The oft-referenced early pandemic phrase "nature is healing" took on a different meaning for Kevin Kratsch last spring.
For three months straight, the Manitoba musician and photographer, who goes by the moniker Mister K, spent every morning holed up in a makeshift blind, waiting to catch a glimpse of the fox family denning in his yard. It was far from the first time he had seen foxes on his property north of Lorette, but their presence was a welcome slice of calm amid the unfolding global health crisis.
"I would set my alarm for 6 a.m. and I’d go out with my coffee and my camera and go sit out in a pop-up ice-fishing shack I set up," Kratsch says.
"I was dealing with a lot of anxiety at the time, with the uncertainties of the music industry and the state of our world and whatnot. And… it was a meditation, really; it was a way of kind of just putting myself in a present moment, to lock into some nature and listen to myself."
He witnessed a lot of interesting fox behaviour while watching the eight pups grow into their own. During wood-tick season, there was some nervous hand-wringing when he noticed the pups were covered in the blood-sucking insects.
Virtual concert previewClick to Expand
In Event of Moon Disaster album launch
• Friday, 8 p.m.
• Free livestream and Q&A on Facebook
"The next day I’m out there and the mom comes and… she pulls them off with her teeth," he says. "The pups roll over and she starts picking all the little wood ticks off and just spitting them out. It’s pretty neat."
Kratsch gained a fondness for one pup, in particular. The fox, which he nicknamed Lil’ Kev Kev, was the most adventurous of the bunch and had a strange habit of hanging out by himself in the nearby woodpile.
"He had dragged some food over there, so he’d have his own little stash," says Kratsch, a self-described competitive middle child. "I’m, like, six-foot-five and I had an appetite as a kid and I used to stash food and stuff, and I was like, ‘This guy is kind of like me; he’s just trying to survive.’"
It was a bittersweet moment when the crew left the den for good, but sharing the foxes with others has given the project another purpose. Kratsch has been turning his fox photos and footage into calendars and music videos to accompany the release of his debut album, In Event of Moon Disaster.
The video for his single Harmony, an uplifting pop ballad, is a montage of curious young foxes romping and wrestling through the woods — he also plans to release a 40-minute fire log-esque fox video of the full album on YouTube.
"The overall theme of the record is harmony and… finding hope on darker days," he says. "The fox has kind of represented to me a bit of healing and a bit of solace or a calming presence. I’m hoping I can share that."
Kratsch previously performed as Kevin Roy until two years ago, when he became disillusioned with the direction his career was heading. He started writing new, more vulnerable material about his struggles with mental health and rebranded as Mister K, an homage to his day job as a high school shops teacher.
"It’s a way of me almost getting more in touch with my identity and something that I’ve been kind of straying from," he says.
He teamed up with producer Rusty Matyas to record In Event of Moon Disaster — the name a reference to then-U.S. president Richard Nixon’s alternative 1969 moon-landing speech — in 2019 and held off on its release when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba. The delay was a blessing in disguise.
"It’s more fitting now than it was two years ago," Kratsch says. "This (album) is all about trying to bring people together and… bring a little bit of unity to this world; it’s getting pretty divided."
In Event of Moon Disaster launches today and Kratsch will present a free virtual concert and Q&A session, moderated by Matyas, Friday at 8 p.m. The event is presented by the Killarney-Turtle Mountain Arts Council and will be livestreamed at facebook.com/heyheymisterk.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.