From the humble beginnings as a high school band, North of Here, made their debut at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this weekend. North of Here, comprised of Luke Jansen on vocals, banjo, and bass; Ian St. Arnaud on vocals and mandolin, Will Holowaychuk on vocal and percussion, revealed that they did not grow up in households with a heritage of music-making. There were no mandolins, fiddles, and banjo’s scattered throughout their homes for them to experiment on and self-teach. Luke noted that he and Ian have a background in piano but they began to learn more instruments once they formed the band. Will shared that with the exception of playing percussion instruments in school band classes, he picked up a guitar when they started the band. Ian notes, it provides “a great incentive to get better.” They express the sentiment that, by working together, they make each other better musicians.
North of Here played their first gig in September 2012 at the Strathcona County Library, to an avid audience of 14, comprised primarily of Luke’s family. In the past, while all three of them were pursing full time post-secondary degrees, Will in Business, Ian in Science and Luke in Political Sciences, they were playing gigs on the side as an outlet to maintain sanity in their lives. They are eager to state that their success is heavily based on the support from their community, whether it was their high school teacher getting them gigs at local coffee shops or mentorship from other artists. “You need all that time in front of the microphone. You need somebody to put you there,” reveals Ian.
Luke and Ian describe a balance between an individualist and collaborative energy when they are songwriting. “The ideas are seeded individually but the arrangement is 80% of the work,” shares Ian. They are halfway into the process of completing an album that will be released in 2018. When providing a glimpse into the upcoming album’s content, Luke reveals that, “it’s a lot of what we’re going on at the time. As a younger artist, we’re still reflecting ourselves in what we write. Maybe you get to the point later where you’re able to take a concept and write about the concept but right now,” Ian continues Luke’s statement, “we are the theme. If something is good is going on, you just have to try and distill it and not disturb it. If you try to scaffold everything, it’s hard to do from the top down.” They all agree that making an album is not a process they wish to rush. Will shares that they want to “be making something they’re proud of” and to make sure there is something special that resonates with the group.
There is a sense there North of Here is just on the cusp of their career. When Will reminisces about the origin of the band, he is baffled that they haven’t hit a ceiling thus far in their success. “We started the band the from the ground level. I think a lot of people come to new projects already being experienced musicians working with other bands or solo acts. We came in completely naive. It’s been fun growing it together. You are always in the progression of the career and you don’t really recognize it. There’s never a pause,” states Luke. They all agree that there has been an increased level of commitment this past year; however, it’s an undertaking they all collectively welcome. At this point in the interview, Will shocks the group with a surprising statistic: “Someone was asking me, ‘why are you so busy?’ And I went through the calendar and looked, I spent a minimum of four hours with Luke and Ian, 21/31 days of July.”
It is evident that the lure of larger urban cities has not pressured North of a Here to shift their home base. Luke shares his thoughts on Edmonton: “It’s more of a tight knit community. There is an internal network with a strong music scene.” Edmonton is where they exist. Edmonton is where they remain.