This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

With everything back on hold again, and it’s April again, it feels like being stuck in the rinse cycle. Everyone’s plans for bigger and better things are now on hold for 28 days, so obviously there isn’t a lot to get excited about.

Except for new music. I discovered a band called Battlescarred is releasing an EP called Est. MMXX April 27th when a Facebook friend posted a link to their first single, Salem (Burn the Witch). Since that friend is from Orillia I figured there had to be a connection, and there is.

The band’s singer, Aaron Hodgkins, lives and works in Orillia. Guitarist Kyle Hunt lives in Angus and is the one who gathered all the members together, wrote most of the songs and jockeyed making the EP.

Battlescarred bassist Ray Galica

“Before were a Barrie band because we had a rehearsal space in Barrie, but as we look at it, our drummer Brad (Burnet, aka Animal), he lives in Barrie, Ray (Galica)  who is the bass player and John (Faria) who is our lead guitar player both live in Wasaga beach; we’re a Simcoe area band,” said Hunt.

The idea of the band and much of the music existed for 5 years before hitting on the lineup in place.

“John and I, we basically started Battle Scarred back in 2016. (We) hooked up in another band called Octane and that died. John and I have the same kind of brain when it comes to writing music, him and I have very similar influences. We wrote back in 2016 Father of Lies, which ended up in a movie (Anything For Jackson). It was filmed here in Barrie. The writer of that film is a good buddy of mine.”

Anything for Jackson is a horror flick starring Sheila McCarthy. You might remember McCarthy from her breakout role in I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing . The movie has been picked up by the streaming service Shudder, and Blu-ray and DVD’s are out in June. Hunt has an interesting tale about how his song ended up in the movie. His writer friend called asking if Hunt had anything that was of an eerie Metal style.

“I’ve got 13 categories, can you narrow it down?” Hunt said. Metal, like jazz, blues and classical music has many subgenres, though to a casual listener sometimes it’s hard to tell one variety from another. Hunt sent three tunes for the movie producers to choose from. All three ended up on the six song EP, with the bonus of the movie version of Father. Hodgkins sang on both versions.

“Aaron tried his best to record it at home and wasn’t able to. I told him I don’t care if you sing it over your phone, I can make it sound better. He is one crafty son of a gun. He grabbed his phone, he grabbed his wife’s phone as well, drove out to a construction site where there’s nobody around at 9 o’clock at night and sang the damned song into his phone. That became the movie version of Father of Lies.”

Battlescarred drummer Brad Burnet

The first version of Battle Scarrred was mainly a collaboration between Faria and Hunt to record some demos. Faira got busy with other music projects and the project withered until the movie request came along and Hunt’s interest in playing his music with others again sparked. This is where Galica, Burnet and another lead guitarist enter the picture. The lead didn’t work out.

“It was the three of us for while, Brad Ray and myself,” said Hunt. The problem was duplicating Faria’s original demo lead parts. In the meantime, the trio was looking for a singer. Hogkins got in the usual way, he answered an ad.

“He sent me a video, I think he was singing Plush by Stone Temple Pilots. I was like, wow, he’s an incredible singer.” Hunt asked him to record demo vocals for two of the band’s tunes, one of which was called Savage, and it only had a sketch for lyrics. Hunt told Hodgkins to see what he could do to make something of it.

“It was exactly what I wanted,” Hunt said. “He wrote something better than I could ever write.” So Hodgkins got invited to audition with the rest of the band and they took him in.

“I’d been trying to find a soloist. When you have John as a soloist (on the demos), the way he plays, it next to impossible to find somebody that can replace him, because, in my personal opinion, and I believe in a lot of people’s opinions, he’s one of the best lead guitar players in all of Simcoe.”

Now the band is a four piece without a lead guitarist.

Battlescarred lead guitarist John Faira

“We complement each other very well. Trying to find somebody to replace that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack in a 40 acre field.”

“The guys were at me all the time –  what about that guy who did all the solos on the demos? We should get that guy.”

So Hunt asked.

“I was prepared for a no.”

Two days later Faria said he would join the band.

“One of the main reasons he wanted to come back into the fold is because of Brad.” He said Brad is the best drummer he’d ever seen for the kind of music they were playing.

The last piece was the name. Originally it was Battle Scarred in 2016. With the new crew of musicians, even though they were recording tunes from the first version of the band, other than Faria, they did not know of the name connection and had yet to decide on one for themselves.

Battlescarred Est. MMXX Album Art

“I said, I do have this one name and a logo that goes with it. You don’t have to use it,” said Hunt. Once he showed him the previous work, there was consensus. “They said, oh, we are definitely doing that,” but without the space between words.

Est. MMXX stands out for a couple reasons. One of which is it doesn’t stand out, per se, because it sounds technically as good a recording as you’ll find by any of the established name bands. It is also technically as good with the songwriting, arranging and performing. In other words it will fit with your collection of Slayer, Lamb of God, Metallica, (with better drumming) Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, or whatever is on you shelf or in your phone.

I’m not as well versed with Metal, I couldn’t tell the subgenre differences apart without a tutorial, but Hunt said they fused Metalcore, Hardcore and Groove Metal. Are the songs hits? Who knows? I’ve heard a lot of ‘hits’ over the years that were only hits in this household, but I like the album. You can listen to their first single, Salem (Burn the Witch) on Bandcamp now and where the whole album will be available for download April 27. The EP will also be available on all streaming services.

Up In The Cloud

I popped into Cloud Gallery last Friday to see what Mark and Blake Fletcher have created for the new Cloud Gallery. Basically, they have the first couple inches out from the walls throughout Creative Nomad Studios and Anitta Hamming has everything else on either side.

Mark Fletcher, Cloud Gallery

“It’s been a good day, so far, so good,” Mark said. He’d sold three more paintings than when we previously spoke by mid-afternoon. He has a theory why so many paintings were sold before they opened and on the second day the doors were open. “It’s great art.”

He thinks of the gallery having three parts. When you enter Creative Nomad, there’s an office/meeting room immediately on the right; no bare walls now, it’s covered in art. Then there’s the subdivided main-floor space with the Mississaga Street view, and then the whole second floor wall space.

When you get to go again (he was planning on staying open, falling under the retail criteria of last week’s restrictions, which of course changed this week) you’ll see art by several area artists, and several artists from other parts of Ontario. All 25 artists represented are chosen by Mark and Blake.

“We’re really happy with the ones we have and we’re really working with each artist. We’re not really looking to take more in,” said Mark.

But you can see the work online. Mark is the day-to-day presence and booster of artists/salesperson, and Blake is the online brains of the operation. The website isn’t new in terms of having anything ground breaking in website, but it use features in new ways other art galleries haven’t done.

“Shopify is what I built the site for Cloud on top of. You can think of Shopify as WordPress, but for business. You can easily upload products to sale,” said Blake. When you are looking at the art, hover your mouse over a picture and it will change, you’ll find photos of how they look, on walls, in homes.

“You can get a picture online, but you’ve got to see it on a wall to really know what it looks like,” said Blake.

The walking tour with Mark is incredible. He’s a businessman who understands what makes for exceptional art – and he knows something, which he’ll surely tell you, about the artist and how they work and what went into any particular painting you happen to be standing in front of.

Art by Sue Miller

“I love this story too,” Mark said as we were looking at one piece. “Sue Milner went to Park Street (Collegiate), grew up in Orillia and never had a piece of art hanging in Orillia in her life. But now she’s here.”

Another thing Blake has coming for the website are videos of the art works, and podcasts with the artists.

When things open again the gallery will be open 9 to 5 weekdays, 11 to 4 Saturdays and by appointment on Sundays.

Music and Other Stuff

The Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County has a fundraiser happening online April 23 at 7:30 p.m. It’s called Tunes N’ Treats and features performances by B. Knox, Whiskey River and Orillia’s Sam Johnston. It’s the kick off for the Walk for Alzheimers.  When you register, they’ll send you a link to watch the concert.

Elizabeth Powell’s band, Land of Talk, has an online concert happening April 10 at 8 p.m. Buy tickets online and they’ll send the link to watch.

Lance Anderson has an online concert April 10. See The Last Waltz from Hugh’s Room. Tickets to watch online are $15, and if you want, for another 10 bucks you can stick around for a Q&A with the band.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History has a history speaker’s night online April 14 at 7 p.m. Dave Town will tell the tale of a silver smelter done in by a dead cow in 1912. To see this Zoom presentation email or call 705-326-2159 and you’ll be sent as link. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

If we move into and orange or better COVID status there will be a summer theater program at the Opera House with Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River (June 30 to July 16), followed by Driving Miss Daisy (July 21 to August 13) and another Foster play, Jonas & Barry In the Home (August 18 to September 3). Get tickets online and there’s a deal for multiple tickets. Not at the Opera House, but the Opera House gets a cut if you buy tickets for virtual concerts by Molly Johnson (April 17) or Whitehorse (May 8) – but you have to use the sale code ORILLIA when you buy.

The Roots North Music Festival is postponed. It will however have a concert on YoutubeFacebook and possibly Rogers TV featuring an all local line up. That happens April 23.

Steven Henry takes requests Saturday nights at 8 p.m. here. It’s good way to spend two hours.

Joe Huron plays jazz guitar Sunday’s at noon on Facebook.  Catch him here.

Through the Farmers’ Market, artists have another online avenue to sell their work. Check it out here.

The Leacock Associate’s annual student writing competition is open to high school and college students aged 14 to 19. There are prizes of $1,000, $700 and $300. Entry details are here, you have until April 15. Email for more details or questions.

(Photo By Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied) Main: Blake and Mark Fletcher at Cloud Gallery.

Rants & Raves

Support Independent Journalism