Apparently long-lost, rich relatives aren’t the only thing you can find on Craigslist! The Strumbellas were formed when frontman Simon Ward put out a Craigslist ad for band members. After auditioning the 10 -15 people who responded to the ad, Simon chose three people from his hometown in Lindsay, Ontario (population 19,361) and two others who auditioned. According to Simon though, growing up in a small town in Ontario hasn’t influenced the style he brings to The Strumbellas. “I grew up listening to hip-hop… So I didn’t listen to country music growing up. My parents never put on country records, so I have no idea how… if it did influence it – maybe. I don’t know.”
Simon is the principle songwriter for The Strumbellas saying, “sometimes, when I’m really sad I’ll write songs, but mostly when I’m jacked up on emotions – like if I’m on a really big natural high, that’s when I’ll write the best. I have so much love inside of me, I’m just pouring out my happiness, I just love writing when that’s happening.” What gets him all jacked up? “I don’t know what it is… a good 90’s comedy always gets me jacked up, I’ll tell you that much right now… If I go out for a night, jamming, having a couple beers, that’ll also put me in good spirits.”
The Strumbella’s most recent album is called My Father and The Hunter: I ask Simon what the title means, or symbolizes. He thinks for a while, and says, “That’s literally my father on the [album] cover. He died a long time ago, and so My Father and The Hunter is just basically me making this album getting out all of my stuff about that. The demons that me and my father both have, and it’s just kind of a reflection on his life and me kind of becoming him.”
See the name “The Strumbellas” and you’ll likely picture several people hanging out playing guitars and singing folk music. You’d be wrong – only half of The Strumbellas play guitar – only one of which is acoustic. In fact, Simon describes The Strumbellas sound as “folk popgrass” – an ambiguous term if I’ve ever heard one. The Strumbella’s biography also says they’re always striving to find the pop hook – I ask Simon about that, as it seems to contradict the label “folk popgrass.” He explains, “man, if I could, I would just write pop music all day and night. I just… I love pop music. I love radio music. I love everything about it. If someone were to say that I wrote a pop hook in a country song, that would give me great enjoyment. That’s what I strive to do – I strive to write cool hooks. I get as close to indie-pop as I can… [The album] does have some elements of pop music – not necessarily Madonna pop, but popular. Billy Joel, Elton John, I love that music. Hopefully, one day I can write even more pop music.”
“We try to be as lively and upbeat as possible. We just want to have a good time. So, we do our best to try to entertain you. Our songs are all two and a half minutes long, so we try to keep the energy up. If you catch us on the right night, you might even see some dancing! So watch out for that. I like to try to sabotage the other musicians by running into them – you might see that as well… We just go out there and bang our hearts out.”
What song is Simon’s favorite to perform live? Easy, he says, “Pistol” – an energetic, upbeat, foot-stomping song. Check out “Pistol” – and the rest of the album – on www.thestrumbellas.ca.
– Jenna Marynowski