The inaugural gala show for the Fraser Valley Music Awards is just around the corner.
The community initiative by UFV’s CIVL-FM is one that serves to revitalize the regional music scene, raise awareness for independent bands, and bring all facets of the local music industry together to network and celebrate, said FVMA coordinator James Kasper.
They put out the call for solo artists and bands to submit their best music samples back in March. A committee narrowed down the applicants to unveil the nominees in May, which are up for the top spots across 12 award categories.
“We’re in the homestretch now,” Kasper says as he irons out the final details for the high-calibre evening of performances and award presentations.
On July 16, musicians and fans from all across the valley will pour in to the Abbotsford Arts Centre to celebrate the incredible talent drawn from Surrey to Harrison.
Plenty of locals are lending their talent to the mix. The Progress reached out to a few Chilliwack nominees as they eagerly await the awards show next Saturday.
In the Folk/Roots category, Chilliwack-raised Matt Lowen is a contender. He busily toured his second album Last Year’s Leaves (2014) through last year, and is currently slowing down a bit to revisit his kitchen writing table.
“[Last Year’s Leaves] was about change and loss, and my new direction is exploring change and gain,” Lowen simplified of the more glass-half-full perspective he’s taking with new material.
Lowen is on the entertainment line-up for the awards gala, where he’ll perform an all new arrangement of a well-loved track.
“It feels good to be a part of this, to have like-minded creative individuals that have all been looking forward to this one big event,” he said of the FVMAs.
Like Vancouver and Victoria, the Fraser Valley music scene has “a lot happening,” and this is one way to bring attention to it, he added.
Getting your music heard can be particularly tough for young artists.
Nominee in the For and By Youth category, 18-year-old up-and-comer Lakeisha Hewitt has been taking vocal and guitar lessons, rehearsing covers and writing originals for years. This Chilliwack Secondary grad is up on stage sharing them at the Tractorgrease Café open mic just about every week.
She’s stoked to have been approached recently by both the Mission and Vancouver Folk Music Festivals, performing at which has always been a dream of hers.
“[The FVMAs] support all musicians of all ages from all over. It’s a great learning experience and networking opportunity,” she says, “and it helps you become more comfortable with putting your music out there.”
As she gigs and networks as much as possible to build her reputation and repertoire, she’s looking forward to her musical future, which may include an original album and potentially fronting a band.
Open Letters is a pop punk band nominated in the Loud category, comprised of Reuben Houweling (vocals/guitar) Kyle Shields (vocals/bass) and Trent Otter (drums/vocals).
“It’s a pretty emotional record. Even though lyrically it’s sad, the music behind it is pretty driving and fun,” Houweling said, fresh off the road from a tour with Blessed, a post-punk Experimental nominee.
Open Letters is committed to giving back. Their album proceeds benefit WISH drop-in centre society, which helps women involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade, and their shows are all-ages, which Houweling says was vital to him as a teen.
“It’s a crucial part of my existence, and I owe it all to the Chilliwack and Abbotsford music scene,” he said. “It’s really important to give kids the opportunity to have an outlet where it’s safe, they can express themselves, and they aren’t getting into trouble.”
Similarly, Houweling doesn’t see the FVMAs as a competition, but a way for the music community to unite and build one another up.
Lori Paul & Spiderlodge is up for the Rock award. Lori (vocals), Wild Card nominee Rick Genge (guitar) and Clay Thornton (percussion), came out with their latest album Mighty Fine Time in 2013.
These seasoned and respected musicians advocate passionately for the arts, and continue to work closely with “the next generation” of artists, including Matt Lowen, Lakeisha Hewitt and Jazz nominee Brooklyn Potter.
“The FVMAs is a brand new awards show. It doesn’t yet have the reputation that it one day will,” Paul said. “But we’re all for any initiative that brings attention to [local] music.”
Twelve artists or groups will soon be able to add “FVMA winner” to their resume, which Paul says will give them that essential extra edge to help them succeed in a challenging industry.
Kasper hopes to pack the house on awards night. “We should all be supporting our local arts and culture,” he said.
The high-profile commercial voice of major radio and television networks might be the loudest, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best or only voice to listen to.
“There’s so much out there that we need to seek out, rather than just take what’s given to us,” he explained. “Get out to the local shows in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Langley. Even if you don’t recognize the names, who cares? Go anyways, even if just for curiosity’s sake.”
Kasper’s working on putting on the best show possible for the live audience, which will be broadcast live on 101.7 CIVL FM as well.
CIVL Station Manager Aaron Levy is hosting, and he’s now accepting video applications for a co-host. Aspiring emcees should demonstrate their personality, energy and charisma in a 30-second video clip and submit it to CIVL by 5 p.m. on July 11.
The Fraser Valley Music Awards gala show takes place Saturday, July 16 at the Abbotsford Arts Centre (2329 Crescent Way). Doors open at 6 p.m., the show begins at 7 p.m. sharp, running until around 10 p.m. General tickets are $15 each, available at the door or in advance at Long & McQuade Chilliwack, or online at fundrazr.com/CIVLFVMA16.
Learn more at civl.ca/fvma.