AFIE JURVANEN a.k.a. BAHAMAS recently visited New Zealand to fill-in as a guitarist in City And Colour's touring-band - also opening up the Auckland Town Hall show with his own solo set, introducing the audience to acoustic versions of songs from both his 'Barchords' and 'Pink Strat' albums.
COUP DE MAIN: Welcome to New Zealand! Is it your first time here?
BAHAMAS - AFIE JURVANEN: Thank you. Yeah, it is. I’m having a really nice time so far, I’ve only been here for a couple of days. I went to Piha yesterday and drank some beer on the beach, met a cool dog. Yeah, pretty much all the things I do at home.
CDM: How did you come to be a part of City And Colour’s backing-band for this tour?
BAHAMAS: Well I have a band, as maybe you know, it’s called Bahamas and we just tour together, we all live in Toronto. There’s a small musical community of people there that are pretty close, and who have just sort of known each other over the years, with different capacities. We did that tour together and he invited us to do this tour, and I said ‘yes’. His guitar player is afraid of flying or something like that, so he said: “Well, Danny’s not going to come, so would you just fill in?" So I get to play music all night, which is always a thrill. Because normally you’d drive all day and then you’d play for like half-an-hour, so this way I get to play my own songs and hang out with my friends and play his songs...
CDM: And eat sandwiches?
BAHAMAS: And eat sandwiches and draw weird pictures of myself.
CDM: Who are your main songwriting influences or inspirations?
BAHAMAS: Like everyone else I like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, but I think my friends more than anything, my friends in Toronto. There’s a guy named Doug Paisley who is a really fantastic songwriter and a friend of mine, and there’s another band called The Weather Station. I think that a lot of that music is close to me, and so I don’t think it necessarily sounds like my music, or that I’m trying to emulate what those people are doing, but I do think that you pick up things through osmosis. They’re just things of quality, and I suppose I’ll go hoping I'm making something quality as well, you know?
CDM: Congratulations on ‘Barchords’, it’s definitely one of my favourite albums of this year so far. What does the title mean personally to you?
BAHAMAS: Oh thanks so much! Well, I don’t know if you play guitar or not, but barre chords are an utilitarian type of musical tool, and they’re used in country music, and all kinds of different genres really. They’re maybe the simplest, most direct way of getting a musical idea across, and I suppose I just like the idea of that representing the album, because I did try and keep those things in mind when I was recording and writing songs.
CDM: ‘Barchords’ was only released in New Zealand digitally, so for people who might not have heard your music before, how would you describe it to them?
BAHAMAS: I would say that it’s very quiet... I’m interested in a lot of different ways of music, I kinda think of it as a Rock & Roll record. I mean, there’s slower songs and fast songs and you know, songs with cowboy chords and things like that, but there’s no synthesisers or drum-machines. It’s very much people playing in a room together, and that’s more or less the recording. I don’t spend a lot of time wondering about production or fancy mixing techniques or anything like that, I just try and write a good song and play it.
CDM: What do you feel are the main differences between your debut album ‘Pink Strat’ and your new album 'Barchords'?
BAHAMAS: I suppose the main difference is that I didn’t know what I was doing when I made my first record; I was just hanging out with my friends and recording. For the second one it was the opposite, I now had a band and had songs and I was touring around, and so making the second one I had much more purpose, much more intent.
CDM: What was your favourite part or song of ‘Barchords’ to record?
BAHAMAS: Probably ‘Lost In The Light’, it’s the first song on the record and we recorded it last. The record was done and then I wrote that song, and I realised that no, this song is part of that album. We recorded it a year ago yesterday, which was my birthday. So we recorded it on my birthday which was really fun, because my drummer made a pie, he made a vegan pie, and we had tons of food. It was really just a celebration, and I think that even though the song is kind of a darker idea, there’s something about that celebration that made it onto the recording. It’s like an uplifting feeling for me.
CDM: What are your favourite lyrics that you’ve ever written, and why?
BAHAMAS: Wow, this is really all about stroking my own ego huh? "I’m so amazing because..." I dunno! I mean I’m quite proud of the lyrics for ‘Lost In The Light’, just because I do think it’s straight-forward, there’s nothing complicating it, you know? I think there’s a narrative there, and I suppose I just connect with everything in that song, all of the sentiments in that song.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN THE BAHAMAS, YOU WOULD FIND ME...
ON A SNOWY DAY BACK HOME IN CANADA, YOU'D FIND ME...
CDM: Can you name ten bands or artists that you feel have 'changed your life'?
BAHAMAS: Ten?! Off the top of my head?! I dunno, I don’t even know if I have ten different bands on my iPod. Well, definitely Willie Nelson and Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Joni Mitchell... I suppose there are others, but those are the ones that I go back to time and time again. A lot of the other ones may have meant something for a brief moment, but they aren’t necessarily deep wells that I draw from.
CDM: Do you think that being a self-taught guitarist has affected your approach to songwriting?
BAHAMAS: Absolutely. If you’re a self-taught chef, it influences the food that you make and eat. In many ways I was jealous of my friends that had guitar lessons and stuff when I was younger, but now I do feel like it’s in some ways an advantage to be liberated from any types of rules or ideas. I understand that stuff, and definitely have a lot of respect for the tradition of music and music theory, and composition and all that sort of stuff, but I mean... if it feels good, then do it. That’s more the programme that I’m on.
CDM: Do you have a favourite anecdote from your time spent touring with Feist?
BAHAMAS: I don’t have any anecdotes, but I’m quite proud of my contribution to that music and again, those are all friends of mine from Toronto, the whole band. I got to travel around with my friends and play music, and it just so happened that that music became very popular right at that time, so we got to play at some amazing places and beautiful theatres. I can’t say enough good things about Les[lie] and her music! She’s the real deal.
CDM: Feist and Mastodon just released a split 7-inch together. If you could record a split 7-inch with anyone - so them covering one of your songs and you covering one of theirs - who would you choose and why?
BAHAMAS: I’d probably do a split 7-inch with Lucinda Williams. I think she’s a fantastic songwriter and I sing her songs all the time in the dressing room and places like that. If she ever looks at your website and wants to get a hold of me, then give her my e-mail.
CDM: What are your five favourite things in the whole wide world?
BAHAMAS: Music, I think my friends and my family are a big thing, back home I spend a lot of my time thinking about them, and would like to spend more time with them. I think food is a very big one for me, it’s the common ground for everyone, I mean you’ve gotta put stuff into your body every day, so I guess I care more about that stuff than I care about Facebook or something like that. In fact, I don’t care at all about Facebook! I think my friends and family and food and music, that’s good, that's a life-time’s worth of stuff to care about right?
CDM: We’re nick-naming the next issue of our magazine 'The We Hearts [Canada] Issue' because Dallas Green and another Canadian artist are on the cover. What would be your top five must-knows about Canada for New Zealanders?
BAHAMAS: Well, Bahamas is number one... <laughs> No, I don’t know. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and play live music in a lot of different places, but I think that Canada’s a really vibrant country, and it’s really diverse. There are a lot of different types of people there, it creates for an interesting cultural landscape. The natural landscape is epically beautiful. Like yesterday when I was in Piha, I was thinking: "Wow, this is incredible, we don’t have anything like this!” And of course you fantasise about the thing you don’t have. But as we were driving back from the beach, I was thinking: "Wait a sec, we have tons of incredible things." The country is so big and there’s so much diversity from one coast to the other, and I think that there’s just not that many people there, so it’s hard to celebrate all that stuff. But I would say that the people in Canada are very warm and welcoming, and in my experience that seems to be a good start for whatever else comes after.
BAHAMAS' new album 'Barchords' is out now - featuring the single 'Caught Me Thinking'. Click HERE to purchase via iTunes.
Watch the 'Caught Me Thinking' music video below...