Get ready to see more of The Big Love Band around Whistler.
Made up of some long-time local musicians, the group is making a concerted effort to turn their party gigs into a full-time endeavour.
"The bars in Whistler are very supportive of musicians," says Erik Van Meerbergen, frontman of the band. "I (left) to go to Victoria last summer and came back with a bit more of a fire to get this going and the band was on board."
To that end, when the folk-meets-rock band isn't busy playing bars, breweries and pubs around town, they've been performing outdoors on the Village Stroll or at various family events.
"I think we have an idea of what we can be and the potential for (our) music and we're trying to get there," Van Meerbergen says.
The band began playing together in earnest in early 2017—though they've worked together in various projects over the years. The current lineup includes Brian MacDonald, who "doesn't even know how many bands he's played in" since moving to Whistler in '99, Kris Branch on lead guitar, Radim Koppitz on fiddle and Mark Bannock behind the drum kit.
"The way I play and the way they play is similar, but different," Van Meerbergen says. "I was doing more folky-country acoustic and they've been a lot more into rock 'n' roll ... Our whole thing is we have fun playing together and the whole thing is about fun for us. We want the crowd to have fun."
Like most Whistler bands, playing local venues has meant developing a strong roster of cover songs. But, Van Meerbergen says, they won't be the typical cover songs. He's telling the truth—judging by the recorded tracks posted to their website, which range from Garth Brooks to The Strokes.
"There was a guy who came up to us (after a show) and said, 'That was really cool. You play covers, but it's like the b-sides,'" Van Meerbergen recalls. "It's songs that were Top 40 in their time, but not ones that people cover all the time."
They also make an effort to filter those tracks through their own "Big Love Band" sound, MacDonald adds. "It's searching for the most fun, upbeat sound."
Still, they've been slowly plugging away at writing original tracks that they hope to record as an album early next year—buoyed, in part, by the successful CD release party local act Marble Canyon hosted earlier this year. (There's some crossover in the lineups of the two bands.)
"The (CD release party at The Maury Young Arts Centre) sold out," Van Meerbergen says. "They also doubled the liquor they normally get and they sold it out. It was a party."
It perhaps hints at a shift that will see venues steering away from DJs and going back to live bands in the coming years, he adds.
"We were just talking about this the other day. A lot of times in the last five, 10 years, headliners (at festivals) are DJs—along with the Chili Peppers or U2. Now there's a craving for new music. I think now is a good time for original music. Everything gets in cycles. Now we're in the disco phase, but soon disco will go down again and you'll get the rock 'n' roll."
In the meantime, The Big Love Band will work on writing new tracks (you can hear a sample of that with three tracks posted on their website) and securing regular gigs at venues around Whistler.
"We're focusing on Whistler right now," Van Meerbergen says. "We're trying to brand ourselves so people know The Big Love Band when they hear it. The branding here is key right now and then next step is to branch out."
Catch the band next at Brickworks on Thursday, May 24 or on Village Stroll as part of Arts Whistler's street animation on Sunday, May 27.
For more visit thebigloveband.ca.