NXNE Preview: Revelstoke

NXNE Interview with Toronto Band Revelstoke June 10, 2011
By: Sheena Lyonnais

Revelstoke is one of the newest artists on the scene, who despite having not yet released his upcoming debut recording Espirit D’Escalier has already opened for local heroes such as Brett Caswell and Appleseed Cast. Andrew Seale is the man behind the cerebral, experimental folk, a one-man band who has captured attention for his haunting guitars, use of violin bows, poetic verses and ghostly banjo.

A traveling journalist inspired by the world, Revelstoke sought redemption on a west coast trip a few years ago and the mountains never left him.  He tells us in his own words why Revelstoke should be the next stop on your NXNE trip. 

How are you doing and where are you right now?

I couldn’t be happier right now – the summer definitely boosts the mood. I’m currently sitting on the beach at Toronto Island watching two kids whip Lake Ontario scum at each other in the dirty water by the pier.

There are a lot of bands and artists playing NXNE, what makes you stand out?

There are a lot of great acts at NXNE this year. I’m a relative newcomer, but I think I’ve spent a lot of time on the sidelines crafting something that is original. I put a lot of time and thought into my tunes from the looseness and lo-fi elements of the recordings right down to the every word I use in my lyrics.

When I’m playing a show, I really feel like a composer adding parts to build to some sort of whole. I think vibing off the audience and making sure the song sounds a wee bit different every time draws in interest and makes the listener play a larger role then they intended.

Once upon a time you played one of Toronto Music Scene’s acoustic showcases, but you were just called Andrew Seale then.  I knew you as a boy who, back in 2004, walked into my dorm room and we instantly bonded over our similar record collections.  Now you’re Revelstoke and your music is whispier and dreamy.  What prompted the change of direction?

Ah yes, the angsty days, haha. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with my music then. I was obviously younger and I tackled it with immaturity. The songs were all about immediacy – the thoughts that day or the news clippings or small anecdotes. To be honest, that showcase I played was completely improv. I was pretty disillusioned with how quickly music styles trends changed and I think I opted to create something that I could love and play repeatedly and still have that sort of abstractness and confusion that made me enjoy performing.

Your upcoming debut self-recorded EP drops July 6 and is called Espirit D’Escalier.  In English this means ‘staircase wit,’ a saying the Webster dictionary defines as a ‘repartee thought of only too late, on the way home.’ How did this name come to be and to what does it speak of your character?

Well, I’m a journalist and a total literary nerd and I liked that colloquialism because although you can translate it, there isn’t really an English word for that moment when you realize what you should have said or did. Both German and Yiddish have their own words for it. The album was sort of the apex in that thinking for me – time to move onwards with something new.

Why do you think folk-inspired music is so important right now and why does Revelstoke matter?  Do you believe in the power of poetry?

I think confusion plays such an important role in music. I guess my best contrast would be Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper versus the Beach Boys’ Smile.  I know with a lot of Sgt. Pepper’s recording, the Beatles worked with the engineers to come up with techniques to execute the sounds they heard in their head. With Smile, I heard Brian Wilson did a shit ton of acid and patched together hours upon hours of prerecorded music to build these compositions. But both albums used elements of confusion or abstraction to help further the state of the publics conscious towards music. I’m not going to be vain and even suggest that my jams could one day play the cultural role that the Beatles or Beach Boys did but I definitely know on a personal level that I’m a lot happier making music when it sounds original or shows people something they haven’t seen to often.

As for the power of poetry. Personally, I know I’m channeling [French writer Albert] Camus here, but if the world made sense, we probably wouldn’t have much use for poetry or art. I think the relationship between poetry and philosophy helps us figure out shit that we can’t really explain in black and white terms.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on my first video. It’s still in that secretive, early stage but it’s going to be really rad. It’s for a new track.

Back on track, what other acts are you hoping to catch during NXNE this year?  

Oh man. I get so stressed at NXNE, there’s just so much to see – let alone playing it. I don’t like to miss Heartbeat Hotel, they’ve had a huge influence on my tunes. Megan Bonnell is always lovely. I’d like to see Brian Wilson get his lifetime achievement award. Braids. The Balconies, with their big ol’ eyeballs and leather jackets. Sandman Viper Command. I usually just go with the flow and hope I don’t miss anything rad, but it’s bound to happen.

The festival is finally starting to receive international recognition for its stellar lineups and workshops.  What do you think this means for Canada and Canadian music?

Of course it’s incredible. It always takes time for things to grow.  After all, we’re hardly abrasive people here in Canada. I mean, the music scene in Canada has always been tight but there are so many forward-thinking groups out there so it makes perfect sense that we’ve seen a spike in interest from an international community.

Which shows/events/BBQs/unofficial events are you playing?  Please list any that we’re missing.

Jun 15 @ The Bellevue TORONTO (NXNE Go Folk Yourself Love, Audio Blood)
Jun 19 @ Trinity Bellwoods Park, TORONTO (NXNE Live in Bellwoods Session)

I’ll be doing an interview/playing a few tracks on Sunday June 12 at 8:30pm for the internet radio station Indie Love (http://indielove.ca/welcome/load/ ) – tune in.

Where can we find out more about you?

My website www.revelstokemusic.ca  or myspace.com/revelstokemusic .

Any last parting words for us music-hungry Toronto folk?

Don’t be a stranger, come and check out Revelstoke at NXNE and share the sun.

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