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Cold Water Premiere New Single “Golden Oriole”

Kevin Stebner’s alt-country recording project continues to shine with DIY fierceness.

by Sebastian Buzzalino

It’s a tough thing, getting old as a punk. Grinding it out in the trenches of the arts community with all the bands, scenes, zines and dreams — all in the name of making something meaningful to connect with other like-minded weirdos. At 38 years old, Calgary’s Kevin Stebner has been in more than his fair share of trenches, helping define the shape of Alberta’s DIY scene for more than 20 years. 

Stebner runs two record labels and has been in countless bands. He hosts bookstore pop ups in his backyard and organizes an underground market for fellow DIY artists. He also writes visual typewriter poems — more than 300 to date — and is currently compiling a full-length book of his creations.

The restless creative’s latest obsession has been in resurrecting his laid back alt-country band Cold Water with new album, Instead, I Am A Golden Oriole, out Feb. 10 on Revolution Winter/Grimalkin Records. The lead single for the album, “Golden Oriole,” and its accompanying video are done with Stebner’s trademark DIY fierceness. “There’s no institutional money that went into this,” he tells RANGE over Zoom from his home in Calgary while sitting on his couch and petting his cat. “Not that I wouldn’t take grant money, but this record is done because we all saved up money for it. It’s a ​​profound idea that this record came out from us saving and grinding, all out of our pure will to make it happen.”

Through it all, Stebner has come to a simple conclusion: art is for himself and his community, and he’s going to continue to make it regardless. “Growing up, you envision yourself as a sort of mover and shaker in the world,” he says. “But I’ve been coming to terms with quietly singing my songs and not needing to shake the world in a way that I thought I did [when I was younger.]

In previous albums, Cold Water made a name for themselves with a more grizzled aesthetic that flirted with full-stack folk and elements of psychedelia. The sound was heavy and oppressive, like the prairie winters in which they thrive. But on “Golden Oriole,” Stebner finds joy for the first time in accepting who he is and where they are as a band.

“This single is probably the most joyful song on the record itself,” he laughs. The video finds the four-piece jamming out to the song in their practice space before rushing off to get slurpees. It’s a goofy, somewhat tongue-in-cheek celebration of friendship. At the end of the day, Stebner confirms, the best artistic endeavors are the friendships we make along the way: it’s about connection, camaraderie, about “more of a place-making piece of Alberta, situating yourself in it and coming to terms with being an old punk and old musician in the scene.

“This is what we’re feeling, this is the song we want to write,” Stebner says. “I’m speaking to my arts community, the people I live with, the art that speaks to me, the age I’m at now, being a gay man, and still feeling removed from the regular world. I’m rallying against the wave of indifference in the world and I’m going to keep making art.”

Cold Water celebrate the release of their new album on Feb. 3 at the Palomino Smokehouse (Calgary, AB) with Liquor Mountain and Heartbreak Etcetera | TICKETS