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Victoria band goes back to the roots of folk music

By Jason Herring, September 3 2015 —

The tradition of sharing folk music is alive and well with Victoria quartet Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra (TMO), who released their fourth full-length album, LOVE., on August 21. They’re now setting off on a tour across 25 cities in B.C. and Alberta.

TMO’s music is an organic mix of traditional acoustic folk music and African-influenced percussion and rhythm. The band’s synchronicity is mesmerizing, and their evident enthusiasm for their music is a treat to watch.

Guitarist and vocalist Kurt Loewen says the band’s love of music comes from the experience of sharing music with others.

“People think of us as a folk band because we play acoustic instruments, which is what the modern definition of folk music is,” Loewen says. “But I think folk music is more the tradition of sharing music with anyone. It’s the oral tradition of learning and passing down songs whether it’s with your friends or in your community, but it’s also about including people in the process. We embrace that a lot in both our writing and our performances.”

One thing that contributes to the intimacy of TMO’s music is the band’s commitment to holding shows in smaller towns that often get passed over. On this tour, the band is playing in places like Hinton and Revelstroke. Loewen says he appreciates playing in places like these because he gets to share his music with people who don’t have the opportunity to see concerts very often.

“Going to [smaller places], there’s a really big appreciation for music coming through because there isn’t a lot the city has to offer all the time. In Calgary or Vancouver, there’s hundreds of options any given night of the week, but that’s not what you get in a smaller place,” Loewen says. “I feel like when people come out they enjoy it because it’s more of a special event.”

TMO have always made a living by playing their music in small towns. Loewen recounts a formative experience busking on the streets of Europe in 2008. ENT_TMO_Courtesy_BitterNorthPhotography_WEB

“A lot of our first trip to Europe was busking. Everyday for a few months, we were playing. When how much food you’ll eat everyday is directly associated with whether you can get people to throw money in your box and buy CDs, it’s a really motivating factor,” Loewen says. “That’s the first time we were depending on our music. We got our performance chops during that time, because any inhibitions we had about being the centre of attention disappeared.”

While the band has been fortunate enough to not have to busk for their meals lately, they still enjoy playing to passersby. They even hold impromptu concerts on ferry trips to and from Vancouver Island.

Loewen says recording sessions for the TMO’s latest album, LOVE., were far more relaxed than sessions for previous albums. The album was recorded on the remote Quadra Island off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

“Our last recording sessions had timelines and budgets and grants in some cases. In terms of the actual production, we didn’t have any of those restrictions for this album,” he says. “We were writing, recording and pre-producing on the spot, which was a really unique experience. We didn’t have a plan about which songs to record or how we wanted the sessions to flow, which was really liberating.”

The free atmosphere of the recording sessions is evident on LOVE., which creates gorgeous soundscapes throughout. It’s another impressive release from a band that truly enjoys sharing their music with whomever will listen.

TMO will play Festival Hall on Tuesday, September 8 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 online at calgaryfolkfest.ticketfly.com.

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