Updated: Oct 12
By Will Yannacoulias & Andreea Moore
Photos by The Portrait Witch
My family lived in Nipawin before I was born, and my father maintained many friendships from his time there. It's a corner of Saskatchewan that has always loomed large in my imagination; a sparsely populated land of hard-scrabble farms and dark expanses of remote boreal forest. My father's friends from around Nipawin were all fierce, fun and full of adventure, men with dirty jeans and dancing eyes who smelled of whiskey and woodsmoke and never ran out of tall tales to tell around campfires and tailgates. I always admired the independence, resilience and cheerful folk wisdom of these farmers, fishermen, hunters, and woodsmen, and was thrilled to find that my newest friends from Nipawin are cut from the same cloth. Drummer 'Myk' and bassist 'Meg' are self sufficient homesteaders who make a little time to play a heavy, swirling, groovy brand of cerebral stomp-rock as the Psycho Hillbillees. We recently spoke with Myk about the Hillbillees music, their philosophy, and what their plans are for Halloween this year. Enjoy!
The Psycho Hillbillees trace their roots back to the Regina music scene at the dawn of the new millennium. "Megan and I have been playing music together since 2001" Myk shared. "We were very active, under different names, with different members. We played the Gateway Festival, played a lot of shows in Regina and surrounding areas, and were seriously pursuing music as a profession. In 2010 all that changed, we moved up north here and began pursuing a self reliant lifestyle." Leaving the big city behind and living on a self sufficient homestead could have been the end of leisure pursuits such as music, but instead the couple intertwined their music with their new lifestyle, Myk explained. "That lifestyle change means we no longer have a commercial attachment to our music, we do whatever we want and don’t worry about making money doing it. The art has begun to reflect our lives in that we’re writing these heavy atmospheric rock songs about root vegetables, whitetail deer and transcending reality through growing your own food!"
The band's sound is heavy and warm, with a lot of groove and a hypnotic ebb and flow. The songs are complex and unpredictable, avoiding traditional pop rock formulas to embrace a more experimental, narrative structure. Meg carries both rhythm and lead with her heavily overdriven bass, strumming chords and weaving melodies simultaneously in an unorthodox but effective style. "Meg studied Music Composition in university with a minor in Piano performance, and I think that comes across in how we structure our songs" Myk explained. "We’re really interested in exploring different song structures and having a bit of a cinematic approach to music. We try to think of song structures as episodic instead of verse-chorus-verse."
Myk and Meg live their lives with a mentally positive perspective, celebrating independence and resourcefulness in everything they do. Psycho Hillbillees for the pair is not just a band, it's a complete culture and lifestyle, and making music is one facet of that lifestyle. Myk explained that "having a band for us is a means to create our own culture, and as a two piece band we’re really the smallest cultural group you can get. Megan and I make our own food, some of our own clothes, some of our own tools, and making music is another important part of culture creation for us. The whole rock & roll angst thing is about holding a mirror up to society, and up to ourselves as a product of that society. We’ve now shifted our focus to singing about what we find is good and beautiful instead of what’s wrong."
The next live show for the Psycho Hillbillees is the Haywire Halloween Hoedown in Nipawin on Friday October 27th, playing alongside Kingsway Drive and The Dirty Sanchez Orchestra. The Halloween Hoedown is a fundraiser for The Haywire Farm Festival, a new summer festival that launched just last year near Nipawin. "Our friend Patti Propp put it on" Myk shared, "we played last year and it was a really good time, it really succeeded in bringing the community together but incurred a bit of debt so we’re doing a fundraiser to show our support and hopefully she can keep it going. Playing the Haywire Festival last year turned into a September show in Prince Albert and the Halloween fundraiser show, so the recent flurry of activity has been cool for us. Underground rock bands are like mushrooms; they can sit below the surface for years, then when the conditions are right- they rise!”