Local Press

Rolling with the Punches: Pandemic pulls Brandon Agnew back to music 

By John Law - Review Reporter 
Sat., April 24, 2021

Brandon Agnew spends his days navigating the pandemic for the region’s most 
vulnerable citizens. 

His nights belong to music. 


At a time many singers and musicians are seeing their careers threatened, Agnew 
decided to pick up where he left off 11 years ago. “Mave’s Variety,” made with his 
Niagara band Brandon Agnew & The Pocket 4’s, is his first batch of tunes since his EP 
“Nola” in 2010. 


On the line from Hamilton, the former Niagara resident says he reconnected with an old 
musician friend during the pandemic and realized there may not be a better time to 
make music, even if he couldn’t perform it. 


“Music is about having good memories with people you really admire,” he says. “I made 
music 10 years or so ago, then not so much over the last decade. What better time than 
right now to dig deep and write some songs.” 


Working for public health in Niagara, Agnew is a community health broker, a mix of 
social and community-development work. It involves helping people struggling with 
poverty through the pandemic. 


“Your heart is always wondering how people are doing,” he says. “It’s tough. 
“Right now, we’re being called in to support the Indigenous COVID clinics that have 
been up and running, to make sure everybody gets an appointment time.” 


Being pulled in several directions and now “staring into the unknown” for the rest of the 
year can lead to exhaustion. Instead, Agnew poured his leftover energy into songwriting. 
It became his own “self-care strategy.” 

“To me it was a silver lining of having extra time on my hands and not wanting to drift 
into bad habits or cynicism. I thought, ‘How can I channel this in a disciplined way, do 
some self-reflection and have some creative output?’” 


The pandemic couldn’t help but creep into songs such as “Rolling Fever” and “Roll With 
the Punches,” but the ensuing album is by no means a downer. It’s punchy blues rock 
with nary a hint of the troubled times it was made in. It was recorded in Toronto during 
a brief window with bandmates James Gizzie (guitar), Bob Goodall (drums), Benny 
Gutman (guitar) and Andrew Barbisan (bass). 


“I think because it was such a strange time, and still is, it actually helped that creative 
exploration process,” he says. “It was surreal so it was kind of easy to tap into different 
perspectives and narratives.” 


The album will be released via bandcamp.com on May 21. While there are no shows or 
even a CD release party to look forward to, Agnew is grateful just to be making music 
again. 


“My heart goes out to people who’ve relied on producing art and culture, who have been 
stuck for a while,” he says. “But for me, it was the catalyst to get back into making art 
and telling stories again.”

 

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