the winter in canada: celebrating the return of live music at Spring Reverb

By Andrea Gunn

If you hear the phrase “the winter in Canada,” you’ll likely have an immediate reaction – a memory, an image, or a sensory perception. That’s what Mark Deen was going for when he named his band the winter in canada.

Mark, Eric, and Steven of the winter in canada
Mark, Eric, and Steven of the winter in canada

The name works in two ways. Mark explains:

“The short answer is that this started as a home recording project, and I wrote and recorded it during the winter in Canada. The long answer? It means a bit more than that. I liked the idea of a signifier that was elemental, that was universal. In times where truth and commonality are in short supply, I liked the idea of having a band name that conjured an image people were familiar with and how the music of the band could change that perception, playing with the idea of beliefs.”

For Mark, authenticity in music is vital. “We’re moving from an era of monoculture to one where we’re hearing cacophony of different voices,” he says, “and so to contribute positively to that, I wanted to write songs that were about my specific experience: about being a first- generation Canadian, someone who has lived in both larger cities and smaller towns, and someone who is a visible minority. There’s a lot of focus in our music that I’m writing that deals with the idea of agency and equality.”

I see the information
That you lost all your friends
And the trick to complication
Is forgiveness of sins
I got your frustrations
I got your frustrations
But you don’t see me giving in

Part I: Everyday People from the album a new way to find people… Lyrics by Mark Deen

In March 2020, the members of the winter in canada – Mark, Eric, and Steven – were jamming at Roswell Rehearsals in Kingston. Then they were going to go to a screening of “The Isabel Sessions” (in which the band performed) at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. And then, the festival was suddenly cancelled, due to rising levels of COVID. “And that was the last time we got together as a band,” says Mark. “It was March 12, 2020. The three of us, we had been going for about a year as a band, and really gaining momentum. And then the pandemic hit.”

One of the big losses from the pandemic is the sense of connectivity with other musicians that happens at live gigs. “If you’re playing with larger bands, and opening for them, it kind of raises your level, because you’re being exposed to people who have generated a level of success. And it also exposes you to new and different kinds of music.”

While Mark has missed the spark that comes from playing – and seeing – live music, that doesn’t mean his creativity has been stunted all this time. He continued song writing and experimenting musically. “This has kickstarted a lot of ideas for new songs for the band,” he says. And now that they have been able to start playing together again, they’ll be debuting some of those songs at their June 4 show at The Toucan, as part of the Spring Reverb.

“As we come out of the pandemic,” Mark says, “it’s really great to see the support that the community continues to provide for local musicians. We have promoters like KPP, who are putting on Spring Reverb with a number of local bands. We have contributors to the festival, like the City of Kingston, the Kingston Arts Council…We have the radio station CFRC as well as Amherst Island Radio, all positively contributing and sponsoring events to help promote and get local bands on the scene. It’s been a struggle, not only for the bands, but for the industry that supports those bands as well.”

the winter in canada album cover
a new way to find people… album cover

One of those local resources badly affected by the pandemic is Roswell Rehearsals, a purpose-built music rehearsal facility in Kingston started in 2015. A number of Kingston bands, including the winter in canada, contributed tracks for a fundraiser for the facility. The result is The Roswell Effect, featuring 25 local bands. Sales from the album and associated merch will support keeping Roswell Rehearsals open.

You can catch the winter in canada with two other Kingston bands – Funeral Lakes and Princess Towers – at the Toucan on Saturday June 4, on the final night of Spring Reverb. The free show starts at 9 pm.