What do you do when you’re a live rock band in Yellowknife during a pandemic?
If you’re The Ditch Hearts, it’s no time to sit on your hands.
The nearly four-year-old “rock and roll band” comprising Corey Francis, Chris Jonah, Darin Woodbury, and Tim Webb last played a live act at the Friday the 13th show on March 13 at the Raven Pub — or what they call the “the last show of the free world.”
Since then, and during the Covid-19 shutdown, the band members have been preparing to gain wider exposure.
Last month, Francis submitted a Ditch Hearts song to Michael John Burkett – lead singer of the punk band NOFX based in California. Otherwise known as “Fat Mike,” Burkett is also the owner of the record label Fat Wreck Chords.
Fat Mike had been prepared to do an AIDS Life/Cycle charity bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles – 545 miles. Because of public health restrictions related to Covid-19, the event was cancelled. However, Fat Mike still wanted to raise money. So he came up with the idea to hold a group bike ride to 545 submitted songs.
People were invited to submit their own band songs, other favourite tunes or to make requests for the bike ride, provided they donated to Fat Mike’s AIDS charity. People would then ride together in a group setting and listen to the final playlist chosen by Fat Mike.
“So we aren’t on Fat Wreck Chords, although it would have been pretty cool if Mike called and said ‘Hey, man, you guys sound pretty cool,'” Francis said. “But we did get some exposure and since it’s been on YouTube, we got about 150 views. I’ve only watched it four times.”
Transition of the band
The Ditch Hearts started as the brainchild of Woodbury and Jonah as the two had tried to get a band off the ground for a number of years.
“I think the original adage that Chris and I came up with with this band was that we are bringing rock and roll back to Yellowknife,” Woodbury said. “There are some really good bands in this town, but most of what you tend to hear is more folky, or blues-oriented shows.”
After a couple of drummers came and went, the group was able to bring on board current drummer Tim Webb as well as Francis over the last year.
“We hope that this particular incarnation, we will be able to last this out for quite some time,” Woodbury said.
Jonah added, “Like many bands in Yellowknife, it is a rotating door of members just to keep it all afloat, but you have to have a foundation.”
Much of the Ditch Hearts’ publicity comes through social media, including the band’s Instagram account – which is a constant effort in order to hold peoples attention, they said.
“We are trying to keep up with our social media accounts and adding things like images of cars, guns, and rock and roll related ideas to pull people in to what members of the band are into,” Woodbury said.
Woodbury said there’s a general uncertainty as to what will happen with future performances. Over the past year, the band has played seven times.
“There is no way to have a gig because nobody knows when things will be open enough,” Woodbury said. “In the NWT here, there has been a very strange imposition where there is no singing allowed for any shows at this point. Through the use of voice, one can project the virus in a much further direction.
“There is no way to do those bookings.”
The band will have a new rehearsal space as of July. Although they say they’re proud of the site and it will allow for higher-quality recordings, they’re not disclosing the location.