By Keith Sharp
With all the new artists arriving on the national (and international music scene), due to the advent of social media, The Music Express is launching a new editorial feature spotlighting some of these “new faces” Our spotlight will include artists and groups from all over Canada, the only criteria being is that they have an interesting story to tell. First up is Antigonish, Nova Scotia-based Andre Pettipas And The Giants.
So, what do you do when you are a relatively new musical entity based in the Maritimes with two independent albums to your credit but are forced into a two-year layoff due to the COVID pandemic before establishing yourself nationally?
In the case of Andre Pettipas And The Giants, you haul your four-man group westwards to Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo venue last September and, over a two-night performance stint, record a live album titled ‘Andre Pettipas And The Giants Live At The El Mocambo.’
“It was a super-cool experience,” noted Pettipas from his Antigonish homestead, who fronts the band with brother Travis (bass), Mark Cosh (drums) and John MacDonald on guitar. “After two years of not playing, we got to perform two nights at the El Mo, it was my 30th birthday, and I got the feeling we are on the right path.”
“For those people who don’t know who we are, it is a great way to introduce ourselves,” Pettipas noted. “We combined the 13 tracks off our second album, ‘No Fools No Fun,’ with four tracks off our debut release ‘Stay Gold’ and added five new tracks for a 22-track album release. It’s a compilation of what we have been doing for the past seven years.”
Formed in 2014 in Antigonish (also home of The Trews), the band came together after Pettipas survived a near-fatal case of encephalitis. “Given that second chance at life, my brother Travis came back from working in Alberta, and we also teamed up with Mark to form a group. With McDonald joining the trio, the band tagged their sound ‘Grease Coast Rock ‘N Roll.’ We wanted to establish a live rock sound, to prove that classic rock was still alive,” Pettipas noted. “This band is all about playing live, and no two performances are ever the same.”
They released their debut album ‘Stay Gold’ in 2015, but their big break came when the band entered a track, “A Long Way From Home” (featuring ace fiddle player Ashley MacIsaac) which won a Q-104 Radio talent contest in 2017, providing the band with $15,000 worth of prizes including instruments from Long and McQuade and recording time at Coda Pop Studios in Halifax.
A proficient songwriter, Pettipas composed 13 tracks for that second release and even enticed Trews’ John Angus Macdonald (“Sympathy Card”) and Arkell’s frontman Max Kerman (“Dark Times”) to produce those tracks on the release.
‘No Fools No Fun’ was originally released as an EP in 2018 but was expanded to a full album in 2021 after the band had toured Canada and even performed at the Heart Festival in Orebro, Sweden.
Pettipas explained that their two-night recording stint at The El Mo was a nerve-wracking experience, but in-house engineer Doug McClement and sound technician Jamie Howieson put them at ease before their first performance. “We hadn’t played live in like two years; we knew we couldn’t suck, that we were being recorded live. So, Doug and Jamie took us out for supper. They tried to keep us calm and under control, and then they said, ‘Right, go up there and do your thing.’ And the first night came off great, with no backing tracks. And the second night was super easy.”
Andre Pettipas and The Giants are already working on their third studio album with sessions at The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Studios near Kingston, Ontario, and Prettipas says the band has a renewed commitment to keep pushing forward.
“We see other bands winning New Artist awards, and we are thinking, hey, we knew them 10 years ago, so we know you have to put the time in before you get recognized,” Pettipas noted. “Our feeling is that we’ve gone with this thing so far; we can’t give up now.”