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Bahamas talks CMW, Gossip Girl and his next album

March 12th, 2010

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We caught up with Bahamas (aka Afie Jurvanen) before his ultra-packed Canadian Music Week show on Wednesday. The Juno-nominated singer-songwriter (and Feist’s former guitar player) chatted with us about his new album “Pink Strat”, Gossip Girl and his potential metal side projects with Jason Collett.

Much: How do you think being nominated for a Juno is going to affect your career, if at all?

Bahamas: Well, you know when you’re making records and on tour you don’t really think about that sort of stuff. You just don’t have time. You’re just thinking about you’ve gotta call your mom during sound check and get something to eat. So when they called me last week and told me, I was totally surprised. I think it’ll be a nice moment, if anything it brings more attention to my record. I’m basically busy all the time and I kind of like it that way. I’m always on tour or recording. So yeah, if there’s a few more people who are kind of pointed in that direction of being curious about my music then that’s a good thing.

Much: You’ve collaborated with a lot of people – you played with Feist for over two years – what inspired you to break away and do a solo album?

Bahamas: I’ve always had my own tunes and I’ve always had my own bands and played with other people’s bands. And a lot [of bands] like Zeus or [Jason Collett], especially in Toronto, there’s basically a hundred bands and like twenty people in those bands. It’s sort of like different incarnations of the same people. And so I think if you’re a musician in Toronto or any artist really, it really is like a community thing. If someone needs help handling a show and needs a bass player, it’s like sure I’ll come play bass for you. I was always playing my own music and I think I just got caught up playing other people’s music for a few years. I was always wanting to do it, there just wasn’t enough time. When you’re touring that consistently, every time you have a minute off you just wanna watch Gossip Girl and do nothing, you know.

So yeah, when we came off the road I had this record finished and some people had asked me to come on the road and play with their band and I just said no, I have this record and I think I’m going to put it out and try to play shows on my own. I’m really glad I did. It’s been so much fun, and everything’s been kind of a new learning process which is really exciting right now.

Much: How is it different now that you have to wear so many different hats and have a bit more music responsibility versus playing for someone’s band?

Bahamas: Playing in someone else’s band, you really don’t have much artistic pressure, you just want to play well and have fun with your friends and just support their thing.

Much: So are you feeling the pressure a bit more now with Bahamas?

Bahamas: Well, yeah. I mean I’m the singer and I wrote the songs so if I feel that I’ve played poorly then at the end of the night I would maybe take it a little harder than I would if I was just in the band. But it’s also way more rewarding too, so it’s somehow worth the risk. To get recognized for the Juno is such a treat. And to have all your friends that have been milling around for years and know you really well, and then you put out this record and they’re like ‘whoa, we had no idea. We just thought you were the guitar player or the piano player’ or whatever. I think a big part of releasing a record is showing your peers what you’re up to.

Much: Having played in a lot of bands in the past, do you find it sort of lonely doing your own solo thing?

Bahamas: Yeah, absolutely. When you’re playing in a band there’s really a camaraderie that can’t really be recreated. You’re just together all the time and you’re doing everything together: every meal, and you’re sleeping and travelling and you’re really thinking as a three or four-headed monster. When you’re travelling alone and you have a really great moment and there’s no one there to share it with, you’re kind of like [sighs]. But that being said, when I’m on tour usually I play with a drummer and I’m fortunate enough again to play with really good friends and good players. So it’s not too often that I’m alone or like ‘poor me’.

Much: You’ve always been a guitar player and a piano player, but have you always been a singer?

Bahamas: Yeah. In high school I had some shitty punk bands, and then your voice settles. Then you finally find your place and I’m really grateful for that cause I struggled for a long time, as most guys do. You open your mouth to sing and something comes out and you’re like ‘is that really what my voice sounds like?’ Then you’re trying to find it and push it a little in this range and it’s sometimes uncomfortable. But somehow over the last few years it’s just become kind of effortless. So it’s been really fun to kind of find my voice again. But yeah I’ve always been singing.

Much: What’s the significance of the name Bahamas?

Bahamas: I wish I had a more interesting story. When we were recording, as I realized we were making a record, I had a list of names and we were recording we had been swimming and just barbequing in the summertime and just hanging out, and [Bahamas] just seemed to jump out and sort of fit the tone of the record – like a little more relaxed or something like that.

Much: It’s almost got a tropical vibe to it.

Bahamas: Absolutely. I think if it conjures up those images for people then that’s not a bad thing for me. I’ll save some of the other, more obscure names for my metal side projects. [laughs]

Much: Can we be expecting those any time soon? Maybe you and Jason Collett?

Bahamas: [laughs] Maybe, maybe. We’ll see; he’s pretty busy too.

Much: A lot of your songs have a homesick theme to them, did you write them while you were on tour?

Bahamas: Yeah I did. I think like most people you begin writing about your surroundings and what you’re a part of and I was away for a long time. That’s a topic and theme that’s been explored by songwriters for a long time, but it’s because that’s your reality. It’s one of those things like when you’re away you’re really pining for your family and your home and the idea of being at home and what that means, and then once you get home and you get into the routine of being home you’re like ‘shit, I can’t wait to go away’.

Much: So you miss being on the road?

Bahamas: Well I just came home from tour a few days ago, and [the Bonfire Ball] tour will start tomorrow basically. But yeah I really like [touring] and travelling and I’ve been fortunate to be able to see a lot of the world playing music and it’s amazing.

Much: You’re playing CMW, what do you think distinguishes Canadian music from the rest?

Bahamas: Canada’s a big place, so there’s qualities of music from Halifax that’s very different from Toronto, or Vancouver or the Prairies and French music is very much its own thing. So for me I can speak to Toronto music a little more I think. The community I’m involved with is pretty real, it’s pretty organic. It’s just guys who are hoping to write better songs than their last record and play better. When I picture music in LA, or even music in New York or other sort of metropolises – even Montreal is a little artier – they have dance bands or more modern sounding bands. I guess when I think of Canadian Music Week and music here I think of guys and guitars.

Much: Do you have an artist or band that you consider a musical guilty pleasure?

Bahamas: I think my most guilty pleasure these days is listening to my new unreleased album. I don’t know if it’s some vanity or something. I just recorded some new stuff and it’s pretty hard to not listen to it cause it wasn’t there, and then I made it, and now its there. So I’m sort of listening to it, and I call it squeering – which is like squinting but with your ears – and you’re really critically checking out what’s there and decide if you’re going to show it to anyone else. I would say that’s my most guilty pleasure, hopefully it doesn’t go on for long.

Much: Are you planning on releasing it anytime soon?

Bahamas: I’d like to, I’m just on tour so I’m not really in a rush basically. If people will keep asking me to play, then I’ll gladly play and just put out the record when I have time.

Much: Any chance of any of your friends from the Bonfire Ball collaborating with you on your next album?

Bahamas: Oh, absolutely. Like I said I’ve been playing with these guys for so long, and we’re just constantly crossing paths so it really wouldn’t be unlikely for that to happen.

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