The concept for Senior Year, Soda Pony’s new visual album, came from a conversation after a Halloween show in Fort St. John, B.C. The band’s two members, Aiden Tentrees and Patrick Hamilton, during what Tentrees described as one of the duo’s “post-gig glory chats,” brainstormed ideas on how to make streaming work to their advantage with their next album. That’s how they cooked up the bones of what would become Senior Year.
“Streaming is so awesome for consumers, but definitely less good for bands,” said Hamilton. “We were thinking, since streaming is the main platform, we should make something that’s more formed to stream.”
Senior Year is both an album and a movie—a short film made in collaboration with the Bullen Brothers, set to Soda Pony’s new music. It stars Daniel Little in a leading role. He was an easy choice for Tentrees and Hamilton because of his accommodating schedule and enthusiasm for the project. The team began work in the summer of 2019, when Soda Pony met with Thomas and Gabriel Bullen to pitch their idea and flesh out an overview of the video to go with the already-recorded music.
“They definitely brought a lot of creativity to it,” Tentrees said of the film-making duo. “They had some ideas about the plot, but they were more involved with making it come to life, in terms of what this Soda Pony universe looks like and how we can practically get the story across with our own means.”
Working with a small team and a limited budget, the cast and crew made use of local backdrops to bring their story to life. Senior Year features scenes in everyday settings including a high school, a bachelor pad, a parking lot and plenty of uniquely Yukon landscape shots.
The songs on Senior Year were written long before Tentrees and Hamilton decided to tie them together with a video, but using influence from their own lives, the two were able to come up with a story that all the songs would fit into.
“It’s a semi-autobiographical tale, I guess,” said Tentrees. “You write about what you know. If you know about a never-do-well high school graduate who never imagined anything, write about that.”
Both members of Soda Pony gave high praise to the Bullen Brothers and said that not being film-makers themselves, it helped tremendously to have two experienced producers committed to working with their vision.
“Instead of there being a chain of command from a big producer, we all shared responsibilities,” said Hamilton. “We collaborated in that way.”
After two years in the works, Soda Pony unveiled Senior Year with a release show at the Yukon Arts Centre on October 21. The show was presented in two parts. The first portion consisted of Tentrees and Hamilton scoring the movie live as it played on a projector behind them. The second portion involved a much larger band playing older, well-known selections of the duo’s music.
“It was kind of like preparing two separate shows,” said Tentrees. “It was two different kind of vibes.”
Though Soda Pony has always been Tentrees and Hamilton, the two said it was fun to be joined by a larger host of local players to reimagine some of their music in a different dynamic. Along with Tentrees and Hamilton, the show featured Bob Hamilton on pedal steel, drummer Patrick Doherty, bassist Paris Pick, keyboardist Andy Slade, saxophonist Cain Rogan and vocalists Selina Heyliger-Hare, Jona Barr and Dawson Beaulieu.
As far as scoring the film live, both Tentrees and Hamilton found it was easier than they thought it would be, as they had gotten used to playing all the Senior Year songs in a row without any real breaks in between them.
“Scoring the movie seemed like it would be a lot more work than it was,” said Hamilton. “Starting a few years ago, when we played all the newer material, we would tie it all together like it was one big song.”
Senior Year is now available to watch online on Soda Pony’s YouTube channel, as well as the Bullen Brothers’ Vimeo. The music can be streamed on music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music as well. While the band has no plans to tour right away, they have toured extensively in the past. They hope to get out on the road again as the world opens back up.
“I think we’ve established a new wacky career dream,” said Tentrees. “The new idea I thought was really cool was doing the great American road trip by RV and recording an album while we do it. So that’s something I’d really like to do.”
For more information and to check out Senior Year, visit sodaponymusic.com