OK, a clown walks into a saloon playing Gypsy music. It's not the beginning of a bad joke. It's the best way to describe Blackberry Wood.
Offensive? Nah! The Vancouver band just makes categorization exceedingly difficult by combining Acoustic driven tunes with horns a-plenty and lyrics harking back to dusty old Western saloons, playing off what the Grateful Dead did with their "Mexicali Blues" and extending it to a live show's worth of material.
Frontman and primary songwriter Kris Wood inspired by early North American music recordings from between 1910 and 1930, before the categorization of "blues" or "folk" or "jazz" was even a consideration.
"That's the reason I like all that music. It has a purpose. When they recorded the blues guitarists, they're recording someone who goes to house parties and entertains there. When they record a country band, they're recording the band that goes to the halls to entertain people. For me, that's a bit more pure," says Wood.
For Blackberry Wood, playing music is about connecting with people and entertaining them more than anything else, much like it was in the old days. Sure selling 10 million copies of their debut album, Travelling Horse Opry is appealing - making a living is important, after all - but fame and fortune is merely a nice payoff for the hard work, if it comes, not the reason for the hard work.
"As an entertainer, your job is to entertain people. If they like what you're doing then more people will know about," says Wood. "So the first goal is to entertain and to try to make a living doing that. The other stuff happens on it's own. Or it doesn't, but it's all part of the way it all works."
The band, which resides in the Commercial Drive area of Vancouver, has plans to collaborate with other artists to create puppetry for their live shows. The neighbourhood, which gave birth to multimedia project the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret, has fostered an environment of collaboration of differing artists, where painters play with actors play with musicians play with dancers, to create unique theatre experience on the fringe.
Wood says Blackberry Wood hasn't necessarily had the time to be a part of these projects but they have influenced them nonetheless, both their shows and their sound, which combines burlesque sensibilities with a bit of circus surrealism.
They've had an unusual touring pattern, living basically on the road - as many indie bands are wont to do - jumping from town to small town all over Canada, then hopping the Atlantic for frequent tours of the UK, even playing the last two Glastonbury festivals - where their then-bassist was afforded the unique honour of using Lady Gaga's personal portable toilet - and occasionally dipping into the US.
"Some of our experiences have almost helped define our sound," he says. "We haven't gone any kind of standard path and that comes out in the music as well. It doesn't come out as any standard music."