The Northbloods, a high-energy folk-rock band from Grande Prairie, have been together for an entire decade. They met in college, at an open-mic night at the campus pub. Well, Nelson Horneland, Zachary Kay and Riley Morrison were there. Dave Oostra was only 17 and thus too young to legally be there.
The trio decided to jam a song together onstage. “We played ‘Free Falling’ by Tom Petty and we killed it,” says Kay. “When we came off stage, people were like, ‘how long have you guys been a band?’ and we said, ‘about 15 minutes.’” The three kept performing together and soon youngster and drummer Dave joined the fold.
(It should be noted that 17-year-old Dave went on to get a music degree from MacEwan University and is now known as one of the most talented percussionists in the city.)
Their breakthrough came when they won a Battle of the Bands put on by a local radio station in 2015. The prize was $2500 to record a song and the chance to open for Econoline Crush. “Winning that was the biggest game changer for us,” says Kay.
“Our name took off around the Peace Country and opportunities came our way to open for some awesome bands and play some festivals. It slowly grew from there,” he continues.
Over their 10 years together they’ve played three years of the Bear Creek Folk Music Festival and opened for The Strumbellas, The Trews, Rural Alberta Advantage, 54-40 and Everlast, to name just a few.
They’ve also completed their university degrees, lived in various cities, launched careers and most recently, started families.
The group’s original songs are written by Kay with lots of input from his bandmates. “I used to have a better completion rate,” he says. He now has an 18-month-old as well as his full-time work teaching. “Now it’s ‘here’s an idea, let’s figure it out,” he laughs.
The Northbloods are playing a show Nov. 18 at the storied Demmitt Hall, part of the Borderline Culture Series. The hall is a community-built, timber-framed, wood-heated structure in the forest, an hour northwest of Grande Prairie.
“It’s a special place,” says Kay. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s an adventure to get there.”
They have a rocking evening planned. “We are a nice blend of folk and rock music and we bring the energy, that’s definitely our calling card,” says Kay. “We just want people to enjoy themselves and get themselves moving a little bit, whether tapping their toes or dancing.”
“People always say it looks like we’re having fun on stage,” says Horneland. “It’s because, basically, we are.”
The Northbloods play the Borderline Culture Series at the Demmitt Hall Nov. 18 with Fairview singer-songwriter Norah Eve opening. Tickets and details here.