Great Lake Swimmers

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Great Lake Swimmers
Great Lake Swimmers.jpg
Performing at the Burlington Sound of Music festival
Background information
Origin Wainfleet
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres Folk rock, Indie
Years active2003 (2003)–present
Labels(weewerk), Nettwerk, Misra
Associated acts Siskiyou
Members Tony Dekker
Erik Arnesen
Kelsey McNulty
Darcy Yates
Ryan Granville-Martin
Past members Julie Fader
Colin Huebert
Mike Overton
Sandro Perri
Greg Millson
Miranda Mulholland
Bret Higgins
Joshua Van Tassel

Great Lake Swimmers is a Canadian folk rock band from Wainfleet, Ontario, [1] and currently based in Toronto.


The current touring line-up includes Tony Dekker on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, Erik Arnesen on banjo, electric guitar and harmonium, Joshua Van Tassel on drums, Bret Higgins on upright bass and Miranda Mulholland on violin and backing vocals. Past members included Julie Fader on backing vocals, Sandro Perri on guitar, and Greg Millson and Colin Huebert on drums.

The band's style has been compared to Red House Painters, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine and Neil Young, [2] as well as Will Oldham [3] (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and Sufjan Stevens. [4] Dekker has cited influences including Gram Parsons and Hank Williams. [5]


The band released two albums, Great Lake Swimmers in 2003 and Bodies and Minds in 2005, on the independent label (weewerk) before signing to the larger Nettwerk in 2007.

The band released its third full-length album, Ongiara , on March 27, 2007 in Canada and in May for the rest of the world. Although signing to Nettwerk early in 2007, Great Lake Swimmers continue to be managed by (weewerk). In September 2007, (weewerk) released a limited edition vinyl version of Ongiara. It was available in Australia through native indie label Speak N Spell.

Their fourth album, Lost Channels , was released on March 31, 2009. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize, [6] and was nominated for a Juno Award, in the category of Roots & Traditional Album of the Year – Group, and a Canadian Folk Music Award.

In 2009 Great Lake Swimmers took part in an interactive documentary series called City Sonic . The series, which featured 20 Toronto artists, had Tony Dekker talk about his daily underground commute along Toronto’s subway system. [7] In 2011, Dekker participated in the documentary series National Parks Project , visiting Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia with filmmaker Keith Behrman and musicians Daniela Gesundheit and Old Man Luedecke.

The band's fifth studio album, New Wild Everywhere , was released on April 3, 2012. [8] The band also composed an instrumental soundtrack for photographer Ian Coristine's One in a Thousand, an e-book of photography from the Thousand Islands region of Ontario, also released in April 2012. [9]

Dekker released a solo album, Prayer of the Woods, in October 2013. [10] The album includes eight original songs as well as covers of Gordon Lightfoot's "Carefree Highway" and Human Sexual Response's "Land of the Glass Pinecones". [10] In 2014 he followed up with Sings 10 Years of Zunior, an album of covers of other Canadian artists — including Old Man Luedecke, Chad VanGaalen, Christine Fellows, Ohbijou, Rae Spoon, Matt Mays, Martin Tielli, Jennifer Castle and Cadence Weapon — released to mark the 10th anniversary of Canadian web music store Zunior. [11]

The sixth studio album by the full band, A Forest of Arms , was released on April 21, 2015. [12] In 2017 they followed up with the Christmas-themed EP They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore. [13]

In February 2018, the band released the single "Falling Apart"/"The Talking Wind", as an advance preview of the forthcoming album The Waves, the Wake. [14]


Playing at the Tsunami Club in Koln. Great-Lake-Swimmers-Koln.jpg
Playing at the Tsunami Club in Köln.
Great Lake Swimmers on stage at the Peterborough Folk Festival in 2014 Great Lake Swimmers at the Peterborough Folk Festival 2014 04.jpg
Great Lake Swimmers on stage at the Peterborough Folk Festival in 2014



Live albums


YearSongChart peakAlbum

2005"To Leave It Behind"×Bodies and Minds
"Bodies and Minds"×
2007"Your Rocky Spine"×Ongiara
"Backstage with the Modern Dancers"×
2009"Pulling on a Line"×Lost Channels
2012"Easy Come Easy Go"28New Wild Everywhere
"The Great Exhale"×
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.
"×" denotes periods where charts did not exist or were not archived.




In 2006, the band released a "digital box set" on Zunior, consisting of their first two albums, the limited edition Hands in Dirty Ground EP, several digital tour photos and the video for their song "To Leave It Behind" on a 512 MB USB flash drive. [19]

In 2008, Dekker appeared on Jenny Omnichord's album Charlotte or Otis: Duets for Children, Their Parents and Other People Too, performing a duet vocal on the song "Do You Know Karate".

In 2009 the band released a limited double 7" vinyl split single with the Dutch band Audiotransparent. This release includes a cover of the Elvis Presley classic "Don't Be Cruel" and the original song "Send Me a Letter". Dekker and Arnesen also appear on the Audiotransparent song "You Are a Movie".

In 2010, the band contributed four tracks to the online music community Swim Drink Fish Music, including live versions of their songs "Your Rocky Spine", "I Could Be Nothing" and "Everything Is Moving So Fast" and a previously unreleased track, "Ballad of a Fisherman's Wife".

The songs “I Became Awake” and “Various Stages” are heard in the 2010 independent Canadian horror film The Corridor .

The song "Moving Pictures Silent Films" was featured in the August 8, 2011 episode of Warehouse 13 , entitled "3...2...1..."


Canadian Indie Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
2010Great Lake SwimmersFavourite Folk/Roots Artist/Group [20] Won

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  1. Van Evra, Jennifer. "Songs to dive into", The Globe and Mail , 2007-03-30, p. R4.
  2. "Inspired by nature to pen songs", Evening Chronicle , 2007-04-11, p. 2.
  3. Wilson, Carl. "Pop", The Globe and Mail , 2003-01-18, p. R20.
  4. Pidd, Helen. "Review: Pop: The Great Lake Swimmers", The Guardian , 2007-05-04, p. 42.
  5. McDowell, Adam. "Still learning to swim", National Post , 2005-04-02, p. TO4.
  6. Polaris Music Prize – The 2009 Short List Archived 2009-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-12-08. Retrieved 2009-12-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. Great Lake Swimmers: "Easy Come Easy Go" Archived 2012-01-28 at the Wayback Machine . Exclaim! , January 9, 2012.
  9. "Great Lake Swimmers Pen Original Score for New E-Book". Exclaim! , March 14, 2012.
  10. 1 2 "Great Lake Swimmers Frontman Tony Dekker Goes Solo for 'Prayer of the Woods'". Exclaim! , August 13, 2013.
  11. "First Play: Tony Dekker sings 10 years of Zunior" Archived 2016-03-01 at the Wayback Machine . CBC Music, July 29, 2014.
  12. Song Premiere: Great Lake Swimmers - "Zero In The City". Paste , February 2, 2015.
  13. "Great Lake Swimmers Release 'They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore' Holiday EP". Exclaim! , November 24, 2017.
  14. "Great Lake Swimmers premiere hypnotic new song 'The Talking Wind'". CBC Music, February 15, 2018.
  15. "Great Lake Swimmers Announce 'The Waves, The Wake' LP". Exclaim! , April 11, 2018.
  16. Sarah Murphy, "Great Lake Swimmers Reveal Acoustic Version of 'The Waves, the Wake' LP". Exclaim! , September 20, 2019.
  17. "Watch: Great Lake Swimmers premiere new video, announce EP". CBC Music, April 10, 2018.
  18. "Canadian Active Rock & Alt Rock Chart Archive: Alternative Rock - January 24, 2012". 24 January 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  19. Zunior Archived 2007-03-10 at the Wayback Machine
  20. Jessica Lewis (March 15, 2010). "Constantines, Joel Plaskett, Metric, Great Lake Swimmers Honoured at CMW Indie Awards". Exclaim. Archived from the original on May 7, 2010.