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Musician now strumming from Sudbury base

BY WENDY BIRD The prodigal son who went west to start the popular underground indie band OX has returned east, home to Sudbury, where he is hoping to stretch out his musical roots.
Mark Browning, formerly known as Mark Connor, has returned to Sudbury after years of touring the globe as a solo artist and with his band, OX. Browning's band, who last year released its second album American Lo Fi, will be playing at the Towne House hotel on Elgin St. this Sunday.


The prodigal son who went west to start the popular underground indie band OX has returned east, home to Sudbury, where he is hoping to stretch out his musical roots.

"I'm really settling in here and the city's inspiring me," said Mark Browning, who founded the band more than six years ago in Vancouver.

"Sudbury's a lot grittier than Vancouver. It's a smaller city and living in the Donovan you feel like you're living in a real neighbourhood. You just don't see the kind of affluence you see in Vancouver that's, frankly, just boring. It's so much more interesting here."

Browning is the son of long-time business owner Jan Browning, who is well known for her local clothing shops. He attended elementary and secondary school in Sudbury and then later left Sudbury after university in the 1990s. He spent many years traveling and living in Europe before eventually heading out west where he formed the band OX.

"I didn't really hit full throttle until the last six years. That's when things really began to come together," he recalled.

"I've been a musician since I've been a kid, but I got started in the music industry kind of late. I had a couple of solo albums before OX and I don't even tell people about them. I don't want anyone to hear them because I just hate them. I was working things out still."

But the time spent working at his music and traveling seems to have paid off. The group, which features Browing on guitar, Max Myth on drums, Shawn Dicey on bass, and Brian Dunn on guitar and piano, has developed quite a following around the world. All members contribute their vocal talents to the band.

"People in the UK actually know us pretty well, maybe in some ways more than in Canada. We've toured there as much as we've toured here," Browning noted.

Touring long and hard has been one of the secrets to his band's success.

"From day one, my attitude was to start touring immediately and not wait until you're known somewhere first," he said.

"It's better just to start at the grass roots level and build it from the beginning. And that approach has worked well for us. We have followings throughout the country and in pockets throughout the world."
Browning refers to OX as "a totally an underground band" that isn't heard on mainstream radio stations or on Much Music.

"Being an underground band is kind of liberating," he added.
"Artistically you can do whatever you want and I kind of prefer that.

Browning says he's really happy with the last two albums put out by OX. Both albums were cut in Vancouver. American Lo Fi was recorded after a long touring stint and was completed in about a week.

"We just banged it off. I (believe) that when you're recording something it's really important that what you're doing is capturing the moment in the studio and that moment should be a creative moment, it shouldn't be a contrived thing," he said.

"I was so much happier with American Lo Fi than with (our first album) Dust Bowl Revival. We really got it right with American Lo Fi."

Moving to Sudbury a little more than a year ago seems to have worked well for Browning, who bought an older apartment complex in the Donovan.

"The problem with Vancouver was that it was so hard to tour from there. You can't just buzz out and do a show in Calgary," he said.

"In Sudbury you can go down to Guelph, Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal. You can do a weekend of shows in some pretty major cities and be home. (Moving back) has made it so much easier to do more shows."

Ox is in the midst of an Ontario-wide tour that will then jump across the Atlantic to the UK. During October, Ox will play at musical venues in cities throughout Ontario, as well as in Charlottetown, Sackville and Halifax.

The Sunday night show at the Towne House will also include a performance from B.A. Johnston, who "plays sad, weird songs about deep frying, pirates, poutine and love on his keyboards and guitar."