Lakes of Canada
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Lakes of Canada

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Rock Progressive


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Cultural Studies: Every album is a story, so cue the artistic resurgence of the long-play format"

A rift may have opened in the space-time continuum in the UK this April. Homo Erraticus, a recording by Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson that crams “8,400 years of history into 50 minutes of music,” hit No. 6, while caped keyboardist Rick Wakeman took his forty-year-old opus Journey to the Centre of the Earth on a tour complete with orchestra and choir. These weren’t isolated incidents: although the ‘70s aren’t back full-throttle, the concept album certainly is.

In 2014, suites of songs with narrative and thematic progression aren’t just the domain of progressive rockers. The Roots’s And then You Shoot Your Cousin is, according to drummer/lyricist ?uestlove, “an analysis of stereotypes perpetuated in not only the hip-hop community, but in the community”; on American Interior, Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys reimagines the 18th-century search by Welshman John Evans for a mythical Welsh-speaking tribe of native Americans; Arcadia by Ramon Lisa (a.k.a. Chairlift frontwoman Caroline Polachek) is “a concept album of love songs that are nature allegories”; folk veterans Steeleye Span’s Wintersmith is based on the work of comedic fantasist Terry Pratchett; and Rihanna is planning a concept album based on the DreamWorks film Home.

This last project is obviously commercial, but most concept albums seem to be labours of love. As streaming revenue becomes increasingly important, the commercial incentive to release albums is ebbing away, and with it the cynical practice of surrounding one or two hits with umpteen filler songs – people will simply skip the tracks they don’t like. The album, if it survives, may come to be more of an artistic statement.

It needn’t, however, be pretentious. For Montreal turntablist Kid Koala (a.k.a. Eric San), musical storytelling is second-nature. His group Deltron 3030 will play music from their second concept album, Event 2, to close the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 6, and San will also present his graphic novel Nufonia Must Fall with puppets and a live soundtrack on June 7-9 at Toronto’s Luminato. His very earliest influences, he says, were storybook records with “a balance between [music] and spoken-word scenes with sound effects. Even [with] comedy, like the Monty Python or Cheech & Chong records that I was really into as a kid, you could put your headphones on and you were right there with them, when Pedro tries to sneak his friend into the drive-thru – you could imagine yourself in this fully-featured world that you had to commit to.”

Set in a totalitarian future, Event 2 meshes futuristic sound effects with strings and horns, and stuffs genres and moods from the bleak to the off-the-wall into a hyper-dense mix. This is the concept album reimagined for the 21st century, dealing with surveillance and the erosion of society. “All of the politics in the record is informed by reality,” says San. He admits people may ask themselves, “‘When am I going to be in the mood to listen to that?’ Well, if you have the same attitude towards weird things that are going on in the world right now, it’ll resonate.”

Also in the science fiction-concept vein of Rush’s 2112 is Transgressions, the new second album from Montreal’s Lakes of Canada, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The music is energetically grandiose, with choral and orchestral folk-rock evoking the classical origins of the concept album in oratorios and orchestral tone poems. According to frontman Jake Smith, “Making it clear that you’re trying to tell one whole overarching story gives people that extra incentive to listen” all the way through, but the band had no plan to record such an album. He happened upon The Handmaid’s Tale while cleaning up his mother’s house after she was murdered, allegedly by a drifter, and found himself taken by the dystopian story about the subjugation of women. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” says Smith, and he ended up with a record’s worth of “Margaret Atwood fan fiction,” expanding on the novel. Atwood herself has given her blessing, and the band hopes to tap her following for new listeners.

Concept albums can curb their natural self-indulgence by paying tribute to bands’ influences. For Jason Couse, frontman for Toronto’s The Darcys, they engage listeners on an intertextual level, so it’s not a matter of “some band being really full of themselves and making a really long, difficult, meandering song.” The Darcys’ Hymn for a Missing Girl (released June 3rd by Arts & Crafts) is a 21-minute instrumental piece based on the end of Cormac McCarthy’s bloody, elegiac Western novel Cities of the Plain. Nowadays, says drummer Wes Marskell, “Even if you made a concept album, people would just grab the single and stream it; we forced the album together by making it just one song.” The piece shifts from forlorn a cappella vocals to ambient eeriness to pulsing dance music to gnarled rock, but it craftily weaves together melodic ideas and textures in a cohesive way.

The music is meant to suggest the book’s emotive quality, as the protagonist searches for his missing lover and comes to a realization about his life. “McCarthy runs him through this gamut of existential understanding and the spectrum of personal emotion in a short number of pages,” says Couse. To universalize their music, they forwent lyrics, and the song’s advance streams have been drawing international attention, including offers for film soundtrack work. They plan to commission a film as the soundtrack to the music that soundtracks the book; they’ll play the music live to soundtrack the film.

In performance, the concept album offers exciting alternatives to run-of-the-mill tours. Smith looks forward to playing Transgressions front-to-back on June 21st at Toronto’s NXNE, and San enthuses about how, in Montreal, a 16-piece orchestra will recreate Event 2’s “classical width of sound.” Of course, playing live is crucial to bands’ revenues, so there’s even more method to such conceptual madness. Or as Del the Funky Homosapien raps on Event 2, “I said introduce deeper concepts / He told me ‘Hell nah fool, it wouldn’t profit’ / What do you mean it wouldn’t?” - The National Post

"NXNE Reviews: Unfinished Business' Girl Punk, Rhye's Contrato Croon, Kelela's Electro Soul, Alvvays' Melancholic Pop"

Lakes of Canada @ Tranzac

Lakes of Canada's upcoming release is a concept record based on Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," and their set featured that material heavily. If you knew you were looking for it, it showed. The set played like a bunch of moods and themes, from a forceful, warlike opener heavy with percussion to songs that felt more like small, short, bridging chapters in an overarching narrative. Because of the source material, this was to expected; there was a natural episodic quality to the way the set was laid out and performed.

The music on the whole was too: conceptual rock from a concept record requires unconventional construction. We heard lots of different styles, vibes and moods throughout the night. The interesting thing was that it actually sounded like music that wouldn't be out of place as the background score to a dystopian film. I can't explain it any better than that. It's almost as if there's a common, explicable, perceivable bond between dystopian literature and music made about a dreary fucked-up future. Maybe there is. Or Maybe Lakes of Canada stumbled upon something big here.
- Dave Jaffer - Huffington Post

"Lakes of Canada return to NXNE"

Montreal band Lakes of Canada have made the FernTV "Top 10 Acts @ NXNE" along with a previous year's CBC picks of the festival. While their sound has evolved to a more indie-rock, they maintain their strong vocal harmonies, and onstage energetic sets.

Lakes of Canada
photo by Julie Taxil
Their second full-length album is a concept album based on Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" produced by Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes.

Ahead of their NXNE showcase at the Tranzac in Toronto's Annex, the Lakes of Canada scheduled an online interview with

How have all the other showcases you've done prepared you for NXNE?

Lakes of Canada:
Well, the first year we played there we had a small house but a lot of press so we had some solid buzz building for the following year (last year). When we played last year we not only played to a packed house but we were coming off of releasing a couple of live videos that were getting some solid buzz. Because of that we were among CBC's top ten picks of the festival and we also ended up on the industry daily bulletin of "Bands you've never heard of but should have".

As a result of that (and the upcoming release of our new record and some buzz via CBC and The National Post) our upcoming showcase should do pretty well.

We have 3 live performances (two on TV one for a high profile blog) while we're at NXNE and we already have a lot of industry people confirmed as coming to our showcase.

We've been starting the publicity campaign for the upcoming record and as such we should have a really packed showcase this year.

Aside from the mentioned publicity, are there any goals for NXNE as far as hearing other artists? Conference events?

Lakes of Canada:
Well, unfortunately we have a show in Montreal on the 19th and we have to be back home for Sunday night, so Friday night is our only night to see shows and the rest of our time (other than our showcase) will be spent in interviews, performances, and meetings. Actually, that's probably not so unfortunate, just a bummer that we won't see more bands. Not sure who we're going to see on Friday yet though, there's a crazy line up to choose from.

Let's talk about new audiences. NXNE draws a lot of venue-hoppers, and wristband holders - what about LoC would you say draws in new fans passing by?

Lakes of Canada:
Well, this year is a bit different for us. We drastically changed our sound with this new record. We've gone from light Folk Rock to Gospel/Soul Prog. Also the record itself is a concept album based on Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". We'll be performing that record front to back at our showcase this year, so people will be able to hear the whole thing as intended months before its official release. The record also boasts a pretty impressive live set up. Some songs have 3 drummers, others have huge 4 part Gospel Harmony, others have giant synth/organ landscapes. It's definitely going to be a pretty unique show this year.

Speaking with other indie musicians, it's fair to say the starting concept of their albums, and the finished product can sometimes change. With a concept album, are you adhering to it or is there an organic change to the completion?

Lakes of Canada:
Well, because the concept involved a clear story from start to finish, we definitely had a clear idea of the direction we wanted to go in from the get go. That being said, a lot happened in and out of the studio on the way to completion. We got a couple new members, we workshopped it for months on end, and we worked with an incredible producer (Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes). So although we had a clear idea going in, there was a lot of evolution to the album. A lot of things just sort of fell into place as we were going. It was a surprisingly smooth process.

Looking at your other festival credits, is there a distinct difference between Montreal festival audiences and Toronto ones?

Lakes of Canada:
Oh for sure. For one thing, everyone in Montreal comes late to everything, whereas Torontonians tend to show up early or on time. Also, we tend to sell more merch in Toronto. Part of that is likely because a lot of our Montreal fan base already has our merch, but I think it's also because on average, people in Toronto make more money. I would say that Montreal crowds are rowdier though.

Merch can be a huge factor in supporting a band/musician. For NXNE what Merch will you have for sale?

Lakes of Canada:
Well, we'll have our first album, our EP, some T-shirts, and we also might have some download cards for some new content we'll soon be releasing. We also would highly suggest people to sign up for our mailing list because we're gonna have a lot of big news (and new content) coming in the next few months.

I always encourage at NXNE audiences buy drinks for the musicians. What should they buy LoC?

Lakes of Canada:
Hahahaha, what a great question! Well, they should buy drinks for all of the artists at NXNE since most showcases don't come with drink tickets. But also, we're all very cute drunks (read:goofy and loud). I'd say whiskey for Jake and Conor, Red wine for Gwen, and beer for Greg and Tim.

And finally, can you give readers a hint of what's to come after NXNE?

Lakes of Canada:
Hmmmm, sure! Well, they obviously have the new record to look forward to, but that's a ways off yet. We will have some live videos coming very soon, a new music video, a completely reorchestrated live acoustic concert (that was recorded and filmed), and a couple more preview tracks off the new record. We also have a back to school tour lined up for the fall, as well as a bunch of other festival appearances.

Lakes of Canada are:
Jake Smith – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion
Conor O'Neil – drums, backup vocals, synth
Tim Dobby – lead guitar, percussion
Gwen Bergman – backup/lead vocals, keyboard, organ, flute
Greg Halpin – backup vocals, rhythm/lead guitar, bass, percussion

Official website:
Lakes of Canada on Facebook: - The Examiner

"Lakes of Canada soaks up a new sound"

If you haven’t caught a glimpse of Lakes of Canada, don’t worry – you probably will. Fresh out of the studio, the band is winning Montreal over with its warm, folky tunes.

Less than 2 years old, the band has grown from the founding duo of singer-songwriter Jake Smith and drummer Conor O’Neil to a quintet, with the addition of Tim Dobby on the guitar, Quinn Brander on the cello, and Gwen Bergman on the harp, flute, and vocals.

Since the May debut of its album Toll The Bell, Lakes of Canada has played at North by Northeast in Toronto, the Montreal Fringe Festival, and last week they were announced as part of the lineup for Pop Montreal in September. The group won the Greenland Productions Award at the Fringe Festival, and gets to open for a headliner this fall as their prize.

And its sound is following the band’s success – simple melodies and instrumentation, rather than vocal harmonies, are driving it into an era of lighter, more joyful sounds after a dark but rich period.

Lakes of Canada’s latest song, Neverland is a clear step in that high-spirited direction. “It just has a simple, feel-good feel,” said Smith. “I wrote Neverland at a good friend’s house the morning after winning (the Greenland) award. I was feeling amazing, so I picked up this ukulele and started whistling this tune, and when I went home I immediately wrote the lyrics for it.”

Lakes of Canada plays at L’Escogriffe, 4467 St. Denis, St., Thursday, July 19, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Read more: - The Montreal Gazette

"NXNE Festival: A Musical Journey, Part I"

This year at North By North East, also known as an annual music, film and interactive conference festival held in Toronto, more than 850 bands gathered in the big city walls for a week on non-stop showcasing, featuring the best of the up-and-coming of the music scene. For our greatest pleasure, our dear city was very well represented on the stellar line-up which featured the young and the bright representatives of the indie scene, such CTZNSHP, Parlovr, Charlotte Cornfield, among others. We were also given performances by the well-established with Portugal.The Man, and Plants and Animals, watched Bran Van 3000 and Hollerado, setting-up crazy ambient party, not to mention no-less-than legendary Flaming Lips, who settle up for a free outdoors concert that will be remembered for a lifetime for certain. Wrap-up of a festive music marathon where discovery and amazement went altogether.

Wednesday, June 13

Our festival experience kicked off in the best manner when I paid a visit to hometown friends from Lakes of Canada at Le Central. The sextet is forging ahead in quite a beautiful manner with release of debut album, Toll The Bell, unveiled earlier in May. If we acknowledge Lakes Of Canada distinct folk sound on this record, it is even more poignant live, composed with baroque influences, phenomenal four-part harmonies and intricate melodies led by Jake Smith indefatigable strumming and higher range vocals. None-could escape here the comparison with the Fleet Foxes or Simon and Garfunkel, but when talking about high-caliber work, why not simply tell things they way they are.

Charlotte Cornfield is another Montreal folk act receiving high-praise from whoever ears her compositions. I am myself very impressed by the ability of this 21 years old whose music emulates the level of those who might one or more decade of experience. The golden lady is just returning from a two month tour which brought her to different places of United-States and Canada; we had caught her last performance in Montreal when opening for The Wooden Sky, and it would be rightful to say that she sounded better than ever although she already was incredibly good. She thanked the red squares for being present in the crowd and we thanked her for being there too with her comforting ballads.

NXNE is all about discovering new music; I had a first epiphany with The Balconies playing an astonishingly striking midnight set I should have known from the eager crowd of night-owls packing up in the venue that I might witness something special- Having never heard of the band I could not have known that they were a well-known indie-rock band from Toronto. For this special showcase, The Balconies stepped away by offering an acoustic performance with the three musicians playing string instruments, sitting somewhere between chamber music and folk. Sterling hymns stirred from the singer’s crystal-clear vocals, with which she sang without ever parting from her instrument, sharing parts and harmonies with some devoted band-mates. If I could get some more of this "Serious Bedtimes" and "Ghost Fever" executed the same way that I had heard them that night, I believe that I would live happily ever after. Hauntingly beautiful.

Thursday, June 14

On a hunt to catch the best of this second night of concerts, we squeezed in just in time watch Eastborough perform with her 5 piece-band. I became aware of this Ottawa-native singer-songwriter earlier this year when she called upon my heart with her genuine debut album Your Place, composed out of romantic sensitivity and undeniable gift for humble indie-pop arrangements. Lo-fi compositions were then turned into an energetic mellow-rock by her energetic delivery - she once “sang in a punk band” she said- and it shows.

For my second discovery of the week, I must cite Toronto-based duo Army Girls, who really move some air with their abrasive garage-rock Oh my, oh wow. They can really make sound travel in some incredible manner you would not even suspect a two-piece band being capable of rocking an incredible number of decibels. Definitely one most impressive acts I’ve have seen in a while. With androgynous beauty Carmen Elle mastering power chords like no others and demonstrating impressive skills, even losing a shoe for just being too intense while playing; she gets the best of her powerful raspy vocals while drummer Andy Smith forcefully banging his pots so ardently anyone else would have broken an arm. Incendiary and aggressive performance, these guys are real rock stars.

“Are you excited for Bran Van ?” asked Army Girls front-woman Carmen Elle in the middle of their gig. “Hell fucking yeah”, was the only answer that came to mind, feeling like I had been waiting for this moment all my life: Bran Van 3000, playing in some underground setting on a hazy summer night. This 1am gig at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern turned out to be one of the craziest party experiences of my entire life; the cavern-like ve - Indecent Exposure

"NXNE: Day Four"

Now that the bands have finally descended upon the city there was so much great live music to be heard. It was hard to choose between the hundred or so playing last night (June 13), but I managed to catch Montreal's Lakes of Canada at The Central. They're like a Canadian Fleet Foxes. I'm a sucker for random instruments, and boy did they deliver on those. Not only were there the standard drums, guitar and keyboards, but at any given time there was cello, glockenspiel, classical guitar, 12-string ukulele, mandolin, extra floor tom, sleigh bells, yes sleigh bells on a moccasin, bongos, flute and four-part harmonies that were phenomenal.

- MSN Music

"Lakes of Canada - Toll the Bell (album review)"

Despite the devastating event that led to the creation of “Toll the Bell”, Lakes of Canada’s début album (See our Q & A with Lakes of Canada for the full story), the outcome is a beautiful mix of catchy, melodic and upbeat songs. The instrumental introduction leads into the the opening track “Bated Breath”, whose tempo and catchy repetitive chorus puts the listener in a trance.

This album does not sound like a début effort, with the use of dynamics, tight instrumentation, and solid song arrangements, one would think this band had been together for decades. In addition, “Toll the Bell” was recorded live, meaning the band recorded their instruments at the same time, as oppose to tracking each instrument individually.

An impressive fact about this album is that is that it was funded by the fans. Lakes of Canada were able to raise over S10 000, independently, using a crowd funding strategy that has been made accessible through websites like

Overall, Lakes of Canada did a great job on their début album, and one can only imagine what the follow-up will sound like!

Suggested tracks: Bated Breath, Limbo.

You can purchase “Toll the Bell” on Lakes of Canada’s bandcamp page. - Montreal Live

"Meet: Lakes of Canada"

Lakes of Canada is one of those bands that defy the douchey stereotypes of indie pop acts.

They don’t rely on phony kitsch and there’s no heavy use of bunnies or baby bluejays or any of that bullshit in their album art. I mean, there’s some bears and trees, but who cares?Bears are the Mike Tyson of the animal kingdom, and trees, those things are pretty crazy too. Deforestation is essentially responsible for the epidemic rise of infectious disease. How’s that for badass? They’re like tall, bushy gremlins. You can’t get rid of them or they will come back TO DESTROY YOU. But I digress.

Nowadays, it seems songwriting is a lost art form. Fortunately, after several years singing together in a synagogue choir, Jake and Conor have developed an aural aesthetic that allows the vocal arrangements to tonally tell their stories. Earnest lyrics and a temperate use of pretty percussion like vibraphone and glockenspiel will make you feel feelings you didn’t know you had.

I sat down with Lakes of Canada Monday afternoon to find out what we can expect from their debut studio album Toll the Bell and why you should buy tomatoes at Marche Jean Talon. Here lies the aftermath of our intellectual discourse.

TM: Tell me about yourselves!
Jake: I’m the lead singer/songwriter, I play guitar, charango, and sometimes sleigh bells.
Conor: I play drums, sing sometimes, write vocal parts, play a bit of glockenspiel and piano.
Chris: I play piano and occasionally glock, organ, and I sing.
Tim: Lead guitar, mandolin, hopefully banjo soon, and an occasional drum line.
Gwen: Piano, Organ, Voice and Flute…mostly. And our missing member is Quinn and he plays cello, sings and plays drums as well.

TM: How did you guys start playing together?
Jake: Conor and I sang in a synagogue choir together, and we became really good friends. We decided we should start playing music together. Then Chris joined, Tim joined, and it grew from there.

TM: How would you describe your sound in five words?

Jake: Fleet Foxes meet Simon and Garfunkel.

Conor: The and is ampersand.

TM: Wow! Who else inspires your sound?

Jake: Crosby Stills and Nash (and Young), Neil Young on his own, Some newer stuff like Besnard Lakes and Mumford and Sons. Everyone in the band has a classical background, so that definitely influences us. A lot of the vocal arrangements are right out of the synagogue choir.

TM: Do you begin with the vocal harmonies and arrange the instrumental parts around them? How do you write your songs?

Conor: It always starts the same way. Jake comes up with a bunch of material and chooses his favourite few things and the process changes based on what the song needs. We often have ideas of our instrumental direction, like whether we want to have guitar or mandolin or piano or organ.

Jake: Vocal harmony is definitely a big priority in our band. It’s become a bit of our signature. There’s one song that has very little, but there are aren’t any songs that don’t have any.

Conor: It’s nice to leave all the songwriting to one person. You have all these different musical voices, but the songwriting is coming from the same source, so it gives it unity.

TM: You guys seem to play a million instruments, do you ever think about any more members with a more specific role?

Jake: Well, no. In terms of touring, there’s a huge difference in terms of how much money you have to spend to get around for more than five people. Frankly, it just makes more sense to have people who are multi-talented and can do different things than to add more people.

TM: You’ve all received extensive musical education. Did you guys see yourselves using your classical training to play in a band?

Conor: I think three or four years ago, none of us thought we’d be doing this (except for Jake).
Jake: I was in school for Musical Theatre. After I graduated, I did some musical theatre, and it was all well and great, but it didn’t really afford me the ability to write because I was mostly interpreting other people’s work. That’s when I started playing in bands.

TM: So tell me about the sound of your new album.

Tim: It’s quite varied. You asked us earlier if we ever considered adding more members to the group. When you go into the studio, the great thing is you can invite guest musicians to join in. We’ve got an all-male choir on one track, then a string quartet and a woodwind quartet on another, and one with brass. These are instruments you wouldn’t normally see when we play live.

TM: Are you going to be playing live with any of the mentioned guests on the album?
Jake: Yes. At the Album Launch at Il Motore on Saturday, May 19th. Doors are at 8:30, show starts at 9pm. Nick Vallee (Folly & The Hunter) is gonna be debuting his solo stuff. Sarah Jane Scouten and Her Magnificent String Band will also be playing. Various members of these bands will be singing a couple of tunes with us, and Sean Scott will be deejaying. We’ll have lots of merch for sal - The Main MTL

"Q & A with Lakes of Canada"

How did Lakes of Canada get started?
I was playing solo a bunch in the summer of 2010. I also sang in the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue choir with my best friend Conor O’Neil. He started playing percussion and singing harmonies at my solo shows and it became a sort of Simon & Garfunkel thing. Then Chris joined us and we became Lakes of Canada.

How did you come up with the band name Lakes of Canada?
When the three of us first started playing together we went by the name “Who by Fire” (which we got from text in a Rosh Hashanah service) but none of us were super into the name. Conor and I had been playing the song, “Lakes of Canada” originally by a Halifax band called “The Innocence Mission” and made famous by a Blogoteque cover that Sufjan Stevens did. One day we checked to see if anyone had named their band after that song, cause we thought the name was really solid, and once we found out that no one had, that was it.

Tell us about your upcoming début album “Toll the Bell” and the album launch at Il Motore on May 19th.
In October 2010 my mother was murdered in her home in Burlington, VT. Obviously words cannot accurately describe my level of devastation. I spent the next six months traveling around the US and Canada with my guitar and writing as much as could manage. When I got back to Montreal in the spring of 2011 we released an EP and went on tour down the east coast from Toronto to NYC. During that time we work shopped and tried out a lot of the songs that I had written while traveling. When we got back we acquired a 5th member and went into pre-production for “Toll the Bell”. We also raised over $10,000 to pay for the album through a crowd funding site called We worked with our producer Christopher Fox (of Folly & The Hunter) for two months before going into his studio. We came at the album with more than 20 songs, but by the time we got to tracking we had 12. Because of the amount of pre-production we had before recording we were able to do most of the album live and usually in the first 3 takes. As we had become well known for our vocal harmonies we recorded all of our vocals together in the same room (in Studio, Oscar Peterson Hall, and even at the Synagogue for “Bated Breath”). We also had the pleasure of having our Synagogue choir do a guest appearance on a song, and we had guest brass, string, and woodwind players for a few others. The album was mixed by Chris and me and mastered by Ryan Morey of Ryebread mastering in Montreal. We are all really proud of this album. We worked on it for months and are extremely excited about how it sounds.

Any tours planned to support the new release?
We will be doing a 3 week tour from Charlottetown, PEI through to Toronto, ON in the summer. We will also be doing a release in NYC and Burlington, VT

Who are some of your favourite Montreal artists?
Oof. There’s so many. Charlotte Cornfield, Sarah Jane Scouten, Folly & The Hunter, Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, Lhasa de Sela, Lake of Stew, The Unsettlers, Bad Uncle, Krista Muir, Suuns, The Youjsh, Holy Moly, David Simard, Brie Neilson, United Steel Workers, Broken Social Scene, Besnard Lakes, The Stills, The Luyas, Plants & Animals, Sam Roberts, William Shatner (“I can’t get behind that” is surprisingly good), SlutDrive, Young Galaxy, Think About Life, The Barr Brothers, Sam Shalabi. There are probably a ton more. Those are the ones I can think of right now.

What are some of your favourite venues to play in Montreal?
Well, I love Il Motore actually, that’s why we chose it for the launch, but also: Divan Orange, Casa, Sala, L’Esco (first time I played there I was expecting it to be crap and was very pleasantly surprised when it was the complete opposite), and Grumpy’s is really fun too. I also really like playing outside on my front porch when it’s warm enough.

Where is your favourite place to grab a bite to eat after a gig in Montreal?
Good question. It depends on where you’re playing obviously, but if I’m anywhere near Chez Claudette after a show, that’s probably where I’ll be headed.

Where can people find out more on Lakes of Canada? or - Montreal Live

"Interview with Lakes of Canada"

Citeeze interviewed Jake Smith from Lakes of Canada before they launch their first album Toll The Bell on May 19th at Il Motore.
Lakes of Canada used video performances to promote itself. Will you keep using video in the future? Did a member of the band film you guys?
Jake Smith: Our producer filmed us for the series of videos Live in Jake’s Room. We also did Here and Out videos with Phil Creamer. Our live sound is really solid so it’s easy for us to be recorded. We’re working currently with directors for official music videos to go with the album as well as a few more live ones.. And our live videos will stay up.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway. You have another song called “Hemingway” which is about love. What kind of inspiration is Hemingway for you?
Jake Smith: I didn’t read For Whom the Bell Tolls. Although Hemingway is mentioned in the song, he wasn't actually an inspiration for it at all. I wrote that song in my dream. I woke up and wrote it and then I brought it to the band. It just happened to have Hemingway related lyrics, but the song is actually more about my Mother, who was murdered over a year ago. I've read some of his other books though, and I've been meaning to read For Whom the Bell Tolls. I loved The Old man and the Sea.
What’s your process of writing?
Jake Smith: I write the lyrics and the melodies, and the basic structure. I bring that to the band. Conor O’Neil (our drummer) writes all of the vocal arrangements. The band has been writing together more and more lately. We worked on a new song today actually. We worked with a lot of other musicians on the album. Quinn Brander (our cellist) did arrangements for several of the guest musicians on the album (strings, brass, and woodwinds).

Lakes of Canada is scheduled to play at NXNE in Toronto. In what kind of mood are you when you play outside of Montreal? I imagine you must be excited…
Jake Smith: It’s very exciting.We’ve been playing more and more outside of Montreal, especially in Toronto. In June we’re playing at NXNE and then driving back to Montreal to play the opening of the Fringe festival the next day. We played a show in Toronto and then played the Fringe the next day last year as well and it was exhausting but a lot of fun.
What are the Montreal bands from these past years which inspire you?
Jake Smith: Well, I listen to The Barr brothers, Charlotte Cornfield, Plants and Animals, The Luyas, Arcade Fire, Young Galaxy, Honheehonhee, Folly and the Hunter, The Unsettlers, Bad Uncle, Lake of Stew, Holy Moly, Sarah Jane Scouten. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel. I don't just listen to folk though, I listen to anything from country to Hip Hop. I listen to Cadence Weapon for example.
How is Lakes of Canada different from The Besnard Lakes?
Jake Smith: Just because we have a similar name doesn't mean we have a similar sound. I don't honestly listen to the Besnard Lakes that often so it's hard to say, but from what I've heard Lakes of Canada is a bit more focused on vocal harmony. It is the core of our sound. Vocal harmony and grand orchestrations are fundamentals to the band. Our sound has gotten more and more epic over the past year. Everyone in the band comes from a classical background and several of us have studied composition. The drummer mastered in film scoring and I did my undergrad in musical theatre, so there is definitely a sort of dramatic or cinematic feel to the music.
What would be your advice to a young band from Montreal who’s aiming for success?
Jake Smith: Play as much as you can. That’s what we did at least. We got known for our solid live set. Go see as many shows as you can, go play with others musicians.
Also don’t be afraid of doing stuff by yourselves. A lot of young musicians make great music but forget to tell anyone about it. We spend nearly as much time doing business as playing music. Don’t forget you’re selling a product. I mean it’s a sad reality but it’s true. There's a lot more that goes into it than just the music, and when you're new to the scene, no one is going to do it for you; so you have to do it yourself. - Citeeze Montreal

"Call & Response: Lakes of Canada"

Lakes of Canada is a 4-piece crew of guys (Conor O'Neil, Jake Smith, Chris Barillaro Tim Dobby) who were born here in Montreal. Some of the stayed here to study music at McGill, others ventured off and came back. Earlier this summer, they released their debut EP Broken Mirrors, a 5 song teaser for what this band is capable of. The music is mostly sparse; a few finger picks here, some light percussion there. It's perfect for quiet rooms, say, an emptied out diner (a.k.a. Nouveau Palais). The intimate instrumentation also provides the ideal backdrop for the multi-part harmonies these guys seem to lace through all of their songs (take a listen for example to the EP's moving opener, "7 years").

Lakes of Canada are currently working on their debut full length album. Based on the new song they've posted on their bandcamp page, it sounds like the guys are taking the best parts of their EP and using them as starting points for a more fully fleshed out sound. If you're curious, Lakes of Canada have a show coming up this Friday, organized by the good folks at Indie Montreal. Before they hit the stage, we ran them through our gauntlet of near impossible-to-answer questions:
Who is your favorite Canadian Artist?
Neil Young, hands down.

Besides family, friends, other music, and long summer nights, what influences your music the most?
Extremely vivid (and occasionally haunting dreams), the events in life that shake you to your core, whether happy or sad, cartoons, literature, forgotten objects.

Your debut EP, Broken Mirrors, came out in April. How has the reception been so far?
It has been extremely well received, and has sold faster than we were expecting. We are currently in pre-production for our debut album and we have a really fantastic team lined up to work on it. We are hard at work and extremely excited about it.

Where is the best place to listen to your music?
Hmmmm... I'd say either around a campfire or in a big abandoned warehouse. Someplace echoey.

The EP has a nice sparse intimate musical feel to it, with loads of harmonies layered over top. Is it hard to reproduce live, in noisy bars?
Not at all actually, although our music has evolved a bit since that recording, we now have more drums, another guitarist, and slightly heavier, more driving sound. The harmonies, which have somewhat become our signature, are still very present though. We take our sound very seriously and after touring and fairly constant gigging we have perfected ways to make our live sound rock solid (we bring a lot of our own sound equipment). We're told we're even better live actually. You'll just have to find out.

What do you love most about Montreal?
The People. First and foremost. There is a particular kind of vibe that Montrealers have that I have not seen anywhere else. People are just warm and open here, and free in every sense of the word. I feel so at home with everyone I know here. Close seconds would be how easy it is to get around via bike, how pretty everyone is, the mountain, THE FOOD, and the ever changing, ever inclusive music scene.

What do you love most about Poutine?
What's not to love? I grew up with it being one of my favorite foods. It is decadence incarnate. SO delicious. But the cheese curds better be squeaky or I'll be disappointed (but I'll likely still eat it).

What do you hate most about Poutine?
The fact that I can't eat it every day.

Who was your first live concert? Was it everything you had ever imagined?
The first live show I ever went to was a band called The Squirrel Nut Zippers. They are a swing band and put on an incredible live show. They played for more than 2 hours straight and went through about 4 cases of beer while they did so (there were 7 of them, but still). Also most everyone there was dressed in swing garb and KNEW how to dance. I was 12 and a bit frightened but loved every minute of it.

You guys have awesome fur hats with bear ears. Will you still wear them at summer shows, in the dead heat of summer? If not, please justify why not.
We actually tried wearing them in a couple of summer shows. We had to take them off after a couple of songs as we were sweating so much that we couldn't really see. They are so cute though.

If your music was a famous historical figure, who would it be and why?
It would for sure be the Kool-Aid Man. Because we have nasty habit of bursting through people's walls filled to the brim with food coloring and sugar-water.

What's the best way to spend a Million dollars in 10 minutes?
Rent Time's Square for 5 minutes. Then host a giant water balloon fight right in the middle.

What's the best place you've ever been to?
Montreal. Sounds cliche, but I've traveled a lot and this is still my favorite place to be. Although the most beautiful place I've ever been was Dresden, Germany.

What's the worst place you've ever been to?
Ottawa. Big time.

How did you spend your 16th birt - Midnight Poutine

"Lakes of Canada - Broken Mirrors EP release."

This band is always great to see live. There is never a dull moment in any parts of any of their songs. Every note, whether its sung, strummed or hit rings out with so much emotion that you feel them, the songs move you, whether it’s a feeling of love, loss, lust, nostalgia, happiness or sadness, each song makes you feel a whole range of emotions. Not only was this night a release night for their new EP “Broken Mirrors”, but it was also the first night that they played a show with their newest member: Tim Dobby.

Previously, whenever I’ve seen Lakes of Canada play they were always a trio of Jake, Conor and Chris. Before that night I would have never said that anything was missing, until now. Tim fills the band out perfectly, his very low voice fills out the four harmonies, which they pull off very precisely and works superbly, and his guitar playing is nothing short of magical. Watching his right hand move when playing is nothing short of mesmerizing. Now that I’ve heard what the band sounds like with him, remembering what they sounded like before makes me realize that they really were missing that extra little oomph. These guys don’t need anything more to their music now though, everything they do works perfectly in conjunction with their singing and their style, and I feel like these guys should go far, they’ve definitely worked hard to get these songs going, because four vocal harmonies coupled with a whole slew of instruments playing in sync with each other is no easy task.

It was also a nice touch for their last song to have Brie Nielson and David Simard come on to "help them out" with some backup singing. Their songs are catchy, they’ve got great stage presence (even though Grumpy’s stage is a tiny raised platform) and constant crowd interaction (Before playing the song "Mr. Kitty Fantastico" Jake mentioned that it was Ram's favorite song, I must say it is definitely one of my favorite songs of theirs, I would be disappointed if they hadn't played it as well) which really helps to keep them in mind. If you ever get a chance to see them, you definitely should.

They’re playing again on Friday, May 13th at Divan Orange, and they should be going on a little tour this summer around Canada and the US, so check their website (just click on their name at the top of this paragraph) for future dates, some free sounds, so on and so forth. - Music Cubed

"Lakes of Canada sing harmony in troubled times"

National anthems, church hymns, campfire songs; people feel better when they’re singing together. Especially in four-part harmony. And while a lot of indie pop likes to tackle topical issues, some of the most popular tunes of the last 40 years have been from harmonizing boy bands like The Association, The Beach Boys and New Kids on the Block.

Who can worry about taxes, global warming or the war in Afghanistan when they’re listening to The Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby?

Lakes of Canada singer Jake Smith thinks this isn’t just a temporary act of denial, but that the more worrisome the times, the more people want to hear other people make harmony together.

“Life is pretty turbulent right now. Our music makes people feel warm and nice, like sitting around a campfire,” Smith says from Montreal. “There’s too much depressing stuff going on to be listening to depressing music.”

As you’re about to learn, all that music makes for one very happy band which began only last year when film score student Conor O’Neil met another grad music student, Chris Barillaro, musical theatre specialist Smith and guitarist specialist Tim Dobby. The four began writing and singing alt-folk variety together. It wasn’t long, less than a year after coming together as a band, that Lakes of Canada found its own unique sound, a cross between Fleet Foxes and Simon and Garfunkel.

It’s no surprise that the band’s choral folk pop has taken off. They recently recorded their first EP, Broken Mirrors, and posted their first single, Old Man, on their website,

Meanwhile, they’ll be building their momentum even further this fall when they record their first studio album.

“Indie music is in right now, so it’s a good time for us and for contemporary folk,” says Smith. “Things are happening the way we want them to.”

Part of what driving Lakes of Canada’s surging popularity is that they’re just so damn likable and positive. Proudly patriotic, they’ve written many songs about this country and whey they’re inspired by it’s natural beauty.

How patriotic are these four Montrealers? Well, they rearranged O Canada for four voices.

Making their patriotism all the more impressive is that Smith is a dual citizen who spent nearly half his life in Burlington, Vt.

It takes a little American chutzpah to be as vocally patriotic as Jake is.

“Canada is great because it treats people better than any other country with free health care and arts grants. And it’s beautiful.”

Lakes of Canada play the Elmdale Tavern, 1084 Wellington Street West tonight, Wednesday, June 29 at 9:00 PM with openers Erin Saoirse Adair and Glenn Nuotio. Cover is $7.
- The Ottawa Sun

"Don’t Stop Believin’"

The sun had just tucked in behind the buildings lining upper St-Laurent Blvd., Parc des Amériques – playing home to the St-Ambroise Fringe Festival – had emptied most of its occupants into the surrounding neighbourhood, and the weather had finally decided to play fair, rewarding this last evening of the Fringe with a beaut suitable for reflecting on the frenzy of the week previous.

A large group of performers, festival volunteers and assorted hangers-on sat happily, methodically killing their beers. Then from behind rose a voice, powerful and plaintive, and choirboy pure…

“Their shadows searching in the night/ streetlight people/ living just to find emotion/ hiding somewhere in the night…”

Uh, Journey?

“Don’t stop believin’/ hold onto that feelin’/ streetlight people…”

Yep, Journey.

It was Jake “Freekin’” Smith – singer and multi-instrumentalist for Montreal indie-folk-pop four-piece Lakes of Canada – singing and playing what looked to be the Floyd Landis of steroid-stuffed ukuleles. There were almost more tuning pegs than instrument. For this writer, the scene became one of the defining moments of the Fringe, and an enduring memory.

“Yeah, that was super fun,” laughs Smith. “We were drunk, too!”

The suped-up ukulele, it turns out, is properly called a “charango.”

“A charango is a South American instrument,” explains Smith. “It’s kind of like if a mandolin and a ukulele had a baby, ’cause it’s got doubled strings but it looks kind of like a ukulele. And it has nylon strings, not steel, but it’s got a weird tuning: G, C, E, A, E. And it’s not ascending, and it’s all within one octave.

“It’s really weird.”

Lakes of Canada are starting to get their game on in a big way. In addition to their first American tour – which will commence shortly, following dates in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal – the band’s five-song debut EP, Broken Mirrors, was released only two months ago (and has sold an impressive 400 copies, mostly off the stage, since), a FACTOR grant is being finalized, the band will begin work on a full-length album starting next month, and plans are already afoot for a major cross-Canada push early next year. This band’s ass would seem to have a fire beneath it…

“We started Lakes of Canada last August, and things took off pretty quickly,” says Smith. “But then I had some personal things that happened and I had to deal with that for four months. When I got back we basically decided that we want to tour this summer, we want to apply for a FACTOR grant, and we want to get our debut full-length out in the fall, so we said, ‘Let’s just do it.’”

In March they enrolled a new band member, began rehearsing three-to-four days a week, and started booking a boatload of shows. “We’re playing pretty regularly these days,” says Smith, “and we played our first festival at the Fringe. We just decided that this is what we really want to do. We have a sound that is marketable and that we can really get behind, and so we’re hitting the ground running.

“I think we’re fortunate in having what we have, and I don’t want to squander that.”

It will come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen the multi-talented Smith – who is naturally adept at all things strings – perform that he only picked up a guitar for the first time two years ago.

“I had played some pitched percussion, piano and clarinet before, but had never really found an instrument apart from vocals that really spoke to me. And then I picked up a guitar, bought one two days later, and was playing ’til my fingers bled. I was playing six hours a day for the first six months. And even now a slow day for me is two hours, and that’s on top of band practice.

“I’m really, really into stringed instruments in general.”

In terms of other musical training, the 26-year-old Smith draws on two decades of choral experience (he starting singing in choirs when he was six), youth orchestra and, er, band camp.

Band camp? (“This one time, at band camp…”)

“Oh yeah!” laughs Smith. “In fact, every member of the band went to band camp. We all have a classical music background, so we’re all big music nerds.” Speaking of which…

The aforementioned charango features prominently on compelling and propulsive new single Old Man, which sees the band moving away from the gentler, more introspective musings of the Broken Mirrors EP into territory that is decidedly more up tempo and upbeat. It’s a new direction born of rapid evolution.

“We’re always asking for feedback on our music,” says Smith. “When we first started we were a trio, didn’t have a lot of drums, and we were a bit quieter, a bit more mellow. And one of the big pieces of feedback that we got, based on a couple of tunes that had more of a driving beat, was that people said they wanted more of that, more of a beat and more of a catchy kind of hook to get people up. And as it turned out, it was a natural progression because that was the direction we were already going.

“We’re now ca - The Rover

"First Play and Q&A: Lakes of Canada, Transgressions"

Her name was Kathleen Smith.

After his mother was murdered in her home in 2010, Lakes of Canada’s Jake Smith found Kathleen’s copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Equal parts dystopian science fiction and damning indictment of the oppression of women, Atwood’s book was a kind of solace (it was one of Kathleen’s favourites) and an inspiration. Jake started writing songs and didn’t stop. Now, five years and one album later, Lakes of Canada’s ambitious, gruelling and evocative tribute is ready for the world.

Transgressions, which you can listen to in the player above, begins with a foot-stomping, harmony-rich a cappella. It’s both invitation and warning, and completely irresistible. There are so many landscapes to explore on the album's 12 tracks: folk revival, quasi emo-punk, instrumentals, noir-pop and gospel. It’s a concept album that also plays like a rock opera and, while it rewards one’s knowledge of Atwood’s book, it doesn’t demand it. The songs stand on their own and some, like the final title track, deserve a permanent place in the Canadian songbook.

Jake spoke candidly with CBC Music about his mother, the trauma and grief of her murder, growing up in communes, feminism, politics and what it was like to approach Margaret Atwood herself about the record.

Can you tell me a little bit about your mom and what she was like?

Sure. Thank you for asking that. No one ever asks about that. They just want to know how she was killed. She was amazing. When she was a kid, she wanted to be a nun when she grew up, which, if you knew her, you would find hysterical [laughs]. On the surface level, she seemed like the polar opposite of that, but in a way, she kind of did do that with her life. She spent about 20 or 30 years working with people with schizophrenia in halfway houses between mental health facilities and the real world. She helped with rehabilitation and things like that. She was also an interpreter for the deaf, and worked at a local farm and grew most of her own food. She volunteered at a local bike shop teaching kids how to rebuild bikes. That’s who she was.

She was a painter, she went to school for painting and photography. She was very vibrant. In our family she was very much the fun aunt. She always kept toys in her house and even in her car, arts and crafts stuff. When she would go to family gatherings, she would bring things to do, Halloween makeup and stuff like that. When trick or treaters would come to the house, if their parents didn’t have costumes, she would insist on drawing something on their face, otherwise she wouldn’t give them candy [laughs]. She was a very interesting person, the kind of person who no one who knew her forgot about her. She was a very memorable person. We had about three days to put her service together and there were over 500 people there.

You two obviously shared a lot of creative stuff growing up.

Yeah, I was very lucky to have been raised by very artistically inclined people. When I said, "I wanna be an actor, I wanna be a musician," or whatever, they always encouraged me. No, "Oh, you gotta worry about money." My mom didn’t give a shit about money.

I was fairly certain I’d read The Handmaid’s Tale, but after listening to the record, I wanted to go back and double check some details and holy hell, what a prophetic nightmare this book actually is.

Right? And alarmingly still relevant.

Arguably more relevant than it’s been in 100 years.

Especially given some of the recent trends with this election.

And in the States with defunding Planned Parenthood.

And Donald Trump being the frontrunner somehow? It’s terrifying.... It’s crazy that there are people in charge of running entire nations who seem to have no knowledge of any science whatsoever. Maybe you guys should know this, at least a little something?

But you went through a whole house full of your mom’s stuff. Why was it this book that stuck out for you?

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to go through a loved one’s stuff after they passed away, but I’ve had to do it a couple of times, unfortunately, and for me it’s one of those things that you kind of do in chunks because you do it for a few hours and then you pick up one box that just sends a wave of nostalgia and emotion through you and you’re like, "OK, I need to go somewhere for a little bit and I can’t keep doing this." So you take some time and you go back to it. My mom read constantly, like, to a ridiculous degree. She wore out her library card several times over and would continue drawing the library logo back on and would then wear it out again.

But she also, obviously, had a ton of books at home and I happened to pick up The Handmaid’s Tale when I needed to have a sit down and break. She’d told me about it before, she was really into science fiction and speculative fiction and female writers of science fiction, so a lot of my favourite writers were her favourite writers, and it was a book that she’d recommended to me a bunch of times but I hadn’t read it. I knew nothing of what it was about, which I think is a good thing, because if I had known, I might not have chosen that time to read it, but I think it was really important for me to read it at that time. I couldn’t put it down, I read it in about three days, the first time, and I immediately started writing about it. I wrote "The Handmaid’s Tale Part One" first and then a couple months after that I wrote "Sons of Gilead," and then I wrote "Eden." The rest of the band was like, "Hey, you seem to only be writing about this, maybe we should make that a thing."

A lot of the themes of the book centre on the violence of oppression, subjugation of women, misogyny. Were those topics that were really present in your mind before everything?

Very much so. I was raised by three single moms, essentially. My mom and two other single moms raised me and the people I refer to as my siblings even though we’re not technically blood related. When you’re raised by three single moms, hippie-feminists, that stuff is very much ingrained in you. Not only am I very passionate about it, but Conor [O'Neil], the drummer, who is my writing cohort in the band, is also very passionate about it. And really, everyone in the band, it’s something we’re all very aware of. Sadly, it’s not something that people talk about, but in my mind, it’s like, women are people, they’re oppressed on a global scale, why aren’t people talking about that more?

You may have hit the nail on the head with "women are people." A lot of folks don’t seem to get that.

Right? It’s crazy! I’ll never understand anybody who can rationalize that kind of behaviour. And as Conor pointed out, it’s the same kind of thought process for systematically oppressing people of colour and queer people and others. I was lucky enough to grow up in this very progressive bubble, but it’s weird to me that anybody thinks that kind of thought process or behaviour is justifiable. When I was growing up, because I grew up around hippies and in communes, I thought racism and sexism and homophobia, all that stuff, was mostly gone because none of the people around me were like that! It wasn’t until I became an adult that I went into the real world and realized, oh, no, most people are like that actually, and I was just lucky enough to grow up in this sweet little bubble.

There’s a lot of darkness in the record and it feels very haunting, particularly "Eden" and leading off with that, the a cappella and the harmonies and the stomping. You hint that something very dark is coming.

I very much wrote that song with the intent of it sounding, on the surface, very happy and hopeful, but really, if you listen more carefully — Conor writes all the vocal harmonies, I write the melodies — not only to the way the harmonies are constructed, but if you listen to the lyrics, you realize maybe it’s not the happiest song in the world.

You’re writing from this specific place. How does it work sharing that with the group?

Writing of any kind is super vulnerable and I’m lucky that I’m very close with all my bandmates. I basically will write the nucleus of the song, a basic chord structure and some lyrics and some melody, or I’ll just write lyrics and melody and Conor will fill in the chords. For "The Fall," I wrote the drum part and the melodies and then Conor wrote all the chords and that really wicked lead guitar part.

A lot of people talk about feeling very isolated after something traumatic happens, but having a bunch of people around to help shoulder that burden can be a very healing thing, particularly when you’re writing about it. How has it been for you?

It’s really necessary. In recent years, I’ve been reaching out to a lot of other people I know who are experiencing that level of grief for the first time and just trying to help them through the experience. One of the first things I tell people is to not be afraid to ask for help. For the first few months, everybody helps, but after that, people go back to their lives — and you don’t. Suddenly you’re alone. That was really difficult for me at first ... I’m lucky in that Conor is and always has been extremely supportive of me. He almost failed out of his masters when it happened because he refused to leave my side and I had to basically force him to go back to Montreal.

In particular, when it has to do with violence and someone has died in such a sudden and violent way, it’s isolating. It’s something I still struggle with. Even though you have lots of people around, I’m the only one whose mom was murdered. It’s tough. There’s hotlines and support groups and stuff, but the only support group here meets only in French and even though I’m fluent, when I’m talking about that stuff, I want to be speaking in my first language to be able to express myself. I’ve gone a few times and it helps, but yeah, it’s isolating. And not knowing who to talk about it with as well because it’s heavy. Like, three years of therapy and I can talk about it, but often when I start talking about it, people will be like, "Whoa, I don’t know how much I can take." I get it, I don’t resent people for that.

Were you nervous about approaching Margaret Atwood?

Oh, for sure. She’s so intimidating. She’s very friendly, I’ve met her before, but she’s just one of the most intelligent human beings on the planet and she’s so incredibly eloquent and well spoken. And she’s not mean or anything, but just being around someone that intelligent is a bit intimidating. Especially then, when you’re doing derivative art based on her work. I was super nervous. But she was really friendly in her correspondence with us and took it as a huge compliment.


1. "Eden"
2. "The Fall"
3. "Interlude 1"
4. "The Handmaid's Tale 1"
5. "Prologue"
6. "Interlude 2"
7. "The Sons of Gilead"
8. "Jezebel's Cry"
9. "Interlude 3"
10. "The Handmaid's Tale 2"
11. "Speaker for the Damned"
12. "Transgressions"

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner - CBC Music

"Lakes of Canada, Transgressions"

Following the tragic death of his mother in 2010, Lakes of Canada member Jake Smith was sorting through her possessions when he came across Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. Struck by the novel's graphic characterization of the oppression of women, Smith began writing songs influenced by the themes and characters in the book.

The result is Transgressions, a "musical fan fiction," a brave and multi-faceted exploration of the fictional world of Gilead as much as it is of contemporary society. In the final sentence from Atwood's main character Offred, she says, "And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light." This album embodies that sentiment; it's filled with sadness and loss and yet is marked by the faintest light of hope.

Lakes of Canada mirror the atmosphere Atwood created in her book and weave their deft voices and instrumentation throughout. In the album's first three songs, Lakes of Canada jump from soulful a cappella ("Eden") to hard rock ("The Fall") to introspective instrumentals ("Interlude 1"). As Transgressions develops, the band merge pop with gospel in its examination of men's behaviour ("The Sons of Gilead") and capture the complex relationship between Offred and Nick, another character, in the folky and wistful "The Handmaid's Tale 2." In the closer and title track, the band comes together to form a powerful collective, asking, "What would you say if I told you that I'd keep you safe?"

An epic rich in detail and passion, Lakes of Canada have a Canadian classic on their hands with Transgressions. (Independent)

9/10 - Exclaim!


Broken Mirrors EP (2011)
Toll the Bell (2012)
Transgressions (2015)



"An epic rich in detail and passion, Lakes of Canada have a Canadian classic on their hands with Transgressions." - Exclaim! 

"The songs stand on their own and some, like the final title track, deserve a permanent place in the Canadian songbook." - CBC Music

"It’s a relatively trim 40 minutes of music, but covers a lot of ground, musically and emotionally." - The Globe and Mail

Founded in 2010 in Montreal, Lakes of Canada is a five piece progressive folk-rock group with gospel and soul vocal harmonies featuring: Jake Smith on lead vocals, guitar, and percussion; Sarah Morasse on vocals, keyboard, and organ; Conor O'Neil on drums, vocals, and synth; Tim Dobby on guitar, and percussion; and Greg Halpin on vocals, guitar, bass, and percussion.

Lakes of Canada was voted #2 Best Local Folk Act and #10 Best Local Act in CULT Montreal’s “Best of Montreal 2014” reader’s poll. They have performed across Canada and been featured at Festivals including: POP Montreal, Canadian Music Week, Festival Folk sur la Canal, M for Montreal, NXNE, and in 2012 won Best Band of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival.

Lakes of Canada released their second album Transgressions, inspired by Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, on October 16, 2015, followed by a tour throughout Eastern Canada. Transgressions was produced by Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes, Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, Young Galaxy) at Breakglass Studio in Montreal.

Their debut album Toll the Bell was released in 2012.

Band Members