northern Quarter will be playing their first Calgary gig together at the Blind Beggar Pub, and they are mulling over the logistics of touring outside the Bow Valley.
Here at home, Banff has been an outlet for musical talent at all levels for decades. Local bands cut their teeth at St. James’s Gate and Melissa’s Missteak, while touring bands make a note of stopping in at the Rose & Crown or Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon on their way to or from the coast.
The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity hosts iconic Canadian acts like Blue Rodeo, Bruce Cockburn and Barney Bentall, and draws international talent to the stage in the classical, jazz and folk genres.
But, Canmore has seen a surge in options for musical acts of all types in recent years. Venues like The Drake and the recently renovated Canmore Hotel are old standbys, but Tavern 1883, the Rose & Crown and Hy5 regularly have weekend entertainment. Open mic nights can be found around town five evenings a week.
As they contemplate the next steps, Northern Quarter is capitalizing on that opportunity to play.
For a comprehensive list of entertainment options in Banff and Canmore check The Rocky Mountain Outlook’s the Buzz listings.