Tilting at Windmills
In the novel Don Quixote, Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes wrote of his title hero going on the attack, tilting his lance at the structures, believing they were giants.
Dutch renaissance painters often included them in their landscapes – with their stony trunks and giant arms sweeping the expanse to harness the wind and generate energy.
For a Vernon musician, windmills best describes his work ethic: they keep moving.
That philosophy, if you will, is what Cory Myraas has followed since he became a solo artist known as Windmills more than a year ago.
“The name Windmills came up around the time I began to take myself seriously as a solo artist,” said Myraas, who previously was a member of local bands Poor Little Rich Girl and New Clear Sound. “I was hanging out with friends and the topic of where you would find old-style windmills outside of Amsterdam came up. Someone said windmills in Wisconsin. Something stuck. I liked the fact that they were constantly in motion. It worked well with what I do.”
That motto, “Windmills keep moving,” is a descriptor of what the 24-year-old Vernon Secondary School grad has been about for the past year, constantly in flux, whiling hours in his studio, writing songs, harnessing loop technology, and performing.
An English major who graduated in December with a bachelor of arts from UBC Okanagan, Windmills is now a multi-faceted musician whose craft can be best described as evolving.
Those who have seen him perform live know that Windmills melds classic instrumentation and technology to create his wall of sound. With an electric guitar and a floor tom drum, which acts as a bass, accented with rim shots and tambourine, Windmills records his instruments using a delay pedal and then loops them back to create the effect of a full band. The result is lush orchestration complemented by Windmills’ clear vocals, which he also loops to create backup harmonies.
“Without a loop, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” he said. “Mine is not a typical loop pedal, which can usually record over any mistakes. When I hit the start, if I mess up, I have to start again. I don’t have control over the tempo, and I only have 14 seconds to create the loop.”
As can be imagined, using those methods in a live situation requires a certain amount of concentration, something Windmills has learned to balance this past year through his performances.
He is often asked to open for bands in both Vernon and Kelowna (besides an October show with Andrew Allen, he also took the stage at last summer’s Riot on the Roof at the Vernon Public Art Gallery and with locals Jodi Pederson and Raquel Warchol at Powerhouse Theatre in December) and he is also making a name for himself as a headliner holding shows at Kelowna’s Streaming Café as well as performing for the POP Okanagan Festival.
“Before, I had three guys with me, so those first few shows where I laid it bare were a bit nerve wracking. It’s complicated to do what I am doing. You have to pay attention and also talk to the crowd.”
Windmills’ work ethic has also resulted in two recordings. The first, aptly titled Keep Moving, was released a year ago this month, and his latest, Tilting, an allegorical reference to Don Quixote, is about to be released in February.
“(Keep Moving) started with a skeleton of songs... I was being asked to open for these bands, and I wanted a physical disc to hand out at the shows. I went back and forth between digital download and having something physical,” he said.
Opting for both, the studio sessions, engineered by former Poor Little Rich Girl bandmate Rob Raybould, resulted in the nine-song album that was released on Jan. 27. Keep Moving also allowed Windmills to apply for a FACTOR (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records) grant.
He sent FACTOR one song from the album, Great Divide, in November and was approved for the grant in March. Getting the word out through social media, and on various websites, also helped the album gain attention, with reviews coming from Russia, the U.K. and Europe. Great Divide was also used for the promotion of Riot on the Roof on CBC Radio.
“I had people telling me to come and play in Australia and I was sending CDs out to people in Sweden and Germany,” said Windmills. “The FACTOR reimbursement was also huge. It put me back at zero, so I could get started on my next project.”
The songs also triggered an innate response in listeners, who told Windmills of a personal memory or experience that the music evoked.
“That’s humbling. Making music is selfish, so when you hear that you’ve connected with others when you weren’t expecting to, it’s great.”
Wanting to continue on that momentum, Windmills set off to release a five-track EP in October. However, the project was postponed when summer allergies prevented him from recording the vocals. Instead, he performed one of his more successful shows in Vernon, opening for Andrew Allen on his two concert date at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
“I sold 84 CDs in two nights. It was like out of the frying pan and into the fire. I had all these people coming up to me asking me to sign CDs and to take my picture,” he laughed. “In this business, you find out quickly where your sound sits, but I haven’t run into any demographic who have liked my music more than others. I get older people, my peers, and kids coming up to me.”
The show also pumped Windmills’ adrenaline to get his new album out, and in November, he went back to Raybould’s studio to record the vocals.
“The first album had a strong instrumental impact. It focused on songs that I play live. This second album is a little darker. It has more post production, like keyboards added to one of the songs, to make it fuller.”
The album cover photo is also significant.
“People always comment on my hair,” said Windmills who recently lopped off his windblown tresses. “I found this photo of my dad at the age of 15, and there’s hair everywhere. I saw myself in that image, and so we tried to recreate it.”
Now being mastered in Vancouver, Tilting will be officially released on Feb. 9 at the Streaming Café in Kelowna, with only 50 pre-sale tickets being released. The artist, in the meantime, has planned for a few other shows in the Okanagan this month as well as a date at Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre, again with Allen, on Jan. 31.
“The next thing is to hit the road across Canada,” he said. “Because my act is unique, I can bring everything with me. I would like to eventually tour Europe.”
Windmills keep moving, indeed.
To hear some of Windmills’ music, visit windmillskeepmoving.bandcamp.com.