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Blogging the Bluesfest: Joseph Pollock

By Jared Davidson on July 10, 2012

Song: “Dwellers” by Joseph Pollock, from his “Migrate” EP.

Joseph Pollock isn’t a person. The pseudonym began as a place for band leader Isaac Vallentin to pour his creativity. Now an eight-piece, the band played Bluesfest’s Barney Danson stage last Sunday.

Like a regular Dylan, Vallentin assembled a band of cronies to play his music just in time for the festival (he tells the story better below). And it looks to be a lasting relationship. The band will be touring a few local music festivals this summer before hitting Toronto and Montreal in the fall.

Their sound is haunting, ghostly, effect laden voices and echoey guitars build to tumultuous crescendos. And it’s been getting them some international attention on sites like NME.com and Earmilk.com.

We asked Isaac Vallentin some questions below!

How would you describe your sound?

Male and female harmonies meets haunting falsetto, mellow clean guitar, blaring distorted solo guitar, thumping bass, cymbal-rolls and snare hits, atmospheric synthesizers, and a three-piece horn section. Or, atmospheric experimental folk-pop, in short.

How did the group start?

Josef Pollock started as a name for me to release music under. After finishing the Migrate EP, I started planning out how I’d assemble a band to reproduce the sound of the album live. The day we were offered a spot at Bluesfest was the day the band started. I freaked out and I sent a message to Sean Tansey (Drums) to see if he’d like to start a band to play the Josef Pollock material, and if he knew anyone else who would be interested. Sean recruited Nick Hertzberg (Bass), and I begged Gavin Dyke (Lead Guitar) and Jenny Nasmith (Synth and Vocals) to join us. After playing for a couple months as a 5-piece, I then met Greggory Clark (Trombone) at the 2012 Ottawa Rock Lottery, and we hit it off. When I asked him to play horns, he brought in his friends Cameron (Tenor Sax) and Julian (Alto Sax) along with him, leaving us with an 8-piece outfit altogether.

How did your Bluesfest performance go?

Bluesfest went exceptionally! Our stage (Barney Danson Theatre) was perfectly suited for our style and created a super intimate atmosphere, and the sound in that room was incredible. The audience and Bluesfest staff were all really kind and supportive. We managed to fit in a few guitar and saxophone solos, massive crescendos, as well as a full-band a cappella section on one of our songs. We’re all really happy about how it turned out, and are looking forward to continually improving as we spend more time together as a band.

What is your favourite magazine?

I can’t speak on behalf of the rest of the band, but my personal favorite magazine at the moment is Monocle (yes, I’m aware of how pretentious it sounds). It’s got a great design section, and the editor in chief is Canadian. What more can you ask for?