Across The Board is an award-winning Canadian rock band from Toronto, Ontario. Formed in 2013, Across The Board quickly gained popularity with their YouTube cover series Pick Up and Play (now with over 500 videos on YouTube), imprinting their unique and innovative musical style and videography on both contemporary and classic rock songs while featuring other local artists as guests. Across The Board includes founding members Jacqueline Auguste (lead vocals/lead guitar) and Andy Ramjatten (guitar/percussion), with supporting members Martin Heller (keyboards), Ryan Sousa (drums), Ben Healey (guitar), Tasha Henry and Shezelle Weekes (backing vocals).
Across The Board’s debut album, Jane On Fire, was released in 2016 to critical acclaim with their second record and EP, Amends, following in 2017. 2018 brought along their third record and album, Sonic Boom. Sonic Boom has achieved two gold medal Global Music Awards, while also receiving nominations for four Josie Music Awards. Across The Board is a recipient of the Indie Music Hall of Fame and the title track off Sonic Boom reached #4 on the Canadian iTunes Rock Charts in September 2018. ATB is a 2019 Canadian GMA Covenant Award Nominee.
- How and when did the Across The Board project come about?
Across The Board: Across The Board started as a Youtube band in 2013—a collection of eclectic artists from all genres and walks of life came together to create a series of cover videos and jam together. This snowballed into a regular weekly production and gathered momentum through 2015 when our fans began asking us if we had original music. The core group wrote some songs and our debut album “Jane On Fire” was released June 14, 2016—our first indie project, recorded and produced in our own Youtube studio in Toronto. From there, we began touring and creating more original music to the tune of 5 original albums with our newest project, “Wild Ones” being release this past May. Since then, ATB has toured Canada twice, and continues to win independent music awards across the globe.
- Who are your early musical influences, and who are you listening to right now?
Across The Board: We seem to land somewhere between 1975 and 1995—a wide set of influences from rock and roll—from Joan Jett and Fleetwood Mac, to the Doors, Paramour and Evanescence. Broken Social Scene, Walk Off The Earth and The Arkells are more recent influences for the band.
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Across The Board: Rock, harmonies, guitar-driven with contemporary beats and and underlying hum of acoustic guitar with female-leads and emotive lyrics.
- Do you remember the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased? And which is the one piece of gear you’re still looking to add to your setup now?
Across The Board: Jackie—my first instrument was a Takamine acoustic guitar at the age of 10. I still own it. It’s been through hell and back but it’s the sweetest sounding acoustic in my collection.
- Do you handle your own recording, production and mastering work or do you outsource any or all of these processes?
Across The Board: We do everything in-house, initially on our own using our experiences creating over 600 Youtube videos and audio productions since 2013. We now have production assistance from MC2 Music Media in Toronto—Darnell Toth and Matt Makarenko who are also our band mates, co-writers and management. We are truly “indie”.
- Could you describe your creative processes? How does the band start and go about shaping ideas into a song?
Across The Board: There are typically two ways we write—we start with the lyrics and then create music around them; or we start with a musical progression or instrumental and create lyrics to it. About 80% of our songs are written initially by Jackie, our lead singer. She writes with her acoustic guitar, typically creating a riff or a chord progression and then crafting lyrics to the “feel” of that as she goes. Beyond this, the band will take a “scratch track” of this early version of the song, add some dynamics, alter the structure if needed, and the start building the song—drums, bass, guitars, keys and finally vocals. We are currently in the process of creating demo tracks for our newest record, slated for release in 2020—we are doing what we call “pre-pro” – a series of sessions where we layer our ideas on initial demos and create a final demo through the process. From these demos, we will finalize the more subtle aspects of production and come up with a final track. The process has evolved from the earlier days to a more collaborative production which has helped to elevate the music with each new project as you can hear by going through our catalogue.
- What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Across The Board: The biggest challenge for us has been maintaining core band members. The original three members—Jackie Auguste (lead singer/guitar), Andy Ramjattan (bass/percussion) and Marty Heller (keys) all remain strongly involved in the band. We have been through a few drummers and a few lead guitar players—primarily because professional musicians make a living by playing in several bands and are not always consistently available. We have recently revamped the ATB line-up to include our producer, co-writer and manager, Darnell Toth, on drums, and have added Jessica Speziale back to the band on backing vocals. Jessica has been playing and touring with ATB for nearly 4 years and has appeared in several of our Youtube videos since 2015. Her transition from “guest” to “member” is exciting for the band, as is Darnell’s transition to branded drummer.
- What would you say are the most important elements, tools and/or instruments in creating your sound?
Across The Board: Drums, lead electric guitar, undertones of acoustic harmonics and multilayered female vocal harmonies.
- Could you tell new fans, which members do what in the band?
Across The Board: Jackie Auguste: lead singer, acoustic guitar player, principle songwriter, vlogger and face of ATB. Andy Ramjattan: bass player, percussionist, vlogger and co-face of ATB.
Martin Heller: keys player, songwriter. Darnell Toth: drummer, producer, director, manager, social media consultant, songwriter, composer, and general handiman. Jessica Speziale: songwriter, backing vocals, co-conspirator and Youtube collaborator. Matt Makarenko: guitar player, producer, editor, director, videographer, sound engineer, composer, writer and mad professor.
- Do you have any favorite track in your catalog that has a specific backstory and/or message very dear to you?
Across The Board: The title track “Jane On Fire” from our debut album “Jane On Fire” describes the urban decay of the Toronto neighborhood of Jane and Finch–once a bustling vibrant community of multiculture and new immigrants dreaming of a better life–the area now falls prey to gang and gun violence and growing problems of poverty and social strife. Lead singer Jacqueline Auguste, lyricist for the band and co-producer of the album, wrote the song after witnessing burning cars on the corner of Jane and Wilson that had been vandalized early one morning close to the studio where the band rehearses and records their Youtube cover series. “It seemed such a fitting analogy to the Jane Street condition”, explains Auguste, “And personifying Jane Street as a woman struggling to save her grace.
“Wild Ones”, the title track from the new album by Across The Board, celebrates autonomy and uniqueness using the analogy of the “Lone Wolf” who strives for independence yet understands the necessity of “The Pack”, ATB explores the power of self-expression and inner strength. Filmed in a remote forest in Ontario, Canada, “Wild Ones” features lyrical dancer, Toronto’s Murphy MacDonald Rea who portrays a transformation from trepidation and doubt into freedom, self-expression and strength. The message is powerful and the video, produced and recorded by MC2 Music Media (Toronto, Canada) captures the metamorphosis as our heroine finds her “inner wolf”.
- How do you handle criticism and/or haters in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Across The Board: Interestingly, we rarely run across haters or trolls. Our philosophy has always been to thank them for watching/listening and commenting and don’t let negativity get to us. If we see a repeat negative offender, we simply block or delete them. There is no use for retaliation or stooping to their level of negativity—after all, they probably spent two seconds of forethought before they wrote their negative comment, so why should we waste any more time than two seconds on them. The world needs more positivity and less meanness. For example, one of our drummers whom we considered a very close friend and to whom we directed a great deal of resources over time, left the band and started dissing us on social media. In place of engaging in some ridiculous defense that really was a fruitless effort, we just wished him well and let him go blast off his bad karma to the rest of the world. It’s sad to see friends and colleagues become exes—but such is any adventure in life. People come and go. People like you or leave you. But ATB continues to thrive as a collection of like-minded creative friends and family who simply enjoy making music together!
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
Across The Board: Video is key in this day and age of multimedia—with audio and video at our fingertips on our smart phones, we have come to expect the full sensory experience from our music. Most people experience music these days on Youtube—where they can watch, listen, and then research the bands behind the music they discover. Here is an example of our most recent “official music video” of our newest creation “Wild Ones”:
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry and entertainment.
Across The Board: What a great question. Considering how the anti-war movement was fronted by music in the 60s and 70s, music is a primary tool or weapon in affecting change, bringing across a message, promoting a product, making a statement. We have no political aspirations or messages as ATB. Our messages are more personal, more of the heart—we sing about love, loss, strife and joy. We tend to create music that follows our emotive expressions, hopes and struggles.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two do you ultimately prefer and why?
Across The Board: We love them both. There is something fabulous and powerful about performing live and seeing the faces of our fans, hearing them sing our music back to us. The creative process is also a huge part of what motivates us to continue with ATB. We enjoy writing, creating, sculpting our music into final products that we are proud of….and then we are excited to bring these to life—either in the form of audio tracks, videos or live performances.
- What would you consider the most successful, proud or high point in Across The Board endeavors so far?
Across The Board: We recently played to a full house at Toronto’s iconic Opera House in May of 2019 for the release of our newest album “Wild Ones”—that was an amazing experience. As part of that same CD release, we played local television shows, national television and appeared on several radio and podcast shows. We won several awards and were reviewed by some notable critics! This overall CD release experience was inspiring and motivating!
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with all the new technology at hand?
Across The Board: Absolutely—why would any band pass up on free marketing, free fan-building? You can either play to the same 400 people in your home town, or expose your music and message to an entire planet through the internet. Bands who shy away from social media for some “principle” or snobby attitude about the evils of social media are simply too lazy to learn how to harness the incredible power of the internet.
- What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Across The Board: Advice followed: don’t be afraid to tell your story to the world—vlog, blog, make stories, post acoustic jams, connect, go live—reach out. Advice not followed….so far: none.
- What do you like best about what you do, and what do you dislike the most about it?
Across The Board: I love everything about making music (Jackie) for the exception of selling tickets to shows. (LOL)….but Andy is a star at sales and makes genuine connections with fans everywhere we go! I am perhaps a bit shy. We all have our roles. And that’s what makes it a well-oiled machine!
- Tell us something about your latest music release and where fans can find it?
Across The Board: Our latest release is “Wild Ones”– “Wild Ones” speaks to the instinct we have to follow our biological directive on the planet, but the gift of awareness of ourselves as individual unique beings that also allows us to take a break from instinct, to step out of that connection with the planet and enjoy it—to dance, to play under the moon! “Wild Ones” was written during the time just after Jackie’s 2018 diagnosis of breast cancer and each song reflects the journey of staring at one’s own mortality and deciding what is most important in life—the people, the journey, the adventure. You can find “Wild Ones” everywhere—here are our musical streaming and download sources:
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Please Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/acrosstheboardproductions
Follow us on Twitter: @ATBmusicCanada https://twitter.com/ATBmusicCanada
Hear us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/across-the-board-music
Check us out on Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/acrosstheboardmusic
Visit us at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/across-the-board/id719845554
Stalk us on Instagram: http://instagram.com/acrosstheboardband
Read our blog: http://acrosstheboardmusic.wordpress.com
Patronize us at Patreon: http://patreon.com/acrosstheboard
Buy our tunes at BandCamp: http://acrosstheboardmusic.bandcamp.com
Playlist us on Spotify: Spotify
- Do you have a specific musical vision and/ or goal set in your mind for Across The Board to reach within the next couple of years?
Across The Board: We would like to be touring North America and Europe in the next two years, and collaborating with our musical heros and influences!