[drɪŋks wɪð] Erik Severinson

Do you know that feeling, when you’re talking to someone and they’re just so profound and knowledgeable that you just wanna nod along enthusiastically and take notes of everything they say, because it feels like learning a bunch of really important life lessons?

Well, listening to Erik’s story was like that for me. Luckily, I love taking notes, and it is my job, in this capacity anyway. So that I can share what I took away from this truly inspiring session. Here it is.

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First things first: We’re sitting at Parallel 49 Brewing’s store down on Triumph Street and I have good Kolsch (a first for me, because being German and NOT from Cologne or the surrounding area, I really usually don’t like Kölsch) with a funny name: Can’t Stange Ya. Get it? No? That’s because it’s a wordplay on what Germans call the glass Kolsch usually is served in: a Stange, which literally translated means round stick or cylinder, and is basically what an original Kolsch glass looks like. Way too small, in my opinion. But, before I get rounded up by a bunch of aficionados, let’s move on. Erik’s also having beer, by the way. And poutine, which looks and smells delicious, but that just as a side note.

Erik is an interesting character. He’s probably one of the most modest, understated people I know, but at the same time really knows his shit. And knows he knows it. But in a very unassuming kinda way. Does that make any sense?

Growing up in Port Coquitlam, Erik was the youngest of three brothers in a Swedish family. Like, he actually learned Swedish as a kid. His Mom was the musical one of the family, playing piano and guitar, and a cornerstone of the Swedish community in the area. Both these things heavily influenced Erik, first because obviously he had to pick some kind of musical extracurricular, and secondly because the Swedish tradition of „Allsongis“, which is basically a massive singalong, was engrained in Erik’s musical upbringing. So much so, that it found its way into Erik’s music today: rest assured you’ll be asked more than once to sing along when at a Whelming concert. Which may make some people cringe thinking about it. But don’t worry: It’s actually beautiful! You feel like it’s bringing the entire room together, like everyone is in the band for those few lines. 

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Mark Kerrey (drums) and Erik Severinson I photo cred: Ray Maicin

At an age where his brothers were sent to piano lessons (which they quit as soon as they were allowed to), Erik was given a choice: Either learn piano, or join a choir. Thinking the latter was the easy choice, Erik joined a kids choir at a very young age. 

„I was a little shit about it.“

Despite what turned out to be an activity that did indeed require quite a bit of rehearsing, Erik got hooked pretty fast, and once he „got the bug“ and his entire friend circle more or less consisted of other choir kids, there was no going back. He was part of all the middle and high school choirs there were to join, and a couple of choirs outside any school context on top of that: „There was a choir rehearsal probably six nights of the week. It was the only thing that I did“, he remembers. He also remembers that he basically had two GPAs during high school: One for all the music-related subjects and one for everything else. Wanna guess which was the higher one?

Interestingly, Erik’s singing career really began kicking off when there was an opening in the school’s Jazz choir. Being a self-proclaimed puzzler who likes figuring out how patterns work and reproduce themselves, he was particularly interested in those vocal parts that weren’t carrying the main melody, like tenor and alto. Whilst by themselves they sound, in Erik’s words, „wiry and weird, kind of awkward“, he soon found that they were the real „juice“ of the music, and this revelation fuelled Erik’s curiosity to find out how and why music works, and in particular Jazz. He picked up the trumpet and started improvising with that first, before later learning to improvise with his voice, as well. When I ask him why he was attracted to Jazz, which seems an odd choice for a kid turning teenager, he says:

„I think generally in music, I’m kind of like a seek-and-destroy for patterns. I can hear right away when something is copied and pasted, and studio-tricks that people use to do the same thing over and over again.“

And Jazz allowed him to get as far away from patterns as possible: „I had my fist in the air about it all the time“, he admits. Granted, that couldn’t last forever, because not even Jazz solely functions on improvisation and innovation. This caused Erik to become “a little disenfranchised” later on in his career , to a point where he was wary of listening to his favourite classics, in fear of finding them to be repetitive and hence, flawed. 

Thankfully he has „mellowed out“ a fair bit since then, and is appreciative of the fact that pure improvisation may not be the ultimate solution. Still, being „a musician through and through“, he remains very critical, particularly of his own creation. But we’ll get to that. 

Erik’s story is one of contradictions, it seems. Of being one thing but wanting another. Like his instrument of choice: his voice. Being the singer in a Jazz band is a tough position to be in, because Jazz is an inherently instrument-focused genre. The vocalist traditionally may fill in some gaps, sing some lyrics here and there, before handing the spotlight off to the sax player, or the drummer, or the bassist (yes, the bassist. No jokes here.). Which may seem like a blessing to an introvert like Erik. But he didn’t just want to be the gap-filler, no matter how good you had to be even for that role. He wanted to be a bandleader, but that role was usually given to instrumentalists.

Luckily, there was another way: When Erik was around 16 years old, he started his first Rock band. He had picked up the guitar „somewhere along the lines“ and was falling in love with lyrics, especially those of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. They just had a way of playing with words, and having fun with them, and giving them essence, that really resonated with him: 

„Hearing them sing the words so meaningfully – it had all the same expression as a great Jazz solo to me. […] Bob Dylan and Neil Young just have so much fun with it […] can chew the words and get the meaning of a song out and break your heart in two lines.“ 

Writing and singing his own songs gave Erik and his voice the freedom he was missing in Jazz singing, and also a way to „balance out the Jazz“, to give his teenage angst the room it needed: „I had the nerdy combo of acne and asthma and nosebleeds and all these things… so I had to pretend I was cool in some way.“ 

For Erik, when it first came to making Rock music, it needed to be loud: „When I was 16 and starting bands, I just wanted to be Soundgarden. I just wanted to be Chris Cornell.“ This plays into how he sees music: As a constant interplay, a change between tension and release. For him, the Rock bands were a form of release, „something nice and palatable“ versus the tension-heavy, less easily accessible, more daring Jazz.

After high school, Erik’s parents were stoked to actually see him off to university – which neither them nor Erik had really expected to happen for quite some time. But, as it turns out, studying music is a thing, and since one of Erik’s most admired composers and arrangers, Phil Mattson, was still teaching at Iowa University at the time, it „seemed like a good idea“ to go there. So he went, and studied Jazz music: „I basically have a degree in scat-singing, of all things. To the people that study philosophy and complain that their degree doesn’t translate to the real world.“ 

He ended up finishing his degree at Capilano University in North Vancouver, which is also where he met long-time co-collaborator and now-drummer of Erik’s band Whelming, Mark Kerrey, as well as lead guitarist Eric Wettstein. Blessed be the different spelling of first names, and Erik’s Swedish heritage. And transferability of credits, I guess. Because who knows if Whelming would be a thing, or the thing that it is becoming, if these guys hadn’t met. 

Just a quick word on Mark and Eric: Mark plays drums for the Blarney Stone (which is a staple bar in Gastown, Vancouver) house band The Sheets, as well as several pretty amazing singer/songwriter outfits in and around Vancouver. He’s also a brilliant composer and writer, and likely to start his own solo project soon. Something bananas, Erik guesses: „If somebody comes up with a contemporary piano and basketball quartet, it’ll be Mark.“

Eric Wettstein is a teacher and, besides being involved in several projects composing and arranging music, part of a band called missingNo: An outfit fusing Jazz and Rock to interpret video game soundtracks. It doesn’t get much nerdier than that. Or cooler. 

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Eric Wettstein I photo cred: Ray Maicin

To pay the bills, Erik (Severinson, just in case you were starting to get confused) teaches guitar to people whose age ranges between six and sixty. As a teacher, as well as in music and life, Erik believes in honesty: „There’s just no time to not be honest in music, and there is no time to not be honest with peo­ple“. He doesn’t see the point in telling people they’re doing great if they’re not, and would rather tell someone they’re wasting their time than actually doing just that. Which shocks some, of course. We carry on wondering if that’s a problem, generally. Erik finds it mostly tiring: To put up a facade, to pretend. 

This is something he feels he wants to share through his music: the necessity to be honest at all cost, but also the fact that making mistakes is what makes us human. His hope is that through music, we can learn a more forgiving way to accept flaws, in ourselves as well as others. To understand that „the world isn’t gonna break if you fuck it up, if you take a risk.“. You can see where I was coming from with the life lessons, yes?

This concept of embracing the fuck-ups, celebrating the mistakes is also something that applies to how Whelming works. While Erik is very much the creative director of it all, he tries to keep an openness for „happy accidents“, as he calls them. Of course, with brilliant musicians like Mark and Eric by his side, those are still likely to turn out pretty darn awesome. There is something to be said for the contradiction of being a super well-trained musician, with years of experience in rehearsing something over and over again until it comes out perfectly, and having a background in a genre as jam- and improvisation-based as Jazz. To be good enough, and have the guts to let accidents happen:

„Jazz music is about listening more than anything, I think. And if somebody makes a mistake or does something you don’t expect, you’re not allowed to let that hamper your performance. I think the goal is to let it affect your performances but not to make your performance worse. [You] can’t let it throw you off. You just have to engage with it, like: Sick mistake, man! Let’s do it again! I’m gonna change what I played so next time you screw it up it sounds good.“

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photo cred: Åke Severinson

So. The question remains: What’s next? What’s the dream? Where do we go from here?

For starters, Erik doesn’t appear to be bored. Quite the opposite, he just finished a couple of very interesting projects: He provided the vocals for an adaption of a concert of the 70s Prog Rock band King Crimson by the Hard Rubber Orchestra at the Rio. Which Eric Wettstein did some of the arrangements for, by the way. The Rio was sold out, the sound guy did an amazing job, Erik – who is a massive fan of King Crimson – could not be happier. 

He also just finished arranging, recording and mixing choir tracks for the newest album of Metal legend Devin Townsend. You read that right. Another one of Erik’s childhood/teenage idols, they got connected and Erik has been producing choir tracks for Devin’s last three records. The latest one with Elektra Women’s Choir from Vancouver. And while he’s clearly super excited about it, he doesn’t make a fuzz. He’s very matter-of-fact. No facades here, people. 

The future likely lies in recording, like in the little home studio he built with his radio-engineer Dad in the family home basement. Also producing, because Erik feels like that’s where his desire to be honest is applied best, and most asked for in this business.

Whelming, playing „bohemian rock music for the over-whelmed and under-stimulated“, as they proclaim on their various web presences, is Erik’s dream come true when it comes to creating music. Risen from the ashes of Erik’s and Mark’s old band Kaslo, it was thought to be a one off: Just a way for Erik to make something of the great material that would otherwise have been buried under layers of digital dust. After recording all of the instruments and vocals by himself and releasing Whelming’s first EP „Where You Are Now“ as a solo project, he soon realised playing all those instruments by himself, or condensing them to a singer/songwriter set, wouldn’t work. So he called Mark and asked him to play the Anza Live Community Showcase as a duo, and naturally they won the first episode and headlined the second, with Eric Wettstein as the latest addition to the band.

But despite the fact that “Whelming is the dream. Whelming is exactly the music I’ve always wanted to make, and (.) the manner in which I’ve al­ways wanted to perform it, which is actually live, and… [it] takes a lot of risks, I think.“ – despite all that, Erik doesn’t see himself as a full-time performer:

„As often as I find a home in performing, I find myself totally at odds with it. It feels very unnatural. It feels more like lying: to be confident, boisterous on stage, dance around and lay down a sick Rock riff…. it’s not me. […] It feels fake in a way that I don’t wanna […] bank my career on it. I would burn out quicker than most people, I guess. […] If it’s not right in your character, it can feel like going up and lying to people every night.“ 

We were talking about contradictions before, remember? 

Regardless, it’s reassuring to know that Erik, as a teacher, person and writer, has this urgent need to be honest, which seems such a rare thing these days, and will continue to put that out there, and to educate us on its importance. That he reminds us to be brave, and confident, and – as lame as it may sound, but it’s still just so damn true – to find our passion, find what we love doing and what we’re good at, and do that. And to believe in it. It is good to know that Erik keeps fighting his insecurities; that he keeps writing beautiful music I for one could immediately relate to when I listened to its lyrics, and that is just gorgeous on a harmonic, melodic, musical level. 

By the way: When I looked up the definition of the word „Whelming“, I found this on Urban Dictionary: 

„between under­whelming and overwhelming; just right; the perfect consistency“

I guess some contradictions really just turn out that way.


Whelming has their second EP “Settle” in the pipeline, and if you are in Vancouver, you should NOT miss their EP release on January 26th at the Fox Cabaret!

Links to all things Whelming:

Facebook I Bandcamp I song.link I YouTube I Spotify I


[drɪŋks wɪð] SOLA

We have a saying in Germany, it goes: “Was lange währt wird endlich gut.” Basically it means that if anything takes long enough, it’s gonna turn out good in the end. It’s something that I feel is a bit of a pattern in the story we’re about to embark on.


We’re drinking a slightly weird, weirdly tasty Vanilla Chai drink, and eating gluten free donuts in Adriana’s living room. Her cat, Javier, comes to visit and to meow sometimes. We laugh about the fact that the drink is called “Go nuts!”, because that’s a phrase Adriana has been saying a lot lately.

There’s quite a few moments like this in SOLAS story: seemingly random connections, that turn out to be not so random in the end. Or at the very least, gain some meaning in hindsight.

Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to find a beginning to tell this amazing story: Because everything seems intertwined, connected. So maybe let’s start at the beginning: with Adriana’s early childhood memories, where she was “making herself a stage” in her Mom’s kitchen by climbing up onto a chair and singing about butterflies and flowers… “things”, she says, “that were in my reality. The nice things, anyways.”

Life throws us curveballs sometimes. And that was definitely the case for Adriana. Growing up in a home that was far from functional and at times abusive, moving around a lot, and on an emotional level needing to be an adult way earlier than most of us… all these things left their trace, in her life, in her music. I feel that it’s no coincidence she became a singer.

photo cred @celinepinget

“As far back as I can remember I’ve been trying to use my voice.”

For Adriana that meant picking up the cassette cover inserts every time she got into the family car, singing along to Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, and then to Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys in her bedroom when she was a teenager. She took some piano lessons as a kid, but when her mother encouraged her to pick up the guitar she refused at first. Only after Mom – very cleverly – bought a guitar for herself and then suddenly realised her fingers didn’t work the right way to actually learn it, did Adriana reluctantly pick it up and started taking lessons when she was 19.

A little later, on vacation in Cuba, listening to a local band at a bar, Adriana had an epiphany that this was what she wanted to do: Music. Be on stage. Play in a band, maybe. But mainly just: Make music her life. Her career. All the memories, all these early incidents connecting her to music flashed before her eyes.

“It all made sense, all of a sudden. My whole body lit up.”

Her cousin, whom she later told about this moment, had one remark for her: “I could have told you this years ago!” Ah well. Sometimes it takes a little time, and being in the right headspace for us to see what’s happening, and what we’re meant to do.

Alas, as things go, especially when in your twenties and with so many distractions around, it took her a while to get there. Adriana picked up some cover songs on her guitar, but couldn’t commit to even learning the lyrics by heart: “I knew in my heart that I was gonna do music, but I couldn’t follow up with doing the work. I was too distracted […] with numbing myself.”

Even when Adriana did play in public, she wasn’t able to acknowledge people’s positive reactions, or to accept their praise: “I didn’t have any belief in myself at that time”. Regardless, she kept coming back to the music, and finally moved to Vancouver to study Audio Engineering at Pacific Audio Visual Institute. This was not “a very thought-out decision”, she says, but rather originated in the desire to be closer to where the music was happening. So about nine years ago, in 2009, she took the course she was sold on by a friend, seemingly at random, but oh did it open up a whole new branch of her story. Because at PAVI, she met Will Lloyd, and Michael Averill, and both have been a playing their part of what is now the musical life of Adriana Parejas, aka SOLA.

SOLA is what Adriana goes by when she’s playing her original tunes. Up until May 2018, this project was mainly something she talked about to people. We’ll come back to that in a minute. And then there is, of course, MudFunk, the brainchild of Adriana and the mentioned Will Lloyd.

It’s impossible to tell SOLAs story without talking about MudFunk. When she met Will, and they started writing songs together, there was still a long way to go until MudFunk was brought into existence. For one, Adriana says, she was nowhere near the singer she is today back then, and people that she and Will would have liked to work with were simply out of their league. Others weren’t able to commit to a degree that was necessary to actually build something. So it was 2014 until MudFunk finally came to life. You’re starting to see the pattern by now, I take it.

“It was just one of those moments in time where the energies were right and the stars aligned and we had the right people and we started making some songs together.”

MudFunk has been through a few ups and downs, as all bands do, I guess. At some point, Adriana remembers being at a Snarky Puppy show at the Vogue in Vancouver. It was a band outing, and MudFunk’s bassist at the time just kind of casually mentioned the possibility they might be playing a gig there in the near future. Adriana was stunned, as one should be if you’re gonna be opening for Booker T. Jones in one of Vancouver’s most legendary, prestigious venues. Because indeed, February 2016, almost two years after Adriana and Will founded MudFunk, exactly that happened. Definitely one of the “up” moments, I dare say.

Oh, and guess who sat in the front row, completely coincidentally? Vancouver Singer-Songwriter Michael Averill. Remember that thing about SOLA’s story being all about intertwined-ness and connections? You’ll see why this is one of those moments in a sec.

Michael ended up at MudFunks after-party, and Adriana remembers telling him about this solo project she had in mind for the first time. Granted, it took another couple of years until that happened, but, you know. Good things taking time and all that.  Anywho, despite several “down” moments, MudFunk is still going strong – and the Vancouver music scene is grateful for it, because man, are they good.

And now there is also SOLA. The woman whose name I heard kicking around so much earlier in 2018 and finally saw live at the Anza Live Community Showcase in the summer of the same year. The one with the funky glasses*, and the mesmerising voice. The one with those smooth R’n’B rhythms and that silky guitar sound. She’s been in the making for quite some time, but oh was it worth the wait.

photo cred @celinepinget

Adriana has tried out a bunch of different things to pay the bills during her twenties, most of them in the hospitality sector. After getting fired from a restaurant job, she finally realised this wasn’t really what she’s meant to do. Or, maybe more accurately, realised it again.

“Sometimes you gotta have the universe screaming things in your face until you’re like: Oh, yeah, maybe you shouldn’t do that!”

She thought about what she liked doing, and since that seemed to have a lot to do with being around places that provided some sort of healing, she got herself an internship at a small aromatherapy company in Vancouver, and from there moved on to Saje Natural Wellness, where she made important connections with other people as well as her own story. She was inspired to get her Reiki Training by one of her bosses there, which later enabled her to get into a trade with Michael Averill: Songwriting lessons in exchange for Reiki treatment. She also completed her 200 hr Yoga Teacher training in 2016 which opened up a vault of memories, and pain, and healing:

“I knew my family was dysfunctional and that I always struggled to have healthy relationships with men, but that didn’t become clear until I went to do my Yoga Teacher training. This was where memories of being sexually abused as a child surfaced and changed my entire life. The many years of numbing my pain with drugs and alcohol began to unwind themselves and clarity began to set in. Years of struggling with depression, low self-esteem and continued unhealthy relationships finally became clear.”

photo cred @celinepinget

Listening to SOLA’s tracks Fall Into You and Smoked Out, the thing that strikes me the most is how every time I listen, the impact goes a little deeper. Maybe it’s because I got to share Adriana’s presence in a pretty special way during those couple of hours in her living room, but I don’t think so. Not exclusively. Somehow, she manages to transport so much emotion in her music that it has an effect even through my crappy headphones. Even though it’s just her voice and her guitar on those two tracks, playing a sound that is labelled as Blues, Jazz and R’n’B on her Soundcloud, I can almost see an entire landscape unfolding around them. I feel like I get to witness a little glimpse into SOLA’s world through those wonderful, personal, deeply moving tunes. I love how the lyrics seem to meander between telling a situation, a story in “real” life, and the emotions, thoughts and feelings they stir up. I love how they unveil an immense strenght, and the vulnerability within it. And vice versa. I love how the music is just incredibly… real. And these tracks are just the beginning.

SOLA is the female tense of the Spanish word “solo”, which can mean alone, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Because it also means “to stand on one’s own”, which is exactly what Adriana is slowly, steadily, more and more powerfully, doing. First because she had to, and now, because she can and has the will to. With music as her spiritual practice, as her guide, as her outlet, as her therapy. And our immense pleasure.

“Everything is intertwined. There’s a vast interconnectedness within all the things that we do; all the environments we decide to put ourselves in. […] What I’ve done in my healing work has helped me heal. When I lift off more weight, […] when I do these pieces of healing, a new part of me wants to share more on stage, a new part of me wants to sing in a different way, and so I see the connection between both of these worlds I’m in and know they impact each other.”

What the future will bring? Who knows. More music, definitely. A shed in the woods, with a studio, where Adriana can retreat to write more of those beautiful songs, hopefully. To then come back to the city to play some shows, go on a tour with friends, maybe. Either way, I have a feeling, no matter what it’ll be, no matter how long it’s gonna take – it will be not just good in the end, but amazing.


*I know she’s not wearing any glasses in the pictures in this article, but if you go check out her website or social media – or, even better, go to one of her shows – you’ll know what I mean. Speaking of which: SOLA is playing en Early Show on January 8th that you should definitely check out:

January 8th: Guilt & Co