The Medicine Hat crowned regional Searchlight finalists

After a Hamilton band very nearly won it all last year, meet our local representatives in the CBC Searchlight music competition: The Medicine Hat.

After a Hamilton band very nearly won it all last year, meet our local representatives in the CBC Searchlight music competition: The Medicine Hat.

No, they’re not from Alberta — though the band is full of “Hamilton immigrants” from Peterborough and Guelph, drummer Mike Boyd told CBC Hamilton. But after four years together and an album recorded at local studio Porcelain Records, they decided to set up shop here.

The Medicine Hat beat out 171 Hamilton area acts to be crowned one of 24 regional winners for Searchlight — the CBC’s massive, coast-to-coast competition that connects artists with fans in their community and across the country. Fans get to vote on their favourite acts in an effort to push them along and compete against other artists across Canada.  The grand prize includes $20,000 worth of music equipment from Yamaha Canada Music, a professional recording from CBC Music and an opening spot on a high-profile music showcase.

It’s wild to have this kind of support. It’s surprising, and a little surreal.- Mike Boyd, The Medicine Hat

Hamilton folk/traditional band Poor Angus made it all the way to the finals last year, before losing out to Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case from Newfoundland.

“It’s wild to have this kind of support,” Boyd said. “It’s surprising, and a little surreal.”

The Medicine Hat is trying to carve out a niche in the Canadian indie rock wheelhouse built by acts like Feist, Yukon Blonde and Arcade Fire. Their Searchlight submission is called Old Bones, and it’s a catchy, upbeat tune that showcases the strength and natural vibrato of singer NabiBersche’s voice. The song’s verses have a tight backbeat that hints at the jazz training the band’s rhythm section has availed itself of, and strong, natural-sounding harmonies are smattered throughout.

The band “tries to push the envelope a little” with shifting time signatures and rhythms, Boyd says — but these songs will seem recognizable to anyone who has listened to Canadian rock radio in the last 10 years. “We all grew up when Canadian independent music was starting to break through,” he said.

The band is dealing with some tough competition trying to reach the regional semi-finals in the contest. Public voting runs until Monday, April 28, 2014 at 3 p.m. ET to determine the public’s top five submissions.

On top of that, a panel of celebrity judges will pick another five submissions based on their favourites. This year’s panellists are Torquil Campbell (the co-lead singer for the Juno- and Polaris-nominated indie band Stars) Kardinal Offishall (Canada’s much loved, award-winning “hip-hop ambassador”) and Sarah Slean (a three-time Juno nominee).

The Medicine Hat is hopeful they’ll move on to the semi-finals because of some strong local fan support, Boyd says. “Hamilton’s a great city for that. They rally behind musicians.”

“So we’re just going to keep pushing it.”

You can vote for The Medicine Hat at the CBC Music Searchlight page.