Wintersleep, The Matinee, Supermoon and more on the influence of the Tragically Hip
Written by Louise Burns
When Gord Downie announced that he was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer back in May, the entire country was left speechless. It's hard to imagine what the Canadian musical landscape would be like without the music of the Tragically Hip. As the iconic Canadian band embarks on their final tour, we’ve decided to celebrate their work and influence by reaching out to Canadian artists to tell us in their own words how the band has had an impact on their careers and Canadian indie music as a whole.
Read on to see what Wintersleep, The Matinee, Supermoon and other artists have to say about the band.
“'38 years old'” came out the year I was born and I swear I’ve been listening to it my whole life. Having been raised by a Canadian rocker [Neil Osborne of 5440] I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great music. Ever since I was little, the songs that hit me the most were ones with wild stories, especially stories that gave you goosebumps and broke your heart at the same time. I loved that song far before I understood what it was about and far before I could appreciate the simplicity of the arrangement, but that one line 'he’s 38 years old, never kissed a girl' always could and always will make we want to cry. Thanks to the Tragically Hip, whenever I write a song I tell myself 'tell a story, make them cry.'" —Kandle
"Our dreams came true when we got to join The Hip in the states on their tour in support of World Container. No band's records (and also Gord's solo records) have served us as greater inspiration on long tours. So many countless days and nights of cranking Phantom Power or Coke Machine Glow in the van to ease our weary minds in the middle of a long tour. They've always been a guiding beacon of how to put on amazing shows and to make an incredibly long lasting catalogue of music filled with diversity and heart." —Loel Campbell, Wintersleep
"The subterranean rhythms of 1994's Day for Night, and the atmospheric experimentation of 1996's Trouble at the Henhouse: inexhaustible documents. 'Sherpa', 'Flamenco' and 'Titanic Terrarium' remain some of my favourite songs ever. Fay was never more adventurous, and Sinclair's bass lines finally got the spotlight they deserved. At their core, Gord's words and warble cracked the rudder, sending the band down a limitless new artery: majestic, vivid, and elusive." —Rolf Klausener, The Acorn
"Whether I’m heartbroken, road trippin’, or sipping my morning coffee, I listen to music. That’s music at work. Gord’s stories have accompanied us at every corner from a 'Vancouver Divorce' to the 'Hundredth Meridian', helping etch each iconic vista into our collective brains. For the most part, we trade days for nights and the memories fade. But those that correspond to the long play soundtrack that Gord and The Hip have tirelessly provided since that first show my parents took me to in 1996 serve as the truest of constant reminders. 'It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.'"—Matt Layzell , The Matinée
“Gord Downie's version of Canadiana is honest and thoughtful, but also never campy, which was what I always appreciated. He weaves our history into themes of tragedy, vice, pride and grace, too, which is why his songs hold so much weight to us. Also, his stage presence is second to none. I bite all of his moves.” —Jeff Lawton of Beauts
"Gord Downie's poetry manages to intertwine historical events with personal feelings, whether it's the inflection of his voice in the way he sings his lyrics, or the lyrics themselves, the scenes he describes are always evocative, and I love that many of them are rooted in historical events. I think "Bobcaygeon" has many examples of this type of songwriting that I love: 'in the middle of that riot couldn't get you off my mind.' For Supermoon, I think without realizing it, this type of songwriting has been very influential. We're often drawing from historical events but try to tie them into personal experience. We could only dream of being as poetic as Gord, but we have all admitted to his influence at various points."—Adrienne Labelle, Supermoon
"My dad passed away recently, and some of my best memories with him are driving around listening to Up to Here. Even at a young age I knew there was something special about this band, and every time I hear them I'm reminded of some of the best moments of my life." —Jay Methot, Quiet Parade
"The Tragically Hip played a huge part in my life, especially my childhood. “Ahead By A Century” was one of the first songs I learned to play, mostly so I could show my brothers I was cool. They have such an impact on everyone in this country that when you cover one of their songs, even poorly, it garners you some kind of respect." —Dylan Menzie
"I must admit when I first moved to Kingston in 1993 I did not like the Hip. I was a 10 year old metal head. At recess when all the kids were showing each other what tapes they had in their walkmans THEY ALL HAD HIP TAPES! And I got ridiculed for bringing Kill 'Em All to school everyday. I started to resent the Hip because of that. They were impossible to escape in Kingston. A few years later when my early teenage mind heard "Grace Too," I liked it a lot but I couldn't admit it to myself. I played in a Hip cover band my first year of high school and still would pretend like I wasn't into it. When Trouble at the Henhouse came out I listened to it maybe 100 times that year but I still wouldn't admit to being a fan. I held on to that mild grade 5 recess ridicule basically until my mid 20's. Becoming a full fledged Hip fan coincided with my gaining of self confidence and my jump to adulthood. I realized how important they were and are, especially for me, a musician with dreams from Kingston. I might not have had the drive to perform or write songs if I wasn't aware of them all those years. If I didn't see this band from Kingston rising to the top and comfortably staying there. Without Gord Downie and the Hip I might not have put my music to work. Thanks." —Paul Saulnier, PS I Love You
"When I was 13, I heard "Greasy Jungle" on TV, bought the tape, and absolutely killed Day for Night by myself in my room for months. Some of my first experiences writing vocal harmonies was singing along with Gord to every word. My yearbook quote was from "Ahead by a Century." The Hip is the only band I've been an unconditional fan of."— Alana Yorke
"About that wild gentleman Gord Downie. Gord is simply one of the most beautiful people I've ever met.
When you're in his presence, at first it's surprising. It seems in sharp contrast to the photos of him singing on stage, where he looks like a madman, a holy mad man, but rather sweaty and making crazy faces....Standing in front of him I became aware of a gentle light all around him. He is so funny and fun. Kind to everyone. Has time for people and pays attention to your words. Always up for an adventure, and always giving off the vibe that life has meaning, and that we are all evolving into something more beautiful than before.
Of course it makes sense that the man who can lead so many into an ecstatic experience is beautiful. There is a dream-like quality to the way he lives....and he brings us all with him.
I wrote a song for Gord, its on the By Divine Right record Organized Accidents and is called 'We F n R' I never told anyone who it was for. I didn't want to draw attention for it, nor profit from my acquaintance. Maybe I was wrong to keep that secret, and now maybe its time to tell it."
'Im so glad that i met you
Some kind of carry-on for the soul
You're on top of the world
Under the gun
Taking it easy - Life on the run
And when we are ourselves
We fucking rule.'
—José Contreras, By Divine Right