By Will Yannacoulias
Prince Albert musician and producer Jordy Balicki has been a creative force locally for over a decade, first with the folk-alt group All Mighty Voice and more recently, as bass player for the loud, gritty Rymestone. Balicki and Rymestone bandmate Stephen Williams established Reservoir Recording in 2018, a studio and record label which is intended to support local artists and help foster and encourage the local indie music community. NSMZ was fortunate enough to talk to Balicki about the goals he has for his music, his studio, and his label.
As a youth Balicki played the guitar and piano as a hobby, but didn’t seriously embrace music until after high school. “I started working at a music store, where I met Jody Johnson” he shared. “He was super talented and knew music theory, he was someone I looked up to, and he put the music school bug in my ear.” In 2005 Balicki enrolled in the Contemporary Jazz Program at Selkirk College in Nelson, B.C. Having returned to Prince Albert after school, Balicki soon landed his first serious music gig, as guitarist for All Mighty Voice. The seven years spent playing, songwriting, booking, promoting, co-managing, and touring all over Canada with All Mighty Voice was a second education, where he developed and honed skills which he would carry to his future creative endeavours.
Balicki moved on from All Mighty Voice in 2017 and directly into his current project, local Garage/Post Punk heavyweights Rymestone. Drummer Ian Dickson, who Balicki played with in All Mighty Voice, invited him to jam with guitarist/vocalist Emma Jean. The three wrote and recorded 2019’s Neighborhood before Stephen Williams joined as a second guitarist.
Already experienced in many other facets of music, Neighborhood marked the beginning of Balicki’s interest in production and engineering. “I never had an interest in recording” Balicki reflected, “never studied it in school. I just knew it was expensive. Because you’re spending so much money it can be an awkward experience, it’s hard to get creative in the studio if you don’t have the money or the time.” Balicki proposed to his bandmates that they allow him to try his hand at recording their debut album, and with their blessing, went to work. “We’d go to Emma’s house and take every mattress, pillow and blanket we could find, just create different little spots we thought we could try to record. The version of ‘Sorta Mellow’ we released was literally the first thing I ever tried recording”.
After finishing the Neighborhood sessions Balicki considered recording other artists and establishing his own studio. He recalls, “In the old house I was living in we designated a space. I started learning about building acoustic panels and treating a room, started reading about the people I loved and respected. Now that I’ve moved I’ve got a more dynamic & professional setup. It was a short time from being in a basement with no insulation, mixing on a broken laptop!”
Balicki’s story is tied closely to that of another local musician, former All Mighty Voice member, current Rymestone member and Reservoir partner Stephen Williams. The two first worked together when Williams would fill in for absent members of All Mighty Voice starting around 2015. Their friendship continued, with Williams often being present at the Rymestone Neighborhood sessions. Balicki remembered, “I started thinking that if we could get Stephen to play in Rymestone, step out of being a three piece, we would really take off in our ability to write melodies and just layer our sound more. It just happened naturally, after the album was done Stephen started rehearsing with us.” When Balicki decided to broaden his recording experiences and begin a studio he approached Williams to be a partner. “Stephen was a natural choice, an amazing multi-instrumentalist, one of my best friends. I asked him if he wanted to be a partner and co producer, to help create something and help other people create something.”
The next chapter in the Reservoir story came with the shift in vision from a simple studio to a label. The label was driven by Balicki and Williams’s desire to support the unheard artists of their local scene. When considering who he’d like to work with, Balicki decided the most appealing collaborators were those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a professional facility. “I wanted to start working with somebody who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to go into a studio, and to have the freedom and take their time. Maybe start a label that offers recording, look for people that are talented and could use a bump, use a hand, advice, whatever I can offer.”
At that time Balicki reconnected with Witchekan Lake rapper Charles Benson, who was featured in the NSMZ October 2020 issue. “Chuck is a guy I ran into in a little bar in Spiritwood, Sask.” Balicki remembers fondly. “I was playing cover songs one night and this Cree guy comes in and is spittin’ lines, and he’s really good! Not something you expect to see in a small town in Saskatchewan. Years later I saw him on Facebook spittin’ again, so I reached out to him. A lot of the songs he writes talk directly about the struggles he’s faced, some serious social, economic, and political issues. He wants to tell it all and that’s something I can get behind and support.”
Patrick Moon Bird is another local artist Reservoir has established a working relationship with. Bird, who was featured in the November 2020 issue of NSMZ, has two self produced albums under his belt, both of which earned him SMA nominations. “Stephen and I had both listened to Patrick’s music and really liked his work.” Balicki explained. “When Patrick told me he’d been making all his music on an iPad it just completely blew my mind, I thought, if he’s making music like this with an iPad, what could he do in a full studio?” The three collaborated on a song, “Find Your Way Back Home”, which will be featured on Patrick Moon Bird’s upcoming album 2021.
Reservoir has also supported the local scene by sponsoring various events. In addition to offering studio time to Sasktel Search For The Stars winners Justine Sletten and Relan Meeks, the label has also supported the Prince Albert Chester Fest and Saskatoon Pretty In Punk music festivals.
When asked for a quote, co-founder Stephen Williams summarized their shared ambitions perfectly. “With Reservoir,” Williams explained, “we like to strongly focus on ‘capturing creativity.’ We passionately believe in the local scene and want to be able to help promote all of the talent around us as best as possible. When you truly believe in what you're doing, yourself and everyone around you take notice. When it's real, you feel it, and that's what we are striving to capture at Reservoir.”
Jordy Balicki’s recommended artists:
Patrick Moon Bird “Everything he’s doing is great, so talented.”
The Sex Geckos “Those guys are fun, I like what they’re doing a lot.”
The Great Fuss “My buddy Pete, they’re always writing, coming up with new stuff, really fun to follow.”
LJ Tyson & Travis Beatty “Anytime I hear anything those guys are working on my mind is pretty blown away, they have some stuff coming out this year to keep an eye on.”
*top Photo Credit Jordy Balicki
*all other photos by Deanna Roos of Contingent Colours Photography