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Searchlight 2017: 8 family bands to hear

Ian Steaman

They call it “being in the pocket.” Those sublime moments when the musicians in a band are all in sync and operating as a single organism. The best music is made when this happens and it’s usually the result of a shared vision of the music they want to create and record and how they perform that music live onstage.

What better way to ensure that synchronicity happens than to make music with the people you are literally most closely related to: your family!

Many musicians have taken this theory to heart and submitted songs to Searchlight 2017 they made with their family or other loved ones. Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting Searchlight entries made by families or couples.

The Kwerks

Is there anything better than making music with your childhood sweetheart? Vancouver-based husband-and-wife duo, Ryan and Laura who make up The Kwerks, met in summer camp as "wee babes" and have been together ever since and present a strong case. Living up to the homonym that is their name, both the music and video for their single, “Lights,” are quirky in a good way, full of carefree dancing, colour and fun.

The Maras

Brothers, Matt Mara (bass) and Eric Mara (drums) hail from Waterloo, Ont. This alternative/dance-punk sibling duo was described by our judging team as sounding like "Death From Above 1979 if they were a surf rock duo." While their video shows the brothers throwing down, both musically and athletically, at their local bowling alley, there’s a more serious side to their music. Their 2016 album Welcome to Wax Beach is an ode and dedication to those living in an age of anxiety with clinical depression.

The Labrats

Husband and wife Cilee and Jad make up the Winnipeg-based duo the Labrats. While they are both relatively recent immigrants from the Philippines, they met after moving, individuallly, to the 'Peg. The intimate, warm feel of their indie-pop ballad, “Until Love Dies,” belies the reality that they wrote, recorded and produced most of the music on their album while dating long-distance. Destiny must have been rooting for them, though, as they released their first album together on their wedding day!

Andre Pettipas and the Giants

Brothers Andre and Travis Pettipas, backed by Mark Cosh on drums, are the core of the Antigonish County, Nova Scotia-based three-piece band, Andre Pettipas and the Giants. Their regional, chart-topping, catchy, high-energy rock n’ roll is both a throwback to the '90s and the sound of today.

Rhythm and Grace

Miriam and Alex of the Duketow family from Lakefield, Ont., have been writing songs together since the day they first met. Now that their son and daughter are part of the group they call Rhythm and Grace, it’s become a true family affair as can be seen in the video for their life-affirming Searchlight submission, “Alive for You.” Between scenes showing how they incorporate step-dancing into their musical sound are ones of them enjoying classic Canadian family activities like sledding and hockey in their backyard rink.

The Oot n' Oots

With a background and family roots in organic farming, is it a surprise that the Kelowna, British Columbia-based family band, the Oot n' Oots, comprised of four brothers — Gabe, Ezra, Ari and Matt Cipes and Ezra’s daughter, Ruth — would write a song about cookies? “Too Many Cookies” may be taken as just a novelty or bit of whimsy but the Oots say their music is for “kids of all ages.”


Kin is an apt name for a group included in this list. Comprised of a pair of siblings, a wife and a friend, this Toronto-based quartet often jokes that its members are “quite literally kin.” Their music incorporates elements of classical, jazz and pop music — as seamless as the kinship that brought them together as a group.

Brenda Brown

Hamilton, Ont., singer Brenda Brown went from singing jazz standards to writing her own songs and then keeping it all in the family by having her son Ian on piano, daughter Olivia on bass, and husband Glen on the drums accompany her as her backing band.

To vote for these or any of your other favorite Searchlight entries, head over to the Searchlight page.

More to explore:

Desirée Dawson gives us a sneak peek of her debut album, Wild Heart