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By Owen Leitch

Imagine popping mushrooms and somehow stumbling onto the set of a Tim Burton film.

The eerie sounds of Truckee Lake, who will be at Reilly’s on Friday as part of a benefit concert for Engineers Without Borders, make the perfect soundtrack for the strangest of encounters. The six-member indie band from Mississauga is miles from mainstream, and happily so.

Their style is a blend of each member’s own expertise. A collection of jazz-influenced musicians, a classical guitarist and a keyboard player come together seamlessly to create their unique sound. They jokingly describe their band as the inbred offspring of each member’s previous musical experience.

The band’s name is a reflection of their pioneering spirit. In 1846, a now legendary group of immigrants began a fateful journey across the American Midwest. Known as the Donner party, they set off in their wagon trains to make the continent-wide trek to California.

Tragedy struck when they got stuck on the banks of Truckee Lake in the dead of winter. Just under half of the party died and some survivors resorted to cannibalism. Lead singer Rob Stephen said the story of those ill-fated travellers inspired the name of the band. “A lot of our music deals with the idea that you’re life can be going one way and an event can come along and change all of that,” he said. “We’ve all had those events that shape who we are and what we become. Our music explores these things.”

Truckee Lake has been described as alt-rock and space pop but their sound defies classification. Even comparison is tricky. Take Radiohead, throw in some Pixies, sprinkle in some Sigur Ros, shake vigorously and you’re left with a rough approximation of what Truckee Lake sounds like.

“We have the darkness of Darth Vader and the coolness of Lando,” Stephen said. For those left wondering what the hell that means, the Truckee bandwagon will be making a stop in Ryerson country this Friday. They’ll be playing the benefit show for Engineers Without Borders, a non-governmental organization, along with a list of other bands. EWB helps developing countries access the technology needed to improve quality of life around the globe.

By contributing expertise, skills, financial resources and technical know-how, EWB strives to help communities around the world make the most of their resources. Truckee Lake hopes the show will bring awareness to what EWB is doing. “A lot of charities give money on a short-term basis.

EWB goes into developing countries to help them become more self-sufficient. Setting up things like sanitation, irrigation and food production has a more long-term effect,” Stephen said. A record deal has yet to materialize but Truckee Lake is in no hurry. “We’re not really looking for it. We’d love the money but we don’t want to make concessions or change our sound for anyone,” he said. That might usually come off as a typical response from an unsigned band.

But the humble members seem more preoccupied with not looking pretentious. “It sounds dumb but it really is about the music.” Truckee Lake play Reilly’s (340 Yonge Street) this Friday. $7 cover goes to Engineers Without Borders. For more information, check out truckeelake.com.

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