When the Strumbellas hit town tonight (June 7), small town will mesh with big city and bluegrass will mesh with country – but the whole show will be honed with rock.
The Strumbellas are a six-piece that was born in small town Lindsay, Ont., but built in Toronto where members honed their craft and created their debut album, My Father And The Hunter.
Led by singer/songwriter Simon Ward (vocals, guitar), The Strumbellas are David Ritter (keys, percussion, vocals), Jeremy Drury (drums, percussion), Isabel Ritchie (violin, viola, vocals), Jon Hembrey (guitar, mandolin) and Darryl James (bass).
Last week, the band loaded into a van, headed west and on Friday were somewhere in Saskatchewan en route to Saskatoon. “I’m not sure where we are,” said Ward, who was stoked to learn their Alberta arrival was being heralded with songs broadcast by CKUA, “but we’re passing a lot of sky; the prairies are really outstandingly beautiful.
“It’s a long haul to get to Vancouver, but we’ve got a DVD player and a Nintendo, so there’s lots to do.”
The long haul back will seem even longer, as they have to make the trip in four days after landing a gig at the prestigious NXNE (North by Northeast) music festival in Ontario.
In all, the band has been together for three years, mostly playing southern Ontario. After putting out an EP, “which we recorded in an apartment, just to have something to sell at shows, things have been going well,” said Ward.
When it comes to the band’s heartfelt, often complex lyrics, Ward is at the helm, “but once we’re in a jam room, there’s a major collaboration on the songs. Sometimes we started with something barebones, but through all the arranging, a song gets to where we want it to be.”
While many bands are created by friends in high school, say, who gel afterward, The Strumbellas are somewhat a Craigslist child. In looking to put together a band, Ward went the Craigslist route and soon had 10 people interested. Some couldn’t take the time to tour, some left.
“But some of my Lindsay friends (Drury, Hembrey and James) heard and they called me up. As a band, you spend a lot of time together, so it’s good to be around people you like and who get along.”
The band’s sound, said Ward, is difficult to pin down as member influences range from punk to country to Beach Boys. “Our genre has been called everything under the moon,” he said. “And that’s fine, as long as we’re not called crappy.”
The band’s sound ranges from the catchy, rocky “The Sherriff,” to the quiet harmonized ballad “The Bird That Follows Me,” to the thumpin’ “Rhinestone.”
Ward had some old songs kicking around for My Father And The Hunter, but about 80 per cent have been crafted since the band formed. “And right now, I wish we could make two albums, we’ve got enough songs. Right now, we’re just waiting for a $5 million advance from Warner (music).”
Along with CKUA notice, The Strumbellas charted at number one on Calgary’s CJSW charts and have airplay on college and university stations across Canada.
“We’re really looking forward to this tour. We love playing live and honing our craft. We have a pretty high-energy show, we jump around a lot and we try to get people up at the stage and dancing.”