Jud Haynes and Krista Power of Mightypop. Photo by Mark Bennett.
Operating on just four hours of sleep after the first night of two for Regina band Rah Rah, Mightypop’s Jud Haynes still has the presence of mind to tape up show posters at Hava Java before sitting down to a glass of orange juice and a chat.
October marks one year for Haynes and his company Mightypop. Its mission? To bring a unique brand of Canadian independent music to Newfoundland.
The anniversary month finds Haynes at his busiest yet, with five visiting bands to coordinate in a matter of a few short weeks.
Despite the energy and focus he brings to promoting both local and come-from-away groups, Haynes describes himself as a musical scatterbrain. He’s been involved with two different record labels, managed a handful of bands during his time in Halifax, performed and toured with the band Wintersleep, and all the while kept a steady day-job as the graphic designer, generating CD art and web sites for musicians like Joel Plaskett and Matt Mays.
“Obviously music has been on the brain, but I haven’t been able to maintain any other focus. Even my graphic design work,” he says.
“That was the thing I started right in high school. I think it was Grade 9 or Grade 10. At the time I didn’t know anything about design. My family didn’t own a computer, nothing, but that’s what I wanted to do.”
“Oddly enough, that’s been the one constant.”
Since stepping in to help visiting bands with on-the-ground logistics and the important task of getting the word out for shows, Haynes has found himself absorbed more and more in the role of promoter.
With partner Krista Power, Mightypop is providing a channel for indie Canadian bands to make it to Newfoundland on tour. That void is not a hole most promoters are looking to fill, says Haynes.
“The way Krista and I approach this whole thing, I think, is very different than most promoters. It’s really a labour of love—we lose money more often than not, and so it’s not like a business. If this was a business it would be a pretty pathetic one.”
“We do inject a little bit of our own personal taste into that,” he says. “Of course we want to book bands we love and if our name is on it, we want the bands to be bands that are something we think are worthwhile… Basically bands we wish we were in.”
For Haynes, bands like Toronto’s Broken Social Scene and Montreal’s Arcade Fire are groups leading a movement which links recent Canadian independent music. It’s an explosion of talent that’s being recognized around the world.
“Indie rock has become a genre—but it’s a genre that doesn’t have a sound,” he says. “Even in this genre, Canada leads the charge globally, in that kind of arty indie rock. We’re actually the coolest country in the world for that, and that’s really exciting.”
“Most of these bands I talk about tour all over the world and are popular all over the world,” he says. “The real indie keeners—who are not just out there buying what the record labels package as indie—they’re finding all these amazing Canadian bands.”
Providing Newfoundland bands the opportunity to share the stage with up-and-coming groups from across the country is allowing for important contacts for local musicians.
Gramercy Riffs, favourites of the downtown St. John’s scene, are set to play their first mainland show in Toronto as the opening act for recent visitors Rah Rah.
Hayes is upbeat about the possibilities for upcoming shows in the coming year, with hints of bigger visiting acts in the works and a full outdoor festival sometime in the near future.
Over the course of the year Haynes and Power have also learned a little about the tastes of local audiences.
“The rootsy, alt-country, upbeat kind of bands—The Burning Hell, United Steelworkers of Montreal, Tom Fun Orchestra, Cuff the Duke, Elliot Brood, NQ Arbuckle… All these kind of rootsy, mildly country party bands—they’re the ones people seem to really get behind here.”
“Every time we’ve done one of those kind of bands it’s been a massive success, and every time we try to veer off into something different, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
“But,” he laughs. “If the band’s got a banjo in it, or somebody just stomping their feet, or somebody playing a mandolin or an accordion, it’s going to be a party.”
For a full list of upcoming Mightypop shows, visit mightypop.ca.
A few memorable moments from the past year
“When a few locals took out their instruments and started jamming at The Ship an hour or more after the Great Lake Swimmers had finished playing, the ‘Swimmers all ran to get their instruments to join in. One of the most magical hours of music of the year.” —Jud (Photo by Mark Bennett)
“Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron and Fred Squire perform their acclaimed album Lost Wisdom in its entirety for a St. John’s audience. An album they have only performed together a hand full of times globally.” —Jud (Photo by Mark Bennett)
“Who knew a bunch of boys from Toronto would provide the biggest east coast style kitchen party? Almost everyone in attendance at Elliott Brood’s sold out show were making music in any way they could, from beating bottles off the walls to smashing cookie sheets with wooden spoons.” —Jud (Photo by Mark Bennett)