Hardly had the cheering died down on Portage and Main after it was announced Winnipeg would welcome NHL hockey back to the Manitoba capital, than Banshee’s Wail headed out on the road.
The two incidents had nothing in common, of course, but the Jets (the only suitable name) moving back to the ‘Peg is as big as Banshee’s Wail heading out on tour – as far as the band’s concerned.
In Winnipeg, since 2005, Banshee’s Wail is well known for delivering a Celtic blast of folk/rock, but their excursions outside their hometown have been limited to occasional forays into neighbouring Saskatchewan.
But tonight (June 16), Banshee’s Wail hits the stage at Wild Bill’s as part of its Western Canada Pub Crawl. The band includes the Jowett brothers, Brendan (fiddle, vocals, guitar, mandolin) and Murray (fiddle, vocals), cousin Steve Barkman (bass, vocals, guitar), Adam Sims (vocals, guitar) and Nick Turnbull (drums).
“We’re really excited to get out there,” said Barkman. “We wanted to take our music outside the borders of Winnipeg and take our energy and lively shows to other towns.”
And being that the five-piece all slave away in college when not making music, the summer break provided the ideal opportunity to put together a 20-gig tour which will carry the band into the B.C. interior.
Other than some early trouble with the band van, the westward journey continues.
With a new EP (Back to King’s Alley) in hand, a pub crawl was decided upon. “Three of us are family and the other guys are good friends,” said Barkman. “We’re a tight-knit group and we’ve been to Alberta and B.C. for camping and hiking, but this is the first time music is leading us.”
“We’re really proud of the sound we’ve formed over the years,” said Barkman, “and the sound has matured like us. I think the EP captures that sound and we’re working on a live album that will feature it.”
The Jowett family is a musical one and the brothers began fiddling as youngsters and were busking before they were 10 years old. They’ve travelled the world, playing extensively.
Barkman as well comes from a musical family and has ranged from piano to bass over the years.
In fact, in any given Winnipeg gig, the Wailers could be joined by other siblings and cousins to further round out the band’s sound with bagpipes – even going so far as to invite cousing Eric Breckman to take the stage with an ugly stick (bizarre instrument made from shed items like a broomstick, bottle caps, bells and played with a drumstick).
“Brendan and Murray grew up fiddling and with Celtic music in their blood,” said Barkman. “Then we recruited two best friends to balance the sound. Our musical is traditional, but with our own take on it.
“We’re steering away from traditional songs, though, and working in more original material. We’re playing the music our grandparents listend to, but adding our own take to it.
“It’s a pretty wild show and a damn good party. The other night in Brandon, people were dancing on the tables; I guess they were overcome with the Irish.”
Songwriting is a collaborative effort, with the basic fiddling and reels coming from the Jowetts, with the others adding input as far as arrangements go.
And to truly add that Canadiana feel in this time of the NHL playoffs, Barkman said the band has worked in a few “Go Jets Go” chants.
The band has played a huge variety of venues and shows, including Festival du Voyageur, Folklorama, the SuperSpike festival, Regina’s Mosaic Festival, the West End Cultural Centre, Pyramid Cabaret, Park Theatre and are seen regularly in Winnipeg bars and pubs.
They have supported acts including Sloan, the Trews, Tupelo Honey, Five Alarm Funk and Harlequin and wrote and performed the theme song for a 10-episode PBS Television Series, Red River Showcase and have appeared on Breakfast Television on several occasions.