Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Life and Times of Dependent Music


Haven't heard of this label, but you'll likely be hearing a lot about them in the near future and for years to come. Dependent Music is home of some of the greatest, most underrated Canadian artists. That's pronounced Dependent, not Arts and Crafts. Last year was huge for Dependent. Wintersleep released their mind-blowing untitled album, toured across Europe and Canada, and a performed a few shows in the States. They even opened for Pearl Jam in Newfoundland, twice. Contrived finally released their long-awaited sophomore album, 'Dead Air Verbatim'. Brian Bocherdt released the second part to his Remains of Brian Borcherdt solo project. He toured all across North America with his evil super group Holy Fuck, and the group also played shows alongside Beans from Antipop Consortium. Holy Fuck's self-titled album finally came out and soared to the top of the college charts.

None of this went unrecognized, either. Nova Scotia's The Coast Magazine voted Dependent the best independent label for the third year in a row. Jill Barber won best female artist also for the third year in a row in the same publication and Wintersleep received five out of six awards including best band, best local and national video and best album art. The band has also been nominated for two East Coast Music Awards for video of the year and alternative recording of the year.

This is my story on my one of the best group of musicians on the planet:

My story goes all the way back to 1996 when I was working at a local record store that carried independent acts from all over Atlantic Canada. There was one album that stuck out from the rest. The band was Burnt Black and it was their second album, 'Nervous Wreck'. The artwork alone was enough motivation for me open it up and see if the music lived up to its art. It did and then some. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before from this part of Canada. Keep in mind that when most people think of the Maritimes they think of traditional fiddle music and, at that time, Sloan. I was so impressed with the album that I went hungry for a day and spent my lunch money on Burnt Black's first studio recording on cassette, 1994's "... happy?".

Fast forward to 1997, I'm still listening to these albums constantly and out of nowhere I hear that they're playing at a local dive. Problem, I was only 16. My friend who was of legal drinking age and I leaped at the opportunity to go to this show but I had to keep my age on the down low. Sure enough, I wasn't allowed to stay in the bar long enough to see the band play at first, but my friend pulled some strings and they let me stay. I saw them play, then bought up as much merchandise as my part-time job would allow, including side projects that the band was involved with such as Christopher Robin Device and Chiselhand. Afterward, I kept in contact with the front man Brian Borcherdt via e-mail and phone.

Shortly after releasing 1999's 'Burned Out', Burnt Black broke up and played their final show on the eve of the new millennium. Brian's brother Adam, the guitarist, moved to the States, Neil, the drummer, moved to China to teach English, and their bass player Marcus would become a fisherman. Still, Brian sent me an EP of a band he figured I'd enjoy named Kary. I was hooked. The EP was purely a lo-fi demo but it rarely left my disc player.

By 2001, I was itching for something new from either Brian Borcherdt or Kary. And I got it; that year marked the second coming of the monster that would become Dependent Music. Brian's old band 'Chiselhand' reformed with a new guitarist Mike MacNeil (of Contrived) and released a six song EP under the name Trephines (which eventually appeared on Fox TV's "24"), while Kary released their debut LP "The Sound of Beauty Breathing" which, to this day, is one of my all-time favourite albums. It was around this time that Dependent's drummer-for-hire Loel Campbell entered the picture. I was running a Burnt Black fan site, while he took charge of the official site after Burnt Black disbanded. He sent me a copy of the first Contrived demo which was impressive despite the lo-fidelity.

In 2002, Dependent welcomed Contrived, and their debut album 'Pursuit Of Plots', to their roster. Heavy Meadows recorded their first full-length as well. Sadly, long time friend/collaborator of Brian Borcherdt, Marcus Boudreau of Christopher Robin Device committed suicide. Not to be confused with Marcus Webster from Burnt Black, though CRD was his side project alongside Boudreau. Brian coped with it the only way he knew how: Music. He released a short EP of songs dedicated to his fallen friend entitled 'Moth' with a very small run of 100 copies, all of which were numbered and signed. It's still available, vinyl only. Around this time Brian was living in Toronto and I heard that he had joined-up with Canadian alt-rockers By Divine Right as a touring guitarist. They toured across North America and even went to Japan. The next year Tim D'eon (guitar) and Paul Murphy (vocals) of Kary formed an acoustic side project featuring Loel Campbell (Contrived) and Jud Haynes (Bucket Truck) on bass, while Members of Dependent, By Divine Right, and Broken Social Scene collaborated produced a journey through sound entitled 'Junior Blue'.

In 2004, By Divine Right's vocalist Jose Contreras released an electronic experimental album under the name Extra Virgin and Brian left By Divine Right on good terms to pursue his solo career. He released his first album under the moniker 'The Remains Of Brian Borcherdt', a majority of which was recorded with his brother Adam Borcherdt. In the same year Dependent released a few other incredible albums; Kary re-formed to record their second album "Light", Jill Barber was welcomed to the family with her first EP, "Oh Heart", and the third Heavy Meadows album finally hit shelves. As I said, last year was a huge year for the label, in addition to releasing all the other previously listed albums, they also compiled recordings of a influential now defunct local group, The Motes titled "The Remains of False Starts".

This year is shaping up to be a good year. Holy Fuck, who organically recreate electronica, are the first to blow up and will be touring with post-Unicorns group, the Islands, as well as Metric. But first there's a cross-Canada tour featuring Wintersleep, Holy Fuck, Jill Barber, Contrived, and Brian Borcherdt.

Be sure to check the bands out live if you get a chance, and if you do, buy Loel a beer, he's going to need it. He'll be drumming for pretty much all those bands.

Dependent Website
Dependent on Myspace (because so many of you are)

Holy Fuck - Korock
Holy Fuck - Tone Bank Jungle
Brian Borcherdt - Goodbye/Vibrations
Brian Borcherdt - Ransom
Wintersleep - Orca
Wintersleep - Avalanche
Kary - Breathe New Life
Contrived - Surrounded By Genius
Jill Barber - In Perfect Time
Jill Barber - Oh Heart
Heavy Meadows - Sweet Traverse
The Motes - Index as Anchor
Burnt Black - Novocaine
Christopher Robin Device - Parade Day
Chiselhand - Behind You
Trephines - Cataract

Comments on "The Life and Times of Dependent Music"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (15/2/06 11:10 pm) : 

Rock. Didn't know Holy Fuck was so connected.


Anonymous rgsc said ... (16/2/06 11:42 am) : 

great post - I was familiar with about half the artists you talked about here but I really had no idea about the strength of the rest of the label, so thanks for introducing me to them.


Anonymous Rollins said ... (16/2/06 5:14 pm) : 

glad to see positive comments, these bands/this label are incredible, hope you like the mp3s!
here's a link to a Wintersleep article @


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (27/12/06 1:57 am) : 

i fuckin miss burnt black so BAD!!!!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6/1/07 5:19 pm) : 

Adam (Burnt Black) was a friend/roomate in Halifax for a while. Burnt Black was awesome, so different from everything else on the scene. The ?Happy cassette was great, as was pretty much everything else they put out. They used to play live at their house parties and rock the joint.


Anonymous Alie said ... (18/4/07 7:38 pm) : 

Yesss good to know that people are paying attention to Dependent. For me it was Wintersleep who opened my eyes to the fantastic artists on that label and I'm always so impressed with what they churn out. Nicely done.


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Anonymous Stéphanie said ... (13/5/10 5:17 pm) : 

Got to see Wintersleep in a little pub at the coast here in Belgium about a year ago. It was wonderful, so refreshing,... now I was reading an article about Holy Fuck where Brian Borcherdt's solo project was mentioned, had a listen , and fell in love. After reading this I want to check out all these artists, so thanks for introducing me to this label, otherwise maybe it would cost me again a year or so to discover another artist from the same label without knowing they are connected. :-)
I'm going to keep following you guys because a huge part of my cd collection is Canadian ! :-)
cheeers x


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