Owl Farm keeps rocking after decade away from the stage

Punk band starts the new decade with new music  

Owl Farm will play at The Toucan on Jan. 10.
Credit: 
Photo by Ian MJ Lovell

After a decade-long break from the spotlight, Kingston-based punk band Owl Farm is undergoing a revival.

They’re bringing their new sound to The Toucan on Jan. 10.

In the seventh grade, JP Simard, Owl Farm’s lead vocalist, was given a homemade mixtape by his friend Chris Lyon. On one side, the mixtape had the Violent Femmes’ self-titled album, on the other, Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. The mixtape ushered in the birth of a punk rocker.

“I was like, ‘Oh’,” Simard said, “’This is what I’ve been waiting for.’”

Years later, Simard and Lyon joined forces again from across separate musical projects to form Owl Farm in 2007, and, after a decade-long hiatus, the band continues to keep the dream alive, embodying what it means to be punk rock in 2020: loud, authentic, and dedicated to the music.

After adjusting to Lyon’s exit from the band a few years ago, the group—consisting of Simard on vocals, Matt Darch on bass, Jason Berezny on drums, and Ryan Bol on guitar—has finally found its groove as a four-piece ensemble. They’ve developed a bare-bones punk sound and lean into what they love about being musicians—playing live, and playing together.

In 2011, the band distributed copies of their latest unreleased album, A Cautionary Tale, for free. Each member burned their songs onto discs in whatever order they preferred, without any formal structure to the track list.

Inspired by Radiohead’s free release of In Rainbows in 2007, Owl Farm acknowledged that the choice to distribute their album for free wasn’t exactly radical. Prior attempts to sell their albums for profit at their shows had consistently been derailed by band members giving copies away for free anyway.

“Once, we screened our own shirts, and I thought that we would sell them,” Berezney said, “but I didn’t really care about the 10 bucks, and I’d just end up giving those away for free too.”

The group’s members have been in and out of bands since they first began playing music in high school, and as seasoned musicians on the Kingston music scene, they’re happy to sit out the mainstream industry’s rat race to focus on what works for them. After years of touring Ontario and opening for bands they idolized in their teen years, like SNFU, the band is busy appreciating the independence Kingston musicians get from their environment.

“There’s not a million bands that are all trying to sound like one another,” Simard said. “Music in Kingston is very personal and unique. We’re not against playing out of town, but we’ve been there and done that. Kingston is just so much fun for us.”

After struggling to coordinate schedules and slowing down to playing two or three shows a year, the band is currently working on new material for the first time since A Cautionary Tale. They’re newly energized by the addition of Bol to the group, who arrived with a back catalogue of music for the band to mine.

Working with local producer James Mulvale, they’ve leaned away from studio recording and have started releasing live recordings on their Soundcloud page instead. With plans to continue recording their live performances, they’re also getting the ball rolling on developing merchandise and releasing a vinyl.

“We still play together because we love to play,” Berezney said. “We love playing live music more than going into a recording studio and worrying about how the CDs are going to sell. We’re all going to be playing music when we’re 90 years old, whether we get paid or not. We play because we love it, and nothing can stop us.”

 

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