I was meandering through the Regional Top Ten lists from this year’s CBC Searchlight competition not too long ago when I came across one band that especially caught my ear. The Wellington Folk, based in Calgary, feature an uptempo sound that nevertheless lives up to the ‘folk’ in their name, with gorgeous three-part harmonies and thoughtful, evocative songwriting. (You can see their Searchlight entry here.)
The group recently released their latest EP, “Reverie,” a terrific collection of songs that shows the fruits of their songwriting labors (they took some time off after their last release for writing) to full effect. The album starts off with “Hey Lover,” an upbeat ode to the ways in which love can complete us; next up is one of my favorite tracks from the project, “Formed Among The Stars,” a song I’ve found particularly encouraging of late: “We are not the sum of our circumstances / we were formed among the stars…”
I also found the lyrics of “Reverie” particularly resonant as it explores the ways in which life departs from our most carefully laid plans, while “Start Again” muses on the constant resolve to improve ourselves even when it seems virtually impossible. Every song on the EP is one that not only inspires the listener to tap their toes and sing along, but also to think – a rare and welcome combination.
Sarah Kemmers, vocalist/guitarist for the group, recently talked with us about “Reverie.”
For those readers who aren’t (yet!) familiar with your music, how would each of you describe your group in a few words?
We are an indie/folk/rock band. A producer of ours once said we sound like “Fleetwood Mac meets Deathcab for Cutie.” We felt that was a pretty accurate description as we have a bit of a modern-classic sound.
When you first began working on the songs that ultimately would comprise your new album, did you have a strong sense of how you wanted the finished project to sound, or did that evolve over time?
I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the vibe of final project to be. I wanted an album that captured our energy and enthusiasm; an album that someone could throw in the car on a good road trip and enjoy it beginning to end without skipping any tunes. It was hard to decide what would go on the album, as we have a lot of original, unrecorded music. I used the “road trip feel” to guide what songs we picked and how we put the album together. Even with that guide, we were undecided on a couple of tunes and our producer, Mark Troyer of Evergreen Sound, helped us make the final decisions.
In listening to the album, a number of songs seem to be focused on how challenging life (adulting, perhaps?) and relationships can be… the idea of two steps forward, three steps back. Given that you all are juggling music, careers, and families, in what ways do these songs reflect where you are in your own lives?
These themes are certainly prevalent in the writing on this album and definitely reflect some of the challenges we encounter being a part-time band. I think if we all felt we had the realistic opportunity to do this thing full-time, we would. But the truth is that we are not in our teens (or even early twenties), and most of us have families to support and mortgages to pay for. So at this point in our music career, it’s just not realistic for us. But there’s also this broader challenge being reflected in these songs of accepting where we are at as people and where we thought we would be. The more conversations I have, the more I realize that there are very few people who are exactly where they pictured themselves being in life. It’s just not that linear or prescriptive. It’s all about finding beauty in the chaos.
One of the other themes that really bubbled up for me in this set of songs is the idea that we live in a day and age when it can be a challenge to find and follow the deeper meaning – it’s so easier, and perhaps safer, to stay in the shallows. What are some of the ways in which you see music helping to light the way to those deeper meanings?
I love that you brought this up. I think this is my number one drive as a songwriter. To not only create and deliver music that is enjoyable from a listenable perspective, but also that gives people the opportunity to participate in the message. To reflect, to relate, to think. The last song, “What Have We Done” is my favourite song on the album lyrically. I work in social services and am constantly seeing the impact of how isolated our society is becoming and how difficult it is to manage healthy community in this societal structure. It’s scary how many kids are dealing with depression and anxiety, how many people are so caught up in technology that they are forgetting how to cultivate real and supportive relationships with other people. I like to think that music can be a part of a movement or can at least observe what’s going on in the current climate. I hope our music invites people to participate in reflection.
Three-part harmonies are clearly an integral part of your group’s unique sound. Do those come pretty naturally to you when working up new material, or are they sometimes challenging to realize?
Great question! Usually the first two parts come pretty naturally, and then we get creative to come up with a third part that we feel uniquely shapes the song. We find a lot of joy and creativity in finding three-part harmonies that help to define the ‘indie’ aspect of our sound. We consider our three-part harmonies part of our “signature.” Some songs come easier than others for sure! I think the harmonies in “Softer Still” were my favourite to develop.
We first became acquainted with your music – as I hope a number of people did! – via the CBC Searchlight competition. How has your participation in that contest impacted your band, if at all? And would you do it again?
This was actually our third year in a row making our Region’s Top Ten, which is incredibly encouraging. We love how the CBC is continually changing the Searchlight process to keep it equitable and helpful for the musicians involved. This was the first year where we ever received feedback from the judges, which was really helpful. I think the contest most impacts our band in terms of exposure. Every year that we have placed, we’ve been contacted by people who heard us on the radio or through the competition website. It’s just great to be a part of a respected, National platform that’s helping to get the music out there. Now we just have to make it to the Region’s Number 1!
You’ve done an album release event already – do you have plans to tour with the new material?
Touring for a part-time band in a position like ours takes an awful lot of logistics and planning. We have made it happen before, but we had a tough year with having to replace a band member. This made it difficult to plan ahead for a tour. That said, we are still hoping to play lots, do some mini weekend-tours and hopefully plan a sweet tour for 2018. Stay tuned!
How can folks get a copy of your EP or hear it online?
We are available on iTunes and Spotify as well as Google Play. Most places where you can find music online now you can find us. That said, if folks want a hard copy, they can get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and we can work out how to mail it to them!
Photo credit: Wild Heart Photography