Musicians prepare for concert in space for youth
By Sue Tiffin
Sam Olliffe is no stranger to the stage, having performed in HHSS drama productions and as part of the school talent show. After submitting a performance demo of his solo guitar performances, the talented Grade 12 student was recently accepted to attend Metalworks Institute, described on their website as being Canada’s Premier Entertainment Arts School. But he wasn’t always interested in becoming a musician despite his dad being a singer and songwriter.
“I didn’t have any interest in music, really, other than listening to it,” he said. “I always had a strong connection to music, I just didn’t have any interest in playing.”
In Grade 8 that changed, when he picked up the guitar.
“And then I started learning piano because I wanted to figure out what writing songs was like,” he said. “I’m not very good at piano but it’s what helps me with recording and understanding how music works.”
Olliffe said he doesn’t really have one particular style, noting both a bossa nova song and renaissance style song in his repertoire. His influences include David Bowie, Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips, an experimental hip hop band.
“I just usually typically write from my experiences,” he said. “My album, that’s just about teenage unhappiness, just putting those feelings into an album.”
Despite not always being interested in creating and playing music, the past five years of doing so, and the guidance of music teacher Stan Russell have made Olliffe dedicate himself to the craft, honing his songwriting skills. In a recent presentation he made to his leadership class, Olliffe focused on the importance of creativity: what his experience with creativity has been, and how important it is to him.
“I just talked about how music has gotten me out of some depressing periods in my life and has given me purpose,” he said.
Olliffe’s 25-minute set at the Youth Hub concert will include about four or five pieces of his own work, fully-fleshed out songs he’s written – some of them recently – that he’s proud of.
“I think it’s changed how people look at me,” he said of his upcoming concert performance. “I’m just used to being Sam, but some younger student ... it was a funny situation, but I heard her in the halls just saying, ‘oh, that’s the musician’. That’s the first time I’ve been called that, which is nice.”
Kelsey Young is the nurse practitioner at the Hali County Youth Hub. While working on her master’s degree, Young taught herself the ukulele and has been playing for the past six years.
“I’ve never actually played in front of people, so this will be my debut,” said Young. She plans on playing songs that include Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men, Riptide by Vance Joy and Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker, and said she would encourage the audience to join in.
“I just thought that it would be a good way to reach out and be involved in some of the community activities,” said Young. She said she has loved working on the Youth Hub project, and was looking forward to meeting some more of Haliburton County’s youth, as well as other community members.
Young didn’t hesitate to note she is feeling a bit nervous about her debut performance.
“Yes, very nervous,” she laughed. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what the local talents have to bring, I think it’s going to be a good show ... Hopefully Sam’s voice will just calm me down.”
Grade 11 students Seamus Lynch, Lane Brohm and Braeden Sharp sit in a line on stools in Lynch's rec room and their rehearsal space talking about when they first met.
Lynch and Brohm have been friends since kindergarten, and Sharp made the friendship a trio when the boys were each about eight years old.
In Grade 7, motivated by a battle of the bands concert, the then-JDHES students went from simply being good friends, to also playing together in a band, which they called Turn On the Dark. Brohm had already been playing guitar a little bit at that point, taught by his dad, and Sharp had been experimenting with the drums through the support of his music teacher, Lorie Reddering. Lynch said he was always the kid who would turn on a record and pretend he was performing in front of a group of people, jumping and singing around the house, and said the band formed naturally because the three were so close.
“I guess we heard the idea of the battle of the bands so we thought, let’s work towards that, see if we can do one song,” said Lynch. “We started practising in Braeden’s basement. That was put to a very quick stop ... super out-of-tempo, trying to be punk rock 12-year-olds ... Braeden’s parents were like, all right, you guys are going to the garage.”
The song was Skulls, by the Misfits, and though the band didn’t go much further than that, Brohm and Sharp continued getting together to jam while Lynch pursued an interest in poetry and rapping and experimenting with beats.
“We were jamming every week, so we just kind of kept improving,” said Brohm.
“We’d basically feed off each other for 20 minutes straight,” said Sharp.
In a Media Arts class in Grade 10, Lynch remembers the three setting a goal to record an EP by the end of high school. He followed up to Sharp with a paragraph-long text, Sharp said, that basically said, “we have to do this if we’re going to do it, actually crack down.”
That goal brought the friends together again musically, and this Friday they’ll play at the Hali County Youth Hub concert as The Bones of Jim Jones with a set that includes four originals from the EP they’re working on now.
With Brohm on a guitar he constructed himself a few years ago, Sharp on his third drum set, and Lynch as vocalist and lyricist creating audio samples to intro songs, the band is bringing together their individual skills and talents to tie together parts of the EP’s epic story while forming a cohesive sound as a group that supports each other.
“We’re just doing a bunch of different things to convey that story, and it’s cool,” said Lynch.
Their musical influences are vast. Lynch notes soul, punk, funk, reggae, indie, classic rock, rap, as influences.
“I’ve just always liked everything, listening to everything,” he said.
Sharp said he definitely gets his influences from the drumming style and techniques heard in Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
“[It] really kind of pushes where I come from I think, just a lot of progressive, rock and metal too, keep it loose and fast,” he said.
Brohm said since he was young, he has heard different kinds of music being played in his house.
“Over the years you kind of get into different things more than others,” he said.
“[Brohm and Sharp] will just break off into the craziest instrumental freestyles for like so long,” said Lynch. “That’s usually how most of our songs are written, there’ll be a part where they’re just freestyling, just grooving out, and I’ll be like, wait, wait, wait, play that part one more time, and I’ll record it on my phone and then we’ll have that part.”
Besides the four originals they’re bringing to the show, they’re also playing covers in their set, including by the White Stripes and XXXTentacion.
“It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be crazy,” said Lynch. “There’s sounds from everything: blues, punk rock, some psychadelic stuff, indie, some metal, just a bunch of different vibes ...Everyone’s going to at least like a little piece of one song, or just like, there’s something in there for everybody.”
As a band, Sharp said they definitely don’t want to have just one sound, or become repetitive.
“If we kind of just keep our style super open and don’t just stay in the elements of garage rock or punk rock, and we just keep our genre super open and do a bunch of different songs in different genres it’s not like our fan base is going to be ... only wanting to hear punk rock,” said Lynch.
Playing music together has proven to be therapeutic, and Lynch said it has helped him in his struggles with mental health.
“This is the best way I can just let out so much frustration, anger, so many thoughts and feelings I’m feeling throughout the day, I can come here and put everything out,” he said. “That’s why I’m nervous because I’m super vulnerable. I just lose myself every time I’m playing, so I’m nervous to see what the reactions will be like.”
The group agreed it will be loud.
“The one time we did play in front of people it was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done,” said Sharp. “Now that we’re more experienced, the music ... it’ll definitely be a better show.”
Fundraising efforts at the concert are supporting Artists in the Schools & Community program, which has presented dance, drama, music and visual arts throughout local schools for the past 16 years. Hands-on workshops through the Artists in the Schools & Community program will also be offered at the Youth Hub - a ceramics workshop with Lisa Barry throughout April was just held, and a music recording and mixing course with Nick Russell begins in May.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on May 3 at the all-ages Hali County Youth Wellness Hub concert, which is on from 7 to 9 p.m. The Youth Wellness Hub is located at 12 Dysart Avenue in Haliburton.