“I have cried to bigger men than you, I have lied to better friends than you.” – There’s something painfully beautiful in the words of Simon Ward and the music of The Strumbellas. It provokes the human reaction to heartfelt music, a lonesomeness that can only seemed to be soothed by listening to songs over and over again. “Take my pride, break my word, take my heartache, all my life, all that hurt, all that heartbreak, it’s gonna bring me down.”
“I miss those dreams, those ones we used to have, oh I miss my friends, oh I miss my dad, I don’t want to die but it’s everywhere I go.” Conceived in Lindsay, Ontario, but born in Toronto, The Strumbellas are equal parts small town dream and big city gumption. It’s strange, perhaps, that Canada’s biggest city is home to its alt-country scene, but The Strumbellas rebel yell is a natural extension of the sound honed by Toronto stalwarts Royal City, The Sadies, Cuff the Duke, The Wilderness of Manitoba, and One Hundred Dollars. Principal songwriter Simon Ward likes to say that his heart is in his hometown but his head is in the city, or vice versa. He's not sure which.
“The devil put the barracuda spirit into me.” Sensitive singer-songwriters beware: this ain’t your meemaw’s country music. The band brings wheat field harmonies and arena-ready thunder to back rooms and festival stages alike, sounding bigger and louder than any band with a banjo deserves to sound. Folk wisp and country twang are nowhere to be found as the seven-member band pounds out a bluegrass-inspired indie rock that rivals punk and hardcore for sweat, blood, and ruckus.
“I lost my father to the hands of Jesus, breaks my heart dad you won’t meet my son, and I get so scared dad that I’ll be just like you, spend my life as a loaded gun.” All this energy, however, is in the service of something even larger: the big pop hook. Ward often says he doesn’t want to make music for other musicians, and so he stuffs his thunderous country stomp with stick-in-your-head verses and monumental choruses. Along the way he details more than just love lost and won, with lyrics ranging from God to go-getters, and the little bit of life we get to lead before we’re gone.
“We walked in the night past the pines, the graveyard told stories of everyone’s lives, we walked in the night past the pines, and every day I still go back to that time.” The Strumbellas’ debut album, My Father And The Hunter, is an introspective snapshot of where the band has been until now. After seeing the group at The Dakota Tavern over a year ago, Cone McCaslin came on board to produce the album. Recorded at Blue Rodeo’s coveted Woodshed Studio in the fall of 2011, as well as Metalworks, it’s the harvest of seven talented friends, some whiskey and a few rounds of euchre. Harmonies, stomps, hollers, claps and gang vocals unabashedly abound as the songs weave their stories throughout the album.
“Watched the caribou for days, swam across the Great Lakes, slept around an open fire, chasing demons to the pyre, I broke my home, broke my home, left for dead.” My Father And The Hunter is a beautiful harmonious dichotomy between melancholy heartbreak on songs Carry My Body, Diane, Windsurfers, Underneath The Mountain, Left For Dead and The Bird That Follows Me, versus blow-the-barn-doors-off spunk on The Sheriff, Lakes, Sailor’s Blues, Rhinestone, I Just Had A Baby, and Pistol. Dance, cry, put your fist through a wall, call someone you love – expect to feel it all. Check out the mini-doc for The Bird That Follows Me in-studio recording here.
“Don’t lose your pistol, well that’s what he said, cause there’s a war and we’ve been forced to wear our head upon our feet.” Since the release of their 2009 EP, which was peppered with accolades from Toronto weeklies and a proclamation from the CBC as a “band to watch,” The Strumbellas have religiously slogged it out in the Toronto and Southern Ontario area, building a zealous following. Regular residencies over the past year at The Cameron House, showcases at Canadian Music Week and NXNE as well as festival appearances in the area, have all been integral to helping The Strumbellas build their sound. “I believe in death, cause death has always won the last hand.”
released February 21, 2012
The Strumbellas are:
Simon Ward – vocals, acoustic guitar
James Oliver – banjo, ukulele, piano, vocals
David Ritter – piano, organ, percussion, vocals
Jeremy Drury – drums, percussion
Isabel Ritchie – violin, viola, vocals
Jon Hembrey – electric guitar, mandolin
Darryl James – bass
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