A&E » Arts

A natural new sound

Duo creates fusion of folk and roots with an island flair


p class=Style1>Who: Jon and Roy

When: Friday, May 16, 10 p.m.

Where: GLC

Tickets: $10

Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer are Jon and Roy, a diverse musical duo based out of Victoria. But don’t let the simple name deceive you — with a blend of rich vocals, melodic guitar and a mellow beat, their sound is layered and somewhat reminiscent of classic folk, with a slight reggae feel.

Middleton and Vizer first met up while studying at the University of Victoria and started jamming together, learning new instruments along the way.

Now, with Vizer on a full trap set and drum kit, and Middleton on acoustic guitar, bass and the ukulele, their sound is rounded out by laid back, easy rhythms and vocals.

These boys tap into a few different musical genres to create their own sound — they draw on folk and roots, with a bit of reggae to liven things up.

“Reggae is a very integral part of our music, though we don’t really play strict reggae at all… just the overall rhythms,” Middleton explained.

They also enjoy listening to a lot of folk, like Bob Dylan, and still try to incorporate some global influences, like African and Cuban rhythms, into their music.

And don’t forget the lyrics — Middleton is the man behind the poetry of Jon and Roy.

Though he draws on a combination of personal experience and larger global issues, Middleton explained his real inspiration comes from listening to good music.

“If I’m in a zone where it seems like there’s a lot of good music out there and I’m listening to a lot of good stuff, it definitely influences me,” he said.

But their music really is a collaborative effort.

“I’d say writing, I’m constantly just playing my guitar and coming up with new things, and I just really enjoy that,” said Middleton. “If something comes along that I really like and kind of sticks in my head after a couple weeks or a month, then we’ll start trying to put lyrics to it, and then from there, I just bring it to Roy, and the drums come in.”

To bring some free-form elements into their live performances, other musicians playing the mandolin, harmonica, melodica and bass regularly join the duo.

“Just to make it more interesting live, really, for everybody’s sake and ours,” Middleton explained. “It just fills it out and allows you to do different things, like jam on stuff.”

They’ve released three self-produced CDs. Middleton said the first, Sitting Back , was “very minimalist,” with no drums, only vocals and percussion, while the second CD was Middleton’s solo disc.

Their music has evolved over the years, with the introduction of different instruments.

“It’s hard to really change your sound that much, when you’re acoustic,” said Middleton.

But their latest album, Another Noon , has a more cohesive sound, with more drums than percussion to balance with the lyrical content. Whether you’re in the car or sitting in your living room on a rainy day, the mellow rhythms promise to help you relax and unwind.

Over the years, they’ve shared stages with Canadian bands like Current Swell and Hey Ocean!, and international bands, like the Beautiful Girls and State Radio. Their music has also been used in surf videos and included on a soundtrack for the popular PBS TV program Road Trip Nation, and on National Geographic programming.

They most recently managed to land a weeklong spot touring the UK with Buck 65 in mid-March.

“It was great! It was really fun. It was a bit of a whirlwind,” said Middleton, adding that they flew into London at 10 a.m., collected their gear, and drove straight to Brighton to play a gig that night. But it was well worth the stress.

“The venues were awesome, Buck 65 is wicked and the crowds were great!” said Middleton.

They also just received word that their title track, Another Noon, has been picked up by Volkswagen for a nine-month North American TV advertising campaign.

“It’s definitely possibly a very good way of exposing ourselves, and also just kind of a step in a positive direction towards a more professional music career, which is good,” said Middleton.

He explained that licensing music for advertising purposes is a trend a lot of musicians are following.

“It’s kind of developed now into like a revenue source for independent musicians, really,” he said. “...The whole musical landscape is changing, so you have to find new ways to expose yourself and make money.”

Now, Middleton and Vizer are working on some new material, but are focusing on promoting Another Noon and are planning a few smaller tours throughout Canada this summer.

Jon and Roy recently performed in Whistler during the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, but their upcoming show will be their first real gig in town, and Vizer said they plan to make it a show to remember, bringing a few friends to jam with.