Lakefield: A Progressive Approach

Even living within Toronto’s city limits, it’s abundantly clear that GTA-based bands often get preferential treatment in terms of media coverage. I’m guilty of it myself; the musicians I’ve covered for CAC thus far have all been friends or friends of friends from the area. It’s time to shine the spotlight on the rest of this fine country! Welcome to the ROC.

"Have you ever heard the saying 'awkward turtle'?" asks Luscher. "Look it up, it's a thing." Photo by Joshua Seinen.


When Steve Luscher and Kate Rossiter left Ottawa (and the Suburban Pop Project) for Vancouver in 2006, they knew the music would continue; they just didn’t know how.

Luscher explains that “it started with the Blue Grey Dots,” a dance rock project including Luscher and guitarist Bryan Chiu. The group was influenced by area bands like You Say Party! We Say Die!, but “burned out quickly,” Luscher laughs, “as a dance rock outfit is apt to do.”

Quickly realizing that a life without music just wasn’t worth living, Luscher volunteered to work stage crew for Vancouver’s Car Free Day, where he met bassist Kyle Sulyma. It was easy to wrangle Rossiter and Chiu back into the fold, and the lineup was completed with drummer Paul Teehan, Luscher’s high school chum from Oshawa, Ontario (Yes, Luscher and Teehan are from the GTA – but they didn’t start making music together until they met up in Vancouver!).

Photo by Famewhore & Subdisc.

By 2008, Lakefield was going strong, playing to appreciative audiences and recording the songs leading up to the July 2010 release of their debut album, Sounds From The Treeline.

The poppy, wistful songs on Sounds invoke crisp autumn air and crucial moments both in the past and yet to be. Rossiter’s clear, gentle alto is at times reminiscent of The Submarines’ Blake Hazard or Britta Phillips (though some might know her better as Jem), and the songs are peppered with backing vocals from Chiu and Luscher.

The album itself is available for purchase on the band’s website ( both as a CD and as a digital download, which is pay-what-you-want. What’s more, the whole album is released on a creative commons, non-commercial attribution license. This means that as long as Lakefield is credited for the music and there isn’t a profit being made, anyone can use the band’s music freely.

“The whole idea of us as an indie band taking (legal) action against someone for liking and using our music is pretty absurd,” Luscher says. “We’re not interested – and don’t have the resources – in criminalizing our fans who want to share our music.”

He points to Quebec artist Coeur de Pirate, whose song appeared without permission in a fan’s YouTube video that happened to go viral. The direct result was a drastic increase in album sales and media attention, which Luscher says would probably never have happened if her fan – a photographer from Quebec City who filmed his baby playing with toys – hadn’t technically broken the law.

But when it comes to promoting the open use of their music, Luscher sighs.

“I feel like we haven’t made full use of (the creative commons license) in terms of reaching out to content creators, like student filmmakers, and people with cute babies. We’re notoriously clumsy in issues of our own self-promotion.”

There have been some unforeseen bumps in the road for Lakefield as they navigate the uncharted waters of life in the creative commons, most prevalent being issues with SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada).

When bands become SOCAN members, they must sign the performance rights to SOCAN exclusively, in order for the organization to collect royalties on the band’s behalf from clubs, radio stations and other avenues that might play or air music in a commercial setting.

“A creative commons license means that you give basically everyone in the world performance rights to your music, and SOCAN isn’t prepared to deal with that,” Luscher says. This has made it difficult for Lakefield to track and collect royalties when their music is played commercially.

Another obstacle at the moment is the fact that drummer Teehan is currently in London on an internship with the BBC for seven to nine months. For the time being, Sulyma has moved from bass to drums, and guest bassist Sarah Sangster from Blank Cinema is enthusiastically filling in.

“Sarah learned the songs quickly, in two to three rehearsals,” Luscher says. She played with Lakefield on a small tour of Vancouver Island recently, and will be joining them again at the Cobalt on December 14th for the first annual Bridging The Gap fundraiser, organized by Lakefield’s own Bryan Chiu (his Lockbox Promotions is gaining ground in the Vancouver scene). Proceeds from the show will help those in need on the Downtown Eastside. Also on the bill are Lady Jem, Rags to Radio, Mercy Years, Shot Royalties and Derrick Mensch.

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