Great Lake Swimmers


GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS with MICHAEL FEUERSTACK at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst), Thursday and Friday (April 23 and 24), 8 pm. $30.,,,

Tony Dekker may only be one man, known best for his soothing folk music and poignant vocals. But the singer/guitarist and principal songwriter of Great Lake Swimmers is finding ways to use his voice as much as possible.

In the three years since the Toronto-based five-piece’s New Wild Everywhere album came out, Dekker recorded a stripped-down solo album (2013’s Prayer Of The Woods) and a covers album for Canadian indie music distribution site Zunior.

But it was time spent with Canadians for the Great Bear, an initiative by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness about threats to waterways and rainforests in northern British Columbia, that had the most profound impact on him. 

According to Dekker, the material written during those trips became the cornerstone for A Forest Of Arms, the band’s sixth record, out on Nettwerk this week.

“After seeing first-hand the way ecosystems work and how species interact on both a micro and macro level, it was impossible not to feel the danger of encroaching industry on the waterways and coastal areas of the Great Bear Sea in northern BC,” says Dekker. “Or to imagine the effect of a potential oil spill disaster – should the [current] lines of thinking continue.”

A sense of urgency that runs through the new record sets it apart from past Great Lake Swimmers’ releases. The band uses acoustic instruments, yet tracks like the opener, Something Like A Storm, still move quickly and with resolute drive.

Dekker says this newfound gusto resulted in part from “a decision to translate some of the new ground that we’re covering as a band and new transitions that we’re making.”

Besides the newer sonic direction, the subject matter might be the most powerful takeaway for listeners. Dekker has a lot to say about ecological issues and understands the power even one voice can have.

“We’re living through the boiling point, the tipping point, and the time to act is now,” he says of Canadians’ thinking about our natural resources and areas. “Changes can germinate from small gestures like writing songs and talking about them to encourage the discussion.” | @joshuakloke



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