By Taylor Burgess
“Their life was so rooted and so land-based,” said David Fort about some Hutterite farmers who they had come across during last year’s Assiniboine River Music Armada. This is the second year that Twin will be embarking on the tour, departing down the Assiniboine from Brandon, canoeing with their instruments and playing everyone along the river, regardless of who’s living or staying there.
“Remember that one gal,” Fort said. “After we asked they had said, ‘Oh, we have so much food.’”
Leslie Brown, Fort’s partner and fiddle player, chimed in, “We were talking about how we had taken some corn from the field, and she said, ‘Oh, did you see our garden? We wouldn’t have even noticed if you took it.’”
David Enns, who also plays guitar in Twin, said, “She just started listing all the things that were in season that would have been good to take.”
And on cue, singer and percussionist Ally Leenhouts erupted into her jubilant laugh which regularly echoed in the plant room of the Oikos Co-Op while I spent time with the full band and, from the sounds of it, is a regular occurrence with her roommates and bandmates, members of the latest band to uphold the lineage of reputable bands that have come from the so-called “Mansion.”
These four individuals make up the newest and most solidified line-up of Twin, which began as the solo acoustic project for David Fort, who’s better known as a writing force behind Absent Sound. He has played under his acoustic pseudonym for five years, but the line-up only solidified last year. “Really, I had an acoustic guitar long before an electric one. You could say it’s about time.”
Together they recorded a number of tracks of Sharing Secrets with Strangers, an EP which strikes at the core of human experiences and eschews timely references to string together proverbial tunes about life, death and love. Outwardly, the EP is a departure from Absent Sound’s recordings with its traditional folk instrumentations, yet it’s still totally enlightened by untraditional chord voicings and progressions. “In terms of the guitar-work goes, I’ll spend a lot of time on the mood,” says Fort. “I like to create a visual landscape— I’m getting pretty obsessed with things that don’t need to be there.” Lyrically, he says that his inspiration comes from internalizing characters, and take bits and pieces from his life and rearrange them. “To create a dreamscape that is a lot closer to reality than the dream realm, if that makes any sense.”
Before Dave Fort and Rob Menard played together in the Absent Sound, they kept crossing paths in Flin Flon and Saskatchewan. In Flin Flon, Fort says that he grabbed inspiration from whatever music was around, like music videos and TV documentaries about musicians, as well as taking trips to Winnipeg and Saskatchewan and blowing 200 bucks at record stores.
“Flin Flon was interesting enough that we would all appear at shows in community centres, little outdoor festivals, you know, shows at your high school. Flin Flon is a funny town. It wasn’t overly restrictive, not like when I hear about other some other small towns.”
Dave Fort had been canoeing since he was a kid, “fortunate to go to a camp with canoe trips.” But Fort probably wouldn’t have guessed that canoeing (alongside his music) would lead him to the L.A. River, and land him in a heap of trouble. But despite giving me the basic details of what happened to Twin on the L.A. River, Fort wanted to steer away from that in our interviews—there was much written about the event in California already and, as he pointed out, some reports had reduced the event so much that Twin wasn’t mentioned as a musical group so much as they were bulleted as a group of Canadian rabble-rousers.
What did happen was that Twin, with an L.A. filmmaker and his band, embarked on the recently declared “navigable” L.A. River, much in the same fashion as the Assiniboine River Music Armada, playing shows as they canoed down the river. “I was overwhelmed how beautiful the river was,” says Fort. “You would see these high cliffs that are falling into the river, or a tree growing with its roots sticking out. Then you’d turn a corner and run into 50 cows in the water. It was a really lazy river.”
The filmmaker, Danny Louangxay, had creative control to capture the trip as he saw fit, and Fort plans to soon screen the documentary here in Winnipeg. “He got great super 8 of the L.A. River, I’d say of about eight different micro-climates.” Without hesitation, Fort invited Louangxay to bring his band, Tiny Little, and they too joined Twin on the Armada. However, the documentary isn’t all nature-and-harmony, as their trip was stopped short by officials.
The group had canoed 15 of the river’s 51 miles and then were singled out by a police helicopter, which told the bands to get out of the river. They were given citations for loitering on the riverbed, which were written by two seemingly reluctant police officers, according to the band. All of this came despite the reason that Fort wanted to canoe on the L.A. River in the first place—that it was recently declared navigable by the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing people to swim and fish in the river once again.
“The initial inspiration for the canoe concept was finding the unifying factor for humans, which are life and clean water. You can’t argue with that. The essence of the idea being, having people around clean water, and how much more do you need?”
The band is set to appear in court again, but in the meantime, they’re focusing on the positive and going to be embarking on the Assiniboine. They’re inviting anyone who’s interested to join in on the trip, promising unforgettable sights and nothing but hospitality from wonderful Manitobans.
The departure happens on Friday, August 5 in Trees Blood Farm at Brandon, with stops in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Fairholme Colony, Long Plains First Nation, and Portage La Prairie’s Island Park before landing in Winnipeg on Sunday August 14 at the Winnipeg Graffiti Gallery for 8 p.m. For more information, contact Twin at [email protected] or find updates at Twin’s Facebook page.
Twin has plans to write new material and record in the near future.
Some of this story takes notes from Long Beach Post’s “One Band, Two Canoes and Citations for Navigating the ‘Navigable’ L.A. River” by Greggory Moore, published February 28, 2011.