Features Articles The JUNO Awards Allow Indie Artists To Shine

The JUNO Awards Allow Indie Artists To Shine

The JUNO Awards Allow Indie Artists To Shine
Feature by: Colleen Hale-Hodgson

Award shows are tricky. Depending on who's name gets called out at the podium, you, as a music or movie fan, will either be flooded with feelings of vindication, or slouch on your couch, deflated and bitter.

If your team loses, you'll chalk it up to political maneuvering, if you win, it's a triumph of substance over style. Some people hate award shows and everything they stand for—from over-hyped pop stars of the minute, to the potentially tedious red carpet pre-show, to the awkward and often painfully unfunny hosts, to the loose definition of the term "best of the year." Even so, it is this spectacle of "us versus them" that keeps our eyes on the winner's circle. There's also the odd time that you fall in love with something you'd never have picked up on your own without the added cachet that a win or nomination can bring.

On February 13 of this year, Canadian indie darlings Arcade Fire won Album of the Year at the American Grammy Awards. There were mixed reactions to this win, but the general sentiment among indie music lovers was that this was a testament to the strength of not only Arcade Fire's stellar album, The Suburbs, but also to the Canadian independent music scene in general.

The Suburbs is a favourite to win in the same category on Sunday, March 27, when The 2011 JUNO Awards are handed out at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. As Canada's version of the Grammys, the Junos have been honoring Canadian music for 40 years. Typical of any major award show, they tend to focus on popular artists (Justin Bieber shouldn't be shut out here like he was at the Grammys—although Neil Young may want to keep an eye on his Wikipedia page just in case), but there's a good number of independent and critically acclaimed musicians who also get recognized. Critical favourites like the Polaris Prize-winning Caribou and buzzy singer-songwriter Basia Bulat are both up for the New Artist of the Year award, and there's a host of pre-telecast awards that honour everything from Aboriginal Album of the Year to Electronic Album of the Year. There's a lot of room for discovery by people willing to look.

One of Canada's most exciting new acts, Hollerado, has found that their nomination for New Group of the Year is a welcome recognition of their hard work since forming in 2007 and an excellent platform for them to expose their music to a wider audience.

"We're really excited," said Hollerado guitarist, Nixon (Nick) Boyd. "We're nominated along with a lot of really good friends from bands that we've played with and have kind of kept our eye on for the past couple of years, so it's very exciting to be standing shoulder to shoulder with them."

Not only does a mention at the Junos get an artist noticed, it also contributes to their album sales. After Leslie Feist's The Reminder took home the Album of the Year Juno in 2008, her album sales shot up 153 percent. This just goes to show that the term "indie" has gradually lost its original meaning. Bedroom recordings and catalogs from small record labels are available to basically everyone on Earth with an Internet connection and some curiosity. However, not everyone is curious, as Arcade Fire found out after their win at the Grammys sparked an outcry from both confused pop lovers and at least one former industry big-wig.

"I think it's really funny that people were kind of giving them a hard time for being so unknown or for questioning them getting the award based on how obscure they were," said Boyd, who, along with the rest of Hollerado, recently won an Independent Music Award for Favourite Video of the Year for their viral music video, "Americanarama." "They're one of the hugest bands in the music scene and for these people to be so incredulous is a little bit – it's funny more than anything. Just goes to show how popular and how huge you have to be in order for people to know you."

So a win isn't a guarantee that you will become a household name, but there's more to award shows than the awards ceremony.

A long list of exciting artists will take to various venues in Toronto this Friday and Saturday as part of JunoFest's 10-year anniversary celebrations. Artists like D-Sisive, Meligrove Band and Hollerado's fellow New Group of the Year nominees Die Mannequin and Said The Whale will showcase their talents in hopes of reaching that elusive wider audience. Hollerado played at JunoFest last year in St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, and were cheering for their friends The Arkells who won in the same category Hollerado are nominated for. This year, Hollerado will be bringing their own special cheering section for the ceremony.

"They're super proud," said Boyd about the band's family members who will be attending and partying at the Junos. "They're maybe a bit more excited than us in some cases." Boyd said that no matter whether they win or lose, they won't think any better or worse of themselves, but at least they'll have their parents rooting for them when their category gets called.

The 2011 JUNO Awards air on CTV Sunday, March 27 starting at 8pm. JunoFest takes place on March 25 and 26 at various venues across Toronto. Look for coverage of some of the JunoFest performers here on Sticky Magazine.