Bringing bromance to the music

Ottawa band James And Blackburn tells the story of how they first met at an Italian restaurant

James And Blackburn bassist Landon Kotchapaw says the band returns to Kingston often because his parents live here. He also says when they come to play the Mansion tonight, they’re looking forward to visiting his brother’s friend’s house, which has been dubbed “Bitty City.”
James And Blackburn bassist Landon Kotchapaw says the band returns to Kingston often because his parents live here. He also says when they come to play the Mansion tonight, they’re looking forward to visiting his brother’s friend’s house, which has been dubbed “Bitty City.”
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Ultimately, it was pasta that brought them together.

So the guys from James And Blackburn tell me on the other end of the phone as they drove down Highway 401 back to Toronto.

The alt-rock trio has an I Love You Man bromance going on that everyone can appreciate. Their sense of camaraderie is evident as they joke with me about their favourite hobbies outside of music.

“Tell her we dabble in witchcraft!,” vocalist Owen Edwards offers. We all laugh.

Five years ago, bassist Landon Kotchapaw and drummer Sébastien Button were working together at an Italian restaurant in Ottawa.

Somewhere between the food and talks about music, the two became friends and with Landon’s cousin Owen Edwards, created a band.

Naming the band came easily.

“[Owen and I] lived on James St. in Ottawa, then when we met Sébastien, he was living on Blackburn Ave.,” Kotchapaw said.

Since the group first formed, they released a self-titled EP in 2009, and their Island Universe LP in January of last year. Listening to the LP gives a sense of the band’s impressive range of capability.

“We’re kind of fascinated with making big sounds. When you’re a three-piece band, you have to be so aware there’s a huge space to fill, and be all the more smart with filling up that space directly,” Kotchapaw said.

Songs like “Merry Go-Round” and “Holiday” fill up that space with astonishing ease. The group’s tracks are simultaneously epic and tender, with the bass and drum lines providing an unshakeably solid foundation for Edwards’s yearning vocal style and thoughtful lyrics.

Button joined in calling their music “accessible” to university crowds, the band’s favourite audiences.

“He loves calling our music accessible,” Kotchapaw laughed.

And James And Blackburn are no strangers to Queen’s and the Kingston musical circuit.

“We’ve been pretty regular in coming to Kingston. My parents live in Kingston, so whenever we’re coming through Kingston we’re always stopping there for food,” Kotchapaw jokes.

There’s one distinct place that the band will visit when they come back to Kingston tonight.

“My brother’s friends, three girls actually, have a home they call ‘Bitty City’. We’ve never been there, but we’re pretty big fans of the name.”

James And Blackburn play the Mansion tonight at 9 p.m.

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