The Return of Scotch

Talk to any Yukon musician playing Outside and you’ll get all sorts of small-world stories.

Take Declan O’Donovan, lead vocals, piano and acoustic guitar for the group, Scotch. Playing a solo set in a bar in Montréal a few weeks ago, he got a shoulder massage from another Yukoner (coincidentally, my brother).

“It was hilarious. It was a really small show, a solo set, there was just some friends and family there and halfway through the song I felt some hands on my shoulders and it was your brother,” laughed O’Donovan.

He also describes Scotch’s first show in Montréal as a qualified success. “We packed the bar in downtown Montréal. It was full of Yukoners, most of whom we had never even met,” said O’Donovan.

Listening to Scotch, the feel is of Tom Waits, but raspier. Declan O’Donovan’s voice belies his age of 24.

Adrian Bergman, the same age, plays bass guitar and standup bass, as well as sings.

Declan’s brother, Ryan O’Donovan, who plays lead guitar and sings, is 25, and Adrian’s brother, Joel Bergman, the elder at 26, plays drums and sings.

These two sets of brothers, born and bred in the neighbourhood of Crestview, Whitehorse, have been playing together for a long time. In fact, they progressed from just playing, to making music together, around the age of 11.

Declan says he and Ryan grew up three doors down from the Bergmans.

Finally, the four men ended up together as the band Scotch four years ago.

Scotch officially started writing and recording together the fall of 2004 and, by Rendezvous of 2005, they were performing together.

Every summer since, they’ve played one or two gigs per week and a festival or two.

Last fall, all four men moved to Montréal to continue. With Ryan O’Donovan going to school there, Montréal was always at the back of their minds. Declan adds that “as far as music, Montréal is the place to be in Canada.”

Along with the initial growl of Tom Waits, Scotch takes a lot from piano-driven music. Claiming the Allman Brothers and ZZ Top kind of bands, Declan adds that even Ween, “entertaining, a little off-kilter kind of music”, is one of their favourites.

If they share a bill, they’ve got about one hour of original music. And if they have a four-hour night, they do some covers. As Declan says, “You gotta steal some other peoples’ music, you know, so we like to do some covers, rework them and Scotchify them.”

Now that they are settled in, Scotch wants to start filling up their schedule. They have some gigs lined up in Montréal in February and they hope to continue to get on the bills around town.

Scotch will be playing Coaster’s Bar and Grill in Whitehorse Dec. 26 and 27 at 9:30 p.m. They will then go to Haines Junction for their New Year’s Eve dance, starting at 8 p.m.

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