Edmonton folk musician Ian St. Arnaud’s life changed suddenly when his North Of Here bandmate, Luke Janzen, tragically passed away following a collision with a train in the fall of 2017. Rising from the ashes of grief alongside his friend and other bandmate, Will Holowaychuk, the pair united to form St. Arnaud and are now poised to release their cathartic full-length, The Cost of Living.
“When I first started piecing ideas together, this was just going to be my small way of navigating young adulthood: trials and tribulations of evolving relationships, first heartbreak, loneliness, all as prices we pay to go along,” says Arnaud. “However, Luke passed away suddenly in 2017 just as we were beginning to record demos, and the focus shifted while its scope deepened. It quickly went from our ‘first stab at a record and having something to say’ to something we had to finish and use to move forward.”
The record is an amalgamation of tracks that were previously written for North Of Here, as well as more recently produced numbers. Building on their folk music roots, St. Arnaud have adapted a charming indie-darling quality to their ever-evolving sound at the hand of memorable hooks and anthemic chants. Both heartwarming and pensive, the record is St. Arnaud’s greatest and most emotional accomplishment to date.
“We released an EP (Morning, Buddy) in October 2018, but this last year has been important to the growth of something new from something that was broken and gone,” explains Arnaud. “This collection of songs counts back to days from before Luke’s death, through mourning, and then on to new corners of life that I never could have expected, both great and terrible.”
The record was produced by and recorded at Wembley Studios, the home of Graham Lessard (Barr Brothers, Basia Bulat, 36?) and released with the help of St. Arnaud’s label, Soaring Eagle Records. The label was founded by former Cowpuncher members Matt Olah and Ryan Kelly as a collective to support musicians and offer guidance with no strings attached.
“The most important aspect for me through this whole process has just been having support. It’s lots of little things, sometimes big things, but when somebody puts themselves on the line for you and defends your craft, art, work, or whatever, that’s what keeps me going.”
St. Arnaud will be performing on Oct. 31 at Kingsway Mall in Edmonton. For more information and tickets visit admitonelive.com
*This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2019 print edition of BeatRoute Magazine.