Kerey Harper grew up in the quiet northern community of St. Theresa Point. The remote First Nation is only accessible by plane or winter roads. When he moved to Winnipeg in Grade 10, he was exposed to entirely new surroundings and new sounds.
"Growing up in St. Theresa Point was quiet.... You can go somewhere and just be alone and no one would be around. You wouldn't be hearing all the sirens or traffic," said Harper.
The self-taught musician creates electronic music using a combination of instruments and sampled sounds from his environment.
"Whatever catches my ear. It could be walking, like kicking rocks or something … or even like rain dropping from the house," said Harper.
"It's more experimental … what I do is I record samples with my microphone, and then I take those samples and I twist them up into different textures," he says.
'It comes from a personal space'
The River East Collegiate student is set to play the Cluster New Music + Integrated Arts Festival this weekend. He will be performing at the West End Cultural Centre on Friday, opening for a collection of independent Canadian talent.
Harper, like most teens, grew up listening to rock and metal. He taught himself how to play guitar and scoured the internet for different kinds of music.
"You kind of run into music unexpectedly and then you hear something new and it really opens up your mind to different music," said Harper.
Harper began to experiment with electronic music, created with software on his computer. He's been experimenting ever since.
Music instructor, Jeff Kula, recalls the first time he met Harper nearly four years ago.
"He just came into the band room and he was just very fascinated by the instruments in the room," said Kula.
Kula learned Harper could play guitar and asked to hear him play one day.
"I expected [as] from most young people, to hear rock tunes and such, and what he played was very different. It had altered tuning of the guitar and it has a lot of use of harmonics," said Kula.
Harper never had formal music training growing up, and developed his own style of playing.
"I'm self-taught in every instrument I play. I think it's good that way cause ... you don't start out with rules or anything," said Harper.
Harper began sampling sounds of the band instruments at school and mixing them with sounds he had recorded back home in St. Theresa Point.
"It kind of brings it to life more than regular instruments," he said.
"For Kerey these maybe sounds, being from home, [that] are the most familiar and [that he] has access to, but also they are perhaps sounds of comfort. Sounds of home," said Kula.
"I know when he moved to the city there was a real shock culturally, and just with the busyness of the city," said Kula.
Kula has watched Harper grow as a musician over the years and while Harper's technique isn't new, his sound is original.
"It's self created. It comes from a personal space. He's taking what sounds right to him and making that part of his music," said Kula.
Harper, who hopes to work as an audio engineer one day, said he enjoys performing and describes his music as a form of release.
"When he performs, I very much see him being transcended in his performances ... he's in a place by himself. The audience is there obviously, but he goes into his own world and becomes very moved by his music making," said Kula.
Tickets for the show can be purchased in advance at McNally Robinson Booksellers, or the day of the show at WECC. The show starts at begins at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Cluster New Music + Integrated Arts festival runs until Sunday.