[drɪŋks wɪð] Jaron Chidiac

[This article was originally published under scratchedoutblog.wordpress.com on Feb 22nd, 2017. Jaron is still performing solo at times, but mostly with his band under the name Belcarra. You can find their music and info here:



Insta: @belcarra_music]


It’s December, it’s cold outside – what better time to be inside, drink cold beer and talk about music? Exactly. None.


(And yes I am aware Christmas was two months ago, but how is this my fault? Exactly. Not at all.)

For the second edition of drinks with people I also talk about music with I invited myself to my friend Jaron’s house. Jaron Chidiac not only has a very unusual name (apparently the universe is going to explode if there’s ever two people named Jaron in the same room), but is also a very gifted musician and songwriter.

Originally from Prince George (or PG, as the cool kids call it, I am told), Jaron moved to Vancouver a little over a year ago (actually it’s more like one and a half now, but remember, this is actually Christmas time, so forget about that), after having worked here for a few months during the Olympics in 2010 and having fallen in love with the city. And apparently there’s just more going on, musically. Says Jaron.

His musical career started off when Jaron auditioned for a role in a PG production of „Oliver Twist“, in which he ended up playing one of the orphan boys. He was 12 at the time, and had never before sung or played an instrument. But thanks to his musical family background and – of course – The Lion King, the threshold to the music world was quite low. Mum and Dad are both musically inclined, and Jaron’s father is dubbed the Weird Al Jankovich of the family – and that’s gotta say something. The first steps into the magical world of music were taken singing along with Simba and Timon in the family living room.

After his debut in the musical world, Jaron just kept on going. His next role was the Friedrich in „The Sound of Music“, and soon after that he scored his first solo role in the local production „Noah’s Flood“, that sold out a venue holding 700 people for two weeks in a row. Not too shabby for a 14-year-old rookie that, to this point, hadn’t had any institutional musical education.

His breaking voice put a premature end to Jaron’s blooming showbiz career, but thankfully there is the glorious thing we call Rock Music, which Jaron got into around that time. Through his participation in said musicals he was already surrounded with other young people interested in music that were readily available to form a band, like Ryan and Brett Zigler, two brothers who had quite an impact on Jaron’s early Rock-career. They started out playing along to their favourite songs, Air-Band style; Sum41 and Nirvana were some of the legends that blew Jaron’s mind.

And then there was Stephan Lennox, „a really cool guy“, Jaron recalls, from Scotland, who sat beside Jaron in art class. And happened to be Annie Lennox’ nephew – it’s a small world, indeed. Stephan turned out to be a true opinion leader, who significantly expanded Jaron’s musical world that was moving around what was popular in Prince George at the time – mainly Punk and Metal. Stephan and Ryan were ultimately responsible for bringing Muse into Jaron’s life – and suddenly, the world stood still.

„(It was as if Muse) tapped into my brain and made a song for me. (They) changed my perspective on music forever. (…) Everything clicked in that moment.“

Jaron’s fascination for Muse’s blend of Rock and classical music and the recommendation of a far-sighted vocal coach to get more training in Rock singing landed Jaron in the (pre-movie) „School of Rock“ program, a twice-a-week happening band workshop type of thing where he got to sing all the good ol’ Rock classics. Co-member Nathan Geida introduced Jaron to Art Rock and Radiohead, and when Nathan’s brother, who was the bassist of the band, quit, Jaron picked up the instrument and filled the gap. Jaron’s main role model as a bassist was, naturally, Chris Wolstenholme of Muse. His style, particularly in „Hysteria“, left its mark on young Jaron, who ended up playing a bunch of shows with the band before the project fizzled out once everyone finished high school.


A few years later, Jaron finds himself on a plane from Vancouver, on his way back to Prince George, thinking: I wanna do music. Back in PG, he buys himself his very first guitar with the money he just made: It’s a Taylor. He still has it. As luck would have it, a friend of his is playing a show on the night of Jaron’s return, and since one of the supporting acts bailed, he invites Jaron to fill in, which he gladly does, playing cover songs like „Karma Police“ and „Everlong“. From here on out his mind is set: He’s gonna be a Singer/Songwriter.



„You and your guitar against the world“

The romance of the concept was appealing, and thanks to Jaron’s constant enthusiastic engagement with and in anything musical – like volunteering at PG’s Folk Festival – he permanently found new inspiration, met new people and mentors that furthered his career and technique. Martyn Joseph from Wales, an early Singer/Songwriter idol, played said festival sporting a loop pedal, which to this day is often part of the Jaron Chidiac live experience.

Generally Jaron absorbed anything and everything about music, while at the same time working „shitty restaurant jobs“ to support himself. When he hit boundaries with the standard guitar tuning, he chanced upon a John Butler Trio LP, which unfurled the world of open tuning to him. Finding parallels between Butler’s technique and his own bass playing experience, Jaron experimented with the new style.

When former girlfriend Karlie Harker introduced him to Ben Howard, Jaron started playing around with his songs, aquiring as much of them as he could and taking them one step further, making them his own. „Home“ has strong reminiscences of the Howard style, and like most of Jaron’s songs, tells the story of a true experience – in this case, of a fairly crazy, slightly dangerous hiking trip with Karlie and some friends, where it wasn’t always clear if everyone was gonna make it back unharmed.

„Shit gets real now.“

Soon after this adventure Jaron moved to Victoria, where „Hollow Tree“ was finished – a beautiful metaphor for Jaron’s then innate restlessness and insecurity about finding his own way. Following your dream is a tough business, he realized – but as one can hear in his songs, it’s also a very resourceful inspiration.

Despite all uncertainties and the constant future-driven way of life this dream brings with it, Jaron is well aware of how lucky he is, and grateful for all the people he has met that inspired him, that support him and believe in him and his music – and in the band now, too. Because since fall of 2016, the Jaron Chidiac Band is a real thing. They played the „Best of Vancouver“ competition last year and have been hard at work ever since. Since losing their lead guitarist to a blooming solo career they’re now a trio, and playing shows in front of a growing audience. They’re planning to tour in the spring, mainly in British Columbia, but if all goes well they’ll soon be heard of all over the place.

Jaron’s goal is to be a full time musician some day, and with all the friends and supporters he made on the way and continues to attract, I personally don’t see why this shouldn’t pan out. As Jaron says, they all helped him to stay true to his dream, to be prepared for all things to come and – most importantly – to keep writing and performing beautiful, powerful music. Cheers to that.


You can listen to Jaron’s music, share and so on here:




[drɪŋks wɪð] Zach Lancaster

[This article was originally published under scratchedoutblog.wordpress.com on Nov 9th, 2017. Zach continues to play and write amazing music, and take beautiful pictures in Vancouver. We may hear more about all of that soon.]


Green Tea. If you don’t like Ramen, and meeting at the Ramen Butcher with the latest volunteer for this column, and his obsession these days is Ramen, that’s what you have. That, and Truffle Gyozas. Delicious. Just sayin.


Said volunteer is Zachary Lancaster, smooth-voiced Manitoba-born Singer/Songwriter who has roamed Vancouver’s stages since 2015, much to our gain, and obsession is a word that comes up a lot during our chat.

Zach is a man of habits. He gets obsessed with something, celebrates it for a few months, and then the next obsession is usually around the corner. Like Ramen. A little while back, when Zach was still living in the town of Brandon, Manitoba, it used to be Tacos, for a while. Like the ones they used to serve at local music pub Lady of the Lake , all-you-can-eat-style, on the same nights they put on an all-originals open mic. This used to be Zach’s hangout. For the Tacos, but mostly for the music.

Being a jock for most of his young life, an ankle injury kept him from doing sports for some time, and with Dad being a musician (mostly drums, but he’s also an adept guitarist) Zach picked up the guitar at the young age of 11. Or maybe 12. Dates are not his thing. Everything else, however, seems to be. He wrote his own songs pretty much from the start, being (you guessed it) obsessed with Slash of Guns’n’Roses, but getting his songwriting inspiration mainly from Canadian Singer/Songwriter Dallas Green  of City & Colour. The guitar has always been a tool to accompany his singing, which was honed from an even younger age, in church, mostly, as his family is part of the First Presbyterian Church and Mom is a pastoral associate there.


If you browse Zach’s social media, you’ll often find the line “a depth that belies his youth”, and this seems to have been topical since the early stages of his songwriting career. City&Colours album “Bring Me Your Love” was a staple of Zach’s early teen music collection, and the theme of death being portrayed in Green’s songs stuck with Zach and is found in a lot of his early lyrics. “The Weaker Man”, Zach’s album debut recorded in 2012 (or maybe it was 2013?) by Dustin Smith, a fellow Brandon citizen with a degree in recording from Vancouver, reflects this tendency, but also a lot more Country than Zach now feels is in him. Being heavily influenced also by yours truly Simon&Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Zach now sees himself as part of a small but dedicated folk scene in his chosen place of residency, Vancouver, and has left the country behind in the prairies.

What originally drew my attention to this guy, however, was his cover version of “The Dreamer” by none other than the amazing Tallest Man on Earth. Him Zach finds to still be a major influence on his music, to a point where listening to his music too much becomes “crippling”, because he’s just so good, and trying to copy him just won’t do.

Zach might not have come to music right away, but he sure as hell stuck with it against all odds. Having come to Vancouver with a couple of friends from Brandon and, most importantly, his partner in crime Amber, he had to resolve to being that guy who “samples” guitars in different music stores to be able to practice at all for the first month of being on the West Coast, since most of their gear and furniture was still on the road. Two years later, Zach has settled in nicely, working as a photographer (how cool is this!) which is, beside music, one of his other main creative outlets. Those, he feels, help him over the dreaded writers block that hit the best of ’em every once in a while. “Getting rid of the sludge”, he calls it. The other part of his secret to songwriting is to keep at it, even when it takes some time and sometimes seems like the song isn’t really worth sticking with. This kind of work, Zach says, is what makes his profession so hard, but also so much fun.

“Don’t stop doing that!”

Ultimately, Zach is planning on living off his creative output, and with Photography and recently filming and producing videos for himself, but also other musicians and friends, he seems to be on the right path. He is currently planning his sophomore album, which will most likely be self-produced, as is almost all of Zach’s craft: Self-made. He learned to play guitar from friends, his dad, and by learning covers that inspired him. He picked up the harmonica, again at a fairly young age, at first not really knowing what it was for or how it was played, and when he finally figured out it was “not a noise-maker but a music-maker”, he fixed it to the kitchen table to figure out how to play it while playing the guitar before investing in a headrest.


Some lessons came along the way, like when he was working at Fader’s Music and Recording in Brandon, which soon became his second home. His family, being either artists themselves or a major influence in taste and overall extremely supportive of Zach’s art (his college fund was channelled toward the production of his first album when it became clear that to do what he really wanted, Zach didn’t have to go to school), continue to help him on his way. Being the just lovely guy that he is, he made a ton of musical friends in Vancouver that he now produces shows with, and what strikes me most while talking to Zach is that all this – sincerity, perseverance, patience, the will to keep at it, the will to succeed, and to have found your thing and know this is what you really, really want to do – is something you can always hear in his music, all the while reflecting a ponderous mind in beautifully chosen words, and presented in what I can only think of as an angelic voice, and meticulous guitar skills. So go ahead, give him a listen. Maybe there’s a new obsession in it for you.