Music has always come naturally to Edmonton-born sibling duo The Command Sisters. Still only 17 and 14 respectively, Charlotte Command and Sarah Command have been performing relentlessly since 2005, captivating audiences across North America with their country-pop harmonies and dynamic energy. Listeners caught on, and soon they were flying to Nashville and recording with some of country music’s biggest producers.

Music isn’t the only thing close to their hearts. This year they were part of an anti-bullying campaign and school tour run by the Alberta RCMP, and they busk at a farmers’ market in Edmonton to help raise money for local causes.

They spent the summer of 2013 recording, and performing at festival showcases in Nashville and in Canada. Where do they see themselves in the future? “There’s no limit,” says Charlotte. “It’s awesome. We can plan and make goals, but the unexpected is what excites us!”

Watch for their first Canadian release in 2014.

You never know who’s listening.

When Montreal’s newly formed Half Moon Run went into a studio to provide a track for a student project, they had no idea they’d get a record deal out of it. In fact, as Dylan Phillips explains, going into the session was a bit of a blur.

“I was super sick, so I can’t remember much of that day,” says the band’s drummer and keyboard

“You meet people and they’re clearly more interested in being in a band than writing songs, making music… We don’t want to turn into those guys. – Dylan Phillips of Half Moon Run

player. “I know it was pretty rushed. I do remember that soon afterwards we heard from Kyria [Kilakos, label manager of Indica Records]. She was teaching at the school and the recording caught her attention. We hadn’t even played 10 shows yet, but a couple of weeks later we were signed. It was quite exciting, although it was also faster than we were able to handle.”

The song was “Full Circle,” a nimble bit of hypnotic folk-rock highlighted by the double-time, three-part harmonies of Phillips, guitarist Conner Molander and lead vocalist Devon Portielje. The three had come to Montreal from across the country for different reasons: Molander to study psychology at McGill University, Portielje for a music industry job, and Phillips to pursue his masters in classical piano. They met through a Craiglist ad, and (with exception of a short-lived high-school rock group for Conner), Half Moon Run was their first band.

Still, they weren’t newbies. Portielje had studied Music Industry Arts at Fanshawe College in London, ON, which is why he says he met the initial offer from Indica with “raw skepticism.”

“I wanted to be DIY,” he says. “I wanted to go viral on YouTube, and have a position of power when

“Songwriting was like going to a new job. Keep your head down and start working.” – Devon Portielje of Half Moon Run

talking to labels. One of the main things covered [at Fanshawe] was getting ripped off by contracts. But we had an entertainment lawyer look at [the Indica contract], made some amendments, and signed.”

After initially telling Indica they could have an album’s worth of songs ready in two months, the band took almost a year to do it. Dark Eyes was released in March 2012. The band’s sound is delicate and intimate, a mix of au courant sensitive indie rock and retro psychedelia, with subtle electronic flourishes.  Dark Eyes found its place onto the shelves of Radiohead fans, Band of Horses listeners and the like, and Half Moon Run found itself touring North America as the opening act for Wintersleep and Metric.

Then last October, they got a major boost from Ben Lovett of international chart-toppers Mumford & Sons, who told the influential U.K. magazine New Musical Express that Half Moon Run was his favourite new band, and “potentially one of the most important bands debuting an album this year.”

Since then the group (which now also includes multi-instrumentalist Isaac Symonds) has been capitalizing on the attention – playing the Glastonbury and Reading festivals in England, touring with Mumford and Of Monsters And Men, getting airplay on BBC radio, and signing deals to release Dark Eyes in France, the U.S. and the U.K.

But the men of Half Moon Run haven’t been able to squeeze in much songwriting. “It’s really tough,” says Phillips. “We do have seeds of ideas. We try stuff on acoustic guitar, we harmonize, and then I take it to my computer in the van and add keys. I have used iPhone recordings into Logic. We’ll try anything. But we really need our set-up and some meaningful time off. You can’t see a song to completion on the road.”

For a new group, Half Moon Run already has a defined system of creating music. Portielje says this is partly because the band members weren’t friends first, so from the get-go, their get-togethers were focused on production. “It was like going to a new job,” he says. “Keep your head down and start working.”

When the band is finally able to settle down to craft the follow-up to Dark Eyes, its four members will continue to apply the rules that served them so well the first time. For Portielje, that includes writing the melody first, then syllables, then words. But don’t ask Phillips about his lyrics. “We don’t discuss what a song means,” he says. “That’s why sometimes the lyrics might be dark, but the music is not.”

Most importantly, Phillips says Half Moon Run will never forget the real reason they came together, and flipped their lives upside down to pursue their opportunity.

“You meet people and they’re clearly more interested in being in a band than writing songs, making music,” he says. “We recognize those moments in ourselves too, and we can make fun of ourselves. But we don’t want to turn into those guys. Songs always come first.”

Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Canada, Indica Records Inc.
Discography: Dark Eyes (2012)
SOCAN Members since 2011

In the 1980s, one band was synonymous with Prince Edward Island rock: Charlottetown’s Haywire. The follow-up to their 1986 platinum-selling debut Bad Boys, Don’t Just Stand There produced three radio singles: “Black and Blue,” “Thinkin’ About the Years” and the sultry, synth-driven glam rock hit “Dance Desire” – which went on to win an award at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo. The band has received lifetime achievement awards from Music P.E.I. and the East Coast Music Awards, and after a long hiatus recently began playing select festivals. Co-founder and keyboardist David Rashed spoke to us from Charlottetown.

What was the scene like for original hard rock bands in Charlottetown when you started?
It was fantastic. A lot of surrounding towns had little night clubs – or curling clubs, even. We played all over the island every weekend. We had put the band together from three local bands and the focus was to get a group that could tour and go to the next level. We started doing original music very early on.

Your first album was a success. Did this put pressure on you to write the follow-up?
I’m sure you’ve heard this from a lot of groups, but we came off tour, took a couple of months off just to kind of focus, then the record company started asking for a new record. So instead of just writing at your leisure, you have a deadline. We had only a few months to pull it together. There was a little more pressure, but we rose to the challenge.

What was the original spark for “Dance Desire”?
It’s a funny story. We’re in our spot we’re renting, a regular day working on stuff. Marvin [Birt] had to run to the washroom. I was just messing around with different patches and I started on this riff. He yelled out of the washroom, “Remember that!” When he came out, he picked up his guitar and we wrote the song around that riff. It was done in a few hours.

What was your approach to incorporating keys into rock music? The ‘80s were a good time for that, unlike today!
My first love was a guitar, and I was originally the guitar player. I think it’s thanks to Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose,” and the first chord with the keyboard. We played covers at that time, so we learned it, and I could play some keyboards, so I did it. But all the keyboards coming on the scene, it became more of my passion over the years. I’ve tried to approach keyboards from a guitar point of view. Maybe that’s bipolar in some ways!

Were the lyrics co-written as well? How did that work?
Writing lyrics is collaborative, [between] Marvin, Paul and myself. Originally the song was called “Chase the Fire” actually, but that didn’t sound good. Marvin is the main melody writer and a lot of the times he’ll just mumble the same words on every song, at the conception, like place holders. We revisit it later with the singer, and try to focus on what it’s about.

Looking back at all your songs, what does “Dance Desire” represent to you now?
“Dance Desire” was the song showed that the band could write. We were always a performing band, but it showed that there was something more there, the band was growing, the writing was growing, and there are always new and interesting things to hear from us.