Arguably Fernie’s most iconic band is celebrating a milestone; one decade on stage together.
What started as a jam session at The Northern Bar and Stage downtown Fernie, with just a few songs written down, has grown over time. Now, their lyrics are embedded into the minds of Fernie locals, and more and more around the world as they continue to tour globally.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been some speed bumps along the way.
Their first tour together, shortly after their first show together, came with the promise of playing on a stage downtown Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics. A fundraiser at The Brickhouse sent them on their way, but they found the description of their show to be a little misleading. What they thought would be stage performance on a packed street full of sports fans, was not. To top it off, they had agreed to do it for no pay.
“It was the first time we were sort of like, oh, we could travel doing this and not just stay locally,” said lead singer, Sage McBride.
The following summer the group booked a tour from Fernie to Newfoundland and back, but made no money.
In the beginning, touring wasn’t pretty; from tenting in trucker stops to making $800 for ten weeks work.
Thankfully, McBride admitted that their tenting days are over.
“It’s a good way to start I think, because it keeps you humble,” she said. “And it doesn’t sort of let your ego get too big, too quickly, because you have to grind it out and really deal with some not optimal situations.”
For McBride, the past ten years have brought with it much joy, but also many challenges. The most challenging part for her was the balance between work and life. She said the contrast between living, travelling and working with five people for weeks, then going home to just yourself, can be overwhelming. In addition, staying healthy can be hard.
“Sometimes I find when we get home it’s like ‘sweet, couch and Netflix’ and then when you’re out on the road you’re like ‘dinners and getting together and going out’, then when you get home you’re just like ‘ahh, I just need to be alone for a minute,” said McBride.
“But then when we’re home for too long you just start to crave the road – you’re like – I need to get back out there,” she added.
The challenges, however, also come with a reward. For guitarist and frontman Tim Newton, consistently over the years, the best part about being a musician is connecting with the crowd.
“It’s the best feeling on earth, it’s addictive. We get hooked on it,” he said. “It makes you just want to keep doing it over and over again.”
Newton explained that nowadays, most of the profit to be had for a band is on the road. Sales of albums pretty much don’t exist anymore. This is partially to do with the introduction of music streaming services.
As a rebounding affect of this Newton believes that touring may be more profitable now than it was in the past, but as a result this means that bands need to be on the road to make a living.
In 2013, Shred Kelly performed 25 shows in 22 days; Newton breathed a sigh of relief – they don’t go that hard anymore.
That specific tour took the group from Nova Scotia, all the way to the west coast. Newton remembers finishing a set, and not a great one at that, during their final show of the tour in Victoria.
“I think we had a really bad set, and I was almost in tears, in like a delusional kind of state,” laughed Newton.
Each member have part-time jobs back home in Fernie, for this very reason; so that they don’t have to go that hard.
Throughout the years, the group has seen a few members come and go, and Newton says their sound has also changed over the years. From an acoustically driven sound, the group has morphed into a more electrically-driven, something Newton says brought big energy to their group on stage.
In addition to Newton and McBridge, Shred Kelly consists of guitarist Jordan Vlasschaert, Bassist Ty West and drummer Ryan Mildenberger.
From only playing upbeat songs in bars to eventually playing festivals, the group discovered that fans were also interested in slower music as well. As their audience grew, and they members grew as individuals, so did Shred Kelly’s sound.
Their first international tour was in Germany in 2016.
They have since returned six times, and also travelled to the UK, as well as Australia.
McBride explained that touring in another country almost feels like starting over. However, despite being on the other side of the world, they still met people who knew of Fernie.
“The ski town thing has … been really amazing for our story, which is kind of unlike a lot of other bands,” she said. “When we have travelled internationally, that’s like – everyone that we meet, they’re never like ‘we saw you in Toronto’, it’s always a ski town affiliation.
“It’s really cool that the ski network is so worldwide. Fernie is such a small town but has such a global connection,” added McBride. “When we do travel to other places, Fernie is still that thing that brings people out to the shows.”
Possibly the biggest change in recent years is the introduction of their newest band member Murphy; Sage and Tim’s baby girl.
Shred Kelly recorded their fifth album this summer, and Murphy was in the studio with them to keep the group in line. The new album reflects upon many recent life events, including the birth of guitarist Jordan Vlasschaert’s baby, as well as some personal losses.
The group plans on releasing this album in spring, 2020. Newton says this marks a new chapter for them.
Shred Kelly is celebrating their ten year anniversary with a tour around B.C., and end in Fernie with two back to back shows at The Northern Bar and Stage on Friday, December 20 and Saturday, December 21. Purchase tickets online at Shredkelly.com/.