Newfoundland Poised to Push Past 1,000 RPM Albums on the 10th Anniversary of Challenge

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Where It Came from, and What it Has Accomplished

In 2008, The Scope heard tell of an international competition, The RPM Challenge, where people were encouraged to record an album in a month, just for the challenge of it; just t to force a creative burst, and have something tangible and ever-lasting in your hands at the end of the month.

In their Issue 49 (Jan. 31, 2008), The Scope floated the idea to Newfoundland — hey let’s get in on this? To quote the article, “February isn’t just for slightly-forced expressions of love—now it’s also for slightly-forced expressions of music.”

Now entering its 10th year, the challenge has produced a whopping 936 albums, leaving us just 64 albums shy of the 1000 album mark. That’s a lot of music, and that pile of music has not only helped to launch many of the acts playing here (Steve Maloney, Kat McClevey, Pilot to Bombardier), it’s forced many of us to learn and embrace a DIY approach to barriers like recording, mixing, singing, or learning the drums. In that sense, it’s really bolstered the local music scene as much as anything.

Today, former Scope editor Elling Lien continues to run NL RPM with his awesome enterprise of UnpossibleNL. Here`s a brief history of NL RPM.

Year 1 (2008). Crop Count: 22 Albums

What Everyone Was Talking About: Ritchie Perez & Peter King (Ohio Scream), Kira Sheppard, Vic Lewis, Neil Conway, Adam Baxter, and Mopey Mumble-Mouse.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: The Domestics, Black Molly (Allison Corbett), and Thom Coombes.

Fun Fact 1:  Terry “Teddy Bear Man” O’Reilly used RPM 2008 as a return to writing gritty ’60s folk.

Fun Fact 2: AM/FM Dreams recorded an RPM album in 2008 … and have every year since, making them the only band to have recorded an RPM every single year. We hope they keep it up; the RPM challenge is the only time we hear from this great band.

Year 2 (2009). Crop Count: 70 Albums

What Everyone Was Talking About: Vegan Porn, Errand Boy, Steve Haley, Craig Soper, Patches, and Jerry Stamp’s 19-song romp.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: Pilot to Bombardier, Pet Legs, Other People, The Connexions.

Fun Fact 1:  Both Bryan Power (Pilot to Bombardier) and Rebecca Cohoe (Pet Legs) were  playing in The Subtitles at this time, and thought an RPM might be a fun side project. Rebecca partnered up with her partner, Ian Murphy. Pilot to Bombardier started out as an experiment in a new genre,  but he dropped the electronic gimmick, wrote from the heart, stunned the city with some straight up singer-songwriter gold, and continues to play and record with this moniker 8 years later.

Fun Fact 2: 2009 was Patrick Canning’s first RPM recording (though he produced Black Molly’s 2008 RPM). Every year since 2009, he has recorded as either SuperGod, Sad Sax, No Culture, or Patrick Canning. His album titles always play off the R and P and M in RPM.

Year 3 (2010). Crop Count: 83 Albums

What Everyone Was Talking About: People on Pause, Cara Lee Coleman, Jack Betty (Darren “Boobie” Browne), Vickie Loo, Super God, Pet Legs, and Other People.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: Jack E. Tar,  epo (Swinging Belle Erin Power), St. John’s Ukulele Orchestra.

Fun Fact 1: This year rivalled any for best band names, including The Coffee Dates, Ice Cream Headaches, Parliament of Owls, and Action Hotdog.

Fun Fact 2:  Year 3 melted some hearts because the kids got involved. Naomi Russell (12, daughter of Kelly Russell) submitted a precocially named album Who Am I, and  Nicolas Trnka (10)  gave us something funny and weird, and Ego marked a 1 year old’s “Avant garde experimentation toddler set.”

Year 4 (2011). Crop Count: 103

What Everyone Was Talking About: The Drows, AE Bridger, Boil Order, The Blossoms (Andrew Wickens).

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: East of Empire, Georgie & Jomo, and Vic Lou & Brad Power’s band, Casual Male.

Fun Fact 1:  2011 was sadly the last time we heard from Other People, but at least they disapeared with a deadly album title, Secret Joggers.

Fun Fact 2:  Every year since 2011 has produced over 100 albums! Getting 64 this year to reach 1000 should be a breeze.

Year 5 (2012). Crop Count: 139

What Everyone Was Talking About: The Confidence Club (Aine Lasagne & Annie McEwen), Scrambled Meggz, Jake Nicoll, Stanley and the Befrienders.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: Kat McLevey, Knoah Bender, Mary Dear.

Fun Fact 1:  PinWermz might be the best example of the many gag hip hop RPMs, and if you listen closely enough to track 1, there’s a clue as to who it is.

Fun Fact 2:  2012 marked a first album from this year’s Borealis Music Prize winner, Jake Nicoll. Heat Lamp was an instrumental piano album.

Year 6  (2013). Crop Count: 145

What Everyone Was Talking About: Caribou Horses, Steve Maloney, The Beer Patrice, The Uke Hunts, Hannah Banana, Jake Nicoll, Knoah Bender, The Dilettantes, and The Darts.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: Lady Brett Ashley, Aaron Powell (Fog Lake), Waterfront Fire, uHu (Meg Harnum & Alison Corbett). Aley Waterman put one out, pre-Gala days too, as did Emily Locke, pre Gem.

Fun Fact 1:  Caribou Horses was Joanna Barker, Annie McEwen, Bryan Power, and Rebecca South. Each songwriter penned a few songs and joined each other on their contributions. So good.

Fun Fact 2:  2013 saw a very mentionable for-fun rap collaboration called Fish Easy, between Allie Duff, Sarah Blackmore, Nathan Day, and Matthew English. Track down “Best Night Ever.“

Year 7 (2014). Crop Count: 125

What Everyone Was Talking About: Rhubarb Thieves, Gloomdance, Sad Tax, Palisades, Andrew Stanley, Eras, Geoff Bartlett, and The Glowing Goldstones.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: Micah (Brown, who’d go on to start the band Maans), Family Video, Megan Marshall, Kelly McMichael’s Renders moniker, and The Ginger Snaps (Jen Cake and Aine MacLellan).

Fun Fact 1: Rhubard Thieves was a solo outlet for Reuben Canning Finkel, while East of Empire went dormant. Fog Lake’s Aaron Powell produced it. It was voted Best RPM of 2014 by readers of The Overcast.

Fun Fact 2:  Brian Downton (Potatobug, Lizband, and JKW) has done several RPMs as Personal Space Invaders, and as part of the Crash Jones Band. He recorded this year’s album (his fifth), from rehab, at Humberwood’s addictions program. Some of the album speaks to that.

Year 8 (2015). Crop Count: 135

What Everyone Was Talking About: Land of the Lakes, Ilia Nicoll & Vic Lou, Sad Tax, This Is Terrible, Jeff Cook, AM/FM Dreams, Clayton Burton, Smiles Blood.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: Sleepy, Alex Collins & the Accounting Dept.

Fun Fact 1: Nick Ryan wrote a rap album as the famous voice of Jiffy Cabs’ dispatcher, called Cabillac. Jiffy Cabs loved it so much, they wanted to meet him and give him Jiffy swag.

Fun Fact 2:  The collaboration of Ilia Nicoll and Vic Lewis (Drug’s Young Dream) was voted “Best RPM 2015” by Overcast readers. It includes some honest lyrics about the time they got the shits from some bad food while recording.

Year 9 (2016). Crop Count 111 Albums

What Everyone Was Talking About: Pet Legs, Plaid Boys, Shop Class, Property, White Hot Mess, Armahain, Arn Smit, Laura Jean Fraser, No Culture, Weird GF, and the fact AE Bridger was involved with 7 RPMs.

Acts it Launched Onto the Scene: It Could Be Franky, Justin Strong, Kate Lahey (Blankets).

Fun Fact 1:  Danielle Hamel (Land of the Lakes) went solo, experimenting with electro-Pop under the moniker It Could Be Franky. The album won a MusicNL award for it, was tied as runner up for The Borealis Music Prize’s shortlist, and is currently nominated for an ECMA.

Fun Fact 2:  The Hashbrowns released a very endearing family album that takes the cake for RPM kids music. See “The Potty Song” below.

Keep an eye on UnpossibleNL’s RPM Challenge page: they have some cool stuff happening this year, from RPM songs playing at the Loop and social get togethers, to Band Name Generators and random RPM song players. Also, get in touch with The Overcast about your RPM projects this February, we wanna hear the albums! chad@theovercast.ca.

About Author

Chad Pelley

Chad Pelley is an author, songwriter, and journalist who wrote for publications like the Globe & Mail and The Telegraph-Journal before founding The Overcast. Now he spends 25 hours a day keeping up with his email, and has no time to be his former self.

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