Music has been a part of Brandon Hopkins’ life about as far back as he can remember. He started out playing bass and drums in the Salvation Army church at a young age and later got into heavy rock music with the likes of DC Talk, AC-DC, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, and Dream Theatre.
As soon as he graduated high school he sought out the Music: Performance, Business & Technology program at CNA in Stephenville, where he learned the facets of the music industry and honed his skill as a drummer.
“I absolutely loved it there. I really took it upon myself to take advantage of the facilities and time to develop myself as a drummer/musician. I remember being in that practice room for hours on end, trying out every piece of gear I could get my hands on. It definitely contributed to my career as a musician,” says Brandon.
“It pushed me into a world filled with amazing musicians, talented engineers and industry professionals. It helped me decide that music would always be a huge part of my life – whether I was making money at it or not. The program helped me realize that.”
After graduating from the program in 2007, he went to the Musicians Institute in California.
“There, I had to learn to be proficient in all styles: jazz, Latin, pop, metal and more,” he says. “My heart is definitely into the rock style of drumming though, it just gives me all the feels!”
When he returned home to Newfoundland, he began playing and searching for the right combination of like-minded musicians. In 2013, he and Josh Noble on guitar and backing vocals (they met in the program at CNA), and Mike Kirby on bass and lead vocals – formed Cabbages & Kings. They made a mark on the industry right away and with their self-titled debut album in 2014, won a MusicNL award for Alternative Album of the Year. They followed up that success with appearances in multiple showcases with MusicNL and the East Coast Music Association (ECMA), then went right into recording another album.
Their sophomore project – a full-length album titled Vale
– has garnered several nominations for this year’s MusicNL Awards, again for Alternative Recording of the Year along with Group of the Year and Nickel Music Video of the Year.
The band’s focus has remained the same and they have a clear vision of where they are going.
“When Josh Noble, Mike Kirby and I formed the band, the original focus was the same then as it is today; to play and write original music we love that means something to us and to keep it honest,” Brandon reveals. “We write about real world issues that we as a band agree on.”
They have played a variety of venues, “…everything from your bar gig with tens of people,” he laughs, “to stages like Salmon Festival and stadium gigs. Our goal is to tour as much as possible; Canada, Europe, Asia and the US in the next few years.”
He credits the music program at CNA, as well as the Sound Recording & Production program, for giving musicians like him a leg up in the industry.
“I think those programs help give people a better understanding of the type of industry it really is before diving in head first,” he says. “Let’s be honest, the music industry is one of the hardest industries to break into but if you truly love music, either playing, singing, or working behind a board or a set of lights, then CNA is great place to get your feet wet.”
Wade Pinhorn, Instructor of the Music: Performance, Business & Technology program at CNA, explains that the program gives students a comprehensive cross-section of training.
“We’ve got artists (former students) out in the industry really working the skills they gained through the experiential learning we provide in this program – stage management and live sound production, performance, portfolio development and creative writing, entrepreneurial skills, events management, marketing, and other facets of the industry,” he says.
“When our students graduate, they have played on a stage that rivals most theatres so they don’t fear the smaller venues that are typical when starting in the industry. And we encourage the exploration of all genres,” explains Pinhorn. “Cabbages & King’s love for very high level progressive rock was able to flourish in the program. Not only has Cabbages and Kings been moving forward with great momentum ever since, they are playing extremely difficult music and playing it well.”
The band is already writing and working on material for their third album.
“The ultimate plan is to write, record, tour and repeat as much as possible,” says Brandon.
Cabbages & Kings has been invited to play a showcase during the MusicNL conference and awards weekend, October 13-16 and for the Awards Gala at the close of the event.
Brenda Tobin, CNA’s Dean of Academics, Applied Arts & Tourism, says she is looking forward to seeing Brandon and other CNA graduates nominated at this weekend’s gala.
“Each year, once the MusicNL awards nominee list comes out, we aren’t surprised to see a number of CNA graduates and students listed,” said Tobin. “I’m delighted that I will be on-hand at the Awards Gala this weekend to congratulate them on their achievements in person, they have accomplished great things in their careers and the college community is very proud of them.”
Brandon is also excited to be participating in the upcoming event.
“I wish the best to all the nominees this year,” says Brandon. “Whoever wins, it’ll be well deserved.”
To check out Cabbages & King’s music, you can find them at: www.Cabbages.ca
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic