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An Interview with Twin Bandit

Twin Bandit, comprised of Vancouver based duo, Jamie Elliott and Hannah Walker, sit down at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival media tent just at the rain begins to fall and the evening chill settles upon the Gallagher Hill. They played the Wapiti Musical Festival in Fernie, B.C. the previous evening and just arrived in Edmonton that afternoon.

So you’re not twins, or sisters, but you both grew up with sisters. What were those relationships like and how did that shape your sisterly bond now?

Jamie: Mine was very nurturing. I am the middle of three girls and we were best friends growing up. I remember one little thing that was very one sided. My older sister had a meltdown when we were very young and wrote in her diary, “as far as I’m concerned, I have no sister!” But other than that, young, silly diary entry we’ve gotten along so well. I’m still very close with my sister. And meeting Hannah it was an instant connection. She felt like a sister right away.

Hannah: It’s funny hearing [Jamie] say, “we had this one conflict.” I grew up with four younger sisters in my family and we fought all the time. Like cats and dogs. Not a fight for survival but our family is just really loud and we’re all very passionate, strong-willed people. So there’s often a lot of witty remarks back and forth and none of us are afraid of conflict. It was not traumatic. It was our way of communicating with one another. It was just how it was. We were all very comfortable relating to each other in that way. It’s been an interesting journey for Jamie and I because we did have a very strong connection like family right away. But it’s took us a lot of time, especially at the beginning, to learn how to communicate with one another working in a band.

[Twin Bandit notes there was a point when their sisters came to sit down with both of them and helped to provide perspective and work on bridging communication break-downs they were having. This sisterly intervention helped them better understand one another and move their relationship forwards.]

Was learning those communication skills a turning point in committing to this group and developing your relationship?

Hannah: I think Jamie and I right before we recorded our last album we were going through very heavy things in life. Some very serious illness and a couple of deaths in my family. The fact that we were able to walk with one another through that journey. And the fact that we were willing and able to support each other just through presence and through emotional availability. For me, it was the turning point that I knew I was prepared to walk the distance with Jamie. It felt like we would be in it for the long run. Whether that was musically or as people.

As you stated, there was darkness you were navigating prior to recording you last album. What I notice about the repetition of your song choruses is that it sounds more like a recitation of a positive mantra instead of a phrase that is trying to be catchy.

Jamie: We kinda needed that. We needed to write in that way. And find hope in our lyrics and in our songs because we were going through such a hard time. It really helped us get through those times, especially writing together and expressing these things that needed to get out. And putting a positive spin on things just helps in so many ways.

Hannah: Yeah, not ignoring the hardship of it but speaking frankly with one another and simplifying that experience into a mantra that we felt people would be able to relate to and appreciate. And something we hope would bring more positivity to our audiences. For us, because we sing for a living, we are saying these things all the time. Speech is very powerful and it really has the ability to change your perspective. That can be for better or it can impact you negatively. We had a lot of people come up to us over the years saying that our music helped them get through death in the family or heartache. We feel very honoured that people have that experience with our music.

[One of Jamie’s songs, For You, was used in a US commercial and Twin Bandit received much positive feedback. A mother who had lost three children in a car accident told them that she thought about her love for her children when she hears their song.]

Jamie: It’s so nice when people respond. When they walk up to you and say something.

Hannah: It is the reminder of why we are doing this. Music is so important in how it creates community.

Do you find songwriting is writing what you need to express at that time or what your audience needs to hear?

Hannah: It’s a little bit of both. Songwriting is quite cyclical, I find. For the style of music we perform and write, it’s storytelling. Whatever is impacting, moving, or inspiring us at the time is what we tend to write about. It is very possible songs on the next album may not be uplifting and inspiring necessarily because we may be going through a time in life where we’re exploring other aspects of the wide range of human emotion and experience. When it comes to songwriting, we’re trying to find a way to bring a deeply personal experience and boil it down to its core. That is what becomes universally relatable to people. In some ways, it’s the most personal thing in the world and in other ways it is created with other people and sentiment. To find the personal and make it public.

How is the aspect of vulnerability when sharing what is private for a public audience?

Hannah: I always cry when I sing Rosalyn and I rarely perform it live because the last few times I have broken down in the middle of a song. It’s always when my family is in the middle of the audience. It brings me back to that moment again. It tells me I am still connected to the art. But it can be really challenging and uncomfortable to perform songs that are really personal. I think people love to see that vulnerability. I think a lot of audience members connect with that. Even if you cry or forget a word, people watching you go through that experience makes it human again.

What are some exciting things coming up next for Twin Bandit?

Jamie: We’re going to Scotland!

Hannah: We are going on a three bill tour. All female acts. It’ll be our first time going to Ireland and Scotland. And it’ll be our fourth European tour. We recently found the goal sheet that we wrote [when we first started]. We have ticked off half of the things on our list!

Sounds like you have to dream bigger now.

Hannah: It was cool. We were talking about level of priority, fame, finances, connections and talking about what was more important to us. We both agreed that experience and personal connection with people that we looked up to musically were our goals as musicians. That was more important to us than material success or fame. Neither of us wanted to be famous.

It sounds like longevity is more appealing than short-term success.

Hannah: And build a good life and have music be part of that life but not the centre of it. It was really important for us to both arrive at that place. Agreeing that we didn’t want music to be our whole world. That it’s something that we love and feel passionately about.

Jamie: But we want to do it for the rest of our lives and make it lasting.

Hannah: Having freedom and understanding that life is going to change and our level of commitment to Twin Bandit. We may take time to rest or have a family. Jamie just got married a few weeks ago. [Hannah has a foster son that will soon be a year old]. It’s been a really big year for the both of us. A lot of changes in our life. It’s cool because we’re beginning to build the life we always wanted to have. Music has been interwoven throughout it.

Stay tuned to Twin Bandit’s site for upcoming information on their shows and tours

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EFMF 2018 Pre-Fest Picks

Gear for #EFMF2017

Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2018 is beginning at the end of this week and here are our picks of what we can’t wait to hear this festival.

Most Anticipated Artists

Twila: Molly Tuttle

Asking this is like asking me to pick my favourite ice cream—my answer changes every few minutes, depending on everything from the rotation of the earth to what artist CKUA just played.  Being forced to decide at this very moment, I’m going to pick Molly Tuttle. She played the Uptown Folk Club’s Winterfest in 2017 and was absolutely phenomenal, so I’m looking forward to hearing her again.

Sable: Kaia Kater

A proficient banjo player and warm vocals by Kaia Kater? Yes, please. I have yet to see her play live but I am excited to hear her tunes filling up the session stages.

 

Most Anticipated Workshop

Sable: Lives of the Heart. Stage 2. Sunday,  August 12 5:45-6:55 PM.

Artists: Ferron and Her All Star Band, The Wailin’ Jennys, Russell de Carle, and John Craigie.

I have always been a fan of the Wailin’ Jennys even before I attended my first Folk Fest. I think this workshop will be packed with emotional and vocal feeling. My favourite kind of session ambiance.

Twila: True North. Stage 3. Saturday, August 11 3:05–4:15 PM.

I travel abroad a fair amount, and usually, that travel is solo. So when I’m a bit homesick, wishing to hear a Western Canadian accent and not to have to explain for the hundredth time (I exaggerate but not by much) where Edmonton is located I like to pull up my playlist with James Keelaghan and The Bros. Landreth on it. I’ve never heard Twin Bandit live, but their recordings make me hopeful that along with fabulous Dave Gunning & J.P. Cormier that this session is going to unbelievable.

Old Favourites

Twila: Breabach

The possibility of multiple bagpipes? Yes, please. I saw them play at EFMF years ago, and have gotten a number of messages (mostly along the lines of “OH MY GOODNESS HAVE YOU HEARD BREABACH??? YOU’LL LOVE THEM!”) from friends who have heard them play in the intervening years. Such enthusiasm from such a wide group of friends means that I’m looking forward to reaquainting myself with the sounds of Breabach this weekend.

Sable: Milk Carton Kids

I can’t wait to see this duo dressed in their dark, trim suits and singing into a shared microphones . Their dreamy vocals and agile guitar licks perfectly meld into a cohesive entity of sound. It’s the perfect music to listen to while staring up at the sky on Gallagher Hill.

 

See you on the hill!

An Interview with Dylan Menzie

A few thousand kilometres from his home province of PEI, Dylan Menzie, 22, arrives in Edmonton to play his largest Folk Music Festival to date. “The energy at this festival is unlike anything I’ve felt before. I’ve heard on the Sunday night finale, when all the candles come out and thousands singing along together, I’m excited to see that. I’ve never played to that many people before,” he reveals before continuing, “it is such a relaxing environment even though there is thousands of people.”

Continue reading An Interview with Dylan Menzie

EFMF 2017 Pre-Fest Picks

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is just around the corner and here are our picks of what we can’t wait to hear this festival.

Most Anticipated Artists

Sable: The Unthanks

I find it hard to resist the melodic and harmonic intertwining of treble voices. Their upcoming performances at EFMF is significant because its their only North American stop on their summer festival circuit with their other dates based in England, Scotland, and Finland. While their recent series of folk music symphonic collaborations demonstrate a progressive move to share their art, I am excited to see them in their raw vocal form.

Twila: The Jerry Cans

I’m about 95% sure I ran across The Jerry Cans at a folk fest a few years ago, and seem to remember enjoying what I heard immensely. However, surrounded now with old festival programs I can’t seem to put my finger on where & when exactly that crossing of paths might have taken place. Regardless of my own questionable memory, The Jerry Cans are my pick for most anticipated artist of EFMF 2017 … have you heard their cover of The Hip’s “Ahead by a Century”?

Most Anticipated Workshop

Sable: Talking About My Generation; Saturday, August 12, 11:00 AM – 12:20 PM; STAGE 6

Artists: Altameda, Andy Shauf, Birds of Chicago, Colleen Brown and Major Love

I will be in the mood for some mellow vocals and heavy strums of the acoustic guitar at this Saturday morning session. I find the workshop title alluring since it’s always interesting to consider perspective through a distinct musical voice.




Twila: Ceili; Saturday August 12, 11:00 AM–12:30 PM; STAGE 5

Artists: Duncan Chisholm, Four Men and a Dog, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, The Paul McKenna Band

On Saturday morning I’m anticipating requiring the high energy infusion that is an EFMF Ceili. Hopefully these talented artists blending, Irish, Scottish & Acadian trad music, will make up for me running on lots of coffee and very little sleep.

 

Old Favourites

Sable: Birds of Chicago

The sweet tunes of Allison Russell and JT Nero last played to a sell-out crowd at New Moon Folk Club. That performance left YEG audiences with a desire for a return visit. I am so excited to listen to their tunes on the hill!

Twila: Solo (De Temps Antan and Le Vent Du Nord)

Combining two amazing Quebec trad bands = essentially one of the greatest ideas yet. It’ll be a powerful kick off to EFMF 2017.

Review: Rose Cousins and Port Cities at the Arden Theatre

Rose Cousins knows when and how to deliver a comedic zinger. She has the perfect onstage proportions of self-deprecation, modesty, confidence, vulnerability, and authenticity when sharing her lyrical perspective on the world. These traits are woven throughout the fabric of her show. Whether she is demonstrating her Islander accent and colloquial phrases, deciding which dog each one of her band members should own, or giving a heart-felt thanks to the audience for supporting live music and allowing her to continue her career as a singer-songwriter, her genuineness shines through and you don’t feel like your city was simply another in a long line of shows.

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Rose Cousins & band

Audience emotions fluctuated between laughter and tears, while Cousins, with a smile, let us know that feelings were welcome. She is happy to assume the responsibility of providing a somber soundtrack for scenes of death in TV shows, a fact she expressed before she started into the heart-wrenching Go First. Introduced with the quip “We’ve just been through the ides of March, which is where Julius Caesar gets stabbed in the back by Brutus. This song isn’t about that, but is about getting stabbed in the back” My Friend aptly expressed the dichotomy between light and dark which was at the heart of Cousins’ performance.

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Rose Cousins

The rapport between Cousins and her band members exuded a quiet strength. Their instrumental offerings supported Cousins acoustic music-making without every over-powering her. They also played peppy transition music as she moved between her acoustic guitar and the piano, lightening the mood between songs before we were plunged into emotional depths. She warned the audience that things only get sadder when she is at the piano. She was not wrong since, in fact, her piano works were the most trance-like moments of the show. The translucent stage fog was lit like a funnel of light from the overhead spotlights. It created an intimate atmosphere for songs such as White Flag, Tender is the Man, Like Trees, and her Donoughmore encore off of her Natural Conclusion album. As much as a Cousins show can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, the dark and somber songs are always accompanied by a bit of hope. Leonard Cohen’s oft-quoted “there is a crack in everything … that’s how the light gets in” line, seems an appropriate description of Cousins’ show.

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Port Cities

Port Cities opened the concert with their stripped back harmonies. Cousins’ jokingly described them as “young whipper-snappers” and the trio does exude a youthfulness although they have also achieved success on the CBC Radio 2 chart and co-written songs with the likes of Donovan Woods.  Port Cities’ version of On the nights you stay home captured the darker edge of the Cape Breton phrase, while Sound of Your Voice demonstrated the complexity of the trio’s music. The opening set wasn’t their only contribution to the evening, as Cousins called them back out to act as the choir on Grace. The trio just released their first album, featuring their tight harmonies and it will be interesting to follow them wherever the future takes them.

The Arden’s eclectic schedule continues with groups like Delhi 2 Dublin, The Small Glories and John Wort Hannam please see their website for ticket details.

 

This article was co-written by Twila and Sable.

Blues Double Bill Review: Joël Fafard and Michael Jerome Browne at the New Moon Folk Club

 

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Joël Fafard

Joël Fafard kicked off the New Moon Folk Club’s double bill of Blues offerings with gritty vocals and punny intersong banter. Fafard’s Jitterbug Swing had an agile bluesy swing, Woodshed Blues vocals had a tone of lamentation, while the instrumental track Sweet Mosquito Buzz showcased his slide dexterity. He shared aural glimpses into his family when introducing tunes like If I had a Boat where he noted his son’s wish to be a hockey player which was later replaced with aspirations to be a pirate. He reasoned that any good pirate would need a ship for pillaging, but a good pirate captain would require excellent swordsmanship skills, thus, that is where fencing lessons settled as the current pursuit.

 

 

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Michael Jerome Browne

Michael Jerome Browne’s set had an ethnomusicological feel to it as he would provide a historical backstory before each one of his songs. He brought an array of instruments such as a guitar from the 1940s, mandolin, 12-string guitar, and a gourd banjo with which to showcase his encyclopedic musical knowledge. His set list contained tunes spanning back to content he recorded back in the early 1990s but they still sounded relevant in our modern times. He played the tracks such as Got your Summer Shoes On and Living in the Whitehouse with class calmly switching out different harmonicas, stringed instruments, and updating tuning between each of the songs to offer an accurate performance of his work. Browne ended his set with a the title track from his 2016 album Can’t Keep a Good Man Down and he dedicated a heartfelt encore of Sam Cooke’s That’s Where It’s At to all the lovers in the audience.

 

Leeroy Stagger is next up at New Moon Folk Club on March 24, 2017 at 7:30 PM.

Interview Preview with New North Collective

 

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Spoken word Artists and Bassist, Pat Braden, from the New North Collective takes some time to speak with Folk on the Road while on are on tour.

What is the significance for you to live a traditional lifestyle but translate this for contemporary audiences?

In our understanding of a traditional lifestyle, we see ourselves as contemporary northern artists. We connect to traditions in our individual lives through language, community, our teachers and elders and living like most northerners do by connecting daily to the land. We interpret our northern lifestyle through our music, acknowledging and paying respect to the traditional cultures that have formed and influenced us. These traditional values as well as our own stories and experiences of living in today’s modern world are all subjects that we write about in the NNC.

Do you have any specific memories of living in the North that was formative in you becoming an Artist?

Pat:  My Mother played organ in the church for as long as I can remember and my brothers would bring home LP records and Rolling Stone magazines which I consumed voraciously. As a boy in the mid 1960s, I had the opportunity to hear a few of the local musicians playing around town. In the basement of the Legion one Christmas, I was able to catch a glimpse of a guitar player on the stage and thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Later on, I got to know that guitar player and after I started to play music in Yellowknife, many of the other musicians as well who played music through the 1960s and 1970s.

What does a collaborative session with the other Artists look like when you are rehearsing?

Our rehearsals or writing sessions have taken place in recording studios, performance spaces and in one of our sessions, in Burwash Landing in Kluane Park, YT at Diyet and Robert’s home where we were quite rudely interrupted by a visiting grizzly bear.
We set up our instruments and amplifiers in a circular or semicircular arrangement and jam and pitch ideas back and forth until we have the structure of a song. There are usually band member’s children around our sessions as the work/life balance can be demanding for all of us. This also helps to keep our work real with family close by. Meal times and downtimes are also an important part of our process as we take these times to reflect and discuss the work of the day.

New North Collective – First Sign of Spring from Brett Elliot on Vimeo.

It has been mentioned that there is a common goal in NNC to discard the stereotypes of the North, instead, what image do you wish to leave audiences with instead?

We hope that an audience will leave with a sense of having been invited into our lives and welcomed into our community. Leaving our concert with a small sense of freedom and leaving whatever assumptions of the north that came in the door of north behind. Maybe a spark for an adventure and desire to learn more about this incredible, diverse and humble part of the country.

Members of the NNC are passionate about a wide range of musical styles, including folk, rock, jazz, improvisation, classical, singer-songwriter, storytelling, etc. and we bring them together in the Collective.

What is the personal significance for you to be a part of the NNC?

Pat: It is important to be a part of a group of northern based musicians who have similar values, lifestyles, life experience that we all wish to express in our music. It is also significant in that this is based on first and foremost, the creation and performance of collective / collaborative created music. Each of us have our own solo careers but the NNC gives us a chance to contribute new ideas to a collective process and to gather new ideas for our own personal creative works.

New North Collective will be performing at the Arden Theatre on Saturday January 28, 2017.