Country kids in the indie city

Toronto’s eccentric indie collective Entire Cities and their homegrown organic rock hail from modest roots

Entire Cities harbours a not-so-secret crush on Kingston. It’s full of friends and bandmates.
Entire Cities harbours a not-so-secret crush on Kingston. It’s full of friends and bandmates.
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Supplied Photo by Pete Nema

While chatting on the phone to David Missio and Simon Boer of the indie alt-country rock collective Entire Cities, I rekindled my not-too-distant youth and felt like a teenage girl all over again. I was giggling, blushing and blurting out countless compliments throughout the interview—I just couldn’t help myself! Missio and Boer have all the charm of your high school crush before he realized he was too cool for school—actually the whole band is guilty of that. When I referenced shows I had seen, Misso was practically laughing in disbelief and Boer kept thanking me for interviewing them. If only all boys could be this sweet.

With an army of what he affectionately calls “transients and hobos” behind him, Boer has been the leader of Entire Cities since April 2006 when the band played their first show.

Three years later and it’s still hard for both listeners and the band to define what exactly Entire Cities sounds like. Beyond the typical rock outfit instrumentation the band employs trombones, banjos, a fiddle and yelling accompanied by sugar-sweet back-up vocals.

“I’m too close to it to stick a label on it. When I’m asked I always say ‘We sound like Tom Petty on some sort of horrible drug,’” Boer said.

Labels and titles aside, Boer is the band’s head songwriter and gets straight to the point when describing his writing style.

“Family, place, Jesus and girls,” Boer said with a laugh. “Yup, that’s pretty much what I write about. I write in two different ways. I write some lyrically traditional stuff. The song Coffee is very narrative, it’s telling a story. Then there’s the weird stuff where I’m just trying to figure stuff out.” Boer comes from the Ottawa valley and made the move to Toronto when he was 20. “When I’m going home you cross a line. The hip hop stations start to fade away and the country stations come in,” Boer said of his hometown. “I feel like I immigrated to an urban setting. I spent the first 20 years of my life in a rural place and rejecting it. But when I came to the city I realized how much a part of me it is. I’m a country boy.” “The people we play with aren’t a group of city slickers by any means,” lead guitarist and harmonica player Missio said. “It’s a mix.” Boer’s roots definitely explain the distinctly organic country sound Entire Cities explores that somehow seems incongruous with Toronto’s urban indie landscape. But there is a psychedelic influence that infiltrates their music, when watching the band perform live you can see them exploring and truly having fun, which explains “Tom Petty on drugs”—a validation to Boer’s claim.

The band has gone through much transformation since its initial inception three years ago. In the beginning Boer was eager to incorporate all of his musician friends in the band.

“We know a lot of talented people and we wanted them all to be in the band. It was great in theory—but after a while it became impossible,” Misso said.

The band has lost and gained members over the years and currently consists of Simon Boer (guitar, vox), Ruthee Dewji (flute, sax, vox) Andrew Haust (drums) Tamara Lineman (banjo, organ, vox) Missio (guitar, harmonica), former Kingstonian Nich Worby (bass, vox) and “long distance members” Stef Bruce (singing saw, autoharp) and Josh Lyon (keys, accordion, vox).

Coming to Kingston is a bit of a familiar and estranged homecoming for the band. Missio went to school at Queen’s for film and also worked for the Journal, Worby is also a Queen’s alumnus and “long distance member.” Lyon lives in Kingston and is in local band The Gertrudes.

“I’ve seen so many good bands at the Grad Club! It’s amazing that we get to play there,” Missio gushed.

Echoing Missio’s statement Boer said he also feels a connection to Kingston and wishes he could come to the Limestone City monthly to visit Lyon, his childhood friend and “musical guru.”

“Kingston is my second home,” Boer said.

Entire Cities have worked hard to make the big city of Toronto feel small by immersing themselves in a close-knit community of musicians who look out for each other.

“I think people are scared to move to Toronto because you can get lost in the shuffle. There has to be a support group because it’s hard,” Misso said. “We all need to be life-coached a little bit.” To be Misso’s life coach would be simple; he seems know exactly what he wants.

“I would be really happy if we could tour all across the country and I would just, like, eat peanut butter out of a jar,” he laughed.

Let’s hope Entire Cities get their wish and are touring across this great country in the near future—jars of peanut butter in hand. They’re just too nice to have their hearts broken.

Entire Cities play tomorrow night at The Grad Club.

Tickets are $11.

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