A distinct voice on Whistler's musical soundscape has been noticeably silent over the months of summer and early fall. That's because Steige "Tall Man" Turner (also known as Garnet Clare) and Mike "Armadillo Slim" Armitage, the musical men behind the indie hip hop duo Animal Nation, have been out of town.
Tall Man headed to the East Coast (Halifax, more specifically) back in May just for a change of scenery and perhaps, to find a different source of inspiration for his music, while Slim moved to Vancouver in July. Their manager managed to set up a pretty substantial cross-Canada tour to tack onto Clare's sabbatical, and Armitage headed to meet him in Montreal just a few weeks ago. Since then, they've rocked stages in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Brantford. And they've still got over three weeks of the tour left to go before they roll back into Whistler.
This isn't the first time Animal Nation has gone on tour - they went to Europe a few years ago and have done a few Canadian tours - but it is definitely the longest road trip they've embarked on.
"We haven't killed each other yet!" Armitage said, as they drove through Ontario on Tuesday afternoon, making their way to Saskatoon.
"We've met cool people and seen cool people that we already know, and every day has been the highlight, so far," he said.
"We've had to practice a lot, too, because we haven't performed together for seven months."
For anyone new to the Animal Nation, here's a brief history: the group was born out of a disagreement between the two over the quality of another band's performance. The group was the Terrordactyls - yikes! - and Clare hated their music. Armitage disagreed. A heated argument ensued, and somehow, Animal Nation was started. That was in 2004. Now, six years and four albums later, this energetic, creative and charismatic duo is still making hip hop with a light-hearted, old school attitude coupled with that unmistakable West Coast lyricism: "intellectual" hip hop, if you will.
"There's not too much stressful stuff going on in Whistler, especially, so it kind of makes it hard to make unpositive lyrics when you live in such a positive place," Armitage reflected.
They also just had their last LP, Understanding More About Nothing Than Anybody Ever Thought Impossible pressed onto 12-inch vinyl - not exactly an inexpensive undertaking.
Earlier this year, the album debuted at #3 on the national college hip-hop charts, beating out Gorillaz (#6) and K-os (#10), who debuted the same week. The album also held #1 positions in Toronto and Ottawa, made a dozen top 10 lists, and several tracks were featured in MTV Canada's infamous, ill-fated reality show, Peak Season.