Winnipeg’s band raises morale during long deployment

Navy sailors with musical instruments

HMCS Winnipeg’s cover band, “The Zeroes”.

MS Bevin Gordichuk, HMCS Winnipeg – “When musicians get together and combine their efforts to produce a single sound, it’s some of the most symbiotic team work one can imagine. If you want to observe team work that approaches perfection, check out a well-rehearsed band.” PO2 Pete Fraser, November 2015.

HMCS Winnipeg’s cover band – ‘The Zeroes’ were ready to perform their first shore gig in Toulon, France, Nov. 19, but the terrorist attacks in Paris interrupted their plan. It was a shocking reminder of the importance of the ship’s mission during their nine-month deployment on Operation Reassurance.

The band has a strong following and has participated in morale-raising events throughout the deployment.  

Their crowning achievement to date was the visit from Team Canada, which included the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), RCN Command Chief, former hockey and football stars, and Honorary Captain (Navy) Arlene Dickenson. They met in Belfast, Ireland on Oct. 10 where the Zeroes played a six-song set followed by an encore with two-time Juno Award nominated musician Kira Isabella Wilkie to sustained applause from their appreciative ship mates.

The band members – lead singer and rhythm guitar Lt(N) Justin Dunn, lead guitar LS Brian Bourassa, acoustic guitar LS Joseph Chisling, keyboardist MS Bevin Gordichuk, bassist PO2 Pete Fraser, and drummer LS Dan Camellato (a.k.a. Animal) – formed the group after Lt(N) Dunn and LS Bourassa began jamming in Cabin zero as a way to decompress and share their love of playing music during the deployment.
They recruited PO2 Fraser for bass, and LS Chisling for guitar.

“I had only been playing guitar for a few years as a hobby and didn’t really give it enough attention,” said LS Chisling. “Working with the guys over the course of the deployment has opened up a whole new world to me. Playing in a band is a great pastime and a way to build morale among the crew. I remember the first time we all got together I was asked to play a C and a D note. I had no idea what a C was but I always knew the D.”

When MS Gordichuk synthesiser arrived in Porto, Portugal, he joined the group.

“My first jam session with them was in the fridge flats, and I didn’t have a keyboard stand so I used AFFF canisters to set my synth on to play,” MS Gordichuk chuckles. “It became a signature prop of the group.”

The jam sessions quickly developed from a collective interest into sharing their passion for music with shipmates. So, despite long “mids” watches and limited practice space, the much larger group managed to increase their song list to over 25 songs in a four week period. By mid-September, Lt(N) Squires was the second rhythm guitar playing at jam sessions, and LS Camellato was pounding the electronic drum kit provided by Personnel Support Progrmas for the ship.

Staying in the realm of rock and roll, they transcend six decades of music, covering artists such as Elvis Presley and Tom Petty to Radiohead and Sublime.  After making a small music video for BBC News, London, and NATO TV in early August, they turned their sights on the most important asset on their ship – morale.

PO2 Fraser, the big bass man observes, “The biggest benefit for me would be the sense of normalcy music provides. When the band is playing, there is no rank, no officers, senior non-commissioned members, or junior ranks; it is musicians making music. It is an amazing break from life at sea. For those precious hours we are in a different place, and that can be a powerful recovery period during a nine month deployment.”

Even if The Zeroes never get to play a gig ashore, they have provided entertainment and enjoyment for a ship full of people who are a long way from home, and they have made one of the longest journeys in many sailors’ lives a bit easier for all.

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  1. Lookout says:

    It’s amazing what music can do for the spirit.

  2. OS Andrew Downie says:

    Having the band on the ship really has made a huge difference in our deployment. Love watching them play and seeing them get excited about upcoming gigs. They are constantly working on their musical repitoir and doing their best to boost the morale of the crew. They really care about ensuring the crew has a great time.

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