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Photo provided by Éhagé

U of C student prepares first album with Indigenous hardcore punk band

By Matt Hume, August 29 2017 —

A memorable hardcore punk band needs aggression and a message. After standout performances at Sled Island and Western Front Hardcore Fest in June, Éhagé has put their name on the scene with memorable clarity.

The band is led by the powerful presence and howling vocals of Curtis Lefthand. On top of fronting one of Calgary’s most promising hardcore punk bands, he is also a University of Calgary student pursuing a bachelor of arts in political science with a minor in Indigenous governance — comparing colonial and Indigenous law.

Éhagé is a downbeat hardcore punk band with metalcore influences. But, these categories don’t do justice to the band’s uniquely Indigenous style.

“I think what sets us apart is our willingness to expand outside of hardcore punk,” Lefthand says.

The band uses traditional drumming, throat singing and flute to create less-than-ordinary hardcore compositions, but they stand out from Alberta’s hardcore scene in more than just musical style. Everything about the band, from subject matter to the name, serves a thought-out purpose.

The word Éhagé means ‘The Last’ in Nakoda and comes from the traditional landmark mountain called Éhagé Nakoda in the Rocky Mountains. Lefthand explained that the Éhagé Nakoda is traditionally the place of refuge when the world suffers from complete ecological destruction.

“And the beauty of the name is that Nakoda means ‘The Real People,’ or ‘The People,’ but it’s inclusive of everyone,” he said. “So it essentially means that anyone who is willing to respect the Earth and respect Mother Earth and take refuge there are the real people.”

Hardcore punk is often analogous with an anti-government mentality. Even in this realm, Éhagé is bringing a fresh perspective.

“We’re not talking about being anti-government, we’re talking about being anti-colonial or colonization,” says Lefthand. “An important part for us that the message comes through the music. So the aggression mirrors the anger of hundreds of years of forced assimilation that my bandmates as allies and as an Indigenous person myself are fighting against.”

Éhagé has been writing music together for over a year, and with a three-song EP and a few high-profile shows under their belt, the band is preparing to put out their first full-length record.

According to Lefthand, the band will start recording soon at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity with the help of other Indigenous musicians.

“Well, I can’t say too much,” says Lefthand, “But it’s going to feature some really cool people — some heavyweights in the Indigenous music community.”

The album, Winter’s Count, is named after the Blackfoot calendar used to track dates and the change of seasons.

“The idea that we’re working with right now is focusing on how we can create a record based off of those seasons and the calendar up until the point of first contact with settlers in our territory, in the Blackfoot territory,” Lefthand says.

With a full-length record on the way, a clear goal for the band is to tour and perform at festivals outside of the city. But right now they have their sights aimed at much more than recognition for themselves.

“Now that we’re adults a lot of [our goal] is also preparing youth, and especially Indigenous youth, to be resilient and to reclaim their culture,” Lefthand says.

Éhagé is on track to record Winter’s Count by December. Keep your eyes peeled for the record and for upcoming shows — this band’s career is certainly one worth watching.

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