Iqaluit-based dynamos The Jerry Cans are bringing their alt-country/throat-singing/reggae sound out to the world in their own way, releasing their upcoming record Inuusiq/Life under their own label Aakuluk Music. The Jerry Cans’ Nancy Mike chats with RPM about starting Nunavut’s first independent record label and their exciting new work.
How did you guys come about starting your own record label?
Aakuluk Music is Nunavut’s first record label. One of the reasons we started it was because when we were contacting record labels in the south and giving them samples of our music to see if they would be interested, they often said, “Yeah, I really like your sound, but I don’t understand what you’re singing about, so no, we can’t take you.” We did have some trouble with that so we decided to make Aakuluk Music. Another reason why we wanted to set this up is because we wanted young people to have the opportunity to contact someone who is a bit more experienced in the music business especially the ones who have just started to learn music on their own using cheap dj turntables, to be able to say, “Okay, I need help with this, I would like to be able to record these songs that I have written, and I want to be able to show them to the world.” We just wanted that accessibility you don’t see very often up here in terms of music business or music infrastructure.
How did you release your previous albums?
Our first album was Nunavuttitut and our second album was Aakuluk. We worked with Chris Coleman who lived here. He has his own little recording studio and he helped us with our first album. We never really worked with any record label in the past, although we have worked with the Wood Shed in Toronto to record our second and third albums.
What is it like to work with other artists in such a remote area and finding resources in creating new content?
We often have to start from scratch with all the things we do up here because there’s not much up here in terms of recording studios. We’re working with three young people at the moment, and we have our own little home studio which is very basic recording supplies. We’re starting from scratch and we’re always learning as well and our goal is to kind of teach along the way. Teaching the young people how to do these things so that they can also expand in their own communities. We’re all learning together.
Who are the other artists on your label?
We have Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt, Riit, who lives here in Iqaluit, and Agaaqtoq Eetak who is from Arviat.
(Ivaluarjuk and Agaaqtoq will be performing together at the Inuit Showcase as part of the Native Women in the Arts Kwe Performance Series on November 6th)
Tell us a bit about the new album itself. What influenced the song-writing on this third album?
The album title is called Inuusiq, or “Life” in English, and the songs on that album represent the life that we live here in the Arctic, but a lot of it is related to my late father, who passed in 2013. Not long after that we had our younger daughter, who was named after my late father, and that is who is on the cover of the album along with me, she’s in the amauti on my back. We wanted to bring forward when someone passes away, a newborn baby is often named after that person and they’re kind of living a new life through another person.
A lot of the songs are encouraging young people to continue on with their lives and always find ways to let the things that they struggle with to pass. We always want our young people to do things to make their lives better. Also there is one song about the women in our lives that we see go through hardships in their relationships, or they get physically or verbally abused, and we start to see that way too often. We wrote a song about that and it’s telling women that they are beautiful and strong, and they are the staple of any family. That’s one of the songs that I really love. It’s called “Arnalukaq.”
I don’t always verbalize it, or I don’t always show it, but young people are my passion and that’s one of the reasons I continue playing with this band and write these songs.
Can you speak a bit about the English/Inuktitut language dynamic within Inuusiq/Life?
Most of the songs are in Inuktitut and then others are kind of a mix of Inuktitut and English, and then there’s one all in English, so there’s a mix of both, but not completely translated over. That’s one of our goals too, is to show that you can record in whatever language you want to, and that’s okay!
WATCH: Breathtaking visions of the North in The Jerry Cans’ “Ukiuq” music video:
Inuusiq/Life is currently available for pre-order via iTunes, and will drop officially on November 7th.