For today’s look at the Borealis longlist we spoke to bands with killer first albums and asked them how they formed their bands and found their sound.

Mitch Dyke of Hard Ticket and Dan McLean of Isle of Ease talk about how their music evolved in unexpected and satisfying ways when they brought it out of their bedroom or basement into the’s a sampel track off each:


How Did the Band Come Together?

Mitch Dyke: The band formed when I received encouragement from my best pal/bandmate Jonny May, he listened to me play alone in my room for months. I felt vulnerable while playing alone, I didn’t think anyone would like it. Like a lot of aspiring musicians, I was very self-conscious. But once Nicole and Meg came to jam I realized I had the support I needed to feel comfortable; to feel like we could contribute to the community! 

Dan McLean: The band formed during the fall of 2013 when I got back to St. John’s after spending the summer in Ottawa. I had written a number of songs in Ottawa that summer, and Adam and I started jamming them in his basement when I got home. We had played in a couple more “traditionally” sized bands before, but we had a lot of fun playing the new songs with just the two of us, and so we ended up sticking with that format.

Did you know what kind of sound you were going for before, or after you started jamming? 

Mitch Dyke: Initially I figured the songs would be kinda sappy/relaxing or whatever, because I was sad at that moment in time. After we jammed I tweaked the lyrics to support a more positive message/address some issues in a positive manner. For example walking home alone, or selling all your things to move in hopes of another city being less shitty then your own. So instead of writing song about being sad, which would just remind me of hard times, I felt it was healthier to try and be more positive/empowering. I think it’s why we jam every week and still enjoy it! 

Dan McLean: I had written all of the songs on my acoustic guitar, so I knew that the sound would definitely be acoustic in some capacity. After we started jamming, I started experimenting with more and more pedals to be able to pull off a live sound, and we continue to add more instrumentation to our setup. So I think the sound is evolving, which gets me excited!

How would you describe your sound? 

Mitch Dyke: I would describe our sound as endearing punk or punk with a bitta pop! It’s cool to be in a punk band not fuelled by anger and masculine aggression. 

Dan McLean: I guess our sound has most often been called folk-rock, but as I think the album shows, the sound varies from high to low and small to big. I think the heart of the sound is still my guitar and Adam’s drums, but we figure out ways to expand on that and make things more interesting. We’re constantly pushing how we create our live sound, and we always play off each other to create dynamics. We love playing live and bringing tons of energy, which sometimes surprises people I guess.

What is one of your personal favourites off the album? 

Mitch Dyke: I have to say “Tuff Cookie” is my personal fave off the album, mainly because of who it makes me think of (my nan), and I like to think there are people who listen thinking “hey I’m a Tuff Cookie too, this song’s for me.” In which case it is

Dan McLean: One of my personal favourites still has to be the title track, “Roads.” I was really pleased with how that all came together, and just have so many fond (and often blurry) memories of recording it at Krisjan’s. We had some dear friends who came over and helped make that song happen – thank you Amy, Francis, Steve, and Micah.