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Posted Dec 11th, 2014 (1:39 pm) by Theresa Flanagan
Bahamas
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Last Thursday, IYS saw Afie Jurvanen and his band open up for Lucius at Higher Ground in Burlington, VT. We followed up on the phone this week with the Canadian singer-songwriter.

After recording and touring with other artists as a self-taught guitarist, Jurvanen debuted own songs as Bahamas in 2009 on Pink Strat. After following that up with Barchords in 2012, Jurvanen released his third, self-produced album, Bahamas is Afie, this past August on Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records. Bahamas has gotten recognition all along in Canada, with both of the first two records picking up multiple Juno Awards nominations. With this latest release, he's gotten a bit more attention stateside, perhaps especially of late. "All The Time" was recently featured in the following Samsung advertisement:

Similar to IYS favorite St. Lucia, Bahamas has an appropriately evocative name. Jurvanen makes easygoing, easy to listen to music with distinctly developed lyrics.

Check out a couple tracks from his latest record above while you read what Jurvanen has to say about his new record and the importance of taking things as they come!

InYourSpeakers: We caught you the other night at the start of your tour with Lucius in Burlington, how did that end up going?

Afie Jurvanen: I guess you could call it a tour, three shows. It wasn't very long, but we had a nice time with those guys. It was good, all the shows were nice. It was our last thing for this year, so it was a nice way to end it in New York.

No disrespect to Burlington, I had a lovely time in Burlington. Penny Cluse Café, I had a lovely breakfast there.

IYS: Just last month, there was the Samsung ad that came out (featuring "All The Time"), have you noticed a significant uptick in recognition since then?

AJ: I suppose if you get most of your information from the internet, then yeah there's been a lot of traffic in response to that. It's great for artists like me who don't get a ton of radio play or have big bang expensive music videos…it's basically an opportunity for people to hear your music, people who wouldn't otherwise hear it from digging around on music blogs or picking up music magazines and that sort of stuff.

I mean, I purposely try to stay a little oblivious to it, because that kind of thing can come and go so fast…and it doesn't really change a whole lot in my day to day life. When you're trying to have a career in music, though, it's definitely a good thing.

IYS: With Bahamas is Afie being essentially an eponymous record, do you feel that it has more meaning than your previous two releases?

AJ: I wouldn't say it was more meaningful. I think that the process of making it was pretty different. I think as an artist, as a person, I'm in a much different place now than I was when I started. A lot of that just has to do with being comfortable and confident with who I am as a songwriter, and I think the album just sort of reflects that.

I think that the songs have a clear, definitive quality, and that's why I wanted to have my name in the title. You know, I just felt some ownership over this one and the way it was created.

IYS: This was more of a solo record, or at least more recorded by yourself, right?

AJ: It's not solo, I worked with a lot of great musicians…but I got a chance to play a lot of the instruments that are on there, sort of layer the tracks. That was sort of a new process for me, because normally I would play with a band. It was great to get a chance to do that…I don't know how much I'll do that again. I enjoyed the process, but I do really like playing with other people.

There's a lot of things to do with spontaneity and inventiveness as far as making music goes, and you just can't stimulate that unless you have a bunch of people responding and interacting with each other musically speaking. That's stuff you can't plan, it has to do with improvisation, and people's moods, and their egos, and it's so wonderfully complex. That's something I like being part of.

IYS: Have you noticed that the songs [on Bahamas is Afie] have changed much with live playing?

AJ: Yeah, they always have. I've always been that way. I've never been someone who's concerned with recreating the album version. I think that sort of reflects the musicians I tour with: I tour with a drummer, guitar player and a singer. That's not necessarily reflective of all the things on the album. You have to kind of find these creative ways of interpreting the songs and communicating the meat and potatoes, so to speak…you know, the most important part of the songs need to be communicated using those instruments.

I kinda like being flexible…like, you know, we don't have one show that we do in every single venue no matter where we play. We do a lot of different music depending on what the case may be.

IYS: You toured earlier this year with Jack Johnson and Wilco. Do you find different audiences when you're playing with different bands? I mean, obviously you're going to have different audiences no matter where you going, but is there a different feeling that you get based on who you're touring with?

AJ: For sure, absolutely. When you're opening up for somebody that's kind of the position to be in, to have the opportunity to play for somebody else's audience. At the same time it can be quite difficult, because people paid money to come see someone and in a lot of cases they're just sort of waiting for the headlining act or whatever.

We've been really fortunate to tour with bands that have fans that come to show with a pretty open mind. They come early, and they're eager to see how the bands they like have curated the show.

IYS: Yeah, I know I always love seeing opening bands. That's where you get excited because you're seeing something new or finding someone…

AJ: Well, Wilco and Jack Johnson are pretty different artists with obviously very different levels of commercial success. But in both cases…it was brilliant to play with both those bands.

IYS: So getting back to [Bahamas is Afie], we read that you started out kind of thinking you were going more traditionally folk on it, and sort of ended up getting into the more genre-crossing record that it is now. Did deciding the name of the record come after the development?

AJ: No, I mean I had the name of the record fairly early on. That had more to do with the songwriting than with the development of the album. As I was writing the songs, I had this idea of a self-titled record. "Bahamas is Bahamas" just sounded kind of boring, Bahamas is Afie had a little more interesting ring to it.

I think that no matter what you work on, whether it's music, or if you're trying to execute some meal that's in a cookbook, or if you're trying to have a relationship with someone…I mean, you can spend a lot of time trying to plan those things out, but often they kind of do whatever they want to do. The more open you can be to those changes, the more exciting it is, really.

If you’re really rigid and you only have one idea of how it can possibly be, then you end up being like Axl Rose, working on an album for 13 years and in the process losing your mind or something.

The things that please me the most on the album are the ones that were a surprise, the ones that I didn't plan. They just have to do with little happy accidents, little mistakes that you thought "oh now I'll just redo that." But then you listen to it two or three more times and that ends up being your favorite part of the song.

IYS: That's awesome. How do you write your songs? Do you tend to lyrics first and then instrumentation, or sort of at the same time?

AJ: It can be at the same time. A lot of times, one will just sort of inform the other. You might think of a lyric or one line of a song, and it will suggest what the melody should be. Whether it should be a minor thing or should be done slowly.

That's the interesting part about it. It's sort of like a jigsaw puzzle to me. You might have lines floating around sometimes even for years, and you're looking for the right melody or chord to fit them into. That can be really frustrating, but it can be really rewarding.

IYS: Just a couple more questions, you were working with Feist before and released your first record in 2009 with your own band. Can you talk about that transition?

AJ: Well, I had always been doing my own thing, but it wasn't necessarily what I was doing professionally. The people that was working with were always really encouraging.

I think I made my first record in 2008, and pretty quickly, I called some friends and just said hey, I've got my own songs now. If you've got some shows coming I'd love to open them up or something. A lot of people welcomed me onto their tours and included me on their shows.

If I was more ambitious I think I probably would have done it ten years ago, but in a lot of ways, I'm glad that it all had a bit of an accidental nature to it. That's not to say that we don't work hard and go out there to put out quality music and put on a good show, but at the same time, I think there are a lot of people who are more aggressively ambitious than I am and have been very successful. I realized that I just have to take things as they come.

IYS: Yeah, that definitely seems like a theme, and one that fits with your chosen name. So, even though this is a question that's probably been beaten to death, why Bahamas?

AJ: Yeah, it just has to do with when I first started playing and the idea of getting up on stage and saying, "Hey, I'm Afie Jurvanen. I'm going to play some songs." I wasn't really sure what I was doing, it was like an art project.

I had recorded some songs, and the name Bahamas just sort of conjures up some nice imagery for people. It definitely informs them before they even hear a note of the music. I kind of like that idea, that it colors people's perception of what they're hearing. If I had named it, like, "Beer Bottle" or something like that, I think it would have very impact.

It's been pretty interesting to see the words that people use to describe things, the emotions that it conjures up in people. It seems to me to have a fairly big effect.

IYS: Do you feel like you've grown towards that aesthetic more, as you've played more under that name?

AJ: I guess I always felt that it could be what I wanted it to be, not to say that I'm going to make a reggae album or rap album, or something. I like all kinds of different types of music, and I see artists like Beck who are able to flow in a lot of different music worlds, that's pretty inspiring to me.

I like that idea. It's something that keeps me interested in music, the fact you can do whatever you want. There's all these different places to go. I would hope that the Bahamas name will fit on board with whatever it is I want to do.

IYS: Well, thanks so much for talking with us today!

Bahamas will be heading out in the new year on a supporting tour for Bahamas is Afie, check out dates here for what is sure to be a feel good experience.

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