Giving back is what the good ones do.
Going above and beyond?
So it’s not much of a surprise that Calgary alt folk act The Frontiers went there when it came time for a pretty excellent, incredibly necessary cause.
Sitting with frontman Drew Jones in the Ship & Anchor on a weekday afternoon, he admits that one of the pleasures of working in the band, the very nature of their sound, and the good hearts of every member of the local five-piece, has meant that they’ve been offered myriad opportunities to give back.
“We’re really easy to work with and we have a pretty good reputation for that,” the veteran songwriter says.
“Not-for profits come to us and want to use us, because the mainstream feel of the music is good for these types of events …In the last two years we’ve played for at least a dozen not-for profits and their main events.”
Above and beyond?
Well, that opportunity arose last September during another instance of giving back, when they were performing as part of a concert to commemorate National Suicide Awareness Day for the Calgary Centre for Suicide Prevention.
After their performance in front of luminaries and other organizations, the band was approached by members of the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, who were impressed by their music and invited them to play an upcoming CMHA event in Calgary.
That’s when The Frontiers decided to go those extra steps further, show their support and put their talents to use in a more tangible and lasting way.
“Looking at the logistics of it, it was like, ‘OK, it’s in January, we’re going to have months to prepare for this, let’s frickin’ write a song,’ ” Jones says, noting they pitched the idea of a song to raise awareness to the organization, and they were onboard, with the opportunity for the CMHA to use it in an promotional campaigns and obvious benefit.
“Everyone benefits, everyone wins.
The song, which is available for download for free from The Frontiers’ bandcamp site, is called The Moon In My Heart. It is, Jones says, in keeping with the perception of the band as one that’s “sensitive and honest,” and, musically, has that warmth, melody and easygoing charm that fans and followers have come to expect from the charming ensemble.
Jones began the process on his own, sitting down and strumming away acoustically, seeking that something to make it memorable. When it came to filling it with content fitting the cause, he took his mind back to a band roadtrip to Kimberley — the interior B.C. is one where they play often, their music plays well — and the moon looming large and luminous in the mountain sky.
“When the idea of ‘moon in my heart’ came out, it made sense. The moon has this ominous … sombre idea when you think about it. When you think about the moon, in contrast with the day, it’s usually the dark side, dark night of the soul,” Jones says.
“The Moon In My Heart, that phrase came to mind, and it was like, ‘That’s what the song should be about, that should be the chorus.’ The idea is that the moon is shining in my heart.”
With the hooks and the imagery to hang it on, the artist wrote the tune in an hour and took it to the rest of the band, who gave it the thumbs up, without wanting to make any changes to it.
After hitting local Slaughter House Studio for a four-hour session, The Frontiers — and the CMHA — were left with a song that speaks eloquently, emotionally about the common human experience of finding oneself in a difficult spot and dark time, and the hope there is and the lifelines that are available in getting out of them.
It’s a theme that Jones has first-hand experience with, his day-job working at the Mustard Seed as the volunteer services manager.
But it’s also one that he says he’s familiar with on a more personal level and was looking forward to sharing with the audience during CMHA’s development event on Monday night.
“I actually go to CMHA regularly for one-on-one counselling once a month,” he says, describing that as necessary “maintenance.”
“As Drew, as me, not speaking for the band, I do value mental health and for me going to a counsellor is more or less to keep myself in check,” he continues, noting that he assumes his case worker will actually be in attendance during the concert.
He laughs. “As most of us have, I’ve had some significant pitfalls to my life, and in those months, counselling means a little more, you know what I mean? But it’s good to just be in a rhythm.”
The Moon In My Heart is available to download for free or pay what you want at https://thefrontiers.bandcamp.com/releases.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. He likes beer. Buy him one.
Twitter/@mrbell_23 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.