“It is one thing to hear music. It is another to experience it.” ~ PK SOUND

PK Sound is a Western Canadian brand as synonymous with the electronic music boom as the DJs themselves. Officially founded in 2005, the groundbreaking company has spent the last decade providing bone-rattling bass for some of the largest music festivals in North America. This year, Canada’s summer festival season was greatly improved by the further implementation of PK’s Trinity system, thanks to its new directional characteristics.

Last month at British Columbia’s Shambhala Music Festival, I met up with the company’s CEO Jeremy Bridge to discuss some of the major Canadian festivals that made use of this specific function, as well as the challenges set forth by these brands. Jeremy explains that while at Ottawa’s Escapade Music Festival, his team encountered a noise sensitive area right downtown in Lansdowne Park. “That area is kind of surrounded by residential neighborhoods, so there was quite a bit of concern from the community about noise bleeding. We were able to use the technology of Trinity to focus the sound away from residential areas. We actually had the by-law officer with us as well as the city councilor and we showed them the technology, and they were super impressed. It went a long way in making them feel comfortable with having the show there, especially in such very close proximity to a highly populated area. We did Veld in Toronto, Chasing Summer in Calgary – and again that was another sensitive noise area – and we were able to use the Trinity technology there to try and minimize the impact to the community.”

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It’s a well-known fact that PK has been an integral part of Shambhala’s operative for a long time now. Jeremy describes what PK’s role has been like at The Farm over the years, both as a sound provider as well as a collaborator. “Well honestly, PK kind of grew out from Shambhala. We started doing sound for The Village Stage here in 2003 and some of the very first PK speakers were actually built for The Village. Little by little it grew, we started doing other stages and building more speakers. It’s been a bit of an incubator, and it’s been pretty great to meet a lot of cool people as well as some huge artist that have become our friends.”

Shambhala has a very specific and unique layout due to the nature of the property that other markets might not experience, and PK has definitely had some hurdles to overcome. “It is the hardest place in the world – well maybe not as bad as Burning Man – but it is hard on gear. It’s really dusty, it’s difficult to move equipment around. All the stages are very immersive so making the equipment feel like part of the stage without being obtrusive is important. All the stages are in close proximity, so trying to keep them from bleeding into each other is a primary concern.”

21558991_1550513668349074_3661680270484867625_n PK Sound at Shambhala’s Village Stage ~ Photo by John Palmer

Unlike other live event audio brands, PK has a wealth of name recognition, notoriety, and respect from the fans themselves. This ground level support and feedback is extremely valuable to the company. “It’s amazing. I think we’re super lucky because of how we grew. We grew out of a community, and the company grew as social media was exploding as well so we have been able to somehow create this crazy cult-like fan base that loves the sound. It’s not just about making speakers, our mission statement is to create powerful experiences and that’s why we do what we do. Where we are happiest is where we put up some speakers and then a whole bunch of people are dancing, and we get to see everybody having a great time because of something we helped build. Community feedback is super important to us.”

Even the most novice audience members tend to be highly opinionated, and good sound is one of the first points of conversation to any outdoor festival goer. Jeremy passionately explains his perspective on what defines great sound for a listener. “I think the main thing is that it needs to be clear, because if you have speakers that have a lot of distortion in them it’s really tiring on your ears. You need a sound system that from the beginning, is designed to be very clean and transparent without a lot of digital signal processing first. It takes a lot of time to build a loudspeaker like that because it’s a painstaking method of trial and error, instead of trying to fix it after the fact. When we design speakers I play more Norah Jones, Steely Dan, and Rage Against The Machine, because if you can get a really clear intelligibility out of a speaker from the start and that’s your baseline, and then if you can make the speaker handle the extreme pressure that electronic music puts on it – because we’re just working the speakers over and over for long periods – I think then you have a good speaker that can do everything, live and electronic.”

19437508_1472638932803215_2891239411334900354_n Soundbox at Escapade Music Festival

PK Sound recently sold a system to an audio/visual company in the Greater Toronto Area, one which had a hand in Escapade’s aforementioned format this year. Jeremy happily shares some insight into what we can expect in regards to this Ontario expansion going forward. “I’m excited, I think that they’re a great little company. I went and did the first show with them, I was super impressed and I think they have a great team. The loudspeakers are one thing but the people that are using them and deploying them are just as important, if not more important. You can put somebody in a Ferrari but if they can’t drive a Ferrari then they might smash it into a wall or in this case redline it. In general, we’re pretty selective about the partners we pick for Trinity, there was a lot of demand in the Toronto area but Soundbox fit the bill.”

When it comes to festivals, Canada’s season for these kinds of events has a short fuse, but PK Sound has some big plans heading into the fall, which includes preparing for shows south of the border, DJ tours and next summers roster of concerts. “We’ll be doing the Snails tour that’s coming up, the Excision tour will be going out again, we’re doing a number of shows with Bassnectar and also Excisions new Lost Lands festival which is going to be pretty cool. There are lots, it’s hard to keep track of them. We’ll always of course be working with Insomniac on the EDCs. We love them, they’re great partners and great people to work with.”

Feature image by Joffrey Photo