Canadian Music Corner: Bahamas & Planet Surfers

Travis Persaud, Contributor Ω

When an artist makes the decision to tour, tough choices are made regarding who and what to travel with. Setting himself apart from the rest, Afie Jurvanen, better known as Bahamas, has most recently toured solely with two vocalists and The Weakerthan’s drummer, Jason Tait. Jurvanen, with a Silvertone electric guitar in his seasoned hands, fills out any obvious potential for a flat live show playing with a mastered patience and respect for a crafted minimalist sound.

Jurvanen intimately draws in audiences at his shows with his personal dialogue, free-wheeling style and his stage antics. At a show in Guelph, Ont., this summer Jurvanen played Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” with a dog puppet, borrowed from an attendee, on his fret hand while joking being dressed like Garth Brooks.

Before forming Bahamas, Jurvanen had his roots firmly planted in the Toronto scene, especially within the Broken Social Scene and Arts & Crafts crowd. He has toured and recorded with Jason Collett and Leslie Feist, bringing his high school friends along for the ride. These friends went on to play as Collett’s backing band while developing a band of their own, Zeus. Jurvanen’s career is a testament to the adage that it pays to have good friends.

Bahamas’ second release, Barchords, propelled Jurvanen to fame in 2012. Riding the success of the album, Jurvanen earned a spot on the Polaris Prize’s Long List, the closing spot on Spin’s top 10 shows at South by Southwest and a reversal in roles with Jason Collett, seeing Bahamas securing the headlining spot on shows together.

From the grizzly beard and breezy acoustics seen on Pink Strat (Bahamas’ first release) to Barchords‘ clean-shaven class of times gone by, Jurvanen is a smooth listen all around.

As a diving point, check out “I Got You Babe” off of Barchords.

The Planet Smashers
Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Ω

A regularly underappreciated genre, ska still thrives in Canada with hubs in Montreal, Winnipeg and Victoria. Central to the Montreal scene is the Planet Smashers.

These vets have been skanking (a traditional ska dance) and singing since 1994. Despite the long career, the music they make is as goofy, fun and carefree as ever. The band’s latest release invites the crowd or listener to dance like a hippopotamus. For those really listening though, the simple fun lyrics often have double meanings, though not usually too serious either.

Apart from the bouncy, brass-filled tunes, the band is heavily involved in the ska scene – in Montreal and the nation. Frontman Matt Collyer started up ska label Stomp Records (now part of the Union Label Group) that produced albums and compilations specializing in third-wave ska (a sub-genre which includes Reel Big Fish and Sublime).

While not known as prolific songwriters, if one is travelling in Quebec or Ontario, Planet Surfers play a bunch of shows close to home which are always a crazy, fun time. If not, try the track “Surfin’ in Tofino.”

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