Call & Response: A Northern Chorus

Call & Response: A Northern Chorus

With a heavy heart I type this edition of my Q&A series. This is the first one where I'm speaking to a band who are about to play their last shows. Foreign territory for me, as I tend to focus on "up- and-comers" who I encourage our beloved readers to check out.

A Northern Chorus is an ambient rock band that every fan of moody, atmospheric, heart-felt music would like. But sadly, after eight years and four full-length records (released by Sonic Unyon Records), they are packing it in before graduating past their "up-and-comer" status.

A Northern Chorus play their final Toronto show tonight at the Horseshoe. Singer/guitarist Pete Hall shared some memories with me about how the band started, the difficult road they travelled and why there is still lots to look forward to.

Keep reading for the complete interview.

blogTO: Why did you call yourselves A Northern Chorus?

Pete Hall: We wanted something that suited the music we were writing when we started ANC. We liked the idea that the word "northern" brought Canada to mind and that "chorus" reflected our vocal ideas.

Who were your biggest influences?

When we started the band both Stu and I were really into post rock and shoegaze. The two bands we played in previously to ANC were of that vein. Bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, The Verve, Spiritualized, etc. were really huge influences on us when we were first starting out. Now the variety of music that we're all into is so vast and different that I think we've been able to avoid pigeon holing ourselves as one thing. Although most media would beg to differ on that point but I think we know our music better than anyone else.

Why are you calling it quits now?

We've been a band for 8 years and in that time we really haven't had any breaks to help us get to that next level. At a certain point music starts to become financial in a sense and it has to if you're touring a lot and making records. We loved touring and everything about supporting a record but we just can't justify doing it anymore when we're constantly losing money. We've put in a huge amount of time and effort into this band and most of our income from our day jobs. Personally, I'm a little burned out.

If you could start this band over, is there anything you would do differently?


What song are you most proud of?

I really can't answer that question. I love all the songs. Although I do think our last record, The Millions Too Many is our best.

What was your band's biggest accomplishment?

Keeping our van "Dr. White" on the road for as long as he did. He just died yesterday - it's very sad. Seriously though, just the fact that we've really been a DIY band for this long. We have had the help of labels like Sonic Unyon and Black Mountain Music but we've really done most of the work ourselves. All the management, all the booking. It takes a lot of enthusiasm to keep up with all of that.

What's the worst thing that happened to your band on the road?

So many situations...I'll give you two stories:

1) Stu, Sean (Burdocks) and myself were sleeping in the van in Brooklyn one night when we were awoken by 20 or so construction workers. Apparently we were blocking where their concrete truck needed to go. They spotted us in the van and started screaming "they're in the fucking van!!". All three of us honestly thought we were done for. Stu jumped in the front and took off through Brooklyn at 6am. The topper of this story is that Stu was accosted by a homeless man for taking a piss in an alley way. "You can't piss there motherfucker!" He actually said that. I guess it's more funny than bad.

2) All night drives from Winnipeg to Canmore. Too many...

Are any ANC members working on or planning any new music projects?

Yeah - we all play in different bands. I'm playing a little by myself under the name "Blackburn". I play drums in two other bands and guitar with another friend of mine. Our string players also play with a few different people. Everyone plays with other musicians.

What were the benefits and deficiencies of being a GTA area band?

Benefits: there are a lot of great musicians in this area and many places to play. Deficiencies: traffic.

What can people expect to see/hear/feel this Friday at the Horseshoe Friday night?

We've been rehearsing twenty or so songs for the two shows. We're hauling out some pretty old material we haven't played since 2001. We just hope that people really enjoy these shows. We've had a great run in this band and although we're all a little sad that these are the last two, they'll be our best.

A Northern Chorus
w/ Electroluminescent, Bellewoods, Dan Griffin and The Regrets
Friday, June 27
The Horseshoe
368 Queen Street West
Doors 9pm
$10 cover

Call & Response is a weekly series of Q&A's with bands/artists from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Stephanie Bell.

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