Meet The Band: Dark Mean

"That's always hard," Sandy Johnston admits when we ask how his band, Dark Mean, describe their music. "We have so many influences (from so many genres) that it never feels right to compare ourselves to one band or another. I tend to use words like indie, folk, ambient, post-rock and if I absolutely must give a reference I'll go with something like Bright Eyes meets Sigur Ros meets Death Cab for Cutie meets Fleetwood Mac meets The National meets Buck 65 meets Bon Iver meets Wilco."

The Hamilton trio have been "effectively hibernating" since their self-titled debut earned loads of praise back in 2011. Now, they're back with their sophomore effort: an EP called Samuel The Phoenix, which puts their big, wide indie-folk sound on full display again. Produced by Michael Keire (who has also worked with the likes of Wildlife and fellow Hamiltonians The Dirty Nil), the four songs are the kind of music you can imagine on the soundtrack to a wide-eyed coming-of-age film. So maybe it's not a coincidence that Dark Mean can count Perks of Being A Wallflower author/director Stephen Chbosky among their fans.

The band isn't planning a tour in support of the album, but we caught up with Johnston to ask him a few questions in the wake of the release. You can stream the full record below, watch three of their videos, and find links to more of the band's stuff.


Members: Mark Dean, Billy Holmes, and Sandy Johnston

Hometown: Hamilton


1. If you could play one venue you've never played before, what would it be?

Massey Hall

2. Say, for some strange reason, all the music in the world is going to be destroyed, but you can save all the songs from one decade. Which decade's records would you save?

Love this question. I could probably contemplate my answer for a really long time but for now I'll go with the '70s. I can survive on Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, The Band, Beatles, Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and early Bruce Springsteen records from that decade forever.

3. Who, in your opinion, has/had the best facial hair of any band ever?

Pretty hard to argue with ZZ Top.

4. What was the first record you ever bought? When was the last time you listened to it?

I couldn't afford records when I started listening to music so had to rely on hand-me-downs and presents. The first record I ever owned was Vanilla Ice — To the Extreme. The last time I listened to it was the day I got my next record, AC/DC Live.

5. If you were going to be a roadie for one band, who would it be?

Past or present? Past = The Band. Present = Bruce Springsteen.




Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at

Meet The Band is a regular feature where we introduce you to bands we like.


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