SYDNEY – As Brian Cathcart, Matt McNeil, Colin Gillis and Redmond MacDougall moved on from jobs in teaching, the service industry and heavy machine operating, they left many things behind.
Cape Breton folk-based band Pretty Archie are starting to make a name for themselves, after forming in 2012. They open for The Stanfields on Friday during the Pictou Lobster Carnival. SUBMITTED
The quartet of longtime friends from Cape Breton were starting a new venture, a country, folk and bluegrass band called Pretty Archie.
“All together, we decided those weren’t the lives for us I think and decided to make this band,” Gillis, backup vocalist, bass and wind, said about the Sydney band’s formation in 2012 during an interview about their upcoming performance at the Pictou Lobster Carnival.
The lives, and people, they left behind became of the focus of their first album, recorded in Hamilton, Ont., in January 2013.
Steel City, 11 tracks of original tunes, was released in March 2013, earning a nomination for Country/Bluegrass Album of the Year with Music Nova Scotia.
As they began to gain a reputation and nab spots on bigger lineups like North by Northeast in Toronto and East Coast Music Week, releasing the first album is still the best moment for Gillis, making their music tangible.
However, there’s no shortage of good times, especially since the group of men in their late 20s are all best friends.
“Every moment is great, doing what we want to do rather than what we have to do,” Gillis said.
Though he can’t pick just one, One Timer is one of Gillis’s preferred tracks, noting that it deals with leaving something good behind in the pursuit of something better.
“It’s hard to pick a favourite because I feel like I’m turning my back on other aspects of my past.”
While Gillis was teaching, he continued to play music on a casual basis with family and friends, and stayed in touch with his childhood jamming pals.
The band gives him an artistic outlet, and makes him happier overall, he said.
Now that the band is starting to build up their name, their writing is changing.
They’re hoping to get back into a local recording studio in September for their latest tracks.
“This one will be more about finding your feet after running away, or switching your life up pretty significantly,” Gillis said.
Many of them are in relationships as well, he said, shifting their songwriting focus towards what happens as you get to know someone.
Pretty Archie opens for The Stanfields at the Pictou Lobster Carnival on Friday, a show that has them excited.
Their set begins at 10:30 p.m. on the main stage after OLOVUS, followed by The Stanfields at 11:45 p.m.
Entertainment is lined up throughout Saturday and Sunday, including Charlie A’Court, E.B. Anderson and The Resolutes, Garrett Mason and J.P. Cormier.
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda