For some musicians the isolation of the Kootenays may provide challenges, but for local band The Automation, the mountains helped bring band members together and foster a unique sound.
The band began two years ago when Shane Johnsen who does guitars, vocals and synths combined with Alan Black on drums.
“We were looking for something to do together after working together for a little bit,” said Black. “Shane approached me with a bunch of new material that he thought we could work on. That’s what I like to do, to write and record so we started doing a lot of writing.”
The Automation spent about a year writing songs and solidifying their sound.
“We stayed locked away for a year just crafting what it is we wanted to do,” said Johnsen. “This was one of the first projects that when I came to Al we really tried to stay on a path. We tried to focus on creating an EP that was fairly defined and had a mood that was consistent.
In December 2011, The Automation released their EP to a packed house at Spiritbar.
“What was amazing to me was how many young people we had out,” said Johnsen. “It was really cool to see because to gauge where they’re at and be able to connect with them is great.”
Marc-Andre Hamlin plays synths, piano and organ for The Automation and Jen Courchesne joins Johnsen on vocals and plays bass.
“Al and I did an album previous to The Automation with another band and I brought Marc in on keys to help with a couple parts,” said Johnsen. “He’s just a great player and was hinting at the Gary Numan sounds and some of the things I like, so bringing him in was pretty easy. Jen was a amazing fit because she brings a whole other vocal side to the band that I can’t achieve being a male vocalist. That’s been very cool as well.”
The Automation was recently nominated for three awards Kootenay Music Awards: Best new band, best album and best song.
Music has been a recurrent theme in the lives of Johnsen and Black since they were kids.
“I remember hearing a track on CCR album. There was a drum beat and I thought maybe the drums were an instrument I could play,” said Black.
Despite playing a lot of instruments from the trombone to the accordion, Black eventually gravitated to the drums.
For Johnsen, it was the guitar solo at the end of Let’s Go Crazy on Prince’s Purple Rain that drew him to the guitar.
“It was the most incredible thing I’d ever heard,” he said.
Their punk rock past combined with new wave influences creates the base for the music of The Automation.
“I find I can apply my more punk sensibilities to what Shane is writing while also always being pulled back to the disco four-on-four beat that everyone likes so much for dancing,” said Black.
“I played in a lot of punk bands in my 20s so I draw on that,” said Johnsen. “But there is also late new wave is where I was drawing from for The Automation and with today’s technology and living in the mountains we have a new take on that as well.”
With the festival season on the horizon, Black and Johnsen are hoping The Automation will be playing stages from Vancouver to Montreal.
Black and Johnsen are also using their musical experience to record and produce albums through their recording studio Mopus Studios.
“We’ve been collaborating on recording projects for a while,” said Johnsen. “It made sense. We each have our own rooms and spaces but our collaboration can offer a great experience to people.”
Mopus Studios is currently recording the album for Nelson band Chinese for Travellers.