The Northwest is a 5-piece band from the Sault made up of Wayne Watkins on vocals/guitar, Mike Yakasovich (also sometimes known as Yak) on guitar/vocals, Greg Callaghan on guitar/vocals and (man about town - no, we didn’t ask), Mike Smykacz on bass guitar, and Marc Santos on drums.
With two albums under their belt, the group recently released their latest single, Long Hair (Longer Nights) from their forthcoming third EP, All In.
The lyric from the lead single signals an anthemic, upbeat and positive sound that has been noticed by the likes of Hockey Night in Canada.
“The world is burning and at this point its hard to contain
Emotions run high and we're all looking for a better day”
And a better day came.
“We were watching the Leafs last week and heard it during the game. ‘Long Hair (Longer Nights)’ was played to the Leafs’ music between whistles. The day after we released ‘Long Hair (Longer Nights)’ it was also featured on Hockey Night in Canada for both the Edmonton and Vancouver games,” says Watkins.
“Those were really cool moments for us.”
For a band who self-describe as “heartland rock with a little Canadiana and a lot of riffs,” the recent exposure is a big deal.
It is a success that has come out of some unsure times over the past few years, with their album being written in the middle of the pandemic.
“It posed some challenges as getting together to write and rehearse would depend on whatever lockdown situation was happening,” says Mike Yakasovich.
“Lots of voice memos were sent back and forth and we really utilized cloud-based recording programs to demo ideas when we couldn’t get together.”
Watkins notes that some of the songs the band worked on were demos from as far back as 2019.
“I would spend time during the first lockdown and well all of 2020 into 2021 really focused on strong melodies,” he says.
The album was recorded at Unsalted Audio with Dustin Goodall and Bill Priddle in charge of engineering, mixing and production.
“It was a fantastic and professional experience working with them,” says Yakasovich.
“The level of detail they put into the songs was incredible, there were a lot of long nights of tracking instruments and vocals but well worth it in the end. The amount of attention and patience they give to artists is remarkable as well, I don’t think I saw either of those guys bored on their phone once during the process. They were totally committed to the project.”
Watkins agrees, while throwing a good natured jab at Priddle.
“I only got mad at Bill three times maybe four,” he laughs.
“If I didn’t get mad at Bill than he wouldn’t have been doing his job. It was a team approach.”
The band members agree that, although this is officially their third release, it feels like their first.
For them, the album captures all the elements that people who have seen them live would expect.
“It’s fun, anthemic and loud,” laughs Yakasovich.
Watkins adds, “We are ‘familiar’ [in that we] we get a lot of different references. We are rock band influenced by many other sub genre of rock bands with a dash of pop. I love pop hooks.”
The first music video released from the album is for the single “Long Hair (Longer Nights).”
The video produced with Two Point Productions, which is Jimmie Chiverelli and Zack Trunzo’s film company.
“Greg [Callaghan] had worked and acted in their short films and it came right around a time where we needed a music video and they had never done one before, so it was a first experience for everyone,” says Watkins
Callaghan further explains the connection to the video director team.
“Mike and I actually played in a band called Terminal with Jimmie and our friend Julie Myers about 15 years ago,” he says.
“He's a dude who knows more about music and film than anyone else we know so it seemed like a no-brainer to bring him and Zack onboard. Having worked behind the scenes and in front of the camera on a few of their projects, I knew they run a tight ship while still being the friendliest guys in the dang world, which is a rare balance to find.”
When thinking about a location for the video shoot for “Long Hair (Longer Nights),” Callaghan reached out to Paul Coccimiglio of Coch's Corner on Queen Street.
“Coch's wasn't open to the public at the time but he agreed to let us use the space,” he says.
“The dude's always been solid like that and I think we all have a lot of memories of good times at Coch's, both at the current location and back when it was in the old Days Inn [now a Holiday Inn Express]. It perfect to be able to shoot a video in a venue that they actually have an attachment to.”
The band gathered a crew of friends and essentially had a party on film.
“I think the results speak for themselves,” says Callaghan, noting song had an intentionally upbeat and positive vibe.
“The song was written during the first lockdown and is about all the tension and anxiety that came with it and wanting to break free.”
The press release for the single, noted that the song is for “all those people spending the last two years aching to watch real-life rock and roll from the bar floors and stadium seats again.”
“It was almost our way of telling ourselves ‘this will pass and we will get to connect with people again,’” says Callaghan.
The band has also just released a second video for the song, “Shoreline.”
“Andrew Sowka [from the band Summersets, that also features Kalle Mattson] directed that video,” says Watkins.
“Really how that all came about was my love towards Kalle’s Summersets project. I loved the imagery and loved how the lyric videos came together and told the story of the song. So I reached out to Kalle and needed the guy! Turns out it was Andrew, his band mate.”
For a group that considers themselves a “live band” that needs that energy from a crowd to express themselves, the lack of gigging was challenging for The Northwest.
Fortunately, that situation is changing.
“Yes, there will be some exciting announcements soon,” says Watkins.
The Northwest’s EP All In will be officially released on June 10 and will be available on all the expected streaming platforms.