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Bedouin Soundclash heeds the call of the mountains

Toronto band hits the Olympic Plaza state on July 14

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Jay Malinowski often dreams of the mountains. And not in that figurative, gushy sort of way that former mountain dwellers pine for the peaks while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic or something. I mean, literally, the guy dreams of mountains constantly.

"I have recurring dreams of mountains all the time. I'm not kidding. It's really odd," says Malinowski, frontman of Canada's beloved reggae-tinged pop outfit, Bedouin Soundclash. "I've asked many people—some professionals—what it all means, and the answer is, always, 'I dunno.' Maybe I'll find out in Whistler when we play our show."

Armchair psychoanalysis aside, Malinowski and Whistler have had a fruitful, if intermittent, relationship over the years. The resort was where Bedouin Soundclash got to perform alongside legendary crooner Elvis Costello and groundbreaking hip-hop band The Roots as part of the short-lived Whistler Music Festival back in 2008. It's where Malinowski, something of an artistic jack of all trades, landed his own art exhibit at The Crystal Gallery four years ago. And it's where the Juno-winning trio will return this weekend to perform as part of the Whistler Presents Free Outdoor Concert Series.

But getting here has been a long and winding road, with plenty of stops and starts along the way. Formed in 2001 after meeting at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., the band's first breakout hit came in 2004 with the chart-topping single, "When the Night Feels My Song." They parlayed that success domestically and abroad—Bedouin Soundclash has always enjoyed a healthy following in the U.K.— into a spot on the legendary Vans Warped Tour.

In 2010, the band inked a deal with Sony Music Canada to launch its own label, Pirates Blend Records. Malinowski's debut solo effort, Bright Lights and Bruises, marked the label's first release.

Then, in May 2017, Bedouin released its first single, "Clock Work," in nearly seven years. But that didn't mean they didn't keep busy during the hiatus.

"We took eight years off, which is a lifetime in the music industry," Malinowski recalls. "There was a period when me and (bassist) Eon (Sinclair) were just happy being friends and we didn't feel the need to write anything else. He was DJing, I went off and wrote a book and did a completely different sounding thing on a side project."

In 2011, Malinowski tapped Montreal indie pop darling Coeur de pirate for the five-song EP, Armistice. He followed that up with another side project, The Deadcoast, which ultimately led to 2014's Martel, a concept album that detailed the life of one of Malinowski's French Huguenot ancestors and his nautical expedition across the Atlantic. That album culminated in an illustrated novella Malinowski wrote, Skulls & Bones: 14 Letters from a Sailor at the End of the World that continued the sailor's story.

The side projects were a significant departure from the upbeat, ska rhythms of Bedouin Soundclash's prior work, a period in which Malinowski said he had no interest in "making danceable music."

"If you listen to the Deadcoast project I did, which is all string music, it's pretty dark," he explains. "I made that while I was living in Gastown, which can be a very dark place."

For its next album, +MASS-, due out next year, Bedouin Soundclash tapped New Orleans' iconic Preservation Hall Jazz Band and recorded down in the Big Easy. The result is a horn-heavy, jazz-infused feel that draws from its historic surroundings.

"That kind of Second Line shit," Malinowski says, referring to New Orleans' flamboyant tradition of brass band parades.

Malinowski can draw parallels no matter what medium he's working in, be it writing a novella, painting a canvas, or in the studio. And he admits to being a bit of a workaholic in whatever he takes on.

"I'm a pretty all-or-nothing person in everything I do in life. So if it's one thing, I'm just doing that. But they all carry over. If I'm writing, I'm just writing. Composition is really similar in a lot of ways. If it's visual, you're still trying to find that perfect mean, and the same thing with a sentence or a story," he says. "But usually, I'm like, 'I'm done because what I had to say is over.' I kind of have the feeling that that's all I'll ever have to say in my life, so I move onto a different crop. I'll get to music and then I'll jut write for nine months, and then I think, 'OK, that's probably the last record I'll ever write, so I might as well start painting now because I've got nothing to do.' Music is the one that I make my living from, so it's important to come back to it."

Fortunately for us, Malinowksi has still got plenty to say.

Bedouin Soundclash hits the Olympic Plaza stage on Saturday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m.

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