Through Our “Summer Eyes”Monday, March 9th, 2015
Stephan Ermel of Toronto indie rock quintet Midday Swim reflects on recording the band’s self-titled debut…
Rather than spending the recent family day long weekend – one of the coldest weekends of the season – warm and indoors with the fam, I went up north with my adopted family to a cottage along Jack Lake in the Kawarthas to continue recording our upcoming album, set to be released April 28th, 2015.
We spent the rest of that weekend surviving on frozen lasagna and Moose Tracks ice cream with no running water, very little heat, and a whole lot of instruments.
While there, it struck me that, in some way, it seems something of a rite of passage for a Canadian Indie Band – traveling to Great White North in search of calmer surroundings and that idyllic, untouched landscape to inspire your sound.
But really, I think it’s about camaraderie.
In some form or another, we’ve been making music together for what seems like an unimaginably long time. Sebastian and David have known each other since they went to Hebrew school together in Thornhill; Craig and Max have played in bands together since high school; and between the three of us, Sebastian and David and I have created more bands than Broken Social Scene has members.
But there is something about the shared experience of a weekend in a remote and isolated space. Something that brings a band together – for better or worse – and more than almost anything else, genuinely affects the nature of the music they create.
To give you an idea, allow me to list the kinds of bonding activities a winter cottage experience can provide.
1. Falling asleep in the van on the two hour drive, only to be woken by the sensation of your stomach lurching up and down as your vehicle careens around corners and over snowbanks on a barely plowed path in the middle of the Canadian nowhere.
2. Digging out a parking space for your van through nearly shoulder high snow, in the middle of the night.
3. Thrice using a snowmobile to precariously tow your expensive/irreplaceable recording equipment down an otherwise untraversable path, equal in length to a TTC subway train. (BTW, thank you thank you thank you to Blair for operating that snow machine of yours. I don’t think you knew what you were getting into when you offered your services… #couldn’thavedoneitwithoutyou! Come to TO and we’ll buy you a round.
4. Walking down to the frozen lake to auger fresh water from underneath the ice.
5. Figuring out what an auger is.
6. Being pushed into a snow bank while carrying a bucket of literally ice cold water, which you augered from a lake in the dead of winter, and NOT SPILLING A SINGLE DROP! #thanksalot
9. …only to be stopped by some of this:
(You probably can’t tell, but this is the aftermath of a fire that broke out in the studio, when one of our [probably overworked] heaters burst into flames behind us and nearly suffocated us to death. It was only at that moment, as we leapt to our feet, that we realized we had no fire extinguisher, and had to smother the flames with our feet. Thank goodness for house shoes!
10. #MIDDAY naps (with our boy Jack the dog).
12. And breaks spent out on the frozen lake, watching the sun set.
What this past weekend has confirmed for me is that the kind of collaborative effort that being in a band demands goes far beyond what any one individual can do on their own. I have always been compelled by stories of bands that have been together for years, are aware of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, habits, and are able to bring out the best in each other.
I think those moments of true creative ingenuity are made possible only after you’ve become a kind of family, and I hope that we’ve struck upon those moments with this record.