Arts

Ottawa band learned their craft with the help of U of O profs

Photo by Emma Boonstra

Three music students at the University of Ottawa are learning the finer side of music—but on the side, they’re learning how to rock.

Jad Hammoud, Josh Wynnyk, and Ethan Mitchell of Tall Trees like to do things outside the box. They do that with an eclectic mix of rock, indie, folk, and blues.

“I simply say rock,” says Hammoud. “But it’s only true to an extent. I guess you have to listen to it to really know what I’m talking about.”

The band was officially formed in 2012, but the music began to come together as far back as when Hammoud was in high school. Since establishing themselves in the Ottawa scene, the group has enjoyed a warm welcome. They’ve played in art galleries, bars, clubs, coffee shops, and festivals across the city.

“We’ve played pretty much everywhere. And frequently, which is always a good thing,” says Hammoud. The three agree that one of their favourite venues remains Zaphod Beeblebrox. Hammoud especially enjoys playing festivals.

“You’re really treated like royalty. It’s honestly one of those experiences that remind me why I do what I do.”

All three are music students at the U of O. Hammoud studies vocal performance and music studies, Mitchell studies cello, and Wynnyk, orchestral percussion. The musicians speak highly of their studies.

“Ninety per cent of what I learn is transferable in some way or another over to bass,” says Mitchell. “Working in small ensembles in school really helps us get a more unified sound as a group.”

Their university studies also help them widen their audiences by playing a variety of gigs on campus. However, the group admits school has in many ways hindered their development as a band.

“The program is fantastic and my voice professor is an amazing man that I have tons of respect for,” says Hammoud. “That being said, it really slows us down. You just have no time for anything else. I stopped listening to music for enjoyment. When you’re having so much energy and heart taken away from you, it’s impossible to write.”

Wynnyk adds, “Because of the busy schedules, it has held us back from rehearsing as much as we would like to.”

But the group remains motivated. The band has a release party, a showcase at Zaphod’s, and ELE Fest all booked for September.

The three also firmly deny Ottawa’s stereotype of the artless public service capital.

“I think that’s a complete fallacy,” says Mitchell. “I have seen so many acts with the band this past year, proving that this city is chock full of great artists. I think we’re part of a great scene. Whoever says there’s no art in Ottawa isn’t looking hard enough.”