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Small Town Artillery make upbeat music with a message

Catch Vancouver rockers at The Point Artist-Run Centre on Feb. 16

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The pivotal movement when Tom Van Deursen knew he had to forge his own path happened at the Skookum Festival in the middle of Stanley Park.

Vernon, B.C. alt-rockers Daysormay were on stage when it suddenly hit him.

"I was watching their set and looking at their lead singer Aiden [Andrews]—so young, doing such a good job—and I started crying because I wanted to be him when I was his age, but I joined a different band doing different music," he says. "At that time I was 28 years old and looked at my life and said, 'If I wanted to give this dream a real chance, I have to go all in.'"

Van Deursen was a founding member of the much-loved funk-and-soul infused Vancouver band The Boom Booms—which still plays occasional gigs—at the time.

"I [said], 'I need to do this and break out on my own and try this out,'" he recalls. "I said, 'I'm going to step back somewhat with this band.'"

It turned out the timing was right with other band members equally occupied with other pursuits from a jazz trio to a new baby.

Nearly two years removed from that conversation, Van Deursen is all-in with his new band, Small Town Artillery. It was "100 per cent" the right choice, he says. "It's been amazing."

To trace that band's origins, you have to go all the way back to the small town of Kaslo, B.C. where Van Deursen first picked up a guitar at 11-years-old and his brother Derek learned drums at age nine.

"The dream we shared was to move to the big city and make a go of a career," he says. "I left first. I graduated. Through the grace of chance, I met The Boom Booms tree planting."

Derek arrived in Vancouver two years later, along with bassist Carson Webber—about a decade ago—but they didn't form Small Town Artillery for four more years.

"We've been super active for two years," Van Deursen adds.

From the beginning, they decided they wanted to be a rock band with a robust horn section.

"I've always loved brass and wanted to [use] it in a way that was different from what you normally hear," he says. "They'll take big, lead lines that a synth would normally take in modern rock. It's a bright, cutting sound."

It's also helped with their bookings. "We say, 'We have a horn section' and they say, 'You're a rock band, but I think it could work because the brass brings an element of something different and timeless.'"

The music might be bright, light, and get you dancing, but don't be fooled about the topics it covers—which range from oil consumption to capitalism.

"There's so much going on in the world that needs a voice," Van Deursen says. "Finding ways to champion that while we're on the road is important to me ... I educate myself, but I'm not on the frontlines fighting as hard as some of my friends are. It's a duty I have to articulate their struggles in whatever way I can."

The band will have a chance to spread that message across Canada when they kick off their cross-country tour on March 6 with a headlining show at Vancouver's Rickshaw Theatre.

"We're going from Alert Bay to Halifax," Van Deursen says. "We booked a lot of smaller towns. The connections you make are more tangible ... Growing up in a small town when we had bands come through and they stuck around after, you never forget. I can name all the bands that came through Kaslo as a kid."

To that end, Small Town Artillery are set to play The Point Artist-Run Centre as part of the Cypress Point Winter Carnival on Sunday, Feb. 16.

Van Deursen has played Whistler "more times than I have fingers," over the years, but never at The Point.

"There's horn solos, drum solos, guitar solos," Van Deursen says. "We're going to ask you to jump, wave your arms around and ask some thought-provoking questions through our music."

Tickets for the show are $35 with dinner or $20 for the show only. Get them at thepointartists.com/.

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