In The Know...Interview with Bahamas

>> Sunday, 28 November 2010

In not even two years, Bahamas (aka Afie Jurvanen) has gone from guitarist-for-hire to opener to headliner.

Along the way he’s cobbled together an enviable cv – touring guitarist/pianist for Feist; opener for Amy Milan and Wilco; and, most importantly, Juno nominee and Polaris long lister for his stellar debut release, Pink Strat.

He’s currently in the middle of on his first-ever headlining tour of Canada (with drummer Jason Tait of Weakerthans fame), a coast-to-coast sojourn which includes a stop at the Park Theatre on Tuesday night.

Suggestion: attend. Next time he rolls through, it’ll be at a much larger venue.

I caught up with Jurvanen on Friday and asked him about the current headlining tour experience; how Weakerthans’ drummer Jason Tait came to be a part of Bahamas; and when fans can expect the sophomore record to enter the world.

Painting over Silence: You’re currently on your first ever headlining tour of Canada. What’s the experience been like so far?

Afie Jurvanen: It’s been really fantastic so far. We’ve done about a week-and-a-half worth of shows – we started in St. John’s and have been working our way across - and there have been lots of people. The shows have been full and people have been singing along, and they know the record. They’re participating in the show, and it’s really been a nice surprise.

For the past year-and-a-half we’ve been opening for other bands, so it’s kind of new territory for us to play a longer set and explore a wider breath of material, which I’ve really been enjoying.

Painting over Silence: After the success of Pink Strat – including a Juno nomination for Roots Album of the Year and a spot on the Polaris long list – is Bahamas now a full-time gig or will you continue to work/tour/collaborate with Feist, Jason Collett, et al.?

AJ: It’s definitely a full-time thing. When I was playing with those artists you mentioned that was very much a full-time thing as well. I’m not a very good multi-tasker – I basically would rather dedicate myself to one thing and try and really do it the best I can and be present in those moments. It’s not just music, too. Its life in general. It’s so easy to coast through things and not really be aware of who you’re with, whether it’s a musical thing or being with a partner. It’s become increasingly more important for me to be there in the moment, and, for me, that means dedicating myself to one thing.

I really have fond memories of those times, playing music with those guys. But now it’s taken over. If I really want to get the most out of it, I have to be dedicated to it, and I really have the energy for it. I may as well take it while the energy is there.

PoS: So, the band is yourself and Jason Tait.

AF: That’s the band.

PoS: How did you originally hook up with Jason?

AF: We’ve actually been playing together for quite awhile now. We sat down next to each other at a show in Toronto, at Massey Hall. I don’t know if you know that venue.

PoS: Actually, yeah, I saw the Flight of the Conchords there.

AF: *laughs* Cool. I sat down – got a ticket from somewhere – and he sat down next to me. And we started chatting. We had run into each other before because the music community in Toronto is pretty small. He already had my record – I sorta silkscreened a limited run before my actual cd came out and given it out to friends. Somehow he got a hold of one and knew all the songs, and before I had a chance to bring it up, he sort of volunteered himself and his drum set and I thought, man, this could be really cool. And so we played a gig together the next week and we’ve been playing together ever since. The Weakerthans schedule has kinda worked out perfectly, but I should knock on wood at some point.

It’s worked out perfectly up to this point, but we’ll see what happens next year. I’d love to keep playing with him.

PoS: I read that you’ve been writing and recording a new record. How is the new material coming along?

AF: We’re constantly doing that – it’s not like we have a huge recording budget to go in for weeks on end and make an album all in one chunk. We’ve been really, really busy touring and playing and when we have some time we chip away at it. I’d say it’s about 80% there. I’d really love to put another record out sometime spring next year. 

I’m pretty excited about it. It’s really formed by the live show - that’s not to say it’s a live record - it’s definitely a studio record. There’s an energy there that we were able to bring with us through all this touring we’ve been doing, and it’s informed the recording in a really nice way..

PoS: Any working album titles? Perhaps after another guitar?

AF: *laughs* Well, maybe. I think I’ll keep those ideas to myself for now. If I tell you something now, I’ll have to stick to it.

PoS: Has your approach to writing and recording changed this second time around?

AF: Not really. I sort of go through bursts. I go through moments when I feel really inspired. But then I get caught up doing domestic things – laundry, bills, and such – and you almost forget about that side of your brain and the desire that is with you.

The first record I wrote pretty much while I was on tour – in dressing rooms and playing in other people’s bands. This one’s really no different in that regard except that now I’m on tour playing my own music. It’s going to be more of an insular process, I think, obviously just a little more compressed time-wise because I’ve been away touring for some time.

PoS: You’re playing Winnipeg on Tuesday night. Are there going to be some new songs in the set list?

AF: Absolutely. We get to play a longer set now and obviously the first record is only a half-an-hour long. The nature of time just means we get to play new songs, which is really exciting for the band. The response has been really nice, and a lot of people seem to already know them.

PoS: Last question. 2011 is just on the horizon. What are your plans for the New Year?

AF: I’m just really enjoying playing right now and feel lucky to tour as much as we have in Canada, just on this record. It would really be a thrill for me to play down in the states a little more, and I’m hoping to do that. We have some plans to go down there in the spring time.

And, hopefully, get this record out and come back to Winnipeg again and again and again.


Jeope 28 November 2010 at 21:30  

Ask him what happened to his face! Where's the stache?!

Young Icelander,  29 November 2010 at 09:36  

I've haven't heard any of his music, but am going to check it out now. Opening for Wilco and all...

Mykael 29 November 2010 at 17:29  

Picture was taken early fall, so perhaps he grew it back for Movember!

We'll see tomorrow.

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