High Flying Bird - Photo by and Courtesy of Chandler Keeler
High Flying Bird
Vancouver, British Columbia
1969 - 1973


Shawn Byrne ~ Drums
Barry Cartwright ~ Drums
Charlie Bill Knowles ~ Bass
Peter McLean ~ Keyboards, Vocals
Rick McPhee ~ Vocals
Brent Shindell ~ Guitar, Vocals

The band was together from 1969 to 1973 and released two singles but no albums. They did alot of warm up spots back then for groups such as Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller and a western tour with Willy Dixon. The band had two drummers (at different times) the first was Barry Cartwright and then Shawn Byrne joined after Barry left. The band then became a four piece with Peter McLean on keyboards /vocals, Brent Shindell Guitar/Vocals, Charlie Bill Knowles, Bass and Shawn Byrne, Drums.  Earlier on the band had a singer by the name of Rick McPhee.

Gord Mitchell & Brent Shindell, October 2002

For The Birds:
The High Flying Bird Interview

Vancouver, May, 1972
By Rick McGrath

To tell you the truth, I don't really remember doing this interview/ commentary, but it was one of the lost pieces retrieved by UCSD Librarian Harold Coulson from microfishe files of the Grape underground newspaper. It's not much of an interview, but sometimes either you can't get the conversation going in an interesting direction -- or they just don't have much to say.

Monday night. The Bird have just returned from two weekend gigs on Vancouver Island, and a long tour with Willie Dixon through western Canada, stopping at Calgary, Nelson, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Victoria, Prince George, Penticton and Vancouver. Around seven I wandered in through the front door and into the Bird's nest. Lots of people and a great friendly dog are on hand to greet you, and before too long we were sprawled around the living room, talking bands and music.

High Flying Bird is, relatively speaking, one of the older existing rock groups in town, having lasted over three years and numerous personnel changes. ln the beginning, they had Brian McManus playing lead guitar, and then Brian changed his name and his thinking to Vanya Skye, and the group became known around as a working extension of the Skye Family. Bob Smith, or one of the Sun's orgasmic music hacks, picked up The Family and nearly destroyed it with a rather lengthy newspaper article. When Vanya left and started Motherhood, the original Family died, but the basic philosophy of "people living together and loving each other" -- still lingers on in the house on Fremlin Street.

The first thing I wanted to cover was the Bird's interest in the local scene. What seemed to piss them off the most was the fact that they couldn't get out and see the groups that they wanted to see -- too many groups and nowhere for them to play. I suggested the possibility of a number of groups getting together and doing a series of concerts or trying to open a club, but besides agreement on the fact that most promoters could easily be cut out of the music scene, thus giving the groups more of a chance to make some bread, there was little optimism that such a scheme could get off the ground. The idea did stir up a few nostalgic stories, though, and the next thing I knew we were neck deep in "the good old days" and how it used to be when the Circus and the Bistro and everything else was going full tilt. And the Parlour, with its local legend sets featuring Brahmin or Stallion Thumbrock or The Seeds of Time.

Things did finally get back to the present and I learned that a new single is soon to be released. The song is a Paul Williams number called "I Never Had It So Good" with lead vocals by Zeke and production by Tim Burge. The song was done at Aragon Studios. Barry Samuels, HFB's manger, is very excited about the record and feels that it has a good chance to break the group on a national level. If that does happen, The Bird will be well on their way to doing an album of their own songs. Which shouldn’t be too difficult, considering the present lineup has a repertoire of about 25 original tunes, and Brent (guitar) and Zeke (keyboards) are currently both into writing. I asked how they got songs together and Shawn (drummer) answered: "Zeke writes a song... let’s say he has the words and certain parts figured out, and we run through it and we all arrange it. Zeke has the basic idea and we just add parts, or maybe take a part out, and finally we end up with something that’s done by four people. When Brent writes a song he comes in with a riff, and we just start working on that. And that turns into a song".

The conversation then shifts to a discussion of Canadian music. It has long been my contention (Poppy Family excluded) that the recording heavies in Canada have totally ignored the West Coast bands. Thunder Studios in Toronto seem to be the focus point for Canadian rock recording and even though there is an incredible amount of crap coming out of that area, no doubt to appease the Canadian content and the even newer "Canada Sound" bullshit that rockers in the States are now getting flogged with, it appears that absolutely nothing has been done with the vast amount of music this town produces. Barry Samuels adds, "A band’s success is a direct result or the audience. If the people are not hearing on the radio a representation of what is being created here, then they're going to be less prone to accept what's created here".

There is, l found out, another obstacle in the way of local music. If you belong to a group and you want to record a song, there are two ways you can do it: put up all the money and rent the studio time and do the thing. Very expensive. The other way is to try and get the studio or somebody to back you. Shawn explains: "All the studio time is up front… so say the record sells, well, then all the studio costs come off the top. After that's paid for then the group can start talking royalties and things".

One of the backlashes of this kind of system is that in most cases, like now, when money is tight, most bands, unless they have a super commercial sound or have taken advanced courses in mass hypnosis, can't get to do what the want in a studio. The culture cops at work again, telling us what we can or can't listen to.

But music is not business and bucks to a band, and High Flying Bird certainly don’t treat music as a means to money. The music holds much more meaning to them than that, as Zeke explains; "What I want to do, in my writing, is try to think of a lot of things that might be beneficial if people know about it. Not just learning a bunch of things and writing them down. And not crashing them over the head with it, but doing it subtlety. Some things that may be a gas for people to learn. Move them somewhere".

As for the future, Shawn perhaps expresses the feelings of the Bird and a lot of other musicians when he says, "I don't concern myself too much with the future, as I don't concern myself too much with the past. If you were to look in my room you'd find only one nostalgic item… all the stuff about fame and fortune is just The Dream. When I go to a gig I see the stage and the drums set up on it. And I look upon it as a stage and we’re an act and we have to get up and entertain those people for as long as we can. When you're enjoying it, then it’s a lot of fun. That's when I feel the best. If I have a whole day I'm feeling best when I'm sitting behind my kit rather than when I’m doing anything else.

"It's probably the same thing for anybody who plays anything. They just get high. Especially when I play free form stuff... but you can't do that at a gig because people aren't going to want to hear exactly what you're feeling right at that moment. So you have to put in the old two-quarter beat and stuff they can stamp their feet to. I don't mind that once I've had a few beers; I can get into it just as much as anyone. Which is what we usually do. When we play at dances everyone's usually drunk or they're hootin' and hollerin' -- so to make the dance successful we drink a little ourselves to get that rapport with the audience. And we're jumpin' up and down and hootin' an hollerin' and they're doing the same and it's a successful dance. Everybody goes home after having a good time and they say ‘Wow, they were great!’ but we don't say that, we say we weren't so great… we were sloppy, but the people were satisfied. It's mainly the feel of the music that comes across. You wish the audience could be a little looser in their heads so that they could do it to just about anything. A lot of people can do it to any kind of music but there are people who need to clap their hands four times to be able to dance".

I asked them if they found this frustrating, and the evening and the interview ended with this thought. "The frustration could get really big. Right now it's really small. Like it's accepted, so we still get into doing high school gigs when we play them and we try to please the audience. It's not as though it's really hated. It's accepted because we have to do it in order to live. With us, it’s like Motherhood? there’s a lot of work out parts that you can't really stomp your foot to, it's mainly to listen. And people, maybe they don't like it, maybe what we're doing doesn't appeal to people in general, but it’s our music and it’s what we love to do."

From the Rick McGrath Website, Used by permission of Rick McGgath


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10 May 2012
Credits: Roger Stomperud (R.I.P.), Brent Shindell, Gord Mitchell, Rick McGrath, Chandler Keeler (R.I.P.)
Band # 789