Capturing history through song

Toronto Indie band writes music for young smart people who think about things

August 17, 2011 | Young Voices
Emily Loewen | Young Voices Editor
Toronto, Ont.

Like rings on a tree, or carbon layers in ice, Elise Epp hopes that when people look back on her music it will mark the events of her generation. “Saying it’s representative of the generation, that’s sounds so arrogant,” she says with a laugh, but she also sees the anxiety of people her age reflected in the dark themes she sings about.

“I mean, I have conversations with my friends about how depressing everything is and how the world is falling apart,” she says, adding that many people have these thoughts. But since most don’t want to hear a depressing lecture, she pairs the thoughts with catchy tunes that she hopes will appeal to her target audience of educated twenty- and thirty-somethings, “usually with some sort of useless degree like arts.”

Epp is the front-woman and founder of Theodor, a Toronto-based indie pop band. Although the group has played together for over a year, Epp counts their official birthday as July 7, 2011, the day they released the first recordings on the Internet. The band was born out of 24-year-old Epp’s desire to work as a musician, a goal that developed out of years of musical education. From age six onward, she took lessons in one instrument or another and imagined her life as a band teacher or jazz trumpet player before realizing she really wanted to sing.

Being Mennonite was a boon to those vocal aspirations. In one of her earliest memories, Epp stands on a church pew, peering over her father’s shoulder as he showed her how to read the hymns. Even when she stopped singing in school because it wasn’t really cool, the church kept her in practice. “I think being Mennonite, singing was always a huge part of everything,” she says, “so I never actually stopped singing, even if I got kind of self-conscious of it.”

Faith also influences her music, although her character-driven melodies wouldn’t be classified as church music. One of her songs focuses on the experience of pacifism in a war-centred world. Nonviolence has always been important to Epp, and the song is about her strong belief in peace. “But the other words in the song are about how I don’t know how to answer people’s questions and how I get so confused,” she admits.

Epp, who attends Toronto United Mennonite Church, also suggests that her beliefs influence her writing in less direct ways just because that’s the culture she grew up in. “[Music] doesn’t need to be a praise song for God to be involved,” she asserts.

While Epp enjoys her thoughts and ideas in song, since launching a band she has discovered there is a lot more than melodies and lyrics that make a successful band. She graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in classical voice performance, which covered the musical skills, but when trying to increase Theodor’s notoriety found she lacked business abilities. “I took one business class last year,” she says, “and now I’m supposed to run a band, and know how to get gigs and sign contracts.”

She’s trying to learn some of those skills by seeking out others in the business who have been through the same thing and by asking lots of questions. The next goal on Epp’s horizon is finding a producer to help put together an EP.

She also hopes to get the band playing more, touring and, above all, getting the music heard. Although a major label deal isn’t on her list of aspirations, “I would kind of like an indie label deal,” Epp says. That would ease the financial burden, and music could be a full-time job, she says, so she won’t “have to hold down some crappy other job.”

To hear some of Theodor’s songs, visit

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.