Dawson Bealieu, known by his stage alias Groan Boy, is instantly recognizable in his blue blazer—the same one he’s wearing on the concert flyers plastered all over town. In recent months, he’s had a schedule that would exhaust the most zealous workaholics, but he still managed to bring an awful lot of enthusiasm for an 8:30 a.m. interview. There’s good reason for Bealieu’s excitement. He’s getting ready to release his debut album under the Groan Boy moniker. It’s also going to be the first record released by Big Boat Records, a company Bealieu co-founded with fellow local musician Patrick Hamilton.
Groan Boy has come a long way since starting as a hobby project three years ago. After having a bag of guitar pedals stolen, Bealieu went on a shopping spree for new ones, inspiring him to start experimenting with new sounds and writing songs based around them. Once he was invited to open for The Cryptozoologists at a record release show, the need to get a full set together pressured Bealieu to churn out as many songs as he could in just one month. He was joined by Patrick Docherty on drums, and the earliest incarnation of Groan Boy was born.
Today, in addition to Bealieu and Docherty, the band is rounded out by Erik Vasseur on bass and Aki Jonasson on vox organ. The quartet recorded their debut album at Old Crow Recording studio, with Patrick Hamilton producing. With the record complete and ready for release, Groan Boy will perform a special album release concert Aug. 10 at the Black Box in the Heart of Riverdale.
“Don’t expect super happy, fun, dancy music,” said Bealieu. “It’s a bit dark and weird. But it’s gonna be loud. It’s a pretty small room, and there’s gonna be a lot of amplifiers. It’s gonna be a rock concert.”
In addition to a loud rock show, the record release show will see the unveiling of a large art project and will have Mario Kart set up for those who want to play. The show is an all ages event, but there will be a cash bar. The evening will also feature an opening set from The Cryptozoologists. “It’s a good little come-around because my first show was opening for their first CD release,” said Bealieu. “They’re a really fun band as well.”
Though the number of concert venues in Whitehorse may be dwindling as of late, forcing artists to get more creative with their event planning, Bealieu maintains that the local music scene is still going strong. Bealieu himself has been involved in local music since his high school days, and is grateful that Groan Boy has been embraced by the local community and its supportive fans.
While the Yukon often attracts creative types and has a thriving arts scene, the isolation of the territory is still a barrier for bands who want to gain some recognition elsewhere in Canada or the world. This is where Big Boat Records comes in. Originally just the far-fetched idea of two high school kids, in the past year, Big Boat Records has grown into a legitimate company that has already been involved in music videos, single releases and even represented at music festivals.
Local fans have probably seen, or at least heard of, the Beneath the Broadcast project by now, a video project in which nine local groups, including Groan Boy, each performed a song in the CBC basement. The project was made by Something Shows in collaboration with Big Boat Records and Brendan Preston Productions, and received widespread coverage around Canada. Bealieu agrees that the project was a good way to get the word out about Big Boat Records, and the company has to keep that momentum going. Its first album release should see the label pushed to new heights, much to the excitement of its founders.
In some senses, the record company is still in its infancy, but Bealieu and Hamilton have big plans for the future, including signing on more artists, releasing more records and video projects, and hosting showcases for the label. One of the goals is to bring awareness to the Yukon’s unique music scene in ways that independent artists often don’t have the means to do themselves.
“When you’re operating under a label, people instantly take you more seriously,” said Bealieu.
Groan Boy’s album release show takes place Aug. 10 at the Heart of Riverdale. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the Cryptozoologists kick off the live music at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available online now. In addition to its CD release at the concert, the album will also be available on all streaming platforms.
For more information, check out the event on Groan Boy’s Facebook page.