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How a ‘stoner rock band’ gets its start

The local stoner rock band of four known as Gnarwhal performed at The Raven Pub on Dec. 17.
Jeremy Straker was rocking out at The Raven Pub with the rest of the band on Dec. 17. The Christmas costumes were his idea. Jonathan Gardiner/NNSL photo

The local stoner rock band of four known as Gnarwhal performed at The Raven Pub on Dec. 17.

That day, the members of the group talked about their musical influences and their experiences working together as a musical act.

Guitarist Benji Straker gave a brief history of the band’s conception.

“Early on in Gnarwhal, Jeremy (Straker, bassist) and I were talking and (we said,) ‘Let’s start a stoner rock band,’” he said.

Some of the band’s collective musical influences are Queens of the Stone Age, Killswitch Engage, and NOFX. Individually, each of them had many influences, which contributes to their unique sound.

The band members went on to share their personal influences and describe how they bring them all into one.

“We all collectively come together and formulate,” said Layne Rybchinski, drummer. “Benji comes in with a simple structure, like guitar parts, and a few drum tracks. Then Mark (Kilbride, vocalist) comes in, and Jeremy comes in, and that’s Gnarwhal.

“We have two or three takes and you know it’s something.”

Kilbride said he uses the basic tracks Benji creates to form the lyrics of their songs.

“I dial into the demo tracks and that’s my basis for a lot of my phrasing,” he said. “When I come down to the jam space, it comes alive.”

Building a scene

Jeremy said that he was happy to see residents get excited about their music.

“My favourite part is seeing everybody in town getting a scene going and being into louder, heavier music,” he said.

He also said that it was his idea to perform in Christmas costumes on Dec. 17, stating that he was inspired by a drawing he saw online.

The show at the pub nearly sold out that night, helping to grow Gnarwhal’s influence in Yellowknife. During the show, they thanked the organizer and fellow musician Brenden MacIntosh, multiple times onstage.

Benji said that MacIntosh helped facilitate the publicity of their band.

“Post Covid-19, we tried to get a scene going so we had Brenden play in a couple other bands. He’s the other band in town that’s trying to get a scene built,” said Benji. “It almost felt like it was meant to happen with how organically it came together. It was really cool. I’m proud of these guys.”

The band currently does not have any more shows scheduled.