Northern Wrath? Nah, Just Call Them Kane & Potvin

Northern Wrath? Nah, Just Call Them Kane & Potvin
By Keith Shrp

The Northern Pikes’ Bryan Potvin and The Grapes Of Wrath’s Kevin Kane are having fun thinking up new names for their new collaborative recording titled simply `Kane & Potvin as they sit around a table at the Roastery Restaurant in Toronto’s Liberty Village.
“Grapes of Pikes” doesn’t work” noted Kane, “But I like Northern Wrath”, chimed in Potvin. “Makes us sound like some Swedish Heavy Metal band.”
“Yes, just image if an audience thought that and we came on stage with our acoustic guitars and sat down in chairs,” laughed Kane, obviously amused by the perception.
Kane and Potvin are in great spirits as they sat down to promote their debut 11-song collaboration, self financed and released on their own Kilovoltage Recordings label.
Recorded in two brief sessions at co-producer Darryl Neudorf’s Operation Northwoods studio at Orangeville, Ontario, the tracks are a culmination of a performing partnership between the pair which had logged over 40 shows to date and is still an on-going project, even though both The Grapes Of Wrath and Northern Pikes are also still active.
Billed together at Casino Regina January 26th 2013, both bands got together for drinks afterwards and discussed how similar their styles of music were. “Kevin and I said we should get together sometime but nothing happened for about a year,”explained Potvin. “Then in early 2014, I ran into Kevin at Capsule Music in Toronto, we realized we only lived a few blocks from each other so we decided to get together with some guitars and see what happens.”
“There was never any plans to collaborate on anything, it was like `what are we going to do, play on each other’s songs?” added Kane. But in doing just that, they found they could add harmonies and new guitar parts to existing arrangements and just have a lot of fun with existing songs.
Initially, their plan was to book themselves as a co-billing but eventually they began performing together and both they and their audience enjoyed the way they re-worked existing material.
According to both Kane and Potvin, the next logical step was to plan a recording session and a decision was made to book Neudorf’s Operation Northwoods location, even though neither Kane nor Potvin had pre-prepared any demos.
“We just arrived there, sat down and said to each other, so what have you got?, and at the time neither one of us had anything,” Potvin laughed.” But we knew from past experience together that we would come up with something.”
“We had some sketches and some basic ideas but we have both been in the studio many times before so we just fell back and trusted the process, I think we were both curious as to what would happen,” added Kane.
ac21e4d86625ff98f62c0f428b559a92First day at the studio, Kane received a phone call from his brother. “I initially thought he was calling me to wish me a happy birthday but he was calling to say that our 80-year-old mother had been rushed to hospital, was about to undergo emergency surgery to take out her gall bladder and that she had already been given the last rites. So that formed the lyrical idea for `Going Home'”.
Writing individually and as a collaboration, Kane and Potvin laid down the tracks during two specific recording sessions in February and October 2015, completing the sessions over a total of 11 days with Neudorf (Blue Rodeo, Neko Case) who had co-produced Grapes Of Wrath’s 2013 `High Road’ release.
“We think it’s simplistic, we didn’t want to make it super dense, we wanted the sounds to breathe,” Kane explained. And was the result successful! “Well let’s say we have six more pieces already to go for the next record,” confirmed Potvin.
That Potvin and Kane would formulate this collaboration is hardly surprising considering their band’s similarities. Both the Pikes and The Grapes Of Wrath emerged from small Western Canadian cities at about the same time. The Pikes were launched out of Saskatoon in 1984 and Grapes of Wrath took shape in Kelowna B.C in 1983.
Both bands were signed by strong independant labels, the Pikes by Virgin Canada and The Grapes of Wrath by Vancouver-based Nettwerk. In each case, neither Potvin or Kane was the band’s principal songwriter.
With the Pikes, Jay Semko was the principal writer with Merl Bryck also contributing ideas, Potvin and drummer Glen Hollingshead just helping out with instrumental arrangements.
“With me it was a slow maturation process,” explained Potvin. Jay had a catalogue of songs that got the band up and running. It never crossed my mind to write but I received positive encouragement from Jay. There was no pressure on me to write but I could see there was pressure on Jay so I wanted to contribute more.”
Potvin’s first major contribution was “She Ain’t Pretty” for the band’s third album, the 1990 ‘Snow For June’ release – which proved to be the band’s most successful single! Whether Potvin’s success was the begining of the end of the band’s inital career, he isn’t saying but when his contribution “Believe” was the one hit single off their 1992 `Neptune’ follow-up, the Pikes folded shortly after.
“We didn’t fold because of musical differences, it was based more on a clash of personalities and substance abuse,” Potvin explained. “Everyone went their separate ways , got their shit together and was able to come back and resume work.
Aside from assembling a greatest hits package for Virgin, `Hits And Assorted Secrets’ in 1999, the band has maintained an independant approach on three subsequent releases and more recently, Potvin, Semko and drummer Don Schmidt have been playing the festival circuit as a three-piece.
Kane has known Chris Hooper since he was eight years old, growing up in Kelowna with Chris and his brother Tom. “We grew up together, learned our instruments together, our connection was a lot different than with other musicians.”
Ultimately though, the Hoopers are brothers and as Kane noted “Anyone who has been in a band with brothers knows you have additional internal challenges you have to deal with (think The Kinks, Oasis). Tom and Chris are not that bad as far as sibling rivalries go but there is a sibling relationship between them and I’m not blood with them and I never will be.
Kane split with the Hoopers after their fourth album, ‘These Days’ in 1991 citing musical differences, with the brothers moving on to call themselves ‘Ginger’ . Kane did reunite with Tom Hooper to tour as a duo in 1999 and this sparked the 2000 `Field Trip’ release which was tagged a Grapes Of Wrath record even though Chris Hooper did not participate in the recording.
However he did rejoin Kane and brother Tom at the Fusion Festival in Surrey B.C in 2010. “We hadn’t been on stage together in like 18 years, but second song in, it all came back to me as though we had never been away,” reflected Kane.
Since then, the trio have reformed for a number of dates and did record a new Grapes Of Wrath recording, `High Road’ in 2013. “Like the Pikes, The Grapes Of Wrath play about 20 dates a year, there are plans for another record but that still leaves Bryan and I time to play our own dates,”Kane explained.
Based on their spirited performance that night at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern, Kane and Potvin have forged an easy alience. There’s similarities in their writing and performance styles, they are happy to work around band committments and have already pencilled in dates for 2017.
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