BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Air Marshal Landing are a group of best friends with common interests and a shared passion for music, and their own uncomprimising creative license - "We play what we play, because we want to play it."
Cory Adrian, Matt Simmonds and Graham Drummond are not necessarily a band, but rather, friends who happen to make music together.
This trio never ceases to amaze with their heartfelt and relatable lyrics, upbeat and uplifting melodies, and uncanny ability to sound like a stage full of musicians on different instruments.
Air Marshal Landing is absolutely infectious. Halfway through any song, you'll find yourself humming along to the music, and finding your own meaning and lessons from their stories.
When Cory, Graham and Matt were asked to explain just 'who are Air Marshal Landing?' they responded with - "There's three of us - we're either a very debilitated octopus with three hands, or we could make up half of an ant."
This off-the-wall answer set the mood for the rest of the interview, and gave insight to how this band operates.
Air Marshal Landing don't strive to make hit-single pop albums or fit into a genre for radio play, they create and shape music for the sake of it - trying to reflect their own thoughts, memories and feelings. It's always fun and there's never a dull moment.
The product which comes out at the end is pure, unadulterated nostalgia with a feel-good centre - halcyon days and lonely nights packed full of metaphors, which every single listener can relate to. In their songs, day dreams and realities become one - and lessons are learned with a bitterweet twinge that says 'It'll all be okay.'
The band admits that, when asked about their formation, they like to tell interesting and sometimes scary stories to explain their trio - including the tale of Mountain Man Graham snatching his bandmates from a hiking trail, and enslaving them as travelling musicians.
In reality - they met, made some music together, and thought it sounded great.
"Cory and myself [Matt] grew up in Uxbridge, we both played instruments together a few times in church and high school," said Matt. "After I went off to University of Western Ontario, I met Graham. Then, Cory and I needed a drummer, so we drafted this mountain man from Waterdown, Ontario and thought he was awesome. It was just synergy."
Matt described the coming together of Air Marshal Landing as a sort of merging of two worlds - his days growing up carefree in Uxbridge with his close friend Cory, and the brave new world he saw and felt while away at school.
Graham explained that all three musicians grew up playing in a smattering of very different bands and are all well-versed in music. At their outset, each musicians would often play in basements, in churches, at high school dances, and really anywhere that would give them a musical outlet.
Graham's first band was a hardcore group known as 'Cheery Rainbow Sunshine Fish' - he supplied the screaming and death growls. In Air Marshal Landing, he likes to play drums, melodica and synths and is billed as 'Lead Hummer'.
At the core of it all, becoming musicians was never a concious decision for these three - it was simply an obvious outlet for their creativity, a destiny that couldn't be avoided.
Whether jamming in a garage or crammed in a van on tour, Air Marshal Landing enjoys playing a simple game.
The rules of 'The Word Game' dictate one point for a well-spoken or properly utilized large word, and lose a point for the incorrect use of a word, or when one is just made up.
"Words are very interesting and important to us," said Matt. "In our songs and at our shows - it's not uncommon to hear us spout awesome sounding words in songs, just because they sound right."
Cory and Matt are usually tied for the lead, and Graham mostly has a negative score. Graham is not a big fan of The Word Game, but tries his best.
"I think our overarching event as a band was recording our new album 'You Used to Be Me' at The Farm recording studio in the wilderness of British Columbia," said Cory. "We spent a month in the woods, surrounded by nothing but ourselves and our music - we worked hard and grew closer to the music."
Until recently, Matt spent his entire life in Uxbridge. He remarked that while most young people want to leave the town as soon as they come of age - he was always comfortable in his hometown.
"We have an amazing sense of community and great musicians - everyone is very supportive of artistic endeavors," said Matt. "I moved to Toronto when I got married because the music scene is much larger there - it's the place to make it as a full-time musician and keep busy."
Air Marshal Landing unanimously agreed that their favourite local band to play with is Juice, one of the many who took the stage at the Uxbridge Music and Arts Festival this past weekend.
"They're really nice guys, and very high energy," agreed Graham and Cory. "It's more fun to work with musicians who are just humble, regular and nice guys - Juice is on the level."
For a group of friends, all three members of Air Marshal Landing like to keep very different company. When asked who they would bring to a desert island, the answers were anything but similiar.
Graham chose his fiancee Kristin, Cory would like to be regailed with tales by J. R. R. Tolkein, the author of Lord of The Rings, and Matt would be carefree - as long as he had the company of a professional nacho chip and cheese maker.
The conversation quickly degraded to arguing whether or not they could drink the saltwater, and if dopplegangers were allowed.
The band says that their greatest roadblock to the artistic pursuit seems to be a lack of free time to write lyrics, record melodies, and explore their own creativity.
The musical muse isn't something that can be switched on or switched off at will - it strikes suddenly and without warning, often when a guitar and notepad are nowhere in sight.
"We write our songs with personal metaphors - othertimes they aren't based on anything but what comes out of our mouths," explained Matt. "We'll start with something like 'a Spaghetti Western in Space' and then it just gets away from us - the music takes on a life of its own," added Cory.
As a whole, Air Marshal Landing's favourite pastime is admittedly watching Downton Abbey - they have no tattoos, don't sleep in, and are the exact opposite of stereotypical rockstars - they create honest music for honest people.
"We don't classify the people at our shows as just fans," said Matt. "They aren't faceless crowds. Every single person who claps and sings along are our friends - and we appreciate the support given over the years. There are too many to list, but you know who you are."
Air Marshal Landing will be performing in the upcoming Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts, this September.
To hear Air Marshal Landing's new album, EPs or singles, to get in touch with the band, or to check out their entertaining music videos, please visit them on-line at www.AirMarshalLanding.com, or www.youtube.com/user/AirMarshalLanding.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: For most, retirement offers the chance to relax, but for Uxbridge's Conrad Boyce it has brought a flurry of activity over the past year that is showing no signs of slowing down in the months ahead.
A mainstay of the local arts community for almost two decades, Conrad has been involved in many projects as an actor, director, producer, teacher, playwright, conductor, singer, set designer/builder, lighting/sound technician, editor, publisher and writer.
With four theatre projects either on the go or upcoming, Conrad has further broadened his portfolio by recently declaring as a candidate for Ward 4 Councillor in this fall's municipal election.
Originally from Edmonton, Conrad moved to the area from the Yukon in 1995, and it didn't take long for him to establish connections in the Uxbridge community.
"I had just moved from the Yukon with a friend. We were living over near Sutton and our landlord mentioned that if we wanted a true taste of small-town, rural Ontario, we should check out the Uxbridge Fall Fair," Conrad recalled sitting on the sun-drenched deck behind his home in Uxbridge. "In the fair book, there were audition notices for the Uxbridge Chamber Choir and a play with the Uxbridge Players, so I auditioned for both and got in the following week. Then, Donna van Veghel mentioned that she was looking to take a year off from conducting the youth choir, so I took that on as well. So, within two weeks of arriving, I was in a play, in a choir and conducting a choir."
In the summer of 1997, Conrad married his wife Lisa. That year, Conrad also founded the Uxbridge Musical Theatre Company, which would later merge with the Uxbridge Players to form OnStage Uxbridge, the premier community theatre company in the township. Since arriving in Uxbridge, Conrad has been involved in some capacity with more than 60 different stage productions.
In 1998, Conrad expanded his theatrical endeavours, and took on the job of putting together a summer theatre program at the Academy Theatre in Lindsay.
"I basically lost my shirt on that one, so I spent the next two-and-a-half years working in the communication department for the Ontario College of Nurses in Toronto until my debts were paid off from the summer theatre. And by that point, I'd had enough of the big city, so for the next four years I worked as a supply teacher and freelance journalist."
Then, in 2005, Conrad was at the forefront of the group that brought the Uxbridge Cosmos to the community, drawing inspiration from The Standard in launching the community newspaper.
"The Standard was definitely an inspiration for the Cosmos, and it started with a lot of help. Myself and others felt that the Times-Journal had become estranged from the community and was no longer a community newspaper. We knew right from the start that we would only distribute in Uxbridge and our stories would only focus on Uxbridge and its residents," Conrad explained.
After eight years of sharing Uxbridge stories with the community, Conrad sold the paper to its current publisher last year and embarked on a new literary venture as he penned his first book: Jewel on the Hill, the story of Uxbridge's Foster Memorial.
"Retiring from the Cosmos let me explore a lot of things I'd had on the back burner such as my book on the Foster," said Conrad. "I learned an awful lot and it was a great pleasure to work on."
Over the past year, Conrad has performed two different one-man plays based on the works of Robert Service - 'El Dorado' in the fall of 2013, and 'The Bohemian' which began its run at the Firth Line Church at the Uxbridge Historical Centre on Friday, July 11.
Based on "Ballads of a Bohemian" by Robert Service, the play was written by Conrad in 1980 while living in the Yukon in collaboration with Bonnie Lawrence, who contributed the music. The play tells the story of a fictional American poet named Stephen Poore, struggling to make a living in Paris in the years 1913 and 1914, who joins up as an ambulance driver when the First World War breaks out, and will run alongside the 'Uxbridge at War' display at the museum on select weekends throughout the summer.
Performances of 'The Bohemian' are scheduled for July 18, 19, 22, 26 and 29, continuing the next month with shows on Aug. 5, 12, 16, 22, 23, 26 and 29. Tickets for the show are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at Blue Heron Books, which is located at 62 Brock St. West in downtown Uxbridge.
"The show kind of went to the bottom of my desk drawer for more than three decades," Conrad admitted, "since Bonnie left the Yukon shortly after we wrote it. But now a couple of factors - the centennial of the Great War, and the availability of a collaborator as excellent as she was - seem to make it an ideal time for its revival."
While Conrad admits that many of the plays he has written were for him to perform, one notable exception is 'Maud of Leaskdale' which he penned in 2011 specifically for the centennial conference in Leaskdale to commemorate Lucy Maud Montgomery's arrival in the community, and stars Jennifer Carroll as the beloved Canadian author.
The show, which runs on Thursday evenings at the Historic Leaskdale Church throughout July and August is now in its third season, and has been performed in Toronto and Charlottetown.
"Nobody tells Maud's stories like Maud herself, so I decided to make it a one-woman show," Conrad explained. "It's wonderful to be able to bring it back for a third season and have it performed outside of the community. Local heritage is the thing that drives me. In fact, most of the shows I've written have been history-based"
Rounding out Conrad's impressive list of current theatre projects, he is slated to direct the play 'Miracle Worker' at the Oshawa Little Theatre in February of 2015.
A passionate supporter of all things Uxbridge, Conrad recently decided to take on another challenge when he declared as a candidate for the job of Ward 4 Councillor. Conrad does have past experience on municipal council, as he served on City Council in Whitehorse from 1982 to 1983. As well, he feels that his experience covering council as a member of the press will give him a head start should be elected in October.
Bringing additional tourism to the municipality is one of the key issues he would like to address if he is successful in defeating current challengers Fred Bryan and Dave Granic in the election on Oct. 27.
"I want to correct the impression that Uxbridge is just the Trail Capital of Canada, because it's so much more. We've got so much to offer in Uxbridge Township to the travelling public, but no one seems to know about it. I'm really passionate about this community and want to give back."