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Afie Jurvanen adjusts to full-time life as Bahamas

Paul Bogdan
A&C Writer

Even when he was playing with other musicians, Afie Jurvanen, the lone member of Bahamas, always had musical ideas of his own flowing through his head. “I’ve always been writing my own songs, and I’ve always had my own bands. At the same of doing that, I’ve played in other people’s bands for many many years. I just kind of got caught up in doing that for a long time, and it pushed my own thing to the side; I literally just didn’t have time … these days, touring and playing my own songs has really been energizing for me.”

For the past number of years, Jurvanen has played alongside and backed numerous artists such as The Stills, Howie Beck, Jason Collett, and Feist. Last year, Jurvanen forced himself to take a break from touring with others and he recorded his first solo album, Pink Strat.

“When Feist came off the road, I had some other offers to go on tour, but I made a conscious decision to say no, and put out my own album … it’s really hard to do both. It’s hard enough to do one thing well, let alone many things. I had to say ‘no’ and get back to it, and I’m really glad that I did because it’s a side of my creating music that I missed for a long time.”

Playing one’s own material is proving much different for Jurvanen than playing other musicians’ work. “When you’re playing in someone else’s band, there’s very little artistic pressure. I’ve always been very comfortable in that position. You just sort of play with your friends, share the stage, and travel. It’s really all about the show, and you don’t think about much else. [Playing your own songs] is the exact opposite. When it’s your songs that are going out in front of you and speaking on your behalf, you want to present them in the best light that you can. It’s been a different thing, transitioning back to speaking about myself, and being responsible for the jokes between songs.”

The decision to take a break and put out a solo record turned out to be a beneficial one, as Pink Strat was nominated for a Juno Award. “It was such a thrill; it was very unexpected … it was nice to be recognized in such good company.”

The success of the project has turned all of Jurvanen’s focus to the group. “It’s definitely become a full-time job. I don’t think I would have time to really do anything else at this point. I’ve got another [Bahamas] record that will be coming out in the new year, and we’ve been on tour since the first on came out. The idea of stopping all that to play in someone else’s band, I don’t know … it would have to be Neil Young or someone at this point.”

Bahamas’ live performances feature Weakerthans drummer Jason Tait, who played drums on Pink Strat. The songs themselves tend to vary from the recorded versions. “I’m really not interested in recreating the recordings or doing straight-ahead versions where the bass and drums are the predictable thing that always happens. Something about the guitar and drums [format] forces you to think outside of the box.”

While Bahamas may currently be a two-piece, Jurvanen sees the outfit expanding in the future. “Definitely, I think the whole process of making music is, for me, something that I want to share, and I like doing it with people who are interested in sharing. I definitely think there’s tons of room for this band to grow and to change and to incorporate all kinds of different sounds, singers, voices, and textures.”

This expansion and growth is likely to be heard on the upcoming Bahamas release in 2011. “It’s a little more fleshed out … there’s a wider variety of sounds. The last record was more of a document of … sitting down and playing the songs. I think this recording is a little more thought out. I think the songs are much stronger, and I think it’s a little more rocking. There’s more electric guitar, more singing … it’s more of a rocking affair. We’ll be playing those songs on this tour.”

Having the ability to expand doesn’t mean it’s necessary to though. “These days I’m very comfortable with guitar and drums. I really don’t feel like it’s limited to sounding like the White Stripes. I feel like you can do anything in that format … [changing the fundamentals of a band] [has] to happen naturally; [it has] to evolve. You can tell when someone makes a really conscious decision to do a 180, and a lot of times you can tell when someone’s not necessarily comfortable in that.”

Bahamas start a cross-Canada tour on November 18 and make a stop here in the Queen City on Dec. 1 at the Exchange.

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