Halifax, NS indie-folk quartet, Villages, are excited to share a music video today for “Poetry In Motion,” another track taken from their current EP, “Upon The Horizon,” released back on November 13th. Comprised of Matt Ellis (vocals/percussion), Travis Ellis (guitar), Jon Pearo (mandolin) and Archie Rankin (bouzouki/guitar), the formation of the band grew from a strong desire to perform music in the traditions of their proud Cape Breton heritage. Recording under the monikers ‘Mardeen’ and ‘Villages,’ their sound and creativity has steadily transitioned over the years into a dazzling combination of indie-folk and experimental pop, adding dashes of psychedelia for good measure.
The seeds for my awareness of Villages were planted back in 2015, thanks in part to another rising Nova Scotia musician, Mo Kenney, who we caught live in concert on a gorgeous May evening in Parry Sound, ON. Kenney would perform a cover version of Mardeen’s popular tune “Telephones,” a track found on her sophomore album – itself recorded at New Scotland Yard studios in Dartmouth, NS, under the guiding hand of her mentor and friend, musician/producer Joel Plaskett (who coincidentally was the headlining act on that same evening in Parry Sound).
Fast forward back to July 2020 (when Nova Scotia eased social distancing rules), Villages would also lay down their new EP at this acclaimed Dartmouth studio. It is only too easy to assume that they would offer production duties to stalwarts Joel Plaskett or Thomas Stajcer – both synonymous with the studio operations, and both having played roles in previous Villages releases – but instead, the quartet sought the mixing skills of American indie-rock legend Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses). For Villages, it was not only an honor to work directly with one of their industry heroes, but a validation of their own growth and distinctive musical approach.
“Back before we mixed our first record, I threw a bit of a Hail Mary and reached out to Phil to gauge his interest,” recalls Travis. “He was into it but the timing just didn’t work out there. Thankfully everything came together … he did a great job and definitely took the songs to another level.” The gradual progression from their traditional roots to indie-folk is organic; a realization of having too much creative energy to limit themselves musically, and instead, walk in similar footsteps of PEI trio, The East Pointers, who very successful pushed beyond their traditional boundaries on their 2019 “Yours to Break” album. “We were very much acoustic-driven in terms of instrumentation when we started writing and recording,” shares Archie. “Over the years we’ve been adding in synth, drum samples, and different effects that take the tunes to new and exciting places.”
And like so many of their contemporaries this year, Villages drew inspiration from the harsh reality of Covid-19, and the challenges it created in the collective writing processes. “In some ways, working remotely enabled us more freedom in terms of writing parts,” shares Jon. “Working individually with some vague ideas of a song … probably pushed the songs in a direction we wouldn’t have been able to achieve through our traditional method of writing.” As they sought answers to why the world was suddenly experiencing a complete breakdown, they capture such sentiments and the mood perfectly with “Poetry in Motion,” the track itself offering hopeful messages that just because something you hoped for did not transpire, perhaps fate has something better in store. And as we continue to live with this concept of ‘the new normal,’ only time shall tell – but at least we are safe in the knowledge that much more great new music is heading our way from Villages in 2021.
Photo Credit: Mel Stone