The number of active bands based out of Calgary these days is staggering. The city has become a hub for some of Alberta’s finest talent. What people need to be aware of, though, is the rich musical history and prowess that exists beyond the city limits, in places like Siksika Nation, Tsuu T’ina Nation and Morley. Unlike bands that base their operations from within, our dear friends on the reserves are putting in twice the work with half of the resources. From driving into the city for higher profile gigs and recording services, to developing a loyal fan base, to fleshing out professional gear rigs, it would appear that the best course of action for bands would be to pack up and leave their communities for more urban environments.
But, the list of active bands that maintain close ties to their aboriginal communities is extensive: After the Prophet, Frightenstein, Soggy Moccasins, Fox Eyes, Sacred Savage, Penitentz and Killing Redemption are all Alberta-bred making the rounds on the local show circuit. That’s just within the realm of heavier music. Then you’ve got groups like Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red and Team Rezofficial, both of whom making country-wide noise with their electronic music and hip hop, respectively. The latter two are a different story, having already achieved a level of success that the former locals have not, and are far past that grinding mentality that has become a staple of the bands that we have around Calgary.
It’s Siksika’s own No More Moments, however, that have really set themselves apart from other local indigenous bands. The band, founded by former Frightenstein drummer, Carlin Black Rabbit, have made a name for themselves amongst metal and punk enthusiasts for their own brand of blistering and unadulterated punk rock. The group – rounded out by Quarthon Bear Chief (vocals), Brandyn Darko (guitar) and newly added bassist Dallas Many Heads – plays a seemingly endless amount of gigs around the city and have developed reputations as being some of the nicest guys you’ll meet on a night out.
No More Moments have also prided themselves on being one of the few bands that haven’t abandoned their home on Siksika, even while watching so many of their peers leave for the city to pursue their passions. The band has a clear-cut sense of attachment to their home and the community within it.
“We like going out on tour and then coming back and telling the stories. I guess it’s kind of rewarding for our nation to be proud of,” reflects Black Rabbit, who, in his usual calm and mild-mannered way, emphasizes the importance of family ties and unity.
“Where we’re from, it’s very close knit, almost family-like. But, we like staying in our community.”
The view doesn’t seem to be widely shared amongst their brethren, at least in respect to musical careers. Most bands see the allure of what the neighbouring cities have to offer and make a break for it. That fact, though, is one of the many reasons that No More Moments have decided to stay home and make a name for themselves from there: to prove that it can be done.
Siksika Nation, which is about an hour and a half east of Calgary, is a small and quiet community. But, with a population of around 6,000, it would almost seem large in comparison to Morley (1,600) or Tsuu T’ina (2,000). Regardless, these areas have been producing quality bands at a steady rate for years.
Cory Cardinal, the Native Student Centre coordinator at the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University, attributes that to the booming youth population among the indigenous communities.
“The thing right now with aboriginal youth is that there’s approximately 50 per cent of the aboriginal population right now is 19 and under. That’s a lot of kids and they’re branching out and listening to all types of stuff,” said Cardinal.
“We never really saw a lot of aboriginal bands growing up so, when one did come around, everyone would get really excited because it’s kind of someone you know. Watching the music scene and watching these young groups come up is really exciting for me.”
These groups, like No More Moments, have been utilizing traditional buildings around their homes, like the Powwow Arbour and Old Sun Community College, to hone their non-traditional crafts. The college is home to a fully functional recording studio, while Black Rabbit has been hosting shows at the Arbour for a number of years and has even had many of Calgary’s bands come out to play there.
“We had a big, well, I wouldn’t say big, but we had a healthy music scene here. We had lots of big metal shows,” remembers Black Rabbit.
“We had Abortion Grenade, we had A Bloodshed Nightmare… there was always a good show going on back in 2008, 2009. I don’t want to say it died, but these other bands just went and found these other resources in Calgary and they realized that… well, I don’t want to say bigger and better things, but that’s kinda what happened.”
It’s now become his mission to revive the vibrance that was once present within the musical community.
“I actually get lots of emails from bands wanting to come through. It’s overwhelming, but it’s cool. Obviously, the racial factor plays a big role. People ask me, ‘Well, is my stuff gonna get broken into?’ and, unfortunately, it’s happened a few times. We’re trying to eliminate that and make music general to everyone,” said Black Rabbit, who emphasizes that he understands the concern being voiced by these bands. In his vision, he wants to generalize music by making those shows safe, comfortable and fun for everyone involved.
“What I want to do is get volunteers and get a street team going. You know, there’s not much to do if you’re broke and don’t have money to pay for hockey. Well, come work at my show, you know? We can hook you up with whatever we can.”
Unfortunately, boredom and poverty are still major hurdles for Siksika Nation youth, as well as most reserves in Alberta. High crime rates, substance abuse and domestic violence still run rampant as well, with Statistics Canada listing Criminal Code incidents on reserves across Canada represented four per cent of the national total since 2004. Reserves continue to be neglected on a larger scale in Canadian culture and remnants of residential schools and segregation can still be felt today.
Even the Old Sun Community College is located within an old residential school and its beaten up exterior – complete with broken windows that have been boarded and shuttered — serves as a constant reminder to the older generation of painful memories that are trying to be forgotten. In the 19th century, these schools were federally-run government buildings that were put in place in an attempt to systematically eliminate aboriginal culture by abolishing use of native tongue, forcibly enfranchising aboriginal youth and removing them from their local histories and traditions. As time went on, many cases of sexual assault and physical abuse surfaced in the public eye. In Alberta, the last residential school closed in 1988, according to Alberta Education.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the recording studio/broadcasting booth for CFXX 104.7 FM (which run out of the same series of rooms) on the upper floor of the college is manned by Wade Heath, a Mount Royal University alumnus who has been using his talents to help the First Nations talent across the country, even playing No More Moments on air on a consistent basis.
“We have a wide cross-section of demographics to consider because we’re a nation unto ourselves, right?,” said Heath.
“I don’t have a competitor that’s going to play nothing but country. We don’t have a competitor that’s going to play nothing but alternative. So I play a mix of everything… like A Tribe Called Red, we play No More Moments, we play Tom Jackson, we play The Offspring… we play everything.”
The station also has the title of being the only radio waves broadcasted from First Nations land. It’s an invaluable resource that hasn’t gained much momentum yet, due in large part to the current renovations and retooling that are going on internally. No More Moments, though, see what’s offered here as blessing for any up-and-coming musicians in the Siksika area.
“Wade’s always been a big help to us. He’s very consistent with getting us up here and getting our new album in,” says Black Rabbit.
“I think people in our community need to take advantage of it.”
For No More Moments, this is about showcasing what talent and success can look like with a reserve upbringing. The band, at the very least, is a continuing source of inspiration for others like them.
“It’s kinda just a part of me. It’s not really an escape; it’s just what I do. We live for this kind of stuff. We go through all the BS and then have a show somewhere, in Morley or Calgary, it’s what we strive for,” says Black Rabbit.
“It’s a little weird because we have community functions like powwows and I got asked for an autograph and I was like, ‘Why? Why?’ Have a bite of my burger. I don’t want to give you an autograph. I look at myself as just another person. What I do, it’s for me. I guess if we get looked at as role models and we can inspire a kid to get out of his room, to playing guitar, to going on the road, then I’ll be happy. Because that’s what inspired me to do what I’m doing now.”