It's been a summer full of shows & road for the Folk Road Show. This international quartet made up of Dominique Fricot (Canada), Benjamin James Caldwell (New Zealand/Australia), Pieter Van Vliet (the Netherlands) and Olaf Caarls (the Netherlands). For their second Canadian tour (and fourth overall) they've been promoting their piping hot new release, their debut self-titled album which came out on Tuesday. The album has a patchwork quilt quality: it's made up of blocks of different colours and personalities, sewn together by a common thread that is the common experiences of these four men on the road together. It's a playful intermingle of lots of stringed & strummed instruments, some horns, and a variety of voices. It's an ideal soundtrack to that great Canadian roadtrip you've been meaning to take, or enjoying with some friends on a late summer evening. If you can't make it out tonight, try to catch some of their upcoming house shows, I hear that's where magic happens...
Don't miss their show TONIGHT at the Fox Cabaret with Wild Romantics & JP Maurice. TIckets $10, doors at 8.
Here's some of my conversation with Dominque and Pieter, from earlier this week.
Jess, to Dom: How did you meet your European band mates?
Dom: I knew our Kiwi member, Benjamin James Caldwell, because he lived in Canada and I knew him because he was in a band that toured around called Broken Down Suitcase. They toured Europe and when he went there he met Peter and Olaf and played a couple shows with them on tour and became good friends with them. He pitched the idea of the Folk Road Show before I came into the picture. So in 2014 I was trying to book a tour in Europe, I found out that Ben was going to be there at the same time and he said ‘Why don’t you come with us? 4 is better than 3, come with us.” So he invited me and I met them on the night of the first show.
Jess: So you met them as they were playing?
Dom: Yeah, basically. I showed up and we had a couple of hours before we were going to play our first show, we were scrambling on stage to figure out what we were all going to play together. It ended up being a couple songs we still play today.
Jess: What was your first impression of them?
Dom: I don’t really know, they’re both a bit more shy than I am and me and Ben are more outgoing, outspoken, and Peter and Olaf are very intelligent and when you meet them they can be more reserved so I wasn’t sure if they liked me at all, but we’ve all grown quite fond of each other and have a very strong brotherhood.
Jess: What has been your most surreal moment of playing together?
Dom: I think, you know we’ve had some experiences where it’s just like a volcano just kind of erupted of emotion. One time in Amsterdam we played a squat and just a couple nights ago in Golden where, I wouldn’t consider our music to be dance music per se, but the audience just kind of erupted all together in this giant chorus dance party and it’s just been electric. And I don’t really know how to describe it but there’s just so much energy and emotion in the room that everyone is moving together and going up and going down and just that was an experience that we help aid to create are the most magical moments.
Jess: What has been the biggest difference between touring in Europe and touring in Canada?
Dom: I think just for us there’s just a very different listening culture in Canada, in Canada you’re more likely to play to bars or places where it feels like people want to go to a show to see friends, or be seen, or get drunk, or whatever it is. It feels like when you’re in a lot of European cities you feel like people are observing art and interacting with art and really paying attention and trying to act in a way that’s collaborative as opposed to clinking glasses and drinking and speaking on top of you or looking the other direction. That’s the biggest difference I’ve noticed.
Jess: What was the difference between doing everything solo and now being in a band? Did you even plan to join a band?
Dom: I don’t think it was originally in my plan. There was a certain point that I realized that making music is a lot more interesting and a lot more exciting when you have different lives and different souls playing together and feeding off each other. I think for me it’s more interesting to be part of that, and more interesting to hear the interplay of those minds and those souls. I think I came back from the first Folk Road Show tour to really believe that I need to be in a project, I just didn’t really feel like being a solo act was really enough. It was after that first year that I decided I wanted to be in a band. I think it wasn’t until the second year that we decided to be a band. We held on to the concept that we were a “collective” and now a band for the first three tours. It wasn’t until this year that we were really accepting that we’re a band.
Jess: Is that when you decided to make the album?
Dom: No, the album we recorded last year in the middle of the Canadian tour, our second tour. It’s kind of a joke that we say that we’re not a band, we’re a collective, but it was in Lethbridge. We knew that, being from different parts of the world, sometimes it’s hard to actually get down and either write together or record something for the future. We had three days off in Lethbridge and we had a friend who had a studio, so we just made the album with our friend Johnpaul Smith of the Coal Creek Boys. That’s when it happened. That’s what we had to do because we were from different parts of the world.
Jess: To get to more specific questions about the album, is the song "Harbour" about a specific place?
Dom: That would be a question for Pieter, who wrote the song. I know he’s written songs before about old town Katwijk [Dom spelled that out for me] I know that he wrote about that town but I think he also wrote about the experience of touring around and playing these songs and struggling and not playing, like are we getting anywhere or we’re not making any money, that’s how he’d explained it before. He also told me he doesn’t even know what it’s about anymore. Really, that’s a good question for him.
Jess: Maybe you didn’t write this song either, but why do you have a song written about a Portuguese Poet (Fernando Pessoa)?
[slight interlude as Dom handed Pieter the phone]
Pieter: I really love his work. I don’t know if there’s much more reason. I read it, and I write songs, and I think they got interconnected, somehow. I just get really inspired by many of his books and his writing is very diverse, it’s a very lengthy story. Sometimes I just write a song and I need a title and I mention writers I like because I feel like they need to be read. Even if it’s not necessarily about the song. He writes under 15 names that all have their own distinct qualities. I think that’s also about what the song is about, writing in general and trying to deal with dying. Trying to grasp whatever you’re doing and everyone trying to do whatever they want to do and finding the essence of what you’re doing and knowing you’ll never find it. I kind of like that and it kind of fits the idea of what Pessoa also tries to write about. …I’m pretty sure I didn’t start writing the song with him in mind, but I’m pretty sure I was reading his work when I was writing it. And eventually I heard the song and I thought ‘Well, this is about that period when I was really reading it and trying to grasp whatever he said.’
Jess: Did you write the song Helena as well?
Pieter: I do not have any songwriting credits for that one, it’s a collective effort by Dom and Benny. They wrote that one together, I think it’s actually the first song that is actually a collective effort, everyone adds something. I added most of the instrumentals. It’s kind of the anthem of our first tour in Canada.
Jess: How come?
Pieter: Helena was the name of our van during the first tour. And the thing is when you write songs, every time you sing it you’re really trying to interpret whatever you wrote. Once you sing it, it’s like speaking, every time you speak those words again you think about what you’re actually saying and singing. Helena is a pretty uplifting song about trying to get somewhere, hopes and dreams, and our car Helena broke down all of the time. It was probably the worst car we ever had. And it did bring us everywhere. Thought it took usually a couple of hours more because it broke down on the side of the road. It’s a song that became the story of our first Canadian tour. It’s a funny song.