By Natalie Bohrn
“We have church,” Mike Fox laughs on a brisk spring afternoon over bagels and beer at the Sherbrook Street Delicatessen. I’ve asked about his band Odanah’s rehearsal rituals. “We’ve got a good little thing going on,” he says. “Instead of jamming on Friday nights with a few beers, we get together on Sundays at 10 in the morning with coffee… It’s become a good way to get stuff done.”
“It’s a great way to wake up — rocking out,” agrees Brady Allard, co-leader of the transforming folk-rock four-piece.
This weekend ritual has been going on for a year of Odanah’s two years as a band, ever since adding Ashley Au on bass and Dan Britton on drums to the fold, and it seems to have oddly reverberated in the Winnipeg music scene. Odanah were invited to play the Big Fun Festival’s Hangover Brunch on a Sunday afternoon, a West End Cultural Centre Sunday afternoon matinee show in April, and have been addressed by CBC Manitoba as “this lovely, sweet little folk band that’s sort of perfect to hear in a tiny venue with some tea.”
While it’s true that Odanah’s debut EP, Blood and Sour Mash, was influenced in no small way by two of the softest and darkest of Americana duos, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings and The Milk Carton Kids, Odanah is now in the bittersweet process of breaking up with its old self.
With the folk duo project, “we felt limited to smaller venues and coffee shops,” says Mike Fox. “And Brady or I would keep finding ourselves writing something and saying, ‘That’s not really appropriate for the band.’ Eventually, it turned more and more into, ‘Let’s use it.’”
“We were holding back the dam of garage rock,” agrees Allard. “At one point we had five new songs that weren’t folk, so we said, ‘Why don’t we relax the rules a little bit?’”
In this way, the songs Odanah puts forth have always followed the natural current of what Mike and Brady have been enjoying listening to: at the moment, Yo La Tengo, The War On Drugs, Real Estate, Kurt Vile, and Mac DeMarco are a few shared favorites. The Odanah song “Sugar” sounds like it owes a little something to Brooklyn’s punk revivalists Parquet Courts, and was indeed written while Allard was heavily into their album Light Up Gold.
At present, Odanah has pitched their tent in the no man’s land between the traditionally polarized introverted, finger-picking folk and rowdy, full-band garage-rock. For live shows, the band moves behind either line delicately, depending on the night, the venue, the vibe, and their bill partners.
“We’re playing a folkier show in Toronto,” says Fox of Odanah’s spring tour out to the nation’s capital and back, “and we’re also playing The Mansion in Kingston with a bunch of psych bands.”
“We still have the folk songs and we still play them. I still love a lot of our older folk songs,” admits Allard. “But going forward, I think we’ll identify less and less with being a folk band.”
Odanah is ready to release all the new music they’ve been playing, and plan to drop a new album in late summer or autumn of 2015. “All the songs are ready, we just need to get in there and press record,” says Allard.