Siskiyou is the anxious, folk-inflected rock project of Toronto-based songwriter Colin Huebert, who combines a back porch, moonlit looseness with a controlled, self-contained country gothic formalism that often finds the music circling within the cusp of restrained fury or frenzy.
Siskiyou was formed by Colin Huebert and Erik Arnesen in the late 2000s while the two musicians were part of Great Lake Swimmers. The pair forged an approach to songwriting that was decidedly more stark and emotionally tense, marked by a minimal aesthetic, an economy of effects and arrangements, and an appreciation for the timbral and textural qualities of sparse elements. During downtime from the Swimmers tour schedule Huebert began recording sketches, demos and fragments which eventually coalesced into Siskiyou’s eponymous first record, released on Constellation in early 2010 – an album aptly described as perfectly capturing the lush yet chilly landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
During a winter spent holed up in Mara, BC (pop. 350) Huebert and Arnesen continued to develop Siskiyou material, eventually recruiting Vancouver-based musicians Shaunn Watt (drums, backing vocals) and Peter Carruthers (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) to create a superbly incisive four-piece band. With extensive touring in Europe and Canada under their belts, the quartet hit Vancouver's JC/DC Studio to compiling the material that would become Siskiyou's second album Keep Away The Dead, released fall 2011.
In the winter of 2012, Huebert found himself at a songwriting residency in Dawson City where he grappled with severe anxiety and hyperacusis. Addressing these factors by rehearsing at extremely low volumes and taking solace in the controlled environment of studio-based production and composition, Huebert’s resulting songs were ambitious explorations of sonic arrangement and fidelity, guided by an interiority and quiet desperation. These recordings went on to form the album Nervous, which was nominated for the 2015 Polaris Prize.
Following the release of Nervous, Huebert was commissioned by New York-based artist/designer Stefan Sagmeister (of Sagmeister & Walsh) to compose music for The Happy Film, a feature-length film accompaniment to “The Happy Show” installation project that had toured the gallery circuit in the mid-2010s. While in the spontaneous writing mode facilitated by Sagmeister’s commission, Huebert ended up producing a rich array of material that would later be collected on the album Not Somewhere.
Huebert’s cross-country move with his family from Vancouver to Toronto, combined with persistent ear issues that prohibited Huebert from touring or rehearsing with a full band, reinforced the solitary nature of these new songs. Not Somewhere is essentially a solo record, with Huebert having written and self-recorded all of the album’s guitar, bass, keyboard, and drum parts. Maintaining the quietly ominous sonic and lyrical themes that the project has become known for, Not Somewhere captures the minimalist yet emotive spirit of early Siskiyou while clearly highlighting Huebert’s poignant, affecting, and rightly celebrated songwriting.