Canvas Media For Bahamas "it's nice to be nominated" isn't just a press…
- Posted on Feb 10th 2012 1:00PM by Jason Schneider
Jurvanen isn't exactly the folk festival type, though; in fact, the way in which his songs echo the pure melodies and straightforward themes of classic pop are, ironically, what makes Bahamas hard to classify in this day and age.
Jurvanen learned more than a few tricks from his circle of musician friends and notable employers such as Jason Collett, Howie Beck and Feist (he was guitarist and pianist for the '1234' hit-maker for two years of international touring). With 'Barchords,' Jurvanen can now proudly stand alongside them as another shining example of the changing face of Canadian folk-rock. He can also revel in joining the roster of Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records.
"I'm just thrilled to be able to put something out into the world and have people gravitate towards it, especially with so many records coming out all the time," Jurvanen tells Spinner.
Having Bushfire behind him has built a certain level of anticipation for the just-released 'Barchords,' though Jurvanen says since the album was actually finished over a year ago his main gauge of success has been how well the songs have gone over with live audiences.
"Signing the American deal kind of delayed this record, because they wanted to re-release 'Pink Strat' first. That gave us a chance to play a lot of the new material live and have people get to know it a little in that way. But things change when you can sit down with an album and really get into the lyrics and everything else, so we'll see what happens."
There's a joyous sense of living in the moment at the heart of Jurvanen's writing, and choosing the title 'Barchords' couldn't be more apt. Aside from the twist on its technical definition as the basic guitar figures every player needs to know, songs like 'Looking for the Light' and 'I Got You Babe' (not the Sonny and Cher hit) contain a hazy glow similar to what a good night of drinking with the right people can produce.
At the same time, the clarity of Jurvanen's half-whispered vocals in songs such as 'Snow Plow,' in which he confesses, "I wish I could right all the wrongs, instead of writing songs," hit just as hard. "I'm drawn to economy and directness in my method of writing," he says. "Those two things are cornerstones of my musical approach, but also my lifestyle in general. I don't have a lot of time for excess. It's not really a calculated thing, I'm just always conscious of trying to find the simplest way to get something across. In my experience, when I sit down to write a song, everything usually shows itself in that moment."
In terms of the overall vibe of 'Barchords,' Jurvanen points to the sultry and soulful 'Never Again' as a catalyst. "We'd done the basic tracking live with the band, and then I did all of the backing vocals myself with just the engineer. We ended up building it into this TLC/D'Angelo '90s R&B thing. Again, it wasn't by design, it just felt good, so I went with it. When I was actually singing the parts, all I was thinking about was getting them right, but listening to it afterwards, I thought, of course this had to be more than just a simple little love song. The love was epic, so the song needed to reflect that."
It's in a song like 'Never Again' where Jurvanen's connection to Canada's blue-eyed soul tradition, dating back to the Band's Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, is most evident. But as a guitarist known for forging a signature sound out of gear that most players wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole, Jurvanen is equally wary of dropping obvious reference points in his songs.
"I've made a lot of records with different people, and some are like, we should go for an Al Green drum sound or a Beatles bass tone, but my approach is to try to not do any of that at all. Sometimes I can't help sounding like Willie Nelson or Neil Young, because that stuff is kind of ingrained in my DNA. But it's never intentional."
Those musical roots stretch back to Jurvanen's youth in Barrie, Ontario, when he formed the band Paso Mino with Mike O'Brien and Rob Drake. Those two went on to form Zeus, whose second album, 'Busting Visions,' drops March 27. Looking back on their early days, Jurvanen can't help saying that he believed something substantial was going to come out of the music they were making.
"I can see now how all of this has evolved, but at the time, we were having some real growing pains trying to figure out what we were doing," he says. "I basically made the first Bahamas record because my friends had formed a new band while I was off playing with Feist and I didn't have anything else to do. I didn't really have a focus for it all, and I'm really grateful that it was received well. But I'm so stoked for those guys [in Zeus]. We've known each other 20 years now, and I think it's amazing that we've all come this far."