The Strumbellas embark this weekend on their official Ontario/U.S. tour for their latest release. The group is in town Saturday night for a late show at Zaphod’s.
“One of our bandmates used to live in Ottawa, so he shows us the ropes when we visit,” says singer/songwriter Simon Ward. “We’ve played the Tulip Festival and Cafe Dekcuf. This will probably be about my fifth time being in your city.”
The six-piece band released its sophomore album, We Still Move On Dance Floors in October, to rave reiews. The release builds upon the sound of the group’s debut, My Father The Hunter, which garnered a Juno nomination.
“We Still Move on Dance Floors has a similar vibe to our first album,” explains Ward. “The songs still have basic roots elements, but they are less jug-based. We went a touch more in a pop (music) direction.”
The sound of the tunes literally grew with the band adding more instrumentation, including brass. Overall, the offering is less bluegrass-inspired and less acoustic. It is a rich, layered album with an alt-country heart. As discussed on their web site, the album, “seemed a natural progression for the band, whose dark lyrics about death and solitude crop up amongst beautiful lyrical mindscapes of trees and lakes and home.”
The Strumbellas headed to Bear Creek Studio just outside of Seattle to record with Grammy-nominated Ryan Hadlock (Metric, Gossip, The Lumineers, Moondoggies.)
“Ryan is great,” says Ward. “He’s a quirky, crazy man full of ideas. We were lucky to work with him.”
According to Vancouver Weekly, “It takes something special to make a room shaped something like a laundry chute, feel like a theatre. The Strumbellas are a band that seems to know what that special quality is, because from their first song to their last, they transformed the small Railway Club into a blazing amphitheatre.”
The Strumbellas got together several years ago in Lindsay, Ontario.
“Our hometown has about 17 or 18 thousand people in it, so you get to know pretty much everybody,” says bassist Darryl James. “I was close friends with Simon’s older brother because we were the same age. (The band) all knew of each other before we finally met.”
Since the release of The Strumbellas’ eponymous 2009 EP, the now Toronto-based group has been earning its stripes through residencies at The Cameron House and most recently a month of sold out Tuesdays at The Dakota Tavern. According to their web site, the band, “‘left the proverbial nest in 2012, making new fans with cross-country tours as well as playing a plethora of festivals including CMW, NXNE, Pop Montreal, Eaglewood and Hillside in Guelph.”
The Strumbellas play Zaphod’s January 11. Sharing the bill are Brandon Allan and the Bad Decisions, and Elgin Skye. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. The band will also be appearing at the Almonte Old Town Hall January 18 as part of the Folkus roots music concert series.