Last week, I shared The Rain, the latest single from up-and-coming Toronto indie-rockers Black Creek Reign. You can read all about it HERE. This week, the gents (or at least two of them) were kind enough to sit down and play 20 questions with me. Here’s how it went:
It’s Darren and Lex here, born and raised in Toronto. Jake couldn’t make it but he’s here in spirit, and probably making sourdough bread. The three of us make up Black Creek Reign.
Darren: I’ve been active in the music scene for several years now, performing with different bands, being a session guy at Cleveland Sound Lab & MH Studios, and songwriting for my band Black Creek Reign and various other artists upon request.
Lex: Accidental musician here, I share the songwriting duties with Darren and play bass.
What is your musical origin story?
D: I was dragged to piano lessons as a kid, and never really cared for it at first. But after a couple of years, I switched teachers, and was being instructed by this AWESOME Russian pianist. He was absolutely fantastic, and breathed new life into what was on the page. He was the guy who really ignited my love for music, and I’ll always be grateful for that. Because of him, I actually practiced, and more importantly, began to LOVE it. It doesn’t get more important than that for a musician. Ever since then, I’ve taken up the guitar and singing, and even pursued music at a post-secondary level.
L: Kind of similar, funny enough. My dad was a symphony bassist, he played upright, but decided to give it up for more stable work. I was also dragged kicking and screaming into piano lessons, and went through the Royal Conservatory on piano. Piano didn’t really grip me, I started playing trumpet in school and played jazz all through high school, eventually switched to guitar around sixteen and played for a year before I dropped everything until I was about 24. So it’s been a pretty breakneck reintroduction for me.
D: As for Black Creek Reign, we began after a previous project fell apart. Differing egos and pulling in different musical directions didn’t sit well anymore, and we took what we had, ignited some funk, rock, and reggae into the mix, and began exploring this new sound. We booked ourselves some gigs, and started playing through the city, and we’re having a blast doing it. Hopefully, our latest release of The Rain continues to propel our momentum forward in this industry.
What’s your latest project? Tell us everything we need to know.
D: The Rain is our latest single release. It’s a driving rock track that sounds like Santana is making a revival in 2020. We recorded it on totally analog equipment, to really give it that old school feel, and are privileged enough to have it mixed and mastered in Orange County, California. The Rain can be about whatever you make it.
L: For us it was a throwback to a style of music we really like, and we’re really excited for people to hear it.
What truly sets you apart from other artists?
We believe our unique blend of funk and rock (with a dash of reggae) is what sets us apart from most other bands. A lot of bands can do one thing really well, but we’ve been consistently assured by both audience members, and other bands, that we’re successfully bringing ALL of those genres to life on stage. Our inclusion of covers, and a consistently changing set list also set us apart, as we always try to keep a balance of old tracks that our fans know, and new ones to keep them coming back. We love putting forward the songs we love, and playing them because they resonate with us, and that says a lot about how we feel. And we’re betting people feel the same too.
What will I learn or how will my life improve by listening to your music?
D: You may find yourself relating to heartbreak differently after listening to our music, or interpreting a social issue with a perspective you may not have thought about. We try and write things that are meaningful to us, but we all have different viewpoints to stories. Our greatest hope, is that our viewpoints align, and what we’re saying in our songs will resonate with you. Whether it’s about the corruption of televangelism, or about being left for someone else, we hope that we’ll bring a fresh perspective to a story you may already be familiar with.
What album / song / artist / show changed your life?
D: The year is 2006, a terrible mustache, and teenage awkwardness had set in rapidly. I had already been playing the piano for several years, but I was noticing around my high school that the guitar players were the ones who were surrounded by women. Apparently, you can’t lug a piano around to the campfire, so I was very left out of any opportunities to meet new people or make new friends, or even impress people when we had school excursions (most of which ended up around a campfire, with someone clumsily strummed Wonderwall). It was then and there I decided I wanted to play the guitar. At first, it really was just an attempt to be included, but when the guitar players around my school were buzzing about this John Mayer character, I wanted to take a listen myself. I was not disappointed. How John Mayer feels about Stevie Ray Vaughan is exactly the way I feel about him. Everything changed for me the minute I heard the introduction to Waiting On The World To Change. I was absolutely floored that he could make a guitar sound like that, and fuse songs that were still catchy and singable, with lush guitar arrangements. That’s when it stopped being about something as juvenile as attracting women, it became about the guitar, no more, no less. This album further awakened me to the genuine love of nothing but the music, and the joy you can get from creating, and performing.
L: I’ve always been a big fan of grunge. Nevermind was big for me, Ten by Pearl Jam. It’s incredible how one artist can lead you down a path of where their influences are, back to SRV, then Hendrix, and then like Albert King and Chuck Berry, then Robert Johnson. It all comes around full circle. But somewhere in here is still a heavy, sweaty, thirteen year-old who really digs Heart-Shaped Box.
Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played and what you got paid.
D: The very first song I ever wrote about, was about a relationship that didn’t work out due to nothing but cultural differences. It was the first time I was whipped up into such a frenzy that I just had to put words and music to the experience. I was shocked by the injustice of the whole situation, and up until that point I was writing poetry to express myself. But this moved me and shook me to my very core at the time, and a simple poem wasn’t going to cut it. I remember pulling out my acoustic guitar and strumming this chord progression I liked. All of a sudden, I found myself humming a melody, and one thing led to another, and I began constructing a song. It was a beautiful moment, I remember being so proud of something that I created. I took pride in knowing this was such a healthy way to take negative energy and emotion, and flip it into something that could put a smile on my face. Dozens of songs and years later, I haven’t looked back since.
L: That was Culture Shock, which we actually recorded and released as our last single. It’s a terrific song, especially for a first attempt, frankly it’s unbelievable. The first song I wrote I don’t even remember, but it was probably some terrible Jack White wannabe thing better left forgotten.
What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you gave?
D: One that stands out to me is when we were slated to play at the East Coast music festival in Toronto (?!). No others bands showed up to the Hideout, only us. The crowd consisted of some international people who were looking to get their drink on, and we decided to be rock stars that night. Instead of playing for the allotted 40 minutes, we stayed on stage for 80. Song after song after song had the crowd going wild, and we really felt like we stepped into another gear. Afterwards, it was high fives all around, and we couldn’t have been prouder for going with our gut and breaking the rules. It’s what music is about, isn’t it?
What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen another artist give?
D: Our very first live performance was for NXNE 2016, and we were on 2nd I believe. The closer of the night was a killer funk band called ColinResponse. They absolutely slaughtered it, and really drove home the fact that we had a long way to go to even be in the same universe as those guys. I’ll never forget it.
L: We were down in LA a few years ago and saw a guy at an open mic put pop songs on the sound system and play shred guitar over-top of them. That was… something alright. Best? John Mayer is a pretty special performer, he’s better live than on the record.
What living or dead artists would you collaborate with if you could?
D: Literally all of them. Name them and we likely would. Jim Morrison & The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Prince, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley….you get the point.
L: Rory Gallagher would be cool to see live, if not collaborate with.
What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
D: I actually grew up on country music. You wouldn’t normally associate that with a family from the Caribbean, but boy did we crank Garth Brooks and Shania Twain when I was a kid.
L: My dad was a big country guy too. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, a lot of Johnny Cash. I’m also a huge sucker for mid-’00s pop. Toxic is peak Britney and an absolute jam.
What are your favourite songs / albums / artists right now?
D: I’ve really been getting into Stevie Wonder as of late, and his live album from 1995 Natural Wonder is really doing it for me these days. The band is so tight, his voice is so good, it’s a phenomenal listen from front to back if you get the chance.
L: Marcus King and Christone Ingram. Always some John Mayer in the rotation, Ed Sheeran too. Lewis Capaldi is great, Buddy Guy has been in there, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Tom Misch. It’s pretty eclectic.
How about some other favourites? Authors / movies / painters / philanthropists / you name it.
D: It’s pretty cool right now to see a lot of celebrities stepping up to the plate and donating money to all the individuals being detained for protesting right now. That whole situation is a mess, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected.
L: Yeah what’s going on in the US is extremely worrying, and probably indicative of huge systemic problems that need to be addressed. Hats off to the people who are taking care of the protesters: Gabrielle Union, Chrissy Tiegen, J Cole, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, John Boyega, and many others I’m sure.
Who would you be (or have you been) starstruck to meet?
D: John Mayer. It would not surprise me if I cried.
L: Same, I think. Dave Chappelle, or Arnie maybe? I don’t get starstruck too easily.
What do you want to drive and why?
D: A Jaguar F-Type. It’s a phenomenal car and if you’ve got an extra $100,000 is a top rated performance car! Why WOULDN’T you want it.
L: Tesla. Those things are like driving a spaceship, it makes normal cars feel dumb.
What superpower do you want and how would you use it?
D: I’d love to just be Wolverine. I’d fight so many wannabe idiots on a Friday night at REBEL, I’d have a blast. In all seriousness, the whole superhero vigilante thing seems like the right thing to do, so I’d do my part is fighting legitimate evil.
L: The power to move you. That’s telekinesis, Kyle.
What skills — useful or useless — do you have outside of music?
D: I’m a really good partner for Call of Duty Zombies. Whether you find that useful or useless is your call.
What current trend or popular thing do you not understand at all?
D: Anything on TikTok. It’s so dumb.
If you could have any other job besides music, what would it be and why?
D: I’d probably just stick with my day job in the City of Toronto, It’s really not that bad, and the people are super cool.
L: I act in Toronto, I do quite a bit of theatre and small short films and stuff. It’s always been a dream of mine to do the Jamie Foxx thing and be able to live in both worlds.
What’s the best advice advice you were ever given?
D: This is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone’s journey is different, and it’s important to stick to your own path instead of trying to be like someone else. Authenticity speaks volumes, and the music still matters.