FOCUSED - Hillsburn, already on the road to success with several accolades to their credit, play The Vat on July 8th. Paul Aarntzen photo

Acclaimed band Hillsburn to make a stop at The Vat in Red Deer

Band is currently wrapping up extensive production on a new CD

They haven’t been around that long, but already the accolades have been rolling in for indie-folk quintet Hillsburn, who recently won the Fan’s Choice Video of the Year at the 2017 East Coast Music Awards for their song Run Down.

Fans can catch up to the talented group when they play The Vat on July 8th.

Also, last December they landed a Canadian Folk Music Award for ‘New/Emerging Artist of the Year’.

Meanwhile, after some big changes, they enlisted the help of their fans in a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $7,000 for the completion of their upcoming disc, more than double their $3,000 goal. More about that in a bit but first off, the band is currently on tour and has announced a slew of dates including an appearance at the Vancouver Folk Festival.

But back to the band’s start.

Following a health scare in the winter of 2014, Paul Aarntzen had spent a month writing songs. He showed some of them to Clayton Burrill, who brought his sister Rosanna to Aarntzen’s house in Hillsburn, Nova Scotia to hear them. Jackson Fairfax-Perry came along for the trip. The four hit it off and, after a couple sessions, Aarntzen sold his house and moved to Halifax to work on the band full-time.

The quartet recorded and released a self-titled EP that October, which garnered national attention after one of its tracks finished in the top 10 in CBC’s Searchlight competition.

The band then released an album, In The Battle Years in March of 2016.

But an intense schedule, personal struggles and a departure from the band’s record label made their debut album’s title a little more apt than intended, according to their web site.

They needed a reset. Hillsburn had, in other words, come into its own, and its members were eager to make a record that reflected that. “We knew we wanted to approach things differently this time around,” Aarntzen said. “In every sense.”

First off, the band decided not to make their new album in a formal studio setting.

They produced it collectively. And Aarntzen — already the band’s songwriter, graphic designer, photographer and videographer — took on the role of engineer. The strategy gave them time – time to make the recording process a creative one.

And what had started as a string band now decidedly was not. Synths and electric guitar had replaced banjo and mandolin, and the addition of Clare Macdonald on drums had helped push things more in the direction of pop and rock.

“This album is sonically different from the last one – it’s bigger and there are more things happening,” explained Rosanna. “It’s less folky, but we’ve kept some of the roots from the first album, too.

“It’s definitely evolved – our sound has evolved. And I think this album is going to capture that, so we are excited for people to hear it.”

Rosanna also pointed out that although each member of the band has strong personal musical sensibilities and tastes, they come together as a singular force when it comes time to create the tunes and lay down the tracks.

“You have to create both a family dynamic and a working, business relationship. And they have to work together,” she said. “There’s a lot of negotiating, a lot of talking and a lot of working together to make that work. The biggest thing is just communicating, because we are all very adamant about the things we like and the things we don’t like. But we have to make sure that every person signs up on every decision.

“But we are also very, very excited about what we are doing,” she added. “We all have good ideas that we can see the merits in, and so it’s a bit of a juggling act.

“Nothing gets presented to the public until all five of us agree on it.”

The new project is expected to be released closer to the end of the year.

“We decided when we started that we were just going to go full tilt, push as hard as we could and rehearse as much as we could and play as much as we could, and I think that has paid off for us. It’s so nice to know that people are noticing that.”

And for Rosanna, a better path in life simply couldn’t be imagined.

“I’m the luckiest person on the entire planet! I consider myself really, really lucky to be able to get up on stage and play to these amazing crowds, and to play with these mind-blowing musicians who feel exactly the same way about music that I do.

“I just think I’m so lucky. And I think we all feel that way. We each stumbled upon this group of people who somehow miraculously can make what we make and do what we do together.”

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