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Rock n' Roll

Dali Van Gogh is rising from the ashes

Local rock band is turning tragedy into art on their new album

4 min read
caption Cyrus Robertson-Orkish and Isaac Kent of Dali Van Gogh
Luke MacDonald
caption Cyrus Robertson-Orkish and Isaac Kent of Dali Van Gogh
Luke MacDonald

Hard Rock band Dali Van Gogh has shown that perseverance is paramount in the music industry.

In many cases, if a band’s home studio and equipment went up in flames and everything was lost they would give up, but not Isaac Kent. 

This happened to him.

On March 31, 2015, Kent’s life took a dramatic turn when his house and home studio in Eastern Passage caught fire. He was working in the studio when his dog brushed up against his leg in a strange manner. He turned around and saw smoke and fire in the room behind him.

Immediately, Kent leaped into action.

He first threw his dog out the door and then ran upstairs to tell his girlfriend about what was happening. Kent described the smoke being so thick that he could barely make it up the stairs. Once he got to his girlfriend and woke her up they jumped out of the second storey of the house into a snowbank rather then running back down the stairs through the smoke and the flames. 

“I was told by the fire department that if she had been in there for 30 more seconds she would have been dead.”

Kent said the fire department was never officially able to determine the cause of the blaze, but his house and about $200,000 worth of recording gear was destroyed.

Kent, 27, splits his time between the band and his record label, HouseFire Records. He is the brains behind Dali Van Gogh and it has been his passion for the past nine years. He is the only original member left in the band.

“I would say it is my project; I would say it kind of is just because I have been the one that has been invested in it for almost a decade,” said Kent. “But I don’t treat it like that; I’m like the tiebreaker when we are making decisions.”

Until the fire, Dali Van Gogh had been on an almost three-year hiatus due to the departure of their former lead singer Marcel McNeil. Before that, the band was charting extremely well on local radio and getting airplay all around the world. Their 2012 single “Wild Blue City” reached #67 on the CMJ music charts and was ranked #16 on Q104’s top Nova Scotian songs of 2012. They even had an American tour booked, but that all came to a halt with McNeil’s departure.

The fire sparked something in Kent.

He decided it was time to get Dali Van Gogh off the ground again, but this meant finding new members. Bassist Cyrus Robertson-Orkish is one of them. He joined the band last summer.  

“I was in need for a band fix, so when I saw a posting for an audition I said whatever I’ll give it a try,” said Robertson-Orkish. “As it turns out I get there and these guys are awesome and I feel like I’m gelling with them, and it seems like they are liking what I did too. After that is just kind of went from there.”

The band’s current lineup consists of Kent on guitar, Robertson-Orkish on bass, John Scotto on vocals, Jaad Stewart on drums and Devon Roberts on the keys.

caption Dali Van Gogh members Isaac Kent, John Scotto and Cyrus Robertson-Orkish.
Bruce Nelson

Over the past few months the band has finished recording and mixing their third album: From Ashes. It is their third full length LP. The band describes it as a journey through disbelief, grief, rage fear and hope and was mainly influenced by the burning of Kent’s house.

“A lot of it comes from what happened with the fire; it maybe isn’t represented in the lyrics, but it is represented in a lot of the musical writing,” said Kent.

“The last four lines of the record are, I’m picking up the pieces.”

Kent also said that, musically, the biggest influences for the album were Alice in Chains, Black Stone Cherry and Canadian rockers Monster Truck. He and Robertson-Orkish described the sound of the album as high octane rock and roll.

For Kent, the fire was a life-changing moment that made him realize what really matters to him, and that Dali Van Gogh was one of those things.     

“I think people will be really surprised when people listen to the record and say, ‘wow that is by a bunch of guys in Nova Scotia,’” said Kent.

Dali Van Gogh’s album release show is Saturday night at Big Leagues in Cole Harbour. They are also hitting the road for over 20 dates across the Maritimes this summer.

Check out their video for “Black Scales.”

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