Trailing Bruce

Bruce Peninsula carve their way into Kingston

Supergroup Bruce Peninsula strive to make community through music.
Image supplied by: Supplied
Supergroup Bruce Peninsula strive to make community through music.

The Bruce Peninsula is an area of outstanding natural beauty situated between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron and has the largest remaining area of forest and natural habitat in Southern Ontario, housing some of the oldest trees in North America.

Quite appropriately then, the 10-piece, orchestrally-inclined band—devising their name from this Ontario oasis—seem overwhelmingly calm about the world in which they find themselves. Guitarist Matt Cully’s explanation of the band’s name is infused with a distinct recognition of the relationship between music and the natural landscape.

“It is a moment of serenity,” he said. “The name initially we just liked for what it evoked for people who lived in Toronto or in Canada. But it also brought in the ideas of nature and landscape. Generally, the music just seemed to point towards some kind of natural setting. … It works on different levels. As a place name, as a person and also a region.”

The band’s debut LP A Mountain is a Mouth has a similarly cryptic, nature-influenced name. A lyric from one of the songs on the album, the title seems to speak volumes about the harmonical sounds of a band seeking to define itself in relation to the modern world whilst retaining the same organic process that conceived it.

“I wouldn’t want to analyze it too much because I feel that the impression that it leaves is pretty subjective,” Cully said. “Humans are obsessed with classifying nature and making it into a resource, but the other side of that is that if you listen to nature and let it speak then there is a certain irrefutability about nature. The title is a very powerful image of nature having agency, some way to speak for itself. In the same way we are trying to make music that speaks for itself. We’re trying to refine our skills, our trade and hopefully make something that is beyond us.”

Composed of Cully, Neil Haverty, Misha Bower, Steve McKay, Andrew Barker, Katie Stelmanis, Isla Craig, Kari Peddle, Casey Mecija, Maya Posepski and Leon Taheny, the band is an unorthodox affair. From their large size to their choral-influenced music, Bruce Peninsula merged with a variety of influences and abilities. Cully said this fusion is crucial to the band’s uniqueness.

“I would be most comfortable with the broad name of folk music but a more forward looking folk music,” he said. “Our music encompasses all sorts of things and is not cut off from anything. It is influenced by other forms—art, music, literature. All of this comes through our filters and out of the other side.

“The music we create describes our little community. We are writing songs that try to express the everyday aspects of our life as people. … It really emerges from us and where we are living.” Intrinsic to the band’s musical make-up is the natural progression themembers took from being a group of friends to creating music together.

“For us it is really grounding,” Cully said. “It really means that the inner circle of people really believe in the vision of the project, in the future of the project. People I respect and love and really talented people really love what we are doing.

“Neal, Mischa and I would bring things to the table and start things off but everyone was part of the process, more than just writing their own part. We are a band within a band, with lots of different configurations everywhere in between. We just make the songs work each way.”

Free from contractual ties or the obligations with a big-name record company, the band’s enjoying a moment of unrestrained experimentation and artistic freedom that Cully seems to, for the most part, revel in.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t want the largest body possible to hear the music and then we could sustain ourselves based on our love,” he said. “However, we are realistic about the situation not only for us but for many bands. The record industry is changing. … Now it’s really up to the artist to tour and self manage, which is probably a good thing as much as it can be a headache.

“There is no pressure but the pressure we put on ourselves to do the work necessary to get to the next level. We want to do this professionally in terms of how far we can get with this. We are just getting the word out and hopefully making connections with people. It’s good that we are able to do it ourselves. We get to be normal people which normal lives and jobs. Then we have this escapism in music that is pretty amazing.”

Bruce Peninsula play tonight at The Next Church with The Gertrudes and Entire Cities as part of the Apple Crisp Music Festival. Admission is free.

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