By Sarah Petz
There aren’t a lot of bands who can hop from playing a gig in the dingy nonchalance of the Times Change(d) to a children’s festival, or from a wedding reception to a university restaurant. But local band the F-Holes, who have a versatile sound that could be called jazz or blues as much as it could be country or swing, are doing just that.
“I think it’s something that appeals to a lot of different people. We’ve played some shows for the Children’s [Fringe Festival], and some shows where it’s just like an older crowd,” said Eric Lemoine, who plays banjo among other instruments in the band. “It seems everybody kind of enjoys parts of it.”
Along with Lemoine, the F-Holes consist of Patrick Alexandre (vocals, upright bass), Blake Thompson (guitar), Evan Friesen (drums), and the newest edition, James McKee on trumpet.
Their dynamic live set, that sounds like it could belong in a speakeasy circa 1930, has surprised some of their out of town audiences, expecting a sound that’s a bit more subtle.
“The out of town stuff’s always pretty interesting,” said Lemoine. “Small town bars are usually looking for AC/DC or something like that, and then we start playing this other stuff that they might not have heard, it usually goes over fairly well but it’s not necessarily what they’re used to listening to. It’s always pretty interesting; you meet some local flavour.”
While the band’s set may sound deliberately vintage and rambunctious, Lemoine says it was less of a conscious effort than it was the result of a combination of years of playing together with each member having their own distinct style.
“I think it just kinda came about. We didn’t always have this lineup. James is the newest one to the band. When James joined, Patrick started picking up the upright bass and I started introducing other instruments and banjo. I think everybody kind of has there own different styles, Blake our guitar player used to play in a surf band, and Evan our drummer has a bit more a jazz-style.”
The band’s lineup has built over a long period of time, with Lemoine, Friesen and Alexandre having played together since they were teenagers.
“With Blake, it’s kind of a funny story. I think we were about 17 and we went to the old Blue Note Café that was on Portage. There were lots of young bands that liked to play there and Blake’s surf band was playing. We actually approached Blake’s brother to try to get him to join us as our bass player,” said Lemoine. “So he came and played with us a couple times. And that’s how we met Blake our guitar player, and he just kind of joined the band after that.”
McKee joined the band after meeting Lemoine through a mutual friend. “The guys started inviting me more after work to jam sessions, we used to do it every Tuesday and Thursday night for like a year,” said McKee. “And I would go with my silencer at the end of my trumpet so I wouldn’t blow the roof off the house and we could jam all night long. That’s how I got introduced to everybody.” Having such a diverse sound lends flexibility to the band’s options for venues.
“Especially with the different styles that we do obviously, if there’s a certain place that’s bit more suited to country, we’ll load the sets with more of the country stuff,” said Lemoine. “We have that luxury where we can kind of tailor it more to the audience, if we know what they’re looking for.”
“We can even do jazz at a wedding reception,” added McKee.
The F-Holes recorded their self-titled debut album this past March, and it was critically well-received. With the recent purchase of a touring van, the band plans on taking on the festival circuit this summer.
“There are 30 to 40 music festivals that we’re applying to, we’ll see what we get out of that, and supplement that with bars and whatever else we can get,” said McKee.
“Its kind of tough because we’re looking to get into the Calgary Folk Fest, they receive about 20,000 submissions and they have 200 slots for independent artists. All the other ones are booked through either labels or agencies,” said Lemoine. “We’re gonna start with smaller festivals first and it gets easier once you build up a bit of a name for yourself.”
You can find the F-Holes blowing the roof off the Toad in the Hole this New Year’s Eve.