PuSh Festival Aboriginal Performance Series - Ghostkeeper Interview

PuSh Festival 2012 presents the Aboriginal Performance Series, kicking off tomorrow with BeatNation live, showcasing some of the west coasts finest! Redwire interviews Ghostkeeper’s Sarah Houle.

Tomorrow kicks off the first of events in PuSh festivals exciting and excellently curated Aboriginal Performance Series, featuring a diverse array of talent including the highly acclaimed Almighty Voice and His Wife debuting in Salish City from Toronto’s Native Earth Performing Arts. Also debuting at the festival a making the journey from Auckland, New Zealand is No.2, a production featuring Madeleine Sami reflecting on Fijian matriarchy. Veteran actor Michael Greyeyes will also be delivering a keynote on staging ethnicity. Tomorrow evening is definitely not to be missed as BeatNation live presents a multimedia revelry, beginning the series with a powerful note featuring Ostwelve, Kinnie Starr, Cris Derksen and many others.
Out of town musical guests Ghostkeeper will be performing their unique blend of blues and folk with a subtle sixties psychedelic twist on February 3rd. They are currently signed Flemish Eye Records and are capturing the hearts of music lovers with indie persuasion across North America. We had the opportunity to interview Sarah Houle, visual artist, drummer, and vocalist for Ghostkeeper…

(full event listings to follow)


Artwork by Sarah Houle

RW: First off could you introduce yourself, and where you’re from?

SH: Sarah Houle from Paddle Prairie, Metis Settlement, I’m currently living in Calgary.

RW: How did Ghostkeeper form as a band?

SH: Shane and I starting playing together when we were living up north and we bought a drum kit off the local christian church. We decided to move to Calgary that spring to start focusing on art and music. Through a good friend of ours, Lorrie Matheson, we recruited Jay Crocker and after various changes to our line up we are now playing with sound tech Brad Hawkins, Ian Jarvis on bass, Jay on guitar/gadgets, Shane on guitar and lead vocals and me on drums and vocals, we all sing some parts.

RW: How has your Metis heritage informed the music you create?

SH: Our songs definitely have a narrative to them ranging from fantastical to biographical, so in this respect the storytelling both Shane and I grew up with is reflected in the music.

RW: Ghostkeeper seems to have a very visual as well as audio component to it when you look at the videos, can you talk more about this?

SH: The audio and visual are pretty tightly intertwined in this project. When we first moved to Calgary I was in my second year at art school, the work I was doing there gradually began to overlap with Ghostkeeper as we got more involved in the music. Together Shane and I develop visual concepts influenced by the music or sometimes the music is inspired by something visual. We try and experiment with different processes,often this means working with other local artists, photographers and craftspeople to see what we can come up with.

RW: Your debut album was dedicated to the people of the Northern Muskeg, how did this landscape influence the music you created?

SH: There is something very beautiful about the north. It is made up of so many extremes, cold and dark in the winter and long days in the summer, we get heavy fogs because of the muskeg and there are thickly wooded areas with lots of wildlife. It is haunting and inspiring.

RW: Currently this territory is undergoing unfortunate exploitation due to the oil sands, this is a very daunting topic. What are your perspectives on it? Do you feel hopeful?

SH: It is sad to see such a large untouched part of the province turned into a grid work of land parcels to be bid on for “exploration” but at the same time there are so many people depending on this industry to support their families. It is a daunting topic for sure, not one that is easily summed up. I think if we can gradually depend less and less on oil and gas and explore other ways of making a living that can enrich our lives and communities then things will start to change in a more positive direction.

RW: A Metis or Native band in the Canadian indie music scene is a rarity. Have you experienced any challenges or has it not been an issue?

SH: With the latest trends of wearing moccasins or Indie band photos sporting teepees and warpaint I think one of the funniest things we have encountered is not being “Native” enough. So since our non-native counterparts are wearing headdresses and using Aboriginal terms to name their band and/or songs we have to find an honest way in how we want to participate and portray ourselves in popular culture. Our challenge is to create sincere songs and imagery that go beyond stereotypes and trends.

RW: What advice do you have for Native youth wishing to enter into the music industry?

SH: Play music that is based on your personal experiences not on a genre. Get involved with your local music scene or start a local music scene if there isn’t one.

Music Video for Ghostkeeper track “Spring Fever” by Sarah Houle



Aboriginal Performance Series:

Presented with Theatre Conspiracy
Jan 25, Club PuSh at Performance Works. 8PM
Beat Nation Live is a cross platform collective that brings together visual artists, writers and musicians—sharing the vibrant spirit of contemporary indigenous culture through hip hop, live music and digital technology. The collective features a multiplicity of acclaimed First Nations artists including hip hop chanteuse Kinnie Starr, MC and rapper Ostwelve, electronic cellist Cris Derksen, video mash-up artist Jackson 2Bears, Haida artist Corey Bulpitt, muralist Gurl 23 with the Tangible Interaction Digital Graffiti Wall and JB The First Lady.

NO. 2
Toa Fraser (Auckland, New Zealand)
Presented with The Cultch
Jan 31–Feb 4, The Cultch. 8PM
An ancient, cantankerous Fijian matriarch decides at 4 am one morning that her time is up, and orders her grandson to organize a feast where she will name her successor.

Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto, Canada)
Presented with Touchstone Theatre and Pi Theatre
Feb 1–4, Waterfront Theatre. 8PM, Matinee Feb 4. 4PM
First Nations playwright Daniel David Moses tells the story of a Cree man arrested for killing a cow without a license, and the ensuing manhunt that gives rise to his status as a martyr and a legend.

Presented as part of the PuSh Assembly
Feb 2, Performance Works. 6PM
A thought-provoking manifesto on the inherent complexities of staging ethnicity—what defines “native” theatre, what the public expects it to be, and how this impacts both those who create and those who experience it.

Presented with Theatre Conspiracy
Feb 3, Club PuSh at Performance Works. 10PM
A colourful patchwork of heartfelt, outsider blues and noisy pop by Calgary-based musicians Shane Ghostkeeper and Sarah Houle.

Push Festival Website:

Connected with the Aboriginal Performance Series, is a ticket accessibility program for members of First Nations communities. If you or your organization is interested in learning more, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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