Culture | Winds of indie change

McGill / Concordia band Pop Winds launches first EP

Whether I am defining or defending this incredible city to the folks still unfamiliar with Montreal, I find it nearly impossible to avoid mentioning the city’s multitude of respectable local bands—the breed of music unwillingly labeled as ‘indie’. This label remains Difficult to escape, increasingly laden with pretentious jargon and strategically unkempt hair. When The Pop Winds showed up for an interview in advance of their first EP release, happening tomorrow night at Lab Synthèse, I was forced to disregard such preconceived notions and hear them out. To say the least, I was impressed.

The Pop Winds is comprised of McGill students Austin Milne and Devon Welsh and Concordia’s Kyle Bennett. Until now, the band has only recorded unofficial demos and what Kyle Bennett, the technical master of the group, describes as “highly incomplete works.” That will change tomorrow night, however.

Although they are all musically inclined, the band members’ personal styles could not be more varied. Bennett and Welsh have been playing together since the spring of 2007, whereas Milne only joined the group this past March. In the beginning, Welsh explains, everybody was on a completely different path. Technically unskilled, he was thrilled to watch as his organic sound was transformed by Bennett and his work in Electro-Acousics. The Electro-Acoustics program at Concordia is really, Bennett explains, a “philosophical breakdown of sound from a compositional perspective.” Though they hope it’s not apparent in their recent work, the band admits that they are heavily influenced by Animal Collective, although they’re quick to agree that this is, of course, a reflection of the nature of Bennett’s studies.

The Pop Winds, proud of how far they’ve come, are currently in the process of moving into a new rehearsal space. Their laughs are laced with fear and a tinge of unfinished business as they explain the constant war over their previous space. On one end of the rink stands the beer-soaked franco-rockers who Milne characterizes as “a mother’s nightmare.” On the other side, those behind the bursts of Sunday church music that can be heard leaking through the walls. If this is not enough to inspire sympathy for an earnest bunch of struggling artists, who knows what is?
When asked where they turn for inspiration, the boys speak as if they have an endless supply—a clear indication of a keen bunch of musicians. “Nothing inspires me more to make music than listening to music,” says Bennett. The band’s initial desire to play in Montreal was motivated by seeing local talent Andy White perform for the first time—an experience they still speak of with a distinct joie de vivre sparkling in their eyes. Bennett says this enthusiasm stems from the band’s early realization that “the most beautiful and innovative music is being made by the people around us.” Bennett wants to encourage creativity by “putting a filter on the audience’s mind that makes them feel really good.” Milne adds to this by affirming his belief that our generation needs to be inspired by seeing their peers creating art: “It’s easy to get caught up in academics and lose sight of how rich and beautiful life is.” The band collectively paused in response to the sincerity apparent in Milne’s voice. But they’re still not convinced that the corporate forces behind the production of much of today’s independent music take this into account.

Welsh suggests that the best way to access music is through the Internet. “No one should buy CDs,” agrees Milne. “Except ours,” the rest of the band clarifies, quick to point out the significant difference between buying a CD at a live show versus, say, at HMV. Perhaps my indie-defying radar is weakening as local bands continue to prove themselves worthy by adhering to the label we’ve given them — independent. With this in mind, I highly recommend checking out The Pop Wind’s EP Release Party, taking place on September 4 at Lab Synthèse. The cover is set at a modest $5 — very affordable now that you don’t have to buy your CDs at HMV.

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