Buy a Record, Make a Difference 12: Meredith Bates

Buy a Record, Make a Difference is a new series we have created to help local musicians generate income during COVID-19. It is based on the principle that we should support and reward the hard work local artists have already put into recordings, as it is an immensely difficult undertaking to be creating new material under current circumstances. There is currently a lot of emphasis on livestreaming and innovation in our industry, and while those things absolutely have their place, we think it’s also important to boost projects that have already been completed.

In each post, we’ll ask a local artist a series of the same questions, give them the opportunity to talk about recordings they’re proud of, and ask them to talk about other local musicians whose work they admire. It’s our hope that you’ll take the time to listen to & purchase the work of local artists, or at the very least share their work with others.


Photo: Marc Bjorknas
1. Who are you? 

I’m a freelance violinist based in Vancouver, BC. Like most creative people, I’ve got my fingers in a lot of different pots. I mostly perform improvised music, modern jazz, symphonic music, and contemporary classical music. I love to record and have done many studio sessions in Vancouver and abroad, playing both violin and viola on projects of other people’s and my own. I’m always looking for ways to improve my technique and my ear and expand my musical vocabulary and have attended residencies and workshops at places like the Banff Centre for the Arts and Fylkingen (Stockholm) as well as taken lessons along the way with Jenny Scheinman in NYC and Carla Kihlstedt in Boston. There’s nothing I love more than meeting new people and creating new collaborations. It’s always exciting to improvise with somebody for the first time and I relish that opportunity to make new original music in the moment. I love playing violin and especially getting to that place where I can shut my brain off and just be inside the music completely effortlessly in the flow of it. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s magical and so much fun.

2. Describe your music as best you can.

I started playing violin when I was 3 1/2 and my parents enrolled me in Suzuki lessons. From that point on, I’ve thrown myself into so many different musical situations, it’s impossible to count. I have a hard time saying no, I guess! I’d say that my sound is defined by my classical training mixed with the influence of all of the different experiences I’ve had over the years, from avant garde jazz to contemporary classical to hip-hop, world music, folk, chamber music, old time string band…the list goes on! Many times I’ve felt like a total poser, but I’ve always thrown myself in and tried my best to serve the music. I’ve recently started including effects pedals into my quiver and am having a blast experimenting with processed sound on the violin. Currently, I play in a handful of creative music ensembles: Pugs & Crows, Peggy Lee’s Echo Painting, Tony Wilson’s Burn Down the Cornfield, Chris Gestrin’s new Shadows Quartet, Gentle Party, my new Canadian/Swedish all female powerhouse ensemble Like the Mind, Ford Pier’s Strength of Materials, Josh Zubot’s String Quintet, Alvaro Rojas’s Gran Kasa, and Tom Wherrett’s ElkHorn. I’m also a regular fixture in the first violin section of the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra. 

3. What’s your latest recording (or a recording you’d like to promote)? Where can people get it?

I’m looking forward to releasing my first album as a bandleader with Like the Mind, which features Peggy Lee, Elisa Thorn, Lisa Ullén, Lisen Rylander Löve, and Emma Augustsson. We recently spent a week in Stockholm developing our sound and workshopping new material together that culminated in a beautiful concert that we recorded for archival and demo purposes. Well, it turned out so great that we’re going to make a live album out of it!  That’ll be coming down the pipes really soon and will be available online on my website, the Like the Mind website, Bandcamp and all the usual streaming services. Another one to look out for in the early Fall is a new album from Gentle Party. We were just awarded a grant to work on composing and releasing a new album with producer Chris Gestrin on his Phonometrograph label. Lastly, don’t miss out on Alvaro Rojas’s Gran Kasa. We will be releasing our first album of Afro-Peruvian-avant garde jazz tunes soon. It’s a huge band of heavy hitters and the music is out of this world, groovy and challenging, and takes you on a crazy journey! Otherwise, if you haven’t already, I’d definitely snag a copy of Peggy Lee’s Echo Painting, Tony Wilson’s This Way Through the Forest, Ford Pier’s Inclusive Fitness, and, my favourite, Pugs & Crows’ Uncle!, all of which came out in the last year or two. 

4. Is there another local musician whose work you’d like to give a shout out to? 

I’d say that the musicians who’ve had the biggest positive impact on me since I moved back to Vancouver from the East Coast are Peggy Lee, Tony Wilson, Lisa Miller, Cole Schmidt, and Chris Gestrin. All of whom are monster musicians, masters of their craft and beautiful, caring, intelligent, generous humans who give so much to their art as well as their community. There are too many amazing musicians in our West Coast creative music scene to count, so this is really tough, but I’d like to give a shout out to one of my peers, Tom Wherrett, a ridiculously talented guitarist and composer originally from Nebraska and firmly entrenched in the Vancouver scene for the last 10+ years. His music and his friendship have been essential to my development as a member of Vancouver creative music community. I think the way he hears chords and scales is incredible and his technique on the guitar is out of sight. His music challenges me to the edge of my technical ability and is exciting and energizing to perform. As a listener, I’ve always loved his solo project, Lonely Astronaut. You can check it out here.