Born out of a winter recording project in 2004, St. Catharines’ instrumental ‘collective’ The Northern Arm released a handful of field recordings in the 2000s before going on hiatus for a few years.
“Around 2010, we kind of took a break as some members started having children and becoming busy with other things in life. But, basically, prior to this iteration of the band or group, we would just go and look for a quiet winter spots in Ontario, invite a bunch of friends, bring some acoustic instruments and song ideas and just jam and build songs on the fly,” explained guitarist Anthony Perri.
“We would take the recordings home, find the good tracks and just overdub things on top of those recordings, whether it was a fuzzed out guitar, a cello or some steel drums.”
The Northern Arm returned in the early 2010s as participants in the In The Soil Arts & Music Festival and continued to perform on a ‘project to project’ basis. With a constant revolving door of musicians joining the fold, Perri explained that no Northern Arm song has ever been performed the same, suggesting that “every song, every time, will be different. It all depends on who shows up.”
Currently, the collective is comprised of guitarists Matt McPetrie and Anthony Perri, Mike Ramey, who performs guitars, samples and drones, violinist Alex Ring who also plays a theremin, drummers Ed Walmsley and Brian Foster, and Jesse Matthews and Rob Oliveira who both play bass and the drums, but on any given performance, some musicians may not attend, while others may show up.
Perri explained, “there are other people who’ve been in the mix from time to time, but it’s kind of tough to include everyone since we operate in such a transient way.”
This past July saw the release of The Northern Arm’s first studio recording, Mercury, a sprawling and ethereal 50 minute, 5-track instrumental album that was recorded with Joe Lapinski at the WOW! Recording Studio.
“We just wanted to continue making music, because that’s what we’ve always gravitated to,” said Perri. “It just became really hard to keep the field recording project going, so we had to reconfigure how we were going to organize the group. We just started jamming again in Matt’s basement, started looking for all the cool parts and kept molding these songs together that eventually became the basis for Mercury.”