Story and photos by Sara Kuefler
The first time I saw The Static Shift perform live I thought, ‘They all have a guitar face, even the drummer!’ I guess that happens when you are a vessel for the incredible force of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll flowing through you.
Mitchell Brady (guitar/vocals), Keone Friesen (bass/harmonica/back-up vocals), and Isaiah Stonehouse (drums/back-up vocals) have been wowing crowds in the local Calgary scene for a number of years now, which is impressive given their tender ages. Since headlining The Blues Can at age 14, they have kept the steam rolling with a debut full-length album, Windsor Street, released a couple years later in 2014. Their four-song EP, At Odds, followed in 2015, and another full-length album, Common Bliss, in 2017; the band has proven prolific. These gentlemen have genuine talent, old souls, incredible stage presence and chemistry, and a work ethic to match.
That work ethic recently paid off when they were ‘launched’ on Scott Borchetta’s CTV show The Launch earlier this year. The show selects a number of developed, emerging Canadian musical talents – five per episode exactly – to compete against each other. The top two are selected to record an original track within 48 hours, giving it their own flavour, and the winner is selected based upon their recorded track as well as a live performance in front of an audience. Being the prevailing act in their episode, The Static Shift had their single “Wide Awake” released, and it has since received radio play. Further doors have been opened based on this new exposure.
Speaking with Friesen’s father, Duan, at a show this year at Nite Owl, he related that a fan had compared seeing The Static Shift at these small venues to the days when you were able to see The Tragically Hip in small intimate venues – a real privilege to be sure. I would have to agree completely; I have no doubt these Calgary boys are rising stars to watch and the shows will only get bigger from here on out.
Here are a few words from The Static Shift, answered collectively while on tour:
You have had some major gains in widespread exposure recently. I think there can be a perception that when bands break out towards mainstream exposure that it has happened just like magic, but I know you have worked very hard for many years. Can you tell me a little about what the journey has been like?
The journey has been a lot of hard work, dedication, and practice. There was a time where we played any and every venue we could, even when we were minors. We have worked hard on aspects of writing, performance and connecting with our fans. This recent exposure certainly hasn’t happened like magic, but we have been blessed to have some pieces come together lately after many years of hard work. And we continue to work hard, as we have a long way to go yet.
Has life changed much since being “Launched”?
Yes, absolutely. The biggest thing for us so far has been the opportunity to play on bigger stages, especially this summer. Going on tour with Collective Soul, and opening for Billy Talent, are things that may not have come to us if it weren’t for The Launch. Another huge thing for us has just been the amount of exposure it has given us. It’s always been our goal to get our music to as many people as possible, and The Launch helped us do that!
Your families must be supportive. I saw a video you made a while back that partially spoke about how all your fathers have been involved in the band in some respect. Do you think that has been a tremendous help in terms of having access to different skill sets, like studio recording, management and equipment knowledge?
We have been extremely fortunate to all have supportive families. They have opened so many doors for us in our musical careers, and we can’t thank them enough. We’ve had the luxury of three dads who all know different sides of the music industry, and that has really helped. We truly don’t believe we’d be where we are without them.
What is it that makes music so essential to you and drives you to continue, what keeps you coming back for more?
For us, playing in front of people is one of the biggest things that drives our passion for music. Also, not being afraid of putting your art out there is a big part of it. Sometimes people are afraid to start playing shows or the concept of putting out their own album seems out of sight. We’ve discovered that if the passion is there, which it is for us, it is totally possible to do all these things.
Finally, the reactions we get from fans is something that we love to see. Music is so powerful and can move people in many ways.
Do you think you will miss small intimate venues as you start to play bigger shows, or do think you’ll prefer the large stages and venues?
There’s aspects of both small and large stages that we enjoy. We’ve always found it easier to connect with the audience at smaller venues, so that is something we will potentially miss on bigger stages. But playing larger venues is something we’ve always wanted to do, and we had an absolute blast on our latest tour with Collective Soul, as this was the first tour we were playing solely at bigger venues.
Imagining you become world famous and have a huge following, playing big stadiums and festivals and are still making music many years from now, what advice would your current self give to your future self?
During the filming for The Launch, Nikki Sixx pulled us aside and gave us some advice. He said, “Never forget the joy you first had when you picked up your instrument. Keep relationships healthy and strong between yourselves, and stay humble, because egos won’t get you far.” That advice stuck with us and is something we’d remind our future selves of if we could.
I have heard a lot of people say you can’t make it big without moving out of Calgary. Do you think that is the case?
For some, moving to bigger cities certainly helped them move forward in their career. At this moment in our career, online presence and social media have been huge tools for us in reaching our music outside of the city, so we haven’t had a reason to move yet. But who knows what the future holds. No matter what happens, we’ll always have a huge place in our hearts for Calgary.
What do you see on the horizon for The Static Shift?
2018 has been our biggest year so far, and there’s still so much to come. We’ve got so much new material, so getting back into the studio is certainly something on the horizon. We will keep our fans updated for when that process starts. Beyond that, we continue to work hard to get our music to as many people as possible and can’t wait to see where it takes us.