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N.L. Musicians: Ready? Set? Record!

The annual RPM Challenge starts Thursday.
The annual RPM Challenge starts Thursday. - Submitted

The annual RPM Challenge starts Thursday

Musicians, to your instruments! Singers, to your mikes! Engineers, to your soundboards!

The annual RPM Challenge kicks off today, and with it will come a wave of brand new bands and albums.

2018 marks the 13th year of the RPM Challenge, which started in the U.S. and became a global challenge in recent years.

The challenge is simple: Musicians create 10 songs, or 35 minutes of recorded material, all to be recorded in the month of February — no pre-recorded tunes. The material must be previously unreleased, and it is encouraged that the material also be written in February, though this “rule” is more of a suggestion.

The challenge is not a contest or a competition and there is no prize or incentive, aside from the potential of having your RPM album featured or reviewed in local media.

It’s a damn good way to make the most of the short but seemingly long winter month, wittily referred to by local band The Pathological Lovers as “the Wednesday of the year.”

Instead of twiddling our thumbs waiting for spring, the RPM Challenge incites an excited countdown to both the beginning and the end of the month, as musicians dive into new projects, and push to meet their Feb. 28 deadline, while music enthusiasts wait impatiently for these brand new releases.

2018 is Newfoundland and Labrador’s 10th year of involvement, when the challenge was issued to locals via The Scope, a now defunct alternative newsweekly.

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In all, 22 albums were released in very first challenge, in 2008, with that number more than tripling to 70 the 2009.

Since its Newfoundland birth 10 years ago, the RPM Challenge has resulted in the creation of more than 1,000 albums province-wide, averaging between 100 and 150 releases every year. In 2017, 130 albums were created in the four weeks of February.

Previously formed acts like Land of the Lakes, Sad Tax, Black Market Hard-Tack, and long-time local musicians such as Steve Maloney, Victor Lewis, AE Bridger, Dani Bailey, and Rozalind MacPhail, take the challenge as an opportunity to create new material under the inspiring deadline.

Some of the bands formed for the challenge have continued long after February has ended, like Monolithic Sorcerer, Waterfront Fire, Run To The Rocks, Goreforge, Sleepy, People On Pause, and more.

Some, like The Domestics, a husband and wife duo who moved to Newfoundland, used the RPM Challenge to break into the local music scene, and make friends with those within it.

This year, RPM Challenge is “looked after” by local organization Unpossible NL, which, for the first time ever this year, teamed up with Memorial University for RPM Challenge Band Off Weekend, an event that “invites anyone to collaborate on a song and record it with a team — all in one weekend,” a press release explained.

The Band Off Weekend will take place on Feb. 3-4 simultaneously in Corner Brook and St. John's.

“Event participants form bands based on names drawn from a hat, and experienced mentors will guide them through the process,” the press release continued. “Workshops and writing will take place on Saturday (Feb. 3) with an informal performance and recording session on Sunday (Feb. 4).”

Later in the month, on Feb. 15, Sound Symposium and Night Music will be hosting an RPM collaborative album recording at The Ship, with improvisers welcome.

On March 1, completed albums are to be submitted to the Rocket Bakery drop off box in St. John's. For those outside of the capital city, the completed projects can be submitted by mail, as postmarked by noon. Online submission is also an option.

The NLPM Challenge Listening Party Kickoff will take place at the Rocket Room in St. John's on March 3, with a NLRPM Challenge Listening Party continuing online.

Throughout March, MusicNL will present the RPM Challenge Open Mike at the Ship, giving contributors a chance to showcase their RPM offerings on-stage, with an audience.

With just hours left to January 2018, here's to making the most of the longest shortest month! You have the details, local musicians ... On your mark, get set, go!

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