SW Sounds: Middle Sister

Colin Wysman of Windsor folk-rock band Middle Sister explains the origin of their new song, 'Cabanaconde.'

Grueling Peruvian hike inspires a folk-rock epic on the Windsor band's new album

Windsor band Middle Sister released its new album, The Hot and Hungry Reaches of The Sun, in October 2019. (Supplied by Middle Sister)

SW Sounds is a weekly feature that profiles a southwestern Ontario artist and their new music. Listen for it Mondays on Afternoon Drive between 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on CBC Radio One.

There are times when you're travelling abroad when you experience a moment of inspiration. Colin Wysman of the Windsor band Middle Sister would likely agree. He had one such moment while exhausted and sore in the darkness of a cave in Peru. He writes about it on 'Cabanaconde,' a song from the folk-rock act's newly released second album. It even inspired the album's title, The Hot and Hungry Reaches of The Sun.

How do you describe your music to anyone who's never heard it?

In the past, we were a little more justified in calling ourselves a folk band. We still retain a lot of the folk instrumentation and techniques - I still finger-pick my guitar parts, but I play exclusively electric guitar now. I kind of ditched the acoustic guitar for this last record. We also use a fiddle or violin prominently, but in contrast to the traditional sounds of folk music, our violinist Stu Kennedy uses a gratuitous amount of effects, distortions, delays and reverbs and things that are very non-traditional.  So I guess I would describe it as non-traditional folk-inspired rock and roll.

Where does the band name come from?

We're named after a small remote island in the centre of Lake Erie. It's uninhabited. It was important for me to choose something that had some regional significance, but something that wasn't too "on the nose." 

How would you characterize Windsor's independent music scene?

Windsor's got this incredibly close-knit, diverse and exceptionally talented artistic community that you don't see in other cities of comparable size. There's a really strong spirit of collaboration. It seems like everyone is in multiple projects - it's a tangled web of collaboration but it's productive and it's really positive. It's highly conducive to songwriting and experimentation.

What inspired the song 'Cabanaconde?'

Cabanaconde is the name of a small town in the Peruvian Andes. It's a town that I visited back in 2013 when I was backpacking through Peru. It's on the rim of the Colca Canyon, which is the second deepest canyon in the world. It's about a hike that I took down to the bottom of the canyon and spent a few nights at the base. The canyon itself is so narrow that the overhead sun is really only visible for a couple of hours in the afternoon. So it's kind of a song about isolation and spending time in a remote place. That hike was tremendous. It took several hours and was very gruelling, but reaching the bottom of that canyon was so rewarding. It was a very off-the-beaten-path experience that I found to be very rewarding and peaceful in the end.

This interview was edited and condensed. Have a listen to 'Cabanaconde' as part of Middle Sister's SW Sounds profile:

We'll get to know the Windsor indie-folk band Middle Sister and hear a song from their new record, Cabanaconde, named after a town the band's singer found himself in while hiking in Peru. 7:58

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