About Sam Gibbs

Sam was attracted into outdoor education and an outdoor lifestyle because the outdoors seemed filled with outdoorsy men. She then got into outdoor and adventure magazines, as the deputy editor on Outdoor Australia, Australian Mountain Bike, and as editor of OUTthere magazine for the same reason. Her quest eventually brought her to Banff, where she hikes, climbs, paddles, and rides with no skill (or man) but with great joy.
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Cool Kids on Campus: It’s the 2011 Banff Indie Band Residency – Prepare for some unapologetic name-dropping

Stefanie Blondal of Mise en Scene rocks out in The Club.  Photo: Donald Lee.

Stefanie Blondal of Mise en Scene rocks out in The Club. Photo: Donald Lee.

Morning coffee queue at The Banff Centre’s Maclab Bistro, and the line-up consists of the usual suspects: a poet with a post-yoga glow, a sculptor in a postparty funk, and a conference suit with a pre-caffeine twitch. At the front of the line, two girls in knee-high boots, sequinned silver skirts, and massive, winged fur coats wait for their skim lattes. I sneak a glance at the taller one – her brown hair teased into an electrified madness, one glittering oversized eyelash peeling away from her face. The girls/women/amazons look as though they have fought the wilds for this coffee. Small pieces of bracken fall from their hair onto the floor. “Music video,” one of the she-beasts says with a tired smile in response to my staring. “Indie Band,” she adds. It all becomes clear. The cool kids.

I am about to slink away with my herbal tea to my way uncool day job when the king of the cool kids shuffles in. With long, dishevelled hair, an old-man cardigan, and the kind of loafers Jesus would wear if he was a drummer/producer/audio-engineer wunderkind, “Hey”, Shawn Everett says to me, just like he says hey to Bob Dylan, or Eddie Vedder in his real life. “Hey Shawn”, I say back so that the music-videoettes can hear. For a brief moment, I too, rock.

The Banff Indie Band Residency, a two-week program for indie rock groups is only in its third session, but the energy it is putting out is far from acoustic. An intensive writing, recording, and performance program in which three up-and-coming groups are given access to the kinds of resources for which most musicians wait a lifetime, the program is one big amplified band camp. Three bands, Winnipeg’s Mise en Scene, Vancouver’s Abramson Singers, and Doldrums from Toronto/Montreal, have been chosen to board the Banff Indie Band train.

“The success of previous residencies only feeds the calibre of faculty and bands which we’re able to bring together for this program,” says Theresa Leonard, director/executive producer of Audio programs. “These artists are in for an incredible ride.” Supported by the Centre’s Film & Media department, each band receives its own rehearsal and writing hut on Tunnel Mountain, four full days of recording and mixing in the Centre’s studios, and access to more recording engineers, live sound engineers, lighting technicians, filmmakers, and other artists than they can shake a drumstick at. A dozen audio work studies are also involved in the program, including a couple who should have left the Centre a month ago when their original contracts ended. “What are you still doing here?” I ask one guy, remembering his farewell drinks and a girlfriend he was keen to return home to. “Indie Band,” he says.

On top of the professional Banff Centre equipment, the indie artists also have access to specialized equipment donated by program supporter Yamaha Canada Music, and Banff Centre partner, Cantos Music Foundation. Among the rare instruments and tools made available by Cantos for the bands’ creative tinkering are a 1970’s Mellotron (the same instrument used in the psychedelic preamble to The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever), and an American RCA-44 ribbon vocal microphone. “This is the holy grail of microphones,” one work study tells me. “It’s not just the Elvis of mikes, it’s the Elvis mike. The same as he used.”

The attraction of access to The Banff Centre’s A-grade music facilities is one thing, but it’s the faculty in attendance for the program that is Indie’s ultimate draw-card. “You don’t just find yourself in situations where you get to record with these people,” says Shawn Everett of his colleagues, producers Tony Berg and Howard Bilerman. “Any band would have to spend mega-bucks to record with these guys,” an artist says of the three of them.

Howard Bilerman has been at the epicentre of the Canadian indie movement since its inception in the nineties. He’s worked with groups such as Wolf Parade, Bell Orchestre, and Arcade Fire (as well as being a member of the band), and for a week his decades of production experience are at the disposal of the three Banff bands. To Bilerman, a ‘retreat’ such as the Banff Indie Band program offers artists a special kind of recording experience. He references Exile on Main St., which was recorded when The Rolling Stones bunkered down in a mansion in the south of France, as evidence. “A band removes themselves from their normal environment, and immerses themselves away. They get to spend time together and bond as people, and almost as an afterthought, they get to make a record. It’s pretty much what this Banff Centre environment encourages,” Bilerman says. “It’s pretty rare.”

Described by many as the “most connected man in LA,” producer Tony Berg is also in Banff to work with each of the bands. The same ear he lends to artists such as Pink, Randy Newman, and Lupe Fiasco, is applied to the work of the Banff bands. “I have two goals,” Berg says of his Banff Centre work. “One is for the artists to walk away feeling like they’ve gained something from the experience, that they might be able to better realize their own visions in the future. And secondarily, to learn myself from the process. Every time I work with a new artist, I’m exposed to something new, and it improves my work as a producer.”

Audio work studies discuss an Indie Band recording mix.   Photo: Donald Lee.

Audio work studies discuss an Indie Band recording mix. Photo: Donald Lee.

Each of the Banff Centre indie bands walks away from the residency with a fistful of studio recordings, mixes, and music videos, as well as two live recordings. In two weeks they achieve more than many bands would manage in two years. Before the program even enters its final weekend, one of the groups – Mise en Scene – is already getting airtime with a new track on Calgary radio, and the three bands’ live performance in the Margaret Greenham Theatre is being streamed by CBC’s Radio 3.

“I’ve never heard of any other program like this in the world,” Everett tells me during a coffee break on the final studio day. “There are a lot of schools that teach pop and rock recording, but here, these things are not just being taught, they’re actually happening. There are no classes for the audio work studies. Instead, the bands are recording songs for actual albums, and the engineering and production is real. It’s hands-on in the way that the jazz and classical audio programs have been run here for years, and it makes crazy sense for the Centre to run a program like this. Production for rock and pop – this is the audio industry.” Everett waves his hands and laughs through his mop of hair. “And it’s fun to have this party vibe. It’s just cool, you know?”

“Sure,” I tell him, remembering how I spent last night watching Coronation Street reruns. “Cool.”

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Meet Shawn Everrett, Indie Band’s Alberta wunderkind


Shawn Everrett. Photo:  Laura Vanags.

Shawn Everrett. Photo: Laura Vanags.

“Shawn is probably the most sought-after Pro-Tools operator in Los Angeles,” says director/executive producer of Audio, Theresa Leonard. “He’s extremely talented. He mixes the artistic with the tech so well; it’s just a part of who he is. His enthusiasm, energy, and talent ignite something not only with the bands in a studio, but with the audio engineers, and anybody who enters that room. Plus, he’s probably the most polite person I’ve ever met.”

Originally from the hamlet of Bargg Creek, Alberta, Shawn Everett was fresh out of high school when he first came to The Banff Centre in 2000. Recommended to Leonard as a “special case”, he joined university graduates and mid-career professionals in a Banff Centre audio work study program when a last-minute place arose. “I had just got a job at a grocery store, when I got a call from Theresa,” Everett says. “So I told my grocery store boss I was sorry, but that I had to be in Banff the next day. I came up here and literally had no idea what I was doing. I was absolutely terrified.” Despite, or because of, a lot of cramming in the washroom reading software instruction manuals, Everett carved himself a place at The Banff Centre, remaining for five years first as a work study, then as a member of the audio staff.

In 2005 Everett took a leap, packed his van, and drove to California and a “cockroach-ridden room in Hollywood” with the hope of getting a break. By day two in LA he was assisting Tony Berg on a session for alternative-rocker Pete Yorn’s album Nightcrawler, and his career has only soared since, engineering and mixing for Bruce Hornsby, k.d. lang, Natalie Cole, Everlast, and Weezer. He co-produced Weezer’s most recent album Hurley.

True to his roots, Everett returns to The Banff Centre regularly. “My formative years were spent here,” Everett says of the Centre. “It’s home. I hope I’ll still be here when I’m an old man … so long as they keep having me.” 

To listen to recordings and podcasts, or to watch videos from the 2011 Indie Band Residency, see the Banff Centre blog, www.banffcentre.org. The 2011 Banff Indie Band Residency was supported by the Alberta Rural Development Fund, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Alberta Arts Days, Cantos Music Foundation, and Yamaha Canada Music.

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Mtn Festival Postscript: Can, shall, will.

When I was a kid, there was a phrase that my dad would repeat to us as a warning of the worst kind of person he saw in the world: The “woulda, shoulda, coulda guy”. And for the past nine days of the 2011 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, it was this that was stuck inside my head; there is no room to be that kind of person at this event.

“I woulda been a pro climber if I hadn’t hurt my knee.” Meet The Freedom Chair’s Josh Dueck, an adaptive skier who tackles the steepest and wildest mountains in the world.

“I shoulda gone to film school but I didn’t have the money.” Meet Leanne Allison, award-winning filmmaker and digital storyteller whose first Festival film, Being Caribou, was the product of a week’s worth of camera training and a good story.

“We coulda saved the forests, but no one was listening.” Meet the Sierra Club’s Caitlyn Vernon, whose book for young readers, Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest was a hit at the Festival.

Writer Jan Redford connects with Tim Cope in the boat studio

In the wooden fishing boat that is the ‘Henriquez studio’ in The Banff Centre’s Leighton Artists’ Colony, Banff Centre Fleck Fellow Tim Cope is writing the book to accompany the film which follows his three-and-a-half year journey in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan. I finally catch a quiet moment with him and ask him how it was that a pretty average Aussie kid grew up to live this extraordinary dream. “When I was about 14 or 15 I read Tim Macartney-Snape’s book Everest From Sea to Summit,” he said. “Later I saw his video, and then, incredibly, I met the man himself. I got a signed copy of his book, and it was hugely inspirational. It made a huge impact on me.”

As I walk away from Tim’s studio, the 2011 Festival, and the extraordinary characters that I have met, I question: “Can I learn to ride a horse, kite-ski it across the Arctic, do the world’s first mounted BASE jump, and get a film about it into next year’s Festival?” Can, shall, will.

See you in 355 sleeps.

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People’s Choice Award: “I’d like to thank my dog.”

It’s official: It’s not just me who is completely smitten with Australian adventurer Tim Cope. Recipient of the 2011 Banff Mountain Film Competition People’s Choice award for his film On the Trail of Ghengis Khan, tonight he took the stage:

Tim Cope presents his three-hour film about his three-and-a-half years of travel from Mongolia to Hungary. Photo courtesy of The Banff Centre.

“There are so many people I’d like to thank for this film – it’s been a six or seven year project. And there are lots of people who stood by the film. But apart from my family, and the 90 or 100 families I stayed with during the journey who made it possible, I guess I’d like to take the chance to say thanks to my horses, the three that took me through: Ogonyok (who was so paranoid that he would bolt at the sound of his own fart), Taskonir, and one other horse … oh, I won’t repeat the name … oh, OK I will, it’s kok – k.o.k. And not to forget, a really big thanks to my dog, Tigon.”

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Brrrrrr! It’s Cold!

Cory Richards' response to winning the 2011 Grand Prize was the same as when he was on the mountain: "What the F am I doing here?"

I cannot believe that a dark, short, sort of experimental, R-rated adventure film would win this prize. – Anson Fogel

Last February, at a high camp on Gasherbrum II in Pakistan’s Karakorum Range, Simone Moro, Denis Urubko, and Cory Richards completed the first winter summit of one of the country’s 8,000-metre peaks. Until then, the mountain was an achievement that 16 expeditions over the past 26 winters had failed to bag. With shivering hands on his camera, Richards captured an immediate, personal view of an expedition that scraped the limits of endurance for all three, with days in a sheer deepfreeze, and a sudden, near-fatal avalanche on the descent. Director Anson Fogel, impressed with Richards’ handheld footage, edited the story together to create Cold, announced tonight as the 2011 Banff Mountain Film Competition Grand Prize winner and recipient of the award for Best Climbing Film. Fogel also produced this year’s Best Short Mountain Film award-winner, Chasing Water.  

“This is surreal,” Fogel said as he took the stage for the third time tonight, “I love Canada. I’m completely overwhelmed; mostly by an incredible sense of appreciation and thankfulness that I can do this for a living. Thank you to all the people who come and support not just our film, but all these small mountaineering and adventure films. None of us would have jobs if it wasn’t for you. Please keep coming.”

We were awed by this film,” said the jury, “it’s sensitivity, its humility, and its great technical prowess.”

Fogel, who attended the 2010 Banff Adventure Filmmakers workshop, says he is honoured to watch his films on the Banff screen. “Being in Banff around 300 other talented filmmakers is inspiring. You can’t help but learn from hearing and seeing how the others tell a story.” And how does Cory Richards feel about sitting through the film himself? “Uncomfortable! I know it is a beautiful piece of art, but it sucks me back to that moment. I tend to want to leave the theatre and look for someone to have a beer with!” No problem there Cory; see you in about an hour at the wrap party.

2011 Banff Mountain Film Competition Winners

Grand Prize – Cold
The Banff Centre Award for Creative Excellence – The Wolf and the Medallion
Best Film – Exploration and Adventure – Kadoma
Best Film – Mountain Culture – The Sun Behind the Clouds
Best Film – Mountain Environment – SPOIL
Best Film – Climbing – Cold
Best Film – Mountain Sports – The Freedom Chair
Best Film – Wildlife and Natural History – Broken Tail
Best Short Mountain Film – Chasing Water
Best Feature-length Mountain Film – All.I.Can
Special Jury Mention – Journey on the Wild Coast
People’s Choice Award for Radical Reels – Reel Rock: Race for the Nose

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Bridging Banff and the world

SImon, Tina, Jemima, and Nell. Just four of the many international organisers who take the Festival to more than 30 countries of the world.

Simon Piper, Tina Qian, Jemima Robinson, and Nell Teasdale are all Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour organisers. Between them, they are responsible for taking the best of the Festival films on tour in the UK, Australia, and China.

“A friend asked me, ‘Why don’t you bring Banff Mountain Film Festival into China?’” Tina writes on the banffchina.com website; “It is this question so stunning that I nearly fall from sofa to ground.” Only two years old, the Chinese Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour is going gangbusters. It is the first foreign film festival to be approved for import by the Chinese government, and the first to show all of its films in HD. Attendance has doubled in the last year, and Tina has made the Chinese Tour her full-time job. “It is a dream come true,” she says, “bridging Chinese outdoor fans with the world.”


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