Kings of the castle

When Mark Winfield and John Swain aren't working as accountants, they're jamming with band Sound Castle.

It started the way most musical passions begin — with practices in the basement. "Every Wednesday we all get together in our drummer’s basement and we have a ball," accountant Mark Winfield says of Sound Castle, a band in which he and fellow accountant John Swain play primarily guitar and Swain sings lead. After playing a few local gigs, the band members heard about the March of Dimes’ Rock for Dimes Battle of the Bands in Halifax, about an hour from their home base of Bridgewater, NS. "We went into it hoping not to embarrass ourselves and then we ended up winning, which came with a day-long recording session at a professional recording studio," says Winfield. "That changed everything for the band." It won a second time the following year and will be playing at the event again in November.

Since then, the band has kept up its public performances, playing about 10 or 12 times a year. "At least half of these are charity gigs, which we’re happy to do," says Winfield, referring to organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Hospital Foundation for the South Shore Regional Hospital and Harbour House, a transition house for women and their children.

One of Sound Castle’s biggest gigs is the Nova Scotia CA Convocation Dinner and Dance, which they have been playing for the past four years. "Typically it’s about 1,000 people," says Winfield. "I’ve been going to this event for years and every year, come 10:30 p.m., the place would be empty. [But] the first year we played, they ended up shutting the lights off on us at two o’clock in the morning."

While Winfield calls himself a journeyman, as he started taking guitar lessons mid-life, Swain is a life-long musician, having first picked up a guitar at the age of eight.

For both, music is a great stress reliever. When Swain was studying for the UFE, he wrote and recorded an album with 12 original songs. "That was a real good way to get my mind off studying for arguably the hardest exam in the world," he says. "The music was really an outlet for me." Now that the band is a fixture in his life, he says he’s not sure how he managed before.

From Winfield’s perspective, he now has a good portfolio of clients in the entertainment industry. "I probably received a bit of business from that because I have an understanding of the industry a little more than most accountants would."