Former Rheostatic carves musical territory

Tim Vesley’s new band, the Violet Archers, marks a new beginning in Can-rock

The Violet Archers include Ida Nilson of the West Coast pop-rock outfit Great Aunt Ida (far left) and former Rheostatics bassist Tim Vesley (centre).
The Violet Archers include Ida Nilson of the West Coast pop-rock outfit Great Aunt Ida (far left) and former Rheostatics bassist Tim Vesley (centre).

When iconic indie act The Rheostatics called it quits after 27 years of warming Canadian rock fans’ hearts, it was a sensible but bittersweet break-up. Fortunately, out of The Rheostatics’ shadow grew bassist Tim Vesley’s new band the Violet Archers.

Vesley had already been pursuing the Violet Archers, named after the Canadian composer, when he decided he needed a change from The Rheostatics. Vesley decided to leave and the group agreed it was their time and took a graceful last bow on Toronto’s Massey Hall stage last March.

The departure signalled a fresh start for Vesley and a chance to take his music career in a different, more personal direction.

“This is a lot more focused. I guess I’m the songwriter … and the record producer. I’m sort of following a bit more of my vision of these songs I’ve written,” Vesley said.

Vesley created the Violet Archers as a solo project to record his own songs. Starting with drummer Steve Pitkin, Vesley began to build his sound in the studio. But in order to play live, he recruited some more musician friends, adding bassist Aaron McPherson, guitarist Yawd Sylvester and finally Ida Nilson of Great Aunt Ida and The Butless Chaps to flesh out his songs.

Vesley creates subtly layered rock songs with mellow tinges and the addition of Nilson on vocals and piano creates a balanced dynamic between their voices that adds depth to the arrangements. After recording one song with Nilson, Vesley realized his album needed Nilson to be complete.

“I guess the record was almost done, and I had a last minute transformation […] certainly unexpected and we hit it off musically and I’ve been collaborating with her ever since.”

Nilson and Vesley are on tour together with Nilson’s band Great Aunt Ida. Also touring with them is Kim Barlow. It’s the first time this group has played together as a unit but Vesley is enthusiastic about the set-up. They roll into town tonight to play as part of Apple Crisp’s music series at Queen Street United Church.

Stepping away from the Rheostatics, Vesley found the change of bands welcome. It also gave him a chance to carve out some new musical territory for himself.

“It was actually a healthy transition, going off and doing this thing on my own. I found this confidence that I never realized I had before because being in The Rheostatics there’s always someone to step or hide behind.”

The Violet Archers released an album called The End of Part One in 2005 and now another album, serving thematically as a second part, is in the works.

“It’s definitely part two. I’m not going to call it that because that would be the lamest title. It is definitely a continuation of that, the same kind of writing and production.

“Hopefully it’s going to sound a little better because I’ve learned a lot,” he said.

The Violet Archers may mark the end of Vesley’s era with the Rheostatics, but the band is something of a beginning for Vesley to become more of a musical director. “I strive to write good songs, and I guess musically I strive to present them in the way that I hear them ringing around in my head. … I have more the ability to do this with this configuration, being more the leader.”

Touring comes as a bit of a change of focus for Vesley because the band has been more concentrated on recording the new album. Now he has the chance to take the songs to a live audience, which is one of his priorities for the Violet Archers.

Though he’s a veteran of the Canadian indie-rock scene, Vesley is excited and constantly checking out new, alternative voices.

“I’m totally inspired to be making music in this indie rock era and inspired to listen to it. There’s just been this amazing boom which has come from this digital revolution,” Vesley said.

“It’s great to be a spectator of, and I’m also proud ’cause I’ve always known great musicians in this country who have been playing great music even though not a lot of people go to hear it. … It’s like knowing the potential is there all along and getting to see it come to fruition.”

The Violet Archers, a refreshing new voice and part of that potential, may prove break-ups aren’t so bad.

“Being inspired by life and not being daunted by it, just changing things up is a good thing. That’s kind of what The End of Part One is about: change how daunting it is and how inspiring it is.”

The Violet Archers play tonight at Queen Street United Church at 221 Queen St. at 7 p.m. for $5.

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