LOCAL BAND TALKS SONGWRITING, COLLABORATION, AND AUTHENTICITY
On one of the hottest days of the summer, fans of all ages crowded in the Black Heritage Society building on Essex Street in Guelph, ON. The organizers of the event had dimmed the lights for mood or just to stay cool, and the humidity was palpable. Every seat was taken leaving late-comers to lean against the back wall and sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage. The occasion for such a frenzy in attendance, in spite of the heat, was a Bedsheets concert.
Bedsheets is a local folk-rock band comprised of 8 up-and-coming artists, all of whom are 21 years old and under.
In 2011, brothers Duncan and Jay MacKinnon founded the band to raise money for a Tsunami relief benefit. The brothers asked their friends Julian Del Bel Belluz and Sam Boer to join them. The quartet was playing cover songs for the benefit so they called themselves “Bedsheets” as a play on the word “covers.” It was after that first show, that the band began collaborating and producing original music together.
Since 2011, the size of the band has doubled. Sam Boer, the band’s lead vocalist, explained that this expansion occurred in a natural and organic way. “We once tried to hold formal auditions for a new drummer, and it just didn’t feel like us. Instead, we invited people to join that we felt comfortable being around and making music with. It’s funny because if you look back at some of our first concerts, three of our current band members were in the audience. Our singer Natasha, as well as Liam and Isaac were all big fans of Bedsheets. Later, we found out we really liked collaborating with them so they joined the band,” says Boer.
As a vocalist in the band, Boer also plays many instruments: acoustic guitar, percussion, banjo, harmonica and recorder. He sometimes even plays two recorders at once.
“I played piano when I was younger, but I’m sad to say I quickly got bored of it. It was around Grade 8 that I began writing my own music on an acoustic guitar. The songs I wrote then were so gritty and emotional, it’s embarrassing to look back at them now,” says Boer with a laugh. “There’s something remarkable though about being that age and having the ability to pour your heart out in such an awful and unpoetic way.”
When the band first started, Del Bel Belluz and Boer wrote most of the band’s songs. Since then, songwriting has been a much more collaborative process. On their latest album, the songs “Daughter” and “12” were written jointly by the entire band. In particular, Boer describes the song “Daughter” as having arisen “miraculously out of nowhere.”
“The song was written one day when we were all cooped up in Duncan’s basement trying to write and practice,” says Boer. “We decided to go for a walk and we ended up at the playground in Rickson Park. I started playing a cord progression on my guitar, Duncan joined in on his banjo and Julian and Natasha started harmonizing. In a flash of inspiration, we wrote that song in 3 hours that night!”
Two of the band’s longtime goals have been to produce a full-length album and to perform in Toronto. Remarkably, both goals were accomplished last year.
Last August, Bedsheets performed at the Silver Dollar Room in Toronto. A stage that Bob Dylan once performed on. The band also produced their self-titled debut album which they’ve been selling in-person, at The Bookshelf and online.
“When it comes to inspiration, we have a lot of trouble coming up with our influences,” says Boer. Two of the band’s members, Julian Del Bel Belluz and Kiran Heble have been in Jazz groups for years. Another member, Isaac Beattie-Booth, is trained in both classical and jazz piano and Natasha DesRochers, Liam Sanio and Boer have been in choirs most of their lives.
“Aside from our diverse musical affiliations, we all like a lot of folk, pop and hip hip music,” says Boer. “I think it’s our exposure and interest in so many different genres of music that has really added to our sound. Instead of being one particular type of music, we’re our own. It’s that core authenticity that's been integral to our band since the beginning.”
Aside from their music, the band celebrates their authenticity in other ways too. When performing, the band integrates the use of children’s xylophones and keyboards, they dance in bathrobes and sometimes even on nearby tables. It’s this genuineness that has gained them a loyal legion of fans.
For any current high schools students wanting to make music, Boer recommends staying true to yourself. “It’s so important to play music the way you want to play it. It’s easy to fall into a trap of wanting to be successful and changing your music so that you can play more venues, but at the end of the day, the music needs to come first and listening to your passion is the best way to find it.”
Bedsheets is comprised of Isaac Beattie-Booth, Sam Boer, Daniel Coates, Julian Del Bel Belluz, Duncan MacKinnon, Natasha DesRochers, Kiran Heble and Liam Sanio.
Their full-length album can be purchased at www.bedsheets.bandcamp.com