Provincial grant was local band’s ‘lifeline’

Facing numerous challenges, local band The Wax finds help from the Emerging Music Business Program


Phyl La Ferriere (left) and James Spray (right) say the 'Emerging Music Business Program' grant gave their band, The Wax, a lifeline. (Photo: Jeff Mayhew)

Phyl La Ferriere knows making it in the Halifax music scene isn't easy. It takes dedication to stay relevant in an industry that's constantly changing. Better yet, he's aware that it's just as important to get back up after a hard fall.

"Even if you sometimes make mistakes, as long as you keep moving it will always bring you somewhere else," he says. "You can't stand still."

'It's kept us breathing'

La Ferriere's band, rock/electronic group The Wax, is trying to pick itself up after losing three of its five members over the last couple of months. But La Ferriere, on guitar and vocals, and James Spray, the band's other remaining member on keyboard and synth, are in high spirits about The Wax's future. They have something that many aspiring bands do not.

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Keyboardist James Spray calls The Wax's time at the Lodge "the highlight of my life." (Photo: Phyl La Ferriere)

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The Old Confidence Lodge, Riverport, N.S.

this will be replaced by the SWF.

A mix of songs from The Wax's upcoming album, Departure (5.35 MB clip)

A full-length debut record.

But that would not have been possible without the province of Nova Scotia.

After touring with the Jimmy Swift Band last year, La Ferriere and The Wax received a $2,250 grant from the provincial government last spring as part of its "Emerging Music Business Program." The program was developed seven years ago and awards more than $300,000 to artists, professionals and mentors in the Nova Scotia music industry.

Without the government's grant money, La Ferriere and Spray admit it would be a lot harder to stay positive during the band's current transition period.

"Thanks to them there's a record. Thanks to them we have a product that we can sell, which is going to be our lifeline...We're totally positive about finding new members," says Spray. "If we didn't have that CD it would be so much more difficult for us. It's a lifeline. It's kept us breathing."

La Ferriere adds that the grant allowed the band to record in their studio of choice and hire their preferred producer, Halifax musician and recording engineer Colin Crowell , who wrote and produced for Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees.

"(The grant) allowed us to work with Colin as producer and allowed us to go to the Old Confidence Lodge (recording studio) for a whole week. We stayed there and slept there and just made music."

The album was recorded over the course of a week at the end of July, with the band's since-departed members, in the Old Confidence Lodge in Riverport, N.S. The Lodge is an old home that has been transformed into a recording studio, live stage and living quarters for artists and producers. It's about 110 kilometres south of Halifax, just outside of Lunenburg. The studio has lodged musicians such as Hey Rosetta, Joel Plaskett and Matt Mays.

Spray says the experience of recording at the Lodge was invaluable.

"It's the highlight of my life. It genuinely was," he says, as Le Ferriere laughs and explains how much he loves to hear Spray talk about their experience at the Lodge.

"I went home to Fredericton as soon as we were done the record," Spray continues, "and I think my family were all sick and tired of me talking about it because I talked about it for three days straight."

Helping the music industry grow

Mickey Quase, music development co-ordinator with the Department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage, is the program officer and sits on the panel that decides the recipients. He says the purpose of the program is to help the Nova Scotia music industry grow, whether it's through people who call the province home or musicians that come to Nova Scotia for its music scene.

"It's also about helping to enhance the marketability of Nova Scotia-produced music worldwide through investment," adds Quase. "Not only in artist development but in sustainable infrastructure for industry professionals, which is equally important."

The program has shown results. A report released by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage says that each $1 invested in the Emerging Music Business Program and the Export Development Program for Music (combined) generated $3.37 in the culture sector in 2010-11. 

An emerging artist or industry professional that applies for the grant can receive as much as $4,000. The deadline for the program's spring grants is March 15.

Other musicians who have received the grant include R&B/soul artist Chelsea Nisbett, folk/rock artist Ben Caplan and Celtic rock band The Stanfields.

Recently, New Brunswick and PEI have both developed similar provincially run programs. Nationally, comparable grants are available through Canada Council for the Arts and the Foundation to assist Canadian Talent on Records.   

'It's war everyday'

The Wax has been busy since recording wrapped up. They opened for dance band Tupper Ware Remix Party at the Seahorse in August, played two shows at the T-Room on Sexton campus in October and opened for a sold out Matt Mays show at the Seahorse on Dec. 18. The new album, Departure, is planned for release in the spring.

But La Ferriere and Spray know there are challenges ahead for The Wax. The most important one is finding new members who are willing to tour for an album they had no part in making.

La Ferriere says he's ready. He's been facing challenges like since he started the band more than two years ago.

"If you have a band, it's war every day...but it's worth it because it's my passion. I couldn't go without it. It's a disease."



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