When Hidden Towers took first place at CiTR’s Shindig 2009 competition, it marked the first time since 3 Inches of Blood’s 2001 victory that a band playing heavier music had won the competition.
A look at winners from years past reveals myriad styles, from hip-hop collectives to folk-pop, but it’s undeniable that metal has rarely been well represented in the competition. CiTR music director Luke Meat commented, “Every year the type of hard rock or heavy metal we seem to get at Shindig seems to be your stereotypical Korn or Nickleback knock-offs. Hidden Towers were a pleasant and welcome surprise.” Discorder recently had the chance to sit down with Hidden Towers founder/guitarist Chris Cantrell and discuss the band’s victory, their influences and the future for Hidden Towers’ music—which interestingly may or may not include humanity as we know it.
Amazingly, Hidden Towers almost pulled out of Shindig before it began. Originally a four-piece, their singer dropped out shortly before the start of the competition due to family and work commitments. In fact, Cantrell mentions that the band initially thought of Shindig as an “opportunity to audition for a singer.” Yet as the competition continued and the band advanced, it became apparent to the band—and the audience—that the lack of vocals actually worked in their favour. When asked about the Shindig experience, Cantrell stated, “all of the other bands were very warm and welcoming to us” adding that, “while most of them probably don’t normally listen to heavy metal, the fact that we are an instrumental band allows us to transcend genres a little easier.”
And transcend genres they most certainly do. Hidden Towers have a hypnotic quality to their music that demands repeated listens. For simplicity’s sake, one can label Hidden Towers as heavy metal but fans of math rock, post-rock and even contemporary jazz could claim the band as their own. This is no happy accident; rather, it comes from Cantrell’s own strong musical background (having taken music composition at school in Edmonton) and the wide array of music the band counts as influences (The Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, Do Make Say Think and traditional Turkish music are just a few that Cantrell mentions). “We’re trying to create what is almost classical or jazz music with metal instrumentation,” Cantrell revealed. Furthermore, the band carries an enviable work ethic—practicing four times a week, three hours each time—that allows them to execute their intricate compositions with stunning precision.
The aforementioned hypnotic quality of Hidden Towers’ music led our conversation into a discussion about another one of Cantrell’s influences—movie soundtracks. “I’m quite interested in creating music for films, it’s something I hope to do in the future.” When it is suggested that Hidden Towers’ music would make a great soundtrack for post-apocalyptic, post-modern films, Cantrell admits that this is, essentially, the idea. For their “Sounds Like” entry on their MySpace page, the band writes, “A nursery rhyme for the rapture” [sic]. Having lived in Vancouver for years now but raised amongst a Prairie-landscape backdrop, Cantrell said, “Growing up in the Prairies—among these beautiful yet almost empty landscapes—influenced the tone of my music a lot.” Refreshingly, even the band’s name has some significance beyond the usual something-we-used-to-call-my-best-friend’s-fat-younger-brother fare. “For me, the name ‘Hidden Towers’ evokes this image of a planet devoid of human life but with traces of our existence” Cantrell said. “It’s the idea of nature reclaiming the Earth. I’d like to think of our music as something that might be the soundtrack to that … a peaceful, healthy planet with hope—not for us, but for itself.”
With their winnings from Shindig—which includes 20 hours recording time from Hive Creative Labs—Hidden Towers are hoping to record a five-song EP in March of this year. One song will feature vocals (“a three-part harmony, Queen-style thing” Cantrell said) which will be a continuing trend on future compositions and releases. Cantrell stated that though Hidden Towers will likely remain a three-piece permanently, they plan to release one “showpiece” vocal track on each of their releases. The next chance to see Hidden Towers live will be Feb. 19 at the Purple Crab (3916 Main). Feel free to either sit there and absorb the depth of their music, or jump around and pump your fist with a group of your friends. Regardless of which camp you fall in, make sure you’re united in applause at the end of it all. Hidden Towers deserve your applause, respect and, most of all, your undivided attention.