Editorial Feature: Inside Sled Island 2011 – Pt.1
Part 1 of a 5-part series
Join The iM Calgary correspondents Josh Miller and Mike Hendrix as they dig themselves into the Western Canada festival mayhem of Sled Island (June 22-25).
Mike and I grabbed a bite to eat, then quickly ran to grab our press passes. Sled Island HQ is in two separate buildings literally down the street – there was a bit of confusion getting our photographer pass, but we got it straightened out and set off into the hoards of music fans and hipsters to find the sounds of the festival.
Our first stop was Ship and Anchor – a few blocks down from the Calgary Stampede, right in the heart of Calgary. We sat down and ordered a few beers and watched the stage start their setup… quickly realizing soon after that our camera had a cracked lens.
Ship and Anchor is a genuine old-style bar, somewhat schizophrenic in design. The layout is long and slightly narrow, with the back of the bar far too obscured to see the stage. We opted to sit in the front near the doors to get the full experience, a decision that work great for us, with each band playing directly in front of us.
As Heart Failure Research Unit started setting up (an act that involve amps, guitars, and a synth, but more importantly an old wooden milk crate, and a plaster falcon taking up the front stage), we grabbed band member Dustin Andersen for a few quick questions.
iM: How did you get involved with Sled Island this year?
So, I didn’t get in through the standard way. By applying for Sonic Bids? On of my good friends books for Panash Ra. So she books (Bands like) Thee Oh Sees, Crocodiles… Whole bunch of big bands from San Francisco. So… she just kind of slipped me in.
iM: How long have you been playing as Heart Failure Research Unit?
I’ve been playing music since I was 23, I’m 30 now… But I started playing music live about 3 years ago. My friend Laurie is kind of big on the Calgary music scene and he sort of… Discovered me? He plays in the band, records all my stuff and mixes the albums. But playing with the full band it’s about 6 months, while Heart Failure Research Unit has been my project for about 2 years.
iM: Where do you try to perform here in Calgary?
Well, I’ve pretty much played every venue… Local 510, Local 522, Marquee Room, the New Black… This is my first time playing at the Ship and Anchor. No, that’s a lie. I’ve been here.
Pretty much everywhere. Occasionally I’ll even do a church gig.
Where else have you been for Sled Island?
I’m playing here, but also at the Market Collective stage in Kensington on Sunday.
And how would you describe the style of Heart Failure Research Unit?
It’s… um… Sad-sack kind of stuff. Atmospheric. A lot of people call it ‘Haunting’… It’s… I like to think of it as “Space-Folk”. I take a traditional folk song, but then we make them very weird.
Melodic and deadpan lyrics and vocals, Heart Failure Research Unit had lived up to their hype perfectly. Mixing acoustic folk rock with elements of a truly epic space-rock opera, the common opinion claiming this band to be “Haunting” is perfectly fitting.
Sitting in for our third pint, The Sandwitches started their setup. An all-female band, they seem more than comfortable on stage and even more-so with their respective instruments. A deceptive pop / alternative / country ballad band, they can really wail; they agreed to have a short chat with us.
iM: You’re a long way from San Francisco. How did you become a part of Sled Island?
Our friend Sonny got us in. We wanted to do a tour together, and he kind of finagled us onto the roster.
iM: You had 2 shows today, how many shows did you play throughout the festival?
Three. We had one yesterday at Bamboo. Then the Ship and Anchor and our last at the Marquee Room.
iM: How are you enjoying Calgary?
It’s very beautiful. Nice weather, and really nice people! Everyone’s really friendly. And it’s nice to have the really long dusk because you’re further north. It’s beautiful.
iM: What was your favourite venue of the festival?
I don’t know… we did a really good show last night. It felt good afterwards and the crowd was really into it.
iM: How did the band first get together?
Just friends. Friends who knew each other through each other and… We started to play music together. Play our songs to each other.
iM: What are shows like in San Francisco? Do you tour a lot?
We tour a bit. The scene there is really big and there are a lot of people who are really into it. Basically, we’re just really enthusiastic and strange. Supportive and honest.
iM: Tell us about your style. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I don’t know… It just comes from… The depths of our souls? It sounds cheesy but we just play what sounds good to us.
The overall sound reflects exactly what they said about they’re influences; strong Hollywood-ready riffs with the vocals and lyrics ready to contend with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but without sacrificing originality.
- JOSH MILLER
Photos via MySpace
To Be Continued Tomorrow