Twin brothers Clayton and Joel Varjassy have combined their love for music and film into Coaldale-based Cottonwood Records. The brothers officially formed the company in 2017 and sponsored a popular Band Wars at the Shine On Music Festival in September. The bands competing at the festival (Alyssa McQuaid and Coyote Junctions, Adequate, The Awd Fellows, Silkstones, Youngbloods, teen bands Nevada Place and Diversified, to name a few) ended up being the bulk of their artist roster along with a few former schoolmates and a few familiar faces like Skinny Dyck, John Wort Hannam and coming country musicians Mark Maxwell and Katherine Odland, plus Darling Nikki and Shawni Rae.
“Shawni Rae was the first person we started working with 12 years ago in our mom’s basement when Joel was just starting to get into filmmaking. She did a great cover of ‘Hallelujah,’” observed Clayton Varjassy.
“Adequate and the Awd Festivals won, Scotch Whiskey Limousine claimed second and the Youngbloods from Fort Macleod placed third. We ended up working with all of the bands who played except Scotch Whiskey Limousine and that’s because I don’t think they’re together anymore,” said Varjassy, who is mostly responsible for marketing, social media and artist discovery and relationships.
“I also know a bit about the technical side,” added Varjassy, who was finally able to quit his day job to focus on Cottonwood.
It isn’t a record company in the traditional sense of the word, though they record music and shoot videos for artists and help spread the word about their activities.
They plan on releasing a series of videos and a compilation CD of their artists which exist as characters in the Cottonwood world who work together to launch an ammolite-powered rocket.
“It’s a combination of Marvel meets Big Shiny Tunes,” he said.
The overarching theme of their videos is transportation powered by ammolite. So while the music is different, a common element is the mineral ammolite which appears in some form like a gem or a necklace and some mode of transportation.
“Mark Maxwell has a train car in his video. The Silkstones have a blimp in their video,” he said, adding Cottonwood will help artists shoot their own video concepts as well.
“If they have their own song and video concept in mind, we won’t mess with that because that’s their thing. Adequate already had the idea of a house party for their song ‘Get The Funk,’” he said.
“We hope to have all the music together by 2020.”
They took a step back to create some of the elements needed for the concept, like building the rocket and building their brand. Their most recent artist, Darling Nikki, who is still in high school, took a step back to consider a name change, though they still hope to get her music out there by the end of the month.
They have focused on Lethbridge and southern Alberta artists, particularly people they went to school with.
“Danny Dyck was a year above us in high school, so we met him and found out he was married to Shaela Miller. So I had a coffee with her and hopefully we will be working together soon,” he said.
“There’s a couple of songs on her new CD I’d like to work with.”
“Basically we want to build this world and work with southern Alberta artists. And hopefully make it to the Grammys,” he said, adding they like to keep things as close to home for their artists and even video shoots.
“The Silkstones video is based in the desert and originally we were thinking of Idaho, then we found a great location near Swift Current only three hours away.”