by Scott Roos
pictures by Deanna Roos of Contingent Colours Photography
“Ooooh la la la la, ooooooooh la la la”
These might just be background vocals to some but to Seven Mile Sun’s Kevin Stevens, whether he meant to or not, these lines from the track “Run Me Down” almost perfectly depict the mocking tones of a room full of classmates. There’s a playful sarcasm evident as well but when you dig deeply into the song’s lyrics, you realize that it’s no joke. The words puncture your rock n roll cranium like a diamond bullet. "Run Me Down" is a story of someone who had a troubled past and only now is coming to terms with it. Songwriter Kevin struggled as an elementary and middle school student. He can’t really explain why definitively. That’s just sort of how it all played out.
“(‘Run Me Down’ is) definitely one of my more autobiographical songs. It's about my experience in elementary school. I was a bit of a bad kid I guess you could say but I always had good intentions. I kinda always felt like I was looked at in a bit of the wrong light. A lot of the time I was just bored,” recalls Kevin.
A good deal of the issues that Kevin had were due to the size of the school he attended . He never struggled academically in those early days, but the extra curricular offerings of a building that only saw 50 students come through its doors were few and far between. Kevin needed to be active in those days but the opportunities were lacking. Thus, Kevin really did "light a fire in a small room" and he did "threaten the boy that made his little sister cry".
“I ended up getting suspended a couple times, mostly just for talking and goofing off a little too much. I've never just been content (with inactivity). My attention span is short and I need to stay busy. Writing ‘Run Me Down’ allowed me to open up about how I was made to feel in elementary school and junior high like I was a bad kid. The line ‘I'm not as bad as you think I am’ sums that up perfectly I think,” Kevin adds.
In terms of the association to music, music wasn’t necessarily the band aid solution to all of Kevin’s scholastic issues early on. Music was something instilled in him by his parents. They even put a guitar into Kevin’s hands when he was seven years old and made sure he had lessons at age eleven. In short, music had always been there when he needed it. It wasn’t something that got him back on the straight and narrow as much as it was always around him when he needed it the most. It was a much needed release.
“Music has kind of always been there. (It was) maybe more of a release as much as anything. If I was feeling pissed off or something I could always go grab my guitar and play or I could go crank the stereo and listen to one of my favourite bands. That's been an important part of music in my life,” explains Kevin.
As Kevin honed his skills on the guitar inevitably it led to the formation of a few different bands to while away those long prairie hours. On one occasion, his band’s drummer did not show up to a planned rehearsal time on the Stevens’ farm. On a whim, the guys in the band asked Kevin's sister Kimberly to sit in. The results were surprising and Kimberly got the gig permanently.
“The gear was set up at our farm so they said ‘Kim you try to play along’. I just sorta figured it out and kept rhythm, and I remember my dad watching and he said ‘Holy shit she can play the drums’. So next thing I knew I wanted a kit of my own and picked up a shiny red CB basic kit and I was the new drummer for our high school band The Franchise, and off we went,” recounts Kimberly.
The siblings continued to play together over the years culminating in the formation, with the addition of family friend Joanne Genest on bass, of Seven Mile Sun.
“Joanne has always been a friend of ours and she's been a bassist for a long time so we had her come jam with us a couple of times. And Kimberley also played drums for (Joanne's) band for a while as well. And then Joanne just kinda naturally came and started playing with us. It sounded great so she became a full time member of the band,” said Kevin.
“We are from the same community - Harris-Tessier. Kevin took lessons from my husband ,who has passed away, and Kim played drums in our band when she was still in high school. My son went to school with the Stevens kids,” clarifies Genest.
With the addition of Genest to the group, Seven Mile Sun has, pardon the pun, found their groove. Personality wise, she brings a sense of calm to the frenetic energy that the Stevens siblings carry forward. And her bass playing gives a depth to the rhythm section that adds a punchiness to the band’s foundation. She’s the self proclaimed “band mom” given the age difference between her and Kevin and Kimberly. She admits to carrying snacks in her gig bag. But, more importantly, she sometimes protects Kevin and Kimberly from each other.
“I have to guard them from each other. They fight. They throw stuff at each other. Swear at each other. I am able to suggest compromises when they don’t see eye to eye,” remarks Genest when reflecting on those instances when band rehearsals can be tense.
When questioned on the sibling fights, Kevin was quick to say that things don't get that out of hand but Kimberly did admit that it occasionally happens. In the end, it’s all part of their charm. They have a classic rock sound. It’s not perfect, but it’s passionate. In live shows, they like to fly by the seat of their pants. Kevin will sometimes introduce a new song to the others minutes before a gig. It’s an old school approach and one that makes Seven Mile Sun so fresh and organic. In a world of autotune, fix it in the mix, industry superficiality, Seven Mile Sun keeps things as real as they can.
“Sometimes, not having a tightly rehearsed ship is okay. We watch other artists and sometimes it’s okay when they make little errors here and there. It shows that they’re human. If someone makes an error here then the rest of the band kind of picks up on it and that's just kinda natural music playing,” explains Kim.
“I think musicians, we try to be robotic in our playing. Like you wanna hit every note perfectly and being robotic isn’t good. So if you think about it that way if you nail every note you’d be robotic and that’s not what we are,” says Kevin.
"We have to remind ourselves of that when we’re practicing and going over a piece of music over and over. And all of the sudden well let’s not forget that it’s music. We have to sing, we have to play. We’re not trying to hit everything mathematically,” adds Genest.
So basically, the mantra of Seven Mile Sun is “it’s good enough for rock n’ roll”. The humanity is in the imperfections to be sure but, at the end of the day, Kevin’s lyrics can be also deeply personal and relatable. He may not be “as bad as you think he is” but in the rock world his straight shooting lyrics make him badass all the same. He’s a rebel without a cause right now, and that suits him just fine. In the end, it’s sister Kimberly that words the essence of who her brother is most eloquently.
“Music has given him the biggest and best form of expression in my mind, and has helped him describe what he's feeling. Some of the songs, including ‘Run Me Down’, he will play for Joanne and I the first time and we look at each other and think ‘Holy fuck’, he's been holding some stuff inside.' So in a way it's allowed me to get to know Kev on a deeper level as well and has brought up some powerful conversations between the two of us,” states Kimberly
Seven Mile Sun definitely bows down to classic rock forbearers like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin; a pinch of the Black Crowes and also to newer bands like the Glorious Sons. But, more importantly, blood is thicker than water when it comes to the three core members. They wear their small town roots on their sleeves in an honest and vibrant way and that's what makes them a rare breed these days.