I was scrolling through a list of new and upcoming releases recently when I came across an intriguing band from Manitoba called Lakes and Pines. Curious, I clicked to listen to “Yukon Princess,” the first song released from their debut album “Peace Comes at Last” – and immediately wanted to hear more. Folksy, rocking, with deep and thoughtful lyrics – “Peace Comes at Last” is a terrific and confident first album from a group that I very much hope will experience a long and successful career.
Be advised, though: the group’s music is not for the absent-minded listener. Songs like “Boy Scout Jamboree” and “Big Change Coming” can provoke some rumination (or they should); the album will leave you thinking deep thoughts whilst simultaneously appreciating the musical package in which they are wrapped.
Patrick Simoens of Lakes and Pines generously took the time to answer some of our questions about the group and their new project.
Can you tell us a little bit about your band – where you’re from, how you got started, and so forth?
We’re from Morden, MB which is a small city about an hour south of Winnipeg. Most of us grew up here. In 2012 I showed Derek (Helps, a member of the group) some songs I’d been writing and his style of guitar playing complemented the songs well. We started playing little coffee shops just the two of us. Shortly after that the project took the form of a band. For about 2 years the line up changed a fair bit until it settled into what we are now.
All of the songs on the album are really thought-provoking, but I’d like to ask about “Boy Scout Jamboree” in particular. This song made me think of the friends in life who have left far too soon (including some by suicide). What do you hope listeners take away from this song?
That song is about my brother’s suicide. Specifically how I’ve tried to imagine him as an adult. He was my older brother but now I’m nearly 20 years older than he was, yet I still look up to him and how he influenced me, as older siblings do.
I hope that others in a similar situation can take some comfort from the song. I’ve always used music for that purpose, so I hope that our listeners can pull something out of every song. Then it would serve a greater purpose than just my own and I think that’d be a nice feeling.
In “Big Change Coming” you reference the coming of whites to the Six Nations (in what is today the Mid-Atlantic and New England in the US) and the decline of the Iroquois in particular. There’s been a lot more discussion of the wrongs committed against indigenous peoples in Canada of late than in the US – is the discussion in Canada leading to anything fruitful, do you think?
Time will tell I suppose. I sure hope so. I recently attended a speaking event with an Ojibway knowledge keeper from southern Manitoba. It was great to hear his perspective on things and equally great to see so many other non-indigenous people from my community joining in the conversation.
The song touches on some of the obstacles the people faced after colonization, and still face today. It’s a subject that’s been heavy on my mind since a childhood trip to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The culture spoke to me, and celebrated how nature is a system of interconnectedness, and not just a playground or a resource.
You haven’t shied away from challenging subjects in your music – is that a conscious choice? How do audiences respond?
We’re not trying to be super political or anything like that. Though some of the songs touch on justice, environment, and world views a bit. I don’t purposely pick difficult subjects to write about. I just write how I feel in a moment. We don’t really hear too much from our audience about the subject matter of our songs. Although I’ve had some people share their experiences with suicide with me.
Your bio mentions the ‘diverse interests’ of your band members – what are some of those, and how have they contributed to your overall sound?
Flo is from Austria where I’m pretty sure they stick an instrument in your hands at birth. He’s had a classical influence on the band for sure. Mel, Derek and myself are close in age and we grew up on mostly grunge and 90’s bands. That might not be obvious in our music but it’s definitely influenced us. Thomas is still a teenager so his contribution to the music is pretty refreshing. He actually joined our band after I saw him playing upright bass in my daughter’s high school jazz band! It’s kind of a funny story. So we’re approaching the songs from different angles which I think is responsible for our sound.
What are your plans, if any, for touring with the new album?
We’re having 2 album release shows in May. One in Morden and the other in Winnipeg. Other than that we’re playing a few summer festivals in Manitoba. No real plans for a tour as of yet. We’ll see what happens. Our website and Facebook page are the best places to keep yourself informed.
Photo credit: Tony Loewen Photography