A Chat with Tired Cossack (11.05.21)

The brainchild of solo artist Stephen Halas, Tired Cossack merges elements of post-punk, indie-rock and even folk in his unique sound. Formed during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the Winnipeg-based artist has yet to perform live, but he is reaching audiences with airtime on Canadian and European radio stations. We speak with Halas about his new album Celo, musical inspiration and early memories.

OSR: What drew you to music?

Halas: It’s something that’s been a part of my life growing up. My dad toured in bands when I was still in diapers. Since I can remember I have always enjoyed listening to music and am captivated by performances. Age 3-8 was spent imitating Fred Penner.

OSR: What is the backstory to your EP Celo?

Halas: The EP was a way to reflect on a strange few years and the relationships that happened in that time, not only romantic ones. I guess I let the process drive itself and what I sang about was what ended up coming out at the time. The anxieties and the strains that our bonds with each other can sometimes have. Celo means village in Ukrainian and that’s the vibe I went for in the EP. I guess I wanted to convey my connection to the people in my life and the village theme was the best way to do it.

OSR: What was the writing and recording process like?

Halas: My aunt owns an old cabin near Lake Winnipeg that belonged to my grandfather, which she is kind enough to let me use from time to time. I drove up for about a week with all of my gear and recorded pretty much everything in that time. It was November here in Manitoba so it was incredibly cold as that cabin isn’t insulated, also the water was off! Definitely could have been more comfortable but the fact that I was alone and could just focus on music was definitely worth it!

OSR: Do you have a favourite track on the EP?

Halas: It’s funny, it always jumps around depending on feedback I get from others. I can’t help it! One day a friend will say something they like about one of the songs and I’ll think “Hmm, I never noticed that about it, cool!” and then it will be my favourite until someone else points another thing out. ? Right now I really like ‘Solitaire’ because it is just a nice warm track, and I need nice warm things in my life right now.

OSR: What about a least favourite?

Halas: I’m pissed off at ‘XV’ because it is cool but it could be so much cooler. I kinda made a mess halfway through recording it and while I’m happy with it I think if I just said fuck it and started all over again I could have made it soooooo much better. Ugh.

OSR: What or who inspires you to make music?

Halas: I can’t think of an answer for this that isn’t corny, but whatever it’s true.

1. My girlfriend, Jodi, played and toured in bands and she is a huge inspiration in seeing someone work at being a musician. She’s so talented and just knows how to do everything. She’s also so supportive (and lets me use her gear).

2. Music in general is an inspiration in itself. I will listen to music while I’m walking around and just get so pumped on certain elements of what I’m listening to. I’m definitely still like a kid in some ways: I’ll hear something I love and think “damn, I wanna do that!”

OSR: If you weren’t making music, what would you do for a living?

Halas: This is a touchy subject. I just graduated from university with a law degree (as long as I didn’t fail anything, haven’t gotten my marks back) and am looking for a job. Surprise, being a Tired Cossack doesn’t pay the bills, especially with the student debt I’ve racked up.

OSR: What is your earliest memory?

Halas: This isn’t a joke but I kinda remember, I think it was my aunt or uncle, dropping me on the floor ?. It was at some family function in the front room and I just remember looking up at a bunch of relatives from the floor on my back. I don’t think it was a massive fall or anything but it sticks out in my mind… also my cousin’s hedgehog for some reason. I remember it was a useless pet.

OSR: Describe your music in a single sentence.

Halas: Catchy prairie melancholy that you should tell your friends about. ?

OSR: What do you hope people take from your music?

Halas: I hope people take good things from it. I don’t think I can be so prescriptive as to tell people what they should get from it but I do hope it’s something positive. The great thing about art is that it can mean whatever to whoever and I love that.

OSR: Do you have any future plans for Tired Cossack?

Halas: Yeahhh!!!! I am heading out to the same cabin next week to record some new demos, I also have a full-length that I’m working on. It will definitely be more post-punk, “doomer-y”, but I think it has a great energy to it and I’m excited to keep working on it. I really want to try and incorporate stronger themes from Ukrainian folklore that I group up with and incorporate some of the language into the music. So stay tuned I guess!

Thanks to Stephen Halas for speaking with us. For more from Tired Cossack check out his Instagram and Spotify.

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