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Unexpected popularity leads to prolific output for Aaron Powell

Newfoundland-born musician Aaron Powell, who goes by Fog Lake, is releasing his fifth album, “Captain,” on independent label Stack Your Roster on July 6.
Newfoundland-born musician Aaron Powell, who goes by Fog Lake, is releasing his fifth album, “Captain,” on independent label Stack Your Roster on July 6. - Submitted

In 2012, Aaron Powell recorded his first album under the moniker Fog Lake and posted it online.

“I didn’t even think I was going to make another record,” Powell said. “I had this bucket list and that was one thing I wanted to scratch off.”

But “Farther Reaches” took on a life of its own. To his surprise, Powell gained a following after several bloggers started writing about it. A simple video of the title track has reached 391,000 views since being posted to YouTube in 2013. The album was produced on a no-string budget in his parents’ basement in Glovertown, not long after Powell graduated from high school.

The music is quiet and understated, instruments often wet with reverb — giving the impression of someone in the distance, sedate and singing somberly.

Which is, technically speaking, exactly what it is. Powell’s recordings exist at the cross section of metaphor and reality.

Left at home

The sense of being forgotten and alone should not be unfamiliar to anyone who’s ever stayed home after high school in rural Newfoundland.

“You’re not only isolated, you’re on an island,” Powell said. “It’s a strange place to grow up. Everybody moves out of there so fast.

“It’s still a beautiful spot. I miss it all the time. The people there are so nice.”

Just picture it. Glovertown — a quaint, bucolic and welcoming town on the northeastern coast. Originally called Bloody Bay after a family of 11 was massacred in the 1800s, it’s home to an unfinished paper mill from the 1920s, the skeleton of which stands on the edge of the forest to this day, a towering relic and reminder of failed dreams for prosperity.

A lot of legends surround that old mill.

“Red eye is one of the big ones,” Powell said. “People say that if you go there at midnight and you look at the top tower, you can see two red lights. … I don’t know what’s true and what’s not.”

Powell’s lyrics often match this eeriness and uncertainty. The song “Rattlesnake” from 2017’s “Dragonchaser” is populated by ghosts and people swimming out to sea in the cold. There’s the feeling of losing your breath and losing control as life speeds by without asking your approval — like two red eyes disappearing in the night before you can catch a glimpse.

Coming home

Despite living in Montreal since 2016, Powell returned to his hometown to record his new album in his parents’ house.

“Glovertown’s the best place to record because it’s really quiet and I have a piano there,” Powell said. “I needed to go home for a bit. Montreal’s great, but it’s really hard to make music. Studios are expensive and you’re always living in a place with thin walls. I needed to go to a place where I could just lay it all down and not worry about that.”

His songs are mostly a mix of guitars, piano, drums and vocals with the occasional detour into ambient noise. They’re tailor-made for a soundtrack, though probably not the type of movie Powell typically enjoys.

Home Movies

Growing up, attempting to cut through the boredom of small-town life, Powell and his friends would make movies influenced by the gore and violence of directors such as Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese.

“It was either (making movies and music) or sitting around and playing video games, you know?” Powell said.

In fact, being so familiar with video editing software, it’s what Powell uses to mix his own music.

“Movies were definitely my thing,” Powell said. “I was obsessed with anything that had blood and guts … still am.”

He has dreams of making a horror movie.

From Glovertown to New York

David Mitchell, one of the founders of the Montreal-based independent music label Stack Your Roster, became a fan after he heard one of Fog Lake’s albums, which had been released on the Brooklyn-based Orchid Tapes label.

“I loved the music as soon as I heard it,” Mitchell said. “I booked Aaron on his first Canadian tour in the summer of 2014, then booked him a couple of other times in 2015 and 2016.”

Since Powell moved to Montreal in 2016, Mitchell has been playing bass in his live band.

“(I’ve gone) from fan to promoter to bassist to all around helper,” Mitchell said. “(The) industry liaison.”

Now, five years after the first release, Stack Your Roster will put out Fog Lake’s fifth album, “Captain,” on July 6.

“It’s so awesome,” Mitchell said of working with Powell. “The fact that we’re doing it all ourselves and the response is good … that is a huge source of pride.”

Despite admitting he’s more comfortable staying at home watching a film, Powell and his band are hoping to take the record on the road once it’s released.

“We’re trying to plan a U.S. tour,” Powell said. “I’m a homebody, but it’s nice because you get that experience, you get to meet people that have had experiences with your music.”


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