Ominocity celebrates first birthday: music blog founders discuss their past and the road ahead

Dan Smolinski of Lady Deathstryke tears it up on stage.

Despite all the great music made in town, bands can still often be better-known elsewhere in the country than within Saskatoon. It took two veterans of the local music scene to start to get the word out to other Saskatonians about what they weren’t hearing.

On March 1, Ryan Smith and Chris Morin will celebrate the first anniversary of their music blog Ominocity with a site redesign and a concert at Louis’ showcasing eight different Saskatoon bands.

The collaboration began with Smith approaching Morin, a personal friend, to work on “a project in general,” though the end result makes perfect sense for the pair.

Smith, who was a member of hardcore emo collective Set Aside until its demise, ran a website called 306.org about 10 years ago that functioned primarily as a forum for local musicians and fans, which he says “pretty much got killed off when Facebook became popular.” Still, the website led to Smith starting his own web hosting company and working in the tech industry.

Meanwhile, Morin is both a writer and a member of local bands Slow Down, Molasses and the Eyebats.

Because of their interest in music and their many connections to Saskatoon musicians, Morin and Smith say local music was a natural focal point, as well as other things related to either Saskatoon or music as they saw fit. For instance, Morin said they were eager to write a piece on Saskatoon Dog, the popular meme about local life featuring a prairie dog.

“I do really like writing about Saskatoon,” said Morin, “because obviously, we’re in a position where we’re ‘on the grow.’ ”

But even as Morin — who does the bulk of the writing for Ominocity— ventures into new topics, the writing overwhelmingly focuses on music.

“It seemed like even a year ago there were a lot of websites in Saskatoon but there wasn’t really anything catering to” local music, Morin said.

Now, though, he thinks others in town have improved their coverage, filling the void he and Smith saw a year ago.

“So I don’t really know why we exist anymore,” he said, laughing.

“By being involved in [the local scene] it made a quick audience for us to capture,” Smith said, offering a clue to the pair’s success. “We don’t have to do a lot of work trying to get our name out there, because we can just bug all our friends to click our links.”

While the local network of musicians Smith and Morin know may have provided them with a ready-made audience, those musicians alone are not enough to keep a successful blog afloat. Luckily, Morin and Smith say the response in the larger local community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We receive compliments all the time,” Smith said.

Morin added that Ominocity has developed into a much different type of website than Smith’s last local music venture, 306. On 306 people would converse with each other and could network to meet up with others in the local music scene, whereas Ominocity is a more traditional, news-and-reviews blog.

“I think it’s maybe become another stop on the Internet that people go to in their daily browsing,” he said, “which is fine with me.”

For Ominocity’s first anniversary, the blog will see a revamp in both design and content.

Smith has redesigned both the site and the apps — there is an app for iPhone and Android — and will launch the redesigns on March 1. There will also be a new, automated event system that Smith and Morin promise will be much more comprehensive than the current event listings, which Smith manually updates each week.

The changes on the content side of the site are still up in the air, though Morin says he wants to refine the types of articles and features they run. Where possible, he plans to expand beyond straightforward music coverage while still maintaining that as the basis for his writing.

As an example of this possible new direction, Morin cited a friend who plays in a band but who also runs an internationally popular motorcycle blog.

“It would be trying to draw in that musical connection without actually saying, ‘Here’s his
band.’ ”

Smith and Morin’s anniversary concert, dubbed Omfest, will feature eight local bands that Morin and Smith say offer a cross-section of local talent that spans genres and that one is likely to see covered on the website.

“We wanted something rowdy,” said Smith, noting that the line-up leans more toward punk and hardcore than many local shows.

“Something to smash beer bottles to,” Morin chimed in, though he quickly added that this is not actually a good idea as it might lead to trouble with Louis’ management.


Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf