Petunia & The Vipers head to Red Deer next month

B.C. band melds genres to make a unique musical mix

Considered to be one of Canada’s best indie bands, Petunia & The Vipers are heading out on the road for a series of Canadian performances throughout the prairies and the west coast this July and August.

The band perform at The Vat on July 25th.

Based in Vancouver, Petunia & The Vipers are known for their raucous performances that appeal to all fans of good music the world over. Led by enigmatic guitarist/songwriter simply known as Petunia, the critically-acclaimed quintet regularly tour throughout the western U.S. and the UK and have been thrilling audiences at venues and major festivals across Canada for over a decade.

Petunia himself is quite the artistic chap – performing musically didn’t come along really until early adulthood, but he’s also talented at writing scores for silent films and creating films as well.

“I met a lady who named me Petunia, and introduced me to this old style of country music which is the roots of what I play,” he explains, adding there are several other elements that seep into those roots as well.

“That was my introduction to early country music – through this lady who eventually taught me how to play and sing, really.”

And even though their sound has predominant elements of country, folk, roots, swing, and rock-a-billy, Petunia & the Vipers has been described as a new and modern band playing music that rhymes with older sounds of the past, furiously driving the future wave of a new idiom. Influences from early in life were diverse – Bowie, Queen, Led Zeppelin.

“There was punk rock when I was a teenager,” he explains. “I had also never really heard much classical music, but then I became a classical music listener as I began to score music for silent films,” he said. This took place during his time at a place in Toronto known as the Cineforum, owned and run by Reg Hartt.

“I was scoring silent films at his place. He encouraged, and still encourages people who work with him to be involved in what he’s doing,” said Petunia, adding that Hartt taught him plenty including a business acumen that he didn’t have before. “I learned everything I know about how to survive as an artist through Reg – he taught me everything,” he said.

As mentioned, music wasn’t Petunia’s initial focus but these days it is – and the results are astounding. Completely original, Petunia & The Vipers are absolutely, “A rare mix of musical genius, accessibility and rip-roaring good times, all complimented by Petunia’s sometimes penchant for good old-fashioned yodeling.”

For Petunia, performing came quite naturally as he had spent years playing on street corners of many Canadian cities.

“I started by playing on the streets, for maybe 10 years mainly in Toronto. I’ve also played in New York City, and every major street corner in Canada – I’ve hitchhiked all over the country,” he said. “Gradually, I just started booking shows. One thing follows another organically I guess.

“As far as a connection with people, it really stems from playing on the street. If you can connect with one person, then playing to 1,000 is much easier. Playing to two people is harder than playing to 1,000. Beyond that, it’s more intimate – much more so – on the street just in front of one or two or three or however many people are there. It’s much more of an intimate connection.”

Remarkably, his melodies and lyrics also tend to come at the same time – an amazing gift to be sure.

“It is mysterious to me, too. But at the same time it’s now mysterious because the ideas behind the songs and the music behind the melodies are always with me anyways. It’s always something that is stewing, if you will.

“And it seems like when something is ready to come out, it knocks one day and it knocks in such a way that I have to answer it,” he explained. “I have to sit down and write the song. It’s something that I believe stews in me for potentially years, and then it comes out. All that’s left for me to do is to have a pen and paper and a guitar in my hands.”

He’s also learned thousands of songs over the years, too. “At one point, or another, I’ve memorized over 1,000 songs,” he said, pointing to another source of creative enhancement. “It’s like reading and writing – the more you read, the more ideas you have to write. The more of anything you do creatively, the more you have creatively to draw from.”