It’s been a tough year for Canada’s independent music industry – just ask Alpha & the Van, a pop-rock group based in Saint-Lazare. As an up-and-coming band steadily growing in fans and popularity, the indie quartet had planned multiple high-profile gigs – all of which had to be cancelled when COVID-19 struck the province last March.
Still, despite these new circumstances and challenges, the members have found new and creative ways to pursue their passions, all while making the most of an unusual year.
“We don’t want to let a global pandemic be the reason why we stop doing what we love,” said lead vocalist and guitarist Mario Gervais. “If anything, we want to be doing more of what we love so that we can stay strong and keep our heads up.”
Since being founded nearly a decade ago, Alpha & the Van has been slowly but surely making a name for itself on the Quebec music scene thanks to its contagious beats and colourful sound palette.
The band was initially formed by Gervais and his best friends to cover popular hits for talent shows at Cité-des-Jeunes High School but, in the time since then, it has gone on the perform at various local events, including Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Circus Festival.
In August 2019, the group released its debut album Propeller – a collection of groovy tunes they had planned on promoting throughout the entirety of 2020.
“We were supposed to perform at Toronto’s Canadian Music Week last May,” Gervais recalled. “It was a huge deal for us, and we were all extremely stoked.”
But in what had become an all-too-familiar theme for musicians, the gigs – including a performance with art pop crooner Luna Li on the day the province announced its first lockdown – fell through. Suddenly, the possibility of live, in-person concerts had been almost entirely eliminated, as music venues went dark and the concert ecosystem was devastated.
But Alpha & the Van have shown resilience in the face of adversity.
While Gervais admits the group’s future as a touring act is uncertain, the current situation hasn’t stopped him and his bandmates from doing what they can. They’ve found workarounds to the problems posed by the pandemic, such as staying active on social media platforms, performing virtual concerts, and devoting even more time towards recording projects.
Said the lead singer: “We don’t have a choice but to adapt to keep doing what we like. Let’s face it; with all these streaming platforms, other artists are going to do whatever they can to stay relevant.”
Indeed, it may be a long time until live performances can start back up, but for the time being, these indie musicians have found their own ways of recording new material.
In January, the group started the year off with a bang thanks to the release of their new single, “Sliding Kicks.” The track was recorded at a cottage in Lac-des-Plages and is about making sure to take the time to work on yourself and disconnect from your surroundings.
With more surprises in store in the coming months, Gervais assures that, even in the face of so much uncertainty, indie music aficionados can be sure of one thing; not even a pandemic can keep Alpha & the Van down.