You live, you learn

Indie-folk band shifts gears for debut


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A four-year wait is over for Manitoba indie-folk group Almost Insight.

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A four-year wait is over for Manitoba indie-folk group Almost Insight.

It was 2019 when the quartet of vocalist Mya Roy, keyboardist Nathanaël Wsiaki, drummer Riley Sobering and guitarist Cédric Morier-Roy played a gig at Clear Lake and realized they could be more than a band that plays bars and small festivals around the province.

“We travelled two-and-a-half hours to go there and play three sets in the evening and didn’t ask for enough money whatsoever,” Morier-Roy remembers. “In the morning, we’re just like, ‘What do we want to do next?’ We sat down, had some coffee and made a consensus that we wanted to make an album.”

Roy (Morier-Roy and Roy are not related) has similar recollections of that fateful morning sit-down.

“I think we should know we’re a talented group and we want to share it with people in a more permanent way (so) that we can go back and we have something we made. A piece of art,” she says.

The result is Live & Learn, a self-produced, independent release put together during the COVID-19 pandemic that gets an album-launch party tonight at the Park Theatre, with Shay Wolf opening.

Almost Insight goes back to 2016 but its style has changed as musicians joined and left the group. It started out as a punk-pop group, veering toward hard rock and later to metal.

When Roy joined, everyone who remained in the group knew a new direction was needed, partly because her vocals didn’t fit, and partly because they felt Almost Insight’s old sound had become stale.

The quartet has previewed five songs from Live & Learn on streaming services leading up to the album’s release. Tunes such as Dance With You have an up-tempo beat that will get people on their feet, while Shapeshifter uses Wsiaki’s keyboard’s to shift the folkie mood into pop territory.

“What people will notice when they listen to the full album is the genre kind of changes a little bit,” Wsiaki says, mentioning there are yet-unreleased tunes on Live & Learn that have an edgier quality.

“It showcases how we were looking for this sound. We’re still kind of exploring it and it took us a while to find that sound, but the album showcases that evolution in a way.”

The song Hummingbird sticks with the folkie style, but there’s more to it than a fun groove. The song’s meaning derives from Wsiaki’s observations as a music teacher in Winnipeg, trying to convince students to join school concerts.

“There were some students I noticed… Either they were fantastic singers or they were incredible dancers,” Wsiaki says. “We would have loved to feature them in our show, but they were so focused on school and what they wanted to do next.


Winnipeg-Steinbach folk group Almost Insight. From left: Mya Roy, Nathanaël Wsiaki, Riley Sobering and Cédric Morier-Roy.

“My reaction to that was if you’re so focused on the future, you’re kind of missing out on the present. Hummingbird addresses that from the perspective of the potential.”

Morier-Roy fully bought into Almost Insight’s new direction — he even bought a banjo and knuckled down to figure out how to play the five-string instrument.

“There’s a lot of transferable skills (from guitar), but you kind of relearn the fretboard a little bit,” he says. “I wouldn’t say I’m nearly as proficient on the banjo as on the guitar, but I get by.”

After tonight’s concert, the group returns to the Park Theatre on June 2 for Local Jukebox Volume 4, where they will join the Mariachi Ghost, the Dust Rhinos, El Leon & the Strangers, Sol James and Riel for an evening where each band performs the songs of the other.

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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