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Brad Germain takes golden direction

Well-known for frequently taking new musical paths with his list of past projects, Germain's new band Golden Feather is influenced by Steely Dan, Grateful Dead and others while exploring a ‘jam band’ approach.

Jam bands had their heyday in the 1970s. The jam band scene, however, will be familiar to folks who lived through the ‘90s. It brings to mind Phish, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band, The String Cheese Incident, tie-dye, hacky sack. It all comes to mind when remembering the nouveau hippie movement of the ‘90s. Golden Feather hews closers to the long-form improvisation of artists like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers than the sounds of Dave Matthews.  

You could, if you really wanted to, call Golden Feather a ‘‘jam band.” You wouldn’t be wrong. You just wouldn’t be exactly right, either.

Fans of musician Brad Germain might be surprised by his new band’s direction. Then again, maybe not; if anything has defined Germain’s career to date, it’s the idea of change. His first group, The Marble Index, reflected his love of underground, alternative music. Spirits galloped off from there, but in a new-wavier direction. The Dinner Belles were full-tilt country, while the Cosmos Quartette necessitated genre-fusion descriptions such as “chamber-folk.” 

It was Germain’s friendship with drummer Steve Kiely (Monster Truck, the Reason) that fomented this new sound. 

“(Kiely and I) spend time vacationing together, that's where all the seeds came from,” says Germain. “We go to this farm north of Perth, Ontario, and we would have these long bricks of time together. Steve’s partner Justine and her parents are mega-Deadheads, so that farm is filled with just boxes and boxes of Dead shows on tape.”

Together, Kiely and Germain started to write songs that featured stretches of open space for long-form improv. 

“Listening to (Dead]) tapes and wanting to try 10-, 15-minute songs – that appealed to me,” says Germain. 

In their (thus far) short career, Golden Feather has allowed themselves to expand and contract, to welcome new members and to branch off in new directions. Recently, says Germain, the band has leaned more towards R&B and boogie-woogie. “We always did straddle a line through a Steely Dan-type world, where the music has some of that tight funkiness,” he says. “We're moving more towards that.”

Of course, the band could continue to move right past that into new, unexpected sounds. What is likely to remain, however, is the jam, which brings us back to the idea of the jam band. 

Golden Feather is, from left: Brad Germain, Ronson Armstrong, Murray Heaton, Steve Kiely, and Gareth Inkster.
Photos: supplied

“We fit in it to a degree because we extend things and we have a way of rolling along, like jam bands will,” Germain says. “The thing that I feel will separate us from the pack is the harmony singing and the actual songs themselves. They're not just opportunities for us to jam on a lick. It's a song first.”

Though what they’re doing can come across as retro, Golden Feather somehow cuts through the nostalgia. It might be because, despite all these references to the Dead, the main songwriters aren’t constrained by the influences of classic rock, folk rock, or other jam bands. Germain spent his teenage years steeped in the music of Pavement and Nirvana; Kiely was a fan of Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The impact of these newer influences can be felt more than heard; you’d have a hard time picking out a Thurston Moore-inspired guitar lick, but Germain promises they’re there, part of the harmonic stew cooked up by band members with diverse backgrounds. 

Golden Feather plans to start recording their first official full-length album in May. In the meantime, they will focus on something less traditional. Golden Feather recorded a live set at Hamilton’s Bridgeworks in late 2022. The show – the last one with guitarist Chris Wheeler, who amicably split from the group afterwards – was captured on audio and video with four cameras (directed by long-time filmmaker and music enthusiast Mitch Fillion, of Southern Souls fame). 

The project, titled Welcome / Release, will be available via Sonic Unyon in late June. It will be released  both track-by-track and in full, in both audio and video formats.


Band: Golden Feather
Members: Brad Germain (guitar, vocals); Steve Kiely (drums, vocals); Gareth Inkster (keyboards, vocals), Ronson Armstrong (bass), Murray Heaton (saxophone)
Releases: Light on Water EP (2020), Now & Then EP (2022), various singles