“Cathartic, Flowing, Togetherness”: Toronto’s Decoration Day Weave a ‘Makeshift Future’ on Debut Album

Decoration Day © Brianna Roye
Decoration Day © Brianna Roye
Laden with harmonies and dazzling yet delicate instrumentation, Decoration Day’s woodsy and warm debut album ‘Makeshift Future’ is a beautiful indie folk gift for this season.
Stream: “Lanark County” – Decoration Day

Woodsy and acoustic, laden with raw vocal harmonies and layers of intimate ponderings and dazzling yet delicate instrumentation, Decoration Day’s debut album is a beautiful indie folk gift for this autumn and winter, and all those colder seasons to come. A sonic fireplace full of energy and emotion, drama and texture, Makeshift Future perfectly balances chaos and tranquility with whimsical, effortless grace.

Makeshift Future - decoration day
Makeshift Future – decoration day
hypothetically we’d build a home in this city
theoretically it’d vanish in a year
hypothetically we’d have the sea all to ourselves
theoretically you’d be the perfect company
– “Makeshift Future,” Decoration Day

Independently released September 18, 2020, Makeshift Future is a strong introduction to Toronto band Decoration Day. Consisting of Andrew Chung (violin, viola, vocal), Naomi McCarroll-Butler (bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, vocal), Mara Nesrallah (vocal, piano, production), Justin Orok (vocal, guitars, synthesizer, lap steel, melodica, glockenspiel), and Tiffany Wu (vocal, harmonium, glockenspiel, synthesizer, piano, acoustic guitar), the Canadian quintet formed four years ago and debuted with summer 2017’s five-track Blind Contour EP, which they describe as “a concept record on the lifespan of a relationship until its end.”

Skating an indistinguishable and unique line between chamber and indie folk, Makeshift Future makes great use of the band members’ poetic leanings and multi-instrumentalist backgrounds: Each song is its own individual world of sound and structure, thus making the overall album as much a cohesive listen as it is a series of miniature musical adventures. From McCarroll-Butler’s lilting bass clarinet in the lullaby-like “Wild Birds Unlimited,” to Justin Orok’s simply breathtaking acoustic guitar work on “Harry Goes to War” and beyond, Decoration Day keep listeners on their toes throughout. Major songwriting contributions from Nesrallah, Wu, and Orok add further color to a record that never stays in one place for too long: From wartime stories and fantastical travels, to ruminations on loss, family, short-term and long-term planning, and more, Decoration Day’s lyrics dance with the imagination as they conjure up vivid images from both our pasts and imaginations alike.

rest when the sun sets
rise when you want to
seasons change when you do
– “Sadness in Disguise,” Decoration Day
Decoration Day © Brianna Roye
Decoration Day © Brianna Roye

For the band themselves, Makeshift Future is a very long time in the making. “Back in 2016 when our first EP Blind Contour was made, Decoration Day was Tiffany and Justin’s vision, with the other members supporting sonically,” the group tell Atwood Magazine. “Over a couple of years, we brought songs to each other to arrange as a band and performed, which brought us to form a collaborative and cohesive sound. In a work session prior to going into the studio, we taped up all of our possible songs on sticky notes on Mara’s living room wall. After a few hours of long conversations while staring at the wall, the themes and patterns presented themselves naturally, as if it was meant to be! This process informed the spirit of Makeshift Future – how fragmented pieces work together, and how uncertainties can evolve into something beautiful if you don’t let them inhibit you.”

The album’s opener (and title) track rises gently from soft, serene sounds to eventually overwhelm the senses with a full-breasted whirlpool of sound. It’s elegant and intense, and does well to demonstrate both ends of the band’s spectrum: Tender, tempered moments like the stirring single “Lanark County” and “Sadness in Disguise” will ultimately mix with some busier spaces, such as “Paintlounge” and the finale, “Meadows.” Decoration Day’s music cannot be described as brash or brazen, but there is a tempestuousness to be found within their subtle muddles, as in their silences. The band describe their album as “chaotic,” though not in any traditional sense: As they themselves note in their press release, “Chaos can sound quiet.”

Makeshift Future is, in a word, stunning; it resonates, sounding singular in nature – as if all the songs, like puzzle pieces, fit just right.

“We knew heading into the recording process that we’d have to be extremely intentional since we were making an album with four songwriters, three vocalists, five arrangers, and about a zillion tiny instruments,” the band explain. “We wanted the final product to be presented like a film, where themes and characters aren’t all thrown at the audience off the top, but are introduced organically as it evolves. Our sonic palette could be described as cinematic; but instead of making larger, maximalist arrangements, we chose to stay in the world of our own musicianship – guitars, piano and harmonium, woodwinds and strings. It excites us to find the nuance in all of the possibilities to create a meditative space within our songs.”

we’re all children caught mid-stride
there’s a fire in our eyes
and the lucky ones they get goodbyes
– “Fire Ecology,” Decoration Day

Whatever you’re looking for in a folk-laden musical reprieve, Makeshift Future has it. “We hope that listeners can use our music as a space for reflection and introspection, and that it can act as a resource to understand uncertainty as they move through change,” Decoration Day explain.

We aimed to create an album that leads them on a journey of their own thought, to become ardently present in their lives, and open to whatever comes next.

Decoration Day © Harry Goes to War
Decoration Day © Harry Goes to War (courtesy of the band)

Lilting, soaring, fluid, and sweet, Decoration Day’s music can sweep you high and drag you low; they are a dreamy orchestra unto themselves their radiant sounds gleaming with their own inner light. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Decoration Day’s Makeshift Future with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their debut album!

your hands sweep along the meadow
i fall back in to the lake
the cattails catch me like a warm bed
near you i feel these visions speak
– “Meadows,” Decoration Day

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:: stream/purchase Makeshift Future here ::
Stream: ‘Makeshift Future’ – Decoration Day

:: Inside Makeshift Future ::

Makeshift Future - decoration day

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Makeshift Future

“In a songwriting class, I was given five random words from a book and had three minutes to write a verse with it: muster, speculate, hourglass, makeshift, organ. This is how this song was born. That process represents me as a person pretty accurately; I was quickly able to make meaning out of words with zero pre-existing relation with each other. Strangely, this became the thesis of the album. The story follows two characters constantly faced with challenges as they move through the world and their lives. Always needing to make a decision: are we looking for short-term gratification, or do we want long term joy?” – Tiffany Wu

Wild Birds Unlimited

“If you can believe it, this one started out as a children’s lullabye, complete with simple campfire chords. I kept the melody and lyrics, but ended up tinkering with the harmony until the arrangement felt a bit more airborne. If you listen closely, you’ll hear an antique toy piano in there that we bought for a hundred bucks. We ended up only using it on this song though, and so it worked out to about $30 per note!” – Justin Orok

Harry Goes To War

“Sometime in 2018 my grandpa sent me a letter with the title “Anti Dementia Memoir #4”, which recounted his time in the Canadian army during WWII. After he passed, I remember reading it again and thinking that it was a little piece of family lore that should be preserved. I changed some minor details – as you do – to adapt it into song form, but really I think of this song as a co-write between us, where he did most of the heavy lifting.” – Justin Orok

Miracle Island

“I wrote this song loosely based on a story Naomi (our bass clarinet player) told me about her late teacher, who traveled to Antarctica as part of their bucket list. You hear of desperation bringing people to the ends of the Earth but I’d never heard of anyone taking it so literally! The lyrics hit a little closer to home after I was diagnosed with a long-term disease of my own – I’m unlikely to take a trip anytime soon, though.” – Justin Orok


“This track is a bit of melodic foreshadowing for the final song, “Meadows.” Meadows was the first song written for this record and served as a sort of guide throughout the whole album-making process, so Cattails is meant to preserve that spirit. Also, I just love the vibraphone, and I’m glad we were able to sneak it in here.” – Justin Orok

Sadness in Disguise

“During a time of deep grief a few years ago, I found myself intellectually sorting through complex emotions and measuring my progress within the stages of grief, which sounds super cliché. So this song is a note to self: while there is a time for clarity and quantifiability, there is also a time for feelings to simply be felt all the way through. I hope this soundtrack can be a soothing balm for listeners in the repetitive, exhausting, courageous, incremental work of change and healing. Just as the two intertwining voices in the song supports and sustains each other, I hope we also take care of one another that way.” – Tiffany Wu

Lanark County

“Writing about this song feels a bit like talking about a dream… I always leave out some key detail, or decide that it means something else depending on the time of day. At this second though, I’m taking it pretty literally. The landscape of Lanark County is really surreal and beautiful, but it’s almost too perfect. Whenever I’m here I feel like there’s somewhere else I need to be, but when I’m gone I quickly start to miss it.” – Justin Orok


“This song is named after a social painting space in Toronto where I used to perform and chat with strangers between sets. Those were my favourite because people rarely showed up just to paint. I meet overworked mothers looking to connect with non-toddlers. Or unhappy engineers, looking for change, who need to do something they’ve never done before, so picking up a paintbrush was the first step. The space slowly became an orb of openness and camaraderie – and this song celebrates that. It’s playful and maximalist, you’ll hear us use every possible instrument on it, even a children’s choir.” – Tiffany Wu

Fire Ecology

“My mother passed away in 2014 after being sick with cancer for many years. During those years, my family was submerged in a reality where we couldn’t think more than one or two steps ahead; as I left adolescence and moved into adulthood, I didn’t have a lot of practice making long-term decisions for my life. I was of course devastated when she passed, but overcome with gratitude for having had the time to say goodbye properly. I wrote this song days after she died as I contemplated how to move forward.” – Mara Nesrallah


“As I wrote earlier, Meadows was the first song that was written for this record. In that sense it’s kind of fitting that it was also a co-write: I wrote the music and Liam Cole (the percussionist on the album) wrote this really concise, gorgeous lyric. I love that this song can’t be played effectively unless all the members are together. Here we are in our most natural, elemental form, floating along together in this little meadow of sound.” – Justin Orok

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:: stream/purchase Makeshift Future here ::

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Makeshift Future - decoration day

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