Megan Keene sang alongside Sharon Toomczyk for years in a local choir, but she didn’t recognize the singer had a remarkable and gripping voice until she saw her on stage in Errington.
“For 12 years of singing with her right beside me, I never heard her voice,” she said. “And then one day, I went to the Coffee House and she was singing with Counting Time, they had just started up, and she just about knocked me off my seat. To hear the voice that this woman has was an amazing experience.”
Keene joined the band Counting Time in 2012 and the group’s debut album, called What’s Coming Over Me, was released in March this year.
The band was co-founded by singer songwriter Tomczyk and guitarist and songwriter, Hugh Yardley.
Tomczyk moved to the area when she was young and although she always loved music and singing, she became a paramedic at the age of 19 in Qualicum Beach. About seven years ago she began to reconnect with her artistic side, giving up emergency services, writing a book (which was published in 2009) and holding music jams at her house. Yardley, who she met at local martial arts classes, was one of the people who attended the musical evenings.
Yardley is from Victoria originally and began playing the guitar when he was 13. He played in a few bands and then, following an injury, took some time off from music. He became reacquainted with his musical side in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He took a luthiers course and built his own guitar and taught music lessons at a private school for five years. A few years after moving back to Victoria, he decided to take a job in this area.
After a few musical evenings at the Tomczyk house, Tomczyk and Yardley realized it was more than just a hobby for them, and their music was starting to sound pretty good.
“Playing music evolved from once-a-week to twice-a-week, to seven times a week,” said Tomczyk.
“We decided we have a deep passion for music and tried to formulate a band and wanted to make a CD,” Yardley said.
Counting Time was formed in 2009 and the band began playing at local events and venues.
Keene has lived on the Island for the majority of her life, primarily in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area and Nanaimo. She has always loved to sing and after graduation she joined a choir with her mom, called Every Voice Singers. Twelve years later she’s still with the choir and a member of its board.
“I started to understand how important that music was to people, it was helping them springboard onto other things.”
Keene joined a band, sang solo performances and took up a number of instruments.
“My whole music experience just opened wide up,” she said.
Her band, called Butterside Down, has always been fairly casual, she said, and she was looking for something a bit more serious. She “dabbled” with Counting Time here and there before she was invited to join the group’s rehearsals.
Keene now sings harmonies with the band and she and Tomczyk run a successful choir out of The Soundgarden in Coombs called Sound Connection.
Last year Counting Time acquired Jey Young, who is originally from Edmonton. Young was in his second year of university studying sciences a number of years ago when he decided he needed a change.
“I did a year of the music program at Grant MacEwan in Edmonton, which was fantastic, I never intended it to be a career change, just a break.”
Young did go back into sciences but he also played in bands around Edmonton and recorded albums with local groups. When he moved to this area last year he found Counting Time and it seemed a great match, he said.
Drummer Gerry Bird also joined the group last year.
Counting Time’s album has been a vision of Yardley and Tomczyk’s for some time, and when they met sound engineer and producer Edward Lee from Broken Spiral Studios in Nanaimo, they started to get excited.
Pre-production took six months of pouring over every note, bridge, verse and chorus, Yardley said, but it was an incredibly rewarding experience.
“With the experienced ears of Ed, we were able to recreate the songs in the studio, many of them on the fly, and it was a collaborative, creative environment,” said Yardley. “That was one of things we really enjoyed about the process of the album.”
The group’s music is off the beaten track of mainstream rock, instead carrying an alternative edge, brimming with poignant lyrics. Tomczyk said the album far exceeded the group’s expectations.
“Our music has a lot of intricacies and the people who seem to enjoy it the most are the people who seem to really get music and understand what’s been put into it.”
Tomczyk said the CD reinforced to her that she’s always been an artist and it is a sort of declaration to herself of who she is today.
Although she was once a coy and quiet artist, people now stop her and say, “I didn’t know you sang?” she revealed.
“I was a timid singer and now my voice is on that album and everybody hears it.”
Members of the group feel that music has done a lot for them mentally and emotionally and that’s why, Tomczyk said, they like to give back to the community.
Tomczyk is co-founder of The Soundgarden in Coombs, where musicians and music lovers come together on a regular basis for events, open mic nights, workshops and claseses. She also helps run a youth jam at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville and is finishing up a Youth Rock Band Project.
For more on The Soundgarden visit www.thesoundgarden.org. To get a hold of Counting Time’s new album download it through iTunes, or contact the group through its website www.countingtime.ca or through Facebook.