Friends with a shared love for music and a distaste for the established order get together, form a band, play shows with friends’ bands – and in time, record and release those acts. In the context of music scenes across the globe, pretty standard stuff. But for Canadian independent Sonic Unyon Records, those scrappy beginnings led places that none could have predicted back in the early 1990s. The 25 years since have seen the label release music from a staggering range of genres, weather industry turbulence that sank many a major, and earn international accolades along the way. Now the label takes inventory of that vivid and eclectic history with a string of celebrations and special releases, including an entertaining documentary and a limited-edition triple-vinyl compilation.
Warm up for a week of Sonic Unyon 25th anniversary celebrations when Tristan Psionic joins the lineup for CFMU’s annual fundraiser Friday, April 12 at Hamilton live music institution This Ain’t Hollywood. The legendary indie rockers join a bill that also features alt-pop darlings ellevator, hip-hop jazz unit Haolin Munk, and Granny Smith, with special guest Luke Bentham (The Dirty Nil). Doors open at 9pm. Advance tickets are $15 (plus fees), available online through Brüha.
2019 CFMU Annual Fundraiser ft. Tristan Psionic
Friday, April 12 • Doors 9pm
This Ain’t Hollywood (345 James St. N., Hamilton ON)
A quarter-century in the making, Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25 recaps the illustrious history of Hamilton’s iconic independent record label, from its bootstrap beginnings through numerous reinventions and on to the present day, with cameos from many of the players who’ve been part of the incredible Sonic Unyon saga.
The documentary includes appearances from Sonic Unyon artists like Hayden, Joel Plaskett (Thrush Hermit), Sean Ramsay (SIANspheric), Mike Bell (Chore) and Terra Lightfoot, as well as Mark Milne, Tim Potocic and Sandy McIntosh of Tristan Psionic, plus indie rock contemporaries like Jay Ferguson and Chris Murphy (Sloan), and industry supporters such as George Stroumboulopoulos, Alan Cross, Ian Danzig, Mark Furukawa, Mark DiPietro, and Deane Cameron.
Whether you’re a die-hard from the cassette-only era, a fan of the radio hits, or a total newcomer, you won’t want to miss this special celebration of independent music. The film was directed by Chris Paco (the filmmaker responsible for If It’s Not Something It’s Something Else: The Story of the Reason) in concert with Nick Mirka, Mark Rauwerda and Drew Williams of Mitchell Reilly Pictures.
Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25 premieres Saturday April 13 at Mills Hardware. Doors open at 7pm, with screening at 8pm and Q&A session following the film. Admission is PWYC.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Sonic Unyon founders Mark Milne, Tim Potocic and Sandy McIntosh, as well as filmmakers Nick Mirka and Mark Rauwerda of Mitchell Reilly Pictures.
The panel session will be hosted by esteemed music journalist and rock scholar Michael Barclay, author of the 2018 national bestseller The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip (out in paperback May 7), and co-author of 2001's Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-95. Michael has worked for Maclean's, CBC's Brave New Waves, and Exclaim!, and his most formative years were spent as Music Editor at Id Magazine — an alt-weekly serving Hamilton, K-W, Guelph, London and St. Catharines —between 1993-99, at which he wrote cover stories about both Sonic Unyon and Tristan Psionic. (He doesn't listen to rock music anymore, with the sole exception of Terra Lightfoot, because, c'mon.)
Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25 Documentary Screening
Saturday, April 13 • Doors 7pm, Screening 8pm, Q&A following
Mills Hardware (95 King. St. E., Hamilton ON)
Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25 is also the title of the latest release from the independent record label – a limited edition triple-LP vinyl package that takes stock of the past 25 years of releases in a special 32-track collection pressed on smoky-clear vinyl in a hand-numbered run of 500, each with a 24”x24” poster recapping the label's first 25 years of releases.
The Now We Are 25 compilation spans every era of the label’s history and includes tracks from Basement Revolver, Frank Black and the Catholics, Camouflage Nights, Chore, Danko Jones, Dinner Belles, The Dinner Is Ruined Band, Eric's Trip, The Ghost is Dancing, Gleet, Hayden, Kestrels, Kittens, Terra Lightfoot, Mayor McCA, The New Grand, A Northern Chorus, Oh Susanna, Raising The Fawn, Ringo Deathstarr, Shallow North Dakota, SIANspheric, Simply Saucer, Slowcoaches, Smoother, Strongman, Tangiers, Thrush Hermit, Treble Charger, Tricky Woo, Tristan Psionic, and Young Rival.
The Now We Are 25 release is an exclusive to Record Store Day Canada. A spring rite since 2008, Record Store Day celebrates independent record stores across the planet with parties, in-store performances and special releases. It’s a day that spans genres, unites music lovers of all ages, and taps into the kind of passionate fandom that sparked the creation of Sonic Unyon back in 1993.
Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25 will be available in independent record stores April 13, 2019.
On Thursday, April 18, Tristan Psionic will headline a 25th Anniversary Show at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern alongside labelmates SIANspheric, Basement Revolver, as well as Bankruptcy, the latest project from Sonic Unyon alum Rob Benvie (Thrush Hermit, Camouflage Nights), and special guests. In addition to a night of full-on rock, show-goers will also get to sample the brand-new indie rock doc Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25.
Sonic Unyon 25th Anniversary Show
And Special Guests
Thursday, April 18 • Doors 8:30pm
The Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St. W., Toronto ON)
$10 advance • 19+