One man band

Reformed back-up boy Afie Jurvanen releases a solo record, starts his cross-Canada tour and gives himself a new name

Afie Jurvanen
Image supplied by: Supplied
Afie Jurvanen

Imagine one day you agree to play back-up for your friend’s band. After some hard work and hours on the road, your friend gains notoriety and international acclaim. Your name isn’t on the ticket, but you play to crowds of hundreds and sometimes even thousands every night. Repeat this process and you have the life story of Afie Jurvanen, who’s played back-up guitar in some of Canada’s hottest acts—until now.

“It’s not really like going solo in the traditional sense,” Jurvanen, known as Bahamas, confesses. “I’ve always been writing songs and I’ve had my own bands over the years … But as I started touring with other bands it became a bigger commitment and I obviously had to put my own tunes aside for a while and you know, six months turned into a year, a year turned into two years and so on.”

Refusing to let his own music go unheard, Jurvanen has made the transition from back-up guitarist to full-fledged rising indie artist. “I’m just so thrilled that I have time now to get out there and play my own shows now,” Jurvanen said. “The last bunch of years that I’ve been playing with Feist, or [Jason] Collett, or Amy [Millan], I mean it’s been such a thrill and I’m so proud to have been a part of that.” Jurvanen said he’s even looking forward to the mundane things most musicians loathe about the road.

“I’m getting my own chance to work on my own shitty stage banter,” Jurvanen chuckled. “I definitely like being in charge of booking hotels and driving and all that stuff. It’s exciting to me, maybe because I haven’t done it in a while. I’m sure it’ll get old after this tour, but right now I’m really up to it.”

Jurvanen’s latest record is called Pink Strat and had a recording process that was unlikely, but eventually led Jurvanen to the moniker Bahamas.

“I recorded it in this cabin that’s maybe an hour and half north of Toronto. It was really just so peaceful and easy and so effortless, which is kind of the opposite of a lot of recordings I’ve been a part of,” Jurvanen said. “We really just took a minimal amount of gear into this little cabin, and I invited some friends over for a day or two and I literally just said ‘Okay, it’s this chord and this chord and you know, do whatever you want.’ It was so relaxing, we were swimming and having a nice barbeque—it was the summertime.

“It wasn’t your typical studio experience, it was the opposite. I wasn’t feeling any pressure. It was just capturing a spirit of being free and loose and I think you can hear that on the recording.” Among Jurvanen’s friends are some of Canada’s most beloved and up-and-coming musicians. Former band mates from Zeus, The Great Lake Swimmer and Paso Mino make appearances on his record does Canadian superstar Feist.

“Feist did a raging guitar solo, which I’m really, really proud to say that she’s got the only guitar solo on our record,” Jurvanen said. “Whenever people ask her to come play they ask her to sing some ohs or awes, but I was like ‘No, I’m not getting you to sing, I’m getting you to play guitar.”

Jurvanen has also decided to ditch his commonly misprounced name for something more appropriate—Bahamas.

“I knew I didn’t want to go by Afie because well … basically since I was in grade school I’ve had to repeat my name three or four times whenever I meet anybody. So I knew that I wanted to have name for the project,” Jurvanen said. “I had a list of a few different things and as we were recording, as I said the vibe was just so relaxed and there’s a lot of slide guitar … and by the end of the recording session that name stuck out more so than any of the other ones. It’s funny how the title of the band influences the music too. The shows where we can be relaxed and loose and have that island vibe those are definitely the better ones.” Jurvanen’s island spirit seems to have infiltrated more than one area of his life. His relaxed attitude and earnest demeanor are unique, as are his ambitions.

“I’m always trying to write a better love song than the one before.” Jurvanen said. “I don’t have any ambitions to do anything out of the super-duper ordinary. I really just want to write great songs.”

Bahamas plays The Grad Club tonight with Amy Millan at 8 p.m. Some tickets are available at the door.

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