Music Behind the North: The 90s Canadian Rock Scene and their Untold Stories

Violeta Bjelica

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This project is an ongoing series of CDs that explore and represent bands and individuals who were part of the 90s Canadian rock scene, with a focus on Halifax, Nova Scotia. Each CD represents specific bands and aspects of the scene, and many contain in-depth interviews I conducted with these artists. All of the designs were made through manipulating my own paintings, drawings, and photographs to represent the feelings I get when listening to the music. These CDs are a celebration of not just 90s Canadian rock, but of 90s-era graphic design.

Introduction and thank-you’s

An opened white CD gatefold sleeve with text printed in black on it reading: "In an era of extreme music market saturation, it’s easy to remember the past by picking out the names we know the best, but between the gaps is where the equally, if not more, exciting stories lie; footnotes within footnotes that are worthy of books of their own. From the fans to the distributors to the singers themselves, the ecosystem that made up the 90s Canadian rock scene is something worth remembering. My goals going into this project were to talk about rock from an angle seldom explored, eradicate the idea of popularity as a measure of worth, and to uplift the 90s Canadian rock scene and everything that makes it exciting to me. When researching into Canrock, it seemed largely like a self-sufficient machine; isolated yet insulated all at once. There were those who performed for small audiences, and those who cared about bringing a collective vision to light, all of whom made the scene what it was. 
Getting into 90s Canrock to this extent and talking to so many people that have lived through it has felt exciting and strange as someone who now knows so much about an era that I wasn’t even born in. I was born in 2002 and grew up on the Serbian music my parents would play and whatever was popular on the radio until I got into singer-songwriter artists, then hip-hop and pop, and eventually rock in 2020. Yes, I almost entirely ignored rock music for most of my youth. What got me into it were the people I got to know online through other interests. Their enthusiasm for rock got me into it which opened the doors for so many other bands, and now it’s hard for me to imagine my life without it. To say this project has been one of the most exciting things I’ve worked on would be an understatement. I can’t thank enough the people I interviewed and the people who helped me out in some way for this project. Since I have so much material that I couldn’t represent justly in one semester of work, I’m planning for this project to become something even bigger than it is now and to represent all the people I’ve spoken to in some way. 
Due to my intense passion for bands from the Halifax scene, I debated at the start of the project on whether or not I should keep it to just Halifax, but my curiosity for other bands across Canada as well as how connected they are made me realize I didn’t need to limit myself for the sake of one cohesive story. Breaking them down into CD booklets made the most sense to me not just as a way to explore 90s designs within my own style, but to give these stories their own world to exist in, allowing people the chance to learn about Canrock outside the confines of a traditional book, magazine or website. The common denominator of these bands and individuals is the terrain in which incredible music was made and those who etched their names in the roads this nation travels along; cold roads, winding ones, all moving towards the same sun."
The back of a white gatefold CD sleeve with black text that reads: "THANK YOU TO...
Chris Gibson, Sebastian Lippa, Peter Rowan, Allison Outhit, Chris Thompson, Dave Bidini, Grant McDonagh, Ian A. D. Jack, Chris Murphy, Dave Gowans, Ford Pier, Rick Campanelli, François Marchand, Tim Chan, Justice Schanfarber, Danny Hussey, Catherine Stockhausen, Carolyn Mark, Nardwuar, Charlotte Falk, my peers, my offline and online friends, my family, the Internet Archive, Discogs, every person who’s bothered putting 90s Canrock content online, and every blogger who’s just as nerdy about this era of music as I am.
— Violeta Bjelica" 
At the bottom is a logo with the name Cold Snap in bold and Records in smaller text on the side, and another logo beside it with the letters VB enclosed in a circle. Underneath the Cold Snap logo reads: "(and thank you to Cold Snap by Weeping Tile for inspiring this fake label logo)".


At the forefront of the 90s Halifax rock scene were Sloan, a four-piece power pop band. With the band running their own label, Murderecords, to uplift other bands in the wake of their signing to major label Geffen Records, this CD dives into their discography and provides my in-depth interview with bassist/vocalist Chris Murphy.

Read the interview here:

Bubaiskull & Rebecca West

A conversation with Allison Outhit and the shift from being a member of Halifax band Bubaiskull to fronting her own band Rebecca West.

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Hardship Post & Jale

Diving into the somewhat short-lived Halifax bands Hardship Post and Jale and their connection with each other through musician Alyson MacLeod, along with an interview with frontman Sebastian Lippa from Hardship Post.

Read the interview here:

Experimental/Noise Music & Justice Schanfarber

Introducing the world of Vancouver experimental music through Justice Schanfarber’s projects Good Horsey, Pork Queen, and Near Castlegar, and an interview with the man himself on the scene and his label Trackshun Industries.

Read the interview below:

Visuals of the Scene & Catherine Stockhausen

A look into photography and visual designs within the Halifax scene, along with my interview with East Coast band photographer Catherine Stockhausen who has been responsible for many iconic photographs and album covers.

The back of a white card with a messy black border with text that reads: "[...]covers, working for Cinnamon Toast Records, the Halifax On Music festival, and a venue called Birdland. He was also in Halifax bands of his own called Quahogs and Trike. His bright, eye-catching design style mixed expressive, personality-filled drawings with handwritten typography to create posters that put the pop explosion in Halifax Pop Explosion. There’s a certain lack of perfection yet a clear design vision that makes 90s designs so special to me and really exemplified the personalities of these bands.
Now, what would 90s designs be without some good photography? When it comes to East Coast band photography, Catherine Stockhau- sen was the go-to for photographing Halifax bands for promo shoots, covers, and live concert photos. Her work celebrated the bands of the scene not just musically, but really them as people. You can feel the personalities of the individual band members as well as their dynamics shine through in her photographs, and I think a lot of that has to do with established friendships with members of these bands. She was instrumental in putting the Halifax scene at the forefront of 90s Canrock, and so it only felt right to interview her and ask about her work during the era as well as working with specific bands such as Local Rabbits and Plumtree, and putting together Snap Crackling Pop, an exhibit in the 90s which showcased the visual design side of the 90s Halifax scene."

Read the interview here:

Lotus Galaxy, Lux, & a Look Through Calgary Cassettes

A peek into britpop-esque bands Lotus Galaxy and Lux who I discovered through the Calgary Cassette Preservation Society, a site dedicated to archiving cassettes and CDs of the era.

Roland Blinn & Matthew Grimson

Looking into musicians Roland Blinn and Matthew Grimson, both prolific songwriters during their time in the Halifax scene.

Down, Strawberry, & Al Tuck And No Action

A visual representation of a few bands originating from or connected to Prince Edward Island.

Sianspheric & Chicklet

A visual representation of dreamy Ontario bands Sianspheric and Chicklet.


Violeta Bjelica

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Violeta Bjelica is a graphic designer and painter residing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Spending much of her life creating figure-based realist and surrealist paintings, she has now spent the past four years at Emily Carr University of Art + Design working on her skills as a communication designer. Driven by a great passion for music, many of her graphic designs take inspiration from digital experimentation and simple, yet playful designs of the 90s early computer era.

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