William “Bill” Aubut and Colin Cheechoo have been playing music for most of their lives.
Cheechoo picked up his first guitar at 12 years old during the ’80s thrash metal scene. Meanwhile, Aubut got into drumming listening to KISS and Thin Lizzy in the late ’70s.
In the ’90s, the two hit it big playing for Canadian hard rock band Breach of Trust, an outfit that consisted entirely of Indigenous members.
After contributing to the group’s first full-length album, Songs for Dying Nations, and sharing the stage with performers such as Billy Talent on tour, Cheechoo and Aubut became disillusioned with the rock musician lifestyle and quit the band in 2002 and 2004, respectively.
“I was really messed up with drugs and stuff,” said Cheechoo. “I was an a****** too, so that’s why I left.”
The pair moved to Thompson around 2007 to try and reinvent themselves.
“I just wanted to get away from everything and finish raising my kids,” said Aubut. “I didn’t want to see anybody, I didn’t want to be recognized … I had too many things to fix.”
In the intervening years, Aubut and Cheechoo still maintained pretty strong ties to music, jamming with northern acts like Monalith, Wakefyre, the Bonnie Situation and the Richard Farrow Band.
But in 2019, the pair is returning to their hard rock roots on a larger scale, having been recently recruited play for Saskatoon-based heavy metal band Side Step the Crow.
While the band is still in its infancy −having only released two tracks titled “The Contingency”and “On the Run”−Aubut and Cheechoo told the Thompson Citizen they are excited to start recording on a full-time basis again now that they have matured both in terms of their music and their personal lives.
“Breach was really hard because I had a mortgage, truck payments and four kids,” said Aubut. “Now my kids are grown up. My youngest one is 20. So for me to do this project, I’ve never been so free. I’ve never been in such a good place.”
This project also presents a brand new challenge for Aubut and Cheechoo, since they’ve never had to tackle such an aggressive sound before.
“There’s a lot of double bass stuff that you’ve got to focus on,” said Aubut, describing the difference between drumming in a standard rock group and a heavy metal band. “You rely on a lot of technique as opposed to strength because it’s a game of endurance.”
After years of playing country-rock, Cheechoo said he’s definitely had to contend with a learning curve in this new role. However, the sheer songwriting talent of Side Step the Crow lead singer Joel Kennedy is keeping him engaged and motivated.
“The stuff that our singer writes is just awesome,” he said. “It’s not easy to play, but that’s the fun part for me, the challenge of it.”
Thanks to the advent of high-speed internet and increased email file sharing capabilities, Aubut and Cheechoo don’t even have to uproot their lives in Thompson and relocate to Saskatoon to contribute to the band.
“We just drive there for the weekend,” said Aubut. “With all the technology today it’s so different. These guys can do their share and send it to us and vice versa. It’s pretty cool. Twenty years ago it would have been a lot harder to do this.”
That being said, the pair is still eager to get back on the road and start touring again once the album is a little closer to completion.
“I can’t wait to just go there and destroy … in a good way,” said Aubut. “There’s nothing better than getting a big reaction from the crowd.”
The duo also aren’t counting out the possibility of bringing Side Step the Crow to Thompson at some point in the future, possibly at an upcoming Nickel Days show.
But until then, Aubut and Cheechoo are hoping to finish this debut album sometime in the spring of 2020 and make their official return to the world of hard rock.
“We’re not here to make a big thing like we’re going to be rock stars,” said Aubut. “We’re just announcing to our community that we’re involved with a group and ... we’ll probably bring it here as much as we can because this is our home, too. We love Thompson.”
The best way to listen to Side Step the Crow’s current crop of songs is through iTunes, Facebook or YouTube.