Three Yellowknifers faced Tuesday morning with the hope they might receive one of the highest national honours for the musical arts.
Greyson Gritt, left, and Tiffany Ayalik form the group Quantum Tangle. Their album, Tiny Hands, has been nominated for Juno Award in the category Indigenous Music Album of the Year. - photo courtesy of Quantum Tangle
Quantum Tangle duo Greyson Gritt and Tiffany Ayalik were nominated for Indigenous Music Album of the Year with their album Tiny Hands, and designer Isis Essery got a nod for her work designing Gord Downie's Secret Path album package.
Greyson Gritt greeted the news with disbelief followed by excitement.
"I woke up, checked my phone, didn't understand why I was getting all these messages and tags, and I got a message from Tiffany," said Gritt.
Ayalik, having heard the news earlier, had also expressed skepticism when she checked her phone at the airport waiting to board an early morning flight to Inuvik.
"On my notifications, I see APTN has tagged Quantum Tangle in a post," said Ayalik, who proceeded to check her e-mail messages to be sure it was legit. Finding nothing, she proceeded to check the Juno website and, sure enough, her band and album were prominently displayed among the rest of the 2017 nominees.
Their album packs a lot into three tracks, two of which are eight-minute long stories.
In The Amautalik, Ayalik tells the tale of a girl captured by a monster. She escapes, but the song describes her fate.
"Everybody knows that even if you escape from the amautalik, everybody knows that even if you get away, you're never the same again, because the amautalik keeps a little bit of your soul," she sings.
The next and final track follows an abusive husband and wife. As the song develops, it emerges the husband is really a shape shifting monster, and Gritt builds tension by scratching the guitar.
"I try to use as much of the guitar as possible to create a soundscape that will inspire people's imaginations," explained Gritt, who used different types of picks throughout the recording including a quarter, at one point.
This nomination puts Gritt in the company of Diga and Leela Gilday, both of whom have also been nominated for Junos. In 2007, Gilday took home the Aboriginal Album of the Year award and has been nominated in that category in 2003 and 2015 as well.
Diga, Gilday and Grey Gritt have all participated in the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) mentorship program. NACC executive director Marie Coderre praised the musicians for providing strong motivation for other artists to create art.
"It's a very competitive world down south when it comes to the performing arts, and if they don't keep up with consistency, it's not going to happen," she said. "These guys act as a catalyst for other artists in the North."
Coderre said she saw many artists happy for Quantum Tangle in her Facebook feed, expressing pride and admiration. This was an experience shared by Ayalik.
"We're so thankful for the support from our friends and family," she said. "Even the simple things like liking us on Facebook.
"It just shows that people believe in us."
Yker given nod for work on Secret Path
Graphic designer Isis Essery, nominated for Recording Package of the Year, was less surprised to learn her work on Gordon Downie's album, Secret Path, was in the running for a Juno.
"I was at work, so I work at Outcrop here in town now, and I got a text from a friend who was watching it live," she said.
But sickness prevented her from celebrating. When Yellowknifer called Wednesday, she was home in bed with her small dog, Marge, having recently finished a three-hour nap.
Secret Path is a multimedia package - it's a musical album released along with with a 88-page graphic novel by Canadian cartoonist Jeff Lemire.
"I took Gord's handwritten lyrics and turned them into posters along with Jeff Lemire's art and
kinda combined them in interesting ways to make them look as if they were done together," she explained about her role in the project.
The music and graphic novel tell the story of Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack, a 12-year-old boy who died trying to escape residential school in 1966.
In Essery's design, she created a font using old font books her grandfather owned to create a 1960s aesthetic.
"He was taken away from his family," she said. "We wanted it to be very powerful. We wanted people to feel Charlie's story."