Debut album touches on contemporary challenges wrapped in nostalgia

North of Seven’s band steeped in the Highlands

By Darren Lum

Passion and heart is central to the 10-track debut album, … Just sit down by North of Seven.
Comprising of three Haliburton Highlands Secondary School alumnus, Eric Casper, Earl Johnson and Kyle Aggett, the band is excited about their debut album.
Two of the three band’s members Casper and Johnson live in the Highlands, and Aggett may live in Peterborough, but his heart and roots are in the Highlands.
The album’s songs include a few written years before and the rest are specific for the album. The production took three days to complete, including 40 hours of work in the studio.
Among the 10 songs on the album, it’s 78 Days (featuring Samara Johnson) that stands out for Casper.
“It’s the best thing I’ve written with guitar. And I think the meaning of the song – bringing attention to the Oka Crisis that people don’t forget history,” Casper said.
The Oka Crisis, also known as the Kanesatake Resistance or the Mohawk Resistance at Kanesatake was a 78-day standoff (from July 11 to Sept. 25 in 1990) between Mohawk protestors, Quebec polic, the RCMP and the Canadian Army. This standoff was the result of a proposed expansion of a golf course and the development of townhouses on disputed land in Kanesatake that included a Mohawk burial ground.

Casper adds despite this track being produced in the studio it was completed with the least amount of effort. Hearing the song, Casper’s singing, drips with emotion, particularly during the chorus and conjures up hits in the 1990s such as by Canadian folk icon, Bruce Cockburn. Another track, Face of Stone has a rhythm and the accompanying lyrics, prompting one to sing along with and tap your foot to.
Casper characterizes the band as rock alternative, with influence from the grunge rock bands of the 1990s he and Johnson grew up listening to as teens. Johnson provides background vocals and plays guitar. Although Aggett is a 2002 graduate and his bandmates are gradautes from the early 1990s, they all share a love of music and appreciation for the power of music, which was conveyed in this artistic collaboration.
Johnson said the album was led by Casper’s initiative.
They started with a few of Casper’s songs, Johnson’s songs and then collaborated for new songs. Half the track list was created during the pandemic.
The trio were thankful and appreciative to their wives, they said. Another local aspect, which many youth can attest, is the connection and influence from the school’s former music teacher Tom Regina, who has been retired for several years now. Regina’s tenure included a long list of musical accomplishments, which included live local and out of the Haliburton County performances where the best high school musicians performed at various festivals and competitions.
The band praised the album’s inside artwork by Poet Ever, a local artist whose work is showcased at the Limbic Collective in Haliburton.
The album is finished and is out there to purchase, but it really is the start of something more, Casper said.
“I think it’s a starting point,” Casper said. “This album, event though it’s our first and only I don’t plan it being the end. What we did is learn so much in the studio and now I’m just pumped to go back. Maybe when we go back to the studio we might not do a whole album to start. We’ll get two or three songs down and then do another two. But now that we have that experience I’m so excited to go back and record more.”

With the past two years living during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult to deny the affect it has had on us emotionally Johnson said.
“That’s where the album came from. It’s from the pandemic, from the isolation, from the feelings everyone had, trying to live on their own,” he said.
Music can be entertaining and a diversion, but in other ways it can be a unifier like this album.
Johnson said the dark tone of the music’s content was a reflection and a reminder of what everyone endured around the world, including in the Highlands.
The message to the listener, he said, is “that they’re not alone.”
Casper said the next album for the band will be more upbeat, as far as tempo and rhythm. He is looking forward to working on an album with a new style.

These three go back with familiar academic experiences at HHSS. However, the first time the band performed as North of Seven was at the Home Made Stew concert in 2020.
Back in the 1990s, Casper came to the area from Hamilton.
In Grade 9 or 10, Johnson remembers asking him about whether he played bass guitar or not. Although Casper said no he didn’t, the bass guitar was handed to him anyways during a jamming session.
“You’re playing bass,” Johnson said at the time. Casper is playing bass now for the band, but music stuck.
Love to add a guitarist
The band is actively interested in having another band member to play guitar. This would enable Casper to enable him to play bass for live shows.
“So, if there is a guitar player out there …” he said, laughing.
Aggett loved to see how they all were able to think on the spot when the situation called for it at the studio.
“Something that we’ve never done, never even heard some of it. And all of a sudden it’s like, oh, man. That’s super cool. Where did you get that from?” he said.
The evolution of the album happened quickly.
Aggett said initially the plan was for an acoustic sound, so a Cajun box was considered for percussion, but when they arrived at the studio they decided to use a drum kit. Aggett admitted it had been years since he regularly played, using a drum kit
“We just kind of decided that’s how we were going to do it,” he said. “We came up with some things on the spot. Kind of try to make it work. I loved how it came out. I loved how we worked together to make what it is now.”
Johnson said the decision to switch up the sounds worked and brought more depth.
All three talked about how this album is a musical creation in the making over all the years they all have been with other bands.
“Sometimes it happens. You end up jamming with a band and never recording anything,” he said. And, then it happens. Studio magic yields a creation that three long-time friends can be proud to share as their first, but not likely their last.
Purchase the album, which was produced by the band with producer David Joyce at Treblecock Studio in Peterborough, wherever the band performs, on their Facebook page, at Canoe FM in Haliburton, and through Russell Red Records at their store in Haliburton or on the store’s website at