The guys in Tristan Psionic played one of their first gigs at a Christmas party decades ago and the Sonic Unyon Christmas has been a part of the regular annual schedule for a quarter century now. But 2019 definitely marks a distinctly different musical theme that underscores the company’s transformation from a noise rock underground indie record label to national distributor, local event programmers with Supercrawl and Because Beer, music venue owners with Mills Hardware and now the management company that is Sonic Unyon. With their annual holiday party upon us, it gives us a chance to catch up with everything Sonic Unyon.
“We’re basically managing the artists we’re releasing records with and we have five active artists,” says Sonic Unyon co–owner Tim Potocic. “It makes more sense for us to be directly involved with our artists on many levels. We can be very active with a smaller number of artists. The funny thing is we’ve always been managers but now we’re more heavily invested with time and finances. It’s something we’ve always done but limited it in the first ten or fifteen years but we weren’t monetizing it. Money was flowing a little better and it’s hard to make money off of the masters these days so we need to maximize what we’re doing and what the artists are doing and working more closely with them and so far that model has been successful.”
Peterborough’s Evangeline Gentile is the newest addition to the SU management roster that features Sam Weber and Hamiltonians Terra Lightfoot, Basement Revolver and LTtheMonk. While Potocic and company continue to work closely with their artists — Supercrawl always puts their work in the public eye and with their reputation, Potocic even noted a new position to add to his resume when he was recently elected as new Chair for The Canadian Independent Music Association’s (CIMA) Board of Directors.
“We had some challenges — Supercrawl had that funding issue this year but even though we had a little rain on Friday, Saturday may have been the biggest Saturday we’ve had yet,” says Potocic. “Our attendance numbers were up around 250,000 people with fewer days and so things with Supercrawl are moving as always with bigger content for next year.
“We have a lot of projects on the go year round and I’ve worked closely with CIMA for a while,” adds Potocic. “They’re an advocate for independent artists, managers, labels — a vast network of people. They avocate for funding, royalties and look out for the best interests for the independent musical community. It’s an honour for me to be elected as Chair and I’ve been digging into what we have planned for the next year. It’s a considerable amount of work involved but I like to work.”
While you might think there is enough work for Sonic Unyon with their current assets, you’d be wrong as Potocic and company are excited to be working on another new venue for their company.
“We’re going to be opening a second cultural events space on 125 Barton Street in April — we’re still renovating and building the stage but we’ve already got Tokyo Police Club booked for the opening,” says Potocic. “We’ve run Mills Hardware for five years and it’s been challenging but we’re dedicated and committed to keeping it alive with all of the things we’ve done. We put on a hundred shows a year and we hope to continue doing that. We’re doing our part to keep the torch alive and bring great entertainment to Hamilton. It’s always been a struggle to keep the live music venue business going — it’s costly and risky and the few people that are doing it are because of a passion for the music and only those people like us with the passion for music would be foolish enough to do this.”
And while you might have read about London, UK’s LTtheMonk story that brought him to Hamilton for his Kinks, Drinks and Hip–Hop album last February in this column, the hip hop musician and emcee is one of the recent signings to Sonic Unyon and influential in inspiring this year’s holiday celebration with a very different vibe. It’s not the third floor of a re–conditioned factory — it won’t have one–man band Mayor McCa leading a parade of carolers through Gore Park but at its essence, Potocic believes the Sonic Unyon Christmas is the same.
“At its core it’s the same — come out and see a great show of course it’s evolved every year in different ways and this year for sure is different because we’ve never done a full hip hop show,” says Potocic. “We decided to manage Liam Tyndall otherwise known as LTtheMonk and we’ve been working with him for a month now and saw this as a new way to engage a different community and we’re really excited for this show. We have conversations with an artist and see if we’re aligned with our thinking. LT is amazing guy with a great story so far and we love the music he has. We have some younger staff that are interested in helping out the older guys better understand this community. So it’s a very interesting new world for us. It’s not like we never were exposed to it — as a distributor we were the first to bring drum and bass music in Canada and worked with labels like Battle Axe, Strange Famous. It’s not like we’re out of touch with respect to that community — you get known as an indie rock label but we’ve always had diverse tastes and we’ve always signed unique, interesting, different things. From that perspective it fits and from a personality LT fits as well and we’re excited about working with a new young artist.
“We’ve had a great year and we’re expecting more big things for 2020,” adds Potocic. “And we hope everyone comes out for a Sonic Unyon Christmas. It’s a traditional Christmas show for us — we always give a financial donation to Wesley with this show. It’s holiday cheer all around and Santa Clause should be around handing out some merch and maybe even a drink ticket to the good girls and boys.”
Sonic Unyon Records Annual Holiday Bash happens this Saturday December 14 at Mills Hardware featuring LTtheMonk with special guests Hoss Bowman and Buddah Abusah and art curation by Nick La Rocca. Doors open at 7:00 PM at tickets are $10 in advance via eventbrite.ca or $15 at the door. Click on sonicunyon.com