BY MARK WEBER
Soon to perform in Red Deer, Calgary band Midwest Mindset was recently selected as one of the top 25 groups in Canada for their CBC Searchlight competition.
They are gearing up for a show at Bo’s on June 10th. Other highlights coming up include the release of a new music video for Footsteps.
“We were chosen as number one from the Calgary and Southern Alberta region,” said Travis Omen, who is an Emcee with the band. Rounding out the slate of the band’s membership are Jared Buote (keyboards), ‘Danny Epic’ Atsbaha (emcee); ‘BenOfficial’ Larsen (turntablist), Berkley Roth (guitarist/vocalist) and Jordan Swanson (drummers).
The guys have roots in Red Deer as well.
“We are all Red Deer born and raised, but moved to Calgary in recent years,” he said.
The band had hopes of advancing to the top four in the CBC competition, but it wasn’t to be. Still, ending up as one of the top 25 groups in Canada was and is a tremendous accomplishment. Not to mention they took the number one spot in Calgary and southern Alberta as well out of about 200 bands in that particular region.
Meanwhile, what started out as more than 2,000 Searchlight submissions from across the country has now been whittled down to four finalists.
“Even when we got to the top 10 in Calgary, we thought that was huge,” he said, adding it was quite unexpected.
Midwest Mindset was formed in 2011 out of the young but growing culture of Canadian hip-hop music.
“We have managed to stay relevant and active, performing over 60 shows around Alberta and British Columbia, all while retaining an unprocessed original style,” note the band’s web site. “We can proudly say that we were one of the very first groups in Alberta to perform original hip-hop music written and composed by a full band.
“We have organized and played dozens of genre-mash shows that brought together fans from all forms of music: metal bands playing with jazz bands and rappers playing with punk bands. Together, through musical expression, we have seen the unity music can bring, even amongst the most diverse areas of Alberta’s subculture.”
Since forming, Midwest Mindset has also successfully produced an EP and a full length album composed of all original songs, four high quality music videos and independently embarked on two western Canadian tours.
Omen recalls the beginnings of group as essentially bringing two sets of artists together. Things clicked pretty much from the get-go.
In his own life, he recalls having a desire to entertain from early on. “I think I always wanted to entertain onstage – be in the talent shows at school.” During his middle school years is really when he started delving into hip hop.
“That was kind of the direction that I wanted to take,” he explained. “Me, Danny and Ben all performed in the Grade 12 Lindsay Thurber Idol. So we started focusing on making music in high school.
“From when I was young, something just drew me to it,” he says of the band’s selected genre. “I think there is a lot of truth in the lyrics and with the right production and the beats, I think it’s always been catchy and different compared to other genres.
“And for me, the lyrics matter more than the beats.”
As to the physical demands of rapping – it takes more than people might think.
“Especially when it’s live – being able to have breath control and crowd control and doing that for an hour-long set can definitely be demanding,” he said. “It’s about practice – it took a lot of time to get it down pat where we are able to get through a full verse without stopping for breath or anything like that,” he added with a laugh. It’s also about the quality of the words. “I think a lot of it is in writing the lyrics – you’re not going to have those lyrics come through clearly if they’re not written properly and there isn’t a cadence and a structure to how you write the verses,” he said, adding that the group’s songs spring from a collaborative effort.
Meanwhile, with their recent video Erasing My Mind gaining over 10,000 views in under one month, and a follow-up video for Footsteps already on its way, 2016 is shaping up to be the band’s breakthrough year.
The band had this to say about Erasing My Mind on the CBC Searchlight web site – “Erasing My Mind was an unexpected stand out song from our debut album 1313.
“It was one of the first songs recorded for the project and initially we didn’t expect a lot of feedback or support. However, once we started performing the song live and hearing from friends and fans, we knew the track contained something special.
“By blending the raw lyrical side of hip-hop with live instrumentation usually reserved for rock ‘n’ roll we feel we can convey a message that is true to our Alberta roots, yet relatable across Canada and maybe worldwide.”
Indeed – and that pretty much sums up their vision to this point and in moving forward as well.
“It’s about having that goal in front of you to progress and go further. I think that’s what kind of drives us to keep making music and keep on getting bigger and better.”
Check out www.midwestmindset.ca.