Award-winning Halifax alt-pop duo Kin Crew are among nineteen rising Canadian music artists chosen as part of this year’s First Up with RBCxMusic.
We’re not pop enough to be pop, and we’re not rock enough to be rock, and as we explored more, we found our sound as an alt-pop band. – Kin Crew’s Gee Clarke.
The national program, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), will provide the emerging artists with performance, funding, mentorship and networking opportunities through 2022.
It is welcome assistance to Kin Crew.
“As an artist, it’s tough to get traction and momentum mainly because you’re competing with so many things in the world,” says Gee Clarke, who fronts the band with his long-time friend Brandon Todd-Parker. “So when you have someone send you acknowledgement or help show you that you’re on the right track it is encouraging.”
Chosen from over 750 applicants for this year’s program, Clarke says it will become another part of the group’s toolkit and provide opportunities for Kin Crew to continue to grow. “It’s a big motivational boost for us,” he says.
That boost comes as Clarke and Todd-Parker conclude the reinvention of Kin Crew from their early days as rappers to producers and multi-genre performers to the alt-pop band they are today.
Friends since grade four growing up in Halifax, Clarke and Todd-Parker played lacrosse together and went to the same school. And even as they grew up on diverging paths, the two remained friends.
“Not only friends but best friends,” says Clarke. “Eventually, we came back to the same path years later, and I would say it has been probably about two, three years tops that we really came back in sync, and now we’re like full speed running the same direction together.”
Initially starting their music careers together under the moniker Young Wonders, friends reminded the duo that they wouldn’t be young forever, and they began to rethink the name.
“Our original slogan was ‘family over everything,’ so when we rebranded and changed our name, we chose ‘kin’ as it was Latin for family,” explains Clarke. “And then ‘crew’ was anyone that supported us was a part of the family that we’re building.”
The name change also helped solidify the group from experimenting with various music genres to today’s focus on alt-pop.
“Every release could be different, so we had an electronic release, a top 40 pop release, a rap song, an R&B song,” says Clarke. “But it was really bad in trying to build a fan base because when every song is different, it’s hard for someone to grab onto things.”
COVID-19 would be a turning point for Kin Crew, though, as they began to evaluate their place in the music landscape, eventually landing on an alt-pop sound.
“We were multi-genre for years and years, and then during the pandemic, we had to step back as our tour got cancelled, and we found that we weren’t getting the fulfillment that we were looking for,” says Clarke. “We’re not pop enough to be pop, and we’re not rock enough to be rock, and as we explored more, we found our sound as an alt-pop band.”
Their first album released in September of last year, I Swear I’m Okay, would feature their new sound. It would also see the group nominated for Pop Recording of the Year at this year’s East Coast Music Awards to be handed out on May 5 in Fredericton.
They will follow it up with their next album, Someday I’ll Get it Right, with a June 17 release date.
This upcoming project is our staple sound. This is us, who we are, and our new direction solidified. – Gee Clarke
“This upcoming project is our staple sound,” says Clarke. “This is us, who we are, and our new direction solidified.”
As a lead-up to the new album, Kin Crew plans to release a trio of singles, with added material including music videos, lyric breakdowns, and even a look behind the scenes to help fans get to know them better.
“There’ll be so much pillar content that you can really dive into and digest and find out what our personalities are like, where our music comes from, how and what we created,” says Clarke.
The six-track album has also been designed for each song to be a standalone single. With no filler songs, the idea is it will help Kin Crew develop their fan base further.
“We need every song to be really good so that when people listen to it, there are no skip tracks,” says Clarke. “We’re not really at that stage to throw away songs, so we wanted to make sure that each track would stick with the listener.”
Like much of their history, their process for writing music has also changed over the years.
“As a producer duo, we wrote most of our songs in songwriting sessions where we would sit down with the artists, write a song together, and then work on the production afterwards,” says Clarke. “But now that we’re a band, it works differently.”
That difference evolved from writing separately for their I Swear I’m Okay album to in-person collaboration for their upcoming June release, including instrumentation from their producer/guitar player Joshua Khan and drummer/music director Matt Meuse!.
“We would all sit in the room together and work on the song idea lyrically, and when they leave, Brandon and I would sit down and finalize the lyrics and melodies,” says Clarke.
With their inclusion in this year’s First Up with RBCxMusic roster, Kin Crew has another opportunity to solidify their musical path, joining more than 150 artists across genres and backgrounds since the program began in 2020.
“We are thrilled to see how far First Up with RBCxMusic has evolved over the last two years,” says Shannon Cole, vice-president of brand marketing for RBC. “The range of talent across this country is exceptional. As live performances are returning, we recognize the increasing need to keep the program alive and continue to support up-and-coming artists.”
Live Nation Canada will continue to provide performance and exposure opportunities for the artists in the program. In addition, new partner AWAL (aka Artists Without A Label) helped support the program with talent identification and selection. At the same time, Canadian nonprofit Conscious Economics will also join in hosting an artist summit, and Artscape Daniels Launchpad will provide educational workshops, plus learning and development support.
As part of RBC’s ongoing commitment to the arts through its RBC Emerging Artists program, since 2015, more than 28,000 alumni from across Canada have benefited from over $10 million each year.