To say that things have been in flux for Daniel Monkman could be a bit of an understatement. While he’s travelled the country for many years, the Selkirk, Manitoba born Monkman finally decided to call Hamilton home when he met some musical friends planting trees in Calgary. He’s called Hamilton home for the last two years and offers a debut of his latest Hamilton band — whose name is in flux... and while the posters say Bloom, the Paper Bags release of their debut will probably be under the moniker of Zoongide’ewin.
“I started playing guitar at eleven years old but it wasn’t until I was fifteen that I started to compose and write mature songs,” recalls Monkman. “I’m from the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and before I didn’t include my culture in my music. For a long time I was ashamed of it but it wasn’t until the last three or four years that I’ve learned to embrace my culture. I’ve been playing music for a long time but it’s not until now that I’ve realized that there are other indigenous rock bands. I’ve been waiting a long time and now I feel more comfortable coming out and doing things.
“Growing up in Selkirk, everyone said you’ve got to move to Winnipeg because that’s the big time but that’s when my drug problem began,” adds Monkman. “I tried to run away from my problems by running to different cities from Victoria, Vancouver, Halifax and Calgary. I picked up odd jobs where I could and in 2009, I was tree planting and I had these two weird ass guys on my crew named Dan Edmonds and Jimmy Hayes (former two guitarists of Hamilton band Harlan Pepper). We really bonded that year and we kept in touch. I was everywhere across Canada but in Calgary I decided to try and settle down and put music aside. The thing is, the day job was soul crushing. Dan heard some of my music and was always telling me to come to Hamilton. One day, my boss was giving me a hard time because I’d hurt my leg and that night I decided I was going to make the move.”
In the last two years in Hamilton, Monkman found a base to better himself, make music and even get noticed nationally.
“Once I moved here, I obviously had to find work but I’m very unqualified because I’ve been working on music a lot of my life,” says Monkman. “I only found work in factories and it was very degrading but at the same time, I’d come home and record songs in my bedroom. It was tough but when you listen to the album it is very emotional. It’s layered and textured with instrumentation because I didn’t have a microphone for a long time. Then I finally got a mic but that was at the very end. That took a few years while I was working random jobs to keep the fire going.
“In the beginning, I was trying to connect with some indigenous labels and organizations in Toronto,” adds Monkman. “There was some interest but it wasn’t until I met Darryl Weeks of Stage Fright Publicity and he fell in love with my album. He got really excited and ultimately that’s how we got signed to the Paper Bag label in Toronto.”
While it’s been a struggle, Monkman is excited to see the fruits of his musical journey almost come to be. This summer, he stokes the fires with the current line up of his band — once known as Bloom but now known as Zoongide’ewin — an Ojibway word meaning courage, bravery. Bloom had released a cassette only EP called Bleached Wavves but it wasn’t the finished version. The tracks have been remixed and Monkman is escited about releasing his completed work of what he refers to as “moccasin gaze” music — mixing shoegaze and indiginous influences in the new year. However, the current line up for Monkman’s Zoongide’ewin includes Hamiltonians Daniel Wintermans (guitar), Andrew McLeod (drums/percussion/vocals) and Drew Rutt (bass) perform some of the new music live this week for a special Hamilton showcase.
“There are a lot of bands named Bloom so we kind of had to look at changing the name,” says Monkman. “Zoongide’ewin is used in the Seven Grandfather Teachings and that’s used a lot in the native version of Alcoholics Anonymous. I went to a lot of those types of meetings. As a young adult, it takes courage to walk away from something that helps you deal with trauma. In the middle of making this record, my father passed away. If that happened six years ago, I probably would have gone back to Winnipeg or not completed this album. Things would not have happened like they have but I’m in a much better place now and I’ve been able to get the album done and I’m grateful for every day. I’m so excited with this music and I have three albums already ready to go.
“The band has had about four different lineups,” adds Monkman. “Wintemans is an amazing guitarist and I’m proud that he’s in the band because his guitar is so perfect for the band. These guys are all great to have helping to make this music with me. People that have come out to the show have described it as trance like. From what they tell me, it’s not your typical shoegaze set although there are elements. I’m also a filmmaker and since our set is very calculated, I make sure to line up visuals with every song. It’s very visual but I want to keep improving and make more. I want to keep pushing the envelope with things but we’ve been kind of sitting and waiting for the last few months for this album to come out. We’re going on tour in the meantime. The message is about living a better life. It’s about humility and that’s saved my life. That’s what I want my music to be. Someone said, my music makes them think. I think that's kind of cool so if I can make music that finds people challenging themselves, I think that’s what music and art should do.”
Zoongide'ewin play this Tuesday August 6 at This Ain't Hollywood with Holy Void and Mr Mule. Doors open at 8pm and $10 gets you in. Click on facebook.com/zoonmusic