The Vancouver blues band The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer has an interesting resume, having shared the stage with both Taj Mahal and The Sheepdogs.
"We were shaking in our boots, playing for Taj Mahal. We felt like kids in a candy store; we'd grown up listening to him our whole lives. My parents have done that most of their lives, too," says Shawn Hall, the duo's singer and harmonica player.
The band is doing well, picking up a 2015 Juno Award nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 27 for Best Blues Album for their 2014 release A Real Fine Mess, their fourth album.
Teasing him about the appropriateness of Vancouver as a blues location is no fun because Hall agrees that the city is a bit far off the circuit.
"Yeah. Vancouver's not known as a blues town, believe me. Bands like BrickHouse or Steve Kozak, all those guys have been doing it forever. Not everyone gets national careers like Colin James," he says.
Hall says he and The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer's guitarist, Matthew Rogers, had performed with all sorts of bands before taking the plunge.
"We wanted to go back to a simpler form of music and see if we could entertain each other and do the work of a whole band, just the two of us. And blues is the music that got me into popular music in the first place," he says.
"I learned classical as a kid, but blues is what pulled me out and sent me to the greasy bars in Toronto, where I grew up. It's the music to which I lost all of my innocence. Nothing else gets you out into the real world."
The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer started 2014 playing in relatively small venues or backing bigger acts. They ended the year headlining the Commodore in Vancouver.
"We took a lot of steps to get to the Commodore, especially as a hometown band. Not that many hometown bands get to experience that," Hall says.
A good chunk of this was due to younger fans listening to their music on 102.7 The Peak FM.
"You don't choose the Commodore, the Commodore asks you. That's how it worked for us, and we were honoured, but we wondered if we were ready to do that, there's just the two of us," says Wall.
In the end, it sold out.
He adds: "Man, did we ever have fun. There were over 1,000 people. It was amazing. We opened there for a band called Current Swell the year before and we'd played the room before. The Commodore feels like the most glamorous giant bar in Canada. So if you think of it like that it's just a big party with 1,000 people."
Despite all of this, The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer has never played Whistler before, apart from the living room of a friend's home.
This will be rectified when they hit the stage at Millennium Place on Friday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m. Michael Faiella is playing acoustic music at a craft beer night in the gallery prior to the concert at 7 p.m. The gig is 19+. Tickets range from $23 to $26 and are available at www.whistlerartscouncil.com or the venue box office.
Hall was once a TV journalist, working behind the camera at the A-Channel back in the dirty days of 2009, when Vancouver was being overrun by gangland murders. Covering this grisly, discouraging reality led him to exit the profession and follow his passion for music.
The pair met in 2006 while recording jingle music, with Rogers working as a film composer at the time.
Hall says they are having a great time.
"Yeah. We had three generations at our show in Nanaimo and most people there hadn't seen that. We feel incredibly fortunate as a band to be able to witness that," he says.