Acadia’s favourite long haired rodents, The Bottlekids, headlined the grand re-opening of the Axe Bar & Grill this Homecoming Weekend. Playing for a full house they rocked out to crowd favourites like Tennessee Whisky, Drift Away, and Brown Eyed Girl as both current students and alumni cheered.
The Bottlekids are a new band. “It was about this time last year a member of the swim team came to [War Memorial House and said] ‘Dude, do you want to start a band?” vocalist, guitarist, and trumpet Nathan Cann said. They roped vocalist and guitarist Tom O’Learly into a group chat shortly after, followed by Cutten House President Ryan Tilley on the bass, Eaton-Cristofer Resident Assistant Rachel Field on the piano and keys, and Alec Bloch on the drums and percussion.
The name of the band proved to be a point of contention. “Our original name was going to be Thomas O’Leary and the Merchant Men,” Bloch said. “We were just sitting in the lobby of the Festival Theatre and shouting out terrible names. We weren’t taking it seriously at all. I remembered a name that came up when I was thinking about the Trailer Park Boys: The Bottlekids. It fit nicely with being an east coast band and it’s stuck ever since.”
Since then The Bottlekids have performed nearly a dozen shows across campus. Several have been in the Axe Bar & Grill (formerly the Axe Lounge), with a special private show in Cutten. The band members agree that performing at Acadia is an honour.
Getting the band together is part of giving back to the community, which is especially important to Cann. “Every show I do, personally, I go up in hopes that one person in the crowd can come away feeling like they can do something like that.” It’s that drive to go on to please a crowd and change somebody’s life through one great show that unites him with the rest of the band.
Cann has been involved in the music scene for a long time. Growing up in a musical family has influenced him substantially, with much of his time over the summer dedicated to performing at bars and writing original songs in his native Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. “I’ve never cared about the money” he claimed. “I’ve always known that a musician’s life pays a bar tab, but it doesn’t put a roof over your head unless you’re touring the world.”
Field was about 4 years old when she wanted to play piano. She started and nearly gave up, but her saving grace was a milk commercial. “It played Ode to Joy and it pumped me up so much. It showed me how music is part of something else.” Music was her outlet throughout elementary and high school. Her choice of Music Therapy as her major has made the transition to The Bottlekids far more seamless, skillfully blending personal and professional life.
Tilley got his start in music in Grade 11 as a bass player. “They told me they had a bass and asked if I wanted to play it.” He proceeded to learn two songs, and then by Christmas of Grade 12 he decided to take it more seriously. After joining The Bottlekids he “put in more growth and commitment than [he] ever had before”.
Bloch grew up playing the drums. He was inspired by his father, who was also a drummer. “It was a really casual hobby of mine. I’m from Florida and I had a girlfriend from here. That’s how I ended up here, and I didn’t know I what I wanted to study. I was a terrible student in high school, but I loved music.” From there his path was fairly obvious after joining the band.
O’Leary tried the whole guitar scene when he was younger. Initially he wasn’t captivated to stick with it, but it was right before Grade 11 that he started playing again. He taught himself more chords, and after that he decided it was time to learn to read and write music. “After that I took a year off and then came [to Acadia], where I met all of these guys.”
As of now The Bottlekids are still looking to find their way as a band. “We’re seeing where it takes us,” Cann said. “If we decide that the direction we’re going in isn’t the direction we want to go we’ll change it, but right now we’re riding it out and seeing where it takes us.”
Each member of the band is a student first and foremost. Balancing school and the band has proved more difficult as each year passes, but they are confident that they are working towards something great.
They’ve also learned from bad shows. The Bottlekids are no exception, suffering from faulty equipment to bad lighting, to little-to-no turnout. “One of our worst shows was at The Axe last year,” Tilley commented. “We didn’t prepare for it, we didn’t put our all into it, and that really stuck with a lot of us.”
O’Leary emphasized that the biggest thing for the band this year was to not overplay themselves and burn out. They suffered serious burnout in April of 2017 when they were in high demand after placing second at Battle of the Bands, hosted at the Axe Lounge. At one show O’Leary had a cold and was barely able to sing. “I didn’t know if I could physically do it,” he said. “I had to do it anyways, and it was hard.”
Their status as Acadia’s go-to student band has driven The Bottlekids to improve their own skills. Since the start of the 2017-18 school year they have dedicated far more time to rehearsals, perfecting their crowd pleasers like Nowhere with You but also spending time on their original songs.
It’s been the original songs that bring crowds to Bottlekids shows. O’Leary was the first to bring in a few originals. “I’d shown [Rachel] a few I had sitting on my guitar case, so I figured I’d bring it to the first rehearsal. After that we all came together and nailed it after the first run through.” The band messages each other at least once every week looking for inspiration to write those original songs. One band member may come in with a few chords, but at the end of the rehearsal it becomes a product of the group’s natural cohesion.
Homecoming at The Axe has proven to be their biggest show yet. The venue maxed out capacity at 9:00 with The Bottlekids taking the stage at 10:30. With more original songs on the way and their reputation hitting new heights, The Bottlekids are carving out a name for themselves at Acadia.