High-spirited fans packed La Sala Rossa Thursday night as they eagerly anticipated a folk-laden evening made possible by the Under the Snow Festival. The unexpectedly large crowd swayed as Montreal trio Will Driving West’s debonair acoustic tunes filled the venue with an unparalleled grace before the main act, Vancouver-based Siskiyou, took the stage.
Siskiyou’s dynamic instrument-switching performance had everyone’s heads bopping to the beat of their powerful instrument-charged melodies. The vigorous drums, sometimes high-pitched, sometimes throaty vocals and the sassy banjo created the perfect mÃ©lange for a successful folksy evening.
Siskiyou is the product of a close collaboration between Colin Huebert, lead vocalist and guitarist, and his former bandmate in Great Lake Swimmers Erik Arnesen, who plays the banjo, guitar, and also sings for Siskiyou. While Huebert closed that chapter of his life, Arnesen continues to play banjo and guitar for the Swimmers.
“Eventually, it got hard to commit that much time to someone else’s project and it leaves you
no time for your own existence,” said Huebert.
Siskiyou is named after the Northern California range that divides California from the Pacific
Northwest. Huebert says he’s traveled from North California to South California numerous times and is always impressed by the stark transition between these two regions, this being one of the inspirations for the name. In addition, Huebert said he didn’t want to use his own name for the project.
“Eventually, you need to choose a name and that one was an interesting word with officially
no meaning,” said Huebert.
Their self-titled album, released in October 2010, was recorded by Huebert in hotel rooms, bathrooms, stairwells, and on beaches and rooftops in the Vancouver area. This gave the album a peculiar yet appealing acoustic, making it perfect for folk fans that think Daniel Johnston is a bit too out there.
“I had access to a particular institutional stairwell, so I could go there at night and I would just put up signs in all the doors that said “Acoustic testing in progress. Please do not enter,” and that basically kept everyone out,” said Huebert, laughing. “It sounded really interesting!”
The band is relatively young. Although it has technically been a recording project for a couple of years, Siskiyou has only been playing live for just over six months.
“The biggest challenge has been turning it into a live show,” said Huebert. “That wasn’t super
Huebert, having played the drums for the Swimmers before, now finds himself a bit more in the spotlight during the live shows.
“It was nerve-racking [at the beginning] because it is a bit of a change from being in the
back to kind of steering the ship a little bit,” said Huebert. “But with a good group of people,
it becomes less scary. The only thing I didn’t want to do is stand up, so it’s kind of similar to
playing the drums, since I still sit down.”
The band has been touring Canada for the last couple of months after having toured Europe in
November and Deccember 2010. This was Siskiyou’s second time performing in Montreal.
“Montreal is one of my favourite cities,” said Huebert. “The music scene is great and we’ll
definitely be back.”