Melissa Dalton describes the sound of her band as, “Choral Dream Folk” drawing inspiration “from the folk music of the past” and ultimately coming from an honest place, just like her shots. Check out the interview and music video Orono Park.
Name: Melissa Dalton
Location: Toronto, ON
Please, tell the Lomography community a little bit about yourself in as few words as possible, lets say 10.
Musician on the road, artist at home – sometimes the two combine.
How did the Wilderness of Manitoba first get together and how did you come up with your name?
The band started with Will and Scott, who were writing folk songs in the basement of their house. They wanted to add more voices, knew me through the music community here in Toronto and asked me to sing with them. Then we met Stefan at an event called Rock Lottery and he was recruited. The four of us started recording on top of Will and Scott’s original demos to form our EP Hymns of Love Spirits. Sean, our drummer, came in a little later after we met him leading the band at a comedy bar. After the release of the EP in Aug 2009, we decided we should continue on playing together.
The name was inspired by an art installation that showed in Toronto in 2008 called ‘The Wildflowers of Manitoba’ by Winnipeg-based artist, Noam Gonick. The piece featured images of Manitoban wildflowers being projected around a man sitting in a geodesic dome going about his daily routines. We later found out, from Noam, that the installation was actually inspired in part by folk music so that’s a pretty cool twist.
Many people have tried to define your music style as folk and harken back to the past but, how would you describe the music of The Wilderness of Manitoba?
Someone at a show (in Ohio, I think) told me recently that we should describe ourselves as ‘Choral Dream Folk’. I liked that. I think that though we definitely feel a lot of inspiration from the folk music of the past (Simon&Garfunkel, CSN, Neil Young, Fairport Convention… I could go on!) we also add in a lot of elements that are more reflective of current music than just the straight forward old-folk sound.
Ultimately, the music we make comes from an honest place so I think that word alone could describe it – honest. Sure, it can also be sad and sometimes lonely sounding but there is a hopefulness to it. And sometimes a lightness, too, in songs like Orono Park or In The Family.
How does you band work together as a collective on a project like the release of you new album When you Left the Fire ? Does each member have a role to play or is it more organic than that?
We do tend to take roles but since all of us write songs, we each kind of take the lead on our own songs and spend time in the basement working them out, recording everyone’s parts and arranging everything.
One of my biggest roles in the making of the album was creating the artwork, which I spent a couple of months on. I was in school at the time (for jewelry design & fibre arts) so I was having a lot of fun with the new techniques that I was learning and I’m glad that I was able to apply those things to the artwork for the band. Part of it was inspired by a Joni Mitchell song ‘Cactus Tree’, other parts by all the fire references in the songs on the album, others still by the idea of wilderness.
Is it fair to say that The Wilderness of Manitoba calls Toronto home and do you think it is a good place to be based in as far as the music scene goes?
Toronto is a great place to be a musician, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. We basically all met through playing with friends of friends and we continue to go to other friends’ shows when we are home. Home time has been a bit scarce these days but it’s really comforting to think of it being there when we get back.
Being new to Lomography, what drew you guys to analogue and what is it like getting back into film?
For the past year, I’ve being messing around with the iPhone camera apps and really liking the result but there was also a part of me that felt like the auto-archival look of the photos was somehow a bit insincere so the idea of analogue starting kicking around in my brain. Not to say that iPhone photos are bad – I still take tons! – it’s just that putting something on film seems more authentic in a way.
Also, there’s this whole anticipation that is not present with digital, you have to wait to see what you’ve taken. I usually don’t remember half the shots I’ve taken and when I get them back, it’s like a great big surprise waiting for me. It’s a great feeling. So I’d say that I’m really happy about getting back to film. So happy that along with my La Sardina, I brought my old Nikon SLR from the 70s, that I haven’t used in about 6 years, on tour with me just to kind of see the difference in the film.
What was the funniest moment you had while shooting with the La Sardina Camera?
Probably walking around town and getting asked “What is that? Is it a toy?” every time I pulled it out.
In terms of the most fun I’ve had with the camera, when my flash ran out of batteries at a backyard barn show, I convinced a guy using a digital flash rigged up on the ceiling to let me piggyback onto his flash so I could get a couple of good shots. There are a few where he is actually on the edge of the frame, watching for my signal, not realizing that I’d already had my shutter open for a few seconds already. Seeing that made me laugh.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
I get to sing, most every night. I meet and get to perform with both really nice and really talented people.
I see a lot of places that I never dreamed were so cool like Bruno, SK; Golden, BC; Gimli, MB; Breadalbane, PEI; New Haven, CT; Kansas City, MO; Borrego Springs, CA… and get to take photos of all of it.
And the worst part would be?
Sometimes, driving straight for 10 hours is exactly as fun as it sounds, even if you aren’t the one doing the driving.
What’s next for The Wilderness of Manitoba? Any new projects coming up we should keep an eye out for?
Well, when we come back from our tour of the West, we have a show at home in Toronto in early September, then we leave for Germany and the UK shortly thereafter. We’re talking about recording another album soon, too, but still just talking!
What are the best words of advice you have ever been given you would like to pass on to people reading this?
Just breathe. (It’s healthy for you). My grandmother was also a big proponent of ‘The Little Engine That Could’.