Strummin’ in the Limestone again

The Juno-nominated “folk popgrass” band The Strumbellas will play an emotional show at the Grad Club next Friday

The band released We Still Move on Dance Floors last month.
The band released We Still Move on Dance Floors last month.
Supplied by Heather Pollock

Birthed from Craigslist, six-piece band The Strumbellas has had to fight for where they stand.

After writing songs since childhood, member Simon Ward posted an ad on Craigslist a few years ago in the hopes of forming a band.

“[I] probably had like 12 people come to my apartment and try out,” he said.

The Toronto-based bluegrass indie rock band is comprised of six diverse musicians: Ward (vocals and guitar), David Ritter (percussion and piano), Jeremy Drury (drums), Isabel Ritchie (violin), Jon Hembrey (guitar) and Darryl James (bass).

“We all have really different personalities. I’m the flaky weird guy, and Darryl … is the responsible businessman,” Ward said. “Dave is the thinker, [Izzy] is sweet and nice … and then Jeremy the drummer is Jeremy the drummer.”

The band released their second album, We Still Move On Dance Floors on Oct. 22. Their first album, My Father and The Hunter, released last year, was nominated for the 2013 Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year.

The recently-released video for the album’s single “End of an Era” received close to 90,000 YouTube hits in a day.

“It went kind of viral to be honest,” Ward said.

They may not be used to this kind of attention, but after perseverance, success came.

“It took us like three years of playing every single possible show we could take,” Ward, who played farmer’s markets and birthday parties with the band, said.

While the band has previously played most of their shows in Toronto, they’re currently touring throughout the country. For Ward, it can be tough.

“I find touring extremely challenging and I’m surprised I haven’t had a nervous breakdown yet,” he said, “but I wouldn’t rule that out because I go a little bit crazy when I’m on the road.” Touring involves spending copious amounts of time in a van and waiting at venues, he said.

In addition to the hardships of touring, Ward has teared up on stage while performing some of his more personal songs. The writing, he said, comes naturally.

“It’s the kind of person that I am and that kind of stayed true [to the new album],” he said.

Ward hopes his lyrics and music help fans cope with various problems that occur in their lives.

“I write a lot about loss and personal sadness and I’ve had a ton of people come up to me and tell me that my music has helped them through dark times,” he said. “When somebody … tells me that they really connect with my words and the things I’m saying, that’s all that matters to me.”

While performing sad songs can be difficult, Ward said that it’s often liberating.

“The easiest part is putting my emotions out … it’s not a struggle at all. I love it,” Ward said. “In a perfect world I’d make people cry [with my lyrics] if I could.”

The Strumbellas will be playing on Dec. 6 at the Grad Club.

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