Two-piece rockers reflect on the highs and lows of the DIY scene in the remote territory of Yukon, Canada as we exclusively reveal their Beneath The Broadcast live session
Cai Trefor
21:52 30th May 2019

Great news for fans of irrepressibly creative emerging scenes – two-piece Yukon-based rock band Soda Pony have exclusively shared their Beneath The Broadcast live session with Gigwise. It serves as a window into Whitehorse's fascinating pan-genre DIY scene, which is unprecedently active for somewhere so far remote in northern Canada. 

Soda Pony's session is one of nine given a turn in the spotlight – or plucked – from a continuously-shot atmospheric full-length live performance film, titled Beneath The Broadcast. Others cut from it include experimental hip-hop act Local Boy and indie rocker Jona Barr. The final edit, which is premiering on CBC Canada tomorrow, can be thought of as the mothership for all nine sessions.

Although you'll have to wait to get the full impact of the project, the standalone cut is definitely a solid teaser. Firstly, Soda Pony are an unmissable, gnarly garage rock duo. Comprised of Aiden Tentrees (vox/guitar) and Patrick Hamilton (Drums), they're doing their own thing; applying their one-armed drum shtick, dual keyboards, harmonies, and stadium rock electric guitar. Their songs – though not limited to – are loosely based around a concept: the feeling of being an outsider at school in Whitehorse.

Secondly, the filming location is special. Situated just off the main drag in Whitehorse, it's the CBC North studio: the first and only place to record music in the city until the advent of digital technology. Relics we see on screen were used as early as the late 40s – a time when Whitehorse was just beginning to develop its infrastructure as a Western city. The music recorded there in those days was predominantly country and western and bluegrass – some of which our interviewee and drummer from Soda Pony Patrick Hamilton rightfully calls out for inappropriate lyrics when recalling some of the racist language once ubiquitous in such genres. Language thankfully not accepted in the current Canadian music industry which advocates reconciliation.

But conversation turns away from ethics and to how being one of approximately 30 people involved in the project, which took place over the space of two days, feels to him personally. Speaking specifically about all the CBC studio trinkets, Patrick says to Gigwise: “Much of the stuff isn't in use anymore. All of the big tape machines people bought them, but the left over stuff made for a cool aesthetic. And sometimes living up here, it’s the way you feel; you feel like you are leftover stuff in the grand scheme of the country.”

Watch: Soda Pony – ‘Feel Good Hit’

This notion of being an outsider – which is understandable when you consider it takes a two-and-a-half days to drive to Vancouver from Whitehorse – forms part of the essence of Soda Pony’s art. This harks back to what we were saying above about a lot of their songs are about school.

For instance, Soda Pony’s chosen song for the Beneath The Broadcast session ‘Feel Good Hit’ is taken from a forthcoming 25-minute music video, with no dialogue, that’s a narrative about being in Yukon and coming of age. This particular track is about Yukon prospects of romance and being directionless says Patrick. It’s a theme, at least, partially attributed, to untamed resentment the two-piece band, who are best friends, share for being the "losers" in a small town school and not having other "losers" to hide behind. I.e. the goth kids, the freaks, getting scorned by jocks.

On the so-called 'bar band' scene in Whitehorse, however, they haven’t had such a bumpy ride. After a debut DIY gig, Patrick tells us Soda Pony had paid bar gigs coming in thereafter and have since gone on to tour in Europe. Playing to a rowdy drunk audience definitely shaped their sound: "We had to get people interested and so would change the music to fit the bar audience a bit to make it more upbeat because we wanted to get paid,” he says bluntly. This bar band scene in Whitehorse is in their blood, yet it was at its height a few years back. Soda Pony’s parents moved to the city because “it was one of the last places in Canada where you could play for two weeks straight and get paid every night. The gold miners had money to spend in bars. The nightlife here used to be kind of insane because the gold mining was at a high point in the 80s.”

Asked if that crazy nightlife tradition has, by osmosis, fed into the spirit and drive of the current DIY scene, Patrick agrees it certainly has something to do with it. And when Gigwise suggests there could be some magic in the air presently after hearing the quality of the acts featured in the forthcoming Beneath The Broadcast film, he agrees. “There's a nice fresh group of hard working new bands around at the moment this time. Most of the bands around this thing are pretty much brand new."

And Patrick thinks the new bands are perhaps a bit savvier than previous generations. He calls the Beneath The Broadcast film an archive of a time of “social media renaissance. It's finally starting to shape the way Yukon music is. Things up here usually hit five years after they’ve hit in big cities - yet now people in the Yukon are starting to catch up with the music industry, realising the way things have changed in terms of how you release music."

And as far as we can tell, the film is indeed the most immediate and comprehensive single document and representation of DIY Yukon acts available online and comes at a great time.

Jona Barr, whose video was the first to be released in the sessions, and has been influential in orchestrating the release of the film, concurs: “It’s a new budding scene, and we want to start building the hype around some bands. It's good to help each other get some recognition; especially before BreakOut West later in the year."

His mention of BreakOut West is notable. Without many touring bands passing through and very little industry infrastructure (there is one recognised manager in the town apparently) the impact BreakOut West has and galvanizing force for DIY activities, in terms of validation for their work, is undisputable. It's the Western Canadian equivalent of SXSW hitting town and the nomadic pop event hasn't been there since 2011. However, this ought not to undermine the naturally self-motivating network that's in better stead and more buzzing than it's ever been. Conversations off the dictaphone continue with Jona Barr and he sends Gigwise a ton of music that isn’t on the sessions. Stuff that is ridiculously prolific for a small town – some of which we will be sharing in the coming weeks. We’re excited about the next few years for Whitehorse, and definitely note this film as a major step forward. 

Beneath The Broadcast, can be viewed in full below:

03 June 2019 07.29 BST: This article was updated to include the full length Beneath The Broadcast feature length live performance video, which wasn't released when this article was first published.

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Photo: Press