Local bands trying to inspire change in the music business at festival
Slaving away at day jobs, skimping and saving to record . . . being a musician in an independent band has often meant travelling the road of hard knocks.
Local rockers in the groups Soul Side In and Slackjaw know all about the struggles of being in an unsigned band.
Sure it’s a rush to play your music for fans, but getting by financially “is nearly impossible,” admitted Dallas Oswald of Lacombe’s Slackjaw.
His heavy rock band with psychedelic influences has been around for 14 years but just finished its first professional recording project — a three-song, as yet untitled EP.
“We all have day jobs,” said Oswald, who does drywalling when he isn’t playing guitar.
Daniel Schmidt, lead singer for Red Deer’s post-grunge group Soul Side In, agreed that making ends meet can be a scramble. “It costs $80 just for one package of bass guitar strings. That’s not cheap.”
The two groups are among more than two dozen to get an economic leg up by performing in the Alberta’s Own Independent Music Festival from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, at the Daines Rodeo Grounds near Innisfail.
Not only will the three-day festival give participating groups more live exposure in front of hundreds of fans, but each of the indie bands will get a chance to sell admission tickets and get a 15 to 40 per cent cut, depending on sales volumes.
“Each band on the roster will have an opportunity to make a ceiling of $6,000 in profits,” said Schmidt, who’s co-ordinating the annual festival with Slackjaw’s drummer Rob Bouvier.
A 15-episode “mini series” of interview and performance videos of the various bands will also be made for YouTube and Facebook play. Schmidt said the videotaped bands will be given free use of the videos for promotional purposes.
“They can edit them or use 30 seconds or whatever to sell themselves to a venue. ... I think this will have a big impact.”
The other boon will be getting a free compilation CD of music from bands in the 2013 festival.
Each group will get some copies of the recording and some will also be given away to festival-goers, while quantities last.
“We’re trying to inspire some change and people have told us they really appreciate it,” Schmidt added.
This year’s Alberta’s Own headliner is the U.S. band Clutch.
Other groups include Oldbury, Tattered, The Preying Saints, Alkatine, Silo, Big Casino, Black Mountain Outlaws, Law of Lucid, Stranger Dancer, Tupelo Honey and Alterra. (A full rundown is available at www.abown.com.)
Slackjaw plans to have its new EP available at the festival.
One of the songs, Sleep, has a very personal meaning for the group’s lyricist, Oswald, who wrote it about his father’s homicide.
The body of Hugh Frank Oswald, 57, was found five years ago in a burned-out van near Rimbey.
Two women served jail time for the death, said Dallas Oswald. He admitted he’s had a hard time sleeping ever since.
The song, with its moving chorus of “Sleep, my son, I’ll be OK,” must have been winding through his mind for some time “because it pretty much wrote itself. The words came right out,” Oswald added.
Wicked Days from the EP also has to do with his father’s demise. “It’s about letting go of my anger. I had to forgive (the women) in my mind in order for me to move on,” said Oswald, who looks forward to sharing new tunes at the festival — and to hanging around with other indie musicians.
This year’s headliner, Clutch, “is all of our heroes,” he added.
Schmidt is similarly anticipating the festival’s easy-going outdoor vibe. “It’ll be kind of like a campout,” he said (camping and a beer garden are on the site).
Soul Side In also has a new recording in the works, produced by Kevin Churko, who has worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Britney Spears.
But it’s not expected out until sometime in 2014.
The still-untitled album is about getting informed, said Schmidt, who believes young people, in particular, should “wake up” to things happening in the world.
One new song involves the climate control that Schmidt believes is resulting from cloud seeding-like efforts by the military to add chemicals to the atmosphere.
Another tune involves aliens or the idea “we are not alone.”
Schmidt knows a lot of listeners will consider these topics farfetched but, “What if it was real? What would you do?”
Soul Side In also recorded a cover of Pat Benatar’s Invincible.
The song’s lyrics of “This bloody road remains a mystery” and “We can’t afford to be innocent” align nicely with the band’s views, said Schmidt, who’s always been drawn to music with a message, including tunes from Rage Against the Machine, Billy Talent and Foo Fighters.
He urges fans, “Don’t take a word that I say to be true. Go ahead and look it up yourself. There are shocking things out there. Find out for yourself.”
For ticket, lineup and site information, visit www.abown.com.