Collect Call: Sanctuary

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Life and art are inextricable. Life fuels art, providing inspiration and purpose to every stroke of a paintbrush and every word that is inked by an author. In the same vein, art offers a glimpse into one’s reactions to his or her life experiences. They mirror each other – so it comes with no surprise that life progresses much like a novel, painting or piece of theatre: through different acts. Childhood, adulthood and senility are all remarkably different acts in our lives, each with its own set of challenges and blessings. These are clearly defined stages which are marked by particular relics. Childhood by action figures and dolls, adolescence by textbooks and minimum wage work, adulthood by tax filing and mortgage payments, and finally, senility by retirement and pension collection. I would argue however, that it is the moments in between, the often tumultuous transition periods, that are the most memorable and rewarding instances of our existence.

Young adulthood specifically can be quite a confusing time. It comes with the promise of greater independence but it simultaneously and often unexpectedly, increases responsibility. It is a time of honest self-assessment and soul searching. Ultimately, these years lay the foundation for the later years of self sustenance. Some deal with this stressful time via escapism. Others take on a cold and brutish personality, interacting bluntly and rudely with the world out of self-defense for their fragile self-esteems. Others still, combine these two approaches, and take on a mentality of complete detachment and wage silent rebellion on the ‘cruel’ world ala Holden Caulfield. Not everyone however is consumed by this Salinger-esque angst. There are some that chose to channel their insecurities and anxieties in meaningful ways.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to catch up with one such group of individuals: who choose to translate emotional wavelengths, joyous or depressed, into something meaningful & productive. Collect Call is an indie rock band formed in White Rock, British Columbia. It consists of members Nick Babey, Lazar Todorovic and Tom Lee. All three were born in different places before coming together in high school – Nick moved from Calgary, Lazar from Toronto and Tom from Korea (Nick suspects that Tom is actually from North Korea – but that’s a story for another time).

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If you’re curious as to how the band got their name, there are two stories. The official one and another one which is potentially closer to reality. You decide which is which: one story holds that “we just sourced names from friends and family” as explained Nick Babey. The other narrative maintains that Collect Call is about collecting yourself and having somebody you can call – a metaphor for reaching out, friendship and interdependence. Whichever story you choose to believe, as one begins to listen to their music, he/she realizes that the more heartwarming version is in fact genuine.

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When the three met, they were at different points in their lives. All three came from elsewhere, meaning that they had to adapt to their new settings. Moving is never easy, and during young adulthood in particular, the switches between friend groups and the constant pressure of ‘fitting in’ can really take a toll on a person’s well being. While others in their positions turned to deviancy and negligence, Nick, Tom and Lazar found each other because of a common interest: music. What started as a friendship, turned into late night guitar and drumming sessions. They wrote and sang about what was happening around them in their day to day lives. Songs about girls they were chasing, whether these pursuits were successful or not, family issues, and other personal stories. Music became a diary of sorts – a diary of experiences and of dreams for the future. No matter how tough things got, they could always look forward to coming together and making music. “Waking up with the tiredness in my bones…but I know that I’m coming home” sings Tom Lee on their 2014 LP Spring Constant opening track Home for the Winter.

Their sound has undoubtedly been influenced by their geography as mentioned by Nick Babey. White Rock, located in British Columbia, lies in the heart of the coniferous and white capped landscape that is the Pacific Northwest. Mountain ranges on all sides – that is White Rock. Streams at every twist and turn – that is White Rock. Pine trees lining the streets – that is White Rock. This setting has inspired Collect Call to create music that is very steely and acoustic. Sharp strings (Lazar Todorovic is responsible for the guitar and bass) are layered on top of very refined vocals (Tom Lee serves as the band’s frontman). The percussion is very crisp, always sounding clear and never lost in the sound (handled by Nick Babey). It is something between Bon Iver on For Emma, Forever Ago and Coldplay on A Rush of Blood to the Head. But every so often, the introspection is balanced out with tunes that you can dance to like on Consequences, which features an infectious percussion build up and staccato melody which accentuates Tom’s raspy vocals. This lighthearted groove mixed with emotional reflection blends together influences such as Said the Whale, Of Mice & Men and Mumford & Sons. Out of it all however, comes something organic – a unique look into the personal lives and thoughts of three adventurous young adults.

Spring can be regarded symbolically as a time of rebirth – flowers blossom, the leaves return in all their green might and glory, and the birds sing again in the morning. Collect Call’s latest album Spring Constant is aptly named – not only because of its upbeat sound throughout its 29 minute and 17 second runtime, but because it reflects the trio’s mentality. It is a testament to their desire to grow, explore, discover and take on the challenges of young adulthood with hope and strength rather than avoid the changes. With each new release, Nick, Tom and Lazar are creating their own relics…and there is much more to come from this exciting young band.

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