When you hear that a group of Vancouver Island surfers are heading into the Rockies and stopping in Canmore, you might expect their plans are to spend time plying the waters of the Kananaskis River.
You’d be wrong.
In the case of Victoria’s Current Swell, the surfers are also musicians who released their fourth album on Oct. 25 and are now touring the country in support of their latest venture.
On Wednesday (Nov. 9), the four-piece Current Swell (plus a buddy) will infuse Communitea Café with their island sound – a mix of rock, blues, soul, reggae and folk that is attracting a growing fan base.
Current Swell consists of co-founders Scott Stanton (vocals, lap slide, guitar) and Dave Lang (vocals, harmonica, guitar) and is rounded out by Chris Petersen (vocals, drums) and Ghosty (vocals, bass). On the western portion of the band’s cross-country tour, Dave St. Jean (keys, synth, other stuff) will join in.
With a new album released (Long Time Ago), new management, a new website, new tour, a new show and recent hard work put into the Vancouver 125 PEAK Performance Project, “things are going great,” said Stanton. “We have a lot of stuff going on right now – I’d just like a little more sleep.”
The Vancouver 125 PEAK Performance Project was a promotion by The Peak 100.5 FM, where many B.C. bands produced songs to commemorate the coastal city’s 125th anniversary. Current Swell made it to the Top 3 stage with “Granville Town” as of Oct. 26. They’ll play a finale concert at Vancouver’s The Commodore, Nov. 17.
Over the summer, Current Swell played all over and headed south of the border. “We were in L.A., that was amazing and we got to hang in San Francisco and go surfing in Santa Cruz,” said Stanton. “Pretty much every weekend we were in some big show or festival.”
The band’s current tour will carry them to Winnipeg and back to the coast, before flying east for gigs in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.
Having gone from a full-on indie operation to embracing management Stanton said the main thing is, “they’re hard working and passionate about the band. I thought we’d have much less work with a management team, but it’s actually more work because we have tons of interviews now.”
Touring, said Stanton, whether it be in Canada, the U.S. or Australia, is something of a “heaven and hell” experience.
“We’ve written a lot of songs and we hope people want to listen to them,” he said. “You have to tour to get the music out to people, but being stuck in a van for eight hours a day and eating crappy food sometimes isn’t a lot of fun.”
The hard work, though, is necessary, said Stanton, a native of St. Albert. “We all live in Victoria, which is expensive, but I want to live here the rest of my life. The band’s great, I love the band, and I want to be in it forever and it’s refreshing to know that the more we’ve worked at it, the more opportunities have come our way.
“It’s been an eye opener for me to see where things can take you.”
With Long Time Ago, Current Swell is stepping away somewhat from its reggae groove and taking on what might be dubbed a more mature tone. Songs focus on love and loss and difficulties in life.
“Brad’s Song,” for example, was written about a friend of Stanton and Lang’s who passed away after enduring an accident in Australia. The song came about when the two attended a celebration of Brad’s life in Qualicum Beach.
“We were sitting there, having a scotch and smoking cigars,” said Stanton. “Dave had his guitar with him and we wrote it right there.”
Most of the songs were written fairly recently and speak to growing old (“Too Cold”), keeping others happy at one’s expense (“Get What’s Mine”) and a man doing time (“Honest Man”).
Even for a young band, time moves on.
“We wanted to make a cohesive record,” said Stanton, “one with a bit more focus on the songwriting. In the past, some of our records were all over. There’d be a reggae groove, then a heavy blues song and sometimes the vibe didn’t fit.
“For this record we wanted to experiment with different sounds and we had a couple of older songs that we really wanted to record. We worked hard to get it to the 10 songs that we really liked and until we thought they were perfect.
“These are songs we wanted to play every night. It was a collective effort in the band. We picked the first five songs, then added others we thought had a certain feel to them and that would fit.
“Up The Hill and Stumble are kind of heavy, and we wanted the whole thing to be a cohesive effort.”
While songs are penned by Stanton and Lang, a lot of the arranging is a collective effort. “There are some songs where you might put your foot down, but mostly we feel everybody’s ideas are valid all the time.
“If everybody didn’t have some input, it might as well be the Scott Stanton Band or the Dave Lang Band and that’s not what we’re about.”
Current Swell has played shows with acts like Xavier Rudd, Bedouin Soundclash, K-OS, K’naan, Ron Sexsmith and even the Beach Boys, which opened the Victoria group up to new and enthusiastic audiences. They’ve appeared at the Ottawa Bluesfest, 2010 Olympics, Junofest, Rifflandia, Salmon Arm Roots and Blues and headlined Canada Day festivities for 40,000 people at the B.C. Legislature.