Interview: Northern Quarter, “Cold Dark Night”

Northern Quarter - Cold, Dark Night

Here at Team GDW, we are encountering an overwhelming volume of music from Canadian artists lately.  Don’t let anybody fool you into believing that good new music is hard to find; such naysayers are either looking in all of the wrong places, or are not paying attention to this blog.  In my opinion, as we squeak past the midpoint of this year, 2018 has already proven to be another great one for independent Canadian artists and music.  This is certainly true for the emerging band Northern Quarter, whose debut EP “Cold Dark Night” has just been released and is very much worthy of your attention.

Hailing from Canmore, AB, Northern Quarter (not to be confused with The Northern Quarter, a duo based in the UK) formed as recently as 2017 performing popular covers, but with a goal to write, create and produce their own original material.  Less than 18 months later, and the fruits of such labor have arrived in the form of “Cold Dark Night.”  Per the bands bio, the album blends their musical influences, ranging from folk-rock to alternative, and from indie to contemporary pop.  While this may seem like attempting to cover a lot of musical ground with just a six track EP, once you have given this one a spin, you may just be amazed to find that they have accomplished such a goal.

Comprised of Kerry Hunter (vocals), Carlos Nadeau (guitars), Wendy Crewe (bass) and Dave Crewe (percussion), this four piece act have pooled their musical talents to compile an incredible debut EP.  The opening track “Boomtown Blues” kicks things off with a very up-tempo beat and an introduction to some fine vocals from Kerry.  Definitely a contemporary pop number, this serves as a wonderful introduction to their music, but reserve any conclusions until you have sampled the remainder of the EP.  There is nothing up-tempo to be found when progressing to “Don’t Leave My Side,” as the guitars and rhythm create a slow and smooth background that perfectly accentuate some very sultry vocals this time around.  Kerry’s delivery here provokes immediate comparisons to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Laura Cole, albeit with a little more grit courtesy of the distorted guitar from Carlos.

Following with “Every Second Counts” and “Here We Go,” we see a pattern emerge, with the former having that melodic up-tempo beat while the latter slows down once more.  Unlike “Don’t Leave My Side,” however, “Here We Go” allows the band to exercise their appreciation for indie-pop; albeit with a trace of rhythm and blues sprinkled into the mix for some extra spice here.  If there is one track in particular that stands out from the crowd, it has to be “Fort Mac Anthem.”  Opening with some great ‘jangly’ guitar, a simple beat and four chord progression provides the perfect platform for Kerry’s vocals.  Combining a little old time rock and roll with some noticeable blues influences, this is an incredibly uplifting track that I’m sure is best heard live.  It occurred to me whilst composing this article that had I stumbled upon this band performing in a bar or tavern prior to learning of their music, I know that such great musicianship and chemistry would have intrigued me immediately.  But if given the pleasure of experiencing “Fort Mac Anthem” live, it is a safe bet that they’d have my complete attention, my full appreciation, and a copy of their album heading home with me.

Northern Quarter have emerged as a band I very much hope to catch live if they ever venture this far east.  “Cold Dark Night” is a strongly recommended debut EP from Alberta,  and we are grateful that Dave Crewe took some time to chat with us about this new music.

You have been playing together now for around 18 months.  How did you initially connect and make the decision to form a band?

Carlos, Wendy and Dave had already been in a couple of cover bands together. The three of us were looking for a new singer and saw Kerry at an open mic, thought she sounded amazing (because she does!) so got in touch and asked her to join. Having never been in a band before, she excitedly agreed, and here we are! After only a couple of jams it was clear that it was going to work. There’s great chemistry and camaraderie between the four of us.

Your bio states that you have a Brit in the band.  As a transplanted Brit myself, I’m curious to know which of you has those ties to the Old World, and how they wound up in Canmore, AB?

There’s two of us in fact! Wendy and Dave are the husband and wife team rhythm section, on bass and drums respectively. We moved from Manchester to Canada about 9 years ago, spending 4 years in New Brunswick and the last 5 years here. We decided to move to Canmore because it’s pretty much one of the most stunning places on Earth, the opportunity was there to move, and so we grabbed it. Zero regrets, it’s amazing, we’re all very lucky to live here.

You started out primarily as a cover band.  What were your go-to artists/songs when performing cover versions?

We still do covers to keep the money flowing, covers gigs pay WAY better! But we like to mix in our originals as well in there. There’s some fair representation by The Strokes and The Black Keys, but our end of night encore is always either ‘Sweet Dreams’ by ‘Eurythmics’ (but the ‘Fitz and the Tantrums’ version) or ‘I Will Wait’ by ‘Mumford and Sons’.

Who initiated the idea of writing and creating original music, and how challenging was it consolidating ideas and influences from four people into the project?

Kerry played a couple of her acoustic songs in the jam room…they sounded great but needed some alterations to fit into the band sound. Dave took a great interest in that role, adding a sample pad to make up for the lack of a second guitarist…however the first draft demo of ‘Searching For Freedom’ was a bit overboard (think Muse-y style synth sounds), so there’s always some compromise in filling out the sound but trying to still keep it organic. Kerry keeps Dave in check!

With six tracks on the EP, how did you arrive at the decision to go with these particular numbers, and conversely, how much did you have that has been filed for another day?

The six we have chosen were what we felt best represented us at the time of recording. There was another we wanted to add but didn’t get time to record, that’ll be on the next release, plus there’s three or four we are working on. Toughest thing is finding time to write, and finding time to rehearse. Two of the songs are Dave’s, the rest are all written by Kerry, and there’s a distinct style difference between the two.

With the album now released, how much promotional work do you have lined up? 

We had a successful launch party on the day of release at a local bar called Tavern 1883 that has always been supportive of us, from day one. Coming up over the summer we have about 15 gigs lined up, including one on the top deck of a London bus that has been converted into a restaurant called PD3 in Canmore. Along with selling the CDs we’ll be getting some merchandise together for the die hard souvenir collectors!

Any plans to take your music on the road beyond Alberta this year?

Does BC count? We’ve got summer gigs coming up in Waterton, Revelstoke and Panorama. After the Summer is over, touring gets dicey round here…most bands avoid being on the road in Winter. But if the opportunity arose and the financials could work out, we’d love to get out East, or even Europe.

Visit Northern Quarter’s website.

Listen to “Cold Dark Night” on Spotify.

Buy “Cold Dark Night” on Bandcamp.

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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