When a crowd is feverishly singing along with the last chorus upon first listen, you know it’s a song that connects. This is what happens when The Strumbellas play “Spirits” live for the first time, the first single from their new album, Hope (released April 22, 2016). That experience embodies the essence of what has been attracting fans from across North America to this six-piece Lindsay, Ontario-bred band.
The Strumbellas got their start in 2009 with their eponymous EP release, which was peppered with accolades from Toronto weeklies and prompted a proclamation from the CBC that they are a “band to watch.” Since then, the group has been on the road earning their stripes through sold-out residencies at different clubs in Toronto, as well as several cross-country tours and summer festivals.
In 2012 the band released their debut album My Father And The Hunter, an album full of haunting lyrics fused with infectious and danceable melodies that won them both fans and critical recognition across multiple genres of music. Earning them a coveted JUNO nomination, the album offered a beautiful, harmonious dichotomy between melancholy heartbreak and blow-the-barn-doors-off spunk, a sound that would become synonymous with their music.
A year later, The Strumbellas followed-up with their sophomore album We Still Move On Dance Floors, which earned them six awards, including their first JUNO award. In May 2014 they laid claim to the SiriusXM Indies award for Folk Group Of The Year and in June they earned the title, Polaris Music Prize nominee, when the album nabbed a spot on the prestigious prize’s coveted Long List. Later that year they won the Ottawa Folk Festival’s Supernova Rising Star Award and nabbed the Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album Of The Year. They capped off the year by winning CBC Music’s Rising Star award in December.
2014 was a year of touring. There was no fixed address for the six-piece as they crisscrossed North America from New York to Austin to Vancouver Island, up to the Northwest Territories, across the prairies and beyond!
In early 2015, The Strumbellas, off the road and ready to go into the studio again, set up shop at downtown Toronto’s Lincoln County Social Club to record the new album with LA Producer/Engineer Dave Schiffman (Johnny Cash, Haim, Weezer). During three recording sessions in the first half of 2015, Schiffman and the band harnessed a vivid alternative rock sound that was itchin’ to get out of them. Bigger. Bolder. Beckoning.
It’s a two cents democracy when it comes to The Strumbellas. Case in point — there’s always one line in a Strumbellas’ song that causes an internal crisis. It’s the way in which these six winds blow in from different directions that make the discussion most interesting. It doesn’t really matter what the line of the song actually is. Simon will bring forth to the band his Simonisms as the band has come to call them. The line makes sense to him because it sounds pleasing to his ear. That’s what he’ll use to plead his case, “it sounds good.” David generally puts on his English Masters Degree hat and takes Simon to task on whether or not the line will make sense to anyone other than Simon. Usually he stands on principle when making his argument. Isabel will ruminate and use another artist’s work as a reference to decide if she will stand on Simon’s side of the line, or David’s. Jeremy will usually suggest everyone take a break and talk about something else. Jon will put his finger in the air in an attempt to try to figure out which way the wind is actually blowing. And Darryl, he’ll consult with everybody individually and come back to the band with a detailed pie chart of some sort that comes up with the best scenarios.
No one is ever really sure which wind is going to prevail but they each end their argument with ‘that’s just my two cents’ and whether everyone agrees or learns to live with the disagreement, at the end of the day they ride on together.
Simon Ward – vocals, acoustic guitar
David Ritter – piano, percussion, vocals
Jeremy Drury – drums, percussion
Isabel Ritchie – violin, vocals
Jon Hembrey – electric guitar
Darryl James – bass
With Noah Kahan