Published Jul 26, 2017Though he's only just embarking on his musical journey as Mappe Of, Tom Meikle already appears to have charted a successful course. The rising Whitby, ON-based experimental folk artist is set to release his debut, A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone on Paper Bag Records on July 28, and that batch of songs has already garnered plenty of enthusiastic previews from major outlets like NPR, Paste and Stereogum, who compare him to Bon Iver and other beloved alt-folk outfits. That has lead to plenty of advance buzz for his August 2 "first-ever public concert" as Mappe Of at the Drake Underground, as part of Massey Hall's emerging artist series.
"It's seriously humbling stuff to have support from an institution like that," Meikle tells Exclaim! of the Massey backing, adding "you look to it as the pinnacle, growing up as a musician in Canada."
Excited as he is, Meikle's parents will be all the more overjoyed to see him reach this milestone, mostly because it marks such a stark contrast from prior gigs they've attended. Meikle's mom and dad would venture to dive bars to their son in his early metal bands.
"They were super supportive," Meikle recalls. "But obviously, in the back of their minds, they were like 'Hopefully at some point he goes in a more melodic direction.' That's understandable, because they had to go to all these seedy venues to watch me play." He adds that Mappe Of's already burgeoning (albeit folk inclined) fan base shouldn't be surprised by his affinity for metal. After all, that's what he attributes his intricate strumming on A Northern Star songs like "Kaepora," along with the atmospheric production of opening number "Cavern's Dark."
"Being an introverted kid, playing metal was not so much about rebelling against society, but about expelling this energy that I didn't have an outlet for. That's when the pursuit of the guitar really captivated me," he says, adding that that sentiment was only furthered by the virtuosity of favourite bands like Opeth and fellow Whitby musicians Protest the Hero. "The pursuit of technicality was very attractive to me, and I loved getting techniques down. And I looked to bands who could balance that with lyricism — my favourites were the ones who could be tastefully technical and still write a good song."
Indeed, careful listening reveals some virtuosic metal-style playing that Meikle incorporates into his experimental folk, along with a range of other eclectic influences. However, many in the media have glossed over that in favour of more superficial comparisons to his alt-folk elders like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes.
Meikle, for his part, is taking it in stride. "It's human nature to try and categorize things and make such connections. I'd prefer to take it as a positive. Of course you want to try to establish your own identity, but sometimes it takes time to do that."