Cutting their hockey teeth

Afie Jurvanen talks to the Journal about memorable musical relationships and the serious side of moustaches

Jurvanen may have a hard time getting people to pronounce his name right, but when it comes to his tunes and the excitement surrounding Bahamas’ first headlining tour “Hockey Teeth in Canada,” no clarification is needed.
Jurvanen may have a hard time getting people to pronounce his name right, but when it comes to his tunes and the excitement surrounding Bahamas’ first headlining tour “Hockey Teeth in Canada,” no clarification is needed.

Long months on the road can be exhausting, but after spending a year and a half opening for Canadian indie darlings Amy Millan, Jason Collett and Wilco, alt-folk musician Afie Jurvanen is ready for more.

Jurvanen, who adopted the moniker Bahamas when he began his solo work, has just embarked on his first cross-Canada headlining tour with his trusty companion Jason Tait of The Weakerthans on the drum set.

And after the first three shows, the duo couldn’t be happier.

“It’s just such a different thing going to play [when] people know the songs and they’re signing along,” he said. “It’s just really been a treat, these first few shows.”

Before transitioning from backing guitarist to solo front man, Jurvanen and a number of collaborations with some of Canada’s most prominent acts, having strummed his Strat with the likes of Feist, Howie Beck and Great Lake Swimmers. Even after embarking on his solo career, Jurvanen said he’s still eager to share the stage and the studio with his friends, touring last year with Zeus and Jason Collett collectively as “The Bonfire Ball.”

Jurvanen said collaborating with his pals comes organically and often goes unplanned.

“I see those guys all the time. We live in the same neighbourhood and we’re constantly hanging out,” he said. “It’s just natural … It’s more just based on a friendship that already exists.”

Jurvanen’s first album, Pink Strat, which features backup by Zeus and Feist, among others, was released in 2009 to positive reception from both fans and critics alike. The album, full of laid-back lovesick tracks and a few bouncy numbers to display Jurvanen’s guitar skill, was Juno-nominated for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year and earned a place on the prestigious Polaris Prize long-list. Despite the critical acclaim, Jurvanen said recording the album was a laid-back process for him.

“I just invited some friends over, they didn’t know the songs at all. We sat around and played. We maybe ran through it once or twice and in some cases those are the versions that are on the album. It’s that initial run-through where everyone’s really just listening,” he said. “Those are my favourite moments.”

Now in the process of finishing up his second album set to be released in the spring, Jurvanen said he’s looking forward to sharing his new material with his fans.

“It’s kind of a different record and it’s definitely influenced by all this touring we’ve been doing. Its more electric guitar and more singing and it’s more fleshed out than the first one … I feel like the songs are stronger and I’m excited to share it with people,” Jurvanen said.

Jurvanen, who has been playing with Tait for over a year now, said he attributes the second album’s musical development to the duo’s positive working relationship.

“The musical relationship, it’s complex. When you meet someone that you ‘get’, that’s a really special thing and I’m really lucky to have met [Jason] and to be able to play with him so much,” Jurvanen said. “He listens and he shares and he subscribes to the same things that I do when it comes to wanting to make music and what you get out of it.”

Jurvanen and Tait will spend the next month touring across Canada, coast to coast. Having played in Kingston many times over his career, Jurvanen said he’s excited to return to The Grad Club and is expecting a bit of a party crowd.

“We’re playing a lot of listening rooms on this tour and small theatres and community centres, and I really do like playing those venues because it gives you a chance to play the quieter songs and explore some different stuff. But that being said, it’s really fun to play in the bars, too, and play a little bit more of a rockin’ set,” he said. “I always like The Grad Club. I’m sure it’s going to be a fun time.”

While touring this past year, Jurvanen sported a prominent mustache as part of his laid-back vintage get-up. When asked about Movember, Jurvanen admitted to his initial obliviousness.

“I’m all for raising money for cancer research of all kinds. But I had one for a long time and I never really meant for it to be ironic or funny, but it just ended up being that way because of things like Movember. So in reaction to that I very quickly shaved it off and I haven’t had one since,” Jurvenen said with a laugh. However, he promised his clean-shaven face wouldn’t detract from his performance on tour.

“The songs will still sound good. I can get closer to the microphone now!”

Bahamas play with Doug Paisley tonight at the Grad Club at 10 p.m.

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