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The Strumbellas bring foot stompin' show to Whistler

The Juno-nominated band will play brand new tracks along with songs from their debut album



It's tempting to heap a little hate on The Strumbellas.

After all, it only took the alt-country Toronto band one album to earn a Juno nomination in the roots and traditional category.

"We were super surprised," says Simon Ward, frontman for the band, somewhere outside Sault Ste. Marie on the side of a road. "Super duper surprised. They tell you in a weird way too. They say, 'You haven't been nominated, but come to the nomination ceremony.'"

My Father and The Hunter ultimately lost to Elliott Brood's Days into Years at the ceremony earlier this year, but still, it was an impressive feat.

OK, it's not like the group was an overnight success. Forming some time back in 2008 ("I think it was 2008," Ward says. "We don't remember.") with some help from a Craigslist ad to recruit members, the group produced an EP then scrounged for cash to fund their debut full length. "We're in our late 20s and early 30s," Ward adds. "None of us expected to be in a touring band at this stage."

It probably didn't hurt that their 2012 album was released just as other bands with similar sounds — foot stompin, banjo pickin', group vocals shoutin' indie-folk — were taking over mainstream radio. Or maybe that was no coincidence.

"I love all those bands," Ward says. "I love Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I love The Lumineers. I love Fleet Foxes, Lord Huron, Father John Misty. I'm personally a huge fan of that sound. I think it's coming back in such a huge way. I hope it stays for a while. I want to be part of it because it's so beautiful."

They're off to a good start, following in the footsteps of both Fleet Foxes and The Lumineers to a small studio outside Seattle called Bear Creek where both those bands have recorded. Ward says they've already recorded four songs for their sophomore album and will travel back to the studio to finish the record after a stop in Whistler to play a free show at Olympic Plaza on July 6.

"It was kind of cool to go there and hear about those bands," he says.

Their current jaunt down the West Coast will play a role in shaping the rest of the tracks on the album. Playing the new songs — some of which don't even have set lyrics yet — live and gauging the audience reaction is a good way to decide whether to keep or tweak them, he adds.

"We're going to be playing so many new songs because we have to practice them," he says. "We're doing three or four new ones per night to get practiced up. The producer we're going to, he likes to have things ready to go."

Don't worry; it won't be a rehearsal, even if it sounds like it. "Our live show is pretty fun," Ward says. "We've been growing as a band so when we go up we try to play our hearts out and get people's feet stomping. We've noticed that people are starting to sing our songs at shows and that's awesome."

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