Bahamas plays the Mod Club with easy, breezy new album
By Ron Johnson
Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas
Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas, plays music that is as groovy and laid-back as a breezy afternoon on a white, sandy beach, and after inking a new record deal with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records in the United States, he is destined to become just as hot.
Bahamas’ latest release, Bar Chords, follows up his Juno Award–nominated debut, Pink Strat. The new album hit stores late last year, and the hometown boy makes his grand return to a Toronto stage tonight (April 13) at the Virgin Mod Club.
It’s only just beginning, but Jurvanen, like most who hear his tunes, is excited about a potentially mammoth year ahead.
“Oh, I hope so,” he says, on the phone from his Toronto home. “I hope to be busy and play a lot.”
Jurvanen is part of a musical caravan that trucked south to Toronto years ago from the northern outpost of Barrie, Ont., along with a few other local standouts, including some of the boys from rock revivalists Zeus.
Upon his arrival, Jurvanen spent most of his musical time backing up other artists, most notably as the guitarist and pianist for another Toronto musician by the name of Leslie Feist.
Eventually, as Jurvanen’s mother once told him, it was “time to s**t or get off the pot,” so Bahamas was born and his own music took centre stage.
“For a lot of years, I focused on playing other people’s music. It is distracting and hard to get your own thing done,” he explains. “So I decided to not roll with anyone and to focus on my own songs.”
According to Jurvanen, Bahamas is all about the lyrics, and he says that emotional honesty is the cornerstone of a good tune.
“The lyrics are key. I’m always someone that gravitates towards lyrics first,” he says. “That’s kinda the only way I know how to be, to hear my own voice within the song. Everything begins and ends from that place, you know. Some people write and stand away from themselves. I just can’t relate to that, you know.”
Maybe that’s what caught the ear of Jack Johnson, de facto grand pooh-bah of the mellow, beach-blanket groove club.
“They’ve been great, but we operate very independently,” says Jurvanen, of Johnson and his label Brushfire Records. “Like I’m in Toronto right now where there is a crazy snowstorm, and they’re all sitting around in board shorts smoking weed in California. We live pretty different lives.”
But what’s important is they let Jurvanen make the music he wants to make. On Bar Chords, Jurvanen surpasses his already fine debut effort by offering up wonderfully subtle and unique tunes showcasing his easy delivery and penchant for the offbeat — and he incorporates many different styles. One listen and you’re hooked. But, please, don’t call him laid-back.
“I don’t consider myself laid-back, and I don’t consider myself amped up,” Jurvanen says. “I just move through the world at a slower pace. The name of my band does a lot of work promoting me as the stoner beach guy. I could have called myself Alaska, but that could have conjured up some really different images, you know.” Yes, we know.
Bahamas plays Virgin Mod Club on April 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets $16.