Juno award-winning band The Strumbellas have been on the road promoting their latest album Hope and they stopped by Osheaga in Montreal to offer a taste of their unique music.
We got to sit down with Simon Ward (vocalist/guitarist) and Jon Hembrey (lead guitar), and they shared their opinions of festivals, a look into the making of the album and the lessons they’ve learned so far.
Confront: How’s Osheaga so far?
Simon: Great, we got here a couple hours ago. We ate, which was terrific.
Jon: Very much talked about, Osheaga backstage food.
Confront: How do festivals compare to regular shows? Do you have a preference for one or the other?
Simon: I think I prefer festivals. Not in an “I don’t like other shows” kind of way, but there’s something magical about giant groups of people gathering in one space. Everybody’s there for the music, having a good time in the beautiful open air. So I just think it’s got a certain uniqueness to it that I think makes it the coolest type of show. Or senior citizen’s homes which are fun ‘cause it’s also an interesting vibe.
Confront: What was the main source of inspiration for your album Hope and what message were you trying to convey?
Simon: There wasn’t really a message. We’re not planners, we just wrote songs that we felt were the coolest and bobbed your head. We didn’t really have a big plan. The inspiration was going through hard times on the road and in our lives and being a traveling musician. So it’s just a combination of hard times in life and writing the coolest songs we could.
Confront: Which of your songs means the most to you right now?
Jon: I’m partial to our one song “Young & Wild” actually because we’re so young and youthful. So it really speaks to who we are on a deep personal level.
Simon: I concur.
Confront: How would you say your music has progressed since the first album?
Simon: Oddly enough, I don’t think it’s progressed a lot other than this record was produced in a way that made it more easily listenable to and more simple. We really stripped down our sound, which I guess is a progression in a way.
Jon: I think Hope changed the notch a little bit more towards pop, but I don’t think it was an intentional choice so much as it was just that we wrote the songs, but we’re sort of taking a different approach to the actual writing. And just listening to a lot of radio pop songs at the time influenced the songs very naturally.
Confront: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a band?
Simon: Oh, that’s a good question.
Jon: I think it’s always take someone up on their advice for local foods and local things to do.
Simon: And never be shy to try to get free stuff at festivals, ‘cause we have walked home with a lot of clothing. We’re like sharks, if we smell blood in the water, like there’s a free hat going around, we’re all over there and getting it. So always take you’re free stuff.
Confront: What’s the most rewarding aspect of being in a band?
Jon: One of the really nice things, particularly with “Spirits,” is we had people reach out and say they’ve been going through these hard times and this song really helped them. And that’s a really awe-inspiring thing for someone to tell us. It’s one of the highest compliments an artist can be paid.
Confront: Do you have any plans for more touring or another album?
Jon: We’re kind of waiting to see where this crazy train ends up and going with the flow. More touring, more festivals.
Confront: Which artists would you like to see at Osheaga?
Simon: We want to see Lucius ‘cause we just became friends with them and we love them. They’re super nice.
Jon: We want to see The Struts.
Simon: The Struts are really cool. I’ve always wanted to see Radiohead. Lana Del Rey’s is fantastic. Grimes. I could go on and on.
Confront: What would you say is your motto these days?
Jon: Take the free t-shirt.
Simon: If it’s in the barn, shoot it.