Lightheartedly known as “The Best Ukrainian Band in Newfoundland,” they’re certainly that. But they’re also consistently touted as the Best Local Band to See Live, and not just according to this year’s People’s Choice Polls in The Overcast.
This fall, they took home the trophy for MusicNL’s Entertainer of the Year. Their wild, engaging, infectious stage presence at that award gala had the entire room was stomping along, despite the fact that many in the crowd were only hearing them for the first time. They earned the only standing ovation at an evening featuring the province’s finest musical acts.
“We were completely shocked by the response we received from the audience at the MusicNL Awards Gala,” frontman Brian Cherwick declares with honesty. “We were honoured just to be asked to be part of the show. The producers had asked if we could play something upbeat to contrast with some of the more mellow pieces that other performers were doing. I guess we caught the audience by surprise.”
One visible difference setting this Ukranian folk rock band apart from other local acts is Brian’s use of an instrument called a tsymbaly. It looks like the inside of a piano, and it’s played by hitting strings with what looks like a little hammer.
“It is the Ukrainian version of the hammered dulcimer,” Brian explains. “It was most popular in the western part of Ukraine where the majority of the early Ukrainian settlers to Canada (including my great-grandparents) came from. It continued to be really popular in Ukrainian bands in western Canada up until the 1980s. People used to say that if you had a violin and a tsymbaly you had a whole band. If you had a violin, tsymbaly, and drum you had an orchestra!”
Cherwick says he’s keen on the instrument because it can play melody, harmony, and percussive parts all at the same time. “It helps give the dance music of Ukraine its distinctive sound and drive,” he explains, “Also, it looks weird so people notice it. It has even become exotic for Ukrainians.”
Cherwick says Ukranian music comes in many genres. “Some of it is the fast dance music, like the type we often play, but much of it is complex lyrical music. We play that from time to time as well. There are some distinctive scales and modes that are used (often the minor sounding ones) that are a bit different than what we usually hear in other music. There are also some unusual rhythmic patterns. And, to state the obvious, I guess the fact that the words are in Ukrainian would make it different too.”
As for the Kubasonics’ unique and lively spin on their genre, Cherwick chuckles “we tend to push the envelope on the high energy side. Even compared to other Ukrainian bands, we tend to take it up a notch.”
Keep an eye out for their next show, and get out to see what all the fuss is about. They’ll be playing us a song on December 21st at the Borealis Music Prize Party, since they’re up for the award.
Half the band is Cherwick’s talented relatives (Maria and Jacob, solo musicians in their own rights), and the other half is everyone’s favourite local bassist and guitarist, Matt Hender and Darren “Boobie” Browne. Readers of The Overcast have said it themselves: it doesn’t get much better than that.
Also, if this article has piqued your interested in the group, Brian has been running a podcast called Kubfunland, check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/kubasonics/sets/kubfunland-podcasts
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