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Featured locals of the month: vbnd, Katie Tupper and the Soulmate Collective

By in Culture
Devon Gunn (vbnd) and Katie Tupper pose for a picture on the patio of Drift Sidewalk Cafe and Vista Lounge on Oct. 6, 2019.

If you could put music to the feeling of finally coming home after a long day with the promise of good memories waiting to be made ahead of you, it would sound like the Soulmate Collective. 

Devon Gunn — known by the alias vbnd — is a 23‑year‑old local bassist, DJ, producer and the founder of the Soulmate Collective. Ever since deciding to pursue music seven years ago, he has released two full-length albums, three extended plays and been signed by England based music­label Deep Matter. 

Katie Tupper is a local singer and songwriter who first appeared on the music scene in 2018 when she wrote the lyrics and sang vocals on three songs on Gunn’s sophomore album, Daughter of the Sun. 

This past summer, the duo performed at Sasktel Saskatchewan JazzFest with a plethora of other local artists — some of which had also appeared on Daughter of the Sun — under the name vbnd and the Soulmate Collective. 

“It’s mostly just me…  [bringing] together artists and musicians and then we orchestrate it all,” said Gunn when he and Tupper sat down for an interview with the Sheaf. “I wrote Daughter of the Sun because I wanted to play music live with a full band, and the Soulmate Collective is just the realization of [the] three years of work [that went into it].”

Apart from Tupper and Gunn, the Soulmate Collective also features Jesse McMillan on drums, Ayden Draude on keys, Stephen Fischer on guitar, Connor Newton on saxophone and Niall Cubbon on the high hat. 

At first, Gunn couldn’t justify giving the group a name, but the word soulmate had always stood out to him. 

“Soulmate has been a powerful word in my vocabulary for a couple [of] years. When I used to DJ, I used to host a night at Flint and it was called Soulmate,” said Gunn. 

Tupper joked that it might have had a bit to do with their genre of music, which they describe as neo-soul and funk.

Being a University of Saskatchewan student in her final year of marketing, doing music, school and other jobs can require a careful balancing act for Tupper. 

“It’s nice to have school as a plan B, almost like a fallback. It’s nice but it also kind of restricts you because you’re never put in a state almost of desperation where you’re like, ‘Okay, this is what I have to do,’” said Tupper. 

There aren’t many artists in Saskatoon making music quite like Gunn and Tupper. When asked about the influence of their hometown on their music, Gunn replied in the negative saying, “For me, it doesn’t really [have an effect]. I kind of just do what I want.”

Tupper had a different opinion.

“I think there must be subtle influences of whatever the Saskatoon music scene is, but you just aren’t conscious of it,” Tupper replied to Gunn’s comment. “It’s cool because other than other people moving to the huge [music] hubs, you have your own private level.” 

Tupper went on to discuss how living in the age of the internet removes the need to be confined to your hometown. 

“How the music industry is now and how you collaborate, how you’re able to work with other musicians, you’re really not limited just to your city anymore,” said Tupper. “And just, the internet. You can write tracks with people in other cities [or] countries, [Gunn has] a label that’s in a different continent. I think it’s really easy to not be limited.”  

Gunn is scheduled to release new music in 2020, and Tupper’s debut album will be out in early 2020. The Soulmate Collective is currently taking a break from performing, as they are all working on individual projects. 

Tomilola Ojo/ Culture Editor

Photo: Tomilola Ojo/ Culture Editor

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