Published Jan 14, 2011In the final week of 2010, the Canadian music world received word that Neil Haverty, frontman of Toronto gospel-tinged roots outfit Bruce Peninsula, had been admitted to the city's Princess Margaret Hospital to undergo treatment for leukemia. Alarming as this news was, the singer's mood was optimistic, as he promised to fight the illness and release a new Bruce Peninsula record as soon as he was better. Now, Haverty has finished his first round of chemotherapy, and he has already set his sights on new musical projects.
In an interview with Exclaim!, Haverty explained, "I had a few days after chemo where I felt like I had a really bad flu and those days were rough, but generally I've been feeling good. My energy levels wax and wane but I've had lots of friends and family come to visit and they've brought me lots of really great things to eat and read and watch on my laptop."
Doctors have told Haverty that he has a 95 percent chance of recovery, with a 80 percent chance that the cancer will never return. He said, "It remains to be seen if I can lick it in one three-month round of chemo or not, but it's been easy to stay positive with such a diagnosis."
Along with watching TV shows (Mad Men, Misfits and Californication are current favourites), Haverty is getting ready to begin working on new material. He explained, "I used to make lots of electronic music and I'm looking forward to starting to play around with that again. I've asked some of my musician pals to collect samples for me to play with and I'm really excited to dig into that whenever I'm feeling up to it."
While his attitude was positive, Haverty expressed disappointment that his illness had resulted in the newly completed Bruce Peninsula album being delayed. He explained, "We had a year-end holiday party with the whole band on the Monday night (December 20), where we all drank wine and ate Indian food and toasted the new record and then I was called to the emergency room on Tuesday morning."
The record will be called Open Flames and it contains ten songs. Although any release plans depend on the speed on Haverty's recovery, the band hope to have it out by the fall. Like 2009's A Mountain Is a Mouth, it was produced by the band and Leon Taheny. Sessions took place from May to October of 2010 in three Toronto studios: Nassau, Angles Up and Boombox Sound.
As for what fans should expect from the LP, Haverty said, "People talked a lot about the genre-less qualities of our last record but I really think this one is gonna surprise people even more. Once all the ideas ended up in the pot, we were playing around in a pretty strange genre pool but still without being lost in the trees."
Haverty's current focus is on his health and he hopes to do some fundraising for the hospital once he has recovered. In the meantime, his friend/bandmate Matt Cully is spearheading a benefit show for Haverty and his family. It will take place on January 29 at Toronto's Music Gallery. From 3 to 6 p.m., there will be a bake sale, as well as DJ sets and solo performances from Bruce Peninsula members. Then, in the evening, there will be a ticketed event featuring Timber Timbre, Austra and Evening Hymns.
Haverty hopes to come to the show himself, and added, "I hope people don't mind seeing a grown, likely bald man cry in public!"
See this Facebook event for more details. You can also donate directly here.
Even if you can't make it out the show, Haverty assured fans that they won't have long to wait until he is back with new music. He ended his interview with Exclaim! with this reassurance: "You'll be hearing from Bruce Peninsula soon. Believe me."