The Gertrudes reform to release ‘Emergency To Emergency’

Kingston band explores community’s ‘hidden pandemics’ in their upcoming album

The Gertrudes combine historic folk and contemporary sounds.
Credit: 
Supplied by The Gertrudes

The Gertrudes are set to release their album Emergency To Emergency on Nov. 26 via Wolfe Island Records. Guitar player and songwriter Greg Tilson spoke to The Journal about the band’s latest album.

“[There’s] a lot of energy [and] big, big sound,” Tilson said. “[There’s] roots in folk, rock, and experimental kind of bluegrass.”

Tilson said the defining element of their music is the historic fiddle tunes, inspired by fiddle melodies from 19th Century Ireland, North America and Métis, and West Africa.

Along with Tilson, the band features Pete Browers, Annie Clifford, Paul Clifford, Jason Erb, Josh Lyon, Jason Mercer, and Matt Rogalsky as its eight core members. Emergency To Emergency also features more than 50 guest musicians, including the Kingston Symphony.

“We have this history of being this expanding and contracting collective,” Tilson explained. “So, there’s a lot of members coming and going and a lot of new members.”

The Gertrudes underwent an eight-year hiatus before rejoining in the summer of 2020 to record their song Forced Eviction in support of Belle Park’s temporary residents.

The collaboration motivated the band to make more music together. They wrote, recorded, and rehearsed music both virtually and safely distanced in backyards.

“It's kind of ironic that that we waited until a pandemic when we're all isolated to start trying to make music again,” Tilson said. “It worked out surprisingly well.”

Multiple locations in Kingston gave the band access to artistic spaces—like The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Next Church, and The Grand Theatre.

“[Places like the Isabel Bader Centre] recognized the struggle that local artists were having with recording and performing and lack of work,” he said. “They opened their doors to allow for recording and performances in that world-class performance center.”

The band’s reunion in 2020 inspired Emergency To Emergency’s theme of “hidden pandemics” within the community, which aligns with the group’s interest in supporting meaningful causes in the Kingston area.

“We do point to the present housing crisis and the serious emergency of people suffering from homelessness,” Tilson said.

“The pandemic has really woken many of us up, including people in the band who hold positions of privilege, to what a serious kind of hidden pandemic that is.”

Their new album also covers heavy topics like addiction and overdose—the band’s title track will be raising money for Kingston’s Street Health Centre.

Another track, “Parham,”recognizes last year’s shooting and arson incident in Parham, Ontario, with the band planning to donate the track’s proceeds to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“There’s a lot of heavy lyrical subjects that relate to that theme of hidden pandemics,” Tilson said.

The Gertrudes’ release party at The Hotel on Nov. 26 is already sold out.

They’re scheduled to play a matinee performance at Next Church on Dec. 31 and intend to play at The Isabel Bader Centre in early 2022.

“We're trying to do it at a very grassroots level [so] most of our shows are free or pay what you can,” Tilson said. “[We want to make] music more accessible and more connected with our audience just right here rooted in the Skeleton Park neighborhood.”

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