Debut album tackles contemporary challenges shrouded in nostalgia

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The strip of North of Seven rooted in the Highlands

By Darren Lum

Passion and heart are at the heart of the 10-track debut album, … just sit down by the north of Seven.
Comprised of three Haliburton Highlands High School alumni, Eric Casper, Earl Johnson and Kyle Aggett, the band are excited about their debut album.
Two of the band’s three members, Casper and Johnson, live in the Highlands, and Aggett may live in Peterborough, but his heart and roots are in the Highlands.
The songs on the album include a few years written before and the rest are album specific. The production took three days, including 40 hours of studio work.
Of the 10 songs on the album, 78 Days (featuring Samara Johnson) stands out for Casper.
“It’s the best thing I’ve written with a guitar. And I think the meaning of the song – to bring attention to the Oka crisis so people don’t forget the story,” Casper said.
The Oka Crisis, also known as the Kanesatake Resistance or the Mohawk Resistance to Kanesatake, was a 78-day standoff (July 11 to September 25, 1990) between Mohawk protesters, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian army. This stalemate was the result of a proposed golf course expansion and townhouse development on disputed land in Kanesatake that included a Mohawk cemetery.

Casper adds that although this track was produced in the studio, it was completed with the least amount of effort. Upon hearing the song, Casper’s vocals are dripping with emotion, especially during the chorus and evoking 1990s hits like that of Canadian folk icon Bruce Cockburn. Another track, Face of Stone, has a rhythm and accompanying lyrics, inciting to sing and tap your feet.
Casper characterizes the band as alternative rock, with influence from the 1990s grunge rock bands he and Johnson grew up listening to as teenagers. Johnson provides background vocals and plays guitar. Although Aggett graduated in 2002 and his fellow students graduated in the early 1990s, they all share a love of music and an appreciation for the power of music, which has been transmitted in this artistic collaboration.
Johnson said the album was led by Casper’s initiative.
They started with some of Casper’s songs, Johnson’s songs, and then collaborated on new songs. Half of the track listing was created during the pandemic.
The trio were grateful and grateful to their wives, they said. Another local aspect, which many young people can attest to, is the connection and influence of the school’s former music teacher, Tom Regina, who has been retired for several years now. Regina’s tenure included a long list of musical accomplishments, which included performing locally and out of Haliburton County where top high school musicians performed at various festivals and competitions.
The group praised the album’s interior artwork by Poet Ever, a local artist whose work is featured at the Limbic Collective in Haliburton.
The album is finished and available for purchase, but it’s really the start of something more, Casper said.
“I think that’s a starting point,” Casper said. “This album, even though it’s our first and only I don’t foresee it being the end. What we learned is so much in the studio and now I’m just motivated to go back. Maybe when we go back to the studio, we might not do a whole album to begin with. We’re going to record two or three songs and do two more. But now that we have that experience, I’m so excited to go back and record more.

With the past two years living through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to deny the effect it’s had on us emotionally, Johnson said.
“That’s where the album came from. It comes from the pandemic, the isolation, the feelings everyone had, trying to live on their own,” he said.
Music can be fun and entertaining, but in other ways it can be unifying like this album.
Johnson said the dark tone of the music content was a reflection and reminder of what everyone has endured around the world, including the Highlands.
The message to the listener, he said, is “that they are not alone”.
Casper said the band’s next album will be more upbeat, tempo-wise and rhythm-wise. He is looking forward to working on an album with a new style.

These three return with familiar academic experiences at HHSS. However, the band’s first time performing as North of Seven was at the Home Made Stew concert in 2020.
In the 1990s, Casper came to the area from Hamilton.
In 9th or 10th grade, Johnson remembers asking him if he played bass guitar or not. Although Casper said no, the bass guitar was still handed to him during a jamming session.
“You play bass,” Johnson said at the time. Casper now plays bass for the band, but the music remained.
I love adding a guitarist
The band is actively interested in having another band member play guitar. This would allow Casper to allow him to play bass for live shows.
“So if there’s a guitarist there…” he laughs.
Aggett loved seeing how they were all able to think on the spot when the situation called for it in the studio.
“Something we’ve never done, never even heard of. And all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, man. It’s super cool. Where did you find that?” he said.
The evolution of the album was done quickly.
Aggett said that initially the plan was for an acoustic sound, so a Cajun box was considered for percussion, but when they got to the studio they decided to use drums. Aggett admitted it had been years since he played regularly, using drums
“We just kind of decided that’s how we were going to do it,” he said. “We found things there. Kind of trying to make it work. I loved the way it came out. I loved how we worked together to make what it is now.
Johnson said the decision to change the sounds worked and provided more depth.
All three talked about how this album is a musical creation in the making over the years they all spent with other bands.
“Sometimes it happens. You end up jamming with a band and never recording anything,” he said. And then it happens. Studio magic results in a creation that three longtime friends can be proud to share like their first, but probably not their last.
Buy the album, which was produced by the band with producer David Joyce at Treblecock Studio in Peterborough, wherever the band performs, on their Facebook page, at Canoe FM in Haliburton and through Russell Red Records at their store in Haliburton or on the website at www.russellredrecords.ca.

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