A former resident, who is a Calgary-based musician, is in Europe this week as a member of his band called The Northern Beauties, performing in Germany’s largest club festival.
Craig Aikman, who has been profiled in the Times as a member of Zoo Lion, a band that includes former Kamsack resident Matthew Tysowski, is in Europe with two members of The Northern Beauties, performing at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany, which is said to be one of the three most important meeting places for the music and digital industries in Europe.
The band also has performing dates at Canadian Showcase events in Berlin and in Warsaw, Poland.
Aikman, who with his friend Todd Stewart, had formed The Northern Beauties three years ago, left Canada on Sunday for a 10-day visit with one other member of the band.
“We’ll be meeting with representatives of European labels and we’ll be hoping to get noticed,” Aikman said last week in a telephone interview. “Maybe we’ll soon be able to return with our full band.”
The Northern Beauties, a western and folk-style band, started as a sideline, but in the last while “it has taken off,” Aikman said, explaining that after forming, the band grew to include a drummer, a bass player, a pedal steel guitarist, and most recently, a violinist.
“At our largest, we were a six-piece band, but we often play as a duo or trio, playing all original songs,” he said.
Aikman is a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, and recently has “picked up” the banjo, an instrument he has wanted to learn to play for some time.
While Zoo Lion, which has played in Kamsack at least twice, is a rock band with folk influences, The Northern Beauties is different and is heavy with the harmonies, he said. “We’re totally into singing harmony.”
Aikman said that Zoo Lion, which meets each week, is slowly working on a new album, but lately his focus is being shifted towards The Northern Beauties.
“Music is ebb and flow,” he said. “It’s good to have a few projects on the go.”
The Northern Beauties released a six-song extended play (EP) recording in 2014 and the band is now working on a full-length album which members plan to release in the spring.
“We’re doing very well in Alberta,” he said, adding that the group has been playing in Calgary music venues such as The Iron Wood, but has not yet done any extensive touring.
“We’re hustling and trying to meet the right people,” he said. “Last summer we were involved in a peak performance project which gave us the opportunity to attend a boot camp in B.C., where we were able to hone our skills as singers and songwriters and where we met industry professionals.
“That really helped propel us forward.”
The band played at the Calgary Folk Festival this year and, on the strength of its live performances and the EP, is nominated in the Best Roots Duo or Group category at the Western Canadian Music Awards which will be held in Regina on October 13 to 16.
The 14th annual awards show and concert “is the flagship event of BreakOut West and a celebration of all the aspects of western Canadian music,” said information on its website. “This year’s event will have two main headliners: Brett Kissel, who will also be hosting the event, and Regina’s own Colin James, who will not only headline the show, but is also this year’s Hall of Fame Inductee. Brett Kissel is nominated for both BreakOut Artist of the Year and Country Artist of the Year.
Nominated in the Roots Duo/Group of the Year with The Northern Beauties are: Crooked Brothers and Sweet Alibi of Manitoba, Jon and Roy of British Columbia, and Rosie and The Riveters from Saskatchewan.
“We plan to attend the awards presentation.”
Aikman said that The Northern Beauties had played at music showcase events in Calgary which were held by Music Calgary, an enterprise which looks around the city and finds export-ready musicians and bands, and as a consequence got selected to be a part of the Reeperbahn Festival.
The festival offers around 600 wide-ranging events in more than 70 venues on and around Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, including concerts by international newcomers, an extensive arts program, and a business platform and conference for companies and organizations, said its webpage. Over 30,000 visits are expected at the 10th edition of the Reeperbahn Festival.
The festival presents over 400 concerts featuring artists performing indie, pop, rock, folk, singer-songwriter, electro, hip hop, soul, jazz, and contemporary, it said. Concerts are held in clubs, bars, theatres, and other extraordinary venues on and around the Reeperbahn. It welcomes more than 3,400 media representatives and professionals from 39 countries who are active in the music and digital creative industries. Attendees meet and exchange ideas at more than 150 music and digital sessions, networking events, meetings, award ceremonies, and parties.
In February, Northern Beauties will be attending the Folk Alliance International conference, music camp and folk festival in Kansas City, Missouri. The event “strives to nurture, engage, and empower the international folk music community, traditional and contemporary, amateur and professional, through education, advocacy and performance.”
The theme for the 2017 conference, Forbidden Folk, is designed to celebrate activism in art by exploring the past and present role of folk music in civil, labor, pacifist, and environmental movements, said its website. Whether in response to unfair working conditions, protesting inequality and injustice, confronting issues of war, standing up for the downtrodden, or addressing topics of concern for society to take note of, folk music is rooted in social commentary and has historically documented the issues of the day.
Aikman said that when The Northern Beauties goes on tour, probably after its album is released, he would definitely like to include a stop in the Kamsack area.
“With a growing reputation in Alberta as a top live act and with growing confidence as a band, The Northern Beauties is poised to break out of their province and take the rest of Canada, and beyond,” said its website. “It’s proof positive that sometimes sticking to your artistic guns, doing what feels right creatively, not just commercially, can not only be fulfilling but also lead to even greater career heights.”
Those wishing to hear The Northern Beauties may find recordings of the group on YouTube and Facebook or may check out the website at wearenorthernbeauties.com.